Are You Ready???

Like anything else in life, the first step to finding an answer is to know what it is you need and want and, more broadly stated, who you really are.

Given the opportunity, any Architect can deliver a design and service. And it is true that some can deliver “better” than others. But what does “better” even mean? So where does the difference lie?
I consider a successful project one that delivers and serves the client’s needs and desires. (Forget about “on time” and “on budget”: sometimes even the most basic needs may not be met.) Does the architect really listen and understand your communication mode, personality, needs, values, quirks and passions?

It is also important that the process is enjoyable, so being compatible is an important element to a successful project.

Following are three steps you can take to prepare yourself for the process and perhaps simplify the all-so-complex architectural arena for yourself.

Identify your Values, Personality and Communication Style.

You may already know yourself quite well but how often do you share information about yourself upfront with the people you relate with? Probably not often enough.
We simply leave it up to other people to guess and make an opinion or assumption about who we may be– opinions that are often based on a sequence of very short meetings. But their interpretation of who we are is solely based on their experience, not our own. “Where are you going with this?” you may ask.

Well, I have found that misunderstanding is born out of unfamiliarity or, simply put, ignorance: ignorance of where somebody may be coming from, why they would say or do something.

 

It is essential to reach a high level of understanding and clear communication quickly. In fact, unlike in a marriage, the architect-client relationship does not have years to develop an in-depth connection, which is what is needed to collaborate successfully.

I would recommend that you compile the answers that first come to you when you ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do I value? What is important to me? (List the answers in order of importance)
  2. What am I usually like? What is my personality? (Reserved, serious, introverted, extroverted/social? Anything that comes to mind)
  3. How do I communicate best? Do I use humor a lot? What puts me at ease when talking to somebody else? Can I read visual information? Do I like to talk to people or do I prefer written communication? Am I usually long-winded or to the point?

This step can definitely be useful for yourself if you have never thought about it, and once you have a written list I would highly recommend sharing it with your architect. As we see later you can also encourage your architect to share answers to the same questions.

Knowing that you share similar values, that your personalities and your ways to relate to each other are compatible is really important to ensure that your project will run smoothly from the onset.

Compile a list of Needs, Desires and Priorities: “The Program”

“The Program”, as it is referred to in the architectural field, is no more than a list of your needs, desires and priorities for a project. Architects can perform these services for their clients, and the larger and more specialized the use of the building, the more critical this service is.

When thinking of a residence it may seem obvious what needs to go in a house. But there is more to it than the standard spaces to think about. It is important to identify who and how many occupants there are, how much room is needed, how much the residents cook (this may affect the size, equipment or details in the kitchen), how much they entertain, what activities are undertaken and/or if there is a need for any specialized room. It also contains information regarding the budget for design, which unfortunately often overrides other desired items.

This step is even more crucial for commercial spaces that serve specific uses and specialized activities such as a bakery, a dry cleaner, a gym or offices, as well as large projects like hospitals, laboratories, factories or other specialized structures.

Basically it is a list that provides the architect with a starting point.

It is especially useful to know specific information about the final user (number of people, background if necessary), the use, special activities that will take place in the structure, special equipment that will need to be accommodated, and anything that may not otherwise be anticipated or included by the architect.
This is true even in the case of a residence. People in fact often lead their lives in very different ways and some people may not be interested in having a formal dining room in addition to a large family room, for example.

Compile a visual sample of what makes your heart Sing!

Compiling a collection of images that convey style, feelings and tastes that inspire you is a very effective way to express the essence of what you would like to achieve.

One very effective tool that has appeared in the architectural arena recently is a website, www.HOUZZ.com.
In their own words “Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish …. Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality.”

One of the very effective tools that they make available is the ability to create “ideabooks” for different topics or spaces. In these folders you can organize images that are available from the thousands of other subscribers. You could create an ideabook for the overall architectural styles you like or even one for each room.

Whether you utilize this website or not, it is very important to start collecting images, articles, or other references that will assist you in identifying what the desired outcome of your project might look like.

Once you have all these aspects spelled out clearly, you can use these lists and other compilations as tools to keep as reference throughout the process. They can assist you in:

  1. Finding a professional that will fit your mold.
  2. Having a clear “road map” towards meeting your needs and desires.
  3. Sharing your thoughts clearly and easily.

Is Your Environment Nourishing you?

Learn how inner and outer environments govern the quality of our lives.

Is your Environment a supportive and nourishing one?

