The Loop

Solar Decathlon Design Challenge 2020
First Prize - Mixed-Use Multifamily

The Loop is the affordable, sustainable, cooperative housing of tomorrow. As an integral part of the Sunblock district energy system, this building provides for its community through on site resources, renewable energy and improved public transportation. The Loop rethinks the typical commercial lot found on major street corners of the Tucson superblock. These vacant buildings with largely open lots provide an opportunity for each community to develop much needed affordable housing, embrace a modern identity, provide community resources and become part of the Sunblock system. SunBlock mixed-use housing complex provides a safe, sustainable and healthy environment to residents and the broader community, while also identifying a lot that was previously predominantly asphalt and prioritizing low-income residents of Tucson.

The Team


Our team would like to recognize Shelly Pottorf, a visiting lecturer at the beginning of our design process. Shelly Pottorf inspired and guided our team.

At the time of the competition, Franzen, Schultz, and Wang were fourth-year students in the five-year Bachelor of Architecture program at The University of Arizona.


All components in a building and community must work together to create a sustainable future. The Loop marks a break to today's unsustainable growth patterns. The Loop aims to empower the individual resident, create influence in the community, and demonstrate a positive change. The design models not only a new way to grow for Tucson, but also aims to create a template for sustainable growth for cities around the world.


Inspired by the AIA Framework for Design Excellence Designing for Equitable Communities measure, the design of The Loop goes beyond the boundaries of the site. In order to strengthen the Myers community, The Loop connects to missing resources by providing residents the opportunity to rent office and retail space, a daycare, and a public library. The Loop also connects residents with outside resources by improving public transportation in a car-dependent urban setting.

Equity by Design

The Loop is structured as a limited equity co-op in partnership with a land trust. Upon moving in, residents receive shares in the co-op. As a corporation owned by its shareholders, The Loop runs according to a board of officials elected by residents. This means that residents have a voice and an vested interest in the success of the place they call home. Shares are also legally considered private property, which is an advantage for low-income renters, who otherwise can not accomplish ownership. Rent prices also adapt to residents’ who live in The Loop, not the other way around. Market rate pricing is based on Tucson’s Average Median Income, or AMI, to ensure that prices never exceed local income levels.

Low Carbon, High Comfort

Energy consumption is reduced through a carefully designed wall assembly, creating an airtight barrier between indoors and out. The wall is comprised of non toxic, VOC and formaldehyde free materials sourced with in the US significantly reducing our carbon consumption. Carbon is sequestered in wood, which is used as both partition walls in the form of stud framing and structure in the form of mass timber panels.

Passive Cooling

The new build shows off its passive cooling methods with beautiful recycled metal solar chimneys on its facades (left). These facades reference the Tucson vernacular using rusted steel while also choosing a material that is easily reused and needs no additional finish. These solar chimneys keep indoor temperature comfortable for up to 30% of the year. Blurring the lines between indoors and out helps us understand how the outdoor environment can reduce our energy usage. Strategically placed bioswales and solar chimneys work together to create a comfortable environment using evaporative cooling (below). The team measured the potential of the natural ventilation using MIT's CoolVent software.


The Loop aims to be the first step towards a healthy sustainable Tucson. Each component of The Loop is designed with community uplift as the goal. A retrofit strip mall along with a newly constructed buildings along the southern edge of the lot create a complex built mainly of wood and natural materials. The design emphasizes healthy living, with access to community resources, alternate forms of transport, and a connection to nature.