BLRB Adds New Staff

As BLRB Architects continues to gain new clients throughout the Pacific Northwest, the firm has added several staff members throughout its regional offices.

New professionals include David Spangler, Tammy Vetsch, Sanaz Labafzadeh, Ray Avis, Omar Velasco in Tacoma; Chris Weiland in Spokane; and Evan Vansandt in Portland.

BLRB to Present at A4LE Chapter Conference

BLRB team members Tom Bates, Jonah Jensen and Greg McCracken will be giving a presentation at the Washington Chapter Conference of Association for Learning Environments to be held in Tacoma on May 9, 2017. 

Entitled "Reciprocal Planning: Challenging Traditional Paradigms of Educational Facility Planning", the presentation will discuss BLRB's unique approach to educational facility planning. Presenters will highlight the key elements of a reciprocal planning approach that distinguish it from more commonly practiced capital planning methods; the benefits of this approach to capital project development; and first-hand insights from students and educators who have been part of this process.

Joining BLRB's team members in the presentation are Leary Labanlic, student Foster High School; Pat Larson, principal of Foster High School; and Alan Welding, educator at Chartiers Valley High School in Pittsburgh.

Construction Begins on Harrison Elementary in Cottage Grove

Construction has begun on the new Harrison Elementary School for the South Lane School District in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

The 80,000-square-foot school will be constructed on the grounds of the old Cottage Grove High School, which was replaced in 2003. The new school will accommodate up to 650 students and features a two-story design, with classrooms organized into in six learning communities.

 The guiding principles for the school’s design include being a place to inspire learning, providing a safe and secure environment, community use and access, adaptability and flexibility, durability and sustainability, honoring community and history, and supporting wellness. Construction is anticipated to be finished by the end of June 2018 and open for students September 2018.

BLRB Selected for Portland's Madison High School

BLRB Architects has been selected by Portland Public Schools for the modernization of Madison High School. Located in the Madison South and Roseway neighborhoods of Portland, Madison High School originally opened in 1957 and is considered a historically significant building. The 284,000-square-foot school is among the most diverse student bodies in the state, with more than 30 languages represented.

The project will include significant modernizations throughout the campus with the possibility of site additions. The modernization will be designed for a student capacity of 1,700. The first phase of the project will include pre-design, master planning, programming and educational specifications, with future phases of the project contingent on the upcoming bond.

BLRB's Barnes Butte Elementary Receives National Award

Barnes Butte Elementary School in Prineville, Oregon has been selected to appear as an Outstanding Design in American School & University Magazine’s 2016 Architectural Portfolio.

This year, the panel of Architectural Portfolio judges selected various school projects from all over the country to be featured in the November 2016 issue of American School & University. Barnes Butte is the only school selected from Oregon.

The new elementary school opened in September 2015. The school was designed for flexibility and includes multiple breakout areas for small group instruction and team teaching, as well as community-use spaces.

Barnes Butte’s modern design reflects a comprehensive, state-of-the-art learning environment that supports personalized instruction and community building among students and teachers. The school is organized around seven highly-flexible learning communities, grouped by grade level, each conveying a unique character, identified through use of color, signage and murals depicting local geographical locations.

BLRB's IronHorse Lodge Recognized for Energy-Efficient Design

In designing IronHorse Lodge for Pacific Crest in Prineville, Oregon, BLRB partnered with Energy Trust of Oregon’s Path to Net Zero to set new standards for sustainable design.

The 26-unit housing complex for low-income seniors uses 82 percent less energy than a typical multifamily building, 77 percent less energy than an Oregon Code Minimum building, and 40 percent less energy than what’s required for Energy Trust’s Path to Net Zero threshold.

Path to Net Zero lays the groundwork to pursue net-zero energy use–essentially when a building produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. For BLRB and Pacific Crest, it is the ultimate target in energy-efficient design.


The building’s highly efficient features include solar panels that produce energy for water heating and electricity, a variable refrigerant flow HVAC system that delivers tremendous savings and comfort, and a tightly sealed shell with thick walls and top-quality insulation. Solar tubes bring in natural light in the hallways, and there’s even a system for capturing and repurposing rainwater.

Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, the award-winning Bend-based developer specializes in sustainable housing for low-income seniors who appreciate the lower rents and extra savings on their utility bills.

Video Profile of IronHorse Lodge

Genesee Hill Elementary School Opens in West Seattle

The replacement of Genesee Hill Elementary School for Seattle Public Schools recently opened to staff and students in West Seattle.

With its significant grade differential and a protected stand of old growth trees, Genesee Hill’s six-acre site presented inherent challenges. The original 1949 school had been built at the ‘top’ of the site, with the play fields on the lower portion; so separated by distance that they didn’t get much use, even during recess. BLRB’s charge was to develop a design that made better use of the entire site and integrated gracefully into the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Built to serve 700 students, the 102,980-square-foot elementary school will provide a contemporary, forward thinking and technology-rich learning environment for decades of Seattle students to come.