Well, that may seem like a very abstract question at first. Let me explain what I mean…

Our reality is created by our perceptions (coming from our 5 senses, thoughts and emotions). In turn, our perception is created by the environments that surround us.

So, for example, if someone were to ask you: “How was your day?”, your answer would be based on your perception of how your day went.

On any given day, would your answer be predominantly positive or negative?
Based on your prevailing mood the answer to this question could be a good starting point in establishing whether your environments could use some improvements or not.

When we are immersed in nourishing environments we feel curious, motivated, fulfilled and inspired.
Is Your Environment Nourishing You?

This is where I will share information about each of the elements in the image and how each one can be utilized to improve our environment, which in turn will also improve our perceptions and our reality.

You can find a little more information about this concept on our website.

And in the meanwhile please tell me, what is your environment like? Is it mostly positive?

Are you feeling curious, motivated, fulfilled and inspired?

Searching for the Perfect Real Estate

What should you look for when shopping for your Dream?

About1

Let’s face it, when people shop around for real estate property (whether a home, vacant land or commercial property) what most people are shopping for is a dream, a lifestyle or a stepping stone that will take them closer to realizing a vision or goal.

No matter whether there is a structure present or not, a new owner will most likely build, remodel, refresh or somehow personalize their new purchase.
But how many people are familiar with all the rules and regulations that govern their property of choice?

Each property and each location throughout the U.S. is unique and specific to the jurisdiction it is in. As most of my experience has been in Santa Barbara, California, keep in mind that some of this information may vary depending on where the desired property is located.

Generally speaking most properties fall under the jurisdiction of counties or cities and they govern them by means of zoning regulations or general plans, which are blueprints for city growth and development. These regulations dictate what uses are allowed but also regulate front, side and rear yard setbacks and open space requirements (if any).

In addition to the zoning regulations and land use requirements some jurisdictions may also have Boards or Committees to enforce local aesthetic or historical guidelines that were put in place to convey or preserve the special character and value of a whole city or specific neighborhood.

Fire Departments have a strong influence in how a lot can be developed: in fact, any development must meet their specific standards and in some cases these standards can undermine the feasibility of a project if there are physical site constraints that prevent a specific condition meeting their standard.

Easements are very common. Specific to individual lots, they are typically present to allow for construction of public roads and paths, installation and maintenance of utilities, or access to land-locked lots. They can, however, also address environmental preservation to safeguard sensitive wildlife habitat or corridors. Specific rules are attached to these easements and most commonly no permanent structure can ever be placed (or even encroach) within its boundaries.

HOAs (Home Owners Associations) often impose their own rules and regulations to properties within specific subdivisions or developments. It is advisable to thoroughly read through all of them and ensure you are able to undertake your favorite pass times and hobbies.

CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) can be placed upon a property’s title to ensure certain conditions are enforced in perpetuity and they can be imposed upon an individual property or applied as a condition of approval for subdivisions or large developments.

When dealing with older structures, especially in a state like California, one must be aware of the possibility that structural and seismic retrofitting might be required.
In older commercial structures some consideration must also be given to accessibility and any easily achievable removal of barriers for people with physical disabilities.

During the purchase process certain inspections are normally performed and it is good practice that septic systems or water wells will actually perform and fulfill the desired capacity of use of future uses envisioned. If not, it is then important that there is a possibility to enhance, enlarge or improve upon the existing conditions.

And what about the current standing of a chosen property with the agencies that govern it? Are all the structures permitted? Are there any known violations? These are very important questions to ask. Most jurisdictions in fact will penalize and fine the current property owner even if he/she was not responsible for such violation and was unaware of its existence at the time of purchase. They normally do not come looking for faults out of the blue, but it is quite common that issues like that might surface at the time the new owner applies for a new and unrelated permit.

Let’s hypothesize that you purchased a property and you are ready to build, remodel or add to an existing structure. In addition to complying with all that was just discussed, your structure will be required to comply with all the codes that have been adopted by your local jurisdiction (building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, etc., etc… codes).

Professionals work and comply with these codes on a daily basis and it is really not a problem. It is part of the process, and designs accommodate for all of these requirements. It is, however, not always possible to modify certain existing conditions and physical restrictions that come with the property. Even physical properties such as slope or terrain, if inappropriate for the desired use, could reveal themselves as obstacles.
It is crucial to ensure that the property that is purchased can allow you to achieve your goal without incurring costly and prolonged approval processes such as requesting zoning variances, conditional permits or re-zoning cases.

