Archive for November, 2008

Open House at Washington Wellness Institute

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Left to right: Sharon Warner, CEO of WWI, and Suzanne Zahr Fleming, Principal of ZDS


By Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP

On November 13th the ZDS project team was in Washington DC for an open house at the Washington Wellness Insitute (WWI).  Family, friends, clients, and staff gathered to celebrate the project, and to meet the architect and her colleagues.  May Zahr, the artist known as “Nanoo” attended the open house too.  Her evocative abstract paintings beautifully complement the minimal space.  33% of the proceeds from her work are sent to The Center of Human Emergence-Middle East.

Left to right: Sharon Warner, CEO of WWI, and May Zahr, the artist known as “Nanoo”

It was an enjoyable and exciting night for all as Suzanne Zahr Fleming, armed with a glass of champagne, gave guided tours of the space explaining “what made the design green”.  Suzanne wore a handmade wrap made from recycled materials by Seattle based fashion designer Luly Yang.  There was much talk and celebration in a special place created by a unique set of people.

ZDS were the architects chosen to design this functional, beautiful, and eco-friendly medical office created by women for women.  Washington Wellness Institute is a black enterprise that specializes in women’s health.  From the get-go Sharon Warner, CEO of WWI and her husband, Christopher Warner MD created a company that approaches women’s health holistically while placing much care in the design and construction of a sustainable office.

The 3,300 square foot medical office is located on the third floor of an existing building.  The design provides the clientele with a soothing, spa-like interior, which is enhanced by filtered light, texture and color.  The program consists of the reception and waiting area, offices, a procedure room and recovery area, four exam rooms, and other back-of-house amenities.

An LCD panel seen from down the long hall, displays a changing logo and crisp visuals, which were also designed by ZDS.   Clients are attracted through a glass box entry made up of transparent panels and a glass pivot door.  The transparency allows views through the reception, the waiting area, and, also through the windows, to the canopy of trees lining the street below.   Though the office is open and airy, a veiled sense of privacy is maintained as you move further into the more discreet areas of the practice.

Left to Right: Ashley Richardson, ZDS project manager, and Suzanne Zahr Fleming, Principal of ZDS

Within the design, spatial complexity is refined by a streamlined palate of materials and finishes.  Broad strokes of texture and color organize the program and circulation.  Reflective, transparent and opaque surfaces are used within the space to give a sense of elegance, contained richness, and contrast.  The furniture and lighting punctuate the rooms 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.

By choosing ZDS, the Warners soon learned what it means to design and build a sustainable project.  In fact WWI is a carbon neutral company that conserves energy by utilizing sustainable lighting, furniture, materials and equipment.



• ZDS WWI Portfolio

• WWI on ZDS Facebook

• The artwork of May Zahr, known as “Nanoo”

• Channel 9 Interview on WWI

Posted in Green Lifestyles, Organic Living, Portrait, Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Bay Collection

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

By Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP


ZDS designed the Bay Collection for a sequence of lots at Horizon at Semiahmoo on Birch Bay.  This 185-acre master planned sustainable community offers new homebuyers the possibility to build modern homes in a natural landscape, made up of marine and mountainous views.  Through this special design concept clients can tailor the aesthetics of their house from its core to its extremities.

For the Bay Collection, ZDS has developed a nature-inspired design methodology.  Potential buyers choose from four floor-plan configurations, with several options within each type.  To each plan, they can add a bird inspired roof form.  The result is a series of 35 offspring – all different from each other – which can be custom tailored by each prospective buyer according to their tastes.  By combining any of the given ingredients one obtains a beautiful, economy-minded, sustainable home.

The floor plan configurations (Sand Dune, Upland, Grassland, and Prairie) are designed considering the specific characteristics of their lot and natural setting.  In addition to their economy and small dimensions, the plan types are designed to be point loaded and can support any one of the six different roof types (from gable, butterfly, split ridge, saw tooth, and flat roof).  Buyers can therefore choose a plan according to their needs, and are not limited to one roof outline. 

Each plan base has a consistent height in elevation, above which everything is glazed.  From a structural standpoint this creates enormous flexibility, whereas, from a design perspective, this procedure guarantees, not only the beauty of a floating roof, but also abundant natural light and views.

Whether one’s lot faces uphill, downhill, the grasslands or has a view of the water, ZDS has designed simple modern schemes.  Ranging from 2-3 bedrooms with two baths (from 1560-2030 square feet), these plans have southern exposure, a separate two-car garage, an organic living and dining area, either an inside or an outside fireplace, and maximized natural light.   From the many well-thought views one can enjoy the moutainous and marine scenery of the beautiful landscape.

To complement these designs, ZDS has created a set of five landscape-inspired color and material combinations, both for the exterior and the interior.  The design and materials for these homes meets LEED for Homes certification as well as complies with Built Green and Energy Star.


Posted in Green Lifestyles, Organic Living, Pacific Northwest, 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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