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Where Aesthetic Quality and Affordability Live in the Same House

From sea to shining sea, architecture graduate Phil Green ’13 raises funds, awareness for fair and affordable housing via cross-country bike ride

BRISTOL, R.I. – For the past four years, Phil Green ’13 has traversed the trails of the East Bay on bike, often turning to Bristol’s famed bike path for a quick cycling session. Gliding along the edge of Narragansett Bay, just parallel to Poppasquash Point, it’s hard not to notice the picturesque homes that characterize the New England shoreline – especially when you’re an architecture student. Stately, sprawling estates pepper the path from Bristol, fitted out with the finest features and building materials.  

Still, while Green may admire the aesthetic accomplishments of these homes and others like them, he quickly learned during his years at Roger Williams that it’s easy to eschew affordability for the sake of aesthetic in design. Now, just a month following Commencement, Green is taking his bachelor’s degree – and his bike – on the road to raise awareness and funds for affordable, fair housing across the U.S.

Via Bike & Build, a national nonprofit that organizes rides throughout the country, Green will complete a 3,937 mile bike ride from Portland, Maine to Santa Barbara, Calif., stopping in several states along the way to help build homes in local communities before returning to RWU this fall to complete his master’s degree. Green firmly believes in Bike & Build’s mission.

“A home is so much more than just protection from the elements. It’s a place that nurtures a family, and fosters growth and eventually gives back to the community in which it’s built,” he says. He hopes to further Bike & Build’s purpose by imparting the importance of fair housing to people who cross his path. “I think that everybody should be entitled to have a home and create memories and experiences with their family in a dwelling, and I don’t think that anybody should be turned away from that based on their job or their economic background.”

Preparation for the trip was no ride in the park. In addition to raising $4,500 for fair housing initiatives, Green was tasked with strenuous physical and intellectual preparations, including extensively researching affordable and fair housing in order to give presentations to local students and residents; partnering with local affordable housing groups like Habitat for Humanity; and logging 500 miles on his bike, with one 65 mile ride – an average day for a Bike & Build rider.

Green’s work with Bike & Build echoes many of the University’s continuing efforts to promote fair housing in Rhode Island, including a recent partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Development: Roger Williams was the first university in Rhode Island to join the National Fair Housing Collegiate Partnership, which educates students about their rights to fair housing and develops service learning opportunities around fair housing issues and advocacy in the community.

As he travels through time zones, Green looks forward to garnering insight into the practical challenges to ensuring homes are affordable. This issue is not always addressed in his academic studio work, he says, which often is hypothetical and allows for limitless creativity without emphasizing budget. Still, Green is positive that aesthetic quality and affordability can live in the same house. “Nobody’s going to want to buy a house that isn’t pretty,” he explains. “It’s all in the materials that you pick and in their installation in the structure.”

A Langhorne, Pa., native, Green has never traveled outside the Eastern seaboard. He looks forward to riding around the rim of the Grand Canyon, camping in Roswell, N.M., discovering the obscure towns he will encounter along the way and helping to address the issues of affordable housing head on, onsite.

For more on Green’s Bike & Build experience, follow his blog, "A Summer Behind 'Bars'" for photos and ride updates.