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Posts tagged ‘ArchNews’

ArchiCalc: CoolTechStuff


Larry Mortimer, AIA

I recently upgraded my iPhone & iPad to iOS 11 not realizing that some of my most favorite apps would no longer work on that operating system.  All of the 32 bit apps (69 of them) on my machines were instantly not useable.  So the search was on for a 64 bit replacement for each of the apps that were lost.  One of the apps I lost was a feet-inch calculator, but fortunately I found an even better replacement called ArchiCalc.

What Does It Do:  ArchiCalc does exactly what you would think a feet-inch calculator would do but with a simple, clean, elegant interface and a few extra features you would not expect.

What does it cost: $3.99

How Does it Work:  ArchiCalc might more accurately be called a dimensional calculator because it works with linear dimensions, areas, and volumes.  It works with both imperial and metric units, and mixed units can be used in the same calculation without converting them in advance.  The answer can be freely converted to either format.

Lengths multiplied by lengths result in areas and areas multiplied by lengths result in volumes.  Other geometric operators include calculating the hypotenuse of a right triangle, volumes of spheres and other useful geometric functions.  ArchiCalc has 10 storage registers, a tutorial, and an on screen rounding feature for decimal places and denominators of fractions of an inch. To get information about a key simply touch and hold that key and information about the key will be provided.

Conclusion: This app was designed by an architect for architects and it shows.  I love it’s simple intuitive interface, and if my iPhone’s in my pocket the app is already with me.  The only drawback I see to this app is that it only works on an iOS device.  The only Android app I found that seems to be similar is “Feet Inch Calculator Free” by ByOne Coder, Inc.  If anyone has used Feet Inch Calculator or knows of a similar Android app, please let me know.

More Info:




Does Your Building Pass the Lick Test?

Cate Leger

Energy codes have done a good job of moving California architecture to more energy efficient buildings.  However, green building needs to also include green building materials.

Back in the 1990s a great deal of attention in the green architecture community was placed on materials.  Materials were researched and compared for their toxicity, life cycle impacts on the environment and human health, carbon footprint, sustainable yield, cultural impacts of extraction and more.  However, as concern about the climate has grown and disagreements sprang up on the ‘greenness’ of various building systems and materials, the focus has generally shifted to energy efficiency and more recently shifting to 100% renewables.

While CALGreen has incorporated standards to limit off gassing of some toxic chemicals, there are many human and environmental health issues of materials these standards don’t address.  Here are some excellent resources to fill the gaps:

  • Healthy Building Network’s HomeFree offers a short, easy to use specification focused on indoor air quality and health. Healthy Building Network also has extensive database on chemical content and environmental impacts for thousands of products and great articles explaining their research.
  • The Living Building Challenge, a third party green building rating system similar to LEED, has a comprehensive Red List of chemicals to avoid and a database with materials meeting those standards.
  • The Green Science Policy Institute provides guidance on avoiding toxics in the home. They also have a series of short videos breaking down the toxic chemical landscape into 6 classes, allowing the layperson to understand the general problems.
  • The Forest Stewardship Council provides the most comprehensive third party certification for sustainably harvested wood.

What we build with also has a significant impact on the climate.  The embodied energy or the carbon footprint of building materials varies widely.  Using low carbon materials for construction is critical in addressing climate change because the greenhouse gas emissions savings are accrued earlier, at the time of construction, when they have the biggest impact.  Prioritizing low carbon materials can significantly reduce the lifetime carbon footprint, and in some cases even reverse it!

Metal and plastics in general have a very high carbon footprint.  Concrete, while lower in embodied energy per pound, is used in such great quantities that its global warming impact tends to dwarf that of other materials used in construction.  Blowing agents used in some of the foam plastic insulations have such high carbon footprints that their addition to a building can negate the operating energy savings for decades.  For more information, The New Carbon Architecture by Bruce King offers inspiring examples and details of low carbon construction.

