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Posts from the ‘ArchNews’ Category

Seven Members Recognized

On May 31, 2017, AIA East Bay had its second annual Chapter Recognition Party, held this year at Lowney Architecture. This social event celebrates our members and sponsors, newly licensed architects, and volunteers who make our programs and events a success.

Chapter president Winston Win, AIA was a terrific host, warmly welcoming everyone and thanking our sponsors including Moen, Ideate, and Dealey Renton. He also presented a special certificate to the chapter’s first emeritus allied member: Phyllis Piepho, Allied Member; thanked 2016 Design Awards Chair Janet Tam, AIA, and expressed his appreciation to 2016 chapter president Susi Marzuola, AIA.

Current Home Tours co-chairs Chris Coffee, AIA and Miya Muraki, AIA were on-hand to recognize their predecessor, Rudi Widmann, AIA, Home Tours chair from 2015-2016. The 2017 Home Tours were officially announced for Saturday, August 12, with a special call for docents. (Click here to sign up.)

Michael McCutcheon, Allied Member, was pleased to recognize both Nathan Hills, AIA and Winston Win, AIA for their work over the past few years in building a thriving Monthly Design Tours program. He invited those interested in joining the committee to chat with him—active committee members get to attend the tours for free!

Then, Associate Director/Emerging Professionals co-chair Jeremy Hoffman, Assoc. AIA presented Derrick Porter, Assoc. AIA with a special presidential citation for developing the ARE Bootcamp, a program that since its inception in 2015 has helped many dedicated licensure candidates near their goal. The certificate read “For his tireless efforts in fostering an environment to encourage his peers to licensure, his dedication to the profession and to the AIA community.”

AIA East Bay is a great community with diverse programming and services—and you can be a part of it! Both the Regional Urban Design (RUD)—Matt Taecker, AIA, chair–and Committee on the Environment (COTE)—Philip Luo, AIA, Chair– groups will be holding happy hour/”scrum” sessions—RUD will be at 6pm Tuesday, June 13th and COTE will be 6pm Thursday, June 22nd. All are welcome; RSVP to

The Young Architects Forum (YAF)—Tim Nystrom, AIA, chair– travels to Pyatok this month to chat with Adrianne Steichen, AIA, who became a principal while still a Young Architect. If you’ve been licensed in the past ten years or are actively studying for the CSE, head over to Pyatok at 6pm on June 20th. Of course, RSVP to as space is limited.

Not yet licensed? There’s an Emerging Professionals Happy Hour this month at Mad Oak on Tuesday, June 27th. They’ll be joined by the EPs from across the Bay: BAYA. Last year’s mixer was a lot of fun—why not stop by at 6pm?

And of course, we have the Mueller Nichols tour and presentation by Eric Powell, Allied Member, which you can read about in this issue of ArchNews. If we don’t currently offer a committee/forum for your interest area, let’s talk about it. Maybe it’s time for you to get involved!

Member News: June 2017

Member Promotions:

Jeremey Hoffman, Assoc. AIA has accepted a position of Job Captain with Taylor Design.

Dora Pollack, Assoc. AIA is now a Junior Designer with Noll & Tam.

Maureen Boyer, AIA, has joined ELS Architecture and Urban Design as Associate Principal and Director of Retail. Maureen has more than 30 years of professional experience and has worked internationally on a variety of commercial retail projects.




Corridor Planning Partnership Announced

Matt Taecker, AIA is pleased to announce the formation of Corridor Planning; a new consulting partnership joining Taecker Planning & Design and Dr. Christopher Ferrell, co-authors of the recently published report: “Livable Transit Corridors: Methods, Metrics and Strategies.” Our third partner, Dr. Shishir Mathur, professor of urban and regional planning at San Jose State University, adds urban finance and economics expertise.  The Corridor Planning partnership emphasizes research-informed cross-disciplinary planning at the corridor scale, which is uniquely suited to improve livability, community character, and sustainability. For more information, you are encouraged to visit our website at:

Silence of the Codes

Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

There are many elements in a design of a building that are not addressed by the codes. Saying “the code is silent” on that issue leaves the door wide open to interpretation.  As a designer we want the flexibility of make interpretation choices that support our design. The approach some building officials take is when if it is not in the code, it isn’t permitted. Too often designers are wondering if something is not written in the code, does that mean they can do it?