BLRB Hires Seven Employees

BLRB recently hired seven new team members across all four of its regional offices as the firm continues to grow and work on new projects. 

Charla Burgdorf, AIA, joined the Tacoma office as an architect. With 10 years of experience, Charla brings significant experience in design development, 3D modeling, sustainable design and construction administration. Charla is a graduate of University of Washington’s Master of Architecture program. 

Nick Faller also joined the Tacoma office as an intern architect, bringing nearly 10 years of experience in architectural graphics and design. Nick earned his Bachelor of Science in Architecture from University of Texas – San Antonio, and recently graduated from University of Washington’s Master of Architecture program.
Ari Lewkowitz also joined the Tacoma team as an intern architect with experience in digital modeling, design development and creating bid packages. Ari graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and is also a graduate of University of Washington’s Master of Architecture program.

Chris Moore, AIA, joined BLRB’s Bend office, bringing 15 years of experience in architectural design, production and project management. Chris has extensive knowledge of building codes and permitting processes, in addition to his proficiency with design tools such as Revit and AutoCad. Chris is a graduate of University of Oregon, earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

Also joining the Bend office is interior designer Lisa Lambert. With nearly 20 years of experience, Lisa is a talented design professional with significant experience in healthcare, education, housing, and commercial projects. Lisa is a LEED® accredited professional, bringing knowledge of sustainable design practices to her work. Lisa is a graduate of Oregon State University’s Interior Design program. 

Angela Crooks joined BLRB’s Portland office as an intern architect. A recent graduate of Portland State University’s Master of Architecture program, Angela brings experience with architectural graphics and design development.

Rosemary Johnson joined BLRB’s Spokane office as an architect. She brings over 20 years of design, project management and construction management experience to the firm. A graduate of Washington University’s School of Architecture (St. Louis), Rose has worked on a variety of projects, including health care, civic, commercial and housing projects.

Reynolds School District Hires BLRB

BLRB Architects was recently hired by the Reynolds School District in Fairview, Oregon, for the replacements of three elementary schools and security upgrades throughout the district.

BLRB will collaborate with the district and its stakeholders on design for the replacements of Fairview, Troutdale and Wilkes Elementary Schools. The security upgrades will include improvements to secure entries throughout the district.

Barnes Butte Elementary School Opens

The 78,750-square-foot Barnes Butte Elementary School for the Crook County School District recently opened in Prineville, Oregon. Upon passage of a $33.5 million capital construction bond in 2013, BLRB was engaged for planning, design and delivery of a new K-5 elementary school on an undeveloped site in Prineville, Oregon. Overarching goals were to provide small learning environments and flexibility of space that supports collaborative learning, team teaching and a variety of educational programs. Student safety, facility security, community after-hours use and operational cost-efficiency were additional guiding elements. Barnes Butte supports up to 700 students and offers flexible, personalized and responsive learning environments tailored to the unique elements of the district’s educational program. Our service to this client also included an additional $8M in capital facility improvements at several district facilities.

Ron Harpel Recognized for Community Service

The Southwest Washington Chapter of AIA has awarded BLRB Architects’ Ron Harpel, AIA, the 2015 Charles T. Pearson Award for community service.

The Pearson Award is given out every other year by the Southwest Washington Chapter of American Institute of Architects to recognize area architects who use their professional abilities in providing service to the community. The award is named after Charles Pearson, a Tacoma-based architect who, in addition to founding the Southwest Washington Chapter of AIA, was heavily involved with community service.

Harpel received the award as part of AIASWW’s 2015 Design Awards Gala, held November 4 in Tacoma. 

A principal at Tacoma-based BLRB Architects, Ron has served the community through a variety of organizations, including Metro Parks Tacoma, the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority, Tacoma Arts Commission, Habitat for Humanity, Paint Tacoma Beautiful, Tacoma Public Schools’ Communities in Schools, AIA Southwest Washington, the Washington State University School of Design and Construction, among others.

Ron currently volunteers as a board member for the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority and vice-chair of Metro Park’s Active Lifestyles and Community Wellness Advisory Committee. Ron also served as the lead advisor for development and installation of the City of Tacoma’s Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial, which stands today on Ruston Wa­y.

Leader Recognized for Contributions

Longtime BLRB employee and former principal of the firm, Dennis Kabba, CSI, CCS, will receive the J. Norman Hunter Award for construction document education from the Construction Specifications Institute at their CONSTRUCT 2015 Convention held this September in St. Louis. 

This prestigious national award is only given once each year to a CSI member for significant accomplishments in promoting, developing and implementing construction document education at “well above the norm.”

Kabba retired as principal for technical services from BLRB Architects in 2014 after nearly 30 years of service overseeing the firm’s construction administration and technical specification services. He is a past president of the Mt. Rainier Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute.