Introducing, Ben Wolk!
Meet our latest B&V’er, Ben Wolk! As a Certified Passive House Consultant and building science nerd, he focuses on designing beautiful, comfortable, healthy, and extremely energy-efficient buildings and spaces across the multifamily and single-family sectors. When not obsessing over thermal bridging details, you will find Ben enjoying the outdoors with his wife and dog or dreaming about building a rally car.
March 17, 2020
I’m Ben, and I’m a building science nerd. I figured I might as well come out and say that in the first paragraph, as any conversation about architecture with me will have some element of building science woven in. Whether it is as simple as building orientation and site shading, or a more complex topic such as reverse vapor drive, sustainability and building science is a core part of my design philosophy.
Although this interest in an oft-forgotten aspect of architecture may seem overly technical, it serves the higher purpose of providing you, the client, with the most comfortable, durable, and energy-efficient building possible. My design philosophy encompasses the idea that buildings should be paragons of not only beautiful design, but beautiful performance and comfort. Since buildings and the construction of them account for nearly 40% of global energy use and carbon emissions, it would be irresponsible for architects to ignore their impact on the world, while only focusing on their aesthetic contributions to society.
The above reasons are why I was thrilled to join the team here at Board & Vellum. Not only do my co-workers produce some of the best-designed work that I have seen, but the integrated team here also allows us to think holistically about the building and the site, allowing sustainability to be embedded in all aspects of the project from the structure, to landscaping, and through to the interior finishes and furniture.
Continuing this thread back in time, my desire to combine beauty and science stems from receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2009. I was always a technically-minded person, having spent way too many hours as a kid during the summers growing up in New Jersey watching Bob Vila on This Old House and Norm Abram on The New Yankee Workshop with my dad. My dad and his dad taught me woodworking skills and encouraged me to explore how things worked by giving me old electronics and other devices to take apart and explore. I still have the nail apron that the contractor building the addition on my childhood home gave me when I was six. I made the decision to attend RISD for architecture school in order to strengthen my design skills and learn how to merge them with my technical knowledge.
I am one of the several East Coast transplants at Board & Vellum that didn’t plan on living in the Pacific Northwest, but ended up here anyway, and now would not live anywhere else. I thought I was going to stay a Jersey boy my entire life until I met my now-wife in high school. Her family is originally from the Seattle area so when she applied to Ph.D. programs, all the universities just happened to be on the West Coast. This is how I ended up practicing architecture in Corvallis, Oregon while my wife worked on obtaining her Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Biophysics. After working for several firms in the area, including a couple of years at CH2M designing water and wastewater treatment plants, I had the opportunity to start my own firm and pursue my interest in sustainability and Passive House. This allowed me to collaborate with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and not only design for them, but also help build the first Passive House built by Habitat for Humanity in Oregon(!) — a project which tangibly demonstrates that high-performance is — and should be — accessible to clients of all income levels.
While I enjoyed owning my own firm, Corvallis was feeling too-small a town for a couple used to living near New York City, and I wanted to pursue Passive House on a larger scale. We ended up moving to Seattle in the spring of 2018 as I joined the team at NK Architects to work on several exciting multifamily Passive House projects. After a year and a half there, I was missing the single-family world, and made the decision to move to Board & Vellum when I saw they were hiring. I know I made the right decision as the team here is awesome, supportive, and passionate about excellent design. I am also able to work on both multifamily and single-family projects, helping to push our office forward towards more Passive House projects in both sectors.
I am a licensed architect in Oregon and Washington (previously also licensed in Virginia and North Carolina) in addition to being a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC), Sustainable Housing Professional, and recovering LEED Green Associate.
Outside the office, you will find me dabbling in woodworking, photography, tinkering with my car, hiking with my wife and dog, skiing, rock climbing, or possibly sailing.
I’m looking forward to working with the great team here on many amazing future projects to come.