Fitting It All In: RHA's Kirkland Avenue Townhomes

by Patty Buchanan

What do you get when you add 18 residential units, 18 parking spaces, mature existing trees, a community garden, 18-foot building set-backs, three frontages, a network of site walkways and private patios? I bet you wouldn’t guess that you get a fully accessible landscape with a network of pervious pavements, native sustainable plantings, a site fully mitigated by a system of low impact development/green infrastructure techniques, in addition to all the usual requirements for above- and under-ground infrastructure, including water, sewer, storm, electrical, and pedestrian and street lighting. Oh, yes, and affordable housing for 18 families.

This site is owned by Renton Housing Authority who believes that the environment, in addition to the housing they provide to their residents, is just as important. So, when we were presented with such a small site--it’s only 0.83 acres (36,500 sf)--that needed to serve so many needs, we knew that every square-foot would need to be accounted for and provide multiple services. This is where many of our low impact development and green infrastructure approaches really shine. For example, in order to control the amount of impervious surface on site, we designed all of our site walkways and parking lots to be pervious concrete, serving to provide accessibility throughout the site and helping to control stormwater by allowing stormwater to pass through and infiltrate into the native soils while also reducing the impervious surfaces total area.

RHA’s Kirkland Avenue Townhomes (KAT) is the beginning of a major housing replacement and neighborhood redevelopment effort between RHA and the City of Renton's Sunset neighborhood. The new residents are the first to be relocated out of their previous units (only a few blocks away) where demolition of old buildings are already underway. KAT represents a unique partnership between RHA and the City where the green infrastructure techniques used for the site and right-of-way were allowed to cross the public-private boundary so that codes and goals could be met for all parties. SvR (civil and landscape architects for KAT) worked closely with RHA and City staff to demonstrate that by using the network of green and low impact development techniques across the site and in the planter strip of the right-of-way, stormwater from the site and the streets would be fully mitigated for water quality and flow control.

KAT demonstrates how the integration of and the multipurpose nature of sustainable approaches to site design and stormwater manage can provide a means for fitting more into a small site. KAT represents a win for all stakeholders, but especially for the families that live there and will benefit from high quality affordable housing set in a fully sustainable, beautifully landscaped environment.  


The 3rd Annual PE/LA Holiday Gift Guide

Wondering what to get your loved one who works in the built environment for the holidays this year? Or perplexed about what budding engineers and landscape architects might want for the holidays? Well, wonder no more. It is our pleasure to present the 3rd Annual Holiday Gift Guide for professional engineers and landscape architects.

Gimme the Loop! Gimme the Loop!

Sustainable, local Loop soil amendments are produced by King County and will give spring plants a boost as they begin their growing season. Loop "replenishes the earth and closes the nutrient loop that begins when harvested plants remove nutrients from the soil."

Maps....They Don't Love You Like I Love You

Strut your urbanist stuff with these Urban Gridded Dogtags from Aminimal Studio, which use GPS data from Open Street Map to create each city's signature footprint.

A Get Together Just To Tear It Apart

Our friends over at Manzanita Kids have been making classic, wood children's toys for years. Now they have the perfect gift for the precocious preschool planner with their modular building sets.

We Built This City!

What do you get when the immensely talented Sean Kenney brings his Lego-building talents to the metropolis? Cool City, of course: a collection of urban vignettes sure to delight the creative kid in all of us.

Get Up, Stand Up

More data emerges each day about the links between our personal health and the built environment. Well, that goes for offices too! In Scared Sitless, Seattle author Larry Swanson offers "an antidote to the sitting disease" to help you get more active at work.

Can I Get A Cold Beverage?

How cool is this?  Repurposed bike chains become handles for mason jar glasses. The result: instant hipster cred.

On the New York Transit Line

Never be at a loss again with these transit map bracelets from Designhype, which are available in a number of different cities from London to Chicago, Paris to DC.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

Ever wanted to ride your bicycle across the country? Well, its never too late as Bruce Weber proves in his narrative of his second cross-continent trip that he undertook as a slightly creakier 57 year old.

Now You're In New York

Ever loved a place so much you wished you could take it with you wherever you went? Well, now you can with these customizable, open source skirts from Monochome. That's right, you can wear your 'hood.

And we'll just note some things that are coming in the new year: our own Susie Philipsen's album will drop in January, Janette Sadik-Kahn will tell the tale of her NYC Streetfight and UW's Thaisa Way will release her new monograph on Seattle's own Richard Haag. Those items and more may be on next year's list.

A special thanks to all of the members of SvR's staff for contributing ideas for this post including: Amalia, Brice, Jess, Justin, Lauren and Kathy. Think you can match the gift to the person who recommended it?

2013's Gifts for Civil Engineers and Landscape Architects

Building on last year's list of gift suggestions, we're rounding up a list of our staff's gifts recommendations for the landscape architect or civil engineer in your life.

Seed Bombs and Slingshot

Have you ever wanted to green up a vacant lot, but didn't feel like having a run in with those pesky folks from law enforcement? Greenaid has you covered with 10 seed bombs and a wooden slingshot. (Unfamiliar with seed bombing? Learn more at Guerrilla Gardening.) At just under $15, it would make a great stocking stuffer.

On Looking

Ever since reading about Maria Popova's piece in Brain Pickings, walking on the sidewalk has been a coded step-and-slide. That's how Alexandra Horowitz describes the subtle human dance of how people walk in the city, and we're excited to read her new book, On Looking.


Yes it's cold. Yes, it's dark. And yes, it's wet. But our bike racks are still pretty full every day thanks to several committed year-round cyclists in the office. That's why we're loving the Lumigrid, a bike light that projects a grid of lines. Why a grid? Well, in addition to lighting the way and provide more visibility to other road uses, the even grid helps to reveal the topography of the path in front of you. No more abrupt potholes? Yes please.

Learning about Livable Streets Two friends wrote books this year about transforming our streets and making them safe, more livable and more environmentally friendly. The long-time director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Barbara McCann, released Completing Our Streets, and our own Dave Rodgers, working with lead authors Lesley Bain and Barbara Gray, released Living Streets. They'd be great to give as a set.


Maps put out their own list of gifts for map lovers. There are some great ideas, but the text-maps of various US cities from Axis Maps is a stand out.


Ever wanted to install a separated bike lane somewhere? Copenhagenize now has the Flow that provides a snap-together, vertically separated bike lane for tactical urbanist interventions.

Holiday Urbanism

Two other friends also penned books about the urban environment this year. Pick up a copy of Seattleite Chuck Wolfe's Urbanism without Effort or pre-order Kaid Benfield's People Habitat.


Finally, a true toy--under the guise of filming fly-throughs of our projects--a quadcopter. Remember, we're telling our kids it's for work only.

Happy Holidays, everyone!