Pro Bono Facilities Master Planning

Impact NW is well on its way to realizing a dream that began in 2014, when Mahlum chose them as the recipient of a pro bono master planning project. Having recently gone through a change of leadership and an intense period of growth and visioning, they wanted to turn attention to their numerous facilities and establish a long-term vision to maximize community benefit.

Impact NW is a broad organization consisting of 8 departments that run 40+ programs spread over 8 primary facilities.

Through a combination of focus meetings with the leadership team, volunteers, clients, and various departments, Mahlum began to understand the organizational complexities and create a series of diagrams to graphically represent each facility, its programs and employees, and where there may be flexibility to better aid collaboration and access to services.

To assure staff input, we held a “journey mapping” workshop, allowing staff to role-play and brainstorm solutions to the five most pressing organizational issues we had been discussing – safety, accessibility of services, collaboration, adaptability, and empowerment. Further, there was opportunity for individuals to give anonymous input about their facilities and workspaces.

Once Mahlum had a clear understanding of the organization and their direction, we worked together on a multi-branched approach to establishing a master facilities plan. This in-depth process was summarized in a report that became the base material for a capital campaign to renovate and further develop strategic properties.

About Impact NW

Impact NW’s mission is to help people prosper through a community of support. By working with schools, businesses, faith communities, other community-based organizations, and governmental agencies, they create a safety net and springboard for community members to improve their quality of life and achieve independence.


In 2013, the AIA Seattle Redesigning the School Lunch Ideas Competition provided a unique opportunity for our office to rethink the school dining experience, transforming an act of pure consumption into an opportunity for social-emotional learning, developing both sympathy and empathy. School dining today has been reduced to an efficient feeding machine—a mechanized transaction focused on meal volumes and seat capacities.

Students eat too fast and consume too many empty calories, in a loud and emotionally charged setting with limited supervision. This out-of-scale environment perpetuates the culture of consumption, enables bullying and disrespectful behavior, and promotes poor eating habits.

Our submittal, “Bite Size” dining breaks down the scale of the cafeteria, and transforms large and impersonal spaces into simple, smaller, more intimate dining rooms distributed throughout the school.

These bite-size spaces seat four tables with seven students each and, when not in use for dining, provide much needed multipurpose breakout spaces to support learning. Students are responsible for retrieving their table’s family-style food cart from the central kitchen and wheeling in back to their cluster, where students serve one another, listen, talk, learn, and clear their plates. This bite-size approach to dining transforms transactional to ritual; out-of-scale to intimate; loud to quiet; and fast to slow.

Day-by-day and bite-by-bite, dining becomes an act of community and learning, naturally resulting in healthy outcomes.


Out of 46 submissions from 16 countries, Mahlum’s submission received an Honorable Mention, and was the only firm from the Pacific Northwest to receive recognition.