The benefits of this Seven Step Process of Schematic Design
The best way to understand what a good design solution requires is NOT to start designing.
Our design of coffee bars / kitchenettes improved
immensely after we designed one for ourselves.
We have all experienced rooms with poor acoustics, particularly unwanted sound transmission. To avoid poor acoustics you need to design a workable solution and you need to see that your solution is implemented.
Good Architectural Acoustics requires the use of just five simple concepts...
Most of us don't give a thought to a Janitor's Closet. We put a sink in a small room of 5'x5' and move on.
Well there's a little more to it if you want the space to serve the building owner. We learned what is really needed when we designed a supply warehouse for Banana Republic / The Gap. The owner's project manager, who was in charge of supplying the whole company with stuff for operating the individual stores, was basically an executive janitor.
We received very specific requirements for the janitor's closet. I am passing on his wisdom to you.
Zoning is an odd duck. Zoning is unique among codes because you might not be able to build. Period.
Every other code will allow you to proceed if you can show compliance, which is generally just a matter of money - more of it.
With zoning, no amount of money can buy permission to proceed if you don't meet the requirements. Sometimes you have to wait a year before re-applying!
The ‘Standard Details’ concept is deceptively simple. “An easily accessed library of building details that describe how you like to do things.” Everybody gets that.
Have you ever tried to do it?
I found success elusive. But it is worth a try. Here is why ...
When I first got out of college, twenty years before the internet, I searched and searched for a description of how to do project management. I wanted a how-to. A checklist.
I never did find one...until one day...
As designers we aren't always comfortable on the site, observing what’s going on.
But there are good reasons to do it anyway.
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?"
This is one of the chapters in my e-book, Trello-PM. I want to give you a glimpse at how you might develop a Project Master Template. It is a great Competitive Advantage using a tool like Trello™. See what you think...
The Extension Offices project has 9,200 square feet on one floor.
The structure was classified Mixed Use Group, A3 and B, and Construction Type 5B, sprinklered, when built in 1993.
Facilities include offices, a community workshop, library with a high density storage system, conference room, work rooms, a demonstration kitchen, and a large community room capable of being divided into three smaller meeting rooms with folding partitions.
Photos and drawings available below...
The Municipal Courthouse project housed three courtrooms, judges’ chambers, Clerk of Courts offices, public and other ancillary spaces in 17,500 square feet on one floor.
The structure was classified as a Mixed Use Group A-3 and B; and the Construction Type was 2C with sprinklers.
Built in 1992.
Notable features are the skylighted lobby and triangular light shafts at the entrance.
Photos and drawings available below...
One of the key features of PM-Steps is the use of STEPS. The STEPS subdivide the work of each design Phase into four sets of tasks. Breaking the work of the Phases into more manageable chunks that are in turn arranged in a logical order is intended to provide more control over the performance of the work. One of the aspects of project management that I always found challenging was delegating tasks in a way that kept the process moving forward. Too often the delegation had to be revisited (reworked) when later work showed that the early assumptions were now wrong. STEPS help to prevent that.
The Assembly Concept is a system of categorizing work based on the major components of a building project. This is a useful way of thinking about your project for many purposes - storing typical details, organizing design work, estimating costs, structuring bid packages, planning construction.
The old 16 division (now many more) CSI system with its many sections represents the final work breakdown by individual components. This is helpful when you are looking for completeness or trying to describe, price or specify those components, but in many ways and for many tasks this fine detail is an impediment. For example, a window section in a masonry wall involves Divs 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 for masonry, lintel, flashing, window, and finishes respectively. It is very difficult to think about the window detail in terms of those five divisions, but the detail fits very nicely into one of the Assembly Divisions in this system - Exterior Closure.
Curtain walls have certain advantages. The main one is appearance, followed closely by maximized glass for daylighting. Another advantage is that erection can be done as fast as any other system.
In my experience stages fall into two broad categories. Traditional Theater Stage (proscenium, arena, thrust) includes stages that are used for plays, musicals, and dance; and Platforms include stages that are devoted to only speaking, town meetings, video and presenting.
Stages can be designed for a specific purpose, e.g. drama, musical theater, dance, or musical performance; or they can be multi-purpose. Once you pass the limits in the building code for a Platform, there are several 'triggers' for specific requirements. Take a look at Chapter 410 of the International Building Code.
The type, size, flexibility and sophistication of the venue (whether Stage or Platform) is dependent on the function and end user: Amateur/Professional, Primary/Secondary School, University/Professional Theater, Broadway Touring House or Regional Theater. All of these considerations will affect the design criteria much more.
C10-Special Access Handicapped Toilet Room
OVERVIEW / DESCRIPTION
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.
Every time I have used this technique for understanding cut and fill, an engineer has told me "You can't do it that way" or even "That doesn't work". And yet I always get useful information that engineering can't provide. Well, it can provide it but there are impediments. First you need an engineer on board. Second you need a proposed topo to give him to work from. And third you have to convince him to do this several times. Of course all this takes a week to get the engineer on board, a day to create and send the proposed topo, and an indeterminate amount of time to get the revisions. I can use this technique to get a 'good-enough' answer in a couple of hours.
