flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

A modular solution to help reduce homelessness

Modular Building

A modular solution to help reduce homelessness

DOME is a Perkins and Will-designed prototype whose goal is to provide bridge housing to the unsheltered.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | November 18, 2019
DOME provides a secure environment for homeless individuals while they try to find permanent housing. Images: Perkins and Will

DOME provides a secure environment for homeless individuals while they try to find permanent housing. Images: Perkins and Will

On any given night, more than 500,000 Americans are homeless. Of that total, more than one-third of those homeless—35%—is unsheltered. And 47% of all unsheltered homeless live in California, which is four times higher than the state’s 12% share of the U.S. population.

Those estimates come from “The State of Homelessness in America,” which the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors released in September. That report notes that in the last two years, homelessness in Los Angeles alone had risen by 12% to more than 59,000 people. An estimated 44,000 of L.A.’s homeless eschew its shelter system, often preferring instead to live in outdoor tents that offer them more privacy and security.

Los Angeles isn’t oblivious to this situation. Proposition HHH, approved by voters in 2016, allocates $1.2 billion to build thousands of “supportive housing” units over the next decade.  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has also initiated a plan called A Bridge Home, which would help the homeless get into temporary housing in their preferred neighborhoods until they can be connected with a permanent home. The Mayor’s budget includes in excess of $460 million for supportive housing, bridge housing, and services. The state kicked in another $219 million this year.

Los Angeles is committed to creating 1,600 new units for the homeless by July 2020, and is considering a number of options, including DOME, a modular, unitized system that Perkins and Will designed specifically for interim and emergency housing.

The unit, which ranges from 47 to 52 sf, includes a bed with room for storage underneath, a lockable wardrobe, partitions, access to an electrical outlet, and an optional fabric canopy that can be pulled down for additional privacy. A person can stand inside DOME. And the design allows for an optional medium-sized kennel that can accommodate a pet up to 30 lbs.

DOME units' installation maximizes space.


Yan Krymsky, design director of Perkins and Will's Los Angeles studio, calls DOME “a sleeping cabinet.” DOME’s microsite provides details about the unit and its installation, which slots together onsite and is collapsible; 32 units could fit onto a 53-ft-long trailer. P&W estimates DOME’s cost at $4,749 per unit.

A prototype of DOME, built by Shield Casework in Kansas City, Mo., has been installed in the Los Angeles Architecture & Design Art Museum, where interested parties can evaluate its design, construction and utility, and offer comments.

Krymsky says that P&W has also been talking with shelter operators such as the Salvation Army and People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) to gauge interest in DOME and to see if they are willing to test it out.  DOME’s design is flexible enough to bend to different operators philosophies about partitions (some like them, others don’t, for security reasons). The prototype could also be made bigger (some operators prefer longer beds, for example.)

P&W got interested in this project when it was retained by the city to do research on interim housing. As such, it learned that this kind of housing typically provides extended-stay shelter, anywhere from six months to two years. P&W also learned that there wasn’t much out there that could provide bridge housing. “For us, that’s unusual in other typologies,” says Krymsky.

Shield Casework, a five-year-old company, specializes in making products using acrylic solid surface. Its two primary markets are healthcare and sports, for which it prefabricates everything from headwalls to custom lockers.

32 DOME units can be shipped on a single 53-ft trailer. 


Stephen Hopkins, Shield’s president, says that he and Krymsky had worked on previous projects, including a dorm-pod concept for the University of Utah that didn’t get built for code reasons but set the stage for the two companies’ alliance on DOME.

“For us, the challenge was how do we hone the design to its basic components” so that it could be produced simply and efficiently, says Hopkins, who is an architect.

Neither he nor Krymsky see DOME as a silver bullet for solving homelessness, given the magnitude of the problem. “It’s a Band-Aid, but one we’re happy to provide,” says Hopkins. If demand for DOME were to take off, Shield has the capacity to produce 1,000 or so units over a six-month period without disrupting its other orders.

Krymsky anticipates high interest in DOME, not only in L.A. but possibly from other cities desperately seeking housing options. Perkins + Will is also considering other housing designs, such as tiny houses (which California codes currently don’t allow). “Our frustration [with tiny houses] is that their pricing is total confusion,” with the lowest-priced model with electricity he’s seen costing around $20,000.


Related Stories

Healthcare Facilities | Jun 20, 2022

Is telehealth finally mainstream?

After more than a century of development, telehealth has become a standard alternative for many types of care.

Modular Building | Mar 31, 2022

Rick Murdock’s dream multifamily housing factory

Modular housing leader Rick Murdock had a vision: Why not use robotic systems to automate the production of affordable modular housing? Now that vision is a reality.

Hotel Facilities | Sep 22, 2021

Will hotel developers finally embrace modular construction?

Last May, MiTek, a construction software and building services company that’s part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, formed a partnership with Danny Forster & Architecture to promote modular design and construction.

Hotel Facilities | Aug 26, 2021

Building hotels with modules, with citizenM's Menno Hilberts

In this exclusive interview for HorizonTV, Menno Hilberts, Managing Director of Project Management with hotelier citizenM, explains how the company is employing modular construction to help double its presence in the U.S. 

Resiliency | Aug 19, 2021

White paper outlines cost-effective flood protection approaches for building owners

A new white paper from Walter P Moore offers an in-depth review of the flood protection process and proven approaches.

Resiliency | Jun 24, 2021

Oceanographer John Englander talks resiliency and buildings [new on HorizonTV]

New on HorizonTV, oceanographer John Englander discusses his latest book, which warns that, regardless of resilience efforts, sea levels will rise by meters in the coming decades. Adaptation, he says, is the key to future building design and construction.

Wood | Jun 10, 2021

Three AEC firms launch a mass timber product for quicker school construction

TimberQuest brand seeks to avoid overinvestment in production that has plagued other CLT providers.

AEC Tech | May 24, 2021

Digital twin’s value propositions for the built environment, explained

Ernst & Young’s white paper makes its cases for the technology’s myriad benefits.

Market Data | Feb 24, 2021

2021 won’t be a growth year for construction spending, says latest JLL forecast

Predicts second-half improvement toward normalization next year.

Modular Building | Jan 26, 2021

Offsite manufacturing startup iBUILT positions itself to reduce commercial developers’ risks

iBUILT plans to double its production capacity this year, and usher in more technology and automation to the delivery process.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021


Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: