The International Business Magazine for Architects Since 1986

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This Week:
The Sawyer Report - Shadow Boxes
Project XQ - Building the Perfect High School
Dun & Bradstreet - Middle Market Firms Undergoing Transformational Change
Monitoring confirms energy efficiency of Passive House city district
Report on measurements in Heidelberg’s Bahnstadt project now available online

Darmstadt, Germany. The Passive House district of Bahnstadt in Heidelberg (Germany) has passed the test: according to a report on recent measurements, the values being strived for in relation to energy efficiency were met in full. In 2014, the average consumption of 1260 housing units with a total living area of more than 75 000 m² was 14.9 kWh/(m²a). Compared with conventional new constructions, savings of around 80 % were achieved. The statistically high number of residential projects built by different property developers and architects convincingly shows that a successful large-scale implementation of the Passive House Standard is possible. The full report is now available online.

“The evaluation of the consumption data proves that the efforts made by the City of Heidelberg to design an entire city district to a high standard in terms of energy efficiency based on future-oriented specifications and corresponding quality assurance have been tremendously successful,” says Søren Peper of the Passive House Institute, who was in charge of the monitoring project. The measurements were carried out on the basis of monthly meter readings of the total heat consumption in several blocks with over a hundred apartments in each. An average heating energy consumption lower than the Passive House limit value of 15 kWh/(m²a) was measured in the process.

The heating demand of a building is calculated mathematically. The actual consumption depends on many additional factors such as user behaviour and the weather. In the case of the present study, it must be kept in mind that these measurements were predominantly performed during the first year of operation, in which consumption is usually higher than in subsequent years, due to work relating to tenants moving in and necessary adjustments. But even with these adverse influences, the Passive House buildings in Bahnstadt already function faultlessly. The consumption data showed consistently high conformity with the demand calculated in advance using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).

“The monitoring carried out in Heidelberg doesn’t just prove the reliability of calculations using the PHPP planning tool,” says Dr Wolfgang Feist, Director of the Passive House Institute. “The slight differences between the calculated balance and the actual measured values show that the Passive House Standard demonstrably and reproducibly results in extremely high savings of heating energy and thus, of course, also of costs. The much heard of ‘performance gap’, a divergence between expectations and reality, does not exist with the Passive House Standard”. Further examples of consumption measurements in residential Passive House developments have been compiled in an article on the online resource Passipedia.

In terms of size, Bahnstadt is probably the most significant Passive House project at the moment: an entire city district built completely to the Passive House Standard has been created on premises which were previously used as a freight railway station – a vibrant mix of residential and commercial buildings is emerging on an area covering 116 hectares. Hundreds of Heidelberg citizens have already found a new home in the Bahnstadt district. Several office buildings and institutes have opened as well as a kindergarten; a school, shops, a community centre and a cinema complex are currently being planned. Once it is entirely developed, up to 12 000 people will be living and working in the new city district. In 2014, this future-oriented project received the Passive House Award.

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Ways That Technology Might Be Inhibiting Our Efficiency and Solutions to Maximizing its Benefits

By Benoît Gruber, VP Corporate Communication Sage Enterprise Market Europe & Sage ERP X3

Welcome to the Digital Age. Gone are the days of typewriters, Polaroid cameras and rotary phones. Computers, digital cameras and smart phones have not only replaced their prehistoric counterparts in our ever-advancing technological world, but they are seemingly as much a necessity to one’s survival as food and clothing. Why? Simply put, they are the normal means of communication, productivity and solutions in both the corporate world and our personal lives. As technology continues to advance, however so must our understanding of how it all works and how to use it correctly. Failure to utilise technology correctly can negatively impact communication and efficiency. Here are three signs that the technology you are using may actually be slowing you down, and solutions for improvement and maximizing its benefits.