Here are some issues that are not addressed by the code:

  • Skylights on a rated roof – Rated roof assemblies are silent on the issue of openings, skylights or any other penetrations, does that mean they are permitted and unrated? Because the code is silent and does not specifically address the issue, I would say yes. If the concern was fire resistance to protect yourself from you neighbor, like an exterior property line wall, then protections of openings is important, but there are no neighbors above you. The intent here of the code is protection of the roof assembly from an internal fire, therefore penetrations and or openings are not important as part of a fire resistive assembly.
  • Rated wall construction intersections with non rated construction – Exterior rated walls and their intersections with unrated interior walls and/or floors, where does the rated construction end? This is a hard one to answer. Does the wall protect you from your neighbor (fire from outside) or your neighbor from you (fire from the inside)? Unfortunately in the State of California, the Fire Marshal says from both sides, which makes answering the question harder.
  • Exit sign colors – Do they have to be red, green or anything else specific? How many times as a designer have you thought about using a different color or design for special critical design areas, like an auditorium or gallery. The key is visibility.
  • Plumbing Fixtures – There are so many unanswered questions associated with plumbing fixtures, such as locations, numbers within a facility, and so on.
  • Code Conflicts – When one code says one thing and another code either say something else or is silent.

Whether it is a general question or a specific question that needs a code interpretation or justification, the key to making any interpretation of the code is whether it meets the intent of the code. Sometime, with new technology, the intent has never been addressed in any form by the code. Photovoltaic technologies have many unaddressed code issues that issues are being created daily.

Even design or functional concepts, like “Aging in Place” creates code issues never before asked. The basic concept of aging in place is to have the ability to stay in one place, but allow for changing needs. One may start off in an independent-care facility and then progress to an assisted facility and perhaps to a full-care facility. The ability to live in one place and enjoy the comfort of familiar surroundings is a great concept. This may be simple to achieve in a private residence. One can add features to accommodate ones changing needs. When it comes to assisted and full-care facilities, it can be very expensive to have in-home care, part-time or full-time.

In a larger community of care, like Rossmore in Walnut Creek, you can find different types of care services within the community. Mixing the service types within a single building or facility, the code requires different levels of life safety. Mixing of occupancy types (R-1/multi-family, 2.1/Residential Care, 3.1/single family care, I-2/Nursing Homes and 4/Adult Day Care) can be difficult and challenging to make the facility look and feel homey without looking and feeling institutional.

It is important to identify these code issues before they go into plan review. This will avoid problems after the design is too far along.


Erick Mikiten, AIA:

These issues – I think of them as being just beyond the edges of the code – can be some of an architect’s biggest challenges. One little code uncertainty can lead to a lot of research, phone calls, (and if your “guess” isn’t right) costly changes to drawings during plan check or to the building during construction.

I like to avoid these by meeting with the building department beforehand and getting a “code interpretation” letter from them. I lay out the issue clearly, along with the option I want them to agree with. This way I avoid the expensive uncertainty and give them the opportunity to weigh in on any concern I may not have thought of. Sometimes they even come up with something more favorable than my proposal. Not only does that help my design, but it is real protection should there be a problem later, arguably showing that I’ve met or gone beyond the standard of care.

One accessibility-related example of interpretation challenges is where to put detectable warnings (truncated domes). CBC Section 11B- is titled Hazardous Vehicular Areas. But there is no definition of this in the code. Some people feel that this should only apply to streets, intersections, and roundabouts – places where cars are traveling at some speed past people. But sometimes you encounter places where the designer will wrap the entire accessible parking space in a sea of detectable warnings.

Check out this image of a CVS parking lot. Imagine being a blind person navigating with a cane and trying to make sense of where it’s safe to go in this parking lot. Hopeless.

The 2010 ADA refined the requirements to require detectable warnings only at curb ramps in the public right-of-way and on transit platform edges. This actually creates clarity for blind people who are detecting the domes with their feet or a cane; they will encounter them in more predicable places. Unfortunately, the CBC has not kept in step with this change, so architects in California are still left to interpret what locations are hazardous vehicular Areas. This is a perfect example of when you should to take your site plan to the building department early on and get an interpretation.

CoolTechStuff: USB-?

Larry Mortimer, AIA

Confused about USB (Universal Serial Bus) connectors and standards?  Here’s an explanation of the various USB connectors, standards and their capabilities. 

USB Connectors/Ports: Currently there are five basic types of physical USB connectors/ports (see Image 1).  USB-A, USB-B, USB Mini, USB Micro and the latest one USB-C.  The original USB connectors were the A and B plugs and receptacles.  The B connector was designed to prevent users from connecting one computer receptacle to another and accidentally creating a loop.  You will often see a cable with an A on one end and a B on the other used for printers. The Mini plugs and receptacles were added in April 2000 for smaller devices such as digital cameras, smartphones and tablets.  Micro-connectors came in January 2007 to accommodate integration into even smaller devices.  To further confuse things, the Mini and Micro connectors each have an A and B version and the Micro has an AB version.  The C connector came into use in 2014, and is a small reversible connector meant to replace the A and B connectors.

Adaptors can be used to connect one type of connector to another, and a hub can be used to increase the number of available ports.

