Newsletter April 2019

A Thank You note from Brett:

It’s been a year. Some really great stuff, and well, some not-so-great stuff.

Let’s get the awful aired. Last week someone I greatly respect and adore died, Patti Southard. The news was surprising and crushing. She continually inspired, mentored and gave her energy and knowledge with amazing generosity. She was, and will continue to be, a force for social equity and the green building movement.

Losing someone you know and greatly value causes reflection. It’s as if their force, their energy, combusts into many tiny sparks challenging and igniting us to question our own values, contributions and pursuits.

To speak personally in a business form, such as a newsletter, feels awkward. And yet I will in honor of Patti.

I do believe my journey, story and business, Brett Marlo Design Build are intertwined. Some of our business practices have changed, been redirected, refining our direction, in an effort to achieve more good where we feel it is most needed.

As of January, our company made the tough decision to not build on wheels anymore. I realize this sounds ridiculous as I have chosen my personal path of living in a tiny home on wheels and two years of tiny living flew by and still loving it more everyday…..

I know some of you are disappointed, and I am sorry. We loved designing and building on trailers, and are still bringing the tiny love…only on foundations.

We feel we can make more of a difference with building tiny/small on foundations, creating ADUs, DADUs and small footprint communities that will allow for accessible affordable housing solutions.

I want to air out the great too! My incredible gratitude for everyone who chooses to share themselves: mentors who teach, support and let us lean on them, those who co-lead in conversations, presentations, projects and advocacy, those who have sought our leadership and will in the future, those who invest their time, energy or money as we brave the journey of new and often uncomfortable… to innovate, test, fail, learn, succeed and lead the way forward together.

Together, we are making great change by questioning what makes a great building, a healthy community and supports quality of life.

Here’s the small update:

Nationally, tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) became legal with RV code and zoning, and in limited locations, even legit for full-year use!
Tiny houses on foundations are now LEGAL in the building code with IRC Appendix Q (heck yeah!)

Just days ago, Washington state industrial hemp growers could get seeds so that to grow industrial hemp…we are dreaming up building products designed, made and sold regionally…we are SO tired of toxic plastic options!

Last year we taught at Envirohouse, took the tiny house on wheels on the ferry to Seattle for the PNW green home tour, opened its doors again in the South Sound green home tour and finally retired it from the touring circuit altogether.

We are blazing forward, together with our supportive clients, a progressive city pilot program and green product partners, building a detached accessory dwelling unit on an alternative foundation in central Tacoma and are going for BuiltGreen certification. See link below to tour this site next Sunday!

Luckily, we attracted another set of believers/doers/amazing clients,  who also embrace small footprint, accessible and affordable…and are investing in our community and showing what’s possible….we are going for our second pilot program project, a cottage housing pilot project in the City of Tacoma.

While it has been difficult for us to say no to some projects, we continue with our mission in mind.

Aligning ourselves and our projects with our values allows us to advocate through our practices: to consult where we are able, to educate from experience, to design with the future in mind, and to build with care and craft. We are all in! Tiny/small footprint healthy homes are possible and a fantastic way to live.

Please continue to bring us your small space design challenges as we love small projects, they inspire creative solutions and are the backbone of this movement!

Thank you to those who have invited, recruited, hosted, embraced, (and even pursued us to the extreme) so that we are able to share what we’ve learned and experienced.

We are grateful. (Sorry, can’t say it enough…!)


Here’s what’s next. (Really really soon….)

Thank you to Kathleen O’Brien who invited Brett to co-lead an Emerge Leadership Workshop next week at the Living Future Conference. Brett is truly a groupie of the Emerge Leadership Project and hopes to inspire others by sharing experiences.

Also next week in Seattle, Brett will be joined by another inspiring mentor and pioneer, Dee Williams to present not-so-SMALL-talks to Living Future Conference attendees. (Brett and Erik attended Dee’s tiny house workshop years ago before attempting to design and build THOWs. She is amazing!)

They will be joined by Billy Ulmer, author and expert on ADU policy, who will be sharing his knowledge; as well Sass Ruthven, owner of Sharing the Wealth Organics (an urban CSA).

Patti Southard was on the panel and will be dearly missed. We will not attempt to replace her; she shapes our talk as we strive for social equity.

In Tacoma, next Sunday May 5th and FREE, our client’s open their central Tacoma backyard for you to come check out this pilot program DADU in progress. One day only, 11am-4pm, we are joining the Northwest Green Home Tour for another year to showcase innovative green building in the South Sound!

Come say hi, ask questions and check out the build mid-construction. A rare opportunity to set foot onsite with open walls and open minds….Check out the Foundation Frame system, an alternative foundation that uses pins to allow for a raised low-impact foundation with no excavation necessary.

If you would like to read more of Brett’s writing on local highlights/people/events (more than this newsletter just once a year), check out Gig Harbor Living Local Magazine and 253 Lifestyle Magazine. We try to update the blog occasionally, giving easy access to previous newsletters and articles as well.

Our Latest Addition To The HR Department:
Poppy! You already know Jax. And we can’t forget to mention that Design Assistant Extraordinaire Jade….a wonderful addition to our team! Jade started as an intern, and was hired on as a team member over a year ago. She continues to excel and has even moved within a five minute commute to work! Now that’s dedication and walking the talk. Jade is rockin the specs!

Local and also next month, May 15th at 6pm– check out Cocktails & Fishtales at the Gig Harbor Taproom, 3155 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor WA,

Puget Sound Restoration Fund biologist, Stuart Ryan, will present a three-part restoration discussion on Olympia oysters, Pinto abalone, and Bull kelp in the Puget Sound.

Cocktails & Fishtales is a science-social series for ages 21 and over. Held once a month, each event features a speaker on an ecological topic. These programs are an opportunity to enjoy an evening out in Gig Harbor while engaging with like-minded eco-enthusiasts in a lively and social learning experience. Harbor WildWatch Steward Club members have free admission; guest admission is a suggested donation of $5/person at the door.

Doors open at 5:30pm; presentation is from 6-7pm with time for a short Q&A after.

(Brett is a board member and previous VP of Harbor WildWatch and believes strongly in its mission to inspire stewardship for the Puget Sound and the Greater Salish Sea.) 

Must squeeze in…one more thank you….so thank you for reading, supporting, attending local events, buying from regional businesses and living by example with us; social change is occurring and we are so busy, maybe too busy to notice it. Attempting to truly live our values and walk our talk (sometimes successfully, yet not always) as individuals, families, communities is definitely being the change.

Follow Harbor WildWatch on Facebook for more information about upcoming events!
Hope to see you Sunday May 5th!
Home sweet home!
AAAH is a team committed to community building, affordable housing and improved quality-of-life through design and sustainability. Our work is focused on solving social and ecological challenges with creativity and local community values. AAAH is a social purpose enterprise with a mission of ecological health, social equity and economic fairness. AAAH’s team balances a variety of skills and abilities: design, construction, community development, entrepreneurship. The team’s experience, skillset and values create a firm foundation for success as the goal toward affordable, adaptable, alternative housing is realized.
This Newsletter is one of our vehicles for conversation and education. It’s a way to share what we’re up to, what we dream about and present some interesting models for change. Whether you’re into sustainable design, tiny homes, healthy materials or making your community a better place, this list is for you. So welcome to the list. We hope you enjoy it!

Find us at:
Brett Marlo Design Build
4121 Harborview Drive
Gig Harbor, WA 98332