Archive for the ‘critical discussion’ Category

Parc Vista Residences – Bellevue, WA

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Suzanne Zahr Fleming, Principal of ZDS Architects, is enrolled in University of Washington’s Commercial Real Estate Certificate Program.  As part of the curriculum, Suzanne recently teamed up with four of her classmates to select a site and pitch a development project to an equity panel.  The design of Parc Vista Residences is a result of extensive market analysis, regulatory content review, construction pricing, financial analysis and risk management.  The unit mix consists of Townhomes, Live/Work Lofts, Apartment Flats and Penthouse Lofts.

To download a PDF of our final presentation click here.

Parc Vista Residences – Facing Bellevue Park

Parc Vista Residences – Along 102nd Ave NE

Parc Vista Residences – Opening onto SE Terrace

Posted in Commercial Real Estate, critical discussion, Development, Green Development, Pacific Northwest, Real Estate, Uncategorized, University of Washington, Washington | No Comments »

6 Ways to Text Message Relief to Haiti – Mobile Giving

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

The Mobile Giving Foundation, headquartered in Bellevue, WA, has organized a powerful tool that allows charitable donations over the networks of US wireless carriers.  Remarkably, in the first three days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, more than $10M in pledges have been made using this modern method of philanthropy.  If you haven’t already, please consider making a contribution:



Short Code


Yele Haiti, Founded by Wyclef Jean




Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund




International Medical Corps




Internal Rescue Committee




American Red Cross




Salvation Army Upper Wisconsin




A Haitian boy receives treatment at an ad hoc medical clinic at MINUSTAH’s logistics base after an earthquake measuring 7 plus on the Richter scale rocked Port au Prince Haiti just before 5 pm on January 12, 2010. Photo Credit: Logan Abassi / The United Nations

MINUSTAH peacekeepers load an injured person into a truck. Photo Credit: United Nations

Haitians set up impromtu tent cities thorough the capital after the recent earthquake. Photo Credit: United Nations

Haitians wash themselves in a public fountain near the Haitian National Palace.  Photo Credit: Marco Dormino / The United Nations

Haitians wait in line for water distributed by Haitian Firefighters near the Haitian National Palace.  Photo Credit: Marco Dormino / The United Nations

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those devastated by this recent tragedy.

Posted in Charitable Donations, critical discussion, Earthquake Relief, Haiti Relief, Healthcare, Non-Profit Organization, Uncategorized, Water | No Comments »

Water : Ecoseptic & Rainwater Harvesting

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

To learn more about how water is a precious resource to us all, watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s short film, Water Planet, by clicking on the play button above.

ZDS Architects is committed to doing what we can to conserve, harvest and re-use water. In addition to exploring ways to do so for our clients, we’re researching the conditions and possible strategies for our Green Development in Palm Springs, CA.

Palm Springs receives 354 days of sunshine and less than 6 inches of rain annually.  The aquifers are depleting at a rapid rate, and the area is experiencing the worst drought in the last 80 years.  In the midst of this water crisis, 100 facilities are bottling water in California, quickly using their precious water supply.

At the same time as water is being pumped out of the aquifers, the groundwater levels significantly drop every year. According to the United States Geological Survey study, the amount that the ground has dropped ranges from about 3 to 13 inches between 1996 and 2005 in an area stretching from Rancho Mirage to Coachella. These aquifers will continue to be depleted as the populatioin and usage grows.

In an effort to address this mounting challenge, we approached Ecotilities, a division of the Environmental Distribution Network, for assistance.  They introduced us to a 3-step Ecoseptic Process.  The overall goal is to treat the waste water on-site and re-use it, instead of sourcing additional municipal water.

The first step is to grind any solids and organic matter that may be flushed down the toilet or drain. Then a proprietary process called Zorzymes breaks down the pathogens, total dissolved solids, bacteria and other harmful elements. The last and final step is to purify the water into ‘Grade A’ drinking water (though most plumbing codes still restrict the ability to re-use this as potable water).

