Innovative Housing In The Community For People With Traumatic Brain Injury

Environmental Works Community Design Center thanks you for your ongoing
interest in community design for Washington nonprofits serving people in need.
Read on for updates on some of our current projects. And please join us for our
hosted after-work get-together in downtown Seattle in a few weeks, EW’s
Community Design Downtown Happy Hour on March 29 at 5:30 pm!


Innovative Housing In The Community For People With Traumatic Brain Injury

EW has been honored to partner with PROVAIL for over 20 years in their work providing an array of services in the community for people with disabilities. In 2013, PROVAIL approached us about designing a residence in Shoreline for 12 low-income young adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI). PROVAIL sought to build a shared home that ideally suited these residents, with an eye to establishing a standard for future shared homes for people with disabilities.

EW had recently completed work on a similar facility in Auburn, Terry Home 2, which likewise serves as a home for young adults with traumatic brain injuries, so we had developed some expertise in desirable design elements for people with TBI. We took PROVAIL staff to Terry Home 2 for a site visit to kick off the design process.  Based on that trip, along with PROVAIL’s decades of experience serving people with TBI, we created a vision board highlighting PROVAIL’s top priorities. They were emphatic that the residence should be as home-like and comfortable as possible, with no elements that would make it feel institutional. They wanted a space that flowed, while also offering smaller and quieter spaces that can be closed off, to put residents with sensory issues at ease. PROVAIL expressly requested that lines of sight be limited in order to reduce any institutional feel.

PROVAIL’s BrainSpace incorporates all of these priorities into a beautiful 12-bedroom residence, with four beds set aside for veterans. The expansive living room features soaring ceilings and fireplace, and is adjoined by a roomy dining room and an open kitchen. Two wings extend from this central area, each with six bedrooms, bathrooms, and smaller activity rooms. These smaller activity rooms include “libraries”: dedicated quiet spaces which residents can close off, in order to be somewhere quiet outside their own room.

BrainSpace exceeds the requirements for full accessibility for people with physical disabilities. All exterior doors are four feet wide, and many interior doors, including bathroom doors, feature electric door openers. To accommodate residents’ varying personal circumstances, four bedrooms are a little larger so that family members may spend the night or couples may share a room. BrainSpace is also built to Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards.

PROVAIL’s BrainSpace was funded by the Federal Home Loan Bank, King County, the Washington Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council, the Housing Trust Fund, and the Washington State Legislature.  Thanks to the diligence of PROVAIL and Development Consultant Michael Pollowitz, and the support of King County Council and the Mayor of Shoreline, the extensive government review required for BrainSpace went smoothly.  Since BrainSpace’s ribbon cutting on December 12, several young adults with TBI have begun moving in to their new tailor-designed home.


Community Facility And Food Bank for Rural Whatcom County

In early 2016 Environmental Works began collaborating with Bellingham-based
Opportunity Council, a 50-year-old nonprofit Community Action Agency supporting self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income people, and manager of the East
Whatcom Regional Resource Center. Yet this project’s roots reach back 31 years, to when the all-volunteer Foothills Food Bank began operating out of the basement of St. Peter’s Church in Deming, WA. Eastern Whatcom County is a “food desert”, according to the USDA: a low-income area where over a third of the population lacks adequate access to retail food sources. Co-existing with this region’s food scarcity is a local abundance of wild fish and farm-raised produce.

Because Foothills Food Bank lacks the space to store healthy perishable food, such as fruit and vegetables from local farmers, perishable donations are trucked 25 miles to Bellingham to be stored. They must then be trucked back to the food bank as needed to be made available to residents of eastern Whatcom County.

To keep local food local and immediately accessible to people facing food insecurity, Foothills Food Bank sought a new home with storage for perishables. At the same time, residents of rural eastern Whatcom County, deeply concerned about vulnerable community members, were collectively realizing that they needed more space for youth activities and community meetings. In early 2016, EW facilitated a visioning workshop with Opportunity Council staff, Foothills Food Bank volunteers, the East Whatcom Community Council, and other interested local residents to start planning a response to this array of community needs. Participants agreed that the new space should serve multiple uses: youth activities, a farmers’ market, and community meetings of all sizes, as well as a modern facility for the Foothills Food Bank. Yet funding was limited, so the community and EW had to get creative with the design.

The East Whatcom Regional Resource Center project will include construction of a new building which will house the Foothills Food Bank, with a distribution area that will also serve as a community meeting space. The food bank’s “grocery store” model will enable customers to walk the aisles and select which items they wish to take home, providing more dignity as well as more freedom of choice. Cold storage space will enable area residents to keep local food local: perishable food dropped off by farmers and gardeners can remain on site and be rinsed of dirt at an outdoor gleaning sink, rather than being shipped to Bellingham for storage. An outdoor covered area will also be built on site, and will likewise serve diverse community purposes, including basketball and other year-round youth activities, a farmers’ market, and outdoor summer film screenings.

While operating within a very tight budget, EW and Opportunity Council are committed to making this project as energy-efficient as possible. The new building maximizes natural daylight to reduce the need for artificial light. Its tight, well-insulated envelope will reduce the need for additional climate control. The standing seam metal roof will facilitate eventual installation of photovoltaic solar panels with clips, obviating the need to penetrate the roof membrane.

After a year of collaboration, the permit application is in, and the bid documents are being compiled. We look forward to sharing more photos with you as this project moves forward.

EW Downtown Happy Hour, Wed., March 29, 5:30 – 6:30 pm

Interested in learning more about BrainSpace, the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, or EW’s dozens of other projects? Curious about community design, and how EW works with Washington nonprofits to empower people in need throughout the state? Do you enjoy free beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres? Then please join us for our hosted happy hour presentation and Q&A after work on March 29! We’ll be at Riddell Williams, at 1001 4th Ave. (between Spring and Madison), Ste. 4500, in downtown Seattle.

Please RSVP if possible to with number of attendees. Or, feel free to just drop by! We hope to see you then.

EW Offers Nonprofit Meeting Space

Grassroots organizing, community collaboration, inclusion, diversity, and respect for the environment were the founding principles of Environmental Works in 1970, and continue to drive our work today. To support these values, EW offers meeting space for nonprofits in our offices. Please check our website for information on reserving our low-cost nonprofit meeting space.