If the health of workers, occupants and our planet are not reason enough to use healthy building materials, fire is yet another one. The toxicity of building materials and furnishings can be amplified when they are burned. Smoke that engulfed the North Bay – and blanketed the entire Bay Area – was laced with dangerous chemicals: dioxins, furans, hydrogen cyanide and heavy metals, threatening the health of all.  Sadly, firefighters are known to have some of the highest rates of cancer.  Frequent exposure to these kinds of chemicals may be a contributing factor.   Many of these dangerous chemicals are also left behind in the ash.

Accessible Path of…Exit…Route…?

Erick Mikiten, AIA, LEED-AP

As architects talk about accessibility, three terms often get caught in a bit of a mash-up, as they did in my title: Accessible Route, Path of Travel, and Accessible Means of Egress. Here’s a brief summary to help you see the differences, followed by a more detailed explanation:

Accessible Route

This is a general term for the floor surface or exterior surface that allows someone with a wheelchair or other mobility aid to get from one accessible part of a building or site to another.

Path of Travel

This is a subset of Accessible Routes; it’s used only in California Building Code (CBC) Chapter 11B in relation to alteration projects.

Accessible Means of Egress

For this phrase, think of Egress as the focus; it’s about getting out of a building in an emergency, and may not be the route or path people use to get in.

Now let’s get into more detail:

Chapter 2 (Definitions) of the CBC describes Accessible Route as “a continuous unobstructed path connecting accessible elements and spaces of an accessible site, building or facility that can be negotiated by a person with a disability using a wheelchair, and that is also safe for and usable by persons with other disabilities. Interior accessible routes may include corridors, hallways, floors, ramps, elevators and lifts. Exterior accessible routes may include parking access aisles, curb ramps, crosswalks at vehicular ways, walks, ramps and lifts.”

An Accessible Route should not be confused with a “Circulation Path,” which is a more general term for all the paths pedestrians use to get from one place to another, which can be the same elements as the Accessible Route, but can also include elements like stairs and landings, which are not accessible elements.

The Accessible Route on your site starts at Site Arrival Points, which can be accessible parking spaces and/or passenger loading zones, public streets and sidewalks, and public transportation stops, and extend to the accessible building entrance. If you have multiple Site Arrival Points, they all need to have an Accessible Route to the entrance. If you are not otherwise providing pedestrian access (a site with only vehicular access), then you don’t have to create a separate Accessible Route.

Next, Path of Travel: This is the code terminology, but think of it as “Accessible Path of Travel” because it is specifically intended to be accessible. As stated above, this is a subset of Accessible Routes applicable to an existing site, building, or facility that’s used to approach, enter, or exit an area.

The Path of Travel extends from the area of work (alterations or addition) to the building entrance and may include Site Arrival Points (sidewalks, streets, parking, and passenger loading zones on site). Inside, the path may also include certain building elements such as toilet and bathing facilities, telephones, drinking fountains and signs serving the area of work. Next time one of your colleagues talks about the Path of Travel in a new building you’re working on together, you can gently correct them and explain that they mean Accessible Route.

An Accessible Means of Egress (Section 1007), is a subset of a general Means of Egress (MOE), Chapter 10 which consists of three components: 1)The Exit (typically a door leading outside, or in a multistory building an enclosed exit stairway), and the paths on either side of it. Those are: 2) the Exit Access (the path from anywhere in the building to the Exit), and 3) the Exit Discharge (the path from the Exit to the Public Way, generally a street or alley).

Those components might include both accessible and inaccessible elements. For example, people may enter a building through a lobby and elevators, but in an emergency, the elevators may not be usable and are not part of the general Means of Egress. In a multi-story building, the occupants have to exit using the stair. Although the stair have usability aspects to them (rise and run requirements, gripable handrails, etc.), they are not part of an Accessible Route, so an Area of Refuge may be required, except in buildings equipped with an  automatic sprinkler system.

There are situations where the Means of Egress are not accessible, such as exiting from an upper level or basement. In those cases people who can’t use stairs need to be protected from a hazard. In most cases, an automatic sprinkler system provides this. If the building does not have an automatic sprinklers system the ability to get to the safety of the stairwells or to an elevator may be required. This would be an “Area of Refuge” under section 1007.6. In this case, both the enclosed stairways and elevator may need to be provided with an Areas of Refuge, which are designated areas outside the required exit path where people can await assistance. Two-way communication is required so that people in these areas can contact rescue personnel.

