Night Viewing

As a devotee of architecture and building design, I feel that I can see things about a structure that others don’t. It takes a trained eye and a lot of time put into the field. I can assure you that every little detail adds up to a complete whole, so it must all attract your attention when you are creating a functional space and nothing must be left out. I love comparing different time periods, particularly the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. There hasn’t been a revolution so to speak, but a lot of innovation has gone on to brand the newer structures as more modern. I reject a lot of old design that I feel tried too hard to make a statement and now just looks weird. Let’s keep the past where it belongs and work toward more appealing visual architecture that works better in a new context.

I am studying the local library right now since it is a focal point in the town and an example of the type of architecture I like. It was so outdated and has been recently remodeled to become a prototype of public buildings that work. Because it is center city, and because it is open at night, a lot of attention was paid to the lighting. As you walk around in a complete panoramic circle, you see different architectural elements like piers and posts that make a pattern due to the lighting effects. With my large police flashlight, I can make my way in the dark in order to be able to take in the finer points of the library.

I did run into a bit of a problem, however, because of the flashlight. It drew too much attention to my presence. I probably looked like a not-so—subtle thief casing the joint as I shone my bright light on the windows and doors. The security guard seem to come out of nowhere with a grand flashlight of his own. He shone it on my face and uttered a brisk “halt!” How was I going to explain what I was doing? I didn’t have any kind of official architect’s identification on me that would justify my close scrutiny of the library. I began to tell him my story. I think I came off as authentic as I recited the names of all the various building parts: posts and lintels, pediments, etc. He seemed to believe me as what thief would have a grasp of such a vocabulary. He proceeded to say that he would not call the police and interrupt my night viewing. It made perfect sense to him by this time. In fact, he asked me to take him on a tour to point out the glorious usage of innovative light. I explained that it was for safety purposes as well as a rich visual appearance. I suspected that the library would be a nice place for a night walk for people wanting to kill a little time after dinner. He thought it was genius.

How Much does your Building Weigh?

When thinking about the topic of weights and measures, I automatically asked myself how to apply it to my trade. I am in the business of designing and constructing buildings that have import, that is, “weight.” They matter to the owner or the person doing the development, or the individual who has the original conception. They fulfill a purpose, meet a given taste, satisfy a budget, and more.

A building has weight in the community. It stands for something whether it be an office that employs residence or a home that houses a family. If it is new, it will be judged and deemed successful or not. It adds to its weight if it lasts the test of time. Maybe weight is importance. It implies functional meaning and human purpose. It also denotes the vision of the creator and the ability to make something within prescribed limits that meets practical and aesthetic needs.

Does your building have weight? Most people think that only very special ones do, those constructions that are particularly public and become known as this or that hospital, school, mansion, or civic center. It doesn’t have to be so. Any work that comes from the hands of an architect, planner, engineer, or contractor is worthy of note. Then its existence will be noted as the property is otherwise lived in, used for commerce, or sold.

On the other side of the coin, buildings have literal as opposed to metaphoric weight. They must thus be structurally sound and distribute this weight accordingly down to the very foundation. It must be solid and intact to handle the poundage. It is an engineering feat to make it all work. Weight reduction matters if there are cost associated with certain kinds of structures: metal as opposed to wood, for example, and giant beams that sit on high in oversized great rooms. All of these needs to be calculated – you can’t just throw a building on an oversized set of bathroom scales to work out what it’s weighs in order to determine what the foundations are going to need to support

Anyone who has done remodeling, knows the problem if the removal of a beam or pillar will bring the house down. You may have to keep it in place or create a substitute that is even stronger. With new buildings, the contractor will follow the path begun by architects and engineers. If cost is a factor, they will eliminate unnecessary supports that mar the openness of a room, or add to overall expenses.

What are typical ways to reduce weight and therefore cost? For one, the builder who executes a pre-existing concept must stick to the plan and not cut corners to meet a given budget, no matter how much this pleases the client. Safety comes first. Lack of knowledge is an inherent vice during construction, requiring project managers to hire only licensed and experienced people. The contractor must remain on premises at all times to avoid unforeseen problems. Even the best workers have been known to make mistakes.

Support elements like beams, columns, pillars, and the like must be placed exactly as prescribed. They must be of the stated dimensions. It has all been figured out in advance. If a room needs additional support because it is particularly high, for example, this cannot be ignored. There are ways to disguise this support if it is unsightly or spoils the view across a space.

If you are building a new home and are concerned about earthquakes, for example, you will want to know that every precaution has been put into place. You can read up on construction engineering to get up to speed. This will enable you to make some preliminary judgments when you see your blueprints. It is not always an issue after the fact. During building, especially something large like an office, there can be accidents if load is not taken into careful consideration. There are times when bracing is required while final support is being devised. Safety means conformance to industry standards, so find out what they are and ask the foreman and contractors selected for the job. A life you save may be your own.

