roofs : unsung heroes of architecture by Claire Grotz

We recently began design on a renovation project for a house above Cle Elum Lake, near Ellensburg, WA. Since the house is east of Snoqualmie Pass and about 2,500' above sea level, the climate is much different than the damp climate of the Puget Sound region.  Instead of droopy cedars and moss, Ponderosa pine and sagebrush abound. Unlike Seattle, which receives little snow each year, the project site receives about 12 feet of snow each year. This becomes really important when considering the design of the roof.

Roofs can be designed to shed snow or hold it on the roof.  While snow can actually be a great insulator, extra care has to be taken to ensure that the roof does not leak if holding snow.  It also tends to pile up in valleys.  An avalanche of snow and ice from a roof can be dangerous, so particular care has to be paid to the location of elements such as windows and entrances.  FEMA, an agency who's opinions I generally try to pay attention to, recommends a minimum slope of 8:12

 for a roof to shed snow.  Metal roofing encourages snow to slide off, while textured materials encourage it to stick around.  

In an urban environment, we are often more aware of facades and interior space than we are of roofs, despite the fact that they are up there (usually) keeping the wet out!  In more remote locations, where a building is seen within its landscape, the roof is often more visible.  I found the article 

"Martin's Ten Rules of Roof Design"

 to be an interesting read, definitely written from a roofer's perspective.  Although he finds things like dormers problematic, he makes a good point that the simplest roof design is often the best roof design.  Besides, wouldn't you rather spend money adding something awesome to your house than repairing a leak?

Beginning this project got me thinking about architecture in more extreme climates.  While we can really do a flat or low-sloped roof to achieve a modern look, even in snowy climates, there are centuries of wisdom around how to build in blizzard-prone regions.  

See the images below for some inspiring images of snowbound architecture!

architecture + water by George Maroussis

 Ever since my first visit as a student, Japanese architecture has always inspired me through its thoughtful consideration of the relationship between nature and the built environment.  As I was looking through my photos from a recent trip to Japan, I was again struck by the powerful examples of this relationship, most notably with respect to water.  Below are some interesting instances of this harmony between structure and water in Japan that I encountered on my past visits. Feel free to share your own favorite examples in the comments:

Ninomaru Palace and gardens at the Nijo Castle in Kyoto

Benesse House Hotel in Naoshima by Tadao Ando

Yokohama waterfront

Image result for nishizawa teshima art museum
Teshima Art Museum  by Ryue Nishizawa

Naoshima Ferry Terminal by SANAA

Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto

Dotonbori District, Osaka

Yokohama Ferry Terminal by FOA

what exactly is a DADU? by Claire Grotz

What exactly is a DADU? And how can I build one?

Historically, Seattle hasn't been a particularly dense city, with very few duplexes and triplexes compared to other cities of similar size. But right now the city is going through a lot of changes with increasing populations and decreasing housing stock. And with these changes comes a dire need for more housing stock.

None of this is surprising to anyone living in Seattle. And this is why so many people are interested in learning more about DADUs - not to mention the possibility of an additional income in an increasingly expensive city. 

But, if you're looking for quick, easy, money - you're probably looking in the wrong place. (If you find the right place, be sure to pass along the word!). But, if you're willing to spend the time and money to do it right, it can provide a great source of income for your family - or can act as a place for aging family members to stay!

For starters, you should first decide if what you need or want is truly a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU). For example, if you wanted a long term guest suite separate from your house (perhaps a bedroom, bathroom, and living room) but don't require a kitchen because your family members will be eating with you- you don't necessarily have to comply with the DADU regulations. This means different (and typically more lenient) requirements as far as size, height, and parking. This can be a great option for extended family members as you will have a lot of flexibility with the design, provided that you don't require they have a truly separate apartment.

If your goal is to provide a source of rental income (rather than provide housing for family members) then you will definitely need to build a DADU, since you'll need to provide a kitchen in addition to the bed, bath, and living room. And remember, you'll need to live in one of the units (you can live in the larger and rent the smaller - or vise versa). Frequently, determining the best way to design and build a DADU is game of tetris. There are a lot of factors that determine where and how you can build your DADU:

  • Ensure that your property is a minimum of 4000sf. At this time, Seattle lots smaller than that do not allow a DADU. 
  • The size restrictions are 800sf total. This includes a garage if it is part of the DADU, and includes all stories (not just the footprint). Additionally, there is a limit to how much of your lot you can cover with building - typically, 35%. Depending on the size of the existing structures on your property, you may be limited by more than the 800sf.
  • Ensure that you can provde 2 parking spaces (one for the main house and one for the DADU). There are some exceptions to when you are required parking, but most projects will require two spots. Furthermore, Seattle has some very specific rules about where on your property the parking can be located. This often becomes a tricky problem to solve, as many properties have difficulty providing access to additional parking without expense. 
  • Remember that the height limits for DADUs are lower than for a typical single family home. 
  • Allow yourself ample time for design and construction. The permitting and building processes typically take longer people expect, but building a DADU is a long term project, well worth the time and effort.

If you're able to comply with all of these requirements - a DADU can be a fantastic opportunity for increasing income, improving your family's quality of life, or both! 

pacific northwest contemporary home by Claire Grotz

Our featured project this month is our Pacific Northwest Contemporary Home. This project is an 8’-12’ extension out the rear of the house to accommodate rearranging the kitchen/dining/great room/powder room and improving the connection to the exterior. We are providing a new deck off the front to take advantage of the view as well as a new second story; including a master suite with deck, 3 bedrooms, bathroom, and a laundry room. Stay tuned for more featured projects! 

the modern tree house by Claire Grotz

Tree houses bring about the childhood nostalgia of summers spent in the backyard.  Not only do tree houses encourage people to be more connected with the outdoors, but they also bring a sense of youthful whimsy. Luckily, with modern architectural design, tree houses are no longer just for the kids. Take a look at these tree houses that give traditional designs a playful twist.