Archive for the ‘Architectural design’ Category

New webinar: “The New 2013 Title-24 Residential Energy Code”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

“That was one of the best webinars I’ve ever attended.  Clear, concise, linear, well moderated, and presented.  You’ve got my recommendation if you ever need it.”


“I just wanted to let you know that I thought the presentation yesterday was excellent!  You presented the material in an engaging fashion, and the information was easy to comprehend.”


“Your webinar was extremely well done.  Please put me on your mailing list for future events.  I have recommended to my GC and his electrician that they should attend next month.”



The new 2013 Title-24 Building Efficiency Standards take effect January 1, 2014.  These changes will have a significant impact on building design and construction.  If you’ve been worrying about the new Title-24 energy code this is the webinar you’ve been waiting for!


The new 2013 Title-24 Energy Code is roughly 20-25% more restrictive than the current 2008 version.


New forms, new mandatory requirements, and now for the first time solar photovoltaic panels can be used as credits in the compliance analysis.


This new webinar class will address the big questions from architects, builders, developers, and NSHP applicants:


How can we cost-effectively comply with the new Title-24 requirements?


What forms are we responsible for?


What HERS third party inspections are required and what forms/paperwork are required for these inspections?


This class will examine new Title-24 compliance strategies and options which can take your project beyond the minimum Title-24 code requirements by 15%, 35% and more for Reach Codes such as LEED and the NSHP.





Feedback from those who have attended our webinars


Webinar date:

Monday,  January 20, 2013

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.


Who should attend:

Architects, designers, contractors, LEED AP’s


Cost:  Free




Living Very, Very Narrowly

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011


There are two apartment buildings in my Manhattan neighborhood that share a block. They sit very close. One is about nine inches from the other. In the small vertical space between them, a horde of finches have built themselves nest upon nest upon nest rising for nine human floors. It’s a finch skyscraper. In March and April you can see finches busily flying in and out of this vertical crack, bearing twigs, grasses and nest-building material. By my estimate, at roughly 12 nests per human floor, these birds have created a tower that’s 108 nests high — more levels than the Empire State Building.


Finches can do this because they’re small.

Now a person has decided to imitate a finch.



Etgar Keret, a writer from Israel, has commissioned what looks to be the narrowest house in the world. Like the finch skyscraper, it will be wedged between two buildings on Chlodna Street and Zelazna Street in Warsaw, Poland. At its widest point it’s four feet across. At its narrowest, it’s just 28 inches, that’s the width of a front door. The bedroom is, by my count (I’m counting books at the head of the bed) 17 books wide: a trip from bed to toilet will require crawling down the mattress, over a chair, down a ladder and then sideways through the dining and kitchen area. Opening a refrigerator will require stepping into a different room, but hey, some people might find this charming.


Here’s the space.



Here’s the building-to-be.



According to Suzanne LaBarre, senior editor at the journal Co.Design:


When construction’s finished in December, it’ll be the thinnest house in Warsaw and possibly the whole world….[Polish Architect Jakub] Szczesny designed the house to be a work space and home for [Keret]. It’ll also be a “studio for invited guests — young creators and intellectualists from all over the world.” If, that is, they’re willing to drop half their body weight to fit inside.

Kidding, kidding. In all seriousness, though, the house is a pretty remarkable feat of architecture. If everything goes according to plan, Szczesny will manage to squeeze in designated rooms for sleeping, eating, and working. The place will have off-grid plumbing inspired by boat sewage technology and electricity lifted from a neighbor. To save space, the entry stairs will fold up at the press of a button and become part of the first floor.”


Here’s what it looks like when the first floor is folded up from street level.


I’m not sure why Mr. Keret wants to live so narrowly. It might be a money thing.


He’s certainly not following one of the basic rules of ecology, called the “Size/Abundance Rule”, which says bigger animals live farther apart, smaller animals live closer together. Mr. Keret is hundreds (maybe thousands) of times bigger than a finch. His home territory should reflect that. Midsize mammals shouldn’t live like midsize avians.