Similarly, the Exit Discharge on the exterior side of the Exit may sometimes open directly to an alley with no space for a ramp, or have other conditions such as steep terrain that is not wheelchair-accessible. So the code requires either an Area of Refuge inside the building or an Exterior Area of Rescue Assistance separated by the building by at least a one-hour wall. This is often preferable to the interior Area of Refuge, as it is open-air (no potential trapped smoke) and people with disabilities awaiting assistance are more visible to emergency personnel.

Kerwin Lee, AIA

Kerwin’s Comments: Means of Egress for people with disabilities has always been a second thought in the code. Early requirements for people with disabilities was to get them into a building, with no requirements for getting them out. It has only been recently that the code recognizes elevators as not only usable by the Fire Service to access a building, but to use for evacuation and even part of a required means of egress for high-rise buildings. What is not covered in the code is having evacuation plans, especially for people with disabilities. The worst thing in an emergency is to see everyone leaving the building and potentially leaving a person with disabilities behind.

Knapp Architects: Firm Profile

Knapp Architects focuses on protecting and enhancing the value of historic resources—improving the “built environment” by protecting the best of what is already built. The value of historic places is based on the contemporary social view of history and the buildings and places created over time. We work to help other design professionals, owners and users of buildings, and outside stakeholders and regulatory agencies to articulate the significance of existing buildings, weigh realistically the treatment options for them, and complete successful construction projects which will stand the test of time.

Our role is to clarify the status and intrinsic qualities of a building or place; discern how a project would affect it; communicate options and their implications clearly to all participants in the design process; and produce documents which foster a constructive decision-making process and successful construction. On most projects, our role is not to tell others what to do with a building (except through construction drawings and specifications), but rather to explain how the community sees the building or where it ranks under objective historical standards, and to explain the ramifications of treatment options. We bring creativity and insight to the search for options for preserving historic buildings while maximizing their programmatic performance.

In the world of historic preservation, where some professionals deal only in a single specialty, we are generalists. Our scope of experience and skills ranges from architectural services, including conditions assessments, construction drawings and specifications, and construction-phase services; to research and documentation, including National Register nominations and Historic American Building Survey (HABS) documentation; environmental review and regulatory work, including federal 20% historic tax credits and compliance with CEQA, local preservation ordinances, and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; to assessments and studies, including Historic Structure Reports and feasibility studies. Our projects range from repairing one component of a small building to overall rehabilitation of a large building. We work both as prime and as a consultant.

Our staff is comprised of licensed architects with more than 40 years’ combined experience in historic preservation; additionally, our firm has longstanding relationships with specialty professionals in sub-disciplines of architecture and preservation as well as professionals in other disciplines, such as structural engineering and landscape architecture, who have deep experience with historic properties.

Recent projects include California Memorial Stadium and Blum Hall/Naval Architecture Building at UC Berkeley, the Kelly Cullen Community (former Central YMCA) in San Francisco, the Hay Barn at UC Santa Cruz, and 50 United Nations Plaza and the Bayview Opera House in San Francisco. Current projects include two each at Stanford and Berkeley, two hotels in San Francisco, historic rental housing at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Presidio Theatre, and several projects at Mare Island.

Property and building owners we have worked for include UC Berkeley, Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, the East Bay Regional Park District, the National Park Service, Lennar Mare Island, BRIDGE Housing, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, JMA Ventures, and Embarcadero Capital Partners.

We have worked as consultants on teams led by Mark Cavagnero Associates,  Fernau + Hartman, Gelfand Partners Architects, Gensler, HNTB, Hornberger + Worstell, Noll & Tam, Olson Kundig Architects, PGAdesign, PlaceWorks, Ratcliff Architects, and Van Meter Williams Pollack.

The Backhouse: Project Profile

Barbara K. Westover, AIA, Architect had a client who desired to remodel their existing Piedmont “Backhouse” into a functional second unit. It was a Sisyphean endeavor but with a good ending.


There were many obstacles. The existing structure put the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) well over acceptable limit, encroached 6” onto the neighboring property, was resting on the sewer line and over a cleanout manhole and had a negative reception from one neighbor.

