Just before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Census released some new data on how new households are formed these days. From Atlantic Cities:

People are marrying later than they used to, for example, if they marry at all. Among other relevant statistics, the number and portion of people living alone has risen steadily and significantly for decades. So has the number of unmarried couples living together, nearly eight million today compared with only around three million as recently as 1996. Even the number of unmarried couples with children has doubled in less than 20 years.

What does this mean for our built environment, so much of it designed to serve the nuclear family, cruising around town in its 2.5 automobiles? In a city like Seattle, where vast swathes of single-family housing remain the dominant land use, creative solutions like microhousing are cropping up within the parameters of the code but reflective of emerging trends and pro-density principles. From Grist:

The result is that, for all city-dwellers’ disgust with McMansions and three-car garages, this tiniest kind of housing is now prompting passionate debate over the best approach to urban infill.

Even smaller scale development within single family neighborhoods–new, individual single family homes–resulted in an emergency action of the Seattle City Council to halt all such development on small lots. A new group, Smart Growth Seattle, is working to advocate for new land use code language to allow more housing on a smaller footprint, support sustainable development and encourage smaller, more energy efficient homes.

Join us at our January 24 brown bag lunch, featuring a presentation from Smart Growth Seattle on this legislative proposal. The decisions we make today are the legacy we will live with tomorrow. Be a part of this important discussion on housing the future of Seattle!


A-P Hurd wrote a book on sustainable strategies for cities of the future. We’re excited to talk with her about The Carbon Efficient City at our GGLO brown bag lunch on Monday.

WHEN: Monday, December 17, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: GGLO Space at the Steps, 1305 1st Avenue, Seattle (1/4 of the way down the Harbor Steps)

There is a lot that a smart city can do with what it has. Many creative solutions come from resources right under our noses, like parking. Or, as A-P recently discussed with Sustainable Business Oregon, the heights of buildings right overhead.

The Carbon Efficient City also presents regulatory frameworks to economically incentivize good development. Strategies include reuse of existing buildings, interblock TDR, and the establishment of credits in the EIS process for developments that reduce vehicle miles traveled.

We hope you enjoy digging into the book over the weekend. See you on Monday!




From our East Coast Correspondent:

The first time that I visited Philadelphia, several years ago, my father preëmpted the trip with his assessment of some of the city’s finest virtues. Neverminding the touristed history walks, he instead headed me toward the remaindered quarters of town. “Such narrow streets, you can practically jump across them” he offered, the approval resonating in his voice. We joke about this now, in our correspondences surrounding any of my subsequent trips down from New York, “enjoy the narrow streets,” that sort of thing, and really, as a testament to how right he was, how well he knows me.

Having grown up in the relative youth of the Great Northwest, the slowly crumbling beauty of those little streets and their accompanying small row houses is never lost on me. But I know that, fundamentally, there is something more to it, something more basic and abstract in their appeal. It’s that human scale so often spoken of, the fabric and footprint of those neighborhoods and structures that more corresponds to a life lived in reliance on two feet.

Replicating the wonders that a score of decades does for a structure’s seasoning is admittedly far-fetched. Nevertheless, I made a number of mental notes of what can be borrowed and used; the minor variety in setbacks, the alleys that double as streets to the point that they ultimately earned their own names, the narrow walks between the buildings and lots that not any car could pass, but that serve well the owners of the doors that line them, the convivial nature that closer chambers often require.

My fiancé and I met three different people who spoke with us in just a few minutes on one of these narrow lanes. In response to my asking about some obviously recent repairs to the road, the owner of a townhome offered that a neighbor’s construction mishap had weakened the trunk line beneath the road, and that the weight of a garbage truck had subsequently caused some of its collapse.
“Do they have little garbage trucks for these small streets” I asked, nodding toward the ungenerous width of the street and attendant bollards.
“No, they just drive with their wheels on the curb.”

Well, that’s easy enough.


This Thursday, Seattle City Council will again take up the discussion of the opportunity before us in South Lake Union. As we’ve discussed before, the proposal before council includes tremendous benefits to the community and promises to help foster the growth of this part of the city into a jewel of a neighborhood, for all.

Please join us to make your voice heard, 9 a.m. Thursday, City Council Chambers. This is our opportunity to match the region’s future growth with our shared vision of a dynamic, sustainable and inclusive community. Lend your voice to make sure it does not pass us by.

VIA’s Matt Roewe gave a great presentation on the South Lake Union Rezone to city council last week. In case you missed it, we’re reposting here via VIA’s blog:

One of our Directors, Matt Roewe, gave a presentation on December 3rd 2012 to the Seattle City Council PLUS Committee on the proposed South Lake Union Rezone Legislation. The 70 page slide show is full of graphics and data that illustrate what the proposed heights will look like within South Lake Union, as well as in comparison to the surrounding neighborhoods.

An interesting and informative dialogue transpired with eight of the city council members sitting at the table. To watch the presentation and discussion on Seattle Channel, click here. South Lake Union discussion starts at the 66th minute.

Or you can go through his presentation: South Lake Union Rezone Legislation » VIA Architecture.


We hope you are looking forward to your chance to meet A-P Hurd, author of “The Carbon Efficient City,” a roadmap to sustainability for the built environment. Speaking of the imperative to change human systems of energy generation and consumption, Founding Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency William D. Ruckleshaus simply has said, simply, “It can be done and this book tells us how.”

So consider this your fair warning. You’ve got two weeks to get your hands on the book and read it. With so many knowledgeable and passionate built environment advocates in our midst, we’re looking forward to a lively exchange, great questions and we’re thrilled to welcome a friend of Great City to talk about opportunities for progress despite the need for economic stability, the scarcity of public funds and the realities of market economics.

The Puget Sound Business Journal recently interviewed A-P to ask her about her book:

Twenty years ago the idea that developers would one day lead the charge to create a more sustainable world was unthinkable to most people. Now developers like A-P Hurd, who works for Seattle-based Touchstone and teaches at the University of Washington, are promoting not just energy-efficient buildings but compact communities. To that end, she and her dad, Al Hurd, a business strategy consultant from Victoria, B.C., are out with a new book, “The Carbon Efficient City.”


In 2009 when I started working on the book, a lot of people were still thinking about energy efficiency in terms of buildings. One of my goals was to catalog the strategies around energy-efficient buildings and energy-efficient land use and infrastructure all in one place. As I started cataloging all these strategies, I started thinking about the obstacles to implementation. So I became really interested in looking at how we get the obstacles out of the way.


It was wonderful. The outline for this book was 6,000 words. I knew that if I wrote really diligently over a period of about 10 days, I could probably turn that into a 50,000-word very rough draft that would need a lot of editing. My father had retired the previous summer. I said to him, “If I bang out this draft, will you help me edit it?” I don’t think we had any idea how much work would be involved in editing and researching and fact checking. His initial agreement to edit it became a long-term collaboration, and it has been really fun…

(Want to hear more from A-P before our Brown Bag Lunch? Continue Reading: via Questions for A-P Hurd, vice president, Touchstone Corp. – Puget Sound Business Journal)