Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Small Firm Forum’ Category

The Roots of an Architect

A Small Firm Forum

Thursday, October 6, 2016
Free AIA Members / $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO Lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

SFF Hosts: Maggie Maiers, Linda Randolph AIA, Donald Wardlaw AIA

There is anecdotal evidence that unlike say, particle physicists, architects find their calling while still children.  Also, some believe that a childhood epiphany along the lines of, “I’m going to do this!” is more memorable than a more maturely expressed, “I might as well do this” note to self, later in life.

Do you remember a moment in your life when the outrageous thought of becoming an architect crossed your mind? Were you a five-year-old playing with blocks or a 21-year-old on a motorcycle when the notion hit? Architects are a unique bunch, just ask friends outside the profession. But what is it about us that has led us to look at the world in such a unique way? What led us in this direction? Some of us came to this profession as if by no choice, others came by it more methodically.  Either way the passion took hold.

This month we will share those moments of epiphany:  those first experience(s) or notions that set the course of being an architect.  In return, we will share how to recognize, encourage and strengthen the bonds between budding architects and the seasoned professional.  It’s story time at the Small Firm Forum.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn to recognize a child’s interest in architecture by acknowledging your own.
  2. Learn why the AIA experience of fellowship is a core reward of membership.
  3. Gain perspective on the relationship between the childhood epiphany and the likelihood of later success in our field.
  4. Learn how wooden blocks in childhood influence the balance between architectural and engineering aptitude.

The Arc House: A Small Miracle in Housing

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, September 1, 2016
Free AIA Members / $3 Guests
BYO Lunch
Please click here to RSVP so we have a proper headcount.


What’s Net Zero, fire-resistant, self-sufficient, factory-built, has cutting edge technology, uses recycled and green materials, is economic, reuses grey water, harvests rain water and is SIMPLY STUNNING?  The Arc House! Built to the standards of California factory housing, these incredible 400 – 500 square foot houses live like a space twice as large. It starts with a 10 foot exposed arch beam ceiling, with flexible built-ins everywhere, and virtually, an all glass wall on the open side which brings the outside in; the effect is dramatic!

Hear the designer, Jim Gregory of Shelter Dynamics, share how The Arc House was conceived, brought to life and how it functions.archhouse

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this presentation, attendees will…

1. Learn how photovoltaic panels plus battery back-up can power the home 24 hours a day.

2. Learn how rain water is harvested and grey water is recycled on a small scale.

3. Gain an understanding of at least three energy-conserving elements of a small home.

4. See at least two space-saving innovations in boat design that can be used in small homes.

Working with Consultants

A Small Firm Forum Discussion

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Free AIA members / $3 Non-members
Brown bag lunch (BYO lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

SFF Hosts: Maggie Maiers, AIA, Linda Randolph, AIA and Donald Wardlaw, AIA

It is probably true that small firm architects have a special dependence on trusted professional consultants to provide project assistance that does not exist in-house. Most all of us find a structural engineer vital to our ability to deliver a project.  But increasingly, we call on a broader range of consultants. Much of this is driven by the technical complexity of modern structures and the expanded book of regulations that set defining boundaries of what we must provide for our clients.

What have we learned about finding, hiring and working with consultants?  How fluent do we need to be in the language of their fields to manage these relationships properly?  How is the need for consultants affecting the pricing of our services?  Is it better to pass all the contractual relationships onto our customers or gather them under our umbrella?

In this month’s Small Firm Forum we will delve into these and other questions and share what we know about working with consultants.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program, attendees will…

  1.  Learn the different consultant types your peers are engaging with for projects like your own.
  1.  Learn how changing codes are modifying the consultant mix required for small projects.
  1. Understand at least three things that architects have learned from consultant contracts.
  1. Learn the names of some of the best local consultants.


New Products to Rev up your Engines

A Small Firm Forum

Thursday, July 7, 2016
Free AIA Members; $3 Guests
Bring your own lunch

1.5 CES LUs

Each year we present a program of all the new products that we encounter in our practices.  They might be earth shaking or just a little something to make our lives and practices better. Please bring what you have found to be helpful or interesting and share it with everyone.

About the presenter:

Linda Randolph, AIA is an AIA East Bay chapter member in Fremont with a residential design practice and has been co-chair of Small Firm Forum off and on for many years.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. You will learn about a versatile, water saving toilet for small spaces.
  1. There are several new multi use outlets you will learn about to make your projects better for clients.
  1. After attending this meeting you will have information about new ADA products.
  1. You will find out about  new construction products to make life easier.


