The developer of HomeSafe, a community for battered women and their children, approached Studio E Architects with an interesting challenge. In addition to the usual affordable housing request—good design on a shoestring budget—they also wanted the project to fit into a co-housing format. “The developers felt it was part of the healing process to put these women who had shared this horrible experience together,” says architect John Sheehan of Studio E.

The San Diego-based firm approached the co-housing concept with gusto. It divided the development's 25 units into three main residential buildings, layering common kitchen, dining, and living areas with private bedroom suites for each resident. “[The suites] are a place the women can retreat to and be alone if they want,” says Sheehan. Double sinks, refrigerators, stoves, and ranges in each kitchen help avoid the conflicts the client had experienced in earlier projects with shared cooking spaces.

As with most battered women's housing, security plays a major role. In addition to locked gates and cameras, the courtyard site plan provides natural surveillance in an “eyes on the street” fashion. And the daycare and community center at the entrance acts as a buffer between the street and the residential buildings.


Studio E Architects, San Diego, Calif.


Charities Housing Development Corp. / InVision / HomeSafe Collaborative, San Jose, Calif.

general contractor:

F/D Ouelette and Sons, San Jose

landscape architect:

Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects, San Diego

project size:

25,000 square feet

site size:

1.1 acre

number of units:


construction cost:

$185 per square foot