Plus, says editor Suzanne LaBarre, the place is not all that beautiful.


It’s been compared to everything from a pregnancy test to a sanitary napkin. (Our vote is for “pregnancy test.”) Our biggest concern, though, is that it’s hardly got any windows. How’s it going to…”become a significant platform for world intellectual exchange,” if it feels like a sensory deprivation chamber? Won’t Keret go insane? But maybe that’s the point. It’s not like he’d be the first artist to benefit from going [totally] crazy.


The building will be completed in December. Mr. Keret will move in sometime after that. His admirers will be watching, anxiously.

Delayed Households to Boost Housing Demand, Builders Need Financing to Meet It

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011


A new study by NAHB economists (“Pent-Up Housing Demand: The Household Formations That Didn’t Happen — Yet”) warns that housing demand will quicken as household formations catch up from recession-dampened levels.


The study calculates that 2.1 million household formations were delayed from 2007 to 2009 as a result of the harsh economic conditions of the Great Recession, which would account for two-thirds of the three million excess housing units recently cited by, among others, William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.


Doubling up with roommates or living in their parents’ basements to withstand the weak economy, such potential households represent future occupants of rental or ownership housing as their financial situation improves.


These delayed households will materialize, coinciding with a re-acceleration of the rate of household formations that will be driven largely by the children of baby boomers who are moving into their young adult years and who constitute a generation even larger than their parents’.


While not directly addressed in the report, these findings suggest that the nation’s home builders should  be gearing up now to meet the housing demand that will be increasing significantly as the U.S. economy moves forward, a task for which they are ill-prepared because they are unable to obtain financing to begin new projects.


“There should be a sense of urgency to restore the capacity of a fully functioning housing industry to meet the demand that is looming not that far out into the future,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen. “Instead, builders must contend with severely curtailed access to the credit required to even begin moving into the planning stages for housing that will be in strong demand by the time it is completed.”


As a result of scarce financing, new rental apartments, which traditionally provide young households with their first housing, “are not moving nearly fast enough into the pipeline today,” Nielsen added. “It can take a few years for some of these larger projects to be built, and already we are beginning to see apartment vacancies tightening up in many major markets.”


During the Great Recession, the NAHB study finds, average annual household formations slumped to 421,000, roughly a third of the long-term average. Households were being formed at a fairly consistent average growth rate of 1.0% from 2000 through 2007 before they noticeably declined. The researchers extended the 2007 level by the 1.0% average growth rate, and from this baseline number subtracted the Census Bureau’s estimated households for 2010 to conclude that there were 2.1 million pent-up household formations.


“A considerable portion of the excess housing supply is due to a steep decline in demand related to economic conditions, rather than due purely to overbuilding,” the study says. “This has important implications for recovery in the housing market.”


The study concludes that today’s excess supply of housing “reflects or embodies significant pent-up demand, implying that recovery in the housing market will come more quickly as the economic recovery makes progress and pent-up demand turns into realized demand, absorbing vacant units in the existing stock and adding pressure for the construction of new units.


NAHB/Nation’s Building News

Architecture review: Frank Gehry’s New World Center in Miami Beach

Monday, January 24th, 2011


By Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic

January 24, 2011

Reporting from Miami Beach —


From nearly every exterior angle — as approached from the beach, which is just a few blocks from its front door, or from the boutiques and gelaterias on nearby Lincoln Road — Frank Gehry‘s building for the New World Symphony looks surprisingly nondescript. Wrapped in glass and white plaster, the six-story concert hall has a boxy profile to go with a rather unassuming architectural personality.


But the building’s outward simplicity — miles from the shimmering metal skins of Walt DisneyConcert Hall or the Guggenheim Bilbao — turns out to be deceptive. Its soaring sky-lit atrium is filled with a jumble of the architect’s familiar sculptural forms. Another collection of his daring shapes awaits inside the auditorium.


