“Rad Row House”: A Musical Celebration of Affordable Housing Week

The Weber Thompson office is full of talented, passionate individuals who care about the issues surrounding our city. Last month a few of these individuals stepped up to help us participate in the Housing Development Consortium’s (HDC) 2017 Affordable Housing Week. The week took place from May 15th-22nd and focused on the growing issue of affordability and livability in Seattle. Continue reading ““Rad Row House”: A Musical Celebration of Affordable Housing Week”



Small but Mighty: Making a Big Impact with Tiny Houses

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As Architects and designers in Seattle, we see how a demand for housing in our city is affecting cost and availability, and contributing to an increase in homelessness. According to the 2016 “One Night Count” there were 10,047 people homeless in King County on January 29th, 2016, and 4,505 without shelter (statistics that are widely considered undercounts). Weber Thompson cares deeply about community, and as people who design shelter for a living, we asked ourselves, “What more can we do to help with this issue?” When we learned about the Low Income Housing Institute’s (LIHI) Tiny House work, we were inspired by their program and jumped at the chance to become more involved.

LIHI is dedicated to serving a wide variety of populations through a number of programs, including the operation of four (and growing) homeless encampments across the city for sheltering homeless families and individuals. LIHI’s encampments offer an improvement over the conditions of non-regulated encampments by providing safe and secure temporary housing, with access to services that can help homeless residents work to secure more permanent housing. LIHI’s village encampments are democratic and self-managed, have strict codes of conduct, include resident background checks, and work with communities to conscientiously integrate encampments into neighborhoods across the city. LIHI’s villages provide space for tent shelters and also Tiny Houses.

Tiny Houses are small, simple, sturdy sleeping structures. The structures have an open floor plan of about 8’x12’, a window, a lockable door, and may provide shelter for individuals, couples and families of up to four. The structures do not typically include power or water; these services are provided on site as a shared resource. Likewise, a common kitchen is used by residents for meals, as the tiny houses have no cooking facilities. LIHI already offers Tiny House assembly instructions (available to any community group interested in providing a unit) and Weber Thompson saw an opportunity to utilize our design skill sets to build upon LIHI’s Tiny House prototype. Continue reading “Small but Mighty: Making a Big Impact with Tiny Houses”



Healthy Materials for a Better World

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It’s amazing what humans can achieve when we are faced with a dilemma. Our current environmental predicament has sparked a surge of creativity from designers leading the way to a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. I’ve been tremendously inspired by the groundbreaking standards put forth by the Living Future Institute, and was excited to attend the Living Product Healthy Materials Summit at the 2016 ILFI unConference.

When I attended the Living Future Conference a few years back, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it would be to actually meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Some felt that it was something they may never be able to achieve. Incredibly, what seemed so difficult to achieve a few years ago has become a new standard in sustainability.

A wide variety of industry professionals presented on how they are implementing the LBC, and using the Declare label to show transparency. With manufacturers and specifiers working together, real change is happening. A presentation on the Healthy Materials Collaborative shed light on the local group of architects and designers working to advocate for healthy building products.

Weber Thompson has been part of the Healthy Materials Collaborative (HMC) since its recent founding. Through the HMC, Weber Thompson has been able to further our sustainability goals and break down barriers to healthy, sustainable buildings. Our tremendous experience with LEED, Built Green, as well as current LBC and Passive House projects is helpful to other HMC members trying to achieve these rigorous building standards.

This year, we are combing through our entire materials library, to make it easier for our designers and architects to specify healthy materials. We are asking manufacturers to show transparency with their products so that we can make informed design decisions. We are also asking manufacturers to label their products with sustainability information so we can easily see which products meet green building standards. Continue reading “Healthy Materials for a Better World”



Lessons from Greenbuild

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Weber Thompson designer John Stout visited Greenbuild in November and returned with a report on the conference.

“Monumental Green” the slogan of the 2015 Greenbuild conference in DC, played both off the location of the conference and the underlying theme present in many of the speakers’ messages. The upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris, and their new dedication of an entire day to the building industry, marks a shift in worldwide culture and a realization that the built environment plays a pivotal role in the future of our economy and climate. But there is still much work to do – a theme apparent in sessions that predicted what is to come in the next 100 years.

In one presentation in particular, titled “Buildings of the Future: Visions to Guide Decision Making” a panel of speakers representing green research, consulting, and green technology presented a vision of what the next 100 years might bring. Our industry must combat climate change head on, while also adapting to rising temperatures and ever growing extremes in weather and sea level. Our resolution must shift from reactive to proactive, strides must be made not only in energy efficiency, but in human comfort, water efficiency, and resiliency. Our buildings must become adaptive to human comfort, responding to our preferences, utilizing wearable tech and micro sensors to map and adjust comfort levels only where needed. Retrofits and the concept of plug and play must permeate our building industry so buildings can evolve and update as quickly as software. Continue reading “Lessons from Greenbuild”



Saving Salmon One Building at a Time

Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management on Flickr.
Image by Flickr user Bureau of Land Management.

