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la casa

permanent supportive housing



introduction housing first housing our neighbors an active facade

i nt roduc tio n Studio Twenty Seven Architecture

La Casa is a permanent supportive housing facility in the District of Columbia. Rather than function as a shelter, La Casa provides permanent, supportive housing for forty men. Before La Casa opened in late 2014, the City operated a variety of housing types and models to accommodate the homeless, most of which focused on temporary, nightly shelter. The La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing Project provides private dwelling units with full living spaces, kitchens, and baths for the chronically homeless. The stability and autonomy provided by permanent housing helps residents develop healthier and more independent lifestyles.


The District of Columbia Department of General Services selected the joint venture team of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture | Leo A Daly to design this premiere project. One of La Casa’s central design challenges was to create “home” rather than institution. It was repeatedly stressed that the city wanted a building that defies the homeless shelter archetype. The site was a design challenge with strict parameters – massing was largely predetermined by the need to fit as many units as possible within the envelope defined by zoning. Building system and material decisions were driven by concerns for immediate and long-term cost, maintenance, technical performance and the desire to achieve a LEED Gold rating. Both the client and the design team also recognized that this project held a potential to symbolize the city’s plan to use supportive housing to address chronic homelessness.




The notion that La Casa is experienced by its residents as a home, rather than an institution, is crucial to its success as a supportive housing facility. The living units are bright, simple, and efficient. Aperiodic floor-to-ceiling windows give each resident a unique perspective of the busy urbanscape outside. Full kitchens and accessible bathrooms allow residents space to care for themselves. The interior finishes are durable but characteristically domestic – the warm grain of a wood floor, the brightness of colored tile, or the weathered patina of exposed concrete are details that are resonate to human perception. La Casa is an efficient and sustainable building that does not sacrifice open and active design. At the scale of the street, its facades bend in response to busy sidewalks and shaded pocket parks. Its two-story, fully-glazed lobby provides visual access to the interior, inviting passing community members to engage in the facility’s mission. The building’s regular form and shallow facade are activated by the irregular pattern of windows into the living units. Dark voids during the day and projections of light at night, the windows are framed by layers of cladding in low relief. The energy of Irving Street is imprinted on the facade as a rippling gradient of light, intense at the building core and slowly fading to calm at the building edges. The Studio Twenty Seven Architecture | Leo A Daly team designed La Casa to inspire pride and a sense of community membership in its residents. It is a building that leverages the power of spatial autonomy with the context of a secure, supportive environment to encourage the rehabilitation of it residents. Not quite an apartment building, nor a dorm or shelter, La Casa is a new typology for housing the homeless.





h ous ing first Homelessness is not one experience – it is a continuum. At its least extreme are people that spend a day or two in the shelter system. At its most extreme are the chronically homeless, people who have been homeless for a long time and suffer from a disabling condition. Almost all instances of homelessness are a response to a deficiency of affordable housing opportunities. As a Permanent Supportive Housing facility, La Casa is home to people with histories of chronic homelessness as well as the medical and social services that will help them establish independence. La Casa is a Housing First program; there are no sobriety or employment requirements for new tenants. Residents can more effectively combat addiction, find employment, and improve their mental and physical health when provided with a safe, reliable, and autonomous housing condition.


Homelessness emerged as a prominent national issue in the 1980s. In the decades following World War II, the country’s economic focus shifted to the suburbs. Cities, depopulated and devoid of new development, were viewed as centers for crime and social deviance. Aggressive regulation against low-cost and single room occupancy housing options, urban renewal programs, and slashes to the federal budget for housing assistance led to a sharp decrease in affordable housing options. This trend, together with the deinstitutionalization of mental health treatment and a stagnant economy, caused the rate of homelessness to swell. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed in 1987, helped to establish emergency shelters, soup kitchens, and other supportive services in communities nationwide. The rate of homelessness, however, remained high. It became apparent that working to mitigate the symptoms of homelessness – hunger, physical and mental health problems, or nights spent on the streets – did not solve the condition of homelessness itself. In the mid ‘90s, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began encouraging communities to consolidate all efforts to provide housing and service to the homeless under planning bodies called Continuums of Care. CoC’s are a framework to direct cooperation between the federal government, local governments, and private institutions to address all states of homelessness. HUD identified four necessary components of a continuum: a mechanism for identifying victims of homelessness and connecting them to support services; emergency shelters; transitional housing; and permanent supportive housing.



At-risk of Homelessness

People at-risk of homelessness have a severe housing burden, or pay more than half of their income to housing.

Per 1,000 people, 217 in the US are at-risk of homelessness; 199 in the DC metro area. AFFORDABLE HOUSING Temporarily Homeless

The most common length of time that someone is homeless is one or two days.

Per 1,000 people, 4.5 in the US used a shelter once in a year; 13.4 in principal cities. Homeless for a short amount of time

Half the people who enter the homeless shelter system will leave within 30 days.

Per 1,000 people, 1.9 in the US are homeless on a given night; 11.8 in DC.




Chronically Homeless The chronically homeless are disabled and have been homeless for more than a year or repeatedly in the last few years. They use nearly 60% of the resources spent on emergency and transitional shelters.

14.6% of the homeless on a given night in the US are chronically homeless; 22.9% in DC in DC, of the chronic homeless population 12.0% suffer from Chronic Substance Abuse; 12.6% suffer from Severe Mental Illness; 11.0% suffer from a Chronic Health Problem; 18.3% have a Physical Disability; 7.2% have Limited English Proficiency; 10.0% are U.S. Military Veterans.

Alcohol/ Drug Treatment Psychiatric Hospital



Jail/ Prison Streets

targeted homeless programs

CoCs, HUD Emergency Solutions Grants, Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, DoE Education for Homeless Children and Youths, HUD-Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing, Supportive Services for Veteran Families DC data is from 2014. US data is from 2013. also see Dennis Culhane, “Five myths about America’s homeless” July 11, 2010, The Washington Post

mainstream programs

Housing Choice Vouchers, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Workforce Investment Act, Head Start

community stakeholders

With this restructuring, communities have shifted their focus to solving the condition of homelessness through affordable housing — preemptive support for people at risk of becoming homeless, rapid rehousing for the newly homeless, and permanent supportive housing for the chronic homeless. This strategy is working – despite high unemployment and foreclosure rates, the homeless population in America is decreasing.1 Though the chronic homeless now represent less than 15 percent of the general homeless population, more than half of the funds devoted to fighting all homelessness is used for their care. Emergency services often associated with chronic homelessness – emergency room visits, hospitalizations for medical or psychiatric care, rooms in detoxification facilities or nursing homes, and incarceration – are expensive. Permanent Supportive Housing is a much more cost effective option. According to a study published in 2009, the average cost of housing and services for a resident at the 1811 Eastlake facility in Seattle was $30,000 less per year than caring for a chronically homeless individual without housing. The savings increased to $36,000 after 12 months in housing.2 The healthcare costs for residents of a permanent supportive facility called Moore Place in Charlotte, North Carolina fell by $1.8 million annually after they moved in.3 1. T h e h o m e l e s s p o p u l a t i o n i n t h e Un i t e d S t a t e s d r o p p e d b y 11 p e r c e nt b e t w e e n 2 0 0 7 a n d 2 014 . A H A R 2 014 , p . 1 2 . M a r y E L a r m i e r e t a l l , “ H e a l t h c a r e a n d P u b l i c S e r v i c e U s e a n d C o s t s B e f o r e a n d A f t e r P r o v i s i o n o f H o u s i n g fo r C h r o n i c a l l y H o m e l e s s Pe r s o n s w i t h S e v e r e A l c o h o l P r o b l e m s ,” A p r i l 1, 2 0 0 9 , T h e J o u r n a l o f t h e A m e r i c a n M e d i c a l A s s o c i a t i o n , 3 01(13 ) : 13 4 9 -13 57 3 . K at h leen M i les, “ Housi ng t he Homeless Not O n ly Saves L ives – It’s Act ua l ly Cheaper T ha n Doi ng Not h i ng ” Huf f in g t on Post , M a rch 25, 2014


"W h e n p e o ple are in housing, everyone be n e f i t s . [ T he b est w ay to combat h o m e le ss n ess is] by providing more h o u s i n g o p p or tunities."

Laura Zelinger Executive Director for the US Interagency on Homelessness in Nathan Rott, “Bilingual D.C. Homeless shelter to close,� The Washington Post, October 2, 2010



H O ME L E S S NE S S IN D C Even as homelessness is decreasing nationwide, the homeless population in Washington, DC continues to grow. The city’s economy and population are expanding rapidly, largely at the expense of those who depend on affordable housing. The District lost half of its low cost rental housing stock and 72 percent of its low-value homes between 2000 and 2010. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased by half, and the median home value nearly doubled. Meanwhile, household incomes for the poorest 40 percent of DC residents did not increase; in 2010, one in five DC households spent more than half of their income on housing.4 The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP), DC’s CoC program, conducts a point-in-time count of the homeless population each January. In 2014, TCP counted nearly 8,000 people spending the night without a home – up 18 percent since 2010.5 Of this number, approximately 400 are found on District streets, 6,000 in “low barrier” or emergency shelters, and 1,600 in transitional housing facilities. Half are individuals, half are part of homeless families.

