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Conversation with Seattle Architect Andrew Grant Houston

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Conversation with Seattle Architect Andrew Grant Houston

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Housing density is the only path forward to creating affordable housing in our city. So how can we add more beauty and culture, and marry this to high design, sustainability, and affordability? It’s a big and complicated venture, but I loved talking to Andrew to hear his ideas! 

Start Here – Video with Seattle Architect Andrew Grant Houston

If you are interested in housing in Seattle, you won’t want to miss hearing Andrew’s perspective. Watch the interview, and keep reading for an overview of everything we talked about. 

A Conversation With Architect Andrew Grant Houston About Housing, Design, and The Problem With the City’s Current Approach

Andrew Grant Houston Seattle Architect Portrait

One of the most inspiring architects we’ve met in Seattle is Andrew Grant Houston, also known as ACE The Architect. His work epitomizes the integration of high design, sustainability, and affordability. Andrew’s vision includes adding more color and culture to Seattle’s architecture, moving away from the muted, conventional designs that currently dominate the city. 

Why We Love Andrew’s Innovative Approaches to Sustainable Design

Andrew Grant Houston Kitchen Renovation Design

Andrew’s approach highlights the importance of connecting design with the environment. Seattle has no shortage of natural beauty—not only is our city teeming with parks, but we’re also surrounded by views of water and mountains. In fact, sometimes when we host out-of-towners who have never been to our city and are from other parts of the country, we often hear their surprise at how green Seattle is. 

Andrew really emphasizes creating spaces that capture Seattle’s natural beauty. And we should be looking for every opportunity to frame stunning views of the mountains and integrate greenery into our urban settings. “We are not a monolith,” he shares. “ We are more diverse and not all of us are home bodies.” This ability to understand that spaces are both communal and can be beautiful is a refreshing approach to how we talk about Seattle’s spaces. Especially since much of our city lacks a “third place.” 

Seattle Needs Density And More Affordable Housing Options NOW! 

Seattle faces a critical challenge, which is accommodating its growing population without sacrificing affordability. Right now the problem is that we have commercial developers competing with affordable housing initiatives for the same land. This drives up the cost of that land, and typically those with affordable housing projects are left out in the cold. 

The only way to improve this issue is by allowing more lots to be zoned for more density. This shift is essential for keeping housing costs down and making sure the artists, queers, and other folxs that make this city rad can still afford a place to live here in Seattle! 

Heartwood on Capitol Hill is a Great Example of a Project That Is Integrating Affordability and Sustainability

Heartwood project on Capitol Hill

Heartwood is a mass timber project by Atelier Jones in Capitol Hill. This is a stellar example of sustainable, high-design architecture. This local woman-led firm uses cross-laminated timber, which is one of the most sustainable building materials available. They use this to create housing that supports the local economy and reduces environmental impact. 

Projects like Heartwood demonstrate that it’s possible to build sustainably while also keeping costs manageable. We’d love to see more of this, and this project shows that it’s possible. 

Can Backyard Cottages aka ADUs/DADUs Help Solve the Housing Crisis?

Hilly property? No problem! Another great backyard cottage by Modern Shed.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs) (commonly known as “backyard cottages”), are a key part of the solution. These smaller living spaces provide additional housing options within existing neighborhoods. Right now, many people who are building these projects on their properties are doing so to allow for more multi-generational living. 

The big barrier to ADUs/DADUs is the building cost. Many of these projects cost $300-400K for one unit. Of course, this is a huge commitment, and unfortunately it’s not necessarily a good return on investment for average homeowners in Seattle. So yes, adding more density is good… AND we have to figure out how to make these projects more affordable for the average person. 

Issues With The Proposed Seattle Comprehensive Plan 

Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan is aimed at guiding the city’s growth, and it has sparked controversy. On the one hand, it was great that so many community groups came together to build the next Seattle. One where density would be added to all neighborhoods. 

Unfortunately the plan doesn’t go far enough in addressing the current housing crisis. It also doesn’t account for the huge influx of new residents we will be expecting in the next decade. For instance, Bellevue currently has a more comprehensive plan than Seattle currently. Meanwhile supporters argue that it balances growth with preserving neighborhood character. Ugh! 

Now, on face value, it seems like that would be a good thing. But “neighborhood character” is just code for keeping the mostly white northern neighborhoods in Seattle with fewer housing options. (There is a ton of coded language in real estate.) This drives up the rents and housing prices and keeps these neighborhoods segregated from the rest of Seattle. 

Thank You for Tuning Into Our Conversation With Architect Andrew Grant Houston About Housing, Design, and The Problem With the City’s Current Approach

Andrew Grant Houston Seattle Architect

Well, Seattle Needs to Start Saying “Yes!” to Innovative Affordable Housing Projects

Seattle’s design scene is undergoing a transformation whether we like it or not. Right now, we do not have enough housing for all of our citizens and we sure as hell do not have the design vision for the next wave of newbies to our city. 

It is time for us to say YES to projects from people like Councilmember Tammy Morales. She sponsored legislation known as Connected Communities, which is a pilot program designed to help nonprofit and other community orgs develop commercial space and affordable housing options. Unfortunately, the Seattle City Council rejected the plan

Our city needs to start getting serious about listening to voices like Architect Andrew Grant Houston’s. One thing we can do as Seattle community members is to stay in the loop about what’s happening in regards to housing, and voting for representatives who are willing to support related initiatives.

Alyssa Christensen

Alyssa Christensen

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