Metal Haven Offers Help to Homeless
Simple architectural design creates a campus of care
By Mark Robins, Senior Editor
Three years ago, a survey found there were approximately 1,100
people lacking permanent housing in Oklahoma City. That figure
included 80 families and 260 chronically homeless individuals.
Since then, the city's new WestTown Campus: Resource Center &
Day Shelter has provided many of them with shelter and assistance,
and metal plays a major part in the structure's success.
Oklahoma City's homeless population face obstacles, like extreme
weather, poverty, substance abuse, mental and physical health
issues, unemployment, legal issues and domestic violence. For them,
a new 17,000-square-foot resource shelter and 15,000-square-foot
day shelter provide a "one-stop shop" for social services with
multiple agencies emphasizing the values of collaboration, progress
and respect. This "campus of care's" architectural design
incorporates durable materials, simple lines, sustainable
landscaping and mechanical systems that minimize the expense of
A renovation for respect
The resource center and day shelter used to be two existing
metal building structures: a warehouse and millwork manufacturing
center that had sat empty for several years. The campus is located
in a blighted neighborhood just west of downtown Oklahoma City in a
neighborhood with a mix of single-family housing, light industrial
and commercial uses. The adaptive reuse and renovation of the
existing metal buildings has provided a cost-effective, sustainable
solution addressing the client's desire to be a good steward of the
funds provided by the community to build WestTown and the need to
open the facility as soon as possible.
"By reusing the existing rigid steel structure, cost savings on
the structural systems were funneled to upgrading the mechanical
system to a single-pipe, geothermal system, which saves in
operational costs over the life of the building," says Kenneth
Dennis, AIA, LEED AP, and partner and director of design at TAP
Architecture, Oklahoma City. "Additionally, the existing metal roof
and wall panels were removed and recycled, and the funds received
were credited back to the client. Both of the existing structures
received building additions to accommodate the client's functional
program. Both additions used rigid steel frames for the structural
system [from Alliance Steel, Oklahoma City], which easily tie into
the existing steel frames."
In both structures, the existing steel frames were reused.
However, on the north building (the resource center), the
structural frames had to be removed and set aside so that the slab
and structural foundation could be replaced. Both the slab and
foundation on this building had failed and needed to be replaced.
The existing building pad had to be excavated and replaced with
compact select fill. The rigid frames were stacked neatly in a
staging area while the foundation work was being completed. Once
the new foundation and slab were in place, the rigid steel frames
Replacing the existing foundation and slab of the north building
proved to be the greatest construction challenge. "However, the
potential delay that this problem created was mitigated by the fact
that we were able to reuse the existing rigid steel frames for the
structure," Dennis says. "They were conveniently staged on-site and
were ready for erection when the new foundation and slab were
complete." There were no problems with the south building's
foundation or slab; therefore, their existing rigid frames did not
have to be removed.
Durability, ease and speed
Metal was selected for this project because of its strength,
durability and ease of construction. "As evidenced by the
building's structure, high-performance building envelope and
visually striking metal panel screens, the diversity in which metal
is used as a building material in this project is significant,"
Dennis says. Brightly colored metal screens from McNICHOLS Co.,
Tampa, Fla., fabricated by Associated Steel Fabricators, Oklahoma
City, and installed by Lippert Bros. Inc., Oklahoma City, highlight
the central promenade.
They provide visual privacy for offices in the resource center
while serving as a place to sit down and rest, or socialize. These
screens also serve as sunshade panels for the windows along the
south side of the resource center and help minimize heat gain. They
are a real element of interest to the overall design of the outdoor public space.
"Many of the people visiting the WestTown Campus have commented
on the fun and whimsical appearance of the buildings and appreciate
that they are not dull and 'institutional' looking," Dennis says.
Metal was used to re-skin the previous structures' walls. The
exterior walls are 16-feet-high for the resource center and
21-feet-high for the day shelter.
