At the intersection of housing and health: Hobson Place combines care with sustainability

Runberg Architecture Group designs ultra-efficient, affordable, mixed-use residential project

Seattle, WA (October 2020) — Offering supportive housing to individuals exiting homelessness is a crucial step toward the city’s well-being and prosperity. The current challenges brought on by COVID-19 magnify this fact. The Hobson Place project will offer permanent supportive housing for 177 individuals exiting homelessness when the project is complete in 2021. Located one block off Rainier Avenue and less than a quarter-mile from the future Judkins Park Sound Transit Station, the first major phase of construction wrapped up this month, with a virtual opening ceremony slated for October 7.

But the project is groundbreaking in more than one way. Designed by Runberg Architecture Group, the project is the first facility in Washington State to combine primary health care, mental health care, and permanent supportive housing, and is on track to be the first permanent supportive housing project in Washington State to achieve Passive House certification from the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) when the project is complete.

Designing more than a health clinic

The project combines independent living with wrap-around services including on-site case managers, a computer lab, and a 24,000 square foot facility for primary and behavioral healthcare that will serve both residents and the community. By co-locating housing and health services, client Downtown Emergency Service Center and clinic operator Harborview Medical Center are extending their mission of addressing the complex, interrelated causes of homelessness and prioritizing seamless care for those who need it. While Harborview has small clinics located in DESC facilities, they have never attempted any form of practice integration at this scale. A central goal of this type of integrated project is to alleviate attendance at the local emergency departments by proactively addressing issues before they become emergencies. The clinic includes an ambulance bay for diversions from the local emergency departments, as well as two airborne infection isolation rooms.

As the first facility in Washington State to combine primary health care, behavioral health care, and permanent supportive housing, stakeholder input was a central part of an effective design result. Early neighborhood outreach was conducted, and several design charrettes were held with clinical care providers, case managers, and resident managers. The design team includes health care architect TGB Architects, who led the visioning process with the care providers.

“This project is all about integration on many different levels. Using the metaphor of ‘walking together’, stakeholders aimed to walk side by side, rather than one following the other. The image speaks of listening, trust, respect and curiosity – all the things that make for great, creative collaboration. That is how DESC and Harborview came together to develop this project.  That is how Runberg and TGB came together to design this project. It is a deeply gratifying experience. I believe the building will also gratify those that will live, work and receive care there”

 –Kent Gregory, Principal, TGB Architects

 “In our firm, we have a passion for designing housing. The next level is the integration of housing with other activities that humans need to thrive in the city. We feel privileged to be able to collaborate on a project that will support housing and health for the most vulnerable in our community.”

–Michele Wang, Principal, Runberg Architecture Group

The colorful accent panels that brighten the building’s exterior were inspired by a family-owned cut glass business that was in operation on the site for more than 100 years. The history of the site is also honored in the artwork commissioned from local Native artists that are prominently featured on and in the building.

A first in sustainability and affordable housing

The project held sustainability as a central goal, addressing a perennial challenge faced by non-profit housing providers­: the cost of maintenance and operations of their facilities. Passive House is a rigorous certification protocol that is seen as an important step toward achieving net-zero emissions, i.e. a development that produces as much energy as it consumes. The residential portion of Hobson Place is currently in the pre-certification phase for Passive House under the new PHIUS+ 2018 protocol. Upon completion in 2021, the certification will be finalized.

The project applies many different strategies to maximize its efficiency: minimized building air leakage, energy recovery ventilators, thermostats that are interconnected with window sensors, a hot water heat plant powered by heat pumps instead of fossil fuels, bioretention planters to manage stormwater control, improved thermal insulation, high-efficiency LED lighting coupled with occupancy sensors, and a 40kW photovoltaic array provided on the roof. The residential portion of the building is targeting an EUI of 18.4. (Energy Use Intensity indicates the energy use per square foot per year, so the lower, the better.) Similar residential buildings of the same size typically achieve an EUI of 40 in the City of Seattle (with an average EUI of 59 nationwide).

Creating a positive ripple effect on the city

Hobson Place is named after DESC’s former Executive Director the late Bill Hobson, under whose leadership DESC pioneered Housing First, an initiative to – as the name suggests – provide housing first, believing that eliminating the uncertainty of insecure living sets a better standard for subsequent care. Once considered a radical and controversial idea, this humane and effective approach to ending homelessness has become the dominant service approach promoted in national policy. For 40 years, DESC has been the primary resource for the most vulnerable people living without housing in the region. The clinic will be open to community members, but DESC will manage all housing needs.

The project will serve as a stable pillar for a vulnerable community, and the benefits of this project and others like it have an inevitable positive ripple effect on the city as a whole. Local research shows that 90%-95% of permanent supportive housing residents remain housed a year later, meaning projects like these don’t just offer homes, they change lives. Connecting people to homes, and connecting supportive housing to high sustainability goals, Hobson Place is setting an example of the possibilities for this type of mixed-use, multifamily development. Runberg’s focus on creating density that is accessible, green, and welcoming to residents is what continues to set the firm apart.

Funding for the project comes from the City of Seattle Office of Housing, Washington State Housing Finance Commission, Washington State Department of Commerce, National Equity Fund, Federal Home Loan Bank, National Equity Fund, JP Morgan Chase, Corporation for Supportive Housing, and private philanthropy.

Project Information

Address: 1911 22nd Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98144
Total Square Footage: 145,732
Number of Units: 177 small efficiency units & Integrated Health Clinic

Project Team

Architect of Record: Runberg Architecture Group
Healthcare Architect: TGB Architects
Client: Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC)
Development Consultant: Lotus Development
Contractor: Walsh Construction
Landscape Architecture: Nakano Associates
Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
Civil Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Interior Design: Mercedes Fernandez Interior Design
Acoustic Consultant: A3 Acoustic
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineer: Rushing Company
Energy Consultant: O’Brien 360
Envelope Consultant: JRS Engineering
Passive House Consultant:  JGA Consultants
CPHC and Energy Modeler: RDH

Puget Sound Registry