New Belltown apartments to be built using stackable blocks

SEATTLE -- Stacking blocks may be a good way for babies to learn spatial awareness, but is it any way to build our downtown housing?

There's a seven-story building going up in Belltown right now that is the first of its kind in Seattle, and it could represent the building blocks for a whole bunch of urban housing down the line.

"Why do you suppose they build a refrigerator in a factory instead of in your kitchen?" says builder Dale Sperling. "It's more efficient!"

And with that simple concept in mind, construction company One Build is putting together 49 box-like units in Klamath Falls, Ore., and they're putting them together fast.

"We're going to have all 49 units built by the time they finish the site work," Sperling said.

When the units are done, they'll be trucked to Seattle and then workers will begin stacking the "N-Habit Belltown" building along Third Avenue.

"We consider them great, big, large Lego blocks," Sperling said. "And they're going to be attached , they're going to be stacked, unit-by-unit over two weekends."

The units are modern and feel bigger than 720 feet because of creative space management.

"People have been really receptive to this idea," said one of the realtors showing off the floor plans. "It's a really cool concept -- it's our first modular building in Seattle."

In September, over the course of two weekends, the Lego blocks will be dropped into place and construction workers will stack one of them per hour. And just like that, we'll have a new apartment building in about half the time it would normally take.

"This ain't your Aunt Lil's double-wide," Sperling said. "This is exactly the same quality construction you see at any other wood framed site built construction."

Rents will range from about $1,600-$2,000 per month for a typical unit, although studios will go for less and double-lofts will have higher rents.

Pre-leasing is already under way.