As you can see, each property can be subject to many regulations and governed by many agencies. This list is extensive but depending on the location of the property of interest there may be more, less or simply different aspects to verify.
It is of paramount importance to complete all the required research before closing a purchase agreement.
This could save a lot of headaches and surprises in the future and it will definitely empower you to make an educated decision in your purchase.
Of course this can feel like a chore and become overwhelming, especially when faced with the rest of the paperwork required in a real estate transaction, but there are professionals that deal with these types of research and property regulation on a daily basis and would be happy to assist you in matching your goals and needs to your property of choice. It is best to find a local professional that is familiar with the regulations in your area and can then proceed in investigating the specifics of a property.

How to Most Effectively Collect Rain Water

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Collecting rain water should become a priority for every property owner, whether residential or commercial. Just like it is normal to think of planting a beautiful landscape surrounding your structure, it should be normal to think of rain water collection as an extension of your landscape irrigation system.

There are various ways that can be employed in the collection of rain water. The most ideal method depends on the climate you are in, the type of landscaping you have (or are planning to install), the rain patterns throughout a one year cycle, your budget and your desired level of maintenance.

The first and most cost effective way to collect rain water is to store it directly in the ground. This can be done by creating retention basins with the soil in your landscape. Because this process is fairly involved, and can be disruptive to existing landscape, it is usually best to install these simultaneously. The retention basins are sized according to the size of the area to be drained and the amount of rainfall expected on a single rain event. The goal is to create an area that is able to collect water and allow it to infiltrate (percolate) into the ground within a 24 hr. period or less. These basins are then covered with mulch (wood chips and other organic matter) and are practically not visible from the surface. Landscaping is then installed in and surrounding these areas according to their water needs and preferences. The mulch will keep the ground covered and it helps minimize the amount of water that will evaporate through the surface.

These systems are often referred to as rain gardens and the vegetation that is best suited for them are native and local plants that are accustomed to the local weather patterns and the ebb and flow of the local rainfall.

This effectively functions as an underground water reservoir and plants have direct access to the water as needed.

Another option for collecting rain water is to store it in above- or below-ground cisterns. This option can prove more costly but it allows for more control over the distribution to the landscape. In the same way, the size of the cistern is established by the area of water to be collected, the amount of rainfall expected as well as the rain cycles throughout the year. In this case, in fact, it is important to account for the cyclical rhythm of rainfall especially if in your area there are long spells of dry months. In that case it is important to decide what your goal is: are you interested in supplementing water for as long as it lasts or for the whole dry period?.

Care should be taken to check with your local jurisdictions to verify whether the installation of cisterns require a permit. Keeping in mind that most of the time the larger tanks do require permits. Of course this is not a problem when this type of system is integrated with a larger scope construction project.

In both cases it is important to estimate a water budget when designing your landscape and the goal is always to know what the water needs are and then direct any of the resources we receive with rain towards meeting those needs as closely as possible.

Of the two systems the rain garden usually results in less maintenance.

In both cases proximity to the collection area is important and can present opportunity for creative and interesting solutions.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of (or need some reasons why to implement) rain water collection make sure to read “Drought and the Wisdom of Collecting Water”.

Article Source: How to Most Effectively Collect Rain Water – EzineArticles.com
WaterCycle

Drought and the Wisdom of Collecting Water

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It is easy in this day and age to question why anybody should do any “extra work”, anything beyond ones duties, when those duties are already overbearing on everyone’s schedule.

It is however in times like these, with a drought in full effect and threatening to last a few more seasons, that we might all be a little more willing to look at alternatives.

I remember learning about the natural water cycles when I was in elementary school.

WaterCycle

Image from USGS website

Do you remember? When we were shown how water evaporates from the soil, from the ocean, streams and plants themselves (evapotranspiration), it collects in the air and when it reaches certain conditions it organizes itself into clouds, it condenses, it rains and then seeps into the ground, hence recharging the underground aquifer and starting the whole process all over again.

Of course this is a very simplified version of the complex weather systems that surround us. When thinking back to that simple scheme, however, it is easy to identify where in today’s urban layout and developing cities there is no more space for the water to “seep” back into the soil. Due to the large amounts of roof areas and pavement covering streets and parking lots, in fact, one of the main elements of urban design these days has to do with “storm water management”. Its function is to prevent flooding from happening and therefore it directs, re-directs and concentrates water into larger and larger volumes. All this calls for ever-growing water drainage channels ultimately, and ideally, discharging into the ocean.

The main problem with this practice is that it disrupts the normal local cycle the water would usually circulate in because it is taking water away from the area and discharges it sometimes tens of miles away from the area it fell in. In addition, along the discharge pathway it tends to collect numerous pollutants and concentrating all of them at its point of discharge, in the ocean or other water stream.

