Years ago we were introduced to a father of 6 who had just lost his wife to cancer.  He and his children all lived off the father’s modest income in a single-wide mobile home in unincorporated King County.  He was notified by the county that the septic hookup to the drain field on his property did not meet code and he would be required to disconnect the sewer line serving his home.  The news was delivered with references to unfamiliar building codes on file at the building department, and the county didn’t provide any alternatives or means of assistance.

Several years after that, a friend suffered a terrible accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheel chair.  He owned a home on a steep slope and was no longer able to access his yard or safely get to the street.  He required a ramp to access the street and desired a deck so that he could spend time outside.

County and city building codes are complex and often difficult for the non-professional to navigate.  Hiring professionals to coordinate these issues can quickly become infeasible largely due to financial constraints.  Neither of these individuals was in a position to deal with these circumstances and, without assistance, both were facing unhealthy and harmful living conditions.

We were contacted about both projects through friends, and it was occurrences like these that helped us set up the BUILD pro-bono program.  Either project would have been frustrating and difficult for these owners to coordinate to the point of being prohibitive.  Most design build firms, however, deal with such issues as necessary components of larger projects on a regular basis and have the ‘tools’ (experience and know how) to resolve these issues.  Having a brand-name, a professional license and a letterhead doesn’t hurt either.  Solutions to both situations were devised and coordinated efficiently, effectively, and free of professional fees by the team here at BUILD.

The point of this post isn’t to fish for sympathy or give ourselves a pat on the back.  It’s to shed a bit of light on the fact that, as professionals, a few hours of our time and informed discussions can produce considerable results.  Donating a few hours of our time can solve substantial problems and greatly add to the well-being of people’s everyday lives.  And isn’t this one of the primary reasons we’re all here anyway?!

These are tough times and we feel that it’s all the more important to support each other.  Applying our expertise in places where it is of the most use seems like an exciting place to start.  We love practicing architecture, we’ve trained most of our lives to do architecture, and we’re pretty good at it.  If there are situations where we can be of benefit – our (blog) ears are open.

So here’s the deal: if you or someone you know is in a compromising situation related to their home or built environment and their life could be made significantly better with the assistance of a licensed architect, drop us a line.  Now keep in mind, candidates have to be in need.  We’re not interested in designing up that dormer addition that your buddy can no long afford since his tech-stock plunged.  We’re interested in working with people or groups without the financial means to solve a problem that may be in our field of expertise.  So send in a proposal and let us know how we can be of use.  If the situation meets our pro-bono criteria we’ll address it.