This system can be located below grade, but we’re considering it to be located at the back of our 2-car Garage and will replace the need for a septic system and drainfield. Some jursidictions may allow this system to be metered so that the homeowner can be credited for the amount diverted from the municipal waste treatment facility. This in addition to the savings of minimizing the intake of municipal water can quickly offset the initial cost of installation.

All in all, the Ecoseptic system will allow home owners to recycle 60-80% of their wastewater. Imagine, municipal potable water will no longer be necessary to flush toilets, clean laundry and water the garden.

In addition, the Ecoseptic System can treat up to 20,000 gallons of captured stormwater and roof-captured rainwater which can be stored in a sistern on site. This unique treatment uses physics instead of chemicals by deconstructing bacteria on a molecular level. The Ecoseptic WMU Water System removes bacteria, protozoa, viruses, pesticides, MTBEs, asbestos, nitrates, nitrites, sodium chloride, THCs, phosphates, heavy metals, manganese, VOCs, female and animal hormones, TDS, vector attractions, pharmaceuticals, dioxins, turbidity, arsenic, excessive calcium, pH unbalances, fluoride, hydrocarbons, cycsts, algae, chlorine and chloroform.

* ZDS would like to thank the Environmental Distribution Network for their innovative work, research and photos used in this post.

Posted in critical discussion, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Healthcare, Palm Springs, Uncategorized, Water | No Comments »

Living Building Challenge

Friday, August 28th, 2009

A building, like a flower, is rooted in place. Yet, a flower has place-based solutions to meet all of its energy, water and resource needs and to maintain balance with its surroundings. So, imagine a building informed by its ecoregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.

Living Building Challenge is a program of the International Living Building Institute, which is affiliated with the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. There are currently more than 60 projects pursuing certification using Living Building Challenge, and several are already in their verification phase.

There are sixteen prerequisites in the Living Building Challenge and they are organized into six categories, or “Petals”. For a building to be certified, all must be met. certification is based on actual performance instead of modeled outcomes. Projects must be fully operational for at least twelve consecutive months prior to certification. For example, documentation requirements include utility bills – not energy models.

The Site Petal focuses on reestablishing balance between nature and the built environment. Implicitly, it advocates for us to reevaluate the current trend of decentralizing our communities, which increases transportation impacts and pollution.

It is critical that buildings are designed to be super efficient, and eliminating energy demand between 60-80% is possible, depending on the occupancy type. Load reductions always come before applying renewable energy technologies. Because of this, implementing Living Building Challenge requires leading-edge knowledge and an integrated design process.

Material selection has the most far-reaching and broad impacts on design, construction, and occupancy. It deeply influences – and is influenced by – each of the other Petals in Living Building Challenge. The Precautionary Principle is the underlying theme that defines this section, and defines the suggested method for decision making. It poses that “if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.”* In layman’s terms, it is the “better safe than sorry” approach.

A Living Building treats water as a precious resource. Conventional practices are incredibly wasteful – both by design and in use: It is unlikely for water to be repurposed, and sometimes water leaves the building before it is even used once. For example, just by turning off an efficient sink faucet while brushing one’s teeth, each person could save about 1300 gallons of water a year from going to the sewer. It may seem inconsequential at a glace, but represents about 400 billion gallons when applied to the US population.

Indoor Quality:
The Indoor Quality Petal is unique in that it is less extreme in its approach. The intent of these prerequisites is not to address all of the potential ways that an interior environment could be compromised, but to focus on best practices to create healthy spaces.

Beauty + Inspiration:
Unlike other green building rating systems, Living Building Challenge recognizes the need for beauty as a precursor to caring enough to preserve, conserve and serve the greater good. This prerequisite demands that a project team deeply knows and understands a place in order to design responsibly. It suggests that each project should contain features solely intended for human delight. The Inspiration and Education prerequisite is the keystone of Living Building Challenge. After all, once a project embodies all of the other prerequisites, it should inspire other project teams to want to emulate its achievements.

A Living Building should also act as a road map for other projects, teaching people about the design decisions made and systems used. Examples of educational tools that some teams are currently planning include: websites with real-time utilities tracking; 3D interfaces that highlight systems and their functionality; display areas onsite that publicize the project’s metering systems; and classes that will be taught onsite about the design and construction process.

