Home Forward, formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland, in partnership with Transition Projects Inc., set a new standard for social services by developing Bud Clark Commons, which combines supportive housing and a community resource center under one roof. Located at the gateway to downtown Portland, near historic Union Station and bordering the Pearl District, an upper income mixed-use neighborhood, Bud Clark Commons balances durability and the rigorous programmatic requirements of a coalition lead by the City of Portland with a progressive design and sustainability approach. The project earned a LEED Platinum certification with savings from the use of energy-efficient technologies estimated at $60,000 per year.
Using the Housing First approach, the mission of Bud Clark Commons is to provide a continuum of services to help transition homeless individuals from an unstable condition to a permanent living arrangement. With this in mind, the architects approached Bud Clark Commons with the attitude that addressing basic needs is not exclusive of design that dignifies the human condition.
The project is comprised of offices for Home Forward’s staff, who oversee the apartments, and Transition Projects Inc. staff, a walk-in day center with a public courtyard and access to services; a shelter accessed through a secure entrance with 90 transitional and temporary beds for men; and a separate and secure entrance to 130 efficient, studio apartments for single women or men seeking permanent housing. A host of services are in place and available to visitors and residents, including a bike station, barbershop, library, and Learning Center. A multi-purpose room is used for a wide range of social events, as well as Community Court, the first to be held in a social services facility.
The 106,000 square-foot Bud Clark Commons is sited on a 200’ x 100’ half-block lot that slopes seven feet north to south. The architects chose fiberglass windows combined with a simple spandrel of colored laminated glass to abolish any suggestion of an institutional aesthetic, and to differentiate individual studio units. Each windowsill is three feet above the floor allowing for flexible furniture layouts in the studio apartments. The building interior is awash in natural light and a combination of wood finishes such as FSC-certified Douglas fir, clean details, and a bright palette create a warm, energized atmosphere that is also durable and easy to maintain.
The courtyards are surrounded by cast-in-place concrete elements that are board formed and stained to add warmth and character. There is ample built-in seating and tables. The day center courtyard also includes bike racks, storage lockers, and dog kennels. A stormwater bioswale landscaped with native plants adds a pleasant visual component but also manages large amounts of Pacific Northwest rainwater.
A durable brick veneer is constructed over a wall with continuous exterior rigid insulation to minimize air and vapor transmission. The exterior insulation also keeps the dew point and potential mold growth outside of the weather-resistant barrier. This maximized insulation and minimized infiltration also aids energy efficiency, thus heaters are only necessary on the coldest days of the year. Other sustainable features include greywater recycling, green roofs, heat recovery ventilators, solar-heated water systems, and low-flow plumbing systems. The apartment units feature optimal ventilation with heat recovery and operable windows with smart-sensors that turn off heaters when the windows are open.