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Meet the Winners of the Inaugural Purpose Awards

Dec. 14, 2021

These projects and products ranked highest for their environmental, social, and economic impact on people and the planet. 

Is it possible that thoughtfully designed buildings and products can help change the world? We think so. That’s why we introduced our new Purpose Awards program earlier this year to recognize the architecture and design firms and manufacturers who are going beyond what’s expected and making an impact in the broader world around them. 

The Purpose Awards celebrate and elevate the products, projects, designs and spaces that contribute most to the Triple Bottom Line—People, Planet, Profit. The products and projects that not only do no harm, but best support the health and wellness of humans and the planet. 

For once, it's not only about aesthetics, although we appreciate beauty as much as anyone. It's about the power of great design to affect positive change—environmentally, socially and economically. 

To that end, we enlisted a jury of well-known thought leaders on sustainable design, corporate social responsibility, equity and design (a huge thank you to Randy Fiser, Holley Henderson, Jean Hansen and Susie Spivey!) to evaluate the submissions we received.  

Projects were evaluated against six pillars to determine how thoroughly they addressed each criterion:

  1. Equitable Communities  
  2. Innovation + Design  
  3. Ecosystems  
  4. Resource Management  
  5. Energy Conservation + Management  
  6. Health + Well-Being 

Similarly, the products submitted were judged against another set of six pillars to determine how well they meet each standard:

  1. Human Health  
  2. Environmental Sustainability
  3. Material Transparency
  4. Circular Economy
  5. Corporate Responsibility  
  6. Innovation + Design

Below you will find the projects and products that stood out from among the crowd and were deemed the winners of our inaugural Purpose Awards. These winning designs are not ranked in any particular order. Instead, we are highlighting the top projects and products that scored best in their respective categories, with multiple winners in the Flooring category, for example.  

We want to congratulate all of the 2021 Purpose Awards winners for going above and beyond the norm to create beauty while making a difference!

Project Winners

ChildSafe Harvey E. Najim Children & Family Center

By Overland Architecture + Urban Design

ChildSafe’s new Harvey E. Najim Children & Family Center’s Salado Creek Campus is a 10-acre campus situated within 36 acres of previously undeveloped green space on San Antonio’s East Side. Conceived as a nature center that heals and the first children’s advocacy center of its kind in the nation, ChildSafe is a trauma-focused care center for children and teen survivors of abuse and neglect and their non-offending family members.  

The center offers a safe environment and provides a skilled team of health professionals, state agencies, law enforcement and legal professionals to ensure that more cases are reported and prosecuted, while the survivors get the care they need. ChildSafe brings this entire system, which had previously been spread across three campuses, under one roof in a park-like setting, creating a restorative environment for children and families traumatized by abuse.  

First and foremost, ChildSafe needed to create a place welcoming to children during the most devastating time in their lives, a place where they feel safe and secure. It was critical ChildSafe neither feel institutional nor like home, where abuse often occurs. Secondly, the facilities needed to serve ChildSafe’s staff and first responders in ways that help alleviate secondary stress resulting from caring for victims of abuse.  

Calling upon biophilic principles to promote healing and wellbeing, ChildSafe’s building design is oriented to the site for optimal views to the outdoors, capturing natural daylight, creating connections to the outdoors, incorporating micro-restorative biophilic elements throughout the space, and leveraging the natural environment through activities that immerse children in nature and start victims on a path to healing and rebuilding their lives.

ChildSafe’s ventilation system was designed with an economizer cycle to pull in fresh, outside air to cool the building and take load off the mechanical system. The filtration system for the building treats the interior air. Overland created comfortable, shaded areas to allow for staff and clients to be outside in the fresh air.  

The entry sequence to ChildSafe’s campus is open and inviting, not hidden behind a gate or wall. Immersed in nature, staff, clients and visitors enter the campus through the xeriscaped parking garden rather than a concrete, surface parking lot. The overall design of the building mimics nature. Organized by a series of exterior courtyards, each space creates a transition between the building and its entrances, with the main courtyard located in the back so that all occupants can enjoy the gardens and park beyond.  

The wings of the building and sheltering roof line were inspired by the protective wings of a bird enveloping young. In response to the South Texas climate, Overland oriented the building so the central courtyard is south facing with the wings providing shading from the east and west. Natural materials were selected that complement the regional vernacular such as the sandstone facade, a native Texas stone that provides visual continuity and natural tones that blend into the landscape.

Child-scale views to the outdoors, a sheltering roofline and a healing garden prioritize the experience of the child. The biophilic principles of prospect and refuge empower children in their environment, providing a sense of safety while encouraging exploration.  

