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 Trees of Life

UFSP Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council passed the new Urban Forestry Stewardship Plan. The goal of the plan is "to increase the health of the urban forest and to meet Seattle's goal of 30% canopy tree coverage by 2037." SvR's Peg Staeheli served on the Urban Forestry Commission.

We thought this might be a good opportunity to clear out some of the recent articles we've come across relating to the urban nature. Enjoy!


Weekly Reading: Trees in the Urban Landscape

tree tags Exploring Portland during a weekend trip, we came across these tree "price tags" along the South Park Blocks near PSU. A phenomenal public outreach campaign, they also reminded us of the multiple benefits of the urban forest that continue to be uncovered by researchers.

For example, DesignBuild Source reminds us about the importance of software like i-Tree in quantifying the value of our urban forest canopy (and perhaps more importantly, provides the nifty graphic below). It also suggests that Portland may have been low-balling their trees' value.

ACTrees runs down the latest research about how the urban forest affects carbon storage and sequestration, which refines previous research papers. The research found:

Total tree carbon storage in U.S. urban areas (c. 2005) is estimated at 643 million tonnes ($50.5 billion value; 95% CI = 597 million and 690 million tonnes) and annual sequestration is estimated at 25.6 million tonnes ($2.0 billion value; 95% CI = 23.7 million to 27.4 million tonnes).

Download the full research paper here.

"Perhaps we should start thinking of trees as part of our public-health infrastructure," says this fascinating article from Scientific American about how the presence of trees in your neighborhood serves as a predictor of your public health. Studying an area of Michigan where there was a large die off of trees due to the emerald ash borer, the researchers found:

"According to their mathematical model, the presence of the borer, and the subsequent loss of trees, was associated with 6.8 additional deaths per year from respiratory causes and 16.7 additional deaths per year from cardiovascular causes per 100,000 adults. That's more than 21,000 deaths in total."

Fast Company brings us the story of South African photographer Dillon Marsh who studies the "peculiar nature" of cell phone towers dotting the urban landscape, disguised as trees. Some examples of his work is below but be sure to also check out his website.

Interested in learning more about value of trees and green infrastructure in the urban environment? APA has a new publication, Green Infrastructure: A Landscape Approach, that gives all of the latest, greatest research. ASLA interviews the author.