USB Release Standards: Currently there are five major versions of the USB standards (protocols), USB 1.0, USB 1.1, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1.  Each version has a different ability to communicate data and transfer power between computers and other devices (see Image 2).   All connectors/ports will not work with all standards (see Image 3).

Conclusion:  Although somewhat confusing, the USB protocol provides
a universal system to power our devices and allow them to communicate with each other.  The speed you experience will only be as fast as the slowest element in your system.  For example, a USB 2.0 device communicating with a USB 3.0 computer will only transfer data at 480 Mbit/s.  For that reason always purchase devices that use USB 3.0 or greater.

There is one last thing for Macintosh users.  In the last few years Macintosh computers have had both USB and Thunderbolt ports.  Thunderbolt (also known as Lighting) is a competing standard co-developed by Intel and Apple, but mainly used by Apple on Macs and iPhones.  Recent Macintoshes can accommodate either USB or Thunderbolt 3 standards by using USB-C connectors for both.  Rumors have it that Apple will ditch the Thunderbolt port on the upcoming iPhone 8 in favor of a USB-C port, and since some Android phones already use USB-C ports, USB will most likely be the winning standard (at least until the next standard comes along).

For More Information Than You Probably Want to Know Go To:

Firm Profile: Studio T-Square

Studio T-Square is a full-service architecture, master planning and urban design firm based in Oakland with offices in Long Beach and Shanghai, China. Our practice is informed by our global perspective; our value is deeply rooted in an understanding of the regional demands, local context and community needs that foster the creation of sustainable development and smart growth. Our studio is committed to an open, multi-cultural environment and our practice is grounded in a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach that reflects the ever-changing world that we live and work in.

With decades of experience both locally and internationally our work focuses on master planning, transit-oriented development, mixed use resort and commercial projects. Our diverse project experience ranges from a large scale master plan in Chengdu China to an intimate transit- oriented project in pastoral Lafayette California and from small, urban parklets to an innovative shipping container development for affordable housing. Regardless of the scale and complexity of the project, Studio T-Square’s true measure of success remains the creation of purposeful, sustainable communities, combining memorable public spaces and iconic architecture promoting civic pride and a strong sense of community.

Whether it is providing professional services to our clients, educating the public on smart growth principles, representing our noble design profession, or nurturing a young generation of design professionals, the core values of our business and practice are integrity, passion and quality. As responsible stewards of our built environment, we are dedicated to advance smart growth, transit-oriented development and sustainable design projects that are consistent with our collective efforts to address global challenges.

On behalf of our studio crew, we look forward to creating many memorable experiences, places and architecture with all our clients, partners – and our friends!

Project Profile: Belmont Country Homes

The featured project depicts the first two homes out of a six-unit high-end speculative development, located in the mid-Peninsula town of Belmont, for which Hayes Shair Architecture was also the developer/builder.  The project team was confronted with the challenges of a steep site, a stringent set of local design guidelines, and vocal neighborhood groups.  Each home was custom designed for its specific lot which included downslope, upslope, and flat configurations, simultaneously maximizing the allowable floor areas while preserving massing articulation and streetscape variety.

The downslope configuration of these first two lots informed many of the design decisions and presented both challenges and opportunities for innovation.  From the public road, the building appears as a single story home, with context-sensitive detailing to minimize bulk.  But immediately upon entry, the homeowner is greeted with a modern, voluminous living area, realized through the use of scissor-truss cathedral ceilings and an open circulation plan, and culminating at an all-weather deck with breathtaking views of the Belmont Hills.  The slope of the site allowed for full-height crawl-space understories, which provided additional bonus spaces for storage and mechanical equipment.

Each home made provisions for a flat, usable backyard, an added amenity for many hillside residences.  Green features include 2×6 (R-19 insulated) exterior construction, dual-pane glazing, tankless water heaters, smart irrigation sensors, occupant-controlled high-efficacy lighting throughout, and on-site stormwater filtration.

For the project team, the most enduring lesson was the benefit of a proactive neighborhood and agency engagement process, which secured critical stakeholder buy-in during a no-growth political climate.  Both the city and the developer walked away feeling that neither design quality nor financial feasibility were compromised, and could be proud of the collaborative results.

At this time, the first downsloped pair are built and sold, the second flat lot pair are currently under construction, and the final upsloped pair are breaking ground this spring.

Architect – Hayes Shair Architecture
Architect of Record – Fred Strathdee Design & Development
Structural Engineer – Chu Design & Associates
Landscape – Kikuchi Kankel Design Group
Civil Engineer – Underwood & Rosenblum
Soils Engineer – CAPEX Engineering
General Contractor – Dennis Liu Construction
Photo Credit – Edigitaltours

Member Profile: Jack Herbert, AIA

Jack Herbert, AIA, DBIA, is a construction manager for Swinerton Builders who has both practiced architecture and worked as a general contractor and now assists owners in the design and construction of their projects. Jack’s objective is to provide the best design solutions within the limits of an owner’s budget constraints and in drawing on the combined strength of a collaborative team of owner, architect and contractor to accomplish this objective.