4 . J e n n y R e e d , “ D i s a p p e a r i n g A c t : A f fo r d a b l e H o u s i n g i n D C i s Va n i s h i n g A m i d S h a r p l y R i s i n g H o u s i n g C o s t s ,” M ay 7, 2 012 , D C F i s c a l Po l i c y I n s t i t u t e 5 . “ H o m e l e s s n e s s i n M e t r o p o l i t a n Wa s h i n g t o n , R e s u l t s a n d A n a l y s i s f r o m t h e 2 014 Po i nt-i n -T i m e C o u nt o f H o m e l e s s Pe r s o n s i n t h e M e t r o p o l i t a n Wa s h i n g t o n R e g i o n ,” M e t r o p o l i t a n Wa s h i n g t o n C o u n c i l o f G o v e r n m e nt ’s H o m e l e s s S e r v i c e s P l a n n i n g a n d C o o r d i n a t i n g C o m m i t t e e , M ay 14 , 2 014 . p . 7





ONE BEDROOM PROGRAM Er na ’s H o use , N S t r e e t Vi l l ag e approximately 510 SF

Erna’s House is the first District-owned permanent supportive housing facility in DC. It was converted from a traditional apartment building, so the units have a bedroom separated from the living and dining area by a partition. Access to the HVAC and plumbing systems is within the unit.


approximately 350 SF The studio configuration of the living units in La Casa retains the autonomy and individuality of a one-bedroom apartment while saving space. Access to mechanical systems is centralized.

SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY PROGRAM A s sh o w n in t h e L a C a sa PU D M e m o r an d i u m approximately 130 SF

La Casa was originally planned as a single room occupancy shelter, where the living units are for sleeping only. In typical SRO shelters, there is one multi-fixture bathroom per floor and kitchen/meal service on ground floor.


“ T h e gr e ate s t b ar r ier to en din g h o m ele s sn e s s in o ur co mmuni tie s i s th e l ac k of f i xe d , af f o r dab l e p er m an ent h o u sin g o p p o r tuni tie s f o r th e l o w e s t in co m e h o u s eh o l d s .” “Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington, Results and Analysis from the 2014 Point-in-Time Count of Homeless Persons in the Metropolitan Washington Region,” p. 1

In the same count, 2,165 are chronically homeless (45% of all singles, 10% of families).6 Although chronic homelessness in DC has fallen by 15% since 2010, it fell by twice – 30 percent – nationwide in the same period of time.7 The District and its partners are making an effort to convert transitional housing programs to permanent supportive housing. In the 2014 count, TCP inventoried 3,639 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals and 871 for families.8 Most of these units are the scattered-site model of supportive housing, where housing subsidies are paired with support services that make in-home visits. The first public single-site facility, Erna’s House, opened in March 2012. It is an apartment building repurposed to house 31 women with histories of chronic homelessness, funded and managed by a partnership between the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) and N Street Village, a nearby private women’s shelter. 6 “ H o m e l e s s n e s s i n M e t r o p o l i t a n Wa s h i g t o n , 2 014 ,” 4 9 7. i b i d . 2 0 8. ibid. 50




“ T h e D i st r i ct wants to break the n o t i o n t h a t homeless care facilities a re i n st i t u tional, generic unpleasant pl a ce s to be… La Casa w il l c ha nge th e p e rce p tion of the public an d the pe rce pt i o n of the resid ents.” Department of General Services



1 g r o und f lo o r 6

2 5 3


se c o nd f lo o r













typical t h ir d – se ve nth f lo o r

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8







La Casa, which opened in December 2014, is the first facility in the city designed and built ground up as Permanent Supportive Housing. Its carefully orchestrated program is a mix of private and public spaces, maximizing the number of individual living units in the 25,000 square foot building while laying the groundwork for an open, supportive community.




The forty single-occupancy units are designed for efficiency and durability, but also to be easily identified by residents as home. Inspired by more costly studio loft apartments, each dwelling unit provides floor-to-ceiling operable windows for natural daylighting and ventilation. Ninety percent of all interior space has views to the exterior. The units offer functional simplicity, coupling a hybrid living, eating, and kitchen space with a sleeping niche. Warm and durable flooring of exposed concrete and bamboo complements quiet, crisp white walls and a refined gray kitchen. Collectively, La Casa operates as a community. Communal spaces are interspersed with offices where residents can seek counseling, case management, and employment and housing placement assistance. The finishes in the building’s public spaces – textured ceramic tile, carpet tile, and exposed concrete – prioritize warmth, beauty, and durability. The facility is built to minimize maintenance requirements while feeling like home. Each living unit is fully handicap accessible, utilizing universal design principals to cater to the 28 percent of program participants who have physical disabilities. All public areas are equipped with power assisted entries and accessible hardware, corridors are well illuminated, and all building signage is tactile. A home rather than an institution, La Casa is a project that represents a change in the way a city addresses homelessness. It is a blended effort of both architecture and social services to impede the growth of the homeless population.


