Design-Build Program illustration.

Professor Traci Sooter, FAIA is the Director of the Design-Build Program for Drury University. Professor Sooter has collaborated with professors from a variety of disciplines across the Drury campus as well as other universities and organizations to create the “whole-school approach” to Design-Build projects, the only such program in the country. To date nineteen projects for charities or communities in need have been completed including the first LEED Platinum home for Habitat for Humanity International; four projects for the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; a competition home in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon; and most recently four projects for The Gathering Tree, including a national award winning tiny home; all helping to end homelessness in Springfield, Missouri with a goal of creating a “City Where No One Sleeps Outside”.

Our response to rebuild Joplin, MO after the devastating EF5 tornado in 2011 is one example of these rich, whole-school collaborations. Drury Design-Build along with five Professors, 35 third year architecture students, over 370 Drury volunteers from across campus and the first Drury SmartMob! of 120 students, staff and faculty created the Volunteer Tribute in Cunningham Park as part of the “Seven Houses in Seven Days” episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Our 2015 US Department of Energy solar competition house, “Shelter³: Respond, Recover, Resist” consisted of two universities (Crowder College), eleven professors and 102 students from 22 different majors and placed eighth in the nation.

In collaboration with Cornell University, the USDA Forest Service and Joplin Parks & Recreation the 26,000 sf. Butterfly Garden & Overlook, an Open Space, Sacred Place healing garden created a space for survivors in Joplin, MO to process and heal from loss. This project won the Illumination Award for Outdoor Lighting Design from the Kansas Section IES, Illuminating Engineers Society.

Through these hands-on, real-world experiences, students develop their professional design skills, better understand how design transforms into the built environment and learn that giving back to one’s community should be a life-long endeavor.

Design/Build Projects

2019: A Home for MJ - Eden Village Tiny House

Architects Newspaper Best of Design Winner

The architecture studio focused on one project, the design and construction of a 400 sq. ft. Micro (Tiny) house for a new 31 unit community for the chronically disabled homeless in Springfield, Missouri, Eden Village.

Our resident: “MJ”, a 22-year-old young man, who happens to be deaf and had been living on the streets for five years. Students conducted client interviews with MJ and were expected to take an ethical approach to creating a dignified, permanent housing model for the community and specifically for MJ.

The semester was divided into three distinct phases: Eight weeks for client interviews with directors of the community and MJ, research, conceptual and design development; Three weeks for construction documents; Five weeks for construction.

Students completed thorough research, coupled with client interviews to guide them to a thoughtful, innovative, well-conceived concept that informed and guided the design process. The design began with hand-drawn sketches and transitioned to digital tools such as Sketchup, PhotoShop, Revit and Lumion.

This project was sponsored by Jordan Valley Community Health Center.

Design Constraints

The site is a revitalized mobile home park. The micro house must be under 400 sq. ft. and meet RV code requirements.

Tornado Resistance: Research and implementation of innovative materials and methods that make this home, located in the tornadic mid-west, tornado resistant.

Resident Consideration: As our resident client is deaf, research and implementation of architectural solutions that can support and improve the life of a deaf person.

Aging in Place: It is most likely that the residents will live their lives out in this community, a goal was to show the client how to plan and design for aging in place.

As in the profession, construction professionals were responsible for the construction of the home. Students were expected to work side by side with professionals to gain a deeper understanding of materials and methods, tools and the construction process. Students communicated with and collaboratively problem-solved with professionals as issues arose.

Students explored future roles they may want to pursue in a firm as they chose leadership roles in the design and/or construction phases.

MJ’s Home

Bedroom, kitchen, accessible bathroom and a multi-functional living space featuring a “library”, gaming hub and reading nook.

The visual-centric design derives from MJ’s need to visually control his space. Exterior openings in all directions and a spatial arrangement that eliminates blind corners allows visual control of

the house. Blue hues throughout the house, MJ’s favorite color, provide contrast for hands while using sign language. Other amenities include a custom game/dining table, an abstraction of Starry Night—MJ’s favorite painting—routered into closet doors, and bicycle storage.

MJ’s Home seeks to promote resiliency and community within its design. The house is designed to be resistant to tornadic wind loads and debris impact. The wall system meets FEMA specifications for a wood storm shelter, achieving tornado resistance and affordability. The doors and windows are impact rated.

