xChats: The Single-Stair Case, May 11th at 1pm

Rethinking Building Codes to Legalize Affordability

Ask just about anybody in any city in North America and they’ll tell you: something’s wrong with these new apartment buildings. The modern 5-over-1 has dominated the urban discourse over the past few years, especially online. Some say the problem lies in their looks, others say it’s the rents they charge. But an emerging theory seeks to connect all of the problems with so-called “gentrification blocks” back to just one obstacle: the number of staircases today’s building codes require.

In this virtual xChats panel, we’ll bring together three experts in architecture, urban planning, and affordable housing to discuss single-stair “point access blocks.” This type of apartment building is illegal to build in most of North America, but makes up much of the older multi-family stock in our cities, and is still the norm almost everywhere else in the world. Are they really as efficient and affordable as advocates claim? What part will they play in battling the housing affordability crisis? Register today to join the conversation.

Expert Speakers

Michael Eliason, Architect and Founder of Larch Lab

Michael Eliason is the founder of Larch Lab—part architecture and urbanism studio, part ‘think and do’ tank—focusing on research and policy, decarbonized low-energy buildings, and climate adaptive urbanism. Michael is also a writer, and an award-winning architect specializing in mass timber, social housing, baugruppen (urban cohousing), and ecodistricts. His career has been dedicated to advancing innovation and broadening the discourse on sustainable development, passivhaus, non-market housing, and decarbonized construction. Michael is a graduate of Virginia Tech and became a Passivhaus consultant in 2010. His professional experience includes work in both the Pacific Northwest and Germany. 

Eduardo Mendoza, Policy Director at Livable Communities Initiative

Eduardo Mendoza is the policy director for the Livable Communities Initiative and a professional city planner based in Los Angeles. He is an active member of Santa Monica Forward and Parking Reform Network. Mendoza received his Master’s in Planning from the USC’s Price School of Public Policy. He is a current board member for Abundant Housing Los Angeles c(3) and c(4), he is the acting Board Chair for Inclusive Santa Monica, and former Board Chair for the Transportation & Equity, and Elections committees on the Palms Neighborhood Council. Mendoza is also a demographer who has worked with Children’s Hospital Foundation, Lucile Packard Foundation, Haynes Foundation and whose work has been featured on publications such as Cityscape and Slate Magazine.

Moderator: Katherine Williams

Katherine Williams, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP is a licensed architect in Northern Virginia and currently an Assistant Director of Capital Projects at Georgetown University. Her career path includes work in traditional architecture firms, community development, and managing commercial construction for a general contractor. She restarted the Black Women in Architecture brunch in DC, an annual networking event, co-founded the Desiree Cooper ARE Scholarship, and is a founding collaborator for Riding the Vortex, winner of the 2022 AIA Whitney Young Award.

Katherine has written about architecture and development and served as editor for multiple publications. She was the NOMA magazine editor from 2009-2014. In 2020, Katherine published Melvin Mitchell’s book African American Architects: Embracing Culture and Building Urban Communities.

Katherine served as chair of the AIA Housing and Community Development KC advisory group and on the AIA Continuing Education Committee. She is a board member of the Village of Love and Resistance (VOLAR) working to build co-operative community in east Baltimore. Katherine was an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow in San Francisco. She received the 2016 AIA Virginia Emerging Professionals award and the 2013 National Organization of Minority Architects President’s Award. She writes at katherinerw.com and is publisher/editor for archstories.com and bwa-network.com.

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