When Josh Shelton, AIA, and his partners at El Dorado teamed with Heartland Habitat for Humanity to design a residential prototype, they found the Kansas City, Kan.-based nonprofit to be an ideal collaborator. “They’re one of the most open-minded clients I’ve ever worked with,” Shelton says.

Another nonprofit, Public Architecture, connected Kansas City, Mo.–based El Dorado and Heartland Habitat as part of its 1% Habitat Initiative, which links Habitat chapters with innovative architects. El Dorado hoped to create an adaptable plan with inviting outdoor spaces, so the firm separated the garage from the house, inserting a covered breezeway between the buildings. A side patio and a front porch are connected by a vegetable garden. “A lot of the design was trying to get people to re-engage with the outdoors,” Shelton says. The house is slated for completion next spring.

Located in Kansas City, Kan., it occupies an alley-loaded site—but in the case of a front-loaded property, the garage and garden could switch places. And the breezeway could grow or shrink to accommodate a wider or narrower lot. A low roof pitch and shop-fabricated wall components and trusses make the house easier and safer to build, facilitating Habitat’s model of volunteer labor. Resource-efficient tactics such as rainwater harvesting, a rainscreen system, and a whole-house exhaust fan will lower utility bills.