If you had to find a home that was ALS accessible, would you know where to look? Would you know how to look? It’s a struggle many families face following an ALS diagnosis, on top of navigating healthcare procedures, and one that the Matt’s Place Foundation is working to alleviate in the construction of a state-of-the-art, carbon-zero smart home in Spokane, Washington designed exclusively for ALS patients and families to live in while coping with the disease.
While Matt’s Place has been designing ALS-accessible smart homes for some time, the current project is noteworthy for two reasons. One: the use of cross-laminated timber in a carbon-zero design. And two: The scalability potential for future projects because of the methodology at play.
“We’re really pushing the envelope on carbon neutral design,” said Andy Barrett, board member of Matt’s Place Foundation, speaking to the Spokesman Review. “For Matt’s Place, their audacious goal is to make the smartest home in the world for ALS patients. It’s unique in that standpoint, and then, of course, it’s unique that we’re building these for at-risk ALS patients and families to keep them together.”
Going Eco-Friendly With Cross-Laminated Timber
In construction, cross-laminated timber is formed by compressing and gluing lumber boards together to form structural panels and beams. This in turn creates building material that is exceptionally strong, but lightweight, providing a more ecological alternative to concrete and steel that is also design-flexible.
As part of the Spokane project, Vaagen Brothers Lumber provided the timber, which had been sourced from a local forest that had been thinned to reduce the risk of wildfires, to The Toolbox, an innovation center for start-ups cofounded by Barrett. There, insulation and siding will be added to the materials in a prefab build of the home.
By completing as much of the assembly in the factory as possible, the teams will be able to shorten the construction time on site drastically. This way, pollution from on-site construction is cut, and the home becomes a livable space that much quicker.
In total, the current home project is expected to cost an estimated $200,000 after in-kind donations and is expected to be completed February of next year.
Producing a Modular Design to Fuel Future ALS Homes
When complete, the Spokane project will encapsulate a 2,000-square-foot space and will be made up of 13 smaller room modules, each with their own floors, walls and roofs covering two stories total. The main level will use an open floor plan to allow for increased accessibility, while the top level will have family spaces throughout.
Access to natural light is key in the design, with the rooms being structured to allow as much into the home as possible, while the home itself will run primarily off solar power. Sensors, security features and smart home controls also add to the accommodating design, accessible by tablet, smart phone or eye gazing technology.
The modular design helps aid in the rapid construction, but it also adds a level of scalability to future designs. For instance, modules can be stacked and added like the current design to create a full-fledged house, or they can be attached to pre-existing structures to create unique ALS-accessible spaces. Modules can even be added in later on down the line to accommodate for space as families grow and change.
The goal is to be able to design and ship these smart home modules to families in need of ALS-accessible spaces.
“As we move forward, if somebody gets a hold of us and says, ‘We have a backyard, but it’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to (build a home),’ the idea is that we could potentially ship this to them ready to go, and so the build process is much faster and streamlined,” Theresa Whitlock-Wild, founder of Matt’s Place Foundation alongside her husband, said.