“I’ve really enjoyed projects where an Integrated Project Delivery approach draws on the strengths of all partners concurrently to achieve a higher level of design in a collaborative rather than adversarial process.”

Having been in the role of architect, contractor and owner Jack recognizes the experiences of all parties and understands what they each need to achieve success. Jack works to build consensus among the team and to challenge all parties to find ways to make their partners successful.

Jack studied architecture at the University of Illinois and at UC Berkeley and began his career as a design architect working at SOM in San Francisco.

“SOM was an amazing training ground with incredible projects, leadership and talent…..some of my best lifetime friendships were forged in the studio.”

After a few years Jack moved to a smaller firm with the intent to broaden his experience. He learned more about construction, including construction documents, at an entirely different level of intensity from that of the design studio.

“I was always trying to expand my experience across the design and construction industry, always trying to understand not only the complexities of the architectural profession but to understand the mindset of the owner and the contractor.”

After practicing architecture in both large and medium firms and running his own small firm, Jack decided to explore how he could contribute his experience somewhere else. Jack joined Swinerton in 2005 and moved to Swinerton Management & Construction in 2009 where he works as an owner’s representative and construction manager. There, Jack manages large higher-education and courthouse projects for public owners using IPD delivery methods including CMAR and design build.

ARCHnews May 2017

ARCHnews has gone digital! Click the links below to read each article:

Project Profile: The Architects Office
Building Code IssuesRatchet Up Your Parking
CoolTechStuff: Zera
Members in the News
Firm Profile: Shelterwerk
Member ProfileDavid Green, AIA
The AIA Releases the 2017 AIA Contract Documents

Project Profile: The Architects Office

Claiming nearly a full story inside an existing crawlspace gives an understated ranch new life on a challenging hillside site.       

The new owner of an understated ranch house in the Oakland hills wanted something more for their home so they brought on The Architects Office to help with their vision. The client wanted more windows for better Bay views; more bedrooms to fit the whole family; to expand the kitchen so that everyone could hang out together; and to create a backyard.

Settled into a downslope overlooking Montclair Village, a quaint, commercial/retail area nestled in the Oakland Hills, the existing home featured two bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths. The location of the home had phenomenal views of the San Francisco Bay but only 15% of the walls facing that view were glazed.

The Architects Office helped the new owner discover the existing structure was full of potential and a program was developed to take advantage of views, increase floor area within the existing building mass and transform the exterior. A new layout was designed to keep living spaces adjacent to the view sides of the house, which minimized the impacts of construction on the remaining shell. From a conceptual point, this home was designed with the notion that an open-plan layout of spaces adjacent to view walls makes the space (particularly public spaces) feel larger and more expansive.

An oversized crawlspace below the lower level was also found to be big enough to build new bedrooms, a full bathroom and a playroom.

The only problem left to solve was creating enough outdoor space to recreate in. Given the existing house’s relatively small footprint on the steep site, it took some brainstorming to decide that decks were the best solution. Each level features a new deck and the lower ones feature exterior, recessed lighting.  Even better, the decks are located on the view side of the home. At the ground level, earth was terraced to provide ample space for the owner’s dog to run around.

The project recently won a Bay Area Remodeling Award and was nominated for a National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Judges Choice Award.

General Contractor: Duchin Construction
Structural: John Bailey
Fire Sprinkler: Victory Fire Protection
Photographer: Treve Johnson, Allied Member

Member News – May 2017

Blake-Drucker Featured on BREAKGROUND Media

Bonnie Blake-Drucker, FAIA has been profiled for BREAKGROUND’s “Artist By Night” series, a three-part series featuring architecture, engineering and construction professionals who pursue artistic passions outside of work.

Read the profile here:

David Driver, AIA

Ratcliff Names New Associates

Ratcliff announces the promotion of David Driver, AIA to senior associate of the firm and of David Olsen and Lance Keoki Kubiak to associate.

Architect David Driver, AIA is the firm’s design technology manager, responsible for guiding our growth into emerging technologies, cultivating standards and leading training efforts to continuously improve our design and production processes. Driver combines 30 years’ experience in the field of architecture with a wide spectrum of industry software expertise to provide both holistic future vision and detailed actionable work plans.

Lance Keoki Kubiak (Associate) is a project designer with the firm and focuses on projects the promote public health. Selected project clients include Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose; Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center, Martinez and Washington Hospital Healthcare System.

Architect David Olsen (Associate) is a project architect with the firm and brings 12 years of experience to the firm’s healthcare and academic practice areas. Current project clients include the VA (Martinez Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Recovery Center; Sacramento clinics and MRI addition); NorthBay Healthcare; Stanford and Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center.