In your discussion, you will use terms life like lifting lugs, rigging design, lift beam and frame design, erection aids, crane capacity (if they are in fact used), stability analysis, and more. It may all seem a bit formidable at first. While it is a matter of cost and safety, it is also interesting for onlookers and helps them evaluate and understand the project at hand.

All in all, weight is an issue of import looked at from a variety of perspectives. Know its value, how to anticipate needs, and review final results.

Housing Your Hobbies

A custom home doesn’t just mean it was designed by an architect. It doesn’t mean that it is one of a kind or unique as a distinguishing factor. It does mean that it serves your needs as the resident first and foremost and that rooms are tailored to specific purposes. That’s what custom means to me.

Take the kitchen. The kitchen is the repository of pots and pans; it houses appliances, utensils, china, and glasses. It is the practical room that meets your culinary and nutritional needs. When it is custom, it takes on a status that only granite and stainless steel can provide. We must have the most modern of tastes, even if our kitchens are all alike. There is nothing special or unique about the ubiquitous subway tile and farm sink that are so popular these days. But custom it is if it fulfills our needs.

Then there are the bathrooms, and we do hope you have more than one. They are also functional and basic, although they have taken on spa and luxury connotations. We must bathe in handsome surroundings with state-of-the-art fixtures. Nothing else will do. The floor must be the very best ceramic tile and the coordinating countertop marble. It is custom if it fulfills our need to be pampered; it must make us anxiety free.

Bedrooms house us at night and as such, they must be relaxing abodes that let us wander into slumberland with ease. Our beds are plush, laden with fine cotton sheets and European pillow shams. A duvet will be down and a throw will be cashmere. If the room is custom, it is our favorite color and has the most elegant window shades that keep light in or out as the case the need may be. In addition, perhaps there is a small fireplace in the corner to warm us mentally and physically.

Now we really get into customization. You have an extra room to make into a den, a sewing corner that does double duty for other hobbies like painting or beadwork, or perhaps a small private gym. This will be something that no one else has in just the same way. You design the space, place the furnishings, decorate it, and store your belongings, whatever they are. It could be a collection of dolls, sports equipment, old photos, or baby clothes. The custom room could be a converted garage, patio, former guestroom or nursery. Now it is yours. It is functional, purposeful, and inviting. Maybe you will post a sign that warns, “keep out.”

Having this supplementary space in your home is a godsend and often a rarity if you have kids or live-in parents. College students still want a room to come home to. So sometimes you have to wait; but when a room becomes available and you start to make choices, it becomes an exciting proposition. Have you always wanted a game room or a man cave to which you can invite friends? A place to put the most giant plasma TV? A custom room would have a beautiful stained wood bar, a mini fridge, a sink with hot and cold water, and a wine cooler set at the perfect temperature. It would have a sofa to die for in terms of comfort and style and maybe a few chairs here and there for visitors.

Large basements make great game rooms, and they are spacious enough to give mom a little room in the corner for the trusty sewing machine. If you put in a sofa bed, it works perfectly as a makeshift guestroom. Be sure to put in closets that once opened will reveal entertainments of all kinds. People can pick what they like, a kind of free-for-all. That would be a custom game room, tailored to many tastes.

Housing your hobbies is thus an easy proposition once you decide you must have a designated area either for you alone or for friends and family. You can be that one house on the block where everyone wants to go, or you can retreat into a netherworld of your own making. Once you know your options, you can begin to design the space.

Houses are thus more than a compilation of kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and laundry rooms. They have more than pools, yards, stoops, driveways, and flower beds. There are special places that make the place custom and proprietary, done for your needs alone. You can’t buy it the way you want in most cases. It is a remodel or redecorating job that will challenge your ability to adapt and change—and on a budget. It will no doubt be among the best decisions you have ever made.

Backing up the Home

The state-of-the-art modern 21st century home isn’t what we envisioned decades ago when we started fantasizing about it, but it has come pretty close. The spaceship-like abode of the future never appeared, although many of the internal gadgets have. You can virtually run your home from your phone if you want to. What a boon to busy people who are often away.

Thermostats can be regulated and temperatures controlled; the fireplace gas log can go off or on. The coffeemaker is timed just right for the morning ritual and the toaster browns your favorite bread just right. The freezer will never go on the fritz and the lights will never go out, unless it is desired. Your bath water is perfect, heated by solar panels on the roof. It is a marvel of modern living all done electronically. But it does depend on power, whatever the source.