ZDS is committed to being an ambassador for this program as we challenge ourselves, our clients, contractors and collaborators to design and build a Living Building.

View the 16 prerequisites

International Living Building Institute

Cascadia Region Green Building Council

Become a Living Building Leader

* From
** All content of this blog post has been provided by the Living Building Challenge.

Posted in critical discussion, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Living Building Challenge, Pacific Northwest, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Finding a green fit for a specialized healthcare practice

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

As our nation turns its focus towards healthcare reform, ZDS Architects team up with the Washington Wellness Institute in greening their forward-thinking medical office in Washington, DC.  To learn more, check out the ‘Green Column’ of the July ’09 issue of the Healthcare Design Magazine

• The Washington Wellness Institute is a unique, 3,300 sf environmentally sustainable medical office, located on the third floor of an existing building. The design provides clientele with a healthy, calming, spa-like interior enhanced by filtered light, texture and color. The Program includes a Reception / Waiting Area, Offices, Procedure Room with Recovery Area, four Exam Rooms and other back-of-house amenities.

• The Entry Sequence begins in the building corridor as you are drawn towards the dynamic digital display at its terminus. The Suite’s Entry is de-massed by the use of clear glass panels and pivot door. This allows diagonal views through the Reception / Waiting Area unto the canopy of trees lining the street below.

The signage is, therefore, created by the beauty and natural light of the space itself. Though the office is open and airy, a veiled sense of privacy is revealed as you move further into the more discreet areas of practice.

• The spatial complexity is refined by a streamlined palate of materials and finishes. Broad strokes of texture and color organize the program and circulation. Tensions between reflective, transparent and opaque surfaces further activate the space. The Furniture and decorative lighting serve as sculptural objects floating in a serene setting.

• Natural light from the South and East occurs through translucent resin panel partitions, clear glass pivot doors, side lites and transoms. The Offices along the South wall are pulled away from the perimeter to allow natural light and views to be shared. Lighting levels are lowered by darkened soffits to create more intimate spaces, as in the Waiting Area. Artificial lighting is carefully controlled to compliment the abundant natural light and results in a lighting package that is 25% more energy efficient than code requires.

Posted in critical discussion, DC, Green Development, Healthcare, Uncategorized, Washington | No Comments »

Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

During a recent visit to Palm Springs, CA, ZDS Architects gave a slideshow presentation to the Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors on how ‘going green’ impacts the ever-changing Real Estate market. This presentation was followed by an Open House of our client’s modern ranch home, targeting LEED-H, Silver, located within the Smoke Tree Ranch community.

Thank you for your warm reception and interest in our eco-aware presentation.  We learned a great deal about the local real estate market, its unique challenges, and the great opportunities it affords.  We look forward to continuing our discussions with the many enthusiastic members of the Association. 

A special thanks to Becky Bowles, President, and Sam Schenkl, Executive Officer, for arranging our visit.  And many thanks to our wonderful client who so graciously opened her beautiful home.

For more information, be sure to read a recent article in The Desert Sun.

To view a copy of the slideshow presentation given, click here.

Select photos of the featured Modern Ranch, targeting LEED-H, Silver:


Posted in critical discussion, Firm Profile, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Palm Springs, Uncategorized | No Comments »

All-female ZDS Architects stays environmentally aware…

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Look for our featured article in the Small Business Center of the Puget Sound Business Journal, titled All-female ZDS Architects stays environmentally aware to weather the storm in building industry, dated February 27 – March 5, 2009.

Keep an eye out for our featured article in the NW Home section of Seattle Magazine, titled Area: Custom Comfort, March 2009.

Posted in critical discussion, Firm Profile, Green Lifestyles, linkedin, Pacific Northwest, Uncategorized | No Comments »

A Green Collar Economy

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Images:  Jesse Nickerson and Godfrey Reggio from the Qatsi Trilogy. [1]


Text and collages by Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP

Happy New Year from ZDS!  We have entered 2009, which symbolically has come to represent the turning of a page.  We are only a few days away from Martin Luther King’s birthday and from Barack Obama’s inauguration.  As we look to shift from the old polluting way to a new era, we ask ourselves what our professional responsibility to promote change is and how we can contribute to our society through our practice of architecture.  We are inspired by President Elect Barack Obama to renew our commitment to social and environmental sustainability.