How would the urban landscape change if water were allowed to infiltrate the ground in specific and designated areas? Would there perhaps be more vegetation? Would it reduce the funds directed to drainage projects. That could drastically improve the aesthetic and overall experience of cities.

And how would your life be affected if you participated in this practice and collected a lot of the water that fell within your sphere of living?

In a time of drought emergency many municipalities try reducing the overall amounts of water used. That usually translates into restrictions to the customer’s usage and in extreme cases even fines for watering landscapes. So, the first thing to be affected is the landscape. And how much have you invested in your landscape? I bet nobody really likes to see that investment wither and wilt along with each plant.

So here are the reasons why everyone should be interested in, not just saving water, but collecting it.

  • It will allow water to be stored into the ground, where, when properly mulched and covered, it will be available to the plants in the long term (even well into dry periods).
  • In ground storage ultimately reduces the amount of required watering on a regular basis, hence reducing your water bill in normal times.
  • It can help keep your landscape alive even in a time of water shortage (protecting your investment).
  • If you collect the water in cisterns you can also control and distribute the water based on your landscape needs.
  • It reduces the amount of water running off your property lightening the load on drainage channels.
  • It reduces the amount of pollutants reaching the ocean or other water stream.
  • Maximized efficiency: collecting and using resources at point of “delivery” (without exporting “storm” water and importing “sprinkler” water for a price).
  • Cleaner water (no chemicals added as in many municipalities).
  • Replenishing aquifers (that some municipalities rely on).

Water is life. Keeping local water closer to home would contribute in enhancing your life and improve the aesthetic and overall experience of your surroundings.

Next time you consider implementing projects around your home or commercial property don’t forget to consider adding a rain water collection system.

Article Source: Drought and the Wisdom of Collecting Water – EzineArticles.com
Mangalore house

The Vanishing House Architecture of Mangalore

Once upon a time, in Mangalore (Karnataka, India), there was a thriving tile industry. Roofing tile, that is.

Mangalore house

Typical tile roof

Tiles

Typical underside decorative tile

The tiles were used throughout India and they were known as “Mangalore Tiles”.
This was true in the not so distant past, just three decades ago, when there were still about 42 factories. Today only about 12 of them are surviving and are producing at a much lower capacity than in the preceding golden years.
The decline in this thriving industry is of course due to many factors and reflects the shift in habits and culture that has been rippling throughout the great subcontinent for decades now.
Like in the west, in fact, construction materials have changed and along with housing preferences have moved away from traditional ways, favoring apartment and condominium living.

New Mangalore housing

New complex under construction

Some of the major developers in the area proudly boast having “changed Mangalore’s skyline” and change it indeed they have.

New Mangalore housing

New addition in the Mangalore skyline

Anywhere you walk in Mangalore you can see multiple skyscrapers under construction.

New Mangalore housing

New complex under construction

New Mangalore housing

New complex under construction

And amongst these endless noisy job-sites however, nestled amidst luscious and sometimes overgrown tropical vegetation some “old treasures” can still be found.

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Some families have managed to hold onto their land, even those surrounded by enormous developments, some others proudly save their homes and even dare restore them to their old grandeur.

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Why did I start from the tile industry when what I am going to talk about is old homes?
Well, Mangalorean homes all have very defined characters, one of them being a large expanse of steeply pitched roofs, showcasing fine Mangalore tiles. Something that none of the new sky-scraping developments can really claim. So once the use of the tiles declined, so did the tile industry of the area.
Many of the typical features of the architecture of Mangalore are directly linked to the local climate and culture.

  •   Pitched clay roofs to protect from the monsoon rains
  •   Covered exterior verandas protect from the scorching sun and provide a cooling spot during rainy season
  •   Use of locally sourced laterite stone blocks are the most suitable material as it is strong, hard and highly resistant to moisture.
Laterite stone block

Laterite stone block

  •  Wood and bamboo lattices provide additional shade and screening from the hot sun
  •   Lime plaster finish is again locally sourced and was abundant

All of these elements require ongoing and regular maintenance, especially in the tropical climate so rich in moisture and salt. Clay roofs had to be checked and tiles require replacement if broken. Most of the houses were also surrounded by coconut palm trees and it was not so unusual for stray coconuts to brake a few tiles  in one go. This is most likely one of the main driving elements to desiring a more “hands off” approach that apartments and condominiums provide.
One of the higher concentrations of these traditional homes was found around the main Railway station, where offices and personnel housing is located.