(t o p a n d l e f t) Ty p i c a l u n i t f r o m e nt r a n c e ; ( b o t t o m) E a t i n g a r e a o f a t y p i c a l u n i t .





h ous ing o u r n e ig h bo rs La Casa is located in Columbia Heights, a neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, DC. It sits among midrise residential buildings, street-level restaurants, and a retail complex on Irving Street, just a half-block west of the Columbia Heights station of the DC Metro subway system. The Metro station is a transportation hub; the surrounding urban infrastructure supports travel by rail, bus, foot, and – owned or shared – cars and bicycles. These multi-modal transportation opportunities allow La Casa tenants to travel easily and conveniently throughout the city, extending their access to city resources and employment possibilities beyond the immediate area.


I r vi ng St reet

B ack Al l ey


Because of the City’s need to accommodate as many residents as possible on the site, La Casa’s massing is largely informed by zoning restrictions – its height and the alignment of its primary facades (including the 12-foot setback along Irving Street) are at the maximum allowance. The dimension of the rear courtyard reduces the building mass just enough to achieve the required floor-to-area ratios and provides light and air to the rear facing units. Yet, as a building symbolic of community action to reconceptualize care of the homeless, La Casa has important urban responsibilities. To ensure that the building is experienced as an integral part of the surrounding neighborhood, the design team made meaningful adjustments to the volume prescribed by the zoning parameters. A subtle cant of the first levels of the north facade – at the scale of the street – provides a foreground to the entry and relief to the adjacent pocket park. The canted wall folds back, carving the two-story, fully-glazed lobby from the northeast corner of the building mass. The layers of glazing provide visual access to the interior, inviting the gaze of a community that is in fact an important participant in the rehabilitation of the La Casa residents. At night, the transparent lobby is a lantern set within the urban fabric, greeting Columbia Heights residents as they exit the Metro station on their commute home, to run an errand, or to grab a bite to eat.



La Casa’s seven-story height balances the nine-story building facades that face 14th Street and the four and five-story buildings on Irving Street Just as it supports members of the Columbia Heights community in their acclimation to the modern housing economy, the building is a physical link between the historic fabric of Columbia Heights and the new development at its center.



C O LU MBI A HE I G H T S Columbia Heights was an early suburb of DC, located just north of the city’s original northern boundary at Florida Avenue. It was named for Columbian College, founded near Meridian Hill Park in 1822, which was renamed George Washington University and relocated to downtown DC in 1912. Supported by streetcars that connected the neighborhood to downtown DC along 16th, 14th and 11th Streets NW, Columbia Heights thrived. Large apartment buildings and blocks of row houses built in the early 20th century added an urban character to the once suburban landscape. The Tivoli Theater, an ornate cinema, and The Arcade, an entertainment center, anchored the neighborhood’s central commercial corridor along 14th Street NW. Columbia Heights has always been diverse, but not always integrated. 13th Street NW was the neighborhood’s unofficial racial divide into the 1930s, until the booming black middle class community spilled west as white residents moved to suburbs further from the city. The all-white Central High School, at the neighborhood’s southeast corner, closed in 1940 due to low enrollment. By the time the all-black Cardozo High School moved into the building in 1950, Columbia Heights was predominately black.1

1. B r i a n D. K r a f t , “ C o l u m b i a H e i g ht s : P a s s a g e w ay fo r Ur b a n C h a n g e .” i n Wa s h i n g t o n a t H o m e : A n I l l u s t r a t e d H i s t o r y o f N e i g h b o r h o o d s i n t h e N a t i o n’s C a p i t a l , e d i t e d b y K a t h r y n S c h n e i d e r S m i t h , ( B a l t i m o r e : J o h n s H o p k i n s Un i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 2 010 ) 2 5 0



“ W h e n p e o ple think about all the s h o p s a n d chic clubs and nightclubs [ b u i l t a lo n g 14th Street NW in the last d e ca d e ] , I think about how this was o n ce a t h ri ving ur b an cor r id or. It was n o t o n ly c ultural black Washington, but co m m e rc i a l b l ac k Washing ton.” Ernest Drew Jarvis in “Memories of Mayhem and Mercy,” The Washington Post, April 7, 2008

Hard times hit the neighborhood, known also as Cardozo, in the 60s. In 1960, 25 percent of the city’s welfare recipients lived within the Cardozo school district. The 14th Street commercial corridor was largely destroyed in the riots that swept DC following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Damage to property in Columbia Heights was valued at (in 2015 dollars) $44.9 million. After the riots, the city bulldozed 70 acres of land in the neighborhood – including 4,000 homes and 270 of the 320 businesses along 14th Street – hoping in vain to attract new development. Instead, residents continued to move to the suburbs, leaving even more property vacant; those that stayed faced soaring rates of poverty and crime.2

2 . K r a f t 2 010 , 2 53



(t o p) T h e L a C a s a Tr a n s i t i o n a l S h e l t e r f r o m I r v i n g S t r e e t i n 2 0 0 5 . I t s o n e - s t o r y b r i c k b u i l d i n g a n d f i v e c o n s t r u c t i o n t r a i l e r s h o u s e d 13 0 m e n o v e r n i g h t ; ( b o t t o m) D e t a i l o f t h e mu r a l o n t h e s h e l t e r ’s e a s t s i d e .


In the subsequent decades, a largely-immigrant Hispanic population moved into the neighborhood, blurring racial divides between white and black. La Casa (Spanish for the house) was established on Irving Street in 1985; it originally operated as both a traditional low-barrier emergency shelter and transitional housing facility for both English- and Spanish-speaking homeless men. A one-story brick structure and five construction trailers were lined with bunk beds, housing 130 men overnight. In the wake of a severe District-wide economic crisis in the mid-‘90s, the city chartered the National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) to manage and develop District-owned property in underserved and emerging neighborhoods. The city also used Federal funding to expand its Metro system to struggling areas of the city. The Columbia Heights station, located a half-block from La Casa at 14th and Irving Street, opened in 1999. The new Metro station helped the NCRC to attract large-scale development surrounding La Casa, including the DC USA complex – urbanized big-box retail – and several residential buildings. In 2002, a subsidiary of the NCRC chose Bethesda-based Donatelli Development to build a mixed-use complex on the southwest corner of 14th and Irving Streets, including the land occupied by La Casa. In 2004, the corporation requested that Donatelli’s plans be augmented to include a single room occupancy facility to replace the existing shelter. The developer and city filed a joint application to the zoning commission requesting the creation of a Planned Development Unit – La Casa’s original site was partially zoned for residential development (R-5-B); the entire PUD would be rezoned as commercial (C-3-A) to accommodate the dense program.



The first phase of the Highland Park development, a 229-unit structure between La Casa and the Metro station’s western entrance, opened in 2008. The original La Casa shelter closed its doors in October of 2010 – its residents relocated to other facilities or placed in scattered-site supportive housing – and construction began on the 144-unit Highland Park addition. La Casa, which became a permanent supportive housing facility rather than a single room occupancy shelter to take advantage of federal CoC funding, opened its doors to forty residents in December 2014.


(t o p) V i e w f r o m b o t t o m o f t h e w e s t e x i t o f t h e C o l u m b i a H e i g ht s M e t r o s t a t i o n ; ( b o t t o m) T h e L a C a s a s i t e f r o m t h e n o r t h w e s t c o r n e r o f 14 t h a n d I r v i n g S t r e e t s N W ( M e t r o S t a t i o n a t b o t t o m l e f t) .


“They’re just pushing people furth e r a n d f urther away from the business co r r i d o r … I n my head the rationale is ‘out of s i g h t and o ut o f mi n d.’ If you don ’t s ee p o o r people, you don’t know poor peop le ex i st . I f you don’t see homeless people i n yo u r com m unity, you ass u me t h at t h ey d o n’ t ex ist. ”

Brian Anders homeless advocate and member of CCNV & Empower DC in Pete Tucker, “La Casa Shelter To Close,” October 13, 2010,

DEMOGRAPHICS OF 75% COLUMBIA HEIGHTS & DC, 1990–2010 (% of total population)

African American in CH

in CH in DC

in DC




White in DC


Hispanic in CH

in DC in CH

Census data from







In 2010, Columbia Heights was 40.7 percent black, 26.6 percent white, and 27.7 percent Hispanic. In 1990, the same census tracts were 75.1 percent black, 3.7 percent white, and 19.4 percent Hispanic.3 Between 2000 and 2010, the 20010 zip code (the north half of Columbia Heights, with parts of the adjacent Mt. Pleasant and Park View neighborhoods) had the 14th largest increase in the share of the white population in the country.4 Home values in the neighborhood have almost quadrupled.5 The forces of gentrification are pushing Columbia Heights residents dependent on low-value housing to other areas of the city. As the last public men’s shelter in Ward 1, La Casa stands against the use of new development to ostracize people who have long called Columbia Heights their home. It is a building that fits into the neighborhood in a way that is not stigmatized. It is a service central to the community of Columbia Heights, rather than an institution set on its periphery. The chronic homeless are no longer outcasts, seen by passerby as outsiders without hope or home – they are neighbors.

3 . C e n s u s d a t a f r o m n e i g h b o r h o o d i n f o d c . o r g 4 . M i c h a e l J . Pe t r i l l i , “ T h e f a s t e s t- g e nt r i f y i n g n e i g h b o r h o o d s i n t h e Un i t e d S t a t e s .” Ju l y 11, 2 012 , F l y p a p e r, T h o m a s B . Fo r d h a m I n s t i t u t e 5 . C e n s u s d a t a f r o m n e i g h b o r h o o d i n f o d c . o r g





an a ct ive facade La Casa fosters individualized identity within the context of collective housing. There are five different living unit layouts – though each unit has the same amount of glazing, the pattern of fenestration is unique for each. From Irving Street or the rear courtyard, residents can easily identify their particular floor and unit; their place in the world. The building’s envelope is pushed to zoning allowances to maximize programmed space within. The primary facade faces north, so the interplay of light, shade, and shadow is limited. To mediate this flatness, the design team employed the windows into each unit as darkened voids in the daytime and illuminated beacons in the evenings. The syncopated rhythm of the exterior cladding blends the fixed form of the urban skyline with the activity of the city street – La Casa is a fixed, reliable presence, but is nonetheless absorbed in the life and movement of the city that surrounds it. In lowrelief, the gray cement board frames the building mass, heaviest where the building meets adjacent structures and over the Irving Street entrance. If the cement board is the frame, the woodgrain Trespa panels are the framing mat, a plane against which the windows alternate between void and light-images. The light energy is most intense at the building’s core, a representation of the active community of residents within.


01 establis hm en t o f p la c e

03 blen din g of m ass+ e nvir o nme nt


0 2 pla c id ity o f sky line

0 4 equ a l dist r ib ut io n o f g la zing




module: liv in g u nits

i ndi vidualization: fen e st r a t io n p a t t e r n

bl end in g of m ass + e nvir o nme nt: c la d ding






T HE R A IN S CR E E N The facade is designed to be a medium by which the residents of La Casa relate to the surrounding community. Likewise, the facade is a mechanism that mediates between exterior and interior conditions. La Casa is designed to a US Green Building Council LEED Gold standard – it was important that its external walls be highly efficient thermal barriers. To maximize the building’s energy performance, the exterior wall assembly was carefully composed to prevent the movement of unconditioned air in or conditioned air out. The airtight wall assembly had to be able to handle the inevitable weeping of water through its exterior layers – without air moving through the wall to dry it, moisture could get trapped and cause extensive damage. The exterior wall assembly takes a layered approach to sealing the interior against air and water filtration. Instead of depending on a single barrier, the cladding is a rain screen that prevents the majority of moisture from reaching the primary wall assembly; the primary wall assembly is protected by continuous air barriers both inside and out. Rain screens are a type of cavity wall assembly. The dimension of the furring that supports the exterior cladding – at La Casa, concrete board or paper-in-epoxy-resin panels – creates a small, continuous cavity. The positive pressure of wind on the facade creates negative pressure within the cavity. This pressure difference equalizes at the open joints between the panels, creating a continuous flow of air that prevents 90 percent of all water from moving past the cladding layer.


(t o p) G r o u n d f l o o r s l a b i s p o u r e d , 7/9/13 ; ( b o t t o m) Wo r k e r s p r e p a r e t o p o u r t h e f o u r t h f l o o r s l a b , 8/2 0/2 013


(t o p) T h e s e v e nt h f l o o r s l a b i s p o u r e d , 10/0 8/2 013 ; ( b o t t o m) T h e p r i m a r y e x t e r i o r w a l l f r a m i n g s y s t e m i s i n p l a c e , 12 /10/2 013 .


(t o p) T h e w i n d o w s a n d f l u i d a p p l i e d a i r b a r r i e r a r e i n p l a c e , t h e b u i l d i n g i s “c l o s e d i n� a n d w o r k o n i nt e r i o r f i n i s h e s a n d s y s t e m s c a n b e g i n , 0 4/0 2 /2 014 ; ( b o t t o m) C o n s t r u c t i o n i s c o m p l e t e , 9/2 6/2 014




Most of the remaining moisture drains down the vaporpermeable air barrier that faces the back of the cavity; the small fraction that weeps through the wall condenses within the wall and exfiltrates back through the air barrier. The rain screen system extends the life expectancy of the entire wall assembly. Exterior to the building structure, a fluid-applied membrane air barrier, sheathing, and 2-inch rigid insulation create a continuous and insulated building envelope. All wall penetrations – such as the structural ties that support the cladding system, windows and doors, control and expansion joints, or piping – are designed with thermal breaks or faced with material to prevent thermal transmission, carefully flashed, and/or sealed by the membrane air barrier. All windows are low-E coated insulated glass to limit solar heat gain. Additional insulation in the primary wall framing system, which is set within the building structure, proves a supplemental insulated envelope. The insulation is faced with a vapor-retarder membrane to protect the assembly from humid air inside the building. Once the windows, window flashing, and exterior air barrier are in place, the building is “closed in” – interior finishes and systems can be installed at the same time as the exterior rain screen assembly. Though the rain screen cladding assembly requires extensive coordination – a number of different subcontractors are responsible for the delivery and installation of the assembly’s different components – it is a highly effective way to build an energy efficient and watertight exterior building envelope.




“There’s s o mu c h to be s aid – I d id n’ t sta r t here look i n g li ke t h i s … mov ing in [ L a Ca sa ] , I’m able to take a shower a n d c le a n u p . I just got a h ai rc u t yesterda y. The re ne e d s to be more places li ke t h i s bu il t .” Denver Hawkins Resident of both the original La Casa shelter and the new La Casa PSH. Although he qualified, Hawkins was previously unable to find a place in PSH because he uses a wheelchair. La Casa is fully ADA accessible. in Eric Falquero, “Housing Facility Raises Bar for City Homeless Services,” Street Sense, December 2014




List of Im ages : All ph o t o g r a ph s a re by A n i c e Hoa chla nd er, Hoa chla nd er D av is Photog raphy unle ss not e d ot he rw ise. All dr aw i n g s a re by S t udi o Twe nty Seven Architectu re u nles s noted ot he rw ise. cove r :

N or t h e l evat i o n d e t a il, La Casa Per manent Supportive Ho using, 2014

ii–iii :

T h e mu r a l o n t h e e a s t face of the original La Casa shelter, “Columbia Heights” by Maria Za c a ri a s wi t h t h e D C Su mmer You th Emp loy ment Prog ra m and t he Lat in A m e ric an Yout h Cen t e r i n C o l umbi a H eig hts, 2001. ima g e cred it: Elvert Bar ne s, July 2008, ac c e sse d via F lic kr

iv :

Fro m t h e n o rt h e a s t at d u s k , La C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive H ousing, 2014

02–03 :

N o rt h e levat i o n at s uns et, La C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive H ousing, 2014


N o rt h e levat i o n de t a il, La C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Ho using, 2014

06–07 :

Lo bby a s l a n t e r n , L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


Lo bby wi t h v i e w t o H ig hla nd Pa rk cou rtya rd , La C a s a Per m ane nt S upport ive H ousing, 2014


Lo bby wi t h s e c o n d f l o or mezza nine, La C a s a Per ma nent Support ive H ousing, 2014


H om e l e s s h o us i n g i n DC , 2015


Typ e s o f h o me l e s s h o u s ing in D C , 2015


S i n g l e - s i t e pe r m a n e n t s u p p ortive hou s ing in D C , 2015


( t o p ) Ty p i c a l u n i t , E r na’s House, N Street Village, 2012, courtesy of the DC De partment o f Ge n e ra l S e rv i c e s ; ( mid d le) Ty p ica l u nit, La C a s a Per mane nt S upport ive H ousing, 2 0 1 4 ; (bo t t o m ) Ty pi c a l u nit, orig ina l d es ig n for La C a s a a s show n in t he La Casa P UD Me m o r a n dum , co urt es y of D onatelli D evelop ment, 2011

22–23 :

E l evat o r L o bby, L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


H allway, L a C a s a Pe r ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


G ro u n d f l o o r, s e c o n d f loor, and typical third through seventh f loor plans, La Casa Per manent S u p po r t i ve H o us i n g, 2013


U ni t e n t r y, L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


Typ i ca l l i v i n g un i t i s ometric, La C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive H ousing, 2015


( t o p ) Un i t l i v i n g a re a ; (b ottom) U nit k itchen, La C a s a Per m ane nt Support ive H ousing, 2014

30– 3 1 :

U ni t s l e e pi n g a re a , L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


Fro m t h e n o rt h e a s t , L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