ZDS is a carbon neutral company.  By  calculating our carbon emissions and transferring their direct cost to Net Green, a Seattle based company that funds nonprofit organizations that promote renewable energy, we offset carbon in form of greenhouse gas to our environment. 

In our projects we support environmental and social sustainability from the design phase to the built project.  We participated in Seattle’s affiliate of Habitat for Humanity with the Southwest Roxbury Development— an affordable residential project.  

We also partake in the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (USGBC/LEED) effort.  ZDS Architects is pursuing LEED Silver ratings for both, Palm Springs Ranch–a high-end residential project–and Washington Wellness Institute–a commercial interior project.  


Left to right ZDS projects: Palm Springs; Washington Wellness Institute; HFH SW Roxbury. [2]


In wanting to reach a broader spectrum, we are motivated by the ideas of Van Jones in his new book “Green Collar Economy” endorsed by Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi.  Inspiring advocate and activist, Van Jones is founder of Green for All, a US organization that promotes green collar jobs to the disadvantaged, and Color of Change, America’s largest online advocacy organization that focuses on African American issues.

Jones proposes to jump-start our crumbling economy with a widespread transition to green infrastructure integrating the social justice and environmental movements.  By implementing a ‘socially uplifting environmentalism’ Jones addresses two huge issues simultaneously.  He describes how “transforming America into a more green society would not only tackle the problem of global warming, but would also reduce energy prices and produce an abundance of jobs that would contribute in turning the economy around”.

We agree with Jones’ statement that “for too long our government has been on the wrong side of the clean energy revolution.”  At the same time, President Elect Barack Obama promises to expand the traditional work programs of the middle class by including infrastructure, new-era technology and green jobs that will reduce energy emissions and global warming.  This will provide a wide spanning opportunity to fill the decreasing blue-collar job request with the demand for green-collar jobs.  In other words, millions of jobs would immediately become available to commence the huge task of sustainably refurbishing our built environment.

Van Jones explains how we cannot expect those who have less to make more conscious choices concerning sustainability, because often that implies a more difficult and costly decision upfront.  People who might not have enough to eat will not be concerned about global ecological issues.  What is at stake is huge and simply cannot be overlooked.  If, through public and private action, we were to address the needs of our buildings, cities, and infrastructure, we would generate jobs and as a by-product save our environment.

Van Jones calls for a New Deal type of economical and financial transformation.  He talks about a Fourth Quadrant model, in which on one side of the matrix is grey (industrial=pollution), versus green (ecological=renewable), and on the other rich versus poor.  In the past contrast produced problems, alienation and segregation.  Through Jones’ model of a green economy, there will be “equal protection for all, equal opportunity for all and reverence for all creation”.  What resonates particularly from his words is that the value of life is not reduced to a spreadsheet and just as resources and nature are not renewable, there also are no throw-away children.

Through his focus, and in collaboration with Nancy Pelosi,  a legislation is being introduced to sponsor a national corps that will train 30,000 people a year in green trades.  Following in this direction from PhD’s down to the lowest classes, people could be employed to transform our built environment and our culture to an environmentally sustainable one, which, coincidentally would save our economy.

“If you learn to install solar panels, you’re on your way to becoming an electrical engineer. If you learn to weatherize windows, you’re on your way to being a glazier, which is a union job…  And these jobs aren’t out-sourceable.”  With Green Collar Economy, people will realize that “you can make more money if you put down that handgun and pick up a caulk gun.”


Image Credits:

[1] Collage inspired by Van Jones 4th Qadrant:  Images by Jesse Nickerson and (2) from the Qatsi Trilogy by Godfrey Reggio.

[2] ZDS Sustainable Architecture Projects: Palm Springs Residence, image by Ashley Richardson.  Washington Wellness Institute, image by Abbey Greenwalt.  Habitat For Humanity’s Seattle affiliate, Southwest Roxbury Project, image by Suzanne Zahr Fleming.