Overland also used the biophilic design strategy of mystery throughout the campus. A unique art-lending program with the University of Texas at San Antonio brings visual art into the environment, creating opportunities to experience different works of art in the building. Outside the building, foot paths meander over natural streams; through the healing gardens revealing an A-frame structure and stone benches; around bends with wildflowers, pollinators (birds, bees and butterflies) and trees; and to the adventure therapy course, the first certified outdoor behavioral therapy program in the country for a children’s advocacy center.

Given the highly sensitive nature of ChildSafe’s mission and the services they provide, safety and security were of paramount importance throughout this project. Competing protocols of the various organizations housed within the facility presented key design challenges.  

Child Protective Services and the San Antonio Police Department are required to follow strict guidelines to ensure that no case is jeopardized by a technical error and that families are kept safe. Law enforcement, families, victims and even self-surrendering perpetrators must enter, exit, and occupy the building in discreet and secure ways. Connectivity is essential in some parts of the building, while others need separation. Parking lots, entrances and passageways are strategically organized so that victims never have an unexpected encounter with their abusers.  

ChildSafe serves as a sanctuary and beacon of hope in Bexar County. It is a new national model for treating childhood trauma and addressing secondary trauma. The project shows how a community can be unified to achieve goals with a greater purpose and support the total care and restoration of the county’s abused children as well as ChildSafe’s staff and partners who care for their clients. 

Judges’ comments: ChildSafe is a beautiful example of biomimicry restoring children’s lives. / Impressive that this is also the first certified outdoor behavioral therapy facility in U.S.

Monarch Village Equitable Communities

By Studio 804

Hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness. It’s a public health crisis that impacts the physical and mental health of both individuals and communities. Across the country, shelters are challenged with providing safe, trauma-informed care. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, shelters and communities struggled to keep people at a safe distance or quarantined.

Monarch Village is a tiny house community located on the property of the Lawrence Community Shelter in Lawrence, Kansas. Made from 12 single-use shipping containers, the project is an innovative shelter solution designed to establish a safe space for families experiencing homelessness in a quickly changing and uncertain world while supporting their transition to more permanent housing. It was designed and constructed by 18 students enrolled in the University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design’s Studio 804 program.

Studio 804 is a year-long, immersive course that provides students entering their final year of the program the opportunity to design and construct a technically complex building. Under Distinguished Professor of Architecture Dan Rockhill’s direction, students managed everything from creating construction documents and writing specifications to site prep and entire ground-up build. Studio 804 then donated the tiny homes to the Lawrence Community Shelter.

“Building a village model of shelter or interim housing for people is transformative because it allows them to have the dignity of privacy,” said Renee Kuhl, former executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter. “I think that people will feel like it’s a special opportunity to restart their lives. And it also allows us to manage the quarantine challenge more appropriately and safely going forward.”

Both Studio 804 and shelter leaders were involved in initial discussions regarding the needs of the shelter and how to serve the homeless community best. It was determined that smaller, tiny-style homes would be best to provide each homeless person with privacy and security while maintaining a cost-effective solution.Additionally, a 900-square-foot, open-sided commons shelter was constructed just north of the garden and acts as a gathering space for those at the shelter. By bringing in the local University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design, they decided on shipping containers because of the water-tight structure, long-term performance and environmental benefits.

The students of Studio 804 worked closely with manufacturers like Atlas Roofing Corporation to identify the best ways to insulate the shipping containers and meet essential criteria, including LEED requirements. As a result, they selected Atlas’s EnergyShield Continuous Wall Insulation for its high R-value reliability and ease of use. For the floor, wall and ceiling assemblies, the students installed 2-inch EnergyShield panels providing an R-value of 13.1. Since the shipping containers’ interior design was incredibly complex, each EnergyShield panel needed to be cut several times to fit the layout and tightly within the wood framing. 

Every aspect of the Monarch Village tiny houses was designed to be durable, functional and easy to maintain. The houses are meant to be temporary living spaces and will experience turnover and general wear and tear as occupants leave and new ones move in. In addition to building every aspect of the interiors, the students also designed and built all the furniture and fixtures to be aesthetically pleasing and functional in a small space. The interior walls are finished with veneer paneling and the floors are made of a durable rubber material that is easy to clean and maintain.

Each tiny home is paired around a shared covered patio adding outdoor living and relaxation space. The homes surround an existing community vegetable garden and future planting to support the migration of the monarch butterfly. The interior of each container can sleep four people with two separate sleeping areas, a bunk bed in one and a pull-out sleeper couch in the other.

In addition, each tiny house has a full bathroom and small kitchenette and features thoughtfully designed touches throughout, including built in seating and shelving. There will be an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible unit available, and all units incorporate solar panels on the roof to address energy needs.

The 8-foot by 12-foot recycled shipping container offers a unique alternative to building construction, limiting material waste and consumption as well as destructive construction practices typical for normal exterior shell construction. At least 90% of the building envelope (including all four walls, roof and floor) is constructed from a previously existing product (shipping containers) that formerly served a separate purpose or operation. The used shipping containers contribute siding and roofing, and re-purposed materials are employed throughout.

The Monarch Village community was designed with many energy-efficient and sustainable features including passive energy strategies to help supply ventilation and natural heating. Additionally, each home has three solar panels on the roof, which will provide a majority of the energy needs and reduce overall costs.

The southwest-facing louvers are supported by the existing container doors and allow natural light to fill the rooms while promoting heat gain in the winter and shading in the summer. Operable windows are at each end of the unit to create easy cross ventilation for passive cooling. Because the containers have a 160-square-foot building footprint, their impact on the environment is minimized.

Judges’ comments: What a wonderful full-circle story the Monarch Village provides meeting the needs of the homeless in their community via students. This project was very carefully created and crafted to meet a true need while keeping sustainability for people and the environment at the forefront. Kudos!

[Related: The Benefield Project: Design with Purpose]

Product Winners 

Legato Liquid Linoleum

By Mannington Commercial

Mannington Commercial’s Legato Liquid Linoleum features safe, hygienic, stain-resistant and sustainable properties. Unlike traditional linoleum, Legato is poured in place seamlessly, harnessing both the benefits of traditional linoleum and sheet vinyl.

Small scratches can self-heal as the product re-binds to itself over time, creating a hygienic floor and eliminating opportunities for bacteria growth and dirt collection at transitions.

Legato Liquid Linoleum is FloorScore certified, carries a product-specific Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), Health Product Declaration (HPD) and is International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Declare Red List Free. It is also VOC-free and contains no plasticizers, PVC, formaldehyde, chlorine or heavy metals. It is comprised of only natural ingredients, including vegetable oil, cork, wood flour, limestone and natural color pigments. Legato does not require adhesives so there are no additional ingredients outside of the composition of the Legato system itself.

Legato Liquid Linoleum has a 30-year life span and is 100% recyclable at the end of that time, meeting one of the key tenets of the circular economy.

Judges’ Comments: It is a very unique product and is expected to have a long life, is Red List free and should be easy to maintain over its lifetime.

Reverse Collection

By Patcraft 

Patcraft’s new collection, Reverse, is the company’s first to achieve Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold (V3.1). A modular collection designed to reflect Patcraft’s commitment to and support of sustainable practices, the Reverse collection uses a carefully curated selection of materials to meet stringent standards for sustainable products.

A Gold level certification signifies that this collection achieves even more rigorous performance standards for material health, product circularity, clean air, climate protection, water and soil stewardship, and social fairness.

The Reverse collection is constructed with EcoSolution Q100 yarn, which is a yarn system that offers 100% post-industrial recycled content allocated from waste minimization and collection efforts. Using this yarn in conjunction with EcoWorx backing creates a lower, overall embodied carbon footprint for the product, which is reflected in the EC3 tool. Products are manufactured with EcoWorx backing, which can be recycled at the end of their useful life and made into more EcoWorx flooring through Patcraft’s re[TURN] Reclamation Program.

The Reverse collection is carbon neutral through the purchase of verified carbon offsets, and it is manufactured in a carbon-neutral manufacturing facility.

Judges’ Comments: The product has a backing system that is recyclable, they use 100% post-industrial recycled content yarn, meet carbon neutrality and been PVC-free for two decades, and have a return reclamation policy (pick up old carpet for free if over 500 sq yds).


By SitOnIt Seating

The lightweight, recycled materials in Sprout make carrying and storing the stackable chair effortless. Thanks to an innovative, ergonomic design, Sprout supports the lower back, offering lumbar support unlike any other high-density stackable chair in its class. Sprout is certified by GREENGUARD Gold and BIFMA level, meets the Healthier Hospitals Safer Chemicals Challenge 2.3, and contributes to valuable LEED credits.

Sprout’s high-density design helps reduce shipping weight while reducing its carbon footprint. It consists of 29.2% post-consumer content and is 100% recyclable when it’s time to replace, making it a zero-waste solution for when it reaches the end of its life. It contributes to LEED-CI 4.1 and 4.2, EQ 4.5 and EQ 6, MR 5.1 and MR 5.2, CI 2.1.

From the fabrics SitOnIt selects to how it runs its corporate office, the company works hard to minimize the impact of its operations. Its lean manufacturing practice provides the foundation for the company’s sustainability strategy by eliminating waste, conserving resources, and responsibly designing products for durability and extended life. 

Judges’ Comments: Sprout meets the Healthier Hospitals Safer Chemicals 2.3, is 100% recyclable, and has 29.2% post-industrial recycled content.

