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Natural and Ecological Design and Building
We know and accept that architects and building owners have an important responsibility to the environment. We've always sought to design long-lasting, energy-efficient buildings, and we're also finding the best ways to use materials that take less energy to produce and transport, that create less pollution, that are recycled or recyclable.

We are researching viable alternative ways to build, and we teach what we've learned. We've sponsored hands-on workshops on natural building techniques - heavy timber, light-straw-clay walls, earth plastering and flooring, and more.

We work closely with people with environmental sensitivities and those who realize the importance of protecting the environment by creating a less toxic, more natural living or working space. We offer consultation and architectural design services to individuals, groups and businesses. Our work includes low-toxin homes for chemically sensitive clients and a number of natural building projects.

Taylor House
Reused Architecture


Homes, Remodels, and Additions
Designing custom homes is considered to be one of an architect's greatest challenges. Homes are a personal reflection of the way we live, as well as our sensibilities and concerns for our environment. Home design is a process which is personal, specific and unique, and we work through it using a collaborative, interactive and educational approach which adapts and responds to particular sites, our clients' needs, wants, dreams (and budgets), as well as opportunities that reveal themselves as part of the process.

Using inspiration from many sources including "A Pattern Language" and "The Not So Big House", we strive to achieve what makes a house a home, valuing quality over quantity, and working to explore opportunities for sustainable design. We have designed custom homes in contemporary and historic styles, completing many historically sensitive additions, passive solar homes, and remodels for persons with disabilities.

Many folks can design houses, but designing a home is something that an architect recognizes as a responsibility to transform a client's desires into a reality of utility and beauty. Our clients come to realize that hiring an architect is truly a "value added" service in a process that can be stressful.

Sometimes the best approach can be improving on what already exists. Whether it be new space created from existing conditions or a sympathetic and well integrated addition to your home, we bring the same integrity to the design process of remodels and additions as we do to designs of new homes.

Services to Fit
Our process offers homeowners a wide range of services from conceptual (schematic) design, construction drawings and specifications, selection of and bid negotiations with builders, and overseeing the project through completion of construction. Depending on the project, our clients find that our services are adaptable to their needs; we often work by the hour, but can also provide fixed costs for fees to assist in the homeowner's budgeting process. We also enjoy working with owner-builders.

Private Residence
Superinsulated Prairie School


Multi-Family Housing
Design Coalition projects, like The Reservoir Apartments, The Avenue Cooperative, and Village Cohousing are some the most progressive housing in the community. There is a serious need in many communities for more affordable housing units, more suitable housing for the changing nature of households (more single-parent families, elderly, single, and homeless adults), and for development designed to promote complete and healthy communities.

Our work in housing has included apartments, cooperative housing, cohousing and self-help condominiums. We've designed various forms of special needs housing: for residents who have developmental or physical limitations, for the elderly, and transitional housing for the homeless and for victims of domestic abuse.

Since 1990 we have been working to develop cohousing, a form of resident-managed and owned housing with shared common facilities. We provide
and architectural services to CoHousing groups who are starting their own 'custom-designed neighborhoods'. Village Cohousing, completed in late 1999, is one example of this type of community living. Arboretum Cohousing, completed in 2009, is another.

Our work emphasizes:
• Community-oriented design
• Common spaces encourage interaction
• Access & full-function for persons with disablities throughout
• Creative site design to enhance the best of the site

Design for Livability:
• Thoughtful, creative designs
• Usable, positive outdoor space
• Design for personal security
• Children-oriented environments
• Sustainability
• Energy efficiency
• Regional and local-based materials specifications
• Recycled and recyclable products

Healthy Buildings:
• Research and selection of non-toxic materials

• Team approach: We maintain positive working relationships with owners, governmental officials, consultants and builders

The Village Cohousing
Urban Community Living


Barrier-Free Design
Also called 'Universal Design'. These terms refer to design that eliminates barriers to easy access and use of buildings by all, regardless of extent of physical ability, sensory limitations, or age. Since our first project almost 30 years ago, Design Coalition has been a leader in barrier-free design in our area.

A good example is "The Avenue Cooperative", a 40-unit housing complex with 6 fully barrier-free apartment units, 12 more easily adaptable and many other state-of-the-art, barrier-free design elements including several barrier-free playgrounds.

On a smaller scale, we've helped hundreds of individuals with designs for bathroom and kitchen modifications, entry ramps and other home improvements for more independent and full-function living.

ADA: Currently we've been helping businesses and community organizations in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We perform ADA inspections and make detailed recommendations for improvements, with costs estimates.

Barrier-free Design Services:
• Analyzing the accessibility of a building (if existing).
• Listening and gathering information on specific needs and resources
• Developing design alternatives.
• Reviewing a final accessibility design with the client.
• Preparing construction documents (detailed drawings and specifications).
• Detailing specific building and installation methods.
• Assisting the client in securing the services of a builder.
• Observing the construction and following through with builder to ensure proper construction

Reservoir Cooperative Apartments
Mixed-income, intergenerational, barrier-free



Design for Children
Because children spend so many hours in centers and schools, it's vital that these spaces be built of non-toxic and natural materials, with plenty of fresh air and daylight.

The character of a society quite literally begins with its children, and there are no more important places to design well than children's spaces. Our specialty in this area includes childcare centers, school additions and playgrounds, for and non-profit childcare providers, churches, corporations, and school/parent organizations.

Our designs create a supportive workplace for staff and a nurturing learning/living place for children. Many of our playgrounds encourage play between ablebodied and physically challenged children. In addition, many parent groups have discovered the community-building bonus of coming together to build a playground or loft.

Our work emphasizes:
• Design for Children and Staff
• Careful listening to staff, program, parent and children's needs
• Thoughtful, creative, age-appropriate designs
• Home as the model for center design
• Creative site/playground design as an extension of the indoors
• Wheelchair access and usability by all children

Sustainable and Healthful Buildings:
• Building remodeling and re-use
• Energy efficiency
• Natural daylighting
• Research and selection of non-toxic building materials
• Regional and local-based materials specifications

"...(C)hild care has usually taken place in borrowed or invented spaces. Only in the last 10 or 15 years has the age of building for child care begun... Questions need to be asked now because these buildings are where children will be growing up."
-Jim Greenman

Bridges Family Child Care
Natural child care addition & site


Adaptive Reuse and Historic Restoration
In the past 45+ years, the majority of our projects have involved recycling buildings. These projects
adapt and reuse existing structures
, often for new purposes, while retaining or enhancing the character of the building and its surroundings. We enjoy the challenges of restoring historic structures, and have received local and national awards for successful projects.

It usually makes economic sense to remodel a sound old building. It also makes good sense for the environment--both the natural environment and the built environment. When a building is saved and reused, most of the 'embodied energy' and resources--labor, materials, fabrication, transportation--are also saved.

The Importance of Place:

Place is a requisite for community; the two are inseparable. A revitalized building keeps it's place in the community, to in turn revitalize a neighborhood, to retain the character and livability of the place. Each recycled building is an opportunity to build on the best of the past, and learn from it. It is precisely this character that Americans are so charmed by in the old-world cities of Europe.

WilMar Community Center
Our very first project, from 1972

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