The client requirements included a full kitchen, comfortably sized bathroom, washer/dryer, dining area, king sized private bedroom, social area with a large screen TV and lots of storage. We accomplished all requirements, but downsized the bed from a king to a queen.

We were permitted with conditions: build on the existing footprint, re-use the existing materials, remove the encroachment, create access for the manhole and comply with codes.

The 380sf backhouse has a central spine that supports a crown of windows – Gambrel forms at the ends to be contextual with the house style and vertical clerestory windows longitudinally. With a top height over 15’ the windows direct light into the space all day.

The kitchen is a one-person domain with a full sized refrigerator, small electric oven, dishwasher drawer, and a two-burner cooktop. A cookie tray can be washed flat in the sink and the counter extends flush into the bay window. To make the social space more unified, the door to the bathroom is set into a patterned wall with a touch latch spring opener.

Storage is generous throughout the space. A podium for the queen sized bed provides extra storage along with the loft, accessible with an attic stair in the bedroom ceiling, and above the seating in the social space. Lighting throughout the space includes Solatubes, fluorescent cove lighting, down lights and task lights. The heater is located in an accessible space under the house.

The project works like functional art, but creating it was more like ship building. The clients, however, were pleased and enthusiastic with the final product.

Liesel Haldane, Assoc. AIA: Member Profile

Liesel Haldane, Assoc. AIA started her career at the Florida Park Service while in graduate school for landscape architecture at Florida A&M University.  The Park Service’s Bureau of Design and Construction provided in-house architectural services to the more than 160 parks in the state of Florida.  As an engineering technician, she drafted a 250 seat amphitheater at Big Lagoon State Park, a two-story concessions building at Sebastian Inlet, and a large assortment of ADA renovations, restroom facilities and roof repairs.  Thanks to her early work experiences, Liesel quickly realized that she didn’t want to limit herself to flatwork and happily changed her degree path to architecture.  She started the IDP while still in school, and received her M.Arch. in 2010, just in time for the Great Recession to hit the government sector.

When the economy bounced back, so did she, this time at Hoy+Stark Architects in Tallahassee.  She worked on several projects that have recently been completed, including City Church at Sessions Road and Market Plaza.  City Church transformed an existing warehouse and former skate rink into a sanctuary for contemporary services with a cafe and office spaces.  Challenges included acoustical design of the space for live amplified performances and meeting budget requirements.  Market Plaza was a core/shell project with two simultaneous restaurant tenant improvements. The projects required significant coordination efforts throughout the design phases, as well as on-site construction administration.  Other projects included renovations/additions at local schools, a design study of the state capitol’s parking garage and plaza, as well as a residential pool cabana.  She also became involved in the AIA as the Associate Director of the local chapter, and attended state and national conventions with the Hoy+Stark team.

Liesel moved to California with her husband, daughter, and two Weimaraners in 2015, and very recently settled in Berkeley where she also works, at ELS Architecture and Urban Design.  With only one ARE left to complete, Liesel plans to become licensed in both Florida and California very soon.

ArchNews November 2017

November ArchNews is out now! Click the links below to read each article:

Project Profile: Megan Carter, AIA of CB Design
AIA East Bay Design Awards Reception and Presentation: November 28, 2017
Codes: Tiny Homes
CoolTechStuff: Colored Photovoltaics
Post-Disaster Safety Assessment Training
Members News
Firm Profile: Goring & Straja
Member Firm has Office Space for Rent
Member Profile: Len Freeman, Assoc. AIA
Take Over the AIA!
Call for Submissions: Grant for Housing Innovation

Member News – November 2017

Members Featured

Alex Bergtraun, AIA of Studio Bergtraun Architects was featured in East Bay Times for his involvement as an Eagler Mentor in the design and building of a Solano Avenue Parklet.
Click here to read the article.




Chris Craiker, AIA spoke to the Napa Valley Register about the rise in popularity of secondary housing conversions in Napa. Click here to read the article.

Len Freeman, Assoc. AIA: Member Profile

Len Freeman, Assoc. AIA is a 2011 graduate of the University of Texas, Arlington where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture.  As a current member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board as well as new associate member of the American Institute of Architects, Freeman is on his way as he pursues licensure­­­­­.

