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Architect Registration Exams/ARE/Oy

January 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Let's hope this doesn't happen.

I’ve been out of school for about 3.5 years now, and have finally committed to taking and completing all of my AREs. I’ve taken and passed my first 3 (out of 7 total), and am currently studying for Structural Systems. I haven’t taken a practice exam yet, so I don’t know really what I’m up against, but let me tell you – having not touched structures in 3 years, review is difficult! It certainly comes back after practice, but it’s really frustrating when the study materials are terrible. And by terrible I mean atrocious. I’m using Kaplan study materials for ARE 4.0, and I’ve never seen any study guides this bad. Ever. How bad? Let’s break it down.

Errors, Errors and more Errors: Sure, every book has a typo here and there. Even books that have been proofed really well. But this is just ridiculous.

  • Example calculations will switch between units (say kips to pounds) w/o noting the conversion.
  • Example calculations will use the entirely wrong value for an equation. No idea where the value came from, but it sure as hell doesn’t belong in the calculation. Best part is that the final answer typically reflects a calculation using the correct value, despite the incorrect value being shown.
  • Example calculation will simplify the calculation, but not explain how or why it was simplified. Which requires me to backtrack and see where units and values were combined.

As a company providing study materials, these sorts of mistakes are inexcusable. If it happened once, maybe twice, it’s something that could be lived with. But the fact is that I second-guess everything I read, which is terribly frustrating when studying for any exam, let alone one that determines your professional future. Not to mention that it costs $210 each time you take a test. This shoddy level of work results in my reading every section, deconstructing it, reconstructing it, then reviewing it again. To Kaplan’s credit, this approach certainly makes me more familiar with the material. But you shouldn’t really have to question your study guide in the first place…

LEEDing the way…

August 22, 2008 1 comment

dur da dur…  bad title, but point is i’m finally studying for my LEED exam.  LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is essentially a rating system for green buildings – it’s market based, so it’s trying to change the game slowly as the market demands.  it’s been doing fairly well – green buildings are in higher and higher demand for their energy efficiency, more comfortable environments, and health benefits.  LEED is currently in version 2.2, but is gearing up for a new version soon.  there is now a certification for new construction, schools, homes, existing buildings, core & shell, retail, healthcare, and neighborhood development.  the new version of LEED will include more regional rating components for the US – right now, it treats every building the same, tho a building for Arizona should be designed drastically differently than one in NY.  developers and users are jumping on the LEED bandwagon – users b/c LEED ensures a generally more enjoyable and healthier working/living environment, and developers b/c a green building generally has lower maintenance costs and creates a market demand for the space.

though sustainable design/development is about much more than what is covered in LEED, it is a good tool to get the building industry moving in the right direction, and as time goes on, LEED will only get better w/ updated versions and revisions.  i aim to take the test and be certified by the end of August.

d

Go Green Monster

back from the dead

May 4, 2008 Leave a comment

talk about taking a break.  my last post was back in october 07 – let’s see, what was life like back then?  aside from my daughter not having been born yet, not all that much was different – of course, my daughter being born is all the difference it takes to go from day to night, black to white.  two totally different worlds.  life has been good since she was born in november – watching her grow everyday is pretty much all i care about at the moment.

i’ve finally gotten back into the swing of finishing some renovations on the house that i started before she was born – hopefully i’ll get them done in the next month so that i can move on to the next round of fixes: remove the crappy corrugated plastic overhang on the back porch and replace it w/ a trellis.  i’ve also started the design for our landscaping, which won’t exactly be cheap, but is the first thing to do when increasing home value.  major home renovation (aside from painting and installing wood floors) will have to wait.

i’m completing 100% construction documents for my current project this week.  very exciting – i’ve been on the project since design development, though i’ve watched and sat on crits during schematic design.  it’s a really nice and simple, small addition to a university building here in austin.  next week i’ll move onto a new charter elementary school project, which will be really exciting.  it’s set to be LEED silver, which means i finally will have the time to actually get LEED certified (which was on my to-do list since last september).

haven’t done much travel since the munchkin was born, aside from going up to dallas to visit w/ her grandparents.  did go to houston one weekend for a friend’s wedding shower – it was pretty much my first time there, but only had time to visit the contemporary arts museum.  great exhibit on…contemporary design.  mies’ museum of fine arts was across the street, but you need more time to visit that.  i’m excited to go back – some good architecture out there.

also went up to NY for the first part of passover – at 5 months old, it was munchkinface’s first flight.  she did pretty well, but that was thanks to the tubes in her ears installed 2 wks prior – she already had 4 ear infections, so tubes were pretty much the only recourse aside from constant doses of antibiotics, which are not at all cool.  she was a bit fussy in NY – i think the flight, plus change in scenery and new crib were a bit much.  she got to meet some of her cousins and spend precious time w/ my parents and sister, which of course is the most important part of these visits.  2 days after we returned, my sister came to visit for 5 days – it was great.

ok, good update.  back to work, and hopefully some more regular posts again.

UT SolarD rockin the house

October 17, 2007 Leave a comment

so the 2007 UT SolarD team has been hard at work on the National Mall the past few weeks, and today inched up to the #5 slot!  i’m super psyched for them – they’ve put a huge amount of hard work into the project, and they deserve to do well.  hopefully they’ll be able to push up another slot, though they’re behind GA Tech by about 20 points, which will be pretty hard to make up.  the #1 and #2 slots are held by Univ. of Maryland and the German team, Technische Universitat Darmstadt, and are up by too many points to catch. the German house is really beautiful and elegant – bringing that European architectural and engineering prowess to US shores.