Promoting community are the wrap-around stairs and front porch that engage the community “street.”

Solar Decathlon house exterior.

2015: Solar Decathlon - ShelteR³: Respond, Recover, Resist

ShelteR³: Respond, Recover, Resist Logo.

Motivated to save lives by the EF5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri in 2011, the Drury University and Crowder College Solar Decathlon team developed ShelteR³: Respond, Recover, Resist. Designed to serve immediately after a natural disaster as an environmentally conscious disaster-response command center or disaster-relief housing, to expand and become permanent housing as the community begins to recover, and to resist the wind loads and debris-cloud projectiles of future tornadic storms.

2013: Landscapes of Resilience - “Butterfly Garden & Overlook”

How does a community rebuild itself after unmitigated devastation? How does it find solace? Restore hope? See how Joplin—a city ravaged by an EF5 tornado, the worst in over a century—transformed itself through nature. This is the Nature Effect—see it in action.

At the request of the Joplin Parks Director, Chris Cotten, and through the support of a TKF Foundation grant, Drury University students designed and built a garden space that focuses on the healing of the Joplin tornado survivors. The primary participants were the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department in a supervisor, builder, and stewardship role, Cornell University and USDA Forest Service as researchers, and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri who coordinated tax credits. Drury University was the design-builder working with a trans-disciplinary team: conceptual design input from a Drury Music Therapy professor; survivor story collection conducted by English Department students; website design to house survivor stories done by a Communications Department student; and post-construction individual and community resilience research conducted by a Psychology Department professor and students.

The design of the Butterfly Garden & Overlook weaves together the conceptual ideas derived from Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning (Worden 1991). Worden recognizes the process as accepting loss, managing the pain of grief, adjusting to the new environment, and making an enduring connection with the deceased. Four tasks to help individuals move into the next phase of life are represented as architectural and natural elements throughout the gardens. The first task, accepting the reality of the loss, begins as visitors pass through the portal of the lost home, the front door.

The path takes you on a journey around the site, allowing for processing the pain of grief, task 2. Areas with a bench and journal act as a destination and provide a sacred space in nature to adjust to a world without the deceased (or what was lost), task 3. Visitors are encouraged to write and reflect in the journals.

The “penciled” outline of homes represent all homes erased by the storm and plaques educate future generations on the destruction, acts of heroism, survival and the Miracle of the Human Spirit while providing an enduring connection to the deceased (or what was lost), We move on but do not forget, task 4. Butterfly attracting flowers create the unifying circle of the butterfly garden providing an encompassing sense of boundary, safety and enclosure.

The 38 segments of the transitioning water wall represent the minutes the tornado was on the ground. At minute seven, when the storm hit Cunningham Park and the hospital, there is a void. The void becomes water features in two sacred spaces, one broken by the path of the storm and another scarred but whole again.

The butterfly pavilion acknowledges stories told by children that butterflies helped them during the storm and the student-designed bench reflects the transitional nature of healing. Stainless steel pedestals tell stories of survival, heroism, recovery, memorials, statistics, butterfly people and design of the garden.

Students collected, transcribed, and archived survivor stories, which inspired design students prior to the build and were eventually quoted on the storyboards, on water features and permanently housed on a student-designed Stories of Joplin website.

Design and Construction

Students and professors developed the conceptual design of the Butterfly Garden & Overlook and Design-Built 6 of the elements in the garden through the Design-Build Program in the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University in collaboration with the Joplin Parks and Recreation department led by Chris Cotten. The design was collaborative from beginning to end and through construction, including many community members, some of which were survivors of the tornado.

Student Design-Build elements:

  • 38 Minute water wall
  • Broken Void water feature
  • Healed Void water feature
  • Butterfly Pavilion
  • Story Boards
  • Healing Bench

Joplin Parks & Recreation department built all of the infrastructure of project and gave their heart and soul to making it happen and continue to maintain and care for the project today. Great River and Associates did the design development through construction documents including designing symbology behind the plants and flowers.

