I spent most of my career as an architect with Pyatok Architects, a firm that specializes in affordable housing. I had done a lot of work with another firm on the Holly Park redevelopment for the Seattle Housing Authority in the 1990s, so they knew me well. In 2006, I was already project manager for Lake City Court when I went to work for Hewitt Architects, and the housing authority assigned them the Lake City Court project. In mid-2010, I left Hewitt to join the housing authority full time.
ABOUT Tom Eanes is the senior development program manager for Seattle Housing Authority. Previously he was an architect at Pyatok Architects; his first job was at a landscape nursery. Among his accomplishments is Lake City Court, which is currently the greenest affordable housing in Washington state, featuring solar panels, bike racks, and a community garden. For more info, visit seattlehousing.org.
The kind of sustainable features we build have a positive impact on the life cycle of our buildings. That’s one reason why the Seattle Housing Authority is interested in sustainability. Another is that we are stewards of the public trust, so we feel that sustainability is the best use of public funds for the long-term. There is also a health aspect to it. We’re building buildings that have a long-term positive impact on people’s health and well-being.
The site we built Lake City Court on presented some unique problems. The Lake City Village townhomes, built there in 1970, had a creek running in a pipe under the property. As development occurred upstream, the pipe could no longer carry the flow, and the grounds began to flood, making the homes uninhabitable. Eventually the buildings were torn down, and the city expanded the pipe to accommodate the larger need. The Seattle Housing Authority purchased some contiguous property and the development became Lake City Court.
We were charged with how to house a large number of families in the building and get them to live potentially without a car. While there is one parking space for every unit, because it’s required by zoning, residents can walk, bike, or take the bus everywhere they need to go: a secure underground garage provides parking for 90 vehicles, the building provides indoor and covered outdoor bicycle parking, [and] many major bus routes stop within a one-block walk.
When we first started designing the project, we were partnered with a community health clinic called Neighborcare, but we were challenged to fit in the clinic along with all the necessary dwelling units and zoning-required on-site parking. With the crash of 2008, the health clinic pulled out of the program and, with all the space at our disposal, our design became simpler. The net result was a four-story, elevator-equipped building with 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom units.
“We are stewards of
the public trust, so we feel that sustainability
is the best use of
public funds for the
Two HUD grants—one from Hope VI and one from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—gave us the money we needed to look at sustainable ideas we hadn’t previously been able to afford. Because of ARRA, we were able to do the solar array and install high-quality linoleum flooring, which is a natural product made from flaxseed and other things, rather than vinyl, which isn’t environmentally friendly, or carpet, which is a health hazard for asthmatics.
The units are consuming 30 percent less energy for space heating than the current Washington State Energy Code. Apartments are heated with high-efficiency, gas-fired hydronic heat. Six thousand square feet of solar panels are generating 10 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption and 20 percent of its annual hot water needs. And all appliances are Energy Star rated.Quality of life is a key component in our building designs as well. Residents of Lake City Court have a computer center, a community garden, a community meeting room, and a community patio and barbecue. Pedestrian paths connect the Lake City House next door and Lake City Court site with the adjacent neighborhoods. The building is close to schools, shopping, medical and dental offices, a post office, library, community center, farmers market, parks, and a beach. Also, bus service is excellent.
Up Close and Personal
What was your first job? Working in a landscape nursery.
If you weren’t an architect, what would you be? A photographer.
What inspires you? High-quality, sustainable urban living for people of all income levels.
Describe yourself in three words. Serious, thoughtful, hard-working.
What is your hidden talent? Maintaining a sense of humor in the face of insurmountable obstacles.