Throughout the $160-million concert hall, set to open officially Tuesday evening, the interplay between rectangular containers and their virtuosic architectural contents gives the design a shifting, unpredictable vitality. This is a piece of architecture that dares you to underestimate it or write it off at first glance. In the middle of Miami Beach, a city that, like certain parts of Los Angeles, has nearly perfected the art of aggressive displays of individual beauty — pneumatic, Botoxed, dyed and otherwise — it is content to focus on the richness of its interior life.


Even the white walls that lend a straightforward look to the facility, known officially as the New World Center, have a significant programming role to play. Both inside the auditorium and on the front of the concert hall, facing a new park designed by the Dutch landscape architecture firm West 8, they double as screens that will show a variety of video images.


This week the symphony will pair Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” with video sequences, projected on the walls behind the orchestra, created by students and faculty at USC‘s School of Cinematic Arts. At least twice every month it will beam the live feed of a concert, accompanied by sound, onto the building’s parkside facade, an event New World officials call a “wallcast.”


Gehry included similar elements in his original designs for Disney Hall, but they were never built. In Miami they reflect the interests of Michael Tilson Thomas, New World’s artistic director, and the young age of its musicians. New World is officially not a professional orchestra but a training program: It recruits graduates from leading conservatories and brings them to Miami for three-year fellowships. Most of them then go off to jobs at top orchestras around the country.


As overseen by Tilson Thomas — who is also music director at San Francisco Symphony and, in a hard-to-believe twist, occasionally had Gehry as a babysitter when he was a kid growing up in Los Angeles — New World is a serious, ambitious outfit. But the youth of its players, and perhaps also its location in a beach town, gives it a natural interest in informality and unconventional programming. At its old home, a converted movie house called the Lincoln Theater, New World initiated a series of brief concerts with a ticket price of $2.50.


The new hall will dramatically increase the symphony’s opportunities for public outreach and the use of digital technology. It also carves out a separate suite of spaces for the young musicians themselves. Arguably, in fact, the heart of Gehry’s design is not the auditorium but rather the rehearsal and recording rooms that make up the southern half of the New World Center. Taken together, these spaces suggest a whitewashed seaside village beneath the larger building’s protective roof.


The village is not small: It includes 24 coaching and practice rooms, four chamber ensemble rooms, three percussion studios, three guest-artist suites, a conference room that doubles as a performance space and a separate rehearsal room for Tilson Thomas. Many of these areas are wired for high-speed Internet connections, allowing the musicians to sit for live video instruction by teachers in other cities.


The public, though it is given fleeting glimpses of those back-of-house rooms and a stacked stair connecting them, will mostly experience the building as two large, connected spaces: the soaring atrium, which includes a bar topped by a blue-titanium canopy, and the concert hall. Connecting the two at ground level are a pair of low-ceilinged, snaking corridors that bring audience members into the hall right next to the stage.


Most patrons will enter the building on the second level, after parking in an attached garage to the west. The 550-space garage was designed by Gehry’s firm, Gehry Partners, but as an architectural object it pales in comparison with another recently built parking structure with a design pedigree, Herzog & de Meuron’s stunning nearby 1111 Lincoln Road. It joins the concert hall and the park as part of a three-pronged Miami Beach redevelopment project.


Gehry’s firm originally signed on to design the park as well, but after battles over the budget and other issues, that job was handed instead to West 8. Crisscrossed by a dense series of stone paths and planted with a forest of palms, the park is known as Miami Beach SoundScape. If the name is terrible — wasn’t Miami SoundScape Gloria Estefan‘s band? — the design convincingly balances easily legible geometric patterns with lush tropical landscape.


What New World’s audiences will find, once they’ve made their way through either the park or the garage to the auditorium itself, is a high-ceilinged but intimate room with sections of seating surrounding the stage on all sides, in the so-called vineyard style, and a scalloped window behind the orchestra offering views of palm trees and drifting clouds. The capacity here is 756, about a third of Disney Hall’s.