Built into such homes are standby backup generators like these so nothing can miss a beat. In the worst storm, your heating will be intact and in hot summer blazes, your AC will function. Your security system will not go on the blink during any power surge. Gone are the days when you have to activate the thing yourself, not to mention go out to the garage and uncovering it under layers of tarp. You can stay within the comforts of your home during all seasons of the year, knowing that it will take care of any plight.

A generator is a machine that produces electricity that can power appliances to a total home depending upon its size. The old ones were simple motors; the new ones are computerized. Basically it does not so much create energy as convert it from another source. A generator forces the movement of electric charges present in the wire of its winding through an external electric circuit. It is like a water pump which causes water to flow, while it is not actually creating the liquid itself.

A generator’s role is more or less the same: to provide power during outages or as an additional energy source where no other is available. As such they work on fuel such as gas, and batteries (for the start function). People think of them for camping and outdoor activities, for example to provide lights at a concert in the park. They can power your computer, radio, hair dryer, microwave, and more.

When used for a home as a built-in appliance in its own right, a generator is part of your total energy system. It is part of one’s backup system as well to be used in case of emergency. Every homeowner should give this requirement serious thought. You never know when lightening will literally strike and put your electrical power out of commission.

Having a generator in your home for lightening, cooking, air conditioning, and the like is to be prepared. It can be used at a moment’s notice. Lost power need not be a catastrophe requiring a myriad of candles and a few flashlights. There is almost no transition when it is installed correctly.

A caveat is that a professional will have to put this device in place. Don’t try to do it on your own as you can seriously damage your generator, and they are rather expensive as you might know. Treat it right and it will work hard for you and your family. Plus, if you have a contractor do the work, you will no doubt have the device covered under warranty. You will also know that all safety measures have been taken.

A good generator can last the lifetime of a home, or at least a very long stay. If you invest properly in the right unit, you will do everyone a service. Think of a family member stuck at home in the dark or an elderly person without heat. Deaths occur during bad weather, both hot and cold, implying that power is the preserver of life.

Portable generators can cause thousands of dollars and so can a large one that will run your home in a pinch. It pays to learn about different systems to evaluate what your contractor is presenting. You will want an easy-to-use control panel with a clearly marked start and shut down buttons. Buying a known brand at a fair price will put you in good stead if adversity rears its ugly head. Your life will not be disrupted in the event of an outage. Owning a generator is to have the ultimate peace of mind.

Protecting Your Castle from Attack

If you have had an onslaught of termites, or even the more harmless ants, you know what it means to protect your castle from attack. It is so destructive to have pests eat away at the timbers of your home or to feast on window sills and trim. It can be prohibitive to replace all existing wood if the process has gone too far. Hence, the real estate laws that protect would-be buyers by requiring pre-deal inspections to ensure there are no lurkers about.

If they are, buyer beware; and seller, you can cringe. It has to be taken care of. It doesn’t matter if you tent the entire premises or treat it more gently with environmentally-friendly orange oil. It has to pass muster with the powers that be. Pests are thus not only disreputable and disgusting, but they can raid your pocketbook as well.

The rest of the homeowners in the world that have long ago made their purchase are responsible for any treatment they discover is required. Your monthly serviceman may notice droppings, or you may see the telltale signs on your own. There can be dead insects with the customary winged appearance, or you can see wood shavings at times. If a bit of panic besets you, it is because you know the cost of eradication. Thousands of dollars can take its toll on the household budget. Plus there is the embarrassment that a giant ugly tent brings in one’s neighborhood!

Imagine a scenario like this. A realtor is showing a lovely home with a garden. Everything looks so Edenic and pristine. It just feels clean inside and out. The owner has gone to great lengths to fix leaky faucets, exposed wires, and any fire hazards perceived. The furniture has been carefully staged, or arranged in an attractive and comfortable manner. All seems well. Until the prospective clients spies a bit of termite dust. All hell can break loose as a result. Even if the seller agrees to treatment, the place now seems unclean. Buyers fear a chemical residue that they and their pets might have to breather in.

The house can be a new one on the market with remodeling done only a few years ago. It will now have a tarnished reputation! Older buildings are usually the victims, making contractors and builders less savvy about the pests. It depends on where you live and the climate of course. They know little about subterranean or dry wood control.

But any homeowner should. Imagine your chagrin when you have friends visit and they are seated down for a nice meal at the dining table. Imagine further some ants crawling all over the table, coming up the leg of your dining room table and streaming into a hole in the corner of the room. Or worse, the unpleasantness of your guests discovering a cockroach running across the floor. It is not a pretty picture, my friend – after all, it reflects poorly on you as a host and home owner.

So when you see them, immediately send them packing. Hire a reputable service and hear what they have to say. There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say in the woods. You want a healthy and safe environment after treatment, and certainly because of it.