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Another good example was provided by local schools and the Government College.

Mangalore school

Mangalore school

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

And these are examples of the new construction that is replacing the traditional housing architecture at a ratio of hundreds on units to one or two.
The units are of course being marketed heavily through newspapers and at the mall and it simply brought two questions to the forefront: “Are there really that many families moving into the area?”, and “At those prices how can people afford them?”.

New Mangalore housing

Advertising poster at local Mall

Ultimately only time will tell how all the thousands of new units will be filled and how the city of Mangalore will grow and develop.

As I was preparing to share my observations about Mangalore’s residential architecture I ran into the website for a local architect (N I R E N J A I N – Architect, Mangalore) and I was relieved to find that he still offered traditional design and construction of residences. I was also inspired to see that there are still people interested in commissioning them and living in such special spaces.

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2- Column detail

New Mumbai Airport now Open for Business

Valentine’s Day 2014 and our main plan is a travel plan.
Traveling from Mangalore, Karnataka, India to Los Angeles, California, via Mumbai, Maharastra, India.
As we reached Mumbai we did not have a valid boarding pass printed so we had to take a taxi from the Domestic Terminal to the International Terminal of the Mumbai airport (as opposed to using the terminal transfer bus otherwise provided).
We approached the majestic new Terminal 2 after a small detour due to the driver getting “somewhat” lost. We attributed this to the typical ongoing construction that most major airports are accustomed to, not realizing that it was a completely new airport.
It was an amazing view!! It felt surprisingly quieter than most other Indian airports. It was also surprisingly cleaner and whiter. It is in fact quite challenging to keep structures looking clean and new due to the weather conditions and high humidity and marine salty air of Mumbai.
We later found out that the terminal had actually only been in use since 2 days prior. Had it not been for the information desk telling us that it was only its 3rd day in operation we would not have known. In fact, except for a few minor glitches (wi-fi was not working, no public phones were yet installed and at the gates the bathrooms had no water) the whole terminal appeared to work quite smoothly.

Mumbai Terminal 2 exterior

Exterior of Mumbai Terminal 2 at dusk

Mumbai Terminal 2 exterior

Exterior of Mumbai Terminal 2 at dusk

Other tell-tale signs that the terminal was freshly into operation were the fresh flower garlands (malas) adorning all the airlines office doors in the basement labyrinth.

Once inside the space was very comfortable and functional.
The white columns in the check-in area evoked the stylized theme of the peacock feathers, characteristic of Indian art. The columns drew the eye to the seamless connection with the wide expanse of the ceiling. As a whole the space felt sheltering and struck the perfect balance and proportion with the human scale, leaving a desire to explore further the columns visible in the distance.

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2- Column detail

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2- Column detail

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

The lighting panels serving the check-in desks were another expression of the Indian artistic heritage that guides the overall Terminal 2 design concept.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Mumbai Terminal 2

Here they also had a scaled model of the new terminal.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Model of New Mumbai Terminal 2

Even at the immigration line the careful attention to detail can be seen through a beautifully handcrafted wood door on the side.

The waiting areas at the gates gave more the feeling of being in a luxury hotel lobby than an airport. All this achieved through the use of graceful chandeliers in the shape of lotuses at different stages of blooming, warm colors and luscious vegetation.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Waiting area at gates

Mumbai Terminal 2

Waiting area at gates

The gates were equipped with “green walls” and throughout there were planters showcasing amazingly real greenery.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Mumbai Terminal 2 gates

Mumbai Terminal 2

Green panel at gates

Once I arrived home I decided to explore further into the creation of this new architectural gem and I found this inspiring video. It describes a whole other aspect of the terminal that I did not even get to experience (since it is mainly reserved to the arriving passengers). A showcase of India’s large artistic heritage, old and new, and the majestic feat of pulling it all together. It is about 30 minutes, but definitely worth watching.
If you are not up to such a long video here is a shorter one from the airport website.

If you have the chance to travel through Mumbai I would recommend making sure you have enough time to explore and enjoy this treasure upon your arrival. I know I sure will!

Then, our next stop was a stark contrast to the magnificent Mumbai Airport as we found ourselves in any other airport. It becomes clear then that they achieved their goal in differentiating themselves from the rest of the world.

Any other Airport

Any other Airport

One good feature here however were the continuous seating (without armrest) and a clear invitation to stretch out and rest (a nice pillows throughout) during the long international layovers.

Mumbai10

Invitation to rest

You really cannot beat that!
Happy travels!