Construction underway on Spokane’s first zero-carbon ‘smart home’ for ALS patients
The Toolbox co-founder Andy Barrett, left, and Jack Heath, right, president and chief operating officer of Washington Trust Bank, join Matt’s Place Foundation founders Matt Wild and his wife, Theresa Whitlock-Wild, at The Toolbox. Modules for smart homes designed for ALS patients are made at The Toolbox. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
It often costs thousands of dollars for people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and their families to pay for medical care and retrofit their homes for accessibility.
Nonprofit Matt’s Place Foundation and a group of area businesses are looking to ease that financial burden by building an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art, interactive “smart home” designed specifically for ALS patients and their families to live in while coping with the disease.
“We’re really pushing the envelope on carbon neutral design,” said Andy Barrett, board member of Matt’s Place Foundation. “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.”
Matt’s Place Foundation built its first smart home for ALS patients in 2017 in Coeur d’Alene with assistance from several contractors, builders and subcontractors that donated labor and materials.
The Spokane project, however, is the first ALS smart home to be built with cross-laminated timber.
Cross-laminated timber, made by compressing and gluing lumber boards together to form structural panels and beams, is gaining national attention as an alternative to traditional concrete and steel building materials because of its low environmental impact and design flexibility. It can be made from small diameter trees to create a strong but lightweight building material.
The 2,000-square-foot ALS smart home consists of 13 smaller modules each with a floor, walls and a roof that will be prebuilt and later assembled on site at 1116 E. Francis Ave. to create the two-story property. Construction of the modules is underway at The Toolbox, an innovation center for startups co-founded by Barrett.
The project is estimated to cost about $200,000 after in-kind donations, Barrett said.
Colville-based Vaagen Timbers designed a 3-D model for the home and created cross-laminated timber panels sourced from Vaagen Brothers Lumber, said Russ Vaagen, CEO of Vaagen Timbers.
“The product comes from the Colville National Forest,” Vaagen said. “Not only is this great for an ALS space, it’s also local. It came from logs that were thinned and at a great risk for wildfire.”