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Green Door on Taylor Street, Washington, D.C.

April 1, 2006
by root
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Photography: Michael Moran

Mental healthcare has long tried to shed its history of warehousing patients in institutions, but one community agency decided to actually use an old warehouse to better serve its clients. Green Door, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helps people with mental illnesses secure employment and housing, opened its Taylor Street location in November 2003, employing environmental stewardship and efficient design to create an inviting space.

Green Door on Taylor Street houses a day program, clinic, and substance abuse program, and it is home base for the agency's community support workers (employment training is provided at the Green Door Clubhouse, a restored Victorian mansion). Envision Design, PLLC, transformed the former roofing supplies facility into a vibrant, award-winning environment with bold forms and bright colors. For example, stretched fabric “clouds” drape the 13-foot-high ceilings. Four large skylights and a 300% increase in perimeter windows allow the space to be filled with natural light. Moving partitions in certain areas permit setup flexibility, and clients (called “members”) serve goodies in the retro, 1960s-esque café. The warehouse's loading dock became an expansive lobby complete with an indoor carp pond.

Green Door not only wanted to create a visually pleasing space, it also wanted to provide a healthy environment for staff and members. (Green Door, in fact, was cofounded by Ellen McPeake, Greenpeace's current CFO, in 1976, and Envision designed Greenpeace's headquarters.) To that end, the renovated structure uses natural light and energy-efficient lighting and systems, recycled materials (including salvaged/refurbished file cabinets), formaldehyde-free plywood, and zero-emission paints.