Living Shelter Architects joins Board & Vellum! Learn about the details here, and cheers to our expanded team!

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Teaming Up: A Message From Terry Phelan

As a leader in sustainable and green design, Terry has dedicated her 30-plus-year career to finding ways to expand the deep green space. As her retirement approaches, Terry is looking forward to continuing to focus on educating the public and mentoring the next generation of designers to carry on the amazing work she and Living Shelter have started.

March 29, 2022

It’s so rewarding to build a small company with values and intentions that align with personal passions. I have been blessed to spend the last 30 years doing just that, creating something that seems to deserve to continue past my tenure. However, shepherding that future is the challenge of small firm owners, especially in the service sector.

For context, I turned 65 in February and have been hoping to retire by the time I’m 70. These things take time, so it’s a good thing this has been on my mind for a while. Several options for an internal transition plan have been explored over the past 20 years. However, each time promising successors were found, something came up that eventually made firm ownership unrealistic for them.

In 2020, my search expanded to exploring possible mergers with other firms. Our professional network includes many highly-regarded design firms that share our values, and we put the word out to several of them. We began talks with two larger firms in different locations, and were thrilled to find the perfect fit right here in Seattle.

With that, we are excited that Living Shelter is joining Board & Vellum as of April 1, 2022. Our team will form the base of a new studio focused on sustainable practices, of which I will be the Director. Best of all, the support of their larger platform will allow the work we’ve championed for the past 30 years to effect change at a wider scale.

This change is truly a win-win-win situation. One of the things that makes this such a great fit is that the two firms are in perfect alignment from a values and mission standpoint.

  • We both honor diversity and transparency and are big advocates of integrated design and personal, client-driven service at all project scales.
  • We have both cultivated a culture of open collaboration about both business and design strategies, where our team members are empowered to share ideas and make decisions.
  • We both strongly believe all our contributions to the built environment should be guided by sustainable principles and practices, and have a desire to effect change in this direction.

I’m honored that everyone on the Living Shelter team is making this transition, so our project managers can continue to work with current clients without change in scope, budget, or delivery timeline. This also means we will bring the intuitive interpersonal and technical skills they have honed around creating cost-effective, restorative, and high-performance residential and small commercial buildings for values and mission-based clients to the B&V team.

Another big plus is that B&V is a multidisciplinary firm — offering architecture, interior design, and site design — so existing LSA clients now can benefit from in-house collaboration across these disciplines, not to mention, a larger team with deep commercial and civic experience.

For me, there’s so much here to be excited about! Since I’ll no longer be tasked with running the business, there will be more time to focus on design, education, outreach, and mentoring the team to accelerate growth into the deep green space. That means developing new podcasts, exploring regenerative methods and materials, writing articles, and presenting at conferences are all on the table for me again.

And, I finally have an exit strategy for my retirement. My plan is to stay on the team at Board & Vellum until 2025, identifying and mentoring my future replacement in the interim. While I love my career, there are many other things that energize me, and it’s exciting to be planning for a future beyond work. You can bet that I’ll still find ways to make a difference in my community, perhaps with a focus on my passion for gardening and helping young people develop skills to improve food security in the face of climate change.

I am excited for what the future holds — both personally and professionally — and I can’t wait to start this new phase of the journey.


This post is a companion to our other posts about Board & Vellum and Living Shelter Architects teaming up.

More on Board & Vellum and Living Shelter Architects Joining Forces

Teaming Up: A Message From Jeff Pelletier

Though we’ve long been dedicated to sustainable design, diving deeper into the world of green building was part of a more-intensive plan we’d just started to flesh out. But things move quickly here at Board & Vellum, and we’re not afraid to make big changes when the right opportunities arise. Learn more about Jeff’s thoughts and perspective on this great news in Teaming Up: A Message From Jeff Pelletier.

Living Shelter Architects and Board & Vellum Join Forces

We’re delighted to finally be able to share the news – Living Shelter Architects and Board & Vellum are teaming up! This joining of forces is a step toward both firms’ goals of deepening and extending our sustainable practices. Find out more about this exciting news in Living Shelter Architects and Board & Vellum Join Forces.

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

Teaming Up: A Message From Terry Phelan

As a leader in sustainable and green design, Terry has dedicated her 30-plus-year career to finding ways to expand the deep green space. As her retirement approaches, Terry is looking forward to continuing to focus on educating the public and mentoring the next generation of designers to carry on the amazing work she and Living Shelter have started.

Teaming Up: A Message From Jeff Pelletier

When the opportunity to advance our plans to expand our green and sustainable practice arose, it was too good to pass up. We feel fortunate to welcome Living Shelter Architects to our team — a dedicated group of designers whose mission and values align so well with our own. Sometimes, things just fit!

Living Shelter Architects and Board & Vellum Join Forces

We’ve been keeping a secret, but it’s for a good reason, and we’re pleased to finally get to share! We’ve always been dedicated to bringing our clients the best we have to offer in our services, approach, and design philosophy. Now with Living Shelter Architects joining the team, we’re excited to be able to provide even more to our community.

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