Friday, August 13, 2010

Changing Spaces - advice on expanding or relocating one's business, from a design perspective.

Our economy has led to a new beginning for many businesses. If yours is a retail, restaurant or office-based enterprise - or if you are starting up a new business - there is much to consider in regards to a possible relocation or remodel.
Change for your business may involve one or more of the following: creating a new space, remodeling an existing space or switching to an entirely new location.
Regardless of the nature of the change in one's business location, as an integral part of your business and marketing plan you’ll likely consider inventory, equipment for storage, display and point of sale. It's also important to thoroughly consider the design of the space for your new business location. In order to get it right the first time, plan to include help from design professionals.

Your retail business will benefit from a merchandising designer to maximize impact of entry, point of sale and product layout. Interior designers can help a business owner guide their space planning and optimize furnishings and color.

An architect will provide space planning, coordinate design and building code compliance needs, as well as assemble and coordinate your consultant group.

Restaurants should consider restaurant design consultants to assist in finalizing menu design, establishing kitchen/work center layout, equipment selection and procurement, as well as staffing and training. Restaurateurs should also look to their architect to squeeze the most from limited planning time.

In order to ensure a successful remodel, be sure to budget adequately for upgrades to your new or remodeled location. Even the simplest improvements must include often overlooked expenses for paint, floor and ceiling finishes, minor carpentry and lighting fixtures. Budgets for more complex upgrades should include design and permitting fees and costs for interiors or construction upgrade work.

Also don't forget to schedule adequate time for design, construction and set-up/installation. Your opening date will come at you fast, so anticipate schedule slip and build extra time into your schedule. Maximize marketing impact by advertising your grand opening. The luster is lost when you're forced to postpone.

If you're contemplating a new or first location lease or purchase, consider a due-diligence study of the building or lease space. Whether you're buying or leasing a space, it's wise to know precisely what you're getting and how you might use the space prior to signing an agreement.

An architect can help by reviewing your prospective space and evaluating existing systems, as well as confirm that your business is compatible with the occupancy permit granted to the space you are considering.

Also make sure your new space is sized to accommodate your business. Resources are available through trade associations and merchandising indices to help establish a base floor area. In addition, concept sketches by an architect can help you determine if the new space is a good fit.

Wisdom dictates making prudent changes to adapt to the current business climate. Smart and judicious planning for one's new or expanded location will go a long way to help ensure business success.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Energy and Sustainability

Thoughts on Sustainable Design Standards
I stopped by a local building supply store recently to purchase a couple small items for a home project. While there I visited with the proprietor, a friend of mine, on how business was faring. He pointed out the new line of water heaters his store was carrying, explaining to me that he promotes the electric water heaters because of their superior energy efficiency over gas. I listened without interrupting while he explained how, in his training, he had learned that gas is inefficient because heat simply passes out through the flue. I smiled politely and excused myself to make my purchases.

My friends’ well intentioned but false expertise made me think of the difficult terrain the average consumer has to traverse to find the truth (consumer reports) when looking for answers about sustainable design and products. Like shopping for water heaters, shopping for good advice and guidance on sustainable building practices can be daunting and confusing.

Clearly, the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design) program is undisputed as North America’s most widely recognized effort to bring order and regulation to thinking in sustainable design. The LEED program bestows different levels of certification on participating projects based on accumulation of credits. These credits are awarded in recognition of a projects’ sustainable design features and capabilities based on pre-established criteria. Credits are awarded in each of five categories; site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Projects can earn additional points in a category called “innovation and design”. Under the current version of LEED, projects can apply for LEED certification under a number of different rating systems – each system addressing different project types such as commercial versus residential, or new construction versus remodel. Generally, under the latest version of LEED, a project can earn a maximum of 100 points under the rating system under which it is reviewed. LEED Certification – based on this accumulation of points – will be either certified, silver, gold, or platinum – certified being easiest to achieve taking the fewest points and platinum being the most difficult to achieve requiring the greatest number of points.

