Designing for Healing Dignity & Joy

This was our research team’s first Trauma-Informed Design White Paper which integrated feedback from resident and staff focus groups at supportive housing developments across Colorado. This paper provides an overview for our initial TID Framework centered around how the built design can promote physical health, mental health, and well-being through a trauma-informed approach to design.

Architectural Principles Trauma-Informed Design

This pamphlet focuses on ways to design a building to help regulate the body and support therapeutic approaches. Since trauma lives and works through the body, and the body reacts to physical space before we cognitively process it, the built environment is integral to how one experiences trauma. This document presents a brief primer on the body-space-trauma relationship, organizing principles for trauma-informed architecture, some examples of built work, and narratives that inform what amenities residents and staff may need.

Trauma-Informed Design Process

This is an overview of how we implement TID in our design process. This is not a checklist, but more about how the process should be impacted when we seek to design with an understanding of trauma as a core value. This overview includes case studies on specific developments to show how the process was implemented on specific developments, as well as an accompanying step-by-step manual.

Click here to view our manual that accompanies this document.


Chad Holtzinger, AIA

Shopworks Architecture was formed in 2012 by Chad Holtzinger. The primary focus of the firm is urban infill development with a particular interest in affordable housing, transit oriented and mixed use development and community-oriented projects. Chad has practiced architecture for more than 20 years and has been licensed in Colorado since 2001. His career has revolved primarily around affordable housing design and mixed-use development in the City of Denver. His unique multidisciplinary approach to design results in innovative, high performing, enduring architecture.

Laura Rossbert

Laura joined Shopworks Architecture in 2019 after co-leading the development of Arroyo Village in Denver, which created a new homeless shelter for women and transgender individuals, 35 units of supportive housing, and 95 units of workforce housing using a trauma-informed lens. Laura brings to Shopworks her experiences as a non-profit leader and community organizer/community engagement specialist. She is using her expertise and knowledge in best practices in homelessness and supportive housing to inform building design at Shopworks and find solutions to barriers to affordable housing, with special attention to trauma, resiliency, and equity.

Jennifer Wilson is a Senior Program Associate with the University of Denver’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research. Entering this field as a social worker, she has largely served unhoused adults, youth, and families in community-based settings. As a social scientist, her research interests center around the role of social innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing poverty, homelessness, and social inequity. This includes the use of design thinking and human-centered design as creative, end user-focused approaches to novel solution generation. Jennifer holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as an MBA and PhD in Social Work from the University of Denver.

Daniel Brisson

Dr. Daniel Brisson is a Professor, and the Director of the Center for Housing and Homelessness Research (CHHR), at the Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver. Dr. Brisson’s scholarship focuses on poverty, high-poverty neighborhoods, affordable housing, and homelessness. Dr. Brisson has ongoing community partnerships around Colorado and the country with social service providers and other stakeholders interested in addressing challenges related to poverty. Dr. Brisson has written extensively on the role of neighborhood social cohesion as a mediator for the health and well-being of families living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Currently, Dr. Brisson is focusing on community partnerships with affordable housing providers and guaranteed basic income programs. Dr. Brisson teaches research methods, statistics, and macro social work practice with a focus on poverty alleviation.

Dr. Sam Grabowska is the founder of Manifolding Labs, a research, making, and consulting firm in Denver, CO. Their work focuses on how the built environment can somatically support people who have experienced trauma. They have over a decade of research and teaching experience at the university level across the fields of architecture, film, critical theory, cultural anthropology, and interdisciplinary research methods. Publications include “Anxious Architecture: Sleep, Identity, and Death in the US-Mexico Borderlands” and “Material Memories: (Re)Collecting Clandestine Crossings of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.”  Dr. Grabowska is currently an artist-in-residence at Redline Contemporary Art Center experimenting with the visceral qualities of material, form, and sound across the media of installation, sculpture, film, and photography. They have recently exhibited work at the Denver Art Museum, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and Redline. For more information, please visit

Rachelle Macur has over 15 years in the industry, bringing a multi-disciplinary approach to the concept of sustainable development. With a background in Anthropology and Behavioral economics, her focus is on the cross-section of humans, nature, and the built environment and how we can engage individuals and organizations to reduce resource consumption and improve occupant health & wellbeing. Rachelle also consults with project teams and organizations focusing on neighborhood-scale regeneration, social change management, and biophilic design.



Funders: CHFA, Gary Community Investments, Housing and Homelessness Funders Collaborative, Energy Outreach Colorado, Group14 Engineering, Shopworks Architecture

Residents, Clients, and Staff at our non-profit partners: The Delores Project, St. Francis Center, Rocky Mountain Communities, Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Mental Health Center of Denver, Pinon Project, Manna Soup Kitchen, Volunteers of America – Colorado, EarthLinks, Denver Housing Authority, Volunteers in Ministry, Karis, Neighbor to Neighbor, Second Chance Center, TGTHR, Colorado Village Collaborative, Urban Peak, Housing Solutions for the Southwest, Catholic Charities, Homeward Pikes Peak

TID Collaborators: Design Resources for Homelessness, Urban Land Institute, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, SAMHSA, National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, Enterprise Community Partners, Corporation for Supportive Housing, National Equity Fund, Colorado Health Foundation, Housing Now Colorado, BlueLine Development, BeauxSimone Consulting, Element Properties, AIA Colorado, Connecting Paradigms, Designing for Human Health program at Boston Architectural College, Colorado Division of Housing



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