When Doorways committed to building a new shelter for homeless women and families in Arlington VA, Michael Roberson of Michael Roberson Interior Design set about to make it people and planet friendly. The 10-bedroom and 21-bed shelter was built according to Green Home Choice criteria, using marmoleum natural flooring, fluorescent lighting, low-flow toilets, and energy star appliances. Even the wallcoverings were recycled through a first-of-its kind recycled wallcovering program called Second-Look.
Roberson’s Arlington-based firm specified three patterns of Second-Look Type II vinyl wallcovering with 20% recycled content. “I use vinyl wallcovering in many of my projects,” Roberson says. “It gives a nice texture to the wall and performs incredibly well. Even in residential construction, most families have children and pets so need that durability. But all my clients are asking for green materials, so I did some research to seek out an eco-forward vinyl wallcovering.”
Introduced in 2007, the Second-Look program won sustainability awards at NeoCon, IIDEX/NeoCon Canada and the Healthcare Facilities Symposium and awards from Architectural Record and Interiors & Sources. The low-VOC wallcoverings incorporate 20% recycled content, use water-based inks and adhesives, and incorporate a mildew-inhibiting agent. The wallcoverings also can be recycled repeatedly, and Doorways plans to reclaim them when it renovates and recycle them again through Second-Look.
Beyond its savvy sustainability, the shelter provides a life-line to the five to nine families who reside here on any given day. More than 20,000 meals are provided to these families each year, as well as self-sufficiency services, counseling and healthcare. Families who otherwise would be homeless spend three months here before moving on to the Doorways HomeStart Supportive Housing program and receive continued support and counseling as they rebuild their lives. The shelter, named the Freddie Mac Foundation Family Home, was made possible by many cash donations, including a $500,000 grant from the Freddie Mac Foundation. The project was then completed using donated construction services from HomeAid and NVHomes, as well as design services and donated materials from manufacturers such as Versa Designed Surfaces.
To create a warm and welcoming home, the wallcoverings Roberson selected for all the public spaces were a palette of soft gold, ivory and mossy green. Maple floors, white shuttered windows and multi-colored upholstery add to a warm, home-like environment. Practical needs such as identifying bedrooms are creatively non-institutional in feel, such as the use of painted icons of birds, flowers and plants, rather than numbers on the doors.
“The response has been amazing,” says Roberson. “In fact, a homeless family had a teenager who refused to come here until he was convinced to visit. He was won over by the warmth of the home and the positive energy of the families. It is always full of women and children who are sheltered and hopeful."