Home Tour Showcases Innovative and Sustainable Design

Sep 13, 2013

How do you push the envelope when it comes to designing an apartment building?

You bring in windows and high ceilings to spaces that are usually cramped and dark, like a laundry room.

"I think there are more windows than there are washing machines and dryers," says architect Ray Johnston.

It’s only a slight exaggeration at the GreenFire Campus in Ballard. The laundry room in the apartment building has a sprawling wall of windows that climbs up some 14 feet to the ceiling. 

Credit Johnston Architects

Johnston's firm has transformed what used to be a parking lot—"a sea of asphalt," as Johnston puts it—into the GreenFire campus: an 18-unit apartment building, a commercial building, and lots of green space. Each unit has its own planting bed.

"We also studied the site to see what area was going to get the best sun in the growing months, so it actually drove how we shifted our buildings around a little bit," Johnston said. 

GreenFire is one of seven residences open to public viewing as part of the very first "Explore Design Home Tour." Organized by the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the tour highlights homes with exceptional architectural imagination and sustainable designs.

GreenFire's community room comes with a full-sized kitchen equipped with two sinks, plenty of counter space, and communal tables. The architect, an avid gardener, figures by this time next year, the residents will have abundant veggies in their planting beds. And they might want a place where they can can their harvest. 

Beacon Green Courtyard Townhomes
Beacon Green Courtyard Townhomes
Credit David Neiman Architects

In addition to GreenFire, the tour includes the Beacon Green Courtyard Townhomes, which has a courtyard that hangs over the driveway. Also featured is the Family Share home in Greenwood which, despite having been split into two separate units, now has a footprint that is smaller than the original. 

The home tour is part of the Seattle Design Festival, which starts today. Architects will be present at each of their creations on Saturday to explain their work.