Award-winning professor and building industry innovator, Homer Theodore Hurst, died October 31, 2011. As one of the Institute’s charter members, Hurst was a strong advocate for building efficiency and a contributor to the Institute’s work on improving military housing. He was considered an innovator ahead of his time.
Hurst, born in 1919, went from driving the school bus (a horse-drawn wagon) in high school to flying planes for the Navy during World War II. After the war, he used his GI bill to acquire a series of engineering degrees from the Ohio State University and went on to become a research professor. Hurst taught agricultural engineering and architecture at Virginia Tech for 35 years, from 1955 to 1990.
Often seen as radical for his determination to save building materials, Hurst focused his career on developing innovative construction techniques and promoting energy conservation using passive solar principles. He believed that with proper design, a house could be built effectively with fewer materials and went on to prove his theory by constructing a house in Blacksburg where he used only one third of the wood typically called for in the plans for frames and sheathing. He was nationally known for his research and received awards from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for his materials-savings construction methods. Appointed by the Governor of Virginia, Hurst served on the committee to update Virginia’s building codes. Hurst co-authored Pole-Type Tilt-Up Design and Construction, published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 1986. His desire to facilitate affordable housing for everyone was reflected in his support of Habitat for Humanity. According to his son, Ted Hurst, one of his biggest successes was to design a mobile home that accrued value like a traditional, stick-built house.
During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Hurst became a charter member of the Institute and conducted research for Institute projects. "Homer’s research at Virginia Tech was a great help in our efforts to improve the quality and performance of military housing throughout the world. His research results will continue to have an everlasting effect on the housing industry,” says Mortimer M. Marshall, Jr., FAIA, founding member of the Institute.