Saturday, March 7, 2009


The intent is three fold:

1. I want to share an overview of my perceptions regarding the evolution of major Architecture trends over the past 100+ years. 2. I will propose a direction that I think architecture should be going as the world moves deeper into the current millennium.

3. I will share a few highlights of recent experiences in my professional life.

My perspective for these three blogs will be art aesthetics’ fundamental principle of defining “totality in art” as consisting of the Object, the Observer and the Artist-- to this; I would add “time” to account for the unique nature of Architecture and the performing arts. Additionally, we must consider the environment for architecture and other environmental “art”.

I accept that most aestheticians consider Architecture to be a “servile” or useful art as is pottery, etc... In the main stream of architecture this is appropriate; however, there is a level of architectural endeavor that I contend transcends servility to demand evaluation as pure art, not withstanding the inherent functionality of the “transcended” architecture. I have enjoyed a limited but unique involvement in transcendent architecture.

I am dealing in terms of a “first principles” orientation in my priority thinking. If we can agree on these first principles or agree to their amendment then a meaningful dialogue can develop regarding the future of architecture in the service of mankind.

See Blogs one and two

Friday, March 6, 2009

Part One - The last 100 years of Architecture

Architecture was rooted in historic eclecticism, leaving the age of agriculture and entering the industrial age. This was the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. The overwhelming focus of the architect was on the edifice and the architect’s fate hung on his bias/talent regarding particular architectural styles and the preferences of the culture/patron regarding the acceptability of those styles. Functional aspects of architecture were rudimentary and static in the eclectic design process.

There was at that time, economic and social pressure to embrace and adapt design styles that utilized the products of industrialization as well as the many advances in transportation in the design of the built environment. Entirely new building types (railroad stations etc.) were being enshrined in the eclectic past. Eiffel had designed his tower in Paris and other structural engineers were exploring cable suspension and reinforced concrete structures as well as iron/steel framing. The ball fell in the architect’s court to “get up to date”.

Primary responders were the architects of the “Bauhaus” school in Europe and the more informal “Chicago” school in the US. Eclecticism of the past became DOA and the concept of generational eclecticism was born. “Form follows Function” ,“Less is More” and “Unity in Design” became the architectural mantras of the time. This revolutionary shift in architectural focus enjoyed the support of youth and the tolerance of adults through to the last quarter of the 20th century.

During the last twenty five plus years of the 20th century, the first phase of the energy crisis emerged with general environmental concerns spawning advances in the applications of ecology and produced profound concerns regarding the built environment. “Sustainability” in the selection of construction materials, site selection and energy conception of buildings became a dominant theme or at least a concern of architects. Paradoxically, during this same time, architectural thinking experienced a new generational shift; returning to a focus on the visual aspects of exterior design and interior design became an independent outcome of the edifice. This brings us to the near present and the next section of the blog.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Part Two - Architecture for the 21st Century

Architects have long held that building for permanence is the ultimate objective of well designed architecture throughout history. Combining permanence with the historic maxim of architectural priorities in design is (from the Greco-Roman era) - first commodity, then firmness and lastly delight. Combining permanence with the prioritization of commodity, firmness and then delight, provides a value system to develop architecture for the 21st century. To adopt this value system is to reject recycling of the building in total as being too costly and unsustainable over the long run. This type of design recycling has been tried in the last century and is practiced in some areas of our culture.

For society to embrace this value system (Lets call it permanent-functionality or PF architecture), however, constrains future generations to accept, and adapt the future long-lasting PF architectural entity to the ever evolving needs/values of future users. I note that buildings are regularly designed and built for their recycle-ability (steel buildings); they are not often regarded as architectural accomplishments and usually outlast their usefulness, without being recycled.

With proper foresight and planning, architectural interiors can be adaptable and recycled to maintain functionality into the future and the exterior “edifice” designed to embody the best that the current generation has to offer. As such it should warrant the respect of “properly educated” future generations.

It behooves us, to reexamine our approach to permanent-firmness as we witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorist misuse of a plane type that did not exist when the building was built. There is also the environmental impact of unforeseen weather change challenging the design criteria for the 21st Century.

At the present time our culture does not demonstrate high standards of ethical behavior. (This is an understatement if ever there was one.)
However, the future it seems to me mandates an “energy ethic” in all matters of design activity. The only way to apply this ethic is for the culture to demand it, mandating that the client require it and that the architect equip themselves to provide it. Ethics used to be, until about 1970, an integral part of professional behavior standards.

We must culturally value energy as the primary yardstick of our present and future wellbeing, and mandate its conservation in front of, but not in place of other environmental concerns and for its own (energy’s) sake as well as the future of our culture. Energy is, after all, the only thing that sustains us and without it in plentiful quantity, we would quickly regress into tribal cultures.