Why do I want to know about cut and fill? Basically I want to know because I don't want everyone to get excited about my fabulous site plan only to learn later that earthwork will cost more than the building. So I want to know that my idea will be defendable. Plus I love this site planning stuff.
I have used several Project Management Tools similar in concept to PlanGrid - Buzzsaw, Project Central, AutoCAD 360, Basecamp... What works so much better with PlanGrid is the ability to easily annotate your drawings inside the app and publish the markups to the whole project team. The markups could be coordination comments to the design team (or client!) in the design phases or correction comments to the contractor during the construction phase. PlanGrid really excels at graphic communications. Site photos are easily integrated into the drawings to enhance the punch list process, too.
Projects are set up on www.plangrid.com and shared to other team members by browser, tablet or phone (which works surprisingly well). Input by team members using a tablet is very easy, so annotations can be done anywhere.
This is the third post in a series that addresses design aspects of stairs. The earlier two posts can be found here and were called Commercial Stair Layouts - Rule Of Thumb and Stair Technical Considerations - Rule Of Thumb. These form the basis for jumping into finish considerations.
When I am working out a stair configuration and basic structural considerations, I find that is it helpful to have a concept of what I want the final stair to look like. This might take a half hour longer during the early design, but it can save you hours of changes later. There are four components of a stair that need consideration - Stringers, Hand Rails, Guards, Treads/Risers.
The reasons that you might consider one material instead of another was covered in the 'Technical Rule Of Thumb' noted above. 99% of the time I use steel for the stringers. If I want the stair to be a focal point or a design feature, I discard the usual channel stringer solution and start to consider using a plate, a tube or a pair of boxed channels. I like the way these structural shapes look. You will need to get your structural engineer involved at some point, but there are lots of ways to get the look you want by varying the structural characteristics of the steel stringer. For instance, a standard 12" steel channel could be doubled up to form a crisp box shape about 3" x 12".
Usually getting the shape you want "overdoes" the structural capacity, as long as you stay close to a 12" depth or more. This same stringer could also be a 2" or 3" x 12" tube or a 1-3/4" x 12" box shape formed by welding a plate to close the open side of a channel. Or keep it really simple with a 3/4" x 12" plate. In all these solutions a key to looking good is to remove (grind off) all mill marks, grind welds smooth, and fill any joints by continuous welding or by using body filler.
Code has lots to say about hand rails, limiting diameter, shape and clearances. Hand rails can be wood, steel, aluminum, stainless steel, or nylon-covered metal. I think wood looks a bit out of place unless your building has a lot of wood trim elsewhere. Steel needs to be painted and the paint rarely stays intact for more than a month. I tend to use a lot of anodized aluminum for hand rails with a hairline jointing system. Stainless steel usually costs more and is harder to get and keep a good finish on. Nylon-covered metal is fairly expensive, but it is the only way to realistically introduce color. I don't like to leave the hand rail mounting brackets up to the contractor's discretion. The wrong brackets will "kill" a lot of design effort.
Guards are another item that the code controls by dictating configuration: height, strength, openness, climb-ability. The choices are pickets, screens, panels, glass, and solid. Before the latest International Building Code was released, which I haven't reviewed yet, the non-climb-ability provision eliminated everyone's favorite solutions - the horizontal rails, cables. This eliminated a lot of descent-looking solutions that weren't terribly expensive. You are left with pickets at 4" on center or jump right into some fairly expensive screens or panels. The screens are made of wire or expanded metal lathe in frames that are made to the sizes needed to fill the guard openings between posts and rails. Panels are similar except mostly solid and made from wood, composites or sheet metal.
The next big jump in cost is to glass. The tempered glass is expensive, and some of the stainless steel posts can take your breath away. Of course you can always put your own system together using epoxy painted steel posts and standard fittings to hold the glass. Unfortunately this usually shifts the cost out of construction and into design where you might not be compensated for your effort to save money. Solid guards are a low-cost solution. You need a steel framework into which to set metal studs and drywall. This solution works best when you can create an interesting shape out of the stair or you just want something without the curse of pickets.
The typical commercial stair has treads and risers made of concrete-filled steel pans. Code may also dictate 'closed' risers. How to dress this up? Rubber and vinyl are the only products that I can think of that are designed to solve this issue. Unfortunately, they don't really offer an up-graded appearance. They are the 'picket-solution' of tread finishes.
Carpet is the old standby and works well. Wood, stone, tile, and other floor finishes need some careful attention. The leading edge of the tread is very susceptible to impact damage or becoming a tripping hazard. Another issue is that a flooring over 1/4" in thickness starts to impact the stair configuration itself and may need adjusted riser heights at the top and bottom. That said, a 1" stone tread is well worth the attention to detail.
