I got the opportunity to design some school buildings right out of college. They were fairly large projects taking six months to a year for the design phases. There was lots of time to recover from missteps. After a couple of these I got an admin building for a small school district. By comparison this was a three-bedroom house in scale. Before I had a handle on what the project would entail, I started focusing on the entrance and how I wanted that to work. After a day or two, the question came. "What the hell are you doing?" I explained about the importance (to me) of the entrance. "Do you even know if this is going to be 1-story or two? Does it fit the site?"
The first time I designed a building with two levels, the boss told me to make the floor-to-floor height as tight as possible because that would keep the exteior wall cost as low as possible. I did it.
My main recollection of the construction of that building was the constant phone calls and trips to the site to explain how to run the ducts, conduits, and place the lights so everything would fit. I came to the conclusion that the boss may have been focused on the wrong issue.
Eventually I came to this Rule Of Thumb that I am going to share with you. But I always gave the floor-to-floor height more thought than on that first project.
I once wasted a day trying to lay out a building and parking on a site. It couldn't be done. The building footprint, plus parking, plus zoning setbacks equalled 92% of the area of the site. Tight, but do-able you are thinking; just get creative.
... Did I mention that the shape of the site had an offset that prevented an efficient parking layout? Some layouts came so close to working that I was sure there was a solution. Nope, the math wouldn't give.
If only I had worked the math first, I would have spent most of that day looking at alternatives like partial two-story, or a full two-story building, or simply explaining that we were wasting our time on this site.
Back in the day when I was designing buildings instead of managing projects, I really enjoyed the task of getting light into the building. Most of the time this was just a form of decoration. But when i could make it more integral to the design, that was especially gratifying.
I found a number of ways to make windows more than just a 'punched' opening - although there was plenty of that, too. Here are some examples to show what I mean.
Construction Administration - DOs and DON'Ts
Roof access seems to have become more important to me as I got older (wiser?). Two realizations dawned on me. 1. Climbing a ladder to visit a roof is pretty ’thrilling’ for the unaccustomed. 2. How is anyone motivated to maintain the roof and the stuff up there if they can't easily get to ’up there’. Reason 2 is the main reason to build easy access to the roof into every project - even a remodeling.
So what are the options?
A. Do nothing - we’ve already covered that. However, this isn't an option for 3-story (or more) buildings because of code.
B. Permanent ladder and roof hatch - this is better than nothing, but it is hard to climb a ladder with a tool box, roofing repair materials or even a clipboard. It is even more difficult if the trip is over 20’ and you are caged in. OSHA! This is about a $3000 solution costing you just 10 SF, but it’s only rudimentary. If lack of maintenance creates problems because of roof access difficulties, you will regret not spending more.
WHEN TO KEYNOTE
For some reason I have been thinking about keynoting, although I have been retired for 2-1/2 years now. We were not cutting edge with CAD by any means since we were still using AutoCAD 2002. Maybe we were missing out. We were definitely missing out on the opportunity of paying Autodesk every year for the privilege of using the same program that we purchased in 1986.
How well does keynoting work these days?
Typical Walls and Partitions
How do you keep all the types organized and clearly defined?
Rooftop Equipment Screens
After a while it dawns on you that there needs to be a discussion about this ‘hardware’ long before working drawings when you often find that you are backed into a corner.
Some of this stuff happens on every project - even houses. Gas meters, electric meters, and condensing units are ubiquitous. Almost no project escapes these exterior ornaments. Propose locations when you are working on the first site plan and get feedback.
What Triggers Rooftop Equipment Screens?
Well, maybe not e v e r y t h i n g.
But let's start with concrete block, or concrete masonry units [CMU]. CMU comes in modular sizes, but that doesn't mean the results will always look great. You have to pay attention to your dimensions.
C10-Special Access Handicapped Toilet Room
I have been volunteering my time for a non-profit for 30 years. During that time I have learned a lot about accessibility. The first toilet room conversion that I did for the agency was a disaster. The clients are REALLY disabled, and a standard ADA toilet room is barely a good start.
This project converted an office into a toilet room. This became a priority when a reorganization of space created a 75' trip down the hall to get to the rest rooms. The adult clients were going 'walkabout', having 'trouble', or taking staff with them for assistance, which left the program understaffed.
The big takeaway is to look beyond what is being requested to see what the real requirements are.
I admit that my experience is limited. We designed just one green roof as a demonstration project for a storm water authority, circa 2004. The utility especially likes the decrease in rate of run off. In fact we have two spouts side by side to demonstrate the difference between the vegetated roof and an equal area of typical roof. The difference is dramatic.
Lately I've been wondering, "Is it just me or has the din about green roofs died down?" The touted benefits list is fairly long.
- The roofing lasts longer
- Provides extra insulation
- Moderates the temperature differential between inside and outside
- Slows time of concentration of storm water runoff
- Absorbs CO2
- Eliminates the heat island effect of the building
- Provides habitat
The first sustainable project that I had a chance to be part of was offices for a Dutch candy manufacturer in the late 1990s. Among other things accomplished, we used Photovoltaic Panels as window awnings - collecting and using the sunlight while shading the window glass. I am sure that is where this ideas comes from: using reflective glass to form an exterior light shelf that also shades the window below. That is what my crude sketch below is trying to describe.
Every project has an interior.
Having established that, you may need Interior Construction Details from time to time, I have rounded up a selection of details that includes old standbys for interior partitions and a few exotic ones like catwalks and ships ladders. Click the images for an enlargement or click the listed detail to go to the detailed description.
These two details can help with your documentation of interiors.
- The first is a graphic mounting heights detail.
- The second is a Finish Key detail that replaces the typical Room Finish Schedule.
Stairs are one of the features of a design that can take an inordinate amount of time to design. (Toilets are another.) The reason is invariably that the layout decided upon in Schematic Design doesn't work out upon closer inspection in Construction Documents. Finding out that you need an extra 2’ leads to a bad day. Finding 2' means re-design.
Hey, I'm Rick Wolnitzek and Architekwiki is my blog for sharing what I've learned practicing architecture for ... a long time. Enjoy!