Friday, December 3, 2010

What is an Architectural Technologist?

The Architectural Technologist , also known as a Building Technologist, provides building design services and solutions and is trained in architectural technology, building design and construction. They apply the science of architecture and typically concentrate on the technology of building design and construction. They can or may negotiate the construction project, and manage the process from conception through to completion.

Most architectural technologists are employed in architectural and engineering firms, or with municipal authorities; but many provide independent professional services directly to clients, although restricted by law in some countries. Others work in product development or sales with manufacturers.

In Britain (Chartered Architectural Technologist), Canada (Architectural Technologist or Applied Science Technologist), and other nations, they have many similar abilities as Architects and can work alongside them. There, they are sometimes directors or shareholders of an architectural firm (where permitted by the jurisdiction and legal structure). To become an architectural technologist, a degree or diploma (or equivalent) in Architectural Technology is required, followed by structured professional and occupational experience. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A case for stairs

"Stair case: (stâr k s ) A flight or series of flights of steps and a supporting structure connecting separate levels. Also called stairway"

That is what everybody knows about staircases. A staircase is more than that….a staircase is the element in floor plans that dictates the surrounding spaces and their flow, habitants’ habits and lifestyle. It is a very important architectural feature, that represents the only vertical continuation of a horizontal space.

One of my favorite Architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, used to hide stairs from the rest of the space. He believed that stairs were as private as the floor that they would connect you to (i.e. second floor where bedrooms were), however that is also because people in the 1920's were a lot more private about their spaces. Lifestyles have changed quite drastically since, and despite my respect for Wright, I personally believe that stairs can be beautiful and need to be exposed and shared with your guests, just like kitchen counters are today.

Some people feel that stairs are wasted space. If they were we would all use elevators, ladders and fireman poles! If you think a staircase should be hidden, that is your choice for your lifestyle, but I would suggest that you think of stairs as a creative opportunity to do something really beautiful in your home.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Design Your Own Happily Ever After

In Cobourg, Ontario, newly-retired Heather and Terry are putting the finishing touches to a rambling, elegant country bungalow that overlooks farmers’ fields. Meanwhile on the shores of Georgian Bay, a soon-to-be-retired William and Susan are building the cottage of their dreams.
Across Ontario, boomers and retirees are discovering the joys of designing and building their own custom retirement homes.

As a designer and a builder, I have worked with clients of all ages to help realize their dreams of building a custom home. I’ve come to find, however, that working with retirees is proving to be more rewarding than I had ever anticipated. This is true for both myself and the client.
Most notably, I have found that retirees know what they want and need. Patterns of behavior, hobbies and entertainment style have all been established by this stage of life. They know that they’d like to see their grandkids often, but maybe the den could be tucked away somewhere quiet. Also, a sense of self develops with time: they know their likes and dislikes. They know that an open concept ranch-style bungalow would suit their tastes and needs better than a multilayered modernist marvel of construction. Last but not least, they have the funds and the time to ensure that the project is done right. Many couples that choose to build their retirement haven have been saving up for this moment, and for them, it’s time for them to cash in on their efforts and savour the process. All of these factors add up to a successful designer/client relationship, and have made working with these retirees a real joy.
Recent retirees, Terry and Heather have lived for most of their lives in Cobourg, a quiet but growing community one hour east of Toronto. They had always dreamed of building their own country home from the ground up instead of buying one or moving to a retirement home. After extensive research they found an acre of farm land, and purchased it.
They came to me with their concept through the Toronto Home Show, and after living and traveling together for so many years, it was clear to me that they had a strong vision. Heather, confident of herself, was more prepared than I’d ever seen a first-time custom home client. She had the colors and the finishes of the house already selected, and an idea for a dream kitchen that was open for entertaining large groups and gourmet cooking. Terry, an organized and proactive retired business owner, had already begun lining up the trades needed to complete the project. Together we perfected a design for an elegant 2400 square foot bungalow that could accommodate long visits from extended family with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. Their family could play outside all day, and then come inside for a gourmet dinner. And, most importantly, it was fully accessible for when, later in life, mobility might become an issue. Construction began in 2008, and was supervised by Terry in between trips to Florida. Being retired allowed them the time to oversee every detail of the process, while dictating at what pace the house got built. By early 2009, Terry and Heather moved into a home that was perfectly suited to spending the rest of their lives together in a private, comfortable, country retreat.
William and Susan, on the other hand, were craving a relaxing waterfront space for their retirement where they could focus on their hobbies. For over 50 years, William’s family had owned a cottage in Penetanguishene, a small picturesque village on the shores of Georgian Bay, but it wasn’t suited to long term, full time living. It was small and outdated; however, they did not want to leave those shores where Bill grew up.The rocky landscape of the area, the islands embrace by the sunrise on the horizon and the winds blowing through the deep forest near their property all served to make this a perfect place to retire. In the summer of 2008, they decided it was time to tear down the existing building and rebuild a contemporary, efficient retirement compound.
William, or Bill, a wood working master, together with his wife, Susan, an eclectic insurance broker, love life. These empty nesters still work in Downtown Toronto, but plan to retire soon and live primarily in their cottage while maintaining their downtown condo. They, too, had a very clear vision of what they wanted: an Arts and Crafts style cottage that would allow them to see the water and nature from every part of the building, including the master bathroom. Their picture of a perfect retirement was watching the sun rise on the lake from the comfort of a bubble bath. This was to be an organic design that would blend perfectly with the existing and challenging landscape. This couple also enjoyed entertaining, and even managed to turn planning meetings into enjoyable wine tasting sessions. Again, not long after we began working together, the plans for their retirement cottage were complete. The first concept sketch I made for them, to summarize in few lines their vision is still in Susan’s Hands.
For both couples, their homes began with a shared vision created over a lifetime of experiences, and now will be a place where they can happily spend their retirement exactly as they imagined.
What these experiences taught me is that there are many things in life that we may have never considered, including building your own home.
Why should people consider building their own homes? Custom building your retirement space not only will be one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have, if you have the right team working with you, and the funds to support it. Most importantly, building a home that perfectly suits your changing needs as you retire will help make retirement one of the most enjoyable times of your life.
I hope every future retiree would consider building their own home as an option. Even updating or renovating their existing space to suit their changing needs is an excellent choice that will help make retirement that much more enjoyable. Fulfilling ones hobbies and interests as well as spending time with friends and family is what retirement is all about. Why not do it in a space that you love?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Draft Dodgers