Seattle Habitat for Humanity

Washington Wellness Institute




Posted in critical discussion, Green Lifestyles, Organic Living, Pacific Northwest, Portrait, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Bocci Balls

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008


By Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP

ZDS has fallen in love with the simple and powerful beauty of Omer Arbel’s Bocci Balls. These lights are made of cast glass, seamed, spheres with frosted cylindrical voids, into which a halogen light bulb is inserted.  The pendants look wonderfully pure and poetic singularly, but it is in clusters that their effect multiplies, creating the impression of many shiny stars in the black night, or of tiny candles encased in floating spheres of water

The elemental quality of these hand crafted pieces allows the imagination to soar.  The light filters each of the small spheres differently.  Due to its organic nature, each piece is unique unto itself.  Imperfections in the glass—bubbles or rifts, born of its artistic creation—allow the light to project a rich halo through the sphere.

The Bellevue House Family Room

Omer Arbel’s multidisciplinary design studio is an inspiration to ZDS.  Through the blurring of boundaries between architectural fields— architecture, furniture, and industrial design—Arbel deals with conceptual work, limited edition, and mass production, while pushing the research on materials.  Since 2005 Arbel has become Bocci’s creative director.  This allows his conceptual approach to be fueled by an infrastructure, which addresses prototyping, fine crafting and distribution.  This process has given birth to new collections of lighting, furniture, and electrical appliances.



Omer Arbel

Bocci Canada

Posted in critical discussion, Green Lifestyles, Organic Living, Pacific Northwest, Portrait, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Pebble-shaped soaps from Arghand in Afghanistan

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008


By Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP

ZDS chose Arghand Skin Nourishing Soaps and Pebbles as holiday gifts this year. These polished hand-milled soaps, shaped as river stones are beautiful to the touch for their irregularity, wonderful to smell due to their natural essential oils, and so nourishing to the skin that they can be used to wash the face.  Each soap pebble comes gently wrapped in a strip of silk from turbans woven in the South Western Afghan town of Herat.

We have fallen in love with the luxurious and soothing richness of these soaps from Arghand. The Afghanistan-based cooperative was founded by NPR reporter and journalist Sarah Chayes. Since we first saw her impacting interview on the Bill Moyer’s show, Sarah Chayes has become an energizing source of inspiration for ZDS.

Sent to Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Chayes has become deeply involved with Afghanistan. [1] In 2005 she founded the privately funded cooperative Arghand (from the name of the once fertile Arghandab valley in Southern Afghanistan), which produces fine soaps, oils, and silks from the legendary earth of the Kandahar region.

In a war torn country, where the main source of income derives from the opium market, Sarah Chayes and a few loyal Kandaharis have set out on the daring project to create a business founded on products that were once the fame of the region: almonds, pomegranates, and the precious rose Rosa damascena.

The products from the cooperative, among which these sensual soaps, are all made from raw materials and natural processes. Arghand is committed to providing both men and women with dignified employment. The workers are remunerated at a fair level and have equal share in the decision-making process.

Arghand’s long-term project is to contribute to the weaning of Southern Afghanistan of its dependence from the opium poppy, which has scourged both its economy and political climate.  Sarah Chayes believes that by creating a local and licit alternative to the poppy, Afghanistan has a shot at founding an economy that is not based on opium and she is single-handedly plunging into this effort.

The products from Arghand make beautiful gifts for all occasions and support Sarah Chayes’ in her initiative to help Afghanistan.  They are widely distributed both in the US and Canada (see for retailers). These soaps, shaped as river stones, are available as larger hand molded stones, or smaller pebbles.  One can choose from almond, palm and coconut, rose and pomegranate essences.  Also available from Arghand are essential oils and beautiful silk scarves.

[1]  If you are interested in an in-depth view of Sarah Chayes’ effort in Afghanistan, read her book ‘The Punishment of Virtue: inside Afhanistan after the Taliban’.









Posted in critical discussion, Green Lifestyles, Organic Living | No Comments »


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