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Posts from the ‘ArchNews’ Category

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.

Members in the News

Feng Interviewed

Tian Feng, FAIA was interviewed for the East Bay Times article, “Rising tides: Regional leaders look to shore up Bay Area’s transportation network” for his work as a BART architect. Read the full article here.

McCutcheon Profiled

Michael McCutcheon, Allie Member was featured in Remodeling Magazine. He discusses how he stayed in the family industry, his business philosophy and how his career path has gotten him to where he is now. Read the full profile here.

Awards for Goring & Straja

Goring & Straja Architects’ project “Woodside Priory School” has won numerous awards, including the 2016 Sustainable San Mateo County Green Building Award, Pacific Coast Builders Conference Gold Nugget Award of Merit for Best Educational Project and PG&E Savings by Design.


Blake—Drucker Photograph Featured

Bonnie Blake-Drucker, FAIA has a photograph featured in the current exhibit, “Nocturnes & Noir” at the Harvey Milk Photo Center. The exhibit opened February 11th and will run until April 2nd. Location: 50 Scott Street, San Francisco

Sudbrook to Noll & Tam

Noll & Tam Architects are pleased to announce that Terri Sudbrook, AIA, CSI has accepted the position of Director of Healthcare Projects/Senior Project Manager. Ms. Sudbrook was formerly with Hawley Peterson Snyder.

Building Code Issues: All Gender Restrooms

Kerwin Lee, AIA CASp

Kerwin Says: (with the assistance of Steve Winkle, FAIA)

I recall when I first got started in architecture, my first task was to design restrooms for a project. Perhaps your start was the same. One quickly learns what the criteria is; providing restrooms are always essential to any project.

Something new has been added to this design, at least when it comes to signage and perhaps will become a whole new way of designing restrooms. Assembly Bill 1732, passed by the assembly and signed into law by the Governor on September 29, 2016 became effective on March 1, 2017. This law requires all “single user toilet facilities” to have special signage.

The problem is there is nothing in the code, including the current CBC 2016, that addresses this to meet the law’s requirement. The only guidance at this time is found in a bulletin issued by DSA on January 19, 2017. This bulletin, BU 17-01 is available through the following link:

The bulletin, which is supplemental information to any building standards or code, only applies to DSA projects: public schools, state buildings and projects under DSA’s authority. So what are we designing to? AB 1732 is law and even without specifics on how to comply, we have an obligation to. We can use DSA’s bulletin as a guideline. The best way is to talk with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) for your project on when and how to comply. The bill lacks specifics or at least clarity as to when it is required. Does this apply to all restrooms that exist or new and/or remodeled only?

According to DSA’s bulletin, they recommend that the symbol on the door be a triangle within a circle. They say that no pictogram is required and no other signage (text) is required. If you or the owner chooses to have a text sign, it should say one of the following: “ALL-GENDER RESTROOM,” “RESTROOM,” or “UNI-SEX RESTROOM,” The text with braille needs to comply with the code for all accessible signs. It is best to stay away from any other text or having any pictogram associated with the symbol or text sign. One can look through the debate online on this subject and some of the suggested signs/symbols to be used-many are politically incorrect.

Here is one of the problems you will be facing for complying with the code, “Fixture Count.” If all single user facilities are now all gender, how is it counted in tabulating the number of required fixtures for a facility or building for compliance with Chapter 29?

The biggest question is compliance with Section 2902.2: separate sex facilities. Separate sex facilities are a fairly recent standard, introduced in the mid-19th century. It was associated with having women in the work force in factories, but that is another subject of discussion. Add to this the complexity of urinals and how they are counted.

There may be an opportunity for some creative and new approaches to design for restrooms. For an A-2/restaurant with ten or less occupants, a single unisex facility would comply. For an occupant load of 25 or less, two fixtures or two single-user facilities are required. For an occupant load of 49 or less, three fixtures are required. A possible solution could be as diagramed on the right with two accessible single-user facilities and a single water closet in the third. The two lavatories would comply with the minimum required number. This design would require an Alternative Materials and Method Request (AMMR) because it does not strictly comply with the code, but may comply with the intent. Some social norms may also be changed here.