NFPA-13D: Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, June 2, 2016
Free AIA Members / $3 for Guests; BYO Lunch
Location: 1515 Clay St. Second Floor, Room 15. Around the corner from AIA East Bay office entrance.

1.5 CES LUs

SFF Host:  Andus Brandt, Architect

Presenter Dave Margolin joined Leigh Marymor Plumbing as an apprentice plumber in 1982.  Rising through the ranks, he has become a master craftsman in wet piping, including fire sprinklers and hydronics.  He supervises complex projects, including the recent gut and remodel of the fire and plumbing system in a condo at 333 Bush Street, San Francisco. Join Dave and the Small Firm Forum in a discussion surrounding NFPA-13D residential fire sprinkler systems.

The program will address the following questions:

  1.  What is the NFPA-13D fire sprinkler system and what are its major components?
  2.  What is involved in the pre-construction and permit phase of a 13D system?
  3.  What is a 13D “combined system”and how does it interrelate with the domestic plumbing system?
  4.  What are the common piping materials, their constraints and advantages.
  5.  What are the options for sprinkler head types?
  6.  What are the common considerations for head placement?
  7.  What tests and inspections are required, and when do they take place?

Learning Objectives:

  1.  Learn at least four key requirements of the fire sprinkler codes.
  1.  Identify which types of projects can utilize domestic water systems for fire sprinklers.
  1. Learn what to look for when selecting sprinkler heads and determine their location.
  1. Learn how to identify fire sprinkler design issues during the pre-construction phase of the work.

Ready or Not, Here it Comes…Retirement!

a Small Firm Forum Panel Discussion

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Free AIA members / $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

SFF Hosts:  Linda Randolph AIA and Maggie Maiers AIA

Michael Coleman, AIA, Andre Ptaszynski, AIA, Harry Jacobs, AIA, Larry Mortimer, AIA, Maggie Maiers, AIA and Linda Randolph, AIA will share retirement pitfalls and pleasures with you on such subjects as passing the baton, slamming the door, what to put in the trash,  looking for wealth in all the right places, laying out your legacy for those who follow and the joys of travel freedom.

Learning Objectives:

After attending this forum, attendees will…

  1.  Understand their responsibilities in keeping documents and records when they retire.
  1.  Learn at least three ways architectural practices are valued in the marketplace.
  1. Learn at least three arguments for and against continuing practicing beyond “normal” retirement age.
  1. Gain insight into the rewards of being a retired architect.


Water Smart Design – Integrating Building and Landscape

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, April 7, 2016
Free AIA Members; $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO Lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

Host:  Alexandra Odabachian, Architect

Due to the recent drought in California, we have all become acutely aware of the scarcity of one of our most precious resources: water. El Nino has replenished the Northern California reservoirs for now but what can we do as architects and planners to participate in its conservation and responsible use? From rainwater catchment and grey water systems, how can we successfully incorporate the management of water into our projects? Geoff Holton, architect and Jeni Webber, landscape architect  give an integrated presentation on water conservation told through examples of completed projects and works-in-progress.

About the Presenters: 

Jeni Webber specializes in well-crafted residential and commercial landscape designs, as
well as participatory-process educational environments. Working with ecologic principles, her firm encourages awareness of our limited resources and the importance of creating and living within our environmental means. Through their work she encourage their clients to develop a more intimate and joyful connection to, understanding of and appreciation for the dynamic socioecological environment surrounding us.

Geoffrey Holton is a licensed architect and has practiced architecture in Northern California for nearly three decades, starting his small firm, Geoffrey Holton and Associates (GHA), in 1996. Geoff has taught architecture extensively at the university level and is a Build-It-Green Certified Green Building Professional, and a LEED and ARCSA accredited professional. GHA’s work has included a wide range of project types, as well as landscape planning, site design and master planning with an emphasis throughout on the many facets of building sustainably.

Learning Objectives:

  1.  Learn at least three benefits of creatively incorporating water conservation measures into architectural practice.
  2. Gain an understanding of different ways to manage water onsite while creating beautiful landscapes.
  3. Learn what the fundamental characteristics of grey water systems and on-site storm water retention are.
  4.  Learn at least two ways to use ecological principles as a part of the design process.

