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Operational Tension

When it comes to how we do our jobs, where do architects find inspiration? It seems to me there are three perspectives:Sui Generis - Treats architecture as a unique field, looking to other architectsCreative Orientation - Lessons can be found in other creative fieldsBusiness Orientation - Seeks to apply general management principals The limitations of the sui generis approach are self-evident (that is, I don't want to look for references at this moment). By focusing only on the practices of other architects, our ability to adapt and innovate relies on other architects to experiment and disseminate that information. How consistently do the major trade publications look at these issues? I suspect not often. I also suspect readership of more specialized publications is thin within the architectural community. This approach has the self-serving appeal of defining our work as special and by extension, we are special. Maybe architects aren't more prone to that sort of status seeking…
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Shame! Shame! Shame!

Shaven heads, naked bodies, ringing bells, and chants of Shame! will not stop climate change. In fact, I think that sequence from Game of Thrones is evidence that most public shaming is either retributive or self-aggrandizing. Either way, the travel shaming movement is fundamentally misguided.
As Seth Kugel quotes in the New York Times:
“The more we try to change other people’s behavior — especially by making them feel bad — the less likely we will be to succeed,” Edward Maibach of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University told me. He does get at the heart of the matter later a moment later:
Instead — whether it’s global climate change or local vacation rental laws — the biggest impact a person can have comes from pressuring governments to address travel-related problems on a large scale. Likewise, so does engaging friends and family in conversations about those policies, and supporting research, advocacy organizations and candidates who take your issues s…

Resilience, what's that again?

Tonight's AIA Dallas Architecture on Tap focused on the topic of resilience (or resiliency). The Communities by Design committee put together a diverse panel, featuring Krista Nightengale from The Better Block, Tom Reisenbichler of Perkins+Will and David Whitley from DRW Planning Studio. Maggie Parker of the TREC Community Fund moderated. In my experience, resilience has been notoriously difficult to define and this discussion proved little different. Maggie offered the definition of the Rockefeller Foundation's (now defunct) 100 Resilient Cities initiative to open the discussion:
“the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”I found the conversation that followed to be interesting, but a bit too wide ranging to lead to any specific or actionable insights. David mentioned floating infrastructure in New Orleans. Tom reached beyon…

Resilience -> Adaptability -> Sustainability

I came across this draft from 2014. Seems like a pretty complete thought, so I'm posting it now: Sitting in a long meeting about sequencing a pipe replacement project gave me another example of how resilience, adaptability and sustainability are interconnected. If designed properly, connections for emergency chilled water, heating water, domestic water, etc. could also be used for temporary service during a renovation. This could avoid the cost and operational impacts of multi-day shut-downs. Those shut-downs entail weeks or months of planning, elaborate on-site temporary facilities or relocation to leased facilities, all things the operational managers of any company will not welcome. Avoiding them means that the renovation is much less likely to be deferred, the project moves forward, the building's lifespan is extended by years, the risk of systems failure is mitigated, maintenance stays up-to-date and operations are unaffected.
My conclusion is that we should build to suppor…

Boston vs Bostitch

I purchased the pencil sharpener on the right on December 22, 1995 at an Office Depot in Hoover, Alabama. I can't say I remember this but I did, for some grandmotherly reason, tape the receipt to the back of it. I imagine I was staying at my dad's house in Vestavia Hills over that Christmas break. The pencil sharpener cost $11.88 and served me through three and a half more years of architecture school at Auburn and another 16 of domestic life. It did finally stop working this past week and we got the one on the left, a "Stanley-Bostitch Quietsharp Executive" for $16.89. It certainly sounds more impressive and the industrial design, while definitely a failure, also aspires to something more aristocratic than the somber, vaguely Bauhaus horizontal red lines that adorn the Boston. I think the previous version had a textured plastic finish in this spot that simulated orange-peel metal. Perhaps this suggests a predecessor that was die cast? That would've been a beast…

WBC 16 Update #5: Finale or Finaali

Normal sleep continues to elude me, but we soldier on, don't we? I decided on my first session of the final day to support John Hughes (no, not that John Hughes), whose brogue has become a welcome and familiar presence throughout the week. His presentation centered on the concept of concurrency, or how two or more events can influence delays and additional costs for construction projects in arbitration. I certainly hope not to need his expertise, but I'm also glad to know who to call if it comes to that! Other presentations in the session covered BIM's suitability to achieving client and contractor visions, heightened duties in IPD projects, and two separate presentations on contract and contractor issues in Turkey. After coffee, I went to a session on BIM and information management. The actual topics varied a bit, but I was particularly interested in the data-mining methodology for construction administration that Vincent Kuo presented. I think there's a lot of potent…

WBC 16 Update #4: Get the Digits

Today finished on a strong note about building performance and metrics. It started with a keynote from Skanska - Finland's CEO, Tuomas Sarkilahti. The key notes (sorry) I took away were that their strategic planning process starts with defining their organizational values, that ethics is a muscle that must be exercised, and that process compliance results in stronger margins. Later in the day, I'd hear a dissenting opinion on that last point. The second keynote speaker was Peter Barrett from the University of Salford. He presented a wide-ranging research effort in UK primary schools to create practical strategies that are informed by student outcomes. Their report is available here: Clever Classrooms. I was pleased to hear him say our industry would respond best to client-driven change as that aligns with the paper I presented.

The morning session I attended was the AEC CEO Forum. The first speaker was Shyam Sunder, the lead World Trade Center investigator from NIST. I'd li…