College Students Open Door to Housing Opportunity for Homeless

By The BILCO Company | September 18, 2018
Bilco Basement
Photo: Courtesy of Yale Building Project

Students from the Yale School of Architecture received an assist from approximately 40 businesses, including The BILCO Company, in the construction of a duplex that will provide permanent housing for community members experiencing or at risk of homelessness.     

BILCO is based in New Haven, site of the project and the home to Yale University. Students broke ground on the project in May, and they finished their part of the construction process in August. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC teams put the final pieces in place before the house was ready for habitation in September.     

BILCO donated a Class Series size C basement door with a gray powder coat finish to the project. The door is 55 inches wide, 72 inches long and 19.5 inches high. BILCO is the industry leader in specialty access products, and has been in business since 1926. The company also makes egress window wells for residential customers, and manufactures roof hatches, floor access doors, automatic smoke vents, fire-rated floor doors, and a wide range of safety products for commercial clients.     

The powder coat finish applies a polyester resin exterior that provides durable, weather-resistant coating. Cured at higher temperatures than most wet coatings, the result is a durable and chip-resistant coating that provides a decorative and protective finish.     

Since 1967, the Yale School of Architecture has offered first-year students the chance design and build a structure as part of their graduate education. The most recent project is the second of a five-year agreement with Columbus House to build a duplex unit of about 1,000 square feet. The homes will accommodate a small family in one living area and an individual in the other. This year’s project, at 43 Button Street in New Haven, is approximately 1.5 miles from the school and a little more than three miles from BILCO’s office in New Haven.     

Students are divided into 10 teams of six. Each team submits a design for the proposed housing unit, and a panel of judges selected by the school choose the ultimate housing design. On the project website, the winning team said their unit “explores the parallel between joinery and cohabitation, proposing a dwelling that unites separate units within a single envelope, while still allowing each family to maintain autonomy. Cross-laminated timber forms the internal separation, extending into the landscape to integrate the house with its surroundings.”


Bilco Basement image
Photo: Courtesy of Yale Building Project


The entire class worked on the project. During the summer, however, 14 students remained in New Haven and worked daily to complete the assignment.  Students on the team came from nearby Connecticut towns, other United States cities and some from as far away as Paris, Tokyo and Beijing. “The building project is purposefully an opportunity for students to work with a team and develop coordination skills,’’ project managers Page Comeaux and Katie Lau wrote on the website. “Unlike at a firm, everyone on a building project team has equal design power and ownership of the project. The object of the building project is as much about learning how to be a member of a productive team as it is about creating a design proposal.”     

More information about The BILCO Company’s residential products is on the company website.

For more information about the Yale Building Project, visit its website at

Pictures of the project are also on Instagram.