The building standards or codes do need to be adjusted to address all of these social changes. In the mean time, we all need to proceed with caution on how we address this. We also need to recognize that because there are no statewide code standards this will be in the hands of local jurisdictions and there may be different requirements/interpretations in different jurisdictions.

Drawings courtesy of the City of Oakland Building Department.

Project Profile: Saikley Architects

Hilltop Contemporary – Richmond, California

Saikley Architects designed this new, ground-up home in the Richmond Hills for a young couple developing the site for a first home. The husband is a landscape designer/builder by trade and used the project to learn how to build a house. The wife did the project management.

Saikley Architects worked closely with the owners to create the design they wanted while allowing them to build their skills. The project was complex due to a steep slope, a small, irregularly shaped lot, civil engineering constraints and multiple zoning issues. Despite the beautiful site with its panoramic views of the Bay, the lot had been left undeveloped because of these complexities. Saikley Architects handled the negotiations for county approvals and worked with the owner/builder to ultimately create a 2,300 square foot, three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home that maximizes the site’s potential.

The owners asked for a modern house that felt warm and whimsical. They wanted a design with useful spaces and to be able to see the views throughout the house. The living space is an open plan, spilling out onto a large deck at one end and a yard at the other. An upper deck off the bedroom extends the living space. Windows in every interior space frame Bay views.

Saikley Architects provided building design details which the owner used in many unique interior and furniture design and site design details. The landscape design by the owner compliments and enhances the building and its relationship to the site.

Re-RUD: Re-Inventing Our Regional & Urban Design Committee

By: Matthew Taecker, AIA, AICP

On March 22, rudder yourself to RUD – AIA East Bay’s “Regional & Urban Design Committee” – to help re-envision RUD’s purpose and potential.

The Regional & Urban Design Committee has been an important component of AIA East Bay over decades. The Committee’s mission is to promote “excellence in urban design, land use/transportation integration, public policy, and implementation” in urban and suburban environments.

In recent years, the RUD program has focused on educational programs. Program topics have included: considering how a building can better relate to its context and understanding financial obstacles to infill development.

On March 22, you are invited to help develop topics for future programs and presentations. To remain relevant, fresh perspectives are needed. For example, at AIA East Bay’s 2017 Member Mixer, participants expressed interest in hearing about:
• master plans for new sports facilities
• the “new town” planned at Concord Naval Station, and
• higher-density housing types that blend with single-family areas – the “missing middle.”

Moving forward, we encourage members to participate directly in framing topics and organizing a related presentation or symposium.

In the past, group discussion have engaged issues and contributed design-based perspectives to important debates. For example, during Oakland’s Latham Square design process in late 2013, we described design strategies for pedestrian-friendly places.

At the Mixer, many members said that they want to be more engaged with local issues. Ideas included:
• assessing specific places for what works well and what needs work
• identifying obstacles to infill development, and
• addressing housing affordability through building design.

Simply put, Re-RUD presents exciting possibilities, but we have to be better organized. I hope you’ll become part of this process.

Matthew Taecker is the Chair of the RUD Committee, and has been a leader in urban placemaking and land use / transportation integration.

CoolTechStuff: Rocket Book

Larry Mortimer, AIA


What Does It Do: Rocketbook is a notebook with the same feel and function of a paper notebook but it’s erasable and (with the Rocketbook App) has the ability to easily convpenpadert the content to a digital format. The notebook comes in two versions, the Wave and the Everlast with the difference being how they erase. The Wave comes in a standard (8.5” x 9.5”)
and executive size (6” x 8.9”), while the Everlast comes in a letter (8.5” x 11”) and executive size (6” x 8”).

System Requirements: The Rocketbook App with any iOS or Android device and any Pilot FriXion pen, marker or highlighter.

What does it cost: Wave $27, Everlast $34, Pilot FriXion erasable gel pen $10 (pack of 7).
How Does it Work: Both the Wave and Everlast notebooks look and feel like paper notebooks with a dot grid and a durable polyethylene binding. To use, simply write or sketch on each page and when finished, use the Rocketbook App to scan (in PNG or PDF format) and erase the page to use it again. At the bottom of each page there are seven symbols that identify where the app will send the digital image. Simply check the desired box and the app will send the image to the desired destination (including Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, Slack or an email address). Also, multiple pages can be bundled into one document.

