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Posts from the ‘ArchNews’ Category

ARCHnews April 2017

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

Project Profile: California Drea, Compact Reality by Cheng+Snyder
Emerging Professionals: Firm Tours
Building Code IssuesSafety Only Starts With the Codes
CoolTechStuff: Travel Apps
Members in the News
Firm Profile: Hilliard Architects
Member ProfileNicole Stine, Assoc. AIA

Safety Only Starts with the Codes

Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

The origins of building code and standards have always been reactive to major events. The first building regulations were established jointly with fire service and insurance companies in an effort to minimize losses due to major fire events.  The following is a short list of major events that have shaped our building codes:

  • City of Chicago fires of 1871 and 1874, about 250 and 20 fatalities, destroying 812 structures
  • San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, about 3,000 fatalities and 80% of the city destroyed
  • Iroquois Theater fire of 1903, 602 fatalities
  • Coconut Grove nightclub fire of 1942, 492 fatalities
  • Oakland Hills fire of 1991, 25 fatalities and 3,469 structures lost

After the recent tragic fires in Oakland (Ghost Ship and San Pablo), there has been a lot of talk on what needs to change in our codes to prevent this from happening again. The simple answer is nothing – we need to enforce the building codes we have. This is where it becomes tricky: who is responsible for enforcing the codes and to what extent? Some would say the city; I say it is all of us. We are all responsible for our own safety. We all need to be aware of possible dangerous conditions and if we are not, we should learn them.

I don’t expect the common person to know when an electrical panel is overloaded, but if the power keeps going out because something is plugged in, like a heater, that should be a sign that something is not right. I don’t expect everyone to know when a corridor or a stair enclose is rated, but know where your exits are and how to get to them. If you see a blocked exit door, know that this is not right and a potential hazard. When you see problems like these, it is good to be aware and to report it.

After 9/11 there was a lot of talk among authors of the code, and the general public, as to what code changes were needed to prevent this from happening again. Firstly, buildings are not designed to take the impact of an airplane with tens of thousands of gallons of flammable liquids. Secondly, the portion of the twin towers below the impacted floors, not cut off to grade, performed well and most of the occupants were able to exit the buildings. Even still the authors of the code did make relevant changes, which can be found in the high-rise sections.

Oakland and other cities are already looking at their inspection programs and what needs to be done. There have been cries from the community that the reason for this event was because of the housing shortage, which is a different issue and needs to be addressed in the zoning regulations. There were suggestions to reduce building code requirements to accommodate artists and allow for more housing. This would be a wrong step. Lowering the standards from what is already considered a “minimum standard” would not provide a reasonable level of safety consistent for the community.

What needs to be done is bring buildings into compliance, whether it is housing or places of assembly. This may mean zoning changes to adapt industrial uses to housing or a live/work community. The city is already working on this. Building owners will have to agree with the changes and cost necessary for a safe building for whatever the use. The city may have to establish a timetable for things to happen, but we cannot allow non-code compliance to go unnoticed. We cannot let another incident like this happen ever again. We are responsible for a safe environment.

-Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

Members in the News

Markel Featured

Gregor Markel, AIA of Dahlin Group designed Dublin’s new “The Wave” aquatic center, covered in East Bay Times.

A rendering of The Wave waterpark.

Baran Interviewed

Matt Baran, AIA of Baran Studio Architecture spoke about his work on Piedmont Walk in this San Francisco Chronicle article on different approaches to developing Oakland.

A rendering of The Amador, an apartment complex designed by Jones Haydu.

Project Profile: California Dream, Compact Reality

Traveleze is a renovated 1961 vintage trailer that is part tiny home, off-the-grid retreat and window onto the environment. Designed by Oakland-based architects Cheng+Snyder, the trailer completely re-imagines the original cramped interior with its small windows and telephone-booth-style bathroom. The big design move: one complete wall opens up, making the main room a balcony on wheels. The client, Gregory Piche, a Bay Area engineer, wanted a design that retained all the original vintage details on the outside yet could function as a modern home and office on the inside. By allowing one entire wall to fold out, both goals were met. When the wall is open, it provides shade, storage, an eating surface and natural light so that activities can spill out into their surroundings. When closed, the wall functions as a sleeping bunk and storage unit. Storage cubes underneath the sleeping bunk double as seating that can be placed outside. A drop-down table extends the counter space and creates an eating nook.

Besides all of its unique features, Traveleze is equipped with modern appliances including a refrigerator, microwave, convection oven, stovetop, furnace and hot water heater – all of which run on electricity drawn from rooftop solar panels or a backup propane system. While most trailers typically have a small bathroom (including the original Traveleze), this bathroom uses the full width of the trailer underneath the curved façade and includes a walk-in shower. Stainless steel fixtures and hardware, dark walnut hardwood floors and white wall and cabinet finishes form a rustic and contemporary interior palette. And at only 112 square feet, the Traveleze sleeps three – a small footprint for a full-size family.