USGBC (US Green Building Council), the parent organization responsible for LEEDS, in 2009 established an organization called The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). GBCI runs the building certification efforts under the LEEDS rating systems and also runs their professional credentialing program – creating the LEEDS Accredited Professionals that are the approved “experts” when it comes to rating projects under the LEEDS system.

Things can get confusing for the consumer of sustainable design services – just as they can for the unwary water heater consumer – when we put on the binoculars and make a 360 degree sweep of the landscape.

Internationally, there are a growing number of sustainable building programs existing or in development, all designed to guide us down the right path to sustainable design. Each program is slightly different; each comes with its own accredited “expert”. There are also programs designed specifically to accredit experts with no specific sustainable rating system involved. A program called the National Sustainable Building Advisor Program (NasBAP) that began at Seattle Central Community College in Washington State cooperates with LEED and other programs offering rating systems. Under NasBAP a construction industry professional can become a “Sustainable Building Advisor” (SBA), officially recognized as being capable of dispensing sustainable building advice, but not considered an accredited professional under any given rating system.

Sustainable building certification programs available internationally number at least 10, including LEED. Each program seeks to educate on sustainable design issues. Most of these programs have similar content and requirements, or provide information that is similar, and base their certifications of materials and products on third party evaluations. All have scoring programs under which your development can be certified as some level of sustainable or “green” building. Again, nearly all have an accompanying sustainable “expert” accreditation.

Though most programs seek to capture a specific market internationally, some – such as LEED, Green Globes, or Collaboration for High Performance Schools (CHPS) – compete with each other for participants. Each of these programs strives to differentiate itself as the most desirable program to follow when seeking recognition for sustainable design of your building.

USGBC’s LEED program has been most successful at presenting a broadly based, workable and respected process. It has garnered broad support including nods from local, state and federal government agencies which often include LEED as a requirement in development.

Most current LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED AP) earned their accreditation under earlier versions of the LEEDS exam. For most current LEED AP, this meant a round of intense studies culminating in a one and a half to two hour online test that may seem to be as much about specifics of USGBC’s building rating system as it is about sustainable principles. LEED AP’s can include attorneys, marketing professionals, receptionists, product representatives, and – yes; architects and engineers. Under the newly minted LEED v3, LEED accreditation is stair-stepped with an entry level accreditation called “LEED Green Associate”. Only after achieving the basic level of LEED Green Associate can a professional go on to take the test for LEED AP. A level of accreditation called “LEED Fellow” is reserved for the most vaunted and diligent LEED aficionado.

USGBC’s LEED program has done the best at garnering the most support, but even LEED seems to be taking it’s lumps. A recent article in Portland Oregon’s Daily Journal of Commerce points out that the LEEDS program has suffered a significant drop in popularity among architects in the past year or so, suffering a 16% decline in support among architects nationwide compared with prior polling.

My belief is that over the next 5 to 10 years sustainable design measures will be written into our primary building codes. The currently sought after expertise in sustainability and the credentialing that goes with – as we know it today – will pass into history much like the popularity of ADA “expert consultants” waned with the codification of the Americas with Disabilities Act in the late 1990’s. Already this seems to be happening. USGBC has been working with ANSI and partners in state and federal government on some issues. The Green Globes rating system under the Green Building Initiative program (which originated in Canada) according to an April 1, 2010 press release, is working with ANSI to formulate adaptable standards covering commercial buildings. As is often the case, the state of California is leading with new legislation.

In January 2010, California adopted the nation’s first statewide mandatory green building standard; “CALGreen”. This new code, effective in January 2011, slashes water use, mandates the recycling of construction waste, and regulates indoor air quality setting minimum standards for materials in new homes, schools, hospitals and commercial buildings statewide.

