Re: Lots of Ideas

Peter Finley Fry

Accessibility requires equity.  For example it is not fair for an able person to enjoy a view out of a second story building when a disabled person can not.




Peter Finley Fry    AICP PhD MUP BS

Strategic Land Use Planning

Cultural Anthropologist

303 NW Uptown Terrace; Unit 1B

Portland, Oregon 97210

503 703-8033




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From: Aisha Musa via
Sent: Tuesday, February 1, 2022 9:08 PM
Subject: Re: [pdxshelterforum] Lots of Ideas


The problem with that solution is that it further segregates and marginalizes disabled people and stigmatizes them as a problem that needs to be solved instead of coming up with designs that are truly inclusive that anyone can use. We are not things or problems. We are people and should be seen as such.


Dr. Aisha Y. Musa




On Tue, Feb 1, 2022 at 7:16 PM Skip Trantow <skiptrantow@...> wrote:

Thanks Aisha.  That's a valid point.  Eliminating an elevator would, I think, significantly lower construction and maintenance cost.  So that's a good goal.  Perhaps the way around this would be to reserve a number of street level units for tenants with disabilities, i.e., solve it at the building management level.


On Tue, Feb 1, 2022 at 6:11 PM Aisha Musa <draymusa@...> wrote:


Thanks for offering these ideas. On the question of buildings, you say that four or few floors would not need elevators. As a wheelchair user, I must say that is false. Anything above one story is completely inaccessible to many disabled people if there's not an elevator. We absolutely must consider accessibility in any building plans.

Dr. Aisha Y. Musa


On Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 5:34 PM Skip Trantow <skiptrantow@...> wrote:


Dear PDX Shelter Forum:

Toward our common goal of creating a bright and housed future for Portland I would like to share some ideas that may be helpful.  I’m now retired, but while working in the corporate high-tech world I was involved in multiple efforts related to fostering innovation.  There are many aspects to this subject, but an important one when tackling complex problems is to invite ideas from as many perspectives as possible, and to be open to those ideas informing solution discussions.  Per Linus Pauling:

 "The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away."

While our current situation with homelessness is severe, I think the severity of this problem, along with climate change disasters we are experiencing, gives everyone,  especially city, county, and state leadership, more license to be inventive, to think big, about how housing and urban living systems can and should evolve.  Below is a list of ‘big ideas’ that I culled from two organizations that have ‘Ideas Challenges’:  The Buckminster Fuller Institute – Ideas Challenge, and The Global Challenges Foundation – ‘New Shape’ Challenge.  Both organizations run an annual prize contests that receive many innovative proposals from Social/Design/Ecological Thinkers and Organizations across the world. Many proposals relate to housing and urban systems.   The full archives can be viewed at the respective websites:

While there are other organizations that invite and publish innovative ideas, these are two that I am most familiar with, and find interesting.  I went through their archives and pulled out a few ideas that I hope you will also find interesting (they make for great evening reading).

In the spirit of sharing ‘lots of ideas’, here we go:

Mass Timber

Oregon is a world leader in Mass Timber Technology.  After we get people off the streets and temporarily housed in shelters and safe camps, a permanent solution will require lots of ultra-affordable, quality rental units.  We need to figure out how to build more efficiently and cheaper than we do today. It seems to me that Mass Timber structures could play a role in this.   In April 2022, Portland is hosting the  Perhaps this is already in planning, but it seems to me that a technical work group from this forum, and certainly from the  City, County or State should attend this conference and get into discussions with Mass Timber industry leaders and experts to figure out how to build affordable housing complexes, inexpensively.  Very Tall Timber buildings may be feasible, but at 4 stories or less you can eliminate the need for elevators to lower the cost, and that may be the sweet spot for low-cost complexes – I’m thinking here of some sort of standardized, mass produced ‘kits’, where just about every component is manufactured in a factory and then assembled on site.

Wiki House Commons
On the topic of shelter kits, Wiki House Commons, provides an open-source library of building component plans and various building resources.  Personally, I think Wiki House Commons is a great idea.  With a relatively modest investment in shop space and tooling, like CNC machines, local grassroots organizations can feed Wiki House Commons designs into their work system and manufacture housing components that can be hand assembled to create permanent small dwelling units.


Breakthrough Sustainable Urban Living


Built For Zero:    Portland recently joined.

LifeArk from GDS Innovation Lab

LifeArk Modular Units:  to build floating and land-based villages.


“Early adopters of modular construction will likely be the construction leaders of tomorrow… As modular players continue to gain credibility and scale, we expect modular construction to revitalize and help to finally push construction productivity to new heights. To get there, government leaders, developers, investors, and others around the world will need to take stock of the factors that determine the path modular construction takes to scale.”

World Shelters


Community Architects Network


EcoCity Builders


Look to Local Materials for Construction

Simon Velez:

Bullitt Center Seattle

Upcycling Buses for Mobile Toilets/Showers

Low Carbon Footprint Building Materials    Organically created bricks

and Tiles:

Reclaiming Materials


Inspiration from the Global Challenges Foundation: New Shape Library


CrowdSourcing Sustainability:

People Center:

League of Sustainable Cities:


That’s about it!  While any single idea here may not be actionable, with ‘lots of ideas’ to think about, maybe a combination of these ideas will spark an actionable tangent in our collective mind.


Skip Trantow




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