Matt’s Place Foundation ‘smart home’ wins design competition

Kim J. Clark

A state-of-the-art “smart home” designed to meet the needs of people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and their families was recently honored in an international design awards competition.

Matt’s Place Foundation’s cross-laminated timber smart home in Spokane won People’s Choice in Azure Magazine’s AZ 2022 Awards, an international competition that recognizes excellence and innovation in architecture and design.

Matt’s Place Foundation, Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership and a group of area businesses are building the 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.

The two-story, nearly 2,000-square-foot smart home consists of 13 cross-laminated timber modules each comprised of a floor, walls and roof that are prebuilt and assembled on site at 1116 E. Francis Ave.

The prototype has wide hallways to facilitate wheelchair access, recessed outlets and junction boxes to eliminate obstructions, and smart home systems that residents can control with their eyes.

Because the ALS smart home is designed to be built in modules, it can easily be scalable to meet residents’ needs for more space.

“We’re thrilled and it’s very exciting the project is receiving design recognition,” said Brian Court, partner at Miller Hull Partnership.

“Good design isn’t just for people with a lot of money who are paying high architecture fees. We can deliver great design at even the nonprofit level. I couldn’t be more thrilled and happy for Matt, Theresa and the foundation.”

Matt Wild and his wife, Theresa Whitlock-Wild, are founders of Matt’s Place Foundation, a nonprofit that supports those with ALS and their families.

The organization aims to provide ALS patients and their families with resources and rent-free, ADA accessible homes.

Wild, a Marine Corps. veteran, was diagnosed with the disease in 2015.

Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the progressive, neurodegenerative disease affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control needed to move, speak, eat and breathe.

There is no cure for ALS and the average life expectancy after diagnosis is two to five years, according to the ALS Association.

Wild is one of 20% of patients nationwide who has exceeded that expectancy, and he’s dedicated to making a difference.

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 who donated labor and materials.

More than 40 local companies have provided services, materials, time or in-kind donations to the Spokane ALS smart-home project.

Some of the contributing companies include Baker Construction and Development, the general contractor for the home; DCI Engineers; Vaagen Timbers; Vestis Systems; Washington Trust Bank and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

Cross-laminated timber is made by compressing and gluing lumber boards together to form structural panels and beams. It can be made from small diameter trees to create a strong but lightweight building material.

It often costs thousands of dollars for people diagnosed with ALS and their families to pay for medical care and retrofit their homes for accessibility.

Families are also struggling to find contractors in Spokane’s booming housing market, Whitlock-Wild said.

Matt’s Place Foundation’s goal is to build a smart home model that can be replicated and shipped in modules to help families in need nationwide, she said.

Matt’s Place Foundation is honored and privileged to be a recipient of Azure Magazine’s People’s Choice award for its ALS smart home, Whitlock-Wild said.

“(Miller Hull Partnership’s) work and dedication to this design obviously means a lot to us,” she said. “It just showcases these collaborative efforts are going to change the world. That’s how we have to start thinking about things.”

The ALS smart home was also one of three finalists in the unbuilt projects category for AZURE Magazine’s AZ 2022 Awards.

The other two projects were Common Sky, a plan to revitalize London-based Alton Estate with a grid-like framework; and Bethesda Medical Center, a sustainable campus in Haiti that generates its own energy, water and food. Matt’s Place Foundation’s ALS smart home is nearing completion, pending installation of some flooring, home automation system, deck and landscaping, Whitlock-Wild said.

“It’s not just a labor of love,” Whitlock-Wild said of the project. “It has given my husband something purposeful to look forward to.”

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