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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pella expo, new projects

I attended the Pella Expo this week at the Link in Philadelphia. Once again, the highlights of the show for me were the talks by Steve Mouzon. He is the author of a couple books I have enjoyed and in fact often refer to. Check out his original green site if you haven't already. In any event, these talks were full of seemingly obvious one liners that none the less seem fresh enough to bear repeating. Here are a couple:

1) the program is the most oversold thing happening in architecture.
2) no equipment is more efficient than "off"
3) Non-functional shutters, lets call them what they are, screw on do nothings.
4) small is the new luxury. It allows the stuff to be of better quality.
5) the architecture profession is choking on complexity. It needs to simplify, rely more on commodity.
6) The myth of no-maintenance. It doesn't mean it doesn't need to be maintained. It means it can't be maintained. All you can do is rip it off and replace it.
7) self evident operation. The fatter the instruction manual, the shorter the lifespan.
8) the larger the margin of error, the longer it lasts into an uncertain future.

Any one of these deserves its own seminar, but perhaps I'll dive in to a couple of them as the year progresses. Great food for thought. Thanks Steve, and by all means I recommend a visit to his sites and various publications. Good stuff.

In the meantime, the year has started off with increased activity in a couple of areas. I've done projects to sell for the low 200's (a twin development, one side master up, one master down), a million and a half dollar 4800 s.f. home, and a couple projects in between, a 2500 sf master down plan, a 3200 s.f. two story, and a larger two story for a builder to move into and use as a model home. While the larger home is more European in its stylistic leanings, the other plans seem to rely on a more American aesthetic, a sort of vernacular colonial. I'm not sure why, but I suppose it reflects a desire for a more functional, less "look at me" sort of aura that buyers want to express. I've had several requests to delete the dining room, and put a large table space in the kitchen. It's pretty much normal now to put doors on the living room and call it the office. The former study seems to be morphing into a kid's playroom or TV area, or else a 1st floor guest room, if there is space for a full bath.

The twin plan is notable in that the table space was moved right into the kitchen. The kitchen is open to the living space as much as the structure allows.

The other thing that seems to be happening in Pa. is the end of using I-joists on the 1st floor. Our legislature passed a law which eliminated required sprinklers from the code in one and two family dwellings. This comes at the expense of drywalling the basement ceiling if anything less substantial than a 2x10 is used as a floor joist. The problem is that no one has figured out how to treat all the penetrations of the drywall for plumbing drops, electric lines, and especially HVAC ductwork. If one just soffits around the trunk lines and drywalls that, then in essence in the event of a heater fire (most likely location) you've just trapped the flames inside the envelope with the same members you are attempting to protect. Once again, Pa. in its haste to do the right thing quickly has become the industry's guinea pig. This provision is in the 2012 code, which I doubt is actually in use anywhere yet. The I-joist manufacturers are trying to develop spray on flame retardants which are approved rather than drywall, but this is a new industry and hasn't been fully vetted at this point. Another unfunded, untested mandate pushed in to law before its ready. Ironically, this is occurring even as our state government's mechanism for adopting new codes has just announced it would not be adopting any of the 2012 codes, and is looking for a 6 year rather than a 3 year horizon for even considering changes. Hopefully this basement drywall issue will be our state's swan song in leading the country in adopting unproven construction techniques as being required.

So enough of a rant for today. Maybe next month I'll tackle programming in architecture. Is it a booger bear that limits the adaptability and useful lifespan of our buildings, or is it the spark that ignites the process of them getting built in the first place. If it is both, then how should we better reconcile the differences?

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