If you have gotten this far, you probably fall into one of two camps. First, those folks who can't wait to get their hands on the next stair design. Second, those folks who are sure they don't want to design a stair. I like stair design. It is like a mini-project with all the same considerations as a building without the pesky need to integrate the M/E disciplines.
I've been working on a series of articles about designing stairs. There isn’t any special order to them. The first one was Commercial Stair Layouts Rule Of Thumb about a month ago.
The technical considerations I’m talking about are selection of materials, and structural detailing. Here is how I usually proceed. The vast majority of buildings we have designed are Type 2B, which back in the day was known as “unprotected non-combustible”. That ’non-combustible’ part all-but-eliminates wood stairs. But other issues that work against wood are the width of stair required in non-residential buildings and the difficulty of joining the members structurally. It may sound odd but it is much simpler to build a steel stair. The standard joining methods scale up very nicely in steel; not so much with wood. This leads to not only more difficulty designing the stair but also building it. The perceived savings by using wood quickly disappears.
We can dispatch concrete stairs by simply saying they work great, easy to design and, unfortunately, require lots of skilled carpentry labor to construct. This prices them out of reach for most budgets.
Steel is the workhorse when it comes to commercial stairs. You see them everywhere - confirmation of their fitness. You may have also noticed that they can be ugly.
The typical exit stair is made from channel stringers, a concrete-filled sheet metal pan resting on angles fastened to the stringers. The railings are steel pipes with steel bar pickets at 4" o.c. It can get rough. But there are several things you can do to improve the looks. These are simple and well worth the effort and cost if the stair isn’t completely utilitarian.
A couple of other tricks that improve the appearance of stairs are:
a) adding a little width to make a more gracious appearance;
b) holding the descending riser back one tread on a switchback stair so the handrail can make a smooth transition;
c) splay the stringer(s) at the bottom for a spartan version of a Renaissance flowing stair;
d) use the strength and workability of the steel stringers to ’suspend’ and display the stair.
Once you are conversant with the detailing and code limitations, push the limits.
If you are ever in Las Vegas, check out the stairs in the high-end shopping venues to see how you can make the stair into an art object! Sounds like tax-deductible research to me.
Stair Finishes are considered here.
So here is how Construction WorkZone works.
Register for free to look up 10 items; or sign up for monthly use - $.99/first month, then $3.95/mo., cancel anytime.
The data search looks like the screenshots below.
The localized cost modifier seems to be a constant percent when I spot checked it. So you could do that just once on your subtotal.
The key features of cost estimating don’t require exact unit costs, which don’t exist anyway. Just look at the bids you receive for proof.
SUMMARY - PROs
Lots better than guessing
Low learning curve
SUMMARY - CONs
A little more time-consuming than I would like
Must transcribe costs, which is error-prone
Results not saved for you (so take screenshots??)
A system for storing our standard and typical drawings has eluded us for years. After all, the real promise of Computer Aided Drafting is saving time by not having to draw the same thing over and over. Everybody wants that.
What this has amounted to for us is scavenging details by cut and paste from one project to another. Everyone has their preferred sources that they have worked with in the past. Standardization implies “perfected over time”, but scavenging implies “re-used as is”. There’s a big difference.
For the longest time we tried to make the CSI 16 Divisions work as the filing system. This was very unsatisfactory. Then we hit on UNIFORMAT assembly divisions and found that it worked great for the filing system. The only problem was that it took too long popping open file after file looking for appropriate details.
Finally we came upon the concept of storing the details of each assembly in its own sheet of drawings. That minimized the search to opening just one file and panning around. This guide below was placed in the folder with all the standard sheets of details as a reference.
Most recently we hit on an improvement to this method of storing and retrieving standard and typical details. And that was to store the details in a template drawing that would actually be used in each project where its contents apply. The process was to simply copy the whole .dwg file to the current project folder; re-name the file; 'viewport' the applicable details; and add custom work as needed.
EXAMPLE: In a template sheet named “A-50b-InteriorDetails” collect all your drywall, masonry, casework details, etc. These are in Model Space. The “b” in the name is a placeholder for the actual sheet number when you know it. If any of these details are ALWAYS used, say a standard drywall partition detail, place it in a viewport in the Sheet view. On the next project that comes along, copy the file to the project folder, ’viewport’ any other details that apply, and then continue as always.
You can get a jump on this sheet template system by assembling good examples from past projects to use as your templates. Delete the non-standard stuff and you are ready to go. Add in other standard details as you find or create them. In about a year you will have a very nice addition to your firm’s intellectual property that will continually pay dividends.
We haven’t completed the transition from the system shown above in the image to using template drawings. However, we think the templates hold a lot of promise because even a Site Plan, which is always unique, could have a template sheet populated with items that will be needed: north arrow, legend of line types and symbols, paving key, standard boilerplate notes, etc.
Are you inspired to start saving time on the mundane stuff so you can spend it on Design?
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