Architect: Cheng+Snyder

Contractor/Fabrication: Larry Hill, Retro Restoration

Photos: Cheng+Snyder


CoolTechStuff: Travel Apps

Summer is coming, so it’s time to start planning that trip.  Here are several apps you might find useful on your trip to visit the world’s great architecture and other points of interest. By Larry Mortimer, AIA


Circa – World Time and Meeting Planner for Travelers:  This app helps you to keep time across multiple time zones and locations. Available for iOS and Android devices. ($3.99)


izi TRAVEL – City Guide & Museum Audio Tours:  An audio guide for travelers. It’s your personal tour guide, who will guide you around the most interesting attractions and museums in more than 900 cities around the world.  Available for iOS and Android devices. (Free)



Buildings – Locate and Visit Interesting Architecture:  An encyclopedia of architecture in your pocket.  Using GPS to pinpoint your location, Buildings shows you what interesting architecture is nearby.  It includes information, images, videos and commentary on historic, contemporary, and conceptual buildings from a user-generated database. Available for iOS and Android devices. (Free)


Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary:  This glossary draws on the architectural vocabulary of the buildings of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  The app is part of the Yale University Press’ Pevsner Architectural Guides started in 1951 by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902–83). Available for iOS devices. ($4.99)

Pivot – Augmented Reality Historical Tour App:  Pivot is a mobile app that reveals what places looked like in the past – showing authenticated histories of locations (from everyday places to popular tourist attractions), through images, videos and text-audio.  Available for iOS and Android devices. (Free)

29GPS Architecture

29GPS Architecture – A Geo Located Guide to Architecture:  A very good app to discover new architecture around you. It´s not just maps and directions, but it does make good use of these features. It features a daily selection of contemporary architecture and tells you exactly how far you are from it.  Available for iOS devices. (Free)

Google Translate

Google Translate:  Don’t forget this app to help you understand signs, menus etc. in a foreign land.    Available for iOS and Android devices. (Free)

LiveTrekker Go:  With this app you can record your GPS track, photos, movies, and recordings all in one place.  Later you can retrace your trip by viewing your media and path of travel in every detail.  Available for iOS and Android devices (Free)

Member Profile: Nicole Stine, Assoc. AIA

Nicole Stine, Assoc. AIA

My journey into architecture began in my hometown of Yakima, Washington. My father, who is an accountant by trade, showed me the drawing board he had used to draft our house. He told me stories of setting up the board on the plane tray tables to pass time while traveling for business. Seeing and feeling the hatch-pattern of lines engraved into the wood gave my lifelong habit of doodling a purpose. This introduction gave me insight into design and opened my eyes to a potential career in architecture. Following high school graduation, I pursued my bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Idaho. I took a detour the summer before graduation and studied abroad in Rome. I then completed my education at Montana State University, where I received my master’s degree.

During my time in academia, I realized that my love for architecture runs deeper than just design. It is instead rooted in a desire to problem solve. As a big sister, I have been solving my brother’s problems since he was born. He may refer to my problem solving as “Nicole, my bossy older sister,” but deep down I am sure he considers it helpful. As a Girl Scout through elementary, middle and high school I helped come up with solutions to sell the most boxes of Girl Scout cookies, being named top salesman multiple years in a row. As a college student I juggled school assignments, campus participation and managed a group of 96 women as chapter president of my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta.

As a post grad, thirsty for professional experience, I jumped into a summer internship with The KPA Group in Oakland. I spent the summer with other interns, working alongside architects and structural engineers, giving me a taste of the design challenges and engineering of solutions that lay in my future. My success that summer led to a job offer, giving me the opportunity to call the Bay Area home. The KPA Group has relocated to Pleasanton where I now manage the production of marketing materials, collaborate with fellow designers to produce construction documents and handle critical client design problems on a daily basis.

Outside of the office I am in pursuit of my license. I am constantly in search of the next best coffee shop to spend my day working through flash cards and practice tests.  I am fortunate to have found a career that allows me to practice my love for problem solving, but still tests my knowledge of design. Architecture is a lifelong passion, one to which I have just opened the door.

Firm Profile: Hilliard Architects

Traumatic Brain Injury Center, Martinez VA

Hilliard Architects is a multi-focus architecture firm with a building science background who believes that great projects are built on great relationships. Our expertise, technical background and exceptional client relationships make us a great choice – and a pleasure to work with.

