As the housing market picks up, forward-thinking policy-makers, building professionals and housing advocates are waking up to smarter strategies. New trends are emerging that point toward smaller energy-efficient homes that live larger, housing types that reflect changing needs and demographics, and walkable-scaled neighborhoods that are the foundation for community resilience.
Pocket Neighborhoods exemplify this new trend. They are small groups of homes around shared common areas — a scale that fosters interaction and supports community among residents. For planners, this typology can help preserve the scale and character of existing neighborhoods, and offer a wider range of housing options and affordability. For developers, pocket neighborhoods can be a viable infill strategy at a sub-block scale, or an organizing pattern for planning at a larger neighborhood scale. Presenters Ross Chapin and Eli Spevak will offer outlines of these emerging trends, provide case study examples, and share knowledge gleaned from their experience designing and building small houses and neighborhoods.
Ross Chapin, FAIA, is an architect and author based on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, WA. His early career focused on design and crafting of custom small houses. He expanded on this to become a passionate advocate for ‘pocket neighborhoods‘ — small groupings of homes around a shared commons — that are building blocks for vibrant and resilient communities. Over the last 15 years, Ross has designed and partnered in developing 6 pocket neighborhoods in the Puget Sound region and has designed dozens of communities for other developers across the US, Canada and the UK. Many of these pioneering developments have received international media coverage, professional peer review and national design awards. Ross’s built projects and innovative ideas are shifting the way homebuyers, neighborhood activists, planners, architects and developers think about housing and community.
Ross’s book, Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World (Taunton Press), has garnered wide acclaim, including a full-page review in USA Today, listing on Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten House & Home Books and one of Planetizen’s Top Ten Planning & Design Books of 2012. Ross’s work has been featured in the New York Times, AARP Bulletin, Toronto Globe & Mail, Forbes, Architectural Record, Builder Magazine, Planning Magazine, and more than 35 books, including Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House series, The Good Green Home, The New Cottage Home, Blueprint Small, Housing for Niche Markets, and Solving Sprawl.
Eli Spevak, Loeb Fellow ’14, founded a development and general contracting company, Orange Splot LLC, to playfully pioneer new models of community-oriented, affordable, green housing in Portland, OR. Orange Splot communities feature clusters of small homes nestled within existing neighborhoods, original local artwork, and shared interior and exterior common spaces. Before striking out on his own, Spevak had worked for over a decade in the non-profit sector managing the finance and construction of over 250 units of affordable housing.
Orange Splot communities respond to growing demand for smaller homes arranged around common spaces, making it easy (and fun) to share resources. Completed projects feature a blend of accessory dwelling units, renovated single family homes, detached bedrooms, refurbished apartments, and new multi-family construction. Most recently, Orange Splot co-developed and built Cully Grove, an intergenerational 16-home pocket community on 2 acres with a farm-in-the-city theme. Before that, Spevak partnered with Proud Ground, a community land trust, to create a permanently affordable community adjacent to an elementary school. On the side, Spevak engages in policy and advocacy work to remove regulatory & financing barriers to space-efficient housing. He also spreads the word about accessory dwelling units through bike tours of tiny homes and www.accessorydwellings.org
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