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Posts from the ‘Small Firm Forum’ Category

Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and Water Conservation Executive Order Update

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Free AIA Members / $3 Guests

1.5 CES LUs

The Updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and most recent Water Conservation executive order is being implemented by every community in California and affects big and small building projects with new and renovated landscapes. Peter Wolfe, Allied Member and landscape architect, will review the updated MWELO and Recent Water Conservation Executive Order and how it effects the work of architects, designers, and their client’s projects.

Topics include:

  1. Is the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) applicable to my project?
  2. How does the updated WELO affect my project?
  3. Some important terminology: MAWA, ETWU, ETF, Landscape Area as defined by the model ordinance, plant factor, WUCOLS, hydrozones.
  4. What’s in a “Landscape Documentation Package” and when is it required?
  5. Are there any MWELO site planning considerations?
  6. Are there any costs issues affecting project proposals and project implementation?
  7. What are post construction requirements of MWELO?
  8. What’s the most recent Drought State of Emergency Executive Order and how does it affect water use and conservation in the State?

About the Speaker

Peter Wolfe, Allied Member and Landscape Architect began his career over 30 years ago, after travels throughout the world. He is a Bay-friendly qualified designer and rater. His current practice focuses on place-making and sustainable environments for private, public and institutional clients throughout the Bay Area.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program participants will be able to…

  1. Identify when the Updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) is applicable to a project.
  2. Learn what a Landscape Documentation Package is. What’s in it and when is it required?
  3. Identify what the post construction requirements of MWELO are.
  4. Learn at least three site planning considerations required to accommodate MWELO.

MacArthur Annex / Shipping Container Architecture

This tour is sold out, please email to be added to the waitlist.

A Small Firm Forum Tour

Thursday, April 6, 2017
Location: 644 40th Street, Oakland

Free and open to all.

1.5 CES LUs

This month, we will tour the MacArthur Annex Project and discuss how shipping containers operate as a building material. The project tour will focus on the various challenges encountered with the use of containers from design, to permitting, to construction.

The project is mixed use, and acts as an open architectural framework for a local community of creative entrepreneurs and makers. The occupants range from artists and craftsmen to professionals and small businesses. Included in the mix are a local coffee shop and a new beer garden.

The conception of the project began with the notion of using the shipping container as the basic module for development. This is in part because shipping containers are ubiquitous in the Bay Area, and Oakland in particular due to proximity to the port. The studio has a history of working with conditions and materials that have gone neglected or been discarded. The containers presented a perfect opportunity.

About the Presenter:

Matt Baran, AIA founded Baran Studio Architecture in 2010 at the peak of the Great Recession. Prior to that, he worked on concepts for architectural robots that shifted their form and location to adapt to various contexts which became the beginning of Baran Studio. Currently the studio extends those efforts, working closely with staff and clients to further explore architecture that is closely adapted to various contexts.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program, attendees will…

  1. Learn conceptual design opportunities in using shipping containers as a building material.
  2. Be able to identify the programmatic opportunities and constraints unique to shipping container construction.
  3. Identify the planning, zoning and building code issues associated with the use of shipping containers as building material.
  4. Be introduced to the construction and cost concerns regarding the use of shipping containers.

Tiny Prefab Housing by Avava Systems

Thursday, March 2, 2017
Free AIA Members / $3 Guests
Brown Bag Lunch (BYO Lunch)
Location: AIA East Bay, 1405 Clay St., Oakland

1.5 CES LUs

SFF Host:  Maggie Maiers, AIA

Join us for a presentation from Patricia Carpentieri, AIA of Avava Systems, a prefabricated housing company in Berkeley.  She will discuss housing needs from a planning perspective and how prefab buildings can be part of the solution. Avava Systems provides high quality, sustainable homes that are assembled on site in 4-6 weeks, for a fixed price.  This requires some unique departures from conventional ideas of construction. 

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this presentation, attendees will…

  1. Be able to identify at least three new innovations to traditional building materials.
  2. Be able to state three areas of conservation that prefabricated housing can offer.
  3. Be able to state a pro and con of prefabrication regarding design and construction.
  4. Be able to state a pro and con of prefabrication regarding energy efficiency.

