So much of the green design that we see here at Inhabitat is efficient and looks cool in renderings, but the human aspect of sustainability, and the real value of our built environment is too often a rarity. Not so in the case of this modern homeless shelter in Dallas, which recently won the AIA’s National 2009 Housing Award. Called The Bridge, the sleek shelter was designed by Overland Partners Architects in collaboration with CamargoCopeland Architects, and provides not only a visually striking addition to the neighborhood, but a safe haven for people to turn to when they have nowhere else to go. According to the press release, the shelter’s surrounding area has seen a crime reduction of 18%, which in itself is a testament to the power that design can wield when it is executed with a vision of bettering lives.

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With the lofty goals of remediating homelessness, improving the urban environment and providing a model of sustainability, the project aimed high from the beginning. The idea was to take an underused brownfield site in downtown Dallas and change the paradigm for the homeless with a facility that supports guests, provides a safe and attractive work environment, and improves the surrounding communities.

The building targets a LEED Silver rating with many impressive features. The green-roofed dining room sits in the middle of an open courtyard and acts as the central gathering area of the campus. The structures are open for lots of daylighting, which also reduces energy consumption and give those inside a stronger connection to the outside world. The Pavilion reuses an existing warehouse which accommodates 200 people with ceiling fans and radiant heaters to control the indoor environment. The graywater system is said to save more than 1.5 million gallons per year of potable water. Local artists were also brought in to work with the users of the facility to create relevant art installations that gave them a sense of ownership and served as a gift from the community.

In addition to The AIA’s National 2009 Housing Award, the project has seen incredible success garnering an Excellence in Design Award from ED+C, and The AIA/HUD Secretary Award for Community Informed Design. From the AIA press release: “Results are tangible and the surrounding neighborhood is revitalizing; crime has reduced by 18 percent. The Bridge proves that shelters should not be isolated, but an integrated part of our community.”

+ Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance

+ Overland Partners Architects

+ CamargoCopeland Architects