A New Temporary Housing Resource: The Tiny House Assembly Guide

Thank you for your support of nonprofit Community Design Center Environmental Works! This support enables us to continue empowering Washington’s people and communities in need, and designing the spaces they need to succeed. People and Places Matter!

  • A New Temporary Housing Resource: The Tiny House Assembly Guide

  • Design in Action: EW and The Brighton Community Working Together

  • Environmental Works Coffee and Chat Thursday, November 10, 7:30 – 8:30 AM

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A New Temporary Housing Resource: The Tiny House Assembly Guide

Since our founding in 1970, Environmental Works has been honored to partner with dozens of nonprofits around Washington in designing thousands of new units of affordable housing, farmworker housing, senior housing, and housing for homeless people. These projects have enabled thousands of people to move from sidewalks, cars, and temporary shelters into dignified and comfortable housing.

While the efforts of our nonprofit partners are tremendous, they unfortunately cannot keep pace with the current soaring need for affordable housing. The 2016 Seattle-King County One Night Count identified 4,505 people living on the street (a 19% increase from 2015), and over 35,000 schoolchildren in Washington State are homeless.

As a short-term solution, many communities have turned to tiny houses: movable, low-tech, simple structures that can be built with mostly minimal skills in a weekend, for approximately $2,200 in materials. Tiny houses may be grouped into tiny house villages, self-managed communities that reduce the isolation and helplessness of homelessness, and foster the relationships that individuals need to rebuild their lives.

EW first got involved in the tiny house movement two years ago, when we assisted the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Nickelsville, and the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd with siting and permitting a new tiny house village on a Central District site owned by the Church. Over the course of several months in 2015, EW participated in multiple meetings with stakeholders to help ensure that the village would meet the needs of its residents. Houses were built by various volunteer groups, including teenagers working with experienced builders and architects through Sawhorse Revolution, students from Seattle Central College’s Wood Technology Center, and the Tulalip Tribe’s construction apprenticeship program.

Since then, EW has partnered with LIHI on two additional tiny house villages in Seattle, providing siting and permitting services for sites in Ballard and Othello in South Seattle. Seattle Central’s Wood Technology Center has also continued to be a key partner.

The team came to realize that a how-to guide for building tiny houses would make it even easier for volunteer groups to create more weatherproof, lockable small temporary homes for our homeless neighbors. This gave rise to our team’s development this year of the Tiny House Building Assembly Instructions Guide. This 18-page A-to-Z guide includes a materials list and specs for every item needed for building, and walks you through every step of the process, by way of detailed step-by-step architectural drawings and descriptions akin to those in Ikea build-it-yourself furniture instructions.

Community groups that have referenced the Tiny House Guide to build new homes for the homeless include Peace Lutheran ChurchANEW (Apprentice and Non-traditional Employment for Women), Seattle Vocational InstituteYouthBuild, and Weber Thompson.

Have you been wondering how you can help the homeless in our community? Check out our Guide! Inspired to build tiny houses for homeless people? Please contact our colleagues at the Low Income Housing Institute, Housing Development Associate Monica Joe (mjoe@lihi.org) or Essential Needs Coordinator Bradford Gerber (bradgerber@lihi.org), for information on upcoming volunteer opportunities.

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Design in Action: EW and The Brighton Community Working Together

The Brighton in South Seattle, owned by Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation (SSSF), provides 124 affordable housing units to seniors with annual income up to 80% of the King County median, along with their relatives of any age. Recent senior immigrants from East Africa and Asia, as well as long-time residents of Central and South Seattle, comprise The Brighton’s robust, multi-generational community. Languages spoken by residents include Amharic, Somali, Oromo, Arabic, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English.

Environmental Works is partnering with SSSF on community design for exterior improvements, presenting a unique opportunity for this diverse community to come together to create a shared vision for improved public gathering space. With the help of an array of language interpreters, our community design meetings are building community among Brighton residents as they collaborate to design a safer and friendlier campus.

In May and June of 2016, EW held two visioning meetings open to all Brighton residents. Residents shared their best ideas for future upgrades to the Brighton campus. They also broke into small discussion groups to generate common themes of interest, which included accessibility, fitness, multi-purpose gathering spaces, barbecues/other food-gathering space, space for children, and landscaping.

In July of 2016, EW facilitated a design meeting held in the existing outdoor gathering space to be redesigned. EW distributed a “kit of parts” it had created based on the prior workshops, so residents could test out various designs. The kit of parts included site plans; cut-outs of programmatic elements such as a covered barbecue area, a protected bike path, and fitness equipment; and markers. Participants refined their design ideas through a combination of small-group discussion, and listening to and sharing ideas with the larger group.

At the September 2016 design meeting, EW presented three design schemes based on the residents’ ideas at the July meeting. Residents once again reviewed and discussed in small groups, and rejoined the larger group to share ideas. EW will use this input to further refine the schematic design drawings with options for the site. At future meetings, EW will present a refined design and offer another opportunity for community feedback.

EW’s work with The Brighton is grounded in the “Pomegranate Process”, a holistic method for designing community space through meetings and collaborative design, which contributes to residents’ sense of ownership of the project. Sharing diverse viewpoints and expertise not only gives rise to beautiful and effective design, but also strengthens community in the process.

We will keep you posted on our website about progress in the design and construction of The Brighton’s new outdoor spaces. While we don’t yet know exactly how the finished spaces will look, we do know that the community design process at The Brighton is bringing together scores of people, young and old, from around Seattle and around the world, to collaborate on creating a shared vision for their community. People and Places Matter!

Environmental Works Coffee and Chat Thursday, November 10, 7:30 – 8:30 AM

Want to learn more about EW’s tiny house work, The Brighton, or any of our dozens of other projects? Please join us for coffee and conversation at our offices at 402 15th Ave. E., Seattle, 98112, on Thursday morning, November 10, 2016, from 7:30 to 8:30 AM! We will share a brief presentation on EW, tiny houses, and The Brighton, followed by a chance to ask questions and chat with our board and staff.

Delicious coffee and baked goods will be served.

If possible, please RSVP with your name and email address to ensure plentiful refreshments. Hope to see you then!