Tour of StopWaste’s LEED Platinum Building



a Small Firm Forum Excursion

Thursday, March 3, 2016
Free AIA Members / $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO Lunch)
Location: 1537 Webster Street, Oakland

Host: Maggie Maiers, AIA
Tour Guide: Wes Sullens

1.5 CES LUs

StopWaste will open their LEED Platinum office building for a complete tour lead by Wes Sullen, Manager of Green Building Policy and Advocacy. Originally built in 1927, StopWaste’s building was purchased and fully renovated in 2007 with the help of architect Thomas Towey. When completed, it surpassed the initial goal of LEED Silver. Highlights of this tour will include learning about StopWaste’s mission, witnessing specific green building and Bay Friendly Lanscaping practices, hearing about the challenges of renovating a circa 1920’s structure and learning how the real use energy numbers relate to the designed numbers.

The Small Firm Forum will meet at the chapter office and at 12:15, walk together to the StopWaste Office in Downtown Oakland. There is no lunch planned at the tour destination, but the chapter office will be open all morning until departure if you wish to eat before.

About the Presenter:

Wes Sullens is the Manager of Technical Policy and Advocacy for the Northern California local government agency StopWaste. Wes works on regional energy and green building codes and standards advocacy, recycling and materials management program and standards and green building legislation.

Learning Objectives:

After attending this presentation, attendees will…

  1. List at least three elements which led to the building exceeding California’s building energy efficiency code by 40 percent.
  2. List at least three green building materials used in the LEED building that resulted in a healthier workplace.
  3. Be able to compare the energy and resource use and healthy building practices design goal to nine years of actual use.
  4. Identify elements of the Bay-friendly, environmental landscaping.

The Joy of Accounting: Small Firm Forum

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Free AIA Members; $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO lunch)

1.5  CES LUs

Host:  Donald Wardlaw AIA

The February program will explore, via the urge to share, the many ways we manage the accounting challenges of small firm practice.  How do we tame this side of our practice so that the rest of our practice remains viable?

Are we all managing our job and office accounting with the same tools, the same methods?  That seems unlikely. If there is a smarter and more efficient way, would that interest us?  Likely yes. This month we will look at these questions and any others you bring:

Do we run separate systems for job and company accounting?

Has our accounting method evolved with time?

What have we learned about accounting that we did not know when we began our practice?

Who is responsible, you, a bookkeeper or your CPA?

How much time is required each month for company bookkeeping?

How much time is needed for client billing?

Are we using post-its, spreadsheets or dedicated accounting software?

Are we concerned about banking security and if so, what are we doing about it?

If there are employees, what access do they have to the accounting system?

Are we using the accounting system to track employee hours on a daily basis?

Income and expense, or double entry?


Learning Objectives:

By the end of the presentation, attendees will…

1.  Gain perspective on the accounting methods and systems used by other small firms.

2.  Learn how accounting methods can be improved by seeing how other architects manage job accounting and client billing.

3. Learn what accounting software tools other architects are using and each program’s strengths and weaknesses.

4. See how to reduce time spent on accounting to allow more time for billable tasks.


Annual Show & Tell

a Small Firm Forum Program

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Free AIA members/$3 Guests; bring your lunch.

1.5 CES LUs

For this year’s Annual Show and Tell, we are pleased to bring you three women in architecture to discuss their work and share their insight on the industry.

About the Presenters:

Alexandra Odabachian has practiced architecture in the Bay Area since 1997, and will present slides of her work and life. Her work-to-date has consisted of residential remodels, additions, new structure as well as light commercial work.  She strives to infuse each project with order and beauty and to create better connections between building and site.  Along with work images, she will show influential photos from her travels and childhood in Beirut.

Tasha Leverette and Ariella Granett, AIA are two representatives from the Oakland firm Gyroscope, Inc. Gyroscope’s mission is to design learning environments that provide value for children, families and communities. “We specialize in museums, libraries, learning gardens and other cultural institutions. As architects of learning environments, we encounter some unusual challenges like designing a giant, ADA accessible “Hawks Nest” amidst a small grove of towering live oaks, creating an art installation to activate an entry courtyard at a museum or designing a three-story erupting volcano that sits within a 8,400-gallon fresh water tank to be explored by ROV’s. Whatever the challenge, our approach to creative problem-solving, out-of-the-box thinking and a can-do attitude is what keeps our architecture-trained staff (as well as the structural and MEP consultants we work with) energized and engaged.”

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this presentation, attendees will…

  1.  Be able to identify a variety of service niches for small firms.
  1. State three ways small firms juggle design, client needs and business realities.
  1. Establish new creative strategies and methods for staying motivated.
  1.  List three ways one’s cultural and physical surroundings may inform our work for more creative solutions.