BAC Team Designs for Young Adults with Autism

Team submits ideas for specialized housing to design competition

Small sensory room that has LED lighting on the floor and fiber optic lights on the ceiling

Small sensory room that has LED lighting on the floor and fiber optic lights on the ceiling

A team of Boston Architectural College students, lead by Dak Kopec, director of Design for Human Health at the BAC, recently submitted their design ideas to Autism Speaks House to Home, a design competition for the development of housing for young adults who have been diagnosed with autism. BAC students Laura Shrestha, Amela Bejleri, and Jonathan Ehlers teamed up with Dak to research the symptoms and behavioral manifestations associated with adult autism and develop ways operational costs of this type of special housing could be reduced through design. Dak and the students also considered design strategies that could help reduce or mitigate the symptoms of autism.

The goal of designing housing for young adults with autism is to help these individuals learn how to thrive on their own while receiving support from peers who share similar experiences. The design submitted by the BAC team is very customizable and personalized to accommodate a variety of needs, interests, and comfort levels.

"The built environment we spend most of our time in often serves to amplify sensory stimulation by virtue of the confined spaces," explained Dak. "For people who have been diagnosed with autism, sensory regulation can be amplified in one area and suppressed in another. Hence, when designed appropriately, the young adult with autism can manage his or her condition with greater effectiveness."

The design plan submitted by Dak and the students allows the individual to choose between single living or cohabitation, which offers a level of freedom and personal choice. Another attraction in their design is the incorporation of a community space designed to support common activities that individuals diagnosis with autism typically enjoy. For example, the design included spaces for playing video games in the "sensory room," living room, and community center of each home. The team also incorporated private rooftop parks and ground level outdoor seating areas that allow the individuals to choose their desired integration levels.

Winners of the competition will be announced at the end of April.