Gensler’s rendering of its folding home design

Gensler designs homeless shelters to appease NIMBYs

7 December 2017 | By GCR Staff 1 Comment

Politicians in San Jose, California have unveiled designs for tiny houses produced by architect Gensler in the hope of persuading people to tolerate the homeless as neighbours.

With floor areas of between 7 and 14 sq m, the homes are intended as temporary accommodation for the city’s 4,000 homeless people.

The two models have different features. One, called the “folding home”, has room for a bed and a lockable cupboard. The “better together” home has a slanted roof with a small living space and large windows.

Headquartered in nearby San Francisco, Gensler, currently the world’s largest architect, designed the “emergency sleeping cabins” as part of a one-year pilot programme begun by the council to bring the tiny homes to three mini-settlements in San Jose.

The council wants to house around 25 people in each settlement and last year passed a law to relax building codes to make it easier to construct the shelters.

The council so far has struggled to find a location for the homes as local groups would rather they were built in someone else’s backyard.

The “better together” design

Gensler’s designs are intended to make the settlements more palatable to established residents.

Paul Pannell, design manager with Gensler, told Fox KTVU: “We felt we also wanted to in the design, give back to the community something that is visually and aesthetically pleasing rather than something that looks like a log cabin in the mountains or something.”

However, they are relatively expensive for their size. The San Jose Mercury reports that a 20-cabin village on a half-acre site would cost $90,550 per cabin. For a 40-cabin site the cost comes down to $73,125 per cabin. These costs rise by up to $17,450 per cabin when services such as security, transportation and meals are factored in.

The price tag contrasts with the homes produced by Greg Kloehn and featured in GCR in March 2015. These houses were made by street detritus and could be produced for $30 apiece.

Next week, city officials go back to the drawing board with 37 potential locations. Andrea Urton, chief executive of homeless charity HomeFirst, said the key to dealing with nimbyism was education and outreach from the city.

She told the Mercury: “Look at me. Look at the receptionist at your office or the janitor at your kid’s school. So many of us are just a paycheck away. I was homeless as a youth, and look what happened to me.”

Top image: Gensler’s rendering of its folding home design

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