Mass Timber, Single-Family Home

Matt’s Place Demonstration Project

Modular CLT Prototype Pushes the Boundaries of Universal Design

Matt’s Place is an innovative demonstration project in Spokane, WA pushing the boundaries of universal design.

Featuring modularized cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction and smart home technologies, Matt’s Place is one of the few homes in the U.S. designed specifically to support patients living with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and their families. 

The cutting-edge prototype, designed by Seattle-based architecture firm Miller Hull, is showing how accessible homes can be beautiful and biophilic, functional, and replicable.

Functional and Beautiful

Matt’s Place case study house is the brainchild of Matthew Wild, a Marine Corps veteran diagnosed with ALS in 2015, and his wife, Theresa Whitlock-Wild. 

Matt and Theresa are co-founders of the non-profit Matt’s Place Foundation, an organization dedicated to assisting people with ALS and their families. 

ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing a debilitating loss of muscle control and significantly impacting mobility.

Matt's Place
Photo: Miller Hull Partnership

“One of the biggest financial burdens for people with ALS and their families is making their home accessible, particularly given how fast the disease can progress. With this project, we’re trying to think on a larger scale about how to solve some of these big challenges that are affecting individuals and families all over the country and the world,” explains Whitlock-Wild.

Matt’s Place is made possible through the foundation’s fundraising efforts and with the support of a group of local businesses. This coalition of supporters includes Miller Hull–the firm has donated design services to the project as part of its initiative to improve social equity. 

“It’s so refreshing to have a programmatic and architectural problem to solve that is deeply rooted in and driven by such an important need for people with disabilities to have better-designed spaces,” said Brian Court, partner at Miller Hull, who is overseeing the project’s design.

Model for Smart, Eco-friendly, and Universally Accessible Homes

While designed to specifically meet the needs of people with ALS and their families, Matt’s Place has broad implications for smart, sustainable, and universal design.  

The two-story, 1,500 square-foot smart home consists of 13 CLT modules, each comprised of a floor, walls, and roof that are prebuilt and assembled on site. This modularized approach makes the prototype scalable while also keeping the design flexible and adaptable to different needs.

“We’re striving to build the IKEA of ALS homes. There are many options for how the mass timber kit of parts can come together to offer different customizable solutions,” explained Andy Barrett, a board member of Matt’s Place Foundation and social entrepreneur focused on modular architectural products. 

“An important goal, as a case study home, was being able to repeat this product while at the same time keeping it flexible. The design really allows you to adapt it to different needs, whether you include an upper floor for a family home, remove the top two bedrooms to better suit a couple, or even isolate the patient suite and turn it into an ADU [accessory dwelling unit]–the concept offers so much versatility” said Barrett. 

Matt’s Place’s prefabricated CLT modules are shipped with insulation, rain screen, and windows preinstalled. The design includes an internal spline between the four-foot panels to accommodate a conduit for cables and wiring, making it easier to add outlets, light switches, or other smart technologies as needed. 

“We’re working to design a system that takes advantage of some of the latest wireless smart home technologies while ensuring it’s fully secure,” said Whitlock-Wild. Some of these smart technologies may include voice-activated assistance, wearable wireless-enabled devices, and eye-tracking systems that can assist residents with everyday tasks like opening doors.

“Technologies, like a voice-activated vacuum, for example, allow a person living with ALS to have as normal a life as possible, with independence and dignity,” adds Whitlock-Wild.  

The home also aims to be an eco-friendly, net-zero energy exemplar, cutting carbon with its thermally-efficient envelope, use of regionally-sourced mass timber, purchase of carbon offsets, and the installation of a roof-top photovoltaic array. The design was guided by the requirements of the Living Building Challenge and avoided the use of red list materials.  

Breaking Down Barriers with Empathetic Design

“We’re excited to push the boundaries on universal design with this case study home that is not only sustainable, prefabricated, and replicable, but also offers a healing environment with its beautiful natural wood interior,” said Court.   

Along with the home’s advanced levels of universal design, the exposed timber has become an important biophilic feature of Matt’s Place.

“Making the home’s layout open, barrier-free, and very accessible is one of the biggest goals of this projectbut I don’t think we can underestimate the positive impact the natural feel of wood can have on people that are battling a disease like ALS,” said Wild.

 

“If we can eventually repeat this demonstration home elsewhere,” Wild points out, “it can not only provide more equitable, empathetic spaces for people with ALS, but also offer broader lessons when it comes to designing for an increasingly aging population while also curbing a home’s carbon footprint.” 

The wider, positive social impact of this project–its potential to expand to more homes for people living with accessibility challenges– has been an inspiring experience for the design team.  

“Social equity, and this idea of empathy in design, are some of the noblest of goals for architecture. The Matt’s Place case-study house is a good example of this: tackling accessible universal design, affordability, and climate and carbon while also thinking about healthy, non-toxic materials, occupant comfort, biophilic benefits, and wellness,” said Court.

We're really excited about this evolution in the role of the architect—going beyond the superfluous to come up with more socially just, inclusive, and equitable solutions.
Brian Court
Partner
Miller Hull

Matt’s Place case study house is currently under construction and expected to be completed summer 2022.

Project Details

  • Architect
    The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
  • Developer
    Matt’s Place Foundation
  • Contractor
    Baker Construction
  • Location
    Spokane, WA
  • Date Completed
    2022
Project Recommendation

What could wood do? Recommend a wood design project for us to profile.

Back to top

Get wood innovation
in your inbox.

Sign Up!