Above the fold on the front page of The Seattle Times last Friday, Mark Siegel reported on the harm done by highway runoff to our local wildlife, specifically Coho salmon. Researchers from WSU Puyallup found that two and a half hours was all it took to kill adult salmon in water captured from State Route 520. Furthermore, the unique combination of chemicals was difficult to replicate in a lab. To anyone concerned with human impact on the natural world, this highlights the importance of mitigating toxins through new urban development.

Thankfully, the article also proposed a solution. Biofiltration using soil as a medium can have a dramatic effect on salmon’s wellbeing. Early in the design of the Fremont Office Building, the project owner made their intentions clear to Weber Thompson: do what we can to minimize the impact to nearby waterways (both the Fremont Canal and Lake Union are within a stone’s throw of the project site at North 34th Street and Troll Avenue).

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As we started to work with our civil engineer, KPFF and better understand the site conditions, we realized that road stormwater runoff – both from Troll Ave and from the Aurora Bridge towering overhead – currently end up in a dedicated storm drain piped to an outfall on Lake Union. It seems hard to believe: brake dust, motor oil, gasoline, heavy metals and who-knows-what-else are getting deposited directly into Lake Union in every major rain event. This is the same lake we all enjoy from water and land – in our sailboats and kayaks; from Eastlake pocket parks and Gas Works Park. More importantly, this is the same lake we share with the salmon on their annual spawning route. This is the reason for the Ballard locks fish ladder – Steelhead, Sockeye, Coho, and Chinook salmon make their way through the locks to Lake Union and then to Lake Washington every year. Continue reading “Saving Salmon One Building at a Time”



Closer to Home: bringing more affordable housing to Seattle

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On Thursday, October 8th, Weber Thompson team members and guests attended Bellwether Housing’s annual Closer to Home fundraising breakfast at Benaroya Hall.

After some early morning mingling and coffee, the program began with opening remarks from Doug Daley, Bellwether’s new Executive Director. Marc Stiles of the Puget Sound Business Journal moderated the main event: a powerful panel of three speakers who’ve relied on the affordable housing that Bellwether provides.

One resident had been a hard working sous-chef with two full time jobs, saving to open his own business when he was struck and disabled by a drunk driver. Unable to work and forced to live on a very limited income, this proud man was able to stay in the city, with the dignified living standards he deserves. He remains close to his community and his many doctors rather than being forced out away from the care he needs or even into homelessness through no fault of his own.

Another current resident told of her important but low paying work in community health for a local non-profit. Bellwether Housing allows her to live close to her job, within the community she serves. Unlike many of her peers, she now has no fear of being priced out due to rising rents.

Finally, a former resident told a similar story. Young and new to the area, trying to get a foothold in Seattle, she was able to live in the city near her non-profit job thanks to Bellwether Housing. Now she’s further along in her career and more established, but she and her family face new challenges in affordability as they save for home ownership.

The breakfast event was attended by 275 early risers and raised over $139,000 to support affordable housing and help create more stories like the ones above.

As an advocate level sponsor of the event, we at Weber Thompson are proud to support such a worthy cause. Bellwether Housing is a valued client of ours, and events such as this are a good reminder why we get up in the morning to do what we do.

Special thanks to our staff members and guests who attended:

Alistair Jackson, O’Brien and Company
Catherine Benotto, Weber Thompson
Kris Draper, Morrison Hershfield
Lukas Hovee, 360 Analytics
Mike Nouwens, Nouwens Structural Consultants
Mindy Black, Weber Thompson
Noelle Dobry, Weber Thompson
Rae Anne Rushing, Rushing Engineers
Stacy Segal, Seattle Architecture Foundation

Thank you all so much for your generosity. We look forward to another great event next year.

Jeff Reibman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Principal, Weber Thompson
2015 Closer to Home Table Captain



Food Frenzy: final results!

During the last events of Food Frenzy Weber Thompson staff gave one final push to raise as much money as possible for Seattle’s hungry children. With a second successful cocktail night, taco party fundraiser, ice cream social and a second bake sale, the Food Frenzy fundraiser came to a close on July 24th.

Surpassing the initial goal of $1,000, WT more than tripled expectations raising an incredible $3,452 over the two week period. There were laughs, groans and by the end, some extra lunch-time running club sessions organized, but all in all, we were thrilled about the contribution we were able to make to such a worthy organization.

The results of the Food Frenzy competition were staggering – 94 participating organizations raised $620,000 dollars, contributed more than 2,100 volunteer hours, and collected 5,000 food items – equaling a total of 3.1 MILLION meals for hungry kids.

Photo by Flickr user Phalinn Ooi.
Photo by Flickr user Phalinn Ooi.

Fundraising throughout the Food Frenzy campaign was mostly fun and games, but it is important to remember and reflect on the real reason that the campaign began in the first place. Child hunger is a relevant and pressing issue and sadly, Washington is the 22nd hungriest state in the nation – 1 in 5 kids live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. Continue reading “Food Frenzy: final results!”