Envisioning the future

PUC technology helps visualize Gary homeless housing project

By Lu Ann Franklin – Times Correspondent

HAMMOND | Using the latest 3-D computer technology at Purdue University Calumet, Edgewater Systems unveiled a project to provide permanent housing for the homeless.

Held Thursday morning in the PUC Visualization Lab on the Hammond campus, the presentation gave attendees a virtual tour of the 75,000-square-foot structure that is planned along 20th Avenue between Lincoln and Pierce streets in Gary.

The building will include 60 one- and two-bedroom residential units and commercial space for a Head Start program, medical and dental offices and behavioral health services.

By wearing 3-D glasses, the audience was able to explore the building’s first floor. Another computer simulation displayed the interior of a furnished apartment.

The preview was hosted by PUC Chancellor Howard Cohen and Roy Evans of the university’s construction management and engineering technologies department.

Evans, an architect and urban planner, is designing the building in conjunction with Edgewater Systems, the city of Gary, Broadway Community Development Corp. and NSP Consultants.

Edgewater provides behavioral health services through a variety of programs.

A quarter of those who are homeless have some form of mental illness and don’t get proper care, said Danita Johnson Hughes, Edgewater president and CEO.

“This project allows Edgewater and our partners to be part of the solution to end homelessness,” she said. “Having a place to call home offers people stability.” The project’s costs currently range from $13 million to $15 million, and completion is expected in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The complex is considered permanent rather than transitional housing and will be available for individuals and families. A percentage of the units will be reserved for the disabled and the building will be handicap-accessible, Evans said.

Located in the Powers Building, PUC’s Center for Innovation Through Visualization and Simulation lab began as a part of the university’s engineering department but has expanded with the help of Evans, Cohen said.

“The only limit to this technology is people’s imagination about how to use it,” he said.

John Moreland, a senior research scientist at PUC, said the computerized 3-D simulation technology allows students and staff to perform a number of operations including a 3-D fly-through of a building.

“This simulates the way things operate before something is built,” Moreland said.

The technology is used at Purdue by a variety of departments for interdisciplinary learning projects. Outside the university, this 3-D visualization is also used in therapy and is especially effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

“We can collaborate with different people on a project,” said Chenn Zhou, head of the university’s department of mechanical engineering.

“It is great for training and can be used for city planning, economic development, renewable energy, sciences, virtual engineering and biomedical applications,” she said.

This technology can check and test for variables including the heating and air conditioning efficiency and stress on walls before a building is constructed, Zhou said.

It can also be used to make design adjustments to keep costs down, Evans said.