After our first freezing winter in our new 95-year-old home my wife and I decided to take advantage of the Government programs for energy efficiency upgrades and grants. We contacted Enwise, and on a free sales call one of their representatives ran through our possibilities for retrofitting, and reviewed the amount of grants that would be available to us. We decided to begin with the home audit to see where we stood. The geek in me loved the door blower test, where the house is depressurized with a machine that sucks the air out of it at 55km/h to measure air leakage in the house. Ours was rated 57 out of 100 in terms of overall efficiency.

Our greater problems were the cold temperature pockets and infinite drafts going through this old house. The gas bills were outrageous, and we were wearing our long johns indoors! Imagine that it was 10 degrees in our house during the January 2009 blackout, and some pipes even froze solid. Luckily they did not burst, like those of our neighbors. This and our constant shivering was what really made us aware of the low, almost nonexistent level of insulation in this house.

We were introduced to a new product called airkrete, a spray-foam insulation, that works with gravity, like blown-in cellulose. What set it apart was not only the higher insulation value (R3.9/ in) that it provides but also that it does not collapses with time like cellulose does.

Then we found out we were pregnant, and due in September. A winter baby meant that now we had a real reason to insulate, and time was of the essence. After some research on this product we decided to try the airkrete. It was pretty much a no brainer, and a easier process that we could have imagined. A full crew showed up on the scheduled day, and began insulating the exterior and some of the interior walls. I also asked them to insulate the top of windows and doors. This took about 6 hours to do 100% of the exterior walls, and an hour to clean up and re-patch the holes. After the crew left, it was as if nothing had happened, except now we were warm. We also noticed that the house was now almost completely soundproofed from exterior noise. Killing two birds with one stone, we now sleep better than ever before in our warm, quiet home. And I am happy to report that the baby's room is the warmest of all.

The house reached an insulation value of R16. The Ontario Building Code has raised its requirement for new homes from R17 to R19. And our energy efficiency score has gone from 57 to 73 out of 100. Not bad for a day’s work.

But best of all, we spent $4,800 to get the insulation done, we received $4,000 back from provincial and federal government grants, and we have been saving about $60 a month on our monthly gas bill, which means the expense has already paid for itself.

One only hassle we faced was the interior paint work over the interior insulation hole patches. We knew it was coming, however, and saved our previously planned paint job until after the insulation. Because we were planning to paint our place anyhow, there was no unexpected expense for us.

And we lived happily ever after…

Example of holes on exterior walls for airkrete installation