I have determined that valuing energy by its cost per se is not useful in accomplishing energy conservation, as cost rates are understandably designed to promote consumption not conservation. That is not to say that energy cost issues like demand charges, applied during periods of high energy usage, should not be considered. They should be addressed in the design process to the benefit of all.

PF Architecture should strive to define itself in the permanent-delight arena through a reexamination of the historic principles of good-great architectural design and a disciplined adaptation and commitment to the use of contemporary permanent materials to create cultural value.

Based on previous experience, PF architecture is accomplishable within the traditional range of building construction budgets, by applying priority thinking in the design process and the results would embody the highest aspirations of our culture.

This brings us to part three of the blog - A series of my professional experiences that have a bearing on creating PF architecture for the 21st Century.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Part Three – Professional Experience to Date

My experiences address all aspects of architectural endeavor. I will be adding to this section as time allows.

“Architecture as fine art”
(delivered on time and on budget)

I enjoyed the privilege of working on an important project recently that involved the design work of some of the current leading architects and designers in the world. I speculate that this project, when completed, will be viewed as “fine Art” in the manor of the Sidney Opera House in Sidney Australia - a cultural icon that commands many who visit Sidney to see the Opera House for the purpose of experiencing the architecture, without necessarily going to the opera.

My assignment was to evaluate the status of various design document submittals to determine their status and report on same to the owner. The owner used this process to evaluate design progress and to communicate concerns, if any, to the design team. I was asked to propose my own communications document for this purpose and to use their standard excel itemization form. I have attached specimen copies of these documents for the reader’s consideration.

In the course of this design document review process, we factored in the construction status of the design-build project at the time of the review and any interface issues that were observed. I discovered some interesting issues which were reported and addressed to the benefit of the project and it’s schedule. Examples included: clearance obstructions at service ramps to accommodate the clearance needed for semi-sized vans at slope transitions– sloping walls that intruded into public circulation areas- inadequate storage/service provisions for intended uses -a whole host of mis-coordinated utility lines and inadequate interstitial space to house the utilities, and so on.

The itemized concerns did not reflect negatively on the design teams but rather on the critical nature of the time frames available to produce the construction documents and the need for team work to keep the project on track and quality documents to permit and build by.

Report of June XX, XXXX

On: XHR – GMP - CD submittal review documents dated June XX, XXXX
Documents received: June XX, XXXX
A status report to date: XX-XX-XX
Reviewer: Clifford Gross

Overview of documents:

The drawing documents are estimated to be 85 to 90% complete. The contents were found to be as identified in the tables of content except for the following: Volume X 1801.02 General notes is missing, Volume X 1A00.03-2 Drawing Index is missing, Volume X various sheets and groups of sheets are out of order compared to the index and some sheets have minor differences in their labeling. The completeness of the documents exceeds the indexed sheets that are noted as not included in the set.

The design team has submitted a Supplemental Narrative dated June XX, XXXX which delineates the design team’s take on document completeness and defines scope not shown which is to be “considered” in the GMP pricing.

As noted in the narratives, the upper floor plans are incomplete and subject to redesign. We observe that the common areas are also incomplete and that includes the roof top penthouses for mechanical and other service components as well as lightning/aircraft/window washing equipment on the rooftop proper. The design is incomplete with regard to references to common (vol. X) and other details/data contained in the discipline sets.

If the plan variations shown in the architectural are complete then about 15% of the architectural variations are not specifically addressed in the other disciplines. This is in addition to the upper floor units that are in redesign. Coordination and detailing is lacking in the accessing requirements for mechanical and electrical devices in the Int. Design drawings.

The drawing set relies heavily on generic detailing to explain the design. Many of these details are not identified in a manner to use for keying in their usage. Additionally items like recirculation water heaters and pumps are required in the overall HW/CW circulation diagrams but could not be found in the set except for a generic detail defining an unspecified electric water heater and 24” x 24” ceiling access hatch to service and replace the unit; although, electrical service requirements for the heater and pumps was noted on the drawings.

The mechanical design discontinues the use of a 72” x 18” duct at the 32nd floor but the design has not captured this area above the 31st floor for use in the salable area of the design. Door scheduling information for interior design could not be found and the door information in the Block X Common, Volume X is incomplete.

Selected additional issues noted:


1. Code analysis missing
2. Delete references to remodel/modernization work unless they apply to this portion of the work
3. Detail to close interior wall to exterior skin where there is no exterior mullion to close to not designed yet.
4. Coordination lacking in back of house areas for door openings.
5. Coordination of roof plan needed regarding roof hatches and window washing gear.
6. Coordination lacking between disciplines in the treatment of the portals in wood casing materials on ID drawings.
7. Most access panels are not yet located on the ID interior drawings.
8. Many units not completed including BVIII and BIX
9. Significant conflicts need coordination on Floor 66 regarding layout.

Interior Design:

1. Many detail callouts missing and miss-used
2. Many furniture and finish call-outs missing
3. Coordination of portal design missing for most units and not shown for others.
4. FA – SD and sprinkler head notations missing from many elevations.
5. ID door schedule not found and/or not complete.
6. Access panel locations for FD and plumbing not found.
7. Coordinate callout of details to show backing and wall attachment for interior details


1. General notes sheet two of two is missing.


1. Listed sheet number 1A.03-0 is missing from the set per the index.
2. Provide missing Fire Damper details,
3. Various units have conflicts with FCO and water supply piping to same.
4. Coordinate various ceiling grilles/ducts with ceiling heights
5. W/D units are missing from set and or not coordinated.
6. Some duct work needs additional furring space.
7. Many upper floor units not complete.
8. FD accesses where duct access will not work needs detailing.


1. Listed sheet number 1A.03-0 is missing from the set per the index.
2. Coordinate piping in over-all plans with layout.
3. Provide detail references for roof drains and overflows.


1. Various sheets listed in index missing from set.


1. See itemized lists by discipline and sheet numbers to locate all noted concerns.
2. A comprehensive review of XHR Structural, Mechanical/Plumbing, Electrical/Telecom, in addition to any missing disciplines like civil has not been completed at this time. Volume X XMR not reviewed.

A listing of coordination issues by sheet reference would be attached at the end of the report.
A copy can be sent if requested. The document would not upload to this blog site.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Part Three - Professional Experience - To Date

“Energy Efficient Architecture”

At the beginning of the programming phase of my architectural planning, I evaluate the suitable geometric form options to provide adequate visual contact with the environment and at the same time minimizing the area extent of the exterior envelope to minimize heat loss/gain. This exercise also controls/reduces first cost.

After a suitable form is determined, occupancy patterns are evaluated to determine the advantage of having heat storage features incorporated into the building. If possible, and it usually is, mass density can be used to reduce temperature change during unoccupied hours to reduce energy consumption. Note that this feature usually provides reduced demand loads as well.

Excess heat output from lighting and occupants become part of the energy supply to be stored. Gravity stack action in air movement needs to be incorporated into the ventilation if possible.

This comprehensive approach to design and conservation of energy is in addition to the code imposed criteria for conservation. In this mandated part of the process, serious attention needs to be given to the placement of insulation in exterior assemblies to take advantage of the thermal mass portion of the assembly and its access to the interior and/or exterior.

The conservation of energy must be a concerted design team effort and needs to include the owner to seriously evaluate all aspects of the design for its energy consequences during the life of the building. Energy consumed in the creation of the building is a secondary issue when compared to the long term energy impact over the life of the building. From a Planning and Site design perspective, the energy consequences of the building’s location, both in the community and with-in the site, are also important due to the long term energy consequences.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Part Three - Professional Experience to Date

The Potential of Solar Energy

I undertook a research project before I left Washington State for Las Vegas. I wanted to equate the capture-able solar energy that lands on a school roof in that environment and compare it with the energy required to operate the school. In order to do this accurately, I was able to get the help of a Scandia Labs solar specialist to provide resource data and guidance.

I selected a twenty classroom elementary school in suburban Seattle that was designed to meet pre-energy code criteria and was all electric. This made the energy consumption calculation simpler. The school was a 45,000 sq. ft.(funding area) single story four building complex with exterior circulation, using covered walkways and play areas for rainy day recesses. I estimated the net usable roof area for a photovoltaic system to be 62,000 sq. ft. The school did not have refrigerant cooling systems.

The system was assumed to be installed flat, or near flat, using the then state of the art silicon chip wafer system, with, I believe, 20% conversion efficiency. Because of the overcast/rainy weather typical of the area, I found that a flat system is somewhat more efficient with, a lower overall output than there would be in the sunny southwest.

I included the losses incurred with conversion to AC energy and did not consider storage to balance the internal loads, assuming instead that the off time energy would be used to “run the meter backward” for use by others.

Surprisingly, the result was very impressive in that the annual energy out was roughly equal to the average energy consumed on an annual basis over a three year period.

This is in my mind very significant as photovoltaic systems have progressed today and include film type collector technologies and improved efficiencies. It would be fun to revisit this project and see what today’s results would yield.

Needless to say, I could not at the time generate serious interest for funding a pilot project to demonstrate this reality. In the words of Scandia Labs, there must be a consumption angle in grant applications for the energy providers in order to get attention for any pilot solar project proposal. I understand that recently A utility co has entetained joining with school districts to jointly equip and service this type of system.

Solar energy landing on a un-equipped roof does no good and major degradation to many roofing systems. The energy is mostly wasted. These roofs, by and large, sit within electrical service grid systems, making their energy use possible around the clock without costly additions to the national grid system. The passive collection systems are low maintenance and at least, at that time, were considered not degradable with time.