The word fumigation used to cross all lips the moment the dreaded termites were first mentioned. It is a scary word denoting heavy toxic chemicals that invade every nook and cranny of your home, resting there and potentially wreaking havoc on health. Those days are long gone and modernization has reached pest control. It is coordinated to the type of termite found. The subterranean are said to be the most destructive. They can collapse a building if they feel like it. You don’t want them around. They are attracted to moisture and like to congregate around plumbing leaks. They live in huge colonies making treatment a pretty extensive job.

On the other hand, dry termites love firewood and they are wont to dwell happily within. You will see a kind of swarm of black bugs. As a result, scrap wood should be stored well away from a home. They are resilient and can jump easily from one place to another.

There are dampwood termites, too, that are not as hard to eradicate if you clean up moisture. But the Formosan variety are killers, lurking in wet places, concrete slabs and walls. You are going to have a major job on your hands, so start saving now.

It is clear that pest control is part of building ownership and it can happen to the best of us. You can take some precautions in regard to moisture, but it is most often a case of treatment after the fact.

Building for Pools, and Pools for Building

02-marina-bay-sands-singapore-pool_1600Water features are more than a finishing touch on a building project or just something you add on for interest at the end of a job. They may be part of the exterior design in conjunction with landscaping, but they work together with a building, or group of them, to create a total concept or environment. Sometimes it is for the purpose of water recreation, and often it is a matter of artistic “finish” as when pools, ponds, and fountains bring a welcome touch of décor. In any case, the goal is to be innovative and meaningful.

In old world architecture, back to the Italian Renaissance, the look was representative of the time. Major constructions such as palaces and public buildings were done in the Greco-Roman revival style (complete with pediments, posts and lintels, etc. and putti spouting fountains) or Baroque, with lots of swirling, exciting forms bedecking a massive water system. They could go ultra-ornate, as in the Rococo period, or Romantic in the 19th century which water grottos were de rigueur (complete with real moss and stone statues). It is a lot of fun to look at the best designers had to offer in the distant past.

In the 20th century, the Olympic swimming pool was the ubiquitous features in mansions and at resorts that did not have ocean views. After all, the sea is a landmark that captivated attention from afar, drawing people to come and relax, have some fun in the sun. Many people started to take up underwater sports with advances in the 20th century in underwater access, through the development of affordable snorkel marks and of course, scuba gear becoming a lot more accessible than the initial designs of solid helmets and suits filled with air tethered to the boat above. It became so commonplace as to be expected; and early awes turned to cordial compliments. Right from the start, landscaping had to work around its giant presence. Palm trees began to propagate.

In the 20th century, the hallmark of luxury in water features is the infinity pool that creates the magic illusion of extending forever. What new or remodeled Malibu home doesn’t have one? Don’t be confused by infinity and endless pools. They are not the same animal. While the smaller endless pool accommodates a swimmer doing laps, the infinity pool can work in a desert or ocean setting to become one with the distant horizon. With an endless pool, there are no flip-turns thanks to a variable speed current. Some call it a treadmill for swimmers, but it is also quite picturesque when adorned with exquisite tiles and painted a deep color.

The infinite edge pool, as it is also known, or the vanishing edge pool has one or more exposed wall called a weir. This is a pinch shorter than water level, causing water to flow into a catch basin positioned below. The result is a stunning sense of infinity as an optical illusion. It is a wonderful structural and mechanical feat (massive pumps keep the water going constantly. The Olympic pool pales in comparison in spite of its larger size because it is just more of the same traditional concept.

What it all comes down to, apart from some rather pleasant encounters, is form and function in some kind of special synergy. The utilitarian aspects of fountains, ponds, and pools has to meld with a desired appearance. In the best and most innovative work, the purpose is expressed creatively. This means that there is a true aesthetic sense required to conceive of projects that enhance a garden or backyard space, but do not contradict the building style. You would not want a sprawling mess of an English garden, for example, with a French chateau style home complete with manicured lawn, fountains and statuary. They are not even distant relatives.

Knowing the history of art and styles is thus a pre-requisite for designers, contractors, and planners. There is also more than a modicum of engineering involved for the main architect. If a team is at work, a unified concept should be offered that transcends the ideas of each member.

Given raw land, or maybe the bare bones of a structure, is like a blank sheet of paper for a drawing or a raw canvas for a painter. You can make of it what you will. You can transform earth and sky with the addition of your own natural elements. A water feature grabs the eye and takes it to a mythic place inhabited by nature spirits. There are so many associations to make with each and every one. Even the most modern, sleek pool or fountain has its story to tell.

Deciding on which water feature to include, and imagining the right shape, proportions, and size takes a level head with a huge dose of artistry mixed with in. Do you want a gazebo nearby, a greenhouse, or a heated indoor pool? It is an enjoyable aspect of any building project, and you always welcome the opportunity.