“These women are leaving domestic violence, often just with the clothes on their back, in the middle of the night,” says Curtis Krahn, founding principal of Vancouver-based design studio Synthesis Design Inc. He’s referring to the folks who seek out Act 2, a local charity that provides affordable short-term housing for women and children who have experienced violence.

“In talking to Act 2, we learned that these transition houses are just not in great shape,” explains Khran. He and his team at Synthesis decided earlier this year that they wanted to donate their time and expertise to a service that would better the community. “What we said is: for 30 years we’ve been designing homes for people with means, and this year, we’re designing for people in need.”

The partnership with Act 2 was a no-brainer (one of  Synthesis’s designers has a partner at Act 2, plus the son of Vi Roden, the founder of Act 2, was a Synthesis client), and as soon as the design studio put the call out, the community started showing up. Contractors and suppliers offered their services, materials and other in-kind donations. Just a few days ago, the team began renovating the first transitional housing unit—and their goal is to renovate 12 spaces in Vancouver and the North Shore area.

Pedro Serrano, designer at Synthesis Design; Kyle Robertson, Principal at Kybe Electric; Curtis Krahn, Principal of Synthesis Design; Jim Smith, Owner of Smithwood Builders.
From left to write: Pedro Serrano, designer at Synthesis Design, Kyle Robertson, principal at Kybe Electric; Curtis Krahn, principal of Synthesis Design; Jim Smith, owner of Smithwood Builders.

Anyone who has ever done a renovation can tell you that it takes time (often more time than we’d prefer). But Synthesis doesn’t have the luxury of time with these units. “In 2022,  61 women—and 90 children—were referred to the program, and they were able to house 18,” says Khran. “So what we can’t afford to do is get an empty unit and take months to finish.” Other logistical challenges (such as keeping the property secure and being respectful of potential triggers for the current patrons) are being considered, as well. “We’re trying to be as efficient as possible with how quickly we get in and out,” says Khran.

And while the industry has rallied behind the cause, there’s still more support needed. Synthesis has a goal to renovate all of the units in the next year and a half, and there’s lots of resources required. To donate to Synthesis and Act 2, visit this link, and indicate “Safe Choice Campaign” in the message field. If you’re a tradesperson, contractor or supplier who would like to make in-kind donations, email info@synthesisdesign.ca.