Freeman comes from a rigorous academic background that began while attending Oakland Technical High School’s engineering academy in Oakland, which influenced his professional career. With the knowledge he learned, he progressed into his undergraduate studies.  It was not until undergrad that he faced great challenges – sleepless days, nights, months and years that tested his loyalty to his profession. Nevertheless, his dedication allowed him to prevail and he blossomed into the strong critical thinker that he is today. His unique pattern of thought lives between space and anti-space.

He has worked on a variety of project types including, K-12, higher education, residential, commercial and retail architecture. The diversity in project types has helped Freeman grow personally and professionally within the realm of design. In his past role as a project leader, he learned how technology affects project work flows. He also managed the production standards development, while handling construction schedules, budgets, agency requirements. He did all this while performing a variety of tasks involving schematic design and construction administration.

Freeman works as a senior project coordinator for BRW Architects in San Francisco. There he focuses on a variety of municipal, civic and fire station tenant innovation projects. While working with these various projects throughout California and Texas, he upholds the company’s values and commitment to client service. Freeman is unwavering, independent and jumps hurdles without batting an eye. His demeanor remains very calm and professional under pressure and he continues to have fun throughout this evolving world of architecture. My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.  -Mya Angelou

Tiny Homes: Codes

Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

Sparked by all of the conservation efforts, tiny homes have recently been presented in TV programs and other forms of media.  Call it a social movement – where people are choosing to downsize the space they live in. The most popular reasons for downsizing includes environmental concerns, financial concerns, and the desire for more time and freedom from the cost and effort of having a large home. One solution is to live smaller. While tiny houses are not for everyone, there are some good aspects for this approach. The typical American home is over 2,000 square feet, whereas the typical small or tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet.

There are some huddles for taking this approach that need to be addressed in the rules and regulations associated with construction. Both the local zoning regulations and building codes have many elements that could prevent construction of tiny homes in our cities and/or neighborhoods. We will only look some of the building code issues associated with this movement.

First, if the tiny home is on a foundation it will be regulated by the building codes. If the tiny home is on wheels or axles, it is considered a mobile home and would be regulated under those rules. Factory built homes also fall under a different set of regulations, outside of the building code. Currently the state does not have any specific regulations addressing tiny homes, but Housing and Community Development (HCD) has issued a bulletin (Bulletin 2016-01) on what current regulations do cover. Every building in the State needs to comply with something. Here is a link to the Bulletin issued by HCD:

The current building codes, California Building Code or California Residential Code would place some limitations on tiny homes and perhaps would end up not making them so tiny. Currently the codes do address the following in some way:

  • Minimum floor areas
  • Minimum ceiling heights
  • Minimum stair geometries, including handrails and guards
  • Exit and egress windows

If one were to design and build a tiny home – how would you go about getting through the building approval process? Using the code as is today, it is possible to come up with something that is less than 400 sf and would still be comfortable. If one were to design something smaller and push the design envelope beyond the code, the best way under the current code would be to approach it with the use of Section 104.11: Alternative Materials, Design and Methods of Construction. Even using this code approach, one would have to justify why a smaller stair geometry, for example, meets the intent and provides a reasonable level of safety. One would have to do some research in finding justification through test data that a different geometry is as safe as what is in the code.

There is another approach and some light at the end of the tunnel. Proposed for the 2018 edition of the International Residential Code is a new appendix section V. This new appendix will address some of the issues in permitting tiny homes, such as ceiling heights and stair geometry. It is proposed as an appendix section, which makes it optional for the local building official to use and/or adopt. The 2018 edition of the International Codes will be available soon. To even allow this appendix to be in the code was controversial. If the standards for tiny homes are acceptable, why not apply these to all homes since the code is a minimum standard? Some building officials thought the appendix would open a can of worms for smaller/lesser standards to be used everywhere and therefore compromising the already minimum safety standards.

If we expand our use of tiny homes to tiny condos/apartments, sometimes called efficiency dwelling units, we need to address and include people with disabilities. This is another area, totally dependent on space.