Based in downtown Oakland, Hilliard Architects is always looking for creative solutions. From bringing in a drone to inspect a deteriorating exterior, designing a brain trauma center to feel more like a modern gym, and stopping waterproofing nightmares – we enjoy thinking outside the box. We foster our client relationships because we believe that good communication and working together will always yield better and more innovative solutions.

Hilliard Architects supports a unique skill-set through building science: coordinating the disciplines of architecture, engineering and construction technology. We are investigative problem solvers and we’re hands-on. Our continuous learning of building codes, materials, components, systems, structures and sustainability helps optimize building performance.

Working with Revit as our BIM tool, we’re able to collaborate with all project team members to help keep projects running smoothly and avoid costly mistakes.

If accessibility is a concern, our lead architect Mike Hilliard, AIA is CASp certified (California Certified Access Specialist), making him an expert in the latest CA OSHPD requirements.

If you’re looking for a team that produces great work through a hands-on, win-win working relationship, consider Hilliard Architects.

Photos: Hilliard Architects

Traumatic Brain Center, Martinez, VA

Library, Lycée Français de San Francisco

ARCHnews March 2017

ARCHnews March 2017 is out now!

ARCHnews is going digital! Click the links below to read each article:

Project Profile: Saikley Architects
Leadership Letter by Matt Taecker, AIA
Emerging Professionals
Building Code Issues: All Gender Restrooms
CoolTechStuff: Rocketbook
Members in the News
Firm Profile: Catamount Design
Member Profile: Sriram Ramakrishnan, Assoc. AIA

Or, Click here to download the final PDF.

Member Profile: Sriram Ramakrishnan, Assoc. AIA

Sriram Ramakrishnan, Assoc. AIA graduated with a B.Arch from the National Institute of Technology in Tiruchirappalli, India with a University Gold medal in 2012. He worked for a couple of years for Larsen & Toubro, a multinational design build company. His work primarily consisted of designing corporate offices for Fortune 500 clients. He first came to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue M.Arch from Ohio State University, with a prestigious university fellowship. In 2015, he secured a graduate associateship instituted by AIA Columbus in collaboration with Ohio State University. His final academic project at Ohio State was titled “2050AD-Net Zero Housing” and was published in Archiprix “2017 World’s Best Thesis Projects” along with projects from over 80 countries. His was voted “Participant’s Favorite” by finalists around the world. The project studied the future of architecture in an energy-scarce environment. He graduated with M.Arch in May 2016 and started working for Architectural Dimensions as an intern in August. Sriram is a licensed architect in India and is currently completing AXP/IDP hours and preparing for the ARE exams to get licensed in U.S. in the next few years. He has a strong sense of design development, BIM modeling and LEED design.

Sriram perceives architecture as a tool for creating social, cultural and economic change. His favorite architects include Louis Kahn, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hahid. His hobbies include traveling, art and music.

Firm Profile: Catamount Design

In a world that demands increasing specialization, architecture called out to Alex Korn, AIA as a field where the ability to understand systems and peoples’ needs was required. Architecture requires understanding the whole and creating a built solution to meet a clients needs, using design to integrate a solution. Alex Korn founded Catamount Design as a one-person firm in Berkeley in 1999. This was after working as an architect in Seattle for the previous decade and graduating from the University Oregon in 1989. He came to architecture after undergraduate degrees in Fine Arts and English Literature. He writes:

Over the years we have had to the opportunity to work on a variety of new structures as well as additions and remodels from cabins and camp buildings in Vermont to a straw-bale home in Mendocino, from a nightclub in Oakland to an extension of a 1940s Harwell Hamilton Harris home in the Berkeley Hills. What defines our practice most is the variety of our clients and their needs. I think this reflects in part the diversity of the Bay Area as well as our goal of understanding the needs and tastes of our clients. Good design is about much more than style and we strive to bring it to each of our projects. Most of our work is in Northern California but we have projects across the country.

Our practice has changed and evolved over the years with a mix of residential construction, commercial TIs and small commercial design. Right before the Great Recession we were growing rapidly with mixed- use commercial developments and a number of condominium projects and multiple residential projects on the boards. The commercial projects went the way of the economy leaving us only the residential. Luckily in 2009, we had the opportunity to acquire a building in Berkeley through a commercial client which we developed into a nine unit office building. It now houses our office and a eclectic group of tenants. With the return of the economy we are growing again with multiple residential and commercial projects on the boards and in construction. In 2016 we were awarded accommodation for the rebuild of the 1924 Barret house in Berkeley the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).

For us, architecture is a field where our specialization is to be a “generalist” in the best sense – to understand a wide variety of topics and interests and to bring all those into a coherent project. Space and how we inhabit it effects all those who pass through it. The world today is about specialization, which affects architecture. However, it remains a profession where ideas, design and people can be brought together rather than divide.