As is true at Disney, the Gehry-designed upholstery on the seats, two shades of blue flecked with cloud-like streaks of white, skirts the edge of tackiness. (There is nothing the architect enjoys more than tweaking conventional good taste.) Out in the atrium, banquettes lined with aqua-blue naugahyde work the same vein.


There are other connections to Disney Hall. Gehry has teamed again with its Japanese acoustician, Yasuhisa Toyota. (Though I sat in on a couple of rehearsals last week, I’ll leave analysis of the hall’s sound to my colleague Mark Swed, who will hear the orchestra in concert later this week.) And the new auditorium, like the one in L.A., owes a debt to the interior of architect Hans Scharoun’s Berlin Philharmonic, from 1963. All three designs show a clear interest in breaking down the symmetry and formality of traditional concert-hall architecture, suggesting an open, democratic alternative to the sometimes rigid world of classical music.


Perhaps the biggest departure from Bunker Hill is in the new hall’s palette of colors and materials. Instead of expanses of fir, the New World auditorium is lined almost entirely in curving, white-plaster forms. The overall effect is a certain coolness and lightness — edging into crisp detachment — at the expense of some of Disney Hall’s remarkable warmth.


The plainness of the New World Center’s exterior is in part a simple reflection of a sizable but not extravagant budget. It is also meant to recall the mid-rise architecture of Miami Beach’s Art Deco hotels. And Gehry has worked this way plenty of times before: You can find boxy buildings throughout his long résumé, most of them holding architectural surprises within.


From one perspective, at least, there is something fitting about Gehry’s efforts in Miami to squeeze an extensive architectural program — concert hall, lobby, offices and what nearly amounts to a full-fledged music school — into a building that looks an awful lot, on the outside, like a giant shoebox. The most predictable shape for any concert hall, when it comes to acoustical performance, is precisely that — a shoebox. Boston’s Symphony Hall and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam are both shoeboxes. The Musikverein in Vienna? Shoebox.


But what ambitious, contemporary architect wants to build a plain, hangar-like space, with straight rows of seats facing a distant proscenium stage, and leave it at that? At Disney Hall, Gehry solved the dilemma by turning the auditorium at a sharp diagonal to Grand Avenue, squeezing a vineyard-style collection of seats around the stage and wrapping the whole thing in shiny, stainless-steel panels. In Miami, by contrast, Gehry has turned the strategy inside out: with a certain deadpan restraint, he has used an acoustical ideal to drive the form of the entire complex.


To put it simply, Disney Hall is a shoebox disguised as a Frank Gehry building. The New World Center is a Frank Gehry building disguised as a shoebox.

LA Hopes to Blow Up Postwar Zoning Codes

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010


Planning commission undertaking first top-to-bottom revision in six decades, streamlining and speeding up land-use.


Click here for full article

“National Green Building Standards” available

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

The “National Green Building Standard”, available thru, provides ‘green’ practice that can be incorporated into multifamily and single-family new home construction, home remodeling and additions and site development.


The standard covers lot design, resource, energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality, and owner education.


Currently the first and only ANSI-approved green building rating system, the National Green Building Standard is the benchmark for green homes.


To view or purchase this publication online, click here

Do-It-Yourself Downsize: How to Build A Tiny House

Monday, July 19th, 2010


Read and listen to the story at NPR

The 130-square-foot "Fencl" tiny house being pulled by a small truck.

Minimalism, Maximalism And Everything In Between

Monday, July 19th, 2010


Read and listen to the story at NPR

The late architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe described his design philosophy with a simple mantra: “Less is more.” Those three words shaped the world of architecture for a generation. Countless sleek, black towers of steel and glass soared skyward around the world from the 1940s through the ’70s.

But today it seems more is more. In its August issue, Vanity Fair has published the results of its survey of the most important architectural works of the past 30 years. The winners — chosen by architects, critics, and academics — are striking, whimsical and even audacious. Architecture correspondent Matt Tyrnauer, who wrote the piece that accompanies the survey, speaks with NPR’s Liane Hansen about the committee’s selections.