Using R-16, 24-gauge, ribbed metal panels from Berridge
Manufacturing Co., San Antonio, and smooth metal panels from MBCI,
Houston, with a variety of textures give human scale to the
buildings. The ribbed metal panels were oriented horizontally so as
not to accentuate the verticality of the tall walls. This creates a
more intimate and familiar experience for campus visitors,
particularly in the central promenade. Berridge also supplied its
Zee-Lock 2-inch standing seam metal roof panels in natural
For all its applications at WestTown, metal offered faster speed
of construction than comparable materials. "Once the building
components were detailed by the fabricator and approved by the
architect, they were fabricated and delivered to the job site very
quickly," says Joel Lippert, vice president, Lippert Bros. "This
takes the guess work out of scheduling and erection. You know what
you are working with."
Because the campus is a day shelter for the homeless, the design
had to address the concerns of the surrounding property owners.
Perimeter security fencing serves two purposes: it keeps the day
shelter clients protected from outside elements (i.e. people trying
to take advantage of them, sell them drugs or alcohol, etc.) and
screens the outdoor activities at the day shelter from the
A typical security/privacy fence constructed of stockade fence
panels was considered unacceptable. But, a perimeter fence that
incorporated a variety of materials including corrugated metal
panels was used to produce visual screening and privacy.
"In keeping with the fun and whimsical appearance of the metal
panel screens on the buildings, the corrugated metal panels are the
canvas for an outdoor public art display created by members of the
community," says Dennis. "Local artists, elementary school students
and corporate entities offer bright, colorful responses to the
question: 'What does home mean to you?'"
Helping people, saving energy
The buildings are energy efficient.
According to Dennis, annual energy costs for the campus are
approximately one-third of the cost originally budgeted by the
client. "This is great because the actual cost savings realized can
be used for programs to serve the homeless," he says.
The following building systems and sustainable strategies
contribute to meeting this goal:
• High-performance building envelope with spray-foam insulation
and pre-finished metal wall panels, along with argon-filled
insulated glazing with low-E coating.
• Single-pipe geothermal system from Climate Master, Oklahoma
City, for heating and cooling.
• Placement and orientation of the windows primarily along the
north and south façade; use of deep overhangs and sunshade
panels/screens to minimize heat gain.
• Lighting controls utilize sensors to detect the amount of
natural daylight coming into the building and adjust artificial
lighting levels accordingly. Vacancy sensors automatically turn off
the lights when a room is not occupied maximize energy savings.
"The single-pipe geothermal system is so simple and efficient to
operate," says John Agnitsch, Homeless Alliance facilities
director. "I love it and would recommend it to anyone building a
WestTown Campus Resource Center Timeline
Demo existing structure, slab and foundation: May 10, 2010
New foundation and slab complete; erect existing steel frames:
Aug. 23, 2010
Exterior building envelope complete: Nov. 11, 2010
Begin interior construction: Dec. 1, 2010
Landscape/children's play area installed: March 8, 2011
Construction complete/occupancy: May 2, 2011
WestTown Campus Day Shelter Timeline
Demo existing roof and wall panels; install foundations for
addition: Jan. 27, 2011
Begin foundation for building addition: Feb. 18, 2011
Structure for addition complete; building envelope complete:
April 25, 2011
Security fencing/landscape complete: July 22, 2011
Construction complete/occupancy: Aug. 15, 2011
WestTown Campus: Resource Center & Day Shelter,
Building owner: Homeless Alliance, Oklahoma City
Architect: TAP ARCHITECTURE, Oklahoma City
General contractor: Lippert Bros. Inc., Oklahoma City
Civil engineer: Smith Roberts Baldischwiler, Chickasha,
Structural engineer: Mark Eudaley Engineers Inc., Bethany,
M/E/P engineer: HSE Engineering Inc., Oklahoma City
Landscape architect: Guernsey, Oklahoma City
Metal panel screen fabricator: Associated Steel Fabricators,
Metal panel screen installer: Lippert Bros. Inc., Oklahoma
Metal panel screens: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla., www.mcnichols.com, Circle
Geothermal HVAC: ClimateMaster, Oklahoma City, www.climatemaster.com,
Metal frame system: Alliance Steel, Oklahoma City, www.allianceokc.com, Circle
Metal roof and wall panels: Berridge Manufacturing Co., San
Metal wall panels: MBCI, Houston, www.mbci.com, Circle #44