Perkins Homes: Affordability, Sustainability, Community. Open Access
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In Baltimore Maryland, Perkins Homes, an affordable housing project built in 1942, has become an area of crime, desolation, and poverty. Perkins is one of the eight original public housing developments built to accommodate returning soldiers from World War II. The original design intentionally segregated the predominately black community from the surrounding communities by locating exterior entrances to the residential apartment buildings on the interior courtyards and not along main streets. The buildings construction of monotonous material, small windows, and exposed mechanical equipment give the development an institutional look. The inherent segregation of the development separates itself from the surrounding area, promotes crime, hinders the tenants quality of living, and inhibits healthy social interaction. Through collaborative process and sustainable design Perkins Homes fosters and strengthens community within Perkins Homes and between Perkins residents and the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. The design goals include safety, affordability, human quality of life, environmentally conscience living and design, and community. Research of past and current case studies of successful and unsuccessful public housing create a set of guidelines and how they should be implemented. Feedback from the residents lead the design changes and are vital in the development to the programs needed for the community. Accompanied site visits with the current project manager provided the opportunity for first hand observations. Seminars and forums provided ideas as well as knowledge on design solutionsconcerning construction and implemented programs for the needs of the project. Charrettes are imperative in collaborative design. Information obtained from a charrette held in 2003 by Torti Gallas directly inform the implemented programs in all four design areas of the project including; the residential units, landscaping/siterenovations, the abandoned fi rehouse, and the existing community center. The charrette consisted of Architects, community leaders, and interested residents. Safety issues, parking concerns, building management and upkeep as well as changes needed to beautify and clean the area were discussed. Programs proposed for Perkins Homes include group support meetings, job assistance and training, tutoring, childcare, recreational and gym facilities,a community garden and community kitchen. Changes to the site address parking needs, increase exterior safety, improve exterior lighting, direct pedestrian traffic and integrate the buildings with the surrounding streetscape.Interviews with local community design centers and local sustainable housing programs directed design choicesbased on proven success. Case Studies provided models and plans of existing designs that were incorporated when feasible. Affordable housing is an ongoing crisis in almost every city. The solution is not to destroy or abandon these existing structures. The solution is to provide people with affordable homes in which they canimprove themselves through the experience of communal living and its benefits. The solution uses sustainable design practices to solve both the social and environmental problems posed by affordable housing.