Small is the new green
Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock, density and affordability. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.
Saturday, April 20
We have a new office bike. While not all office vehicle uses are suitable for a bike, our last office bike was retired with over 10,000 miles. We encourage all design firms to make a bike available to their employees.
Microhouse is a 100% bike, walk or work from home design collaborative.
Tuesday, March 26
Garage conversions have their own unique benefits and challenges. To be used as a backyard cottage a garage must be brought up to the standards of the current building code. When evaluating whether a conversion is cost effective, rather than starting with new construction, our first consideration is the condition of the foundation. Many garages are built with minimal foundations that do not meet current design standards. If the existing foundation is in good condition, as it was for Mark and Alice, we can focus on other important considerations like updating systems and insulation.
One benefit of converting an existing garage in Seattle is that special considerations are given in the zoning code for these existing structures. These considerations can be departures from standards including lot size and setbacks. Contact us to find out more about the permitting process and these departures.
Monday, March 25
A project that we are currently working on that is quite exciting. The design features a nice living room and open kitchen with views south to Mount Rainier and east to Lake Washington. One bedroom and bath are located on the main floor and a granddaughter loft is located above. The deck faces south and is sheltered by a large roof overhang. The overhang will allow winter sunlight deep into the house while shading the windows during summer months. The primary heat source will be a gas fire place. The cabin will have a rain feature and cistern to celebrate and store rain water.
One of our first challenges is working within an environmentally critical area (ECA). The City of Seattle determines which areas are environmentally sensitive based on a number of criteria including the presence of a steep slope, liquifaction prone soils and others. In this case we have a site adjacent to a steep slope with poor fill soils deposited during the construction of the primary residence. Fortunately our team members have a strong background in Civil Engineering and perhaps because of this a large percentage of our projects are located in ECA areas. We are working with landscape architect, Anri Rapelje, on a landscape and planting plan that will enhance the natural function of the site as well as providing native edible plants.
Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2013.
Thursday, March 14
learn about backyard cottages and meet other backyard cottage enthusiasts
We design homes that are easy to live in. Cottages that allow their occupants to live at home close to family even if their mobility becomes impaired. Come and learn about how we approach designing for a lifetime and what ideas make for great homes. This is a great opportunity to talk with experts in the design and construction of backyard cottages and also learn about options for in home care.
March 20th, from 7:00 to 9:00pm, Blue Building Room #3
Phinney Neighborhood Center 6532 Phinney Avenue North
Thursday, January 3
Sunday, November 11
In Seattle, backyard cottages are limited in size to 800 sq. ft. in size and a height of one or two floors. To create the most desirable rental unit the family chose to build a 2 bedroom, 1 bath plan. Building a cottage involved overcoming lots of hurdles first during design and permitting done by microhouse and the construction by Carlisle Classic Homes. While their lot met the minimum lot size and other requirements for a backyard cottage it is located in an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) in which new construction prohibited except through an exemption process. The site slope was both a benefit and a challenge. The new cottage has nice solar exposure and a territorial view and it sits down slope from the main house providing physical and visual separation. And while a thoughtful site design minimized excavation and use of retaining walls there were additional costs related to the ECA designation.
Friday, November 9
saving water in style
USDA zones: 6 to 10
Water requirement:Moderate; tolerates some drought
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 6 to 12 feet high
Environmental benefits: Flowers in spring; fruit is attractive to birds
Native range: U.S. Pacific coast
USDA zones: 3 to 9
Water requirement: Has good drought resistance
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 10 feet high
Environmental benefits: Nutritious fruit used fresh, frozen or processed. Wildlife value: high-quality cover and food. With a sweet nutty taste, the fruits have long been eaten by Canada's aboriginal people, fresh or dried.
Native range: Northwest and west U.S. and Canada
USDA zones: 4 to 8
Water requirement: Medium
Light requirement: Full to partial sun
Mature size: 15 feet
Environmental benefits: Vine maple flourishes as an understory tree in moist woods with dappled shade and along stream banks. In native stands, vine maple commonly occurs with bigleaf maple, Douglas fir, western hemlock, grand fir and Pacific dogwood, with sword fern underneath.
Native range: U.S. Pacific coast
Many Mediterranean plants and drought tolerant and thrive in the Puget Sound region Lavender and Rosemary are two great choices.
USDA zones: 5 to 9Water requirement:Drought tolerantLight requirement: Full to partial sunMature size: 2 feet high and wideEnvironmental benefits: Spring flowersNative range:Mediterranean