Modern Construction Handbook / Andrew Watts

Friday, July 9th, 2010

A good construction manual is a must have for any architect’s library.

The Modern Construction Handbook by Andrew Watts is in my opinion one of the best construction manuals these days, covering construction systems in an extensive way. The best of this book are the details: good quality of the drawings and 3D sections that help you understand the details in a better way.

Construction manuals tend to be very outdated, even if they are brand new. On the contrary, this book includes a whole section on energy and alternative materials, along with a section called “Future” which helps us resolve complex geometries, twisted facades, new glazing systems and more.

The book has 500 pages printed in good quality paper, something very important for  a book that you will be constantly flipping when needing help on a project.

More images about the book, along with the full index so you can see if it fits you after the break:

The Modern Construction Handbook has become a building construction classic. Its systematic approach with chapters on materials, walls, roofs, construction and environment offers clear and efficient orientation.

The second edition underwent a considerable expansion and has been thoroughly updated:

Digital fabrication techniques are included and presented in an instructional book for the first time, in addition to traditional production processes
– Constructive building principles are shown with new, color 3D drawings and illustrated with photos of built examples of the work of renown architects
– More and densely packed information provided by 3D drawings of the individual components and structures
– Glossary following every chapter containing explanations of terminology and related information
– Environmental aspects and properties of the different materials
– New design and rendering methods such as parametrical design, CAD/CAM and 3D Modeler are explained, shown and integrated in the respective chapters.

– SpringerWienNewYork

Publisher: SpringerWienNewYork
Author: Andrew Watts
Layout and Cover Design: Yasmin Watts

Language: English
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 504
Illustrations: 1000 color illustrations
Dimensions: 11.9 x 8.5 x 1.6 inches
ISBN: 978-3-211-99195-4



Introduction to Second Edition
Changes from the First Edition
Structure of this book

1. Materials

Taxonomy of material systems
Structure and envelope
Digital tectonics
Parametric design

Tectonics in metal
Copper, zinc and lead

Tectonics in glass

Tectonics in concrete

Tectonics in masonry
Concrete block

Tectonics in plastics
Plastics and composites

Tectonics in timber
Fabrics and membranes

Internal walls
Fixed and demountable
Plaster systems
Wallboard systems


2. Walls

Trends in facade design
Generic wall types

Sheet metal
Profiled cladding
Composite panels
Mesh screens
Louvre screens

Glass systems
Stick systems
Unitised glazing
Clamped glazing
Bolt fixed glazing
Glass blocks and channels
Steel windows
Aluminium windows
Timber windows

Cast in situ
Storey height precast
Small precast panels

Masonry loadbearing walls

Masonry cavity walls
Stone and block
Masonry cladding
Masonry rainscreens

Plastic-based cladding
Plastic rainscreens

Timber frame
Cladding panels

3. Roofs

Trends in roof design

Metal roofs
Metal standing seam
Profiled metal sheet
Composite panels
Metal louvres

Glass roofs
Greenhouse glazing and capped systems
Silicone-sealed glazing and rooflights
Bolt fixed glazing
Bonded glass rooflights

Concealed membranes
Exposed membranes
Planted roof

Timber roofs
Flat roof: mastic asphalt coverings
Flat roof: bitumen-based sheet membranes
Pitched roof: tiles

Plastic roofs
GRP rooflights
GRP panels and shells

Fabric systems
ETFE cushions
Single membrane: cone-shaped roof
Single membrane: barrel-shaped roof

4. Structure

Material systems for structures

Braced frames
Reinforced concrete

Portal frames

Loadbearing boxes
Reinforced concrete


Arches and shells

Space grids

Floor structures
Cast in situ / cast-in-place concrete
Precast concrete
Steel and steel mesh