It will be interesting to see just how and to what extent our currently existing sustainable building programs such as LEED play a role as green building initiatives are codified nationally and internationally. This is definitely a topic to watch.

If you simply want to follow current news in sustainable development, sustainable products, design and construction methods, the waters are equally muddy. In our office we receive a variety of sustainable design magazines in both digital versions and, if necessary, paper copies. A quick count of titles we’re familiar with shows at least 9 or 10 significant magazines or zines dedicated to the topic. Our favorite titles in house are GreenSource or EcoStructure. These can be great resources for sustainable products, news on legislation related to sustainability, case studies for sustainable designs, and design reviews.

Picture yourself once again back in that building supply store, your eyes resting on a row of gleaming white water heaters. Would you simply act on the advice given then and there, trusting that the training received by the sales person is accurate and making your purchase without doing your own “fact checking”? Maybe so. I can claim to have been guilty of irresponsible impulse buying in the past and will likely do so again.

In the case of shopping for expertise on sustainability, the bottom line is this: it’s easy to get lost in what can be an overwhelming array of sometimes conflicting opinions and information sources. Our advice is that you seek out and establish a relationship with a design professional – preferably an architect - that you can trust. Know the background, history, attitude, skill level and experience of your design professional regarding sustainable issues and sustainable design. Understand where they’re coming from, expect them to endeavor to understand you and your needs in the same way, and get on with the business of establishing a working a relationship.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Energy and Sustainability

Thermal insight

Early last Friday morning, Nick Marcyan of Interface Engineering , visited the Manley residence with a Fleer Thermal Imaging Camera to provide this architect with some additional insight and education on heat loss and the benefits of thermal insulation and infiltration control.

A rainy Friday morning, Nick unpacked the camera, and gave a brief, rain-free demonstration inside the house. Warm air curling out of a floor diffuser looks like flames in a fireplace. The insulating value of a standard poodles’ curly coat is impressive – our dog, Pepper, appeared royal blue as he walked through the cameras’ field of vision. The Fleer camera allowed Nick to pin-point surface temperatures within the image, and records the full range of temperatures in the image from low to high – lowest being dark blues and highest being bright reds.

Outside, under a light but steady rain, we began a walk-around. Outside air temperature was about 40 degrees. The thermal image results were telling. My prime concern was infiltration points from the basement and from aging double-hung windows at the older, un-remodeled areas of the house.

The first image that provided a surprise was of the building’s west wall at the kitchen/dining room area. During a remodel several years ago, a space that was originally a bedroom was remodeled into the kitchen. The existing lath and plaster in that room was stripped for access to studs for installation of new plumbing and electrical. The 4” nom studs at the kitchen exterior wall were insulated with R-19C batt. Adjacent spaces remained un-insulated. The Fleer image clearly shows the line between the insulated kitchen and the un-insulated dining room – a source of heat loss that won’t be corrected any time soon.

Nick, raising the camera to trace the line of the eaves and roof, surprised me with the assessment that my ceiling insulation, 12” of loose fill, was sound with no significant heat loss sources showing. Windows in the remodeled or added areas of the house are 14 year old Insulate Industries vinyl sash, insulated double hung, casement and awning windows (recently purchased by CertainTeed). This glass showed good retention of insulating qualities. Thermal images of these windows showed red at the window perimeter where window frame, glass and glass spacer all meet.

Andy Frichtl of Interface Engineering has explained that even new insulated glass units can be a trouble spot in heat loss. Through their commissioning work and efforts to achieve LEED ratings or net-zero energy/water/waste use in their projects, Interface has discovered that glass units in new job sites will often include units lacking argon gas. This creates a vacuum in the glass unit’s air space, causing the inner and outer panes of glass to touch or nearly touch at the center. In a thermal image, this phenomenon shows up as a corona like spot in the center of the pane known as a "thermal signature".

