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Posts from the ‘Small Firm Forum’ Category

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.


Annual Small Firm Forum Luncheon

Thursday, December 3, 2015
Cost: $22; $27 after November 30. Click here to RSVP.

What have we done!  Horror Stories of 2015.

This month the Small Firm Forum celebrates that we survived another year despite the challenges of our own making.  Regale your friends with your near death experiences, and other daily tragedies in the life of an architect, or even worse, contractor.  You need schadenfreude?  Have we got a lunch for you!

And maybe we have a  prize for you too!  Best story wins $25 gift certificate at Builder’s Booksource.


Please RSVP by noon on December 2nd.

Catered by Miraglia Catering

Small Firm Forum Annual Luncheon Menu:
salad:  spinach, red leaf, mandarin oranges and almonds with honey lime vinaigrette
seasonal vegetable platter:  zucchini, eggplant, carrots, yellow squash, portabello mushrooms, tomato, and onion
oven roasted new potatoes with garlic and rosemary
for carnivores:  grilled lemon-rosemary chicken breasts & sirloin tips (sautéed strips of beef with demiglace ,garlic, mushrooms, and red wine)
for vegivores:  stuffed portabello mushroom with grilled zucchini, yellow squash, roma tomato, sweet red and jalapeño peppers, black beans and cilantro (vegan)

red & white wine, sparking water, cookies

New Approaches with Solar Thermal, Radiant, Combination DHW and Space Heating Systems

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, November 5, 2015                       
Noon-1:30 PM
Free AIA Members; $3 Guests
Please RSVP


John Grose will discuss new approaches to solar thermal and radiant heat systems.  These systems combine domestic hot water and space heating systems.  One solar collector is connected to a dual water tank which is gas fired and solar heated.  He will educate us on budget conscious and deluxe alternatives for this wet mechanical system.  He will address the Solar for California Homes program.

John Grose’s presentation will be an overview and detailed discussion regarding high efficiency hot water, both Tank and Tankless.  How to apply Solar thermal to domestic hot water heating systems and hydronic space heating systems in as simple and cost effective means as possible.  What is available on the market?  Which mechanical systems will help you achieve your Net Zero Energy Homes?  Hydronic heating and cooling. He will review tradeoffs between various types of systems and advancements so you the designer can make your best possible decision.

About the Presenter

John Grose is the President of Sensible Technologies, Inc. (STI), graduated from U.C. Davis in 1981 with a B.S. in Agricultural Economics.  He immediately entered the solar thermal and energy conservation industry and worked on every level, including 8 years as a service and repair technician, throughout the greater bay area, repairing thousands of solar and hydronic heating systems.  In 1997 he became a principal at STI, dba, JTG/Muir, manufacturer’s representatives in High Efficiency Hydronic heating equipment and Solar Thermal Systems.  Today he enjoys sharing his industry knowledge from a financial, code, mechanical and hands on “what works” approach.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program participants will

  • be able to describe one new technology for domestic hot water systems
  • be able to conceptually address building systems for a performance calculation for energy code compliance
  • be able to state three options for radiant cooling
  • be able to describe three options for achieving net zero energy performance in their projects.


Aluminum Windows & Title 24 Energy Compliance Session

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, October 1, 2015
Noon – 1:30pm

Free AIA members; $3 Guests   Please RSVP for room location


Host: Alex Bergtraun, AIA

In July 2014 the California Energy Commission implemented new standards for Title24 – Part6. These more stringent requirements significantly impacted residential energy compliance, the building envelope, and window/door requirements.

This discussion is an opportunity to learn from two specialists with “in the trenches” experience in energy compliance – a window manufacturer and energy-consultant.

We will cover high-performance product specifications, Title 24 “do’s and don’ts”, relative cost/benefit of upgraded systems, and who to rely on for good information.

Jeremy Drucker (Blomberg Windows) and David Knight (Monterey Energy Group) have recently collaborated on a number of difficult Title24 projects – working through complex solutions to elegant architectural designs. Jeremy and David will come together for a conversation about the difficulties of Title 24 compliance, the need for energy-efficient systems, and the path forward in this new regulatory environment.

About the Presenters:

David Knight founded Monterey Energy Group in 1982.  Since then, he has designed over 6,000 residential mechanical systems and performed over 18,000 energy efficiency compliance reports. David’s main areas of expertise are designing radiant space conditioning systems, solar energy systems, interpreting the State energy code, and general energy-efficiency.

Jeremy Drucker is part of the new ownership at Blomberg Window Systems, a well-respected company with 58 years of aluminum window experience. His background in residential architecture, construction, and development contributes to his user-focused understanding of the market. Blomberg Windows currently manufactures one of the most energy-efficient systems in domestic production, the T450N window system.

Learning Objectives

  • Fenestration Details: Understanding LowE coatings, thermally-controlled window and doors, glazing options, etc.
  • Title 24 Calculations: the thermal-envelope, advanced HVAC systems, setting priorities.
  • Title 24 Requirements: NFRC-certification, 3rd-party testing, on-site inspections.
  • Tips and Tricks: “These go to 11?!” Blomberg T450N outperforms, radical HVAC systems, closed-cell spray-foam insulation, etc.’s Mission to Eradicate Lawns

Thursday, September 3, 2015
Free for AIA members / $3 for non-members
Brown bag lunch (BYO lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

Host: Maggie Maiers, AIA

Come join us as we hear from representatives of and others on their mission to organize communities around converting water intensive lawns to drought resistant planting. The forum will include local success stories.

How to Act Like an Eagle in Legal Matters Pertaining to Your Architecture Practice

a Small Firm Forum

Thursday, August 6, 2015




Architects face a wide array of different potential legal liabilities in their practice. In this Small Firm Forum hosted by Linda Randolph, AIA, attorney Jerome Pandell will walk you through some of the obvious legal minefields to avoid in terms of drafting contracts, managing client relationships, and shielding yourself from becoming a named defendant.

About the presenter: 

Jerome Pandell, Esq. of Pandell Law Firm Inc., specializes in Architectural Law and Construction and Design Law. He was anointed as a Northern California Rising Star in 2012 by Super Lawyers, an organization that rates outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

The Philosophies of Drawing: Small Firm Forum

Thursday June 4, 2015
Noon – 1:30pm

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

1.5 CES LUs

Hosts: Maggie Maiers, AIA & Donald Wardlaw, AIA

A characteristic and attractive freedom of small firm architects, is the freedom to choose to express our intent via our drawings in the manner we find most comfortable and/or effective.  This may contrast with the stricter client driven documents requirements that larger firms must contend with.

Our June program will explore, via the urge to share, the many ways we express our intentions via our drawings.  The ways in which we express our intentions are normally closely linked to what we believe we should say and what we believe we should not say.  The ways we express our intent are also strongly influenced by the technological evolution of the tools we work with, and our reaction to those tools.  Some of us may choose to adopt the latest cutting edge technology, and others may judge it not worthy.

Please bring your thoughts, your biases, and if you feel inspired to do so, examples of how you are expressing your intent in your drawings.  Once in a while, silence is not golden.

Learning Objectives:

  1.  Gain an updated perspective on the philosophies small firm architects adopt or reject in choosing their tools for the creation of their drawings.
  1.  Learn what other small firms see as priorities in their strategies for their drawing communications.
  1.   Learn what technical tools are found especially useful in the creation of architectural drawings among small firms.
  1.  Gain a perspective on the trends of graphic communication in small firm practice.







In Your Hands: Concrete Ways To Win Creative Projects

A Small Firm Forum Presentation

Thursday, May 14, 2015
Cost: Free AIA Members/$3 Guests

1.5 CES LUs

Host: Andus Brandt

Join Fu-Tung Cheng of CHENG Desigas he traces the evolution of his design work and demonstrates examples of how architects can play directly with concrete and concrete forms with their own hands — and discover new ways of scaling up and channeling that experience to clients and contractors/sub-contractors.

He will cover a range concrete mix designs, from basic to high performance, that he has utilized and will show examples of some of the applications used in homes. 

Fu-Tung will also talk about some of his successes and failures as a product designer.

About the Presenter

Fu-Tung Cheng, CHENG Design. Fu-Tung is the founder of CHENG Concrete, CHENG Products and CHENG Design. He is a designer, best-selling author and speaker — known for his sophisticated design, use of concrete as a finish material and product designs. His boutique fabrication shop has produced concrete products for his design clients, other architects and designers for over 20 years. Fu-Tung has trained over 5,000 contractors in concrete countertop making in addition to the fundamentals of good kitchen design.

CHENG Design’s House 6 is an AIA East Bay 2008 Exceptional Residential: Bay Area Design Awards Winner. Matthew Millman, Photographer.


Plumbing Today: People, Our Planet and Water

A Small Firm Forum

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Jack London Kitchen & Bath Gallery, 2500 Embarcadero St. Unit F, Oakland, CA 94606
Free and Open to All. Lunch will be provided by Jack London Kitchen & Bath so please CLICK HERE to RSVP
You can also RSVP by calling 510/464 3600.


Host: Italo Calpestri, AIA

This presentation will provide an insight into water efficiency and the role of sustainable plumbing. We’ll also discuss testing and standards, environmental technologies, product transparency and contributions to LEED certification.

About the Presenter

Ted Howell, Midwestern Sales Company. Ted is a technical support and sales representative for Western Sales Co., the Northern California representative agency for TOTO. He has received extensive plumbing and code training, including as a certified Journey Level plumbing contractor for over 20 years and through IAPMO, ICBO, and PHCC. He has had extensive experience with the Uniform Plumbing Code and the California Plumbing Code, including in the areas of ADA and CalGreen compliance. Throughout his career he has also provided plumbing and code presentations to plumbers, sales professionals, architects, designers, and engineers.

Learning Objectives

After attending this presentation attendees will be able to:

1.  Define ‘water efficiency’.
2. Explain why additional testing may be needed beyond that required to meet the WaterSense specification for toilets.
3. Distinguish between reducing the volume of water used in a building and reducing flow rates.
4. Select technologies for use in designing bathrooms which contribute toward LEED points and meet long-term sustainability goals.