Designing affordable housing under normal constraints is tough enough, but Seattle-based Environmental Works Community Design Center deserves special kudos for overcoming the hurdles of Traugott Terrace. Working with an unyielding budget, a tight lot, and a sustainability agenda, the nonprofit architectural firm also deftly interweaved the five-story building over the Matt Talbott alcoholic rehabilitation center and into its adjacent parking lot.

Traugott is a “very low” income project that provides transitional and permanent housing for individuals recovering from substance abuse. The building's metal-clad shell blends seamlessly into its urban context, but bays preserve a residential feel while filtering light into the building's interiors. “We concentrated on bringing in light because the client believes it helps in the recovery process,” says project architect Bill Singer. Each unit is simply appointed with birch cabinets and a kitchenette; a continuously running ventilation fan keeps the air fresh.

Sustainability was an important element of the program, so “we had to make sure the materials were appropriate,” Singer says. Green products had to compare in price to standard products or offer superior durability. The firm chose materials that contained high recycled content and that were produced within 500 miles of the project, rapidly renewable, and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The extra effort paid off, Singer says. Not only has the project won a number of awards, it was the first affordable housing building to earn LEED certification.


Environmental Works Community Design Center, Seattle


Traugott Terrace, LLC

general contractor:

Rafn Co., Bellevue, Wash.

project size:

6,277 square feet (existing building); 32,206 square feet (new construction)

site size:

0.22 acre

number of units:

38 permanent, 12 transitional

construction cost:

$106 per square foot