The student design elements were developed and prefabricated through an architecture studio course at Drury University. Students worked with JPR during a 10 day “Blitz Build” on site to install the 6 elements. A SmartMob! (A flash mob with a purpose) of 60+ students, staff and faculty converged on the site to install the walls of the garden among other things. Music Therapy Students from Drury University created a Rejuvenation Station by playing music to motivate, uplift and rejuvenate those constructing. Volunteers from the community worked throughout the week.

The plants were installed by volunteers from the community led by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Joplin Master Gardeners Club.

Joplin Parks & Recreation team

  • Chris Cotten, Director
  • Steve Curry
  • Jeremy Glenn
  • John Graham
  • Aaron Callis
  • Jonathan Alejandro
  • Jason Cowen
  • Sara Fisher
  • Jason Cowen
  • Adam Forrest
  • William Davis
  • Rick Porter
  • Jonathan Alejandro
  • Buddy Scott
  • Mike McDaniel

Student Design-Build team

  • Eric Foster
  • Olivia Freese
  • Stacie Good
  • Jon Hays
  • Michael Ligibel
  • Grace Lounsbury
  • Kanna Matsuo
  • Sam McBride
  • Madison Miles
  • Jacob Nentrup
  • Olivia Snell
  • Lauren Southard
  • Josh Storey
  • Brian Vanne
  • Trevor Wellman
  • Brandon White

Architecture Professors

  • Traci Sooter, AIA, LEED AP, Director Design-Build Program
  • Nancy Chikaraishi, AIA, Associate Professor
  • Keith Hedges, AIA, NCARB

20+ Music Therapy Rejuvenation Station Students

Music Therapy Associate Professor

  • Dr. Natalie Wlodarczyk

Drury SmartMob!

  • 60+ Drury students, staff and Faculty

Research Students


  • Dr. Jennifer Silva-Brown
  • Dr. Peter Meidlinger

2011: Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Joplin Volunteer Tribute

Extreme Makeover Home Edition logo.

Volunteer Tribute
“The Miracle of the Human Spirit”

Cunningham Park
Joplin, MO

Year Completed: 2011

  • Designed and built for the community of Joplin to thank the over 170,000 volunteers that came to the aid of Joplin after the EF-5 tornado ripped through the city in 2011.
  • This project is part of the Seven Houses in Seven days episode, the series finale of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition television show.


C-Street Market Co-Op Booth.

2011: C-Street Market Co-Op Booth

C Street City Market Logo.

Springfield, MO

Year Completed: 2011

  • Kenetic structure completely closes up like a box for security
  • Designed and built for the under served area of Commercial Street

2009: Art Port in the SkyGallery

Sky Gallery logo.

Springfield-Branson National Airport
Springfield, MO

Year Completed: 2009

  • Free standing art gallery as part of the on going Sky Gallery exhibition in the Springfield-Branson National Airport
  • 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood

2009: Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Eggstreme Chicken Coop

Extreme Makeover Home Edition logo.

Eggstreme Chicken Coop
Fair Grove, MO

Year Completed: 2009

  • The chicken coop was designed and built for the Hampton Family as part of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition television show
  • Made of 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood, chicken foot prints laser cut into stainless steel, chicken waste management system and built in feeders and nests


2008: Platinum LEED Habitat for Humanity Home

Logos for Ozarks Green Building Coalition, U.S. Green Building Council, and Habitat for Humanity.

3779 Legacy Court
Springfield, MO

Year Completed: 2008

  • First Platinum LEED home for Habitat for Humanity International
  • Design Excellence Award – Ozark Green Build Coalition
  • Honorable Mention – Champions of Sustainability in Communities

2005: C-Street Farmers Market

C Street City Market Logo.

Springfield, MO

Year Completed: 2005

  • Farmers Market serves under served area with two homeless shelters
  • Farmers accept WIC coupons and Food Stamps
  • Made with steel and wood

Previous Design/Build Projects

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – Collins Family 4-H Barn
Murfreesboro, AR



Extreme Makeover: Home Edition –the “Barnabunk”
Camp Barnabas Bunkhouse interior, August 2005



Regional Girls Shelter Workshop
Springfield, MO



Homestead Mobile Home Park Bus Stop 1 & 2
Ozark, MO, December 2001



Ozark Technical Community College Kiosk
Springfield, MO, December 2001



Campfire Boys & Girls Pavilion
Brighton, MO, December 2000