Multifamily Havens for Unhoused Families in Need
The Catholic Charities program in Eastern Washington partnered with local architecture firm, Architecture All Forms, to design and build two special multifamily housing projects: the Jacklin Family and Beatriz and Ed Schweitzer Havens.
Both projects were launched to offer unhoused families in the area a way to re-establish their lives after experiencing hardship—a much-needed solution, especially with the recent pandemic and economic crisis.
The design team—architects Chris Weiland and Robert Vralsted—took on the project. The Haven projects needed to meet regional building code standards, and Chris and Robert wanted to ensure that both multifamily designs could complement the aesthetics of the surrounding area of Spokane, along with being durable and easy to care for, so the charity could focus on what really matters.
Meeting Design Standards
“With Catholic Charities, they sort of developed a brand with their exterior building aesthetic. Bright and bold colors were a focus because they wanted us to exemplify that even though it is affordable housing, it’s a beautiful place to live and rebuild,” they explained. “The Schweitzer project is a little more muted, neutral and conservative to blend into the industrial landscape, but bright colors were still included as a complement.”
Both projects were more than 40,000 square feet, each standing four stories tall. The main floors offer individuals a few helpful amenities: a community kitchen, administrative office support and communal outdoor spaces.
The top floors feature one-bedroom units for unhoused individuals to settle in. The two Havens complexes are in convenient locations for the residents, within walking distance of local transit stations, banks and shops.
Both projects were built in 2020, just two blocks away from each other. Each Haven’s design uses a combination of masonry and brick, and they both feature Nichiha panels to finish off the design. “All of these projects were located in Downtown Spokane, and for the Schweitzer project, we had to meet and comply with certain design review standards — Nichiha passed with flying colors,” explains Robert. “They wanted us to assimilate into an industrial-esque neighborhood and the Nichiha VintageWood product line allowed us to do that.”
At the Jacklin Family Haven site, customized Illumination panels from Nichiha were used.
“Something we love about Nichiha is that it is a commercial-grade, composite panel as opposed to other available panels,” explains Robert. “We have had no complaints about the installation or maintenance of Nichiha, so we have never felt the need to source products from anywhere else.”
Chris and Robert loved that they could feature plenty of color on the exterior, without breaking up the process of installation. “The installation is much more efficient. With larger buildings, it’s important to be able to clad the building in a shorter amount of time. Nichiha makes that possible,” they explain. “With other types of product, there’s a lot more exposed fasteners and metal trims that you have to deal with. The Nichiha product makes it easier to work on larger surface volumes.”
Keeping the Good Work Going
Chris is currently working on a third multifamily project — the Hope House — in a partnership with Volunteers of America. This project features a women’s shelter on the ground floor, along with 60 studio apartments for unhoused people who need a temporary respite and a way to shower, rest and recuperate.
Chris needed a design that would separate the women’s shelter from residents on the upper floors, for security measures. “We used CMU block on the main floor,” he explains. The upper exterior features VintageWood panels in Cedar from Nichiha, “alongside Miraia paneling and Illumination custom color panels.”
The array of textures and colors made available to architects helped Chris and Robert achieve different styles to meet each individual projects’ needs. “They sent us a plethora of samples quickly to shorten our turnaround time, aggressive scheduling, and tight deadlines. The service we received from Nichiha was unmatched.”
The multifamily Havens that Chris and Robert designed also included eco-friendly features like solar power and Nichiha’s panels—both projects qualified for Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards.
“We felt really confident using Nichiha panels for these multifamily projects because we've been using Nichiha for eight or more years with ease," Chris said.