What You Need to Know about Wood Flooring

A Small Firm Forum Field Trip

Thursday, February 2, 2017 
Location: Amber Flooring Showroom, 5652 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville
Free AIA Members / $3 Guests
Lunch provided by Amber Flooring; RSVP required, click here to register.

1.5 CES LUs         

Join the Small Firm Forum for a presentation at Amber Flooring Showroom. Learn about engineered floor types, sizes installation, sustainable hardwood floor species, grades, finishing installation, proper substrates, substrates, delivery and environmental concerns about VOC and ventilation.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program participants will…

  1. Be knowledgeable of wood flooring products, the pros and cons of solid wood flooring and engineered wood flooring
  2. Be knowledgeable of the installation methods required for the installation of wood flooring over various sub-floors (plywood, concrete, etc.)
  3. Have an understanding of the appropriate flooring material for historic applications
  4. Have an understanding of “green” flooring options.

Annual Show and Tell: Small Firm Forum

Thursday, January 5, 2017
Free AIA members / $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

This month two of our own will share their work with us:

Matt Baran founded Baran Studio Architecture in 2010 at the peak of the Great Recession.  Prior to that, he had spent 15 years working for various architecture firms, including KMD and the Jerde Partnership. In his spare time he worked on concepts for architectural robots that shifted their form and location to adapt to various contexts.  This work won him an AIA award in 2006, and a scholarship to UC Berkeley to complete a master’s thesis on adaptable robotic architecture.

Upon graduation, he began to teach at UC Berkeley and the Academy of Art, further continuing the exploration of his initial findings in several undergraduate and graduate studios. He found his first opportunity to put his ideas to the test when he purchased a property near the 580 freeway in West Oakland. He worked on the construction of a dwelling that employed the adaptive theories he had been exploring academically. Additional projects followed, and this allowed him continue his explorations in built form.

Currently Matt continues his efforts, working closely with staff and clients to further explore architecture that is closely adapted to its context. This means designing a project through extensive analysis and research into deeper frameworks that include the physical and phenomenal environment, history, culture, and belief. His work and notions of architecture continue to adapt.


Rebecca Schnier of Rebecca Schnier Architecture decided in high school that architecture was her calling. She was passionate about functional design and detail. Early influences included growing up in a George Rockrise house and a trip to Japan in 1970, where she was exposed to that country’s traditional architecture.

In her pre-college years Rebecca was enamored with ballet. Hours of crowded dance classes heightened her exteroceptive awareness of space, how bodies move and adjust in relationship to surroundings. Attention to balance, proportion, and hierarchy later translated into her built work.

Rebecca sought out a well-rounded liberal arts education, away from the Bay Area where she grew up. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College (located in the middle of nowhere) and then a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University (located in the middle of everything). At Columbia her studio critics included Kenneth Frampton, Steven Holl, and Robert A. M. Stern. Rebecca spent ten years working in New York, Zurich and Paris. She designed residential penthouses and worked for Mitchell Giurgola Architects – and then decided it was time to return home to the Bay Area. She has had her own local firm for over 20 years. In her work she strives for an architecture that is thoughtful, purposeful and artistic. She specializes in contemporary, organic design with an eye towards timeless elegance and historic building traditions. She currently serves on the board of the Treasure Island Museum and is a former long-time board member of San Francisco Heritage, the City’s primary architectural preservation organization.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program, attendees will…

  1.  Gain insight into the variety of service niches other small firms are exploiting.
  1.  Learn how other small firms juggle design, client needs and business realities.
  1.  Gain insight into the important relationship between inner drive and rewarding work.
  1.  Gain a useful perspective that ties one’s own challenges to those others face and master.


Small Firm Forum 2016 Luncheon

Thursday, December 1, 2016
$15 first registrant / $7.50 guests
Please click here to register by 5pm, Monday, November 28, 2016


Bring a friend (preferably an architect or related professional) for half-price and come enjoy our Middle Eastern Holiday Feast!  Show off your favorite project for a chance to win our annual Builder’s Booksource Gift Certificate.  Submit no more than two slides to when you register and be prepared to share why it’s a small-firm project.   And have fun sharing your Lego (and team) skills for special holiday treats.

But, wait, there’s still more:

A special door prize will be awarded to the lunch participant who provides next year’s most popular brown-bag topic.

Share the season by registering here!

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.