The 90 year old wood sash windows showed significant heat loss as expected. Interestingly, the tendency for heat - trapped between the storm window and the interior sash - to “rise” is readily apparent in the thermal image; shades of red gradating to a cooler yellow from the top of the upper pane to the lower.
Images of the foundation also proved out suspicions that the un-insulated concrete at the basement and crawl-spaces is a significant problem area.

For me, the lesson is that I need to complete work at my basement to insulate the concrete basement walls and isolate and insulate the crawlspace areas. Phase two: window replacement in older areas of the house. Not exactly zero energy use, but a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Energy and Sustainability

Manley Architects and Geo-Thermal Heating and Cooling
In our continuing effort to advance sustainability issues, Manley Architects recently updated HVAC systems at our home occupancy location to geo-thermal. The geo-thermal heat pump system was installed by Hendrickson HVAC of Battle Ground, Washington and engineered by Hendrickson’s own Howard Eck.

Geo thermal heat pumps operate at as much as 70% greater efficiency than conventional air to air heat pumps. Here’s how it works – simply stated. Using the stable temperatures found from 4’ and deeper below grade, a geo-thermal heat pump system circulates a refrigerant - typically water with an anti-freeze additive - through pipes in the ground known as the “ground loop”. The refrigerant absorbs or sheds heat through contact of the piping with the earth. The heat pump compressor unit then borrows the ground's heat (or sheds heat from the home if in cooling mode) much like a typical air to air heat pump, but using the earth’s stable temperature instead of outside air to heat or cool. The department of Energy has a decent primer on the basics (Dept of Energy Geo Thermal). Our system includes a 3 ton, 2 stage variable speed Climate Master heat pump, served by 2,400 linear feet of horizontal ground loop. A “de-super-heater” system uses waste heat from the home heating system to heat domestic hot water for further energy savings.

Given our small, built-out existing urban site and it’s distinctly Columbia River Valley soils sub-strates, our project created some real challenges and called for true creativity in engineering.

Optimally on a small footprint site, ground loops for refrigerant water will be “vertical”, grouted into cased wells drilled into the earth from vertical to about a 20 degree angle from vertical. A notable example of a geo-thermal heat pump installation on a small urban site is the design for the “Red Steps” building housing a TKTS outlet at Father Duffy Square, Times Square New York (Green Buildings New York). The TKTS booth, which is housed in an enclosure beneath the red steps, is conditioned by a geo thermal heat pump system served by wells. Our new system originally called for three 250’ deep wells. Our driller encountered cobble at a depth of about 20’. The material encountered is typical of gradated river rock deposited by the Missoula Floods during the last ice age. With its round “bowling ball” shape, the drill bit bounced off the cobble like a pinball in an arcade; entertaining, but unproductive! Drill rigs capable of handling the cobble were not available before the next heating season; it was time for plan B.

For us, plan B was making a horizontal ground loop on a small site pan-out. To make this happen, Hendrickson HVAC used a slinky coil arrangement for the ground loop piping and embedded the coils in pervious concrete at a depth of 4’. The higher rating for thermal conductivity of the pervious concrete increased the exchange of heat versus direct contact with soil just enough to make the system viable.

Our system has been up and running since the end of October 2009. In that time we’ve seen our natural gas usage (water heating and other uses) cut by more than 50%. We’re still evaluating our electricity savings as weatherization of the existing structure continues, but the savings in electric utilities also appear significant.

Along with the energy savings, our local public utility, Clark PUD, offers a $2,000 rebate for installation of a geothermal heat pump.  This is typical of programs offered by utility vendors nationwide. This when combined with existing federal tax credits and further incentives and tax credits recently proposed by the Obama administration make upgrades for energy savings and greater sustainability a choice everyone should consider.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Community Service

Roch Manley and Columbia Non Profit Housing
It’s going on one year since Roch Manley, president of Manley Architects, joined the board of directors for Columbia Non Profit Housing (CNPH Home Page) for a three year term. CNPH provides a variety of housing opportunities and housing related services to the Vancouver and Clark County community. This includes high quality, subsidized housing for elderly and persons with disabilities, and workforce housing to backfill available housing stock for individuals and families with moderate incomes.

CNPH deals with single asset entity properties in Clark County that provide housing under HUD Sections 202 and 811 as well as Workforce housing. CNPH was formed in 1981 under the wing of the Vancouver Housing Authority as a separate non-profit entity to facilitate use of federally funded housing programs otherwise unavailable to the VHA. The organization also offers opportunities for new first-time home buyers under it's First Home Loan program funded through local and state sources. Until very recently, CNPH also offered Mortgage Credit counseling under a locally funded program.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Project Feature

Journey Community Church
As another recent article in Vancouver's Daily Business Journal attested (Jan 15), the local construction industry has seen an uptick in the number of remodel or tenant infill projects relative to new construction. Journey Community Church, a project built by Schlecht Construction, designed by Manley Architects and completed for 2009 Christmas Services was featured in this and other recent articles.

The project is an argument for the range of possibilities in adaptive re-use of existing structures. The new home for Journey Church is Downtown Camas Washington's former Columbia Bar and Grille – a country and western themed tavern and dance hall which was for many years a recognized fixture of Downtown Camas. Most recently recognized for the unsightly painted plywood siding that dominated the 4th Avenue facade, covering what once were relatively elegant wood sash storefront windows.

From booze, peanut shells and line dances to worship, fellowship, family and contemplation, the transformation from honky-tonk to house of worship has seemed somewhat miraculous. The finished downtown church features an auditorium style worship space capable of seating 180 persons, several multi-purpose teaching spaces, a bookstore / resource space facing on 4th Avenue, and a second level teen ministry area along with a variety of support spaces.

The new facility tested the new City of Camas downtown development design guidelines which specify minimum standards for glazing on the commercial street front, awnings or rain covers to protect pedestrians from the weather and help modulate the visual scale on the streetscape, and a requirement for public art.

The completed Journey Community Church is one of several recent or current projects gracing 4th Avenue in Camas. These projects can, in the best light, be seen as pre-cursors to continued growth and economic health in Southwest Washington. Let the light shine on!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our Community, Our Economy

October 17 marks completion of two years of business for Manley Architects. 10 months into our first year, the economy began to convulse around us. Lehman Bros and Bear Stearns were making history, credit markets were folding like a card table after a losing poker night. The nightly news informed us that we were well into a recession and that the recession had, in hindsight, begun as Manley Architects first opened its doors.

The recession has hit the design and construction industry with a special malice. My associates and peers in the industry have seen and continue to see layoffs at a scale few of us have witnessed. In spite of this, most associates I speak with, regardless of the impact they've felt personally from the stumbling global economy, have shown a positive and upbeat face. Manley Architects has been fortunate during this time and has experienced modest expansion. For this we owe great thanks to our friends, associates and clients in our community.

Though our community, my community, has suffered along with the rest of the global economy, through the gloom a steady glow of hope and confidence that better days are near has shown. This comes out in the high level of activity, professionalism and community spirit that can be seen in the interactions at our local business and professional associations and service clubs. For those of us who have been in the Southwest Washington and Vancouver / Portland metro area business community for some time, this appears to be as it should be. We're accustomed to our local marketplace where knowing others in the community and the relationships and trust that are built over time are paramount over marketing collateral and cold calls. I am reminded of the difference between our metro area community and markets outside our area whenever I speak with someone new to our community. Inevitably, the comment will come out; “it's different doing business here”.

For Manley Architects, this leaves us with the sense that the rebirth of our new market is just around the corner. We are eagerly stepping into our third year of business with a feeling of optimism. We have a new respect for our allied businesses and associates who have endured in their businesses for many years and we feel camaraderie with those who like us are relative newcomers to doing business in this seeming brave new world.