Embodied Beauty 

By Interface, Inc.

The Embodied Beauty collection from Interface is designed to help restore the health of the planet and lower the carbon footprint of built spaces with style. It features a range of beautiful carpet tile designs, including the first-ever cradle-to-gate carbon negative carpet tiles in three styles: Shishu Stitch, Tokyo Texture and Zen Stitch.

These carbon negative styles are Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver, which means that they are third-party certified as being designed for the circular economy. In addition, all seven styles in the collection are carbon neutral across their full product life cycle through Interface’s Carbon Neutral Floors program.

Embodied Beauty is CRI Green Label Plus certified, which is an independent testing program that identifies carpet and adhesives with very low emissions of VOCs, or compounds that contain volatile carbon-based substances. Low VOC emissions helps improve indoor air quality, which in turn affects the health, well-being and productivity of the people who inhabit a space.

Additionally, the CQuestBioX backing is free of Red List ingredients and free of hazards as identified in the Health Product Declaration (HPD) priority list.

Judges’ Comments: First cradle-to-gate carbon negative tile.


By Pure + FreeForm

The materials in Specular are entirely VOC-free and Red List-free, ensuring there is no potential for off-gassing of harmful substances. By meeting standards for HPD, Declare and LEED, the finishes support human health, climate health and ecosystem health with only pure ingredients.

Specular uses only minimally processed aluminum, in a single-skin substrate. This ensures recyclability at the end of the lifecycle and keeps the panels free from a plastic core. The collection additionally benefits from organic, toxin-free coatings and FEVE-grade exterior resins that ensure durability for years to come.

This product is both socially and environmentally responsible due to the high fidelity in the manufacturing and sources processes. The product is designed, fabricated and shipped from the U.S. without outsourcing for various parts or components.

The textured, high-performance metal surfaces of Specular harness the transformative power of light, transcending the mundane with physical textures that allow light to respond to metal in unparalleled ways. With innovation and sustainability at the core of Specular’s design, the collection succeeds in coupling function and form, where surface becomes an integral feature of the built environment.

Judges’ Comments: It’s a classic. While many products strive for green qualities, the most natural always wins the day.

Data Tide

By Mohawk Group

Data Tide from Mohawk is a certified Living Product addressing human health/material health, lifecycle impact, end of life, design and more. Specifically, with lifecycle impact, the product is carbon- and water-positive, which means through credible offsets and social impact partnerships, Mohawk Group balances an additional 5% more than the product’s footprint.

Data Tide has multiple certifications that support material ingredient and life cycle impact transparency, including a Declare Label, Health Product Declaration (HPD) and an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

Additionally, Mohawk Group is proud to support two organizations in 2021—Waterkeepers Alliance and Change the Course. The company chose to partner with the Waterkeepers Alliance, the largest and fastest growing non-profit organization that focuses on clean water, protecting more than 2.8 million square miles of riverways across the world while providing clean and safe water for 600 million people.

Through Change the Course, Mohawk is able to make an impact by restoring 350 gallons of water for every square yard of carpet/tile purchased from any collection, such as Data Tide, of the Waterways Project. Its goal is to restore 8 million gallons of river water over the next year through sales of Waterways Project products.

Judges’ Comments: For their commitment to the Waterkeepers Alliance and Change the Course—and to restore 350 gallons for every square yard of carpet and for the biophilic design of the product.

Shades 2.0 Porcelain Tile Collection

By Crossville

Crossville’s new Shades 2.0 porcelain tile collection features a subtle, linear graphic that gives nod to the biophilic design trend. Shades 2.0 is made in the U.S. using Crossville’s EcoCycle Tile Process and is Green Squared Certified—a sustainable, responsible selection for design projects.

The line is covered by Crossville’s porcelain tile EPD, HPD, Declare Label and sustainability report—all of which can contribute to LEED, Well, the Living Building Challenge and other green building rating systems.

Shades 2.0 is a product of Crossville’s advanced approaches to green manufacturing that features a range of green practices and processes, including:

  • Net Consumer of Waste—Crossville uses more waste material in tile creation than in produces 
  • Water Recycling—The company reuses 99.98% of water used in manufacturing 
  • Recycled Content—A majority of Crossville products contain recycled content 
  • Raw Material Proximity—A majority of raw materials used by Crossville are obtained within 500 miles of the company’s manufacturing facilities

The collection also contributes to healthy interior environments for occupants by offering resistance to dirt, allergens, bacteria and microbe growth, as well as meeting the LEED IEQ Credit 4.3 for low-emitting materials—flooring systems.

Judges’ Comments: For its porcelain tile manufacturing innovations.

Read next: How This Brownfield Transformed into an Aspirational School Campus

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