Categories: architecture, UT SolarD

baseboards, Sketchup, and rest

October 17, 2007 Leave a comment

yesterday we completed Addendum#2 on our rushed project, a school of engineering for a university in N. Texas.  Cindy’s been ready to strangle me b/c i’ve been working late and weekends, not having much time to spend w/ her during the last few weeks of pregnancy.  i’ve also had to finish painting the baseboards before they get installed tomorrow.  so it was w/ great relief that i left the office yesterday at 5:30p – that’s right!  not 3a!  it was amazing.  i went home, bought some more baseboards and mini-rollers, painted a bit, and went to bed by 11p – it was incredible.now i’m working at home, spiffing up a sketchup model of the project that the university will be able to use for fundraising.  there’s a bunch still to do, but i’ve been divying up the day between work and painting baseboards.  those should be ready to get a final coat in a few minutes, actually.tomorrow i move on to my next project – an infill/renovation for UT School of Nursing.  it’s been in schematic design for a little over a month, on and off.  it’s looking pretty nice, i’m looking forward to getting into something a bit smaller in scope and not as rushed.  it also helps that we’re building new structure instead of living w/in the confines of a building’s earlier structure, which had been a bit confusing on the engineering project.my little baby’s on the way – we’re just over 2 weeks from her due date!  i’m so excited that it’s hard to focus on much of anything, but it helps a lot that this deadline is finally over.  now i can focus on cindy, the house, and work in a much more balanced manner. 

Categories: architecture, family

twitter like

September 29, 2007 Leave a comment

don’t want to start a twitter account, it’s just one more account to maintain – but i do want that functionality.  blogging will have to remain the method. weekend working: construction document set going out on monday, it’s our drop-dead date on this project that has been an extremely cool mess.  the client is clueless, and this is not typical architectural disdain for a lesser mortal – this guy says one thing today, which is different from what he said yesterday and different from what he’ll say tomorrow and contradicts every email and documentation he’s ever sent.  the budget gets cut back, and half our design will likely be VE’d out.  anyway, our deadline has been moved back and back, and it can’t be pushed back any further.  thank god.  i have a baby coming in a few weeks and i need to finish working on the house!  cindy has gone into nesting mode and is freaking that these things aren’t done, but i can’t do them until this deadline has passed. 

Categories: architecture, work

Learning Curve

September 13, 2007 Leave a comment

I’ve been working for about 3 months now, and as seemingly everyone discovers upon entering the workforce, I now realize I know nothing.  Not to discredit my five year (forever) education – I learned design and not necessarily specific material assemblies.  I was taught to research the newest and most cutting edge technologies – technologies that can’t really even be used in architecture yet.  The purpose was to expand my (‘our’ in the case of the entire student body) horizons – to think of everything as a component of architecture.  Who says nanotech and shape memory polymers can’t be structural and design components of architecture?  If it isn’t yet, it’s only a matter of time, and the fact that we look at these materials as such will put us on the cutting edge of architecture when it comes time for these materials to become a part of our repetoire.

On the other hand, I didn’t really know how to structure the hanging facade from a cantilevered room that I designed for the project I’m working on, and I really had no clue how to specify the glazing hardware or connections or to look up the codes for the butt-glazed window wall that I also designed into this room.  I designed it, it looked beautiful, but where do I go from there?  I was given free reign to pursue this, it became my mini-project, but I felt pretty overwhelmed to actually specify materials.  After creating a material assembly from scratch our of locally reclaimed wood, threaded rods, 2×4’s, metal studs, and sound insulation, a new coworker told me about a product that did the exact same thing.  She thought, in fact, that I had specified that product since my assembly was nearly identical.   So I moved over to using this ready made assembly, speaking w/ the architect and sales rep at the company to make sure a few things could be customized for our project, and it will work wonderfully.

Next up was the glazing. All of the glazing details in this building involved steel plates and steel bars.  We pretty much reinvented the wheel because it was so beautifully minimal.  Glazing sits on 1/2″ x 7″ steel plate, and is locked in by 1/2″ square steel bar on each side.  Well, with the massive amounts of butt glazing, that detail wasn’t going to cut it – we needed more structure to hold our tall spans of glazing.  The detail would work for our standard replacements, but not for a window wall.  So I was told to look at a particular detail on a previous project, which used a ready made glazing system often used for glass rail walls.  Pretty much an aluminum channel w/ neoprene blocking holds the glass in place with a solid 1″ bite or more to hold the glass.  Well, our details are steel.  This aluminum channel would be sitting on a steel shelf.  Aluminum and steel don’t mix – the aluminum corrodes.  We could separate them w/ another neoprene gasket, but then we’d have the clashing aesthetic of aluminum with steel.  So now I’m looking at using a steel channel instead of aluminum, but nobody makes such a product.  We’d have to customize a steel channel and specify the blocking and gaskets.  It will work, but we need to engineer it.  I also had no idea how these channel systems worked, so I had to disect the aluminum channel system to reassemble a steel channel system.  It’s fairly simple, but until I learned how it worked, I had no idea how I’d get this together aside from specify ‘Steel Channel’.

And that’s really where this all started. In school, we learn to specify ‘Steel Channel’ or ‘Spider Connection’ or sometimes we might even get specific enough to call out bolt and stud sizes, but in general, the emphasis was on design.  That’s really how it should be, because we can learn the nitty gritty on the job, which is what I’m doing.  But if you’re burdened with making sure you know exactly how to assemble the building while learning to design, your horizons will generally be diminished.  Not to say that we should be designing completely impossible things – our structure courses keep us in line, but knowing how an aluminum channel glazing support system actually works is rightfully kept to the sidelines.