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Posts from the ‘ArchNews’ Category

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.

Firm Profile: Shelterwerk

“Shelter”: a position or the state of being covered and protected.

“Werk”: (derived from Old High German) a piece of art, an achievement, the result of one’s labors.

Established in 2009, Shelterwerk is a creative collaboration headed by architect Heather Sanders, AIA and interior designer, Lisa Wai, IIDA. Lisa grew up and received her degree in the Midwest, while Heather, a California native, completed the bulk of her education in Oregon. Both relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, and became colleagues and friends while working in other firms, eventually opening Shelterwerk in Oakland several years later.

“Our services include integrated architectural and interior design services for both commercial and residential projects. Programming, space planning, tenant improvements, and selection/acquisition of furnishings describe some of our offerings to commercial organization. On the residential front, we take on anything from bathroom and kitchen remodels, additions, conversions of existing spaces to secondary units, as well as ground-up construction. We are also a resource for entitlements and permit expediting services. We work throughout the Bay Area and beyond: past and current projects cover Monterey, the South Bay and Peninsula, San Francisco, North and East Bay as well as the Sierra Foothills and Tahoe area.

We are down-to-earth, approachable advocates for the people we work with, attempting to create spaces that are a reflection of who they are, and not who we are. We see our role as educators, empowering our clients with a knowledge that allows them to make informed decisions about their projects that are appropriate for their budgets and objectives. We don’t limit ourselves to doing business with humans, and have been known to occasionally take on canine and feline clientele.

Shelterwerk strives to achieve a level of social responsibility in their practice, working with groups like Satellite Affordable Housing Association, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development, Pivot Learning, and Project Commotion among others in the housing, education, and health realms. For these clients, we offer our design services at a discounted rate, or occasionally pro bono, dependingon the level of need and the magnitude of their challenges in their respective communities. We are also registered on, subscribing to the belief that the benefits of good design should be within reach for all.

Shelterwerk likes to see itself somewhere in the middle of whimsical experimentation and exacting precision in their approach and craft. We believe our product reflects a thoroughness and care, and while we understand that that requires a lot of hard work and intelligence, laughter and a lightheartedness should be part of the equation. The very definition of our name requires that we embrace the poignant and the banal of any structure or space, and that we make something beautiful, memorable, and meaningful out of it.”

CoolTechStuff: Zera

Larry Mortimer, AIA

Here’s a new green kitchen appliance that may become commonplace in your kitchen and the kitchens you design in the future. 

What Does It Do: The Zera Food Recycler is a free-standing kitchen appliance that is designed to turn food scraps into ready-to-use homemade fertilizer in just 24 hours.

What does it cost: Suggested Retail price $1,199

How Does it Work: The Zera Food Recycler is simple to use. Just scrape your leftover food scraps into the opening. The unit then stirs, moistens, aerates, heats and mixes in a plant-based additive (made from coconut husk and baking soda) to help break the food down. After 24 hours the scraps are converted into fertilizer that is collected in a tray at the bottom.

Pros: The unit is an attractive package that measures 11” x 22” x 33 3/4” and weighs about 118 pounds. Unlike traditional composting methods, Zera can be used year-round regardless of the weather and can be remotely operated through a mobile app.

Cons: I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand it can help reduce the amount of material that gets placed in landfill by turning unwanted food into useful fertilizer, but on the other hand it may encourage people to be more wasteful since they will feel less guilty about not consuming perfectly good food (my mother would never let me waste any food).

Conclusion: This is an interesting concept that had it’s debut at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in January. The appliance was developed by WLabs of the Whirlpool Corporation (Whirlpool’s innovation incubator). It is scheduled to be available for purchase at selected retailers and in Spring of 2017, but can be pre-ordered now on Indiegogo’s crowdfunding service. It’s interesting that a large corporation like Whirlpool is using crowdfunding to test the waters on a new product.

More Information at:

Click here to purchase.

Member Profile: David Green, AIA

David Green, AIA

David Green, AIA is a building enclosure consultant specializing in curtain wall, glazing, and cladding systems. He is an associate principal at the Emeryville office of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE), a nation-wide architecture and engineering consulting firm. Collaborating with talented architects, David designs, details and oversees the construction of building envelope systems for various building types, including high-rise hotels and residences, museums, retail storefronts, universities and office buildings. David works closely with architects to turn their facade concepts into reality while meeting an ever-increasing array of performance criteria. He brings his expertise and enthusiasm for facades to each step of the process, whether it’s sketching corner details on tracing paper during a meeting with an architect, running structural calculations to size mullions, or conducting water testing on a construction site.

In addition to consulting on new construction, David also works on the recladding of existing buildings and conducts forensic investigations of building envelope failures, such as glass breakage or water leakage. His current projects include a custom mullionless glazing system for the renovation of Moffitt Library at UC Berkeley, an undulating, curved glass curtain wall for Anaha, a 40-story residential tower in Honolulu, a faceted, steel-framed curtain wall system and triangulated roof for the NVIDIA corporate headquarters in Santa Clara and a new terra cotta facade for Uptown Station, the renovation of the former Capwell’s/Sears building in downtown Oakland.

Prior to joining WJE nine years ago, David was a senior associate at Handel Architects, where he served as both a project manager and an in-house cladding consultant. Before that, he was an exterior wall consultant with R.A. Heintges & Associates in New York City, where he gained valuable experience working on a variety of complex building enclosure systems. An Oakland native, David holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of Environmental Design at U.C. Berkeley, and a master’s in architecture from Columbia University.

After being a member of the AIA San Francisco chapter for over ten years, he looks forward to his continued involvement with the AIA here in the East Bay.

Ratchet Up Your Parking

The way I look at it, if we meet exactly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California Building Code (CBC) minimums in our designs, we’re barely avoiding “breaking the law.” And with that “perfect” code-compliant design, one small mistake in the field and we’re losing money and sleep-solving problems in construction administration.

That’s why I advocate for “code plus design.” Give an extra few inches as a safety margin and you’ll be doing your client, the contractor and yourself a favor!

The code and the ADA are minimum standards based on extensive negotiations between people with disabilities and building owners associations and big developers. Guess whose agenda is better represented in the documents we’re following?

Here are three ideas for you to take to the street (well, parking lot) in your projects. They will make the lives of your users much better – with barely any impact on square footage and cost.

  1. Access Aisle Size

Here’s an easy one: CBC 11B-502.2 allows van spaces to be nine feet wide with an eight foot access aisle or 12 feet wide with a five foot access aisle. Either way, it’s 17 feet total width, but one is better than the other.Why? Because wide aisles are just too inviting for other driver and this happens:

So stick with the narrow five foot aisle, and give the remaining three feet to the van space itself.

  1. Number of Van Accessible Spaces

I recently had to use an electric wheelchair for four months and rented a van with a ramp. I was blown away to discover how many places I couldn’t deploy the ramp. Trees, bushes, signs, bike racks, and newspaper boxes made many street spaces impossible. Regular accessible stalls with five foot access aisles often wouldn’t work and I’d circle parking lots for 20 minutes until a usable van space opened up, or just give up and drive away.

So…what if we made EVERY accessible space left of an access aisle a van space rather than a regular space? Surprisingly, in a parking lot with 200 spaces, that would add only six feet to the lot:

This shows the CBC Chapter 11B requirement for one van space per six required accessible parking spaces (it’s one per eight for housing under Chapter 11A).

In a double-loaded lot of about 55,000 SF, that’s only 108 SF of added space. I defy anyone to show me a 55,000 SF lot that I can’t squeeze another 108 SF out of. Put another way, that’s an unnoticeable 0.02% difference in most people’s experience, and a 100% better experience for people who need these spaces.

  1. Number of Accessible Spaces

Imagine you have a green car and drive into a 200-space lot, but only 12 spaces are for green cars. There are 60 spaces empty around the lot, but all the green-car spaces are taken, and you can’t park anywhere. Wouldn’t that be dopey? Completely – and that’s what it feels like to people who need the accessible spaces. But this is easy to fix…

The CBC sets the required number of accessible spaces in Table 11B-208.2, based on total spaces. Here are the code numbers in red and black, with my suggestions in green. These are tiny changes, but will offer huge improvements in real-world usability:

Here’s a graph of these changes, showing what a minute change this is:

Many of the accessibility numbers in the code were established in the 1970’s and 1980’s (with some dating back to first ANSI A117.1 of 1959), when the percentage of people over 70 was about half of what it is today…and that number is in the process of doubling between 2010 and 2030.

Add to that the fact that many people with disabilities were stuck in their homes due to lack of today’s advanced mobility aids and the lack of an accessible public environment (not to mention many people being institutionalized), and it’s quickly clear that these numbers need to be updated. It will take a long time for the glacial ADA and building code update processes to catch up.

In the meantime, it’s up to us to up the ante and create better places that reflect the reality of what the population needs. If we don’t do it, who will?


Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

Kerwin’s Comments:

Designing to the code minimums or maximums can be problematic. In many cases, designing to the absolute minimum or maximum can get you into trouble. Designing a ramp that specifies the maximum slope is a sure way of failure. Building a ramp designed to the maximum (1:12) will create a ramp with portions that will exceed the maximum allowed slope, guaranteed. This will create non-code compliance and possible lawsuit. Always design for less than the maximum and allow for failure during construction. This goes for all code dimensions, for all maximum and minimums in the code.  Exterior grading is never perfect and always requires design adjustments during construction. When elements like a ramp are within a building, this does required more space and could affect the design.

Making these design decisions can be difficult regarding when to exceed the minimums/maximums, especially when your client looks at the costs. It is your job as the designer to make the right choices for the project.

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.