5. Environment

Energy and the building envelope

Double skin facades
Environmental studies for envelopes

Analysis for design
Solar radiation
Embodied energy

Passive design
Natural ventilation
Solar shading and daylight controls
Solar power
Solar heating

Low energy material systems
Straw bales and hemp
Rammed earth, cob and adobe bricks
Green oak and bamboo
Green walls

Active design
Liquid based heating/cooling systems
Mechanical heating/cooling systems
Electrical lighting
Fuel and water supply

Support services
Sanitation and drainage
Fire control
Maintenance and cleaning

6. Future

A future for building construction
Folded glazing
Metal solar shading: louvres and mesh
Triangular panels for twisted facades
Twisted panels with flat glass for twisted facades
Moving shading panels
Precast concrete panels for facades of complex geometry
Glazing systems with integral solar shading
Stick glazing for double facades
Shingled glazing for facades of complex geometry
Variable concrete panels for solar shading
Structural facades of complex geometry
Facade with integrated furniture


Glossary of terms
Photo credits

Available on Amazon

Pritzker Prize Goes To Japan’s SANAA Duo

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Photo Gallery: Designs By The Pritzker Architecture Prize Winners

March 29, 2010

The Pritzker Architecture Prize usually goes to just one architect. But this year, two Japanese partners are being honored — a woman, Kazuyo Sejima, and a man, Ryue Nishizawa — who lead the firm SANAA.

The Pritzker jury praised their buildings for being “deceptively simple” — and, perhaps in a jab at contemporary architecture, the jurors wrote: “SANAA’s architecture stands in direct contrast with the bombastic.”

Glass Pavilion for the Toledo, Ohio, Museum of  Art.

Enlarge Courtesy of SANAAGlass Pavilion for the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.

Glass  Pavilion for the Toledo, Ohio, Museum of Art.

Courtesy of SANAAGlass Pavilion for the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.

Architecture Like A Park

Simplicity greets visitors to the Glass Pavilion for the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Set among trees, its layers of ultraclear glass walls fluidly curve between thin white ceiling and floor. The building almost disappears into a pool of reflections and transparencies.

Sejima says SANAA strives to make “architecture like a park.”

“In Japan we have a park, which means very open space, and there, different aged people share the space,” says Sejima. “And sometimes a big group. At the same time, beside them, I can go spend my very quiet time alone.”

Sejima and her partner designed such a space between glass walls at the back of the Toledo pavilion — one that creates a sense of quiet emptiness: Behind the visitor, the art; in front, trees and sky — all enhanced by reflections in the glass of other visitors passing by. SANAA offers similar choreography in its housing projects in densely packed Tokyo, says Japanese architect Hitoshi Abe, who chairs the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA.

“The housing project they did is really questioning how you should live together with somebody you don’t know,” says Abe. “The public space and the private space gets sometimes blurred, so you have to accept somebody’s existence near you. It kind of forces you to accept the other people.”


The team’s approach to design extends to their way of working. The Pritzker jury cites SANAA’s “collaborative process that is both unique and inspirational.” And because they work so closely together, it’s hard to know who does what.

“Sejima-san has very different way of thinking than me,” says Nishizawa, “so I’m inspired by her every time.”

The  New Museum in New York City

EnlargeThe New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

The New Museum in New York  City

The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

Together they’ve created the New Museum in New York City, which looks like randomly stacked bento boxes; a sharp, glassy, compact-but-monumental showroom for Dior in Tokyo; museums and academic centers in Japan and Europe; and soon, a branch of the Louvre in the north of France.

This is only the second time the Pritzker has gone to a pair of architects working together. It could have been the third time, but in 1991, the jury awarded the prize to Robert Venturi and not to his close collaborator Denise Scott Brown.

Before this year, only one woman had won the Pritzker — Zaha Hadid. But Sejima seems to think more about architecture than about gender.

“I think for me, there’s not so strong [a] meaning to get [the] Pritzker Prize as a woman,” Sejima says. “But I hope this prize invites more women to architecture.”

Elegant understatement, as in the work of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa.