Dignified and Durable; CMUs Offer Affordable Senior Housing

While there are many active living communities for resident over 55 years of age, and high-end housing for seniors in search of independent or assisted living facilities, the need for very affordable housing is most often met through charitable organizations and nonprofit groups. Without a profit-producing property or residents with a steady income, building first costs are extremely important. And maintenance costs of these buildings are often just as critical.

Meeting the Need for Affordable Senior Housing

The Catholic Charities Spokane constructed a fifty-one-unit apartment building that offers dignified, durable and distinguished residences for the elderly homeless in downtown Spokane, according to Project Architect Ryan Bollinger of Heylman Martin Architects.

In a city setting, contextual architecture can enhance the sense of belonging. “This urban project is set among many early twentieth century brick buildings, says Bollinger. “With brick being less affordable, we looked at alternatives that could both fit the context and have a strong and durable component, as well as a comforting sense of home.”

Dignity and Durability

Father Bach Haven is a concrete masonry building. “The variety of color and texture available in CMU products seemed to be just the thing to convey dignity and durability. The CMU allowed us to playfully explore the benefits of a multi-colored and multi-textured exterior, breaking down stereotypes of not only how CMU could be applied, but also what affordable housing could look like,” Bollinger said.

Once the CMU building design was underway, there was never a second thought about materials and applications. “The exterior really began to take on the character of the interior and relate to the residents by representing the durability, the variety, and the sometimes rough texture being transformed into something a little more polished,” found Bollinger.

Colorful and permanent artistically interpreted flower boxes liven up the windows at the exterior of each unit. A courtyard provides private outdoor space for residents to congregate and relax. Enclosed by concrete masonry walls patterned with alternating smooth and split face block, elderly resident can enjoy the outdoor space while still being protected, enclosed and monitored. Interiors are simple and inviting.

Constructed to serve the chronically homeless, Father Bach Haven allows its elderly residents the ability to feel safe, comfortable, and hopeful toward their future. The project has been so successful at getting homeless elderly persons off the street and into their own homes that Catholic Charities Spokane is planning a second building.

Published February 4, 2019
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