S i t e pla n , L a C a s a Pe r ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2015


N o rt h E levat i o n , L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2015


Fro m t h e n o rt h we s t , L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


Co l umbi a H e i g h t s n e ig hb orhood p la n, 2015


( t o p ) L a C a s a M e n’s Shelter, O ctob er 28, 2005, ima g e credit : roc kc re e k, De c e m be r 2010, a c c e s s e d v i a f l i ck r; ; (b ottom) D eta il of La C a s a Shelter mural, im age c re dit : Pe r r y Frank, DC Mu ra ls, dcmura ls. i n fo


Zo n i n g pl a n , 2 0 1 5


( t o p ) Vi e w f ro m b o t t om of the west exit of the Columbia Heights Metro station; (bottom) T he L a C a s a s i t e f ro m t h e northwest cor ner of 14th and Irving Streets NW, image credit: Studio Twe n t y S eve n Arch i t e ctu re 2011


Dem o g r a ph i c s a n d h o me va lu e in C olu mb ia Heig hts, 1990- 2010- 2013

48–49 :

Mo de l ph o t o g r a ph s, L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2013 im age c re dit : S t udio Twe n t y S eve n Arch i t e ctu re


Fa ca de de t a i l, L a C a sa Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014

5 2 –5 3 :

Fa ca de de s i g n dia g ra ms, 2015


C o urt ya rd fro m a b ove, La C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive H ousing, 2014


Fa ca de de s i g n e levation d ia g ra ms, 2015


S t i l l s fro m C o n s tru ction C a m, Ju ly 2013–Se p temb er 2014


Fa ca de de t a i l a nd exp lod ed a xonometric, 2015


S o ut h fa ca de, L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014


We s t fa ca de, L a C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive Hou s ing, 2014

6 7 :

L a C a s a re s i d e n t Denver Hawkins at the facility’s ribbon cutting ceremony, December 11, 2 0 1 4 , i m a g e cre dit: Eric Fa lq u ero, S treet S ense


N o rt h fa ca de de t a il, La C a s a Per ma nent Su p p ortive H ousing, 2014

Project Team: S t u d i o Twe n t y S eve n Arch itectu re | Leo A D a ly Joint Ventu re Jo h n K. Burk e, A I A To d d R ay, FAI A Jam es S pe a r m a n , AI A Ja c o b M a rzo l f Ja so n S h i h , A I A Raymo n d C urt i s S o l eda d Pe lle g r i n i Pi er re Ge n dre a u, R A , L eo A D a ly A d r i an a Ga l l a rdo, L e o A D a ly Ow n er : D i s t r i ct o f C o lum b ia D e p a rtment of G enera l Serv ices Cl i en t : D i s t r i ct o f C o lum b ia D e p a rtment of Hu ma n Serv ices S p e c i a l t h a n k s t o D G S P ro j e c t Mana ger, Maurice Dunn, w i t h o u t w h o m t h i s p ro j ec t w ould not hav e been possible. Co n su l t i n g Te a m: Ci vi l E n g i n e e r : A M T, L LC S t r u c t ur a l E n g i n e e r: Rob ert Silma n As s ociates M E P E n g i n e e r : M e t ro polita n C ons u lting Eng ineer s IT/AV C o n s ul t a n t : E ducationa l Sy s tems Pla nning

STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE is: John K. Burke, AIA Todd Ray, FAIA James Spearman, AIA Jacob Marzolf Jason Shih, AIA Raymond Curtis Soledad Pellegrini Craig Cook, AIA Andrew Davis Enrique de Solo Katie Floersheimer Ben Hoelscher Osama Iqab Allyson Klinner Hans Kuhn Claire Lester Niki Livingston Sarah Beth McKay Raul Montalvo Natalie Mutchler Soledad Pellegrini Keisha Wilson Ana Zannoni

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture is a collaborative design practice based in Washington DC. For more information and to stay up to date with Studio Twenty Seven, please visit our website at Point of Contact: John Burke P: 202-939-0027 E:

First published 2015 by STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE COPYRIGHT: Š 2015 STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE. All rights reserved. 1600 K Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006 All material is compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but published without responsibility for errors or omissions. We have attempted to contact all available copyright holders, but this has not been possible in all circumstances. We apologize for any omissions and, if noted, will amend in future editions. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying or microfilming, recording or otherwise, without permission from STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE.


Fragment is an episodic publication of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture. Each issue is dedicated to a singular idea, project, or element associated with the Art of Architecture. Studio Twenty Seven is an architectural research and design collaborative located in Washington DC.

Fragment 07 La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing  

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture

Fragment 07 La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing  

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture