A project by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and its collaborators earned recognition in Fast Company's 2019 Innovation by Design Awards. The "New Beginnings Homeless Transition Village: A Permittable Settlement Pattern" was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Social Good category.

New Beginnings is a transitional housing village in Fayetteville for homeless singles who have insufficient wages and lack access to affordable housing. The complex is designed as a pop-up camp that is compliant with a provisional city permit that only allows temporary structures, providing individuals with an ecologically sustainable stepping stone back to formal housing.

The Community Design Center is an outreach program of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

"Our village prototype for New Beginnings has allowed us to receive permitting from the city of Fayetteville for a land use and housing type that is otherwise nonconforming in cities," said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. "The prototype also assists other housing providers struggling to establish housing for homeless in city centers where essential services and employment opportunities are located. Currently, similar projects for homeless populations are constructed in unincorporated areas to escape municipal regulations, disconnecting them from community and opportunity."

Luoni is also a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School.

The design for the complex combines individual weatherized sleeping units, a secure perimeter and a 150-foot-long "community porch" for shared services such as cooking, bathing and sanitation facilities. The community porch also provides gathering space and social work offices. The components of the village are designed for disassembly and reuse, avoiding the discard of material in a landfill.

The project was granted a five-year conditional approval by the city of Fayetteville. A formal groundbreaking on the site of a former tent city took place in April 2019. The village is expected to be operational for the coming winter.

Twenty single homeless people will be able to live in the village for six-month terms, receiving both shelter and comprehensive social services. The goal is to support them in stabilizing their lives and transitioning to permanent housing.

New Beginnings was commissioned by Serve Northwest Arkansas, a regional group working to address homelessness and poverty through a shelter-first approach. Kevin Fitzpatrick, University Professor and Jones Chair in Community in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, served as client and programing consultant for the project.

Other team members include Steve L. Marshall, of The Marshall Group of NWA (construction management); John Langham, AIA, LEED AP, of WER Architects/Planners (architect of record); Leslie Tabor (landscape architect); Neal Morrison, PE, of Morrison-Shipley Engineers, Inc. (civil engineer); Richard M. Welcher, P.E., of Tatum-Smith Engineers, Inc. (structural engineer); and Omni Engineers (MEP engineer).

The Innovation by Design Awards honor creative work at the intersection of design, business and innovation. Fast Company editors and writers spend a year researching and reviewing applicants for the annual awards. This year's applicant pool was the most competitive ever, with more than 4,300 entries.

The project will be featured online and in the October issue of Fast Company magazine. The honorees will also be recognized during Fast Company's Innovation Festival in New York, planned for Nov. 4-8. 

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AuthorLinda Komlos