Designing and constructing buildings to better society is fundamental to many projects, no matter the sector or size. And few projects generate greater social value than a place for young adults who have “aged out” of the foster care system.
Birmingham-based Nequette Architecture & Design has created a facility in Birmingham for 18 to 22-year-olds who have aged out of foster care but still need shelter and resources to transition into adulthood and prepare for an independent life. All work is pro bono and Nequette partnered with Signature Homes, also in Birmingham, to design and build for the client.
The project is part of faith-based Big Oak Ranch that provides a home to foster children at several sites in Alabama. Other Big Oak Ranch facilities are in rural settings, but this one is located on the edge of Vestavia on Cahaba River Road behind Grandview Medical Center. Big Oak Boys’ Ranch is located on 474 acres of farmland outside of Gadsden. Big Oak Girls’ Ranch is situated on 325 acres just outside of Springville.
Concerning the design approach, project manager Arden Gillchrest says, “There are ranch details, but because it’s in an urban setting, it’s a little more refined with clean lines. This is their first facility in an urban environment, but the design harks back to the organization’s ranch roots.”
Vertical board and batten siding found on old houses and barns is used to give the buildings a rustic feel, as does its metal roofing.
Phase 1 to expected to be completed this fall in time for the school year. The five buildings in phase 1 include a clubhouse, which is also the main building that contains a classroom. Phase I also includes the director’s home, duplexes and a multi-family building. Phase 2 will consist of an additional three buildings that will accommodate about 50 young adults.
National studies have shown that within two to four years of leaving foster care at age 18, 40 percent were homeless, 51 percent were unemployed, and 40 percent experienced drug or alcohol abuse. This is indeed a project with great social significance.
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Nequette Architecture & Design