After you’ve scanned the images you can erase the notebook and start fresh. To erase the Wave place it in a microwave oven, follow the instructions, and the whole notebook will be erased. With the Everlast each page is erased individually by wiping clean with a damp towel.

Pros: Feels like paper and writes like paper. Scanning with the app is fast and simple.openbook

Cons: It only works with the Pilot FriXion pens, markers or highlighters. The App does not offer optical character recognition or scans in landscape mode. The microwave erasure procedures are a bit fussy, and there is some concern about how many you can do before too much residue builds up (not a concern with the Everlast). Everlast is not available until May 2017.

Conclusion: This is a great concept for getting those sketches and notes into a digital format and being able to use the notebook over and over again.

Links for more Information and to Purchase:

The Rocketbook




Member Profile: Rex Crabb, Assoc. AIA


Rex Crabb, Assoc. AIA

Rex Crabb is a recent graduate of U.C. Berkeley’s M.Arch program who now works at Woods Bagot. His experiences so far have led him to seek to bridge the worlds of architecture as art and construction. After Rex graduated from Reed College in 2012 with a B.A. in Chinese Literature, he worked at Hammer and Hand, Inc., a high-end residential passive house contractor based in Portland and Seattle. At first he worked in the field reclaiming and recycling demolished materials. Then he worked in the contractor’s office, helping to manage the documentation of projects and request bids from subcontractors.

From 2013-2016, Rex attended the M.Arch program at Berkeley, with projects that combined conceptual speculation and intensive use of digital fabrication. In one project for a sustainable, low-carbon lamppost intended for rural communities in India, he developed a system of 3D printed joints for bending-active lattice bamboo structures that would support a solar panel and an LED light.

During a summer internship with McCall Design Group in San Francisco, Rex and his partners Kasra Yazdanbakhsh and Mariela Levy designed a chicken coop for the non-profit community resilience organization, the Sweetwater Foundation in Chicago. After graduating from Berkeley, Rex has launched his professional career at Woods Bagot. As his experience as a Graduate Student Instructor inspired him to continue teaching, he now works as an instructor at Berkeley as well.

Letter to the Editor

Re: North Carolina’s LGBT law

I’m reaching out for some advice and to see if maybe anyone might want to get involved.

Ever since North Carolina passed their House Bill 2 aka “the potty bill,” I’ve had reservations about specifying architectural materials or furniture originating in North Carolina. House Bill 2 not only rolled back protections passed by the city of Charlotte to extend civil rights to LGBT citizens, but went further to nullify previously existing civil rights for all LGBT people throughout the state.

Many of my clients have corporate or institutional policies that prohibit discrimination of any type and require respect for all people. A sentiment echoed by Drake Design Associates’ own policies. Many of our industry peers & associates are members of the LGBT community. Yet a lot of our contract furniture and architectural finish materials are made in North Carolina, a state that now has a policy of discrimination as a result of House Bill 2.

So, here lies the difficulty with specifying and purchasing products from North Carolina.

To be fair I don’t want to paint all North Carolina-based manufacturers and suppliers with the same broad brush that would lump them in with their own state legislatures’ institutionalizing blatant discrimination. By way of example, Brian Moynihan the CEO of Bank of America headquartered in North Carolina, has been leading the fight to repeal House Bill 2. As a public company with a market cap of $235.5 billion, Bank of America is not intimidated from speaking out against discrimination and for basic civil rights.

Conversely, when asking a North Carolina furniture manufacturer last week for their policy regarding House Bill 2 prior to specification, a reply was sent back from the CEO that as a public company they can’t make political statements. He went further to state that as a company they do not discriminate and sup-port personal “choice.” The CEO, through his local rep, also offered to discuss the concern over House Bill 2 by phone.

By way of this letter, is anyone willing to join me in this phone conversation to respectfully discuss our concern with House Bill 2 and why it’s so important that all members of our design community, from manufacturer to specifier, stand up for civil rights and non-discrimination? If so, please email me at


Janet Drake, Assoc. AIA