  1. Despite the use of technology, your tasks are taking you the same amount of time or sometimes longer to complete.

Business solutions programs and management software can be of great benefit to companies and are being adopted at a rapid pace. If these systems are not implemented or maintained correctly, there can be costly consequences. There are a number of factors that could be contributing to the common problem of technological systems slowing down productivity. The most obvious being a lack of training and knowledge of how to use the systems you are operating under. A system can only be as efficient as the user navigating it. It is of the upmost importance that when a computerised business program is implemented, that any and all individuals expected to use it be properly trained. There are often many hidden “shortcuts” among the obvious buttons and tabs of a program. The amount of time it takes for a person to learn as they go can be a great cost to a business. Initial and ongoing training with system update demonstrations are essential to efficient use of business solutions programs.

Another time ticker is a backed up system. Just like a good old fashion filing cabinet, technological devices only have so much storage space. As this memory is used up, the systems become sluggish. We have all seen this happen with our smart phones, cameras, computers and even our digital video recorders. Without fail, our systems always slow down on us or get locked up just when we are reaching deadlines, trying to digitally capture important moments or even want to record our favorite television show. This can be avoided! Schedule routine back-ups to other drives and delete old files that are no longer needed. Clean out your digital device, just as you would a filing cabinet. It is also important to run checks on computer system hard drives to look for viruses, adware and other debilitating files that the system may have picked up. The best way to stay on top of this is to have a computer tech available to run routine checks and computer maintenance.

Finally, you must make sure that you have implemented the most appropriate software systems for your business. The system must be adequate enough to handle all aspects of your business, yet not so complex that they are overwhelming or unnecessary to your operations and employees. Sometimes, less is more. A customizable system is always a great option if you cannot find a standard program that suits your needs.

  1. Electronic communication is poor at times and taking longer than necessary. 

In business, effective communication is essential. To be successful, you need to communicate clearly and concisely to customers, business associates, and partners. Conversely, poor communication can lead to a drain on productivity and negatively affect the bottom line.

Because of the disjointed nature of electronic communication, we may not be as clear and concise when communicating. Vague email messages requiring extensive clarification can greatly affect a company’s workflow. Instead of wasting time going back and forth, make an effort to communicate succinctly and as clearly as possible in all of your communications. To ensure written communication is effective, the following are a few practices to adopt:

  • Prior to hitting send, take a moment to re-read your communication to ensure you are fully addressing the subject matter.
  • Ensure the structure of the email is easy to follow by using bullet points rather than long paragraphs.
  • Make sure you are answering every question in your reply to others who are seeking answers in their initial email.
  • At the close of the email, ask the recipient to confirm receipt of the email, ask them if they agree or disagree with your thoughts, and ask them to share their feedback.
  • If you sense a lack of effective communication occurring via email, picking up a phone or speaking in person might be the best option to avoid wasting time and misunderstandings.

Effective business communication skills are crucial to successfully completing any project, whether that is selling a widget to the customer in front of you or completing a presentation with a colleague in a different department. By communicating clearly and concisely, you will be more efficient as well as a good example to your colleagues.

  1. Too many different technology devices are overwhelming and difficult to manage.

You have your laptop in front of you, a large monitor behind it, your smartphone to the side of your laptop and your office phone in the corner. As you try to focus on the current task at hand, text messages are buzzing in, emails are popping up on your monitor and the phone is ringing off the hook. Multitasking is especially true for younger generations, who have been juggling technology devices since they were able to walk. How do you get anything done? The answer is that you probably do, but not efficiently! To increase productivity and use your time efficiently, here are some ways to manage your time and reduce distractions:

  • Schedule specific times throughout your workday to read and respond to emails. Good times might be first thing in the morning, right after lunch and at the end of the day, before leaving the office. Do not make a habit of stopping to read an email every time it pops up.
  • Implement one form of communication for urgent matters only, such as inner-office instant messaging.
  • Turn your smart phone ringer/vibrate off and use the “Do Not Disturb” function to limit notifications. Dedicate a couple times throughout the day to check for messages or missed calls.
  • If your office phone rings while in the middle of a project or work task, let it go to voicemail. You can check your message and return the call when you are not knee deep in thought and focus.

You will find that you work far more efficiently without the constant texting, phone calls, and email notifications rattling your brain and disturbing your focus all day long. Your work will be of more quality and done in a timelier manner without such distractions.

The ongoing advancement of technology offers us diverse and instantaneous forms of communication, business solutions and entertainment options. Its use can be greatly beneficial to a company’s productivity, success and growth with the proper training, maintenance, set limitations and efficient utilization of these technological systems.

Benoît Gruber joined Sage in 2008 and is, since October 2013, VP of Corporate Communications and Brand for Sage Enterprise-Market Europe and Sage ERP X3.


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The 8 Best Podcasts for Architects


Each episode, Evan Troxel, Neal Pann, and Cormac Phalen get together for a casual conversation about all things architecture. The trio often weighs in on trending topics—including licensure at graduation (episode 36) and the emergence of millennial architects (episode 39).

Spotlight on Design
Produced by the National Building Museum, the lecture series features legendary voices in architecture, urban planning, and design. Past speakers include Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Shigeru Ban, to name a few.

99% Invisible
This imaginative podcast might just change the way you think about design. Award-winning producer Roman Mars explores how we’ve become numb to the design around us. He explores various phenomena such as utopian communities and the rise in IKEA hacking (anyone with a Pinterest account knows what I’m talking about).

Entrepreneur Architect
Every week, Mark R. LePage shares invaluable business tips for small-firm architects. Want to learn how to market your firm on social media? Maybe you’d like to re-adjust your budget or raise your fees. Whatever the case, the New York architect can help you build a better business.

The Architecture Happy Hour
Grab a drink and unwind with Laura Davis and Larry Paschall, principals of HPD Architecture. This dynamic duo discuss everything from finding a contractor to working abroad. We were especially delighted to find an episode about becoming a mentor!

DnA: Design & Architecture
The popular podcast explores architectural trends in the modern age. Host Frances Anderton chats with designers and users about the latest trends in Los Angeles and beyond, revealing how design can shape our world. For additional inspiration, head to the show’s eponymous blog, Design & Architecture.

Architect Exam Prep
Listen up ARE candidates. This one’s for you. David Doucette, Eric Corey Freed, and Aubrey Buracchio (who passed all seven divisions in five months!) offer prudent testing advice. Their number one tip? Make a plan and stick to it. Editor’s note: NCARB does not endorse any third-party study materials.

AIA Podnet
Only have a few minutes? The AIA’s podcast features brief interviews with design professionals from around the world. Recent guests include Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair to South African architect and UIA2014 Commissary General Karen Eicker.






Westchester, CA 3/13/14 Older buildings routinely give notice about their state of health. Rarely do they collapse on their own without some kind of assistance. In the wake of the Harlem collapse of March 12th, 2014 which has claimed 8 lives so far, it is imperative for architects to inspect older buildings for a host of simple tell tale signs. Among these are uses other than for which the structure was designed. Changes in use can lead to building failure for several reasons including: overloading of PME, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical. These life systems are often overloaded when a commercial building becomes an industrial building, or a residential use becomes a home office in addition to the residential uses. Commercial and residential buildings both are subject to failure relatively easily when the use becomes storage, for example. The dead weight of paper, and furnishings, for example, as it collects in offices can easily exceed design load provisions. When this happens, a catastrophic loss can occur. We are reminded by these accidents in Harlem just how realistic these risks can be. Architects should be utilized by everyone all the time to identify structural problems in buildings over 10 years old. There is no reason that these buildings, bridges and infrastructure should not be mapped more thoroughly.
When gas is present in a building it is imperative to isolate the leak and shut it down. The longer a leak is allowed to vaporize, it’s explosive properties become exponential. The results as we saw yesterday in Harlem are indicative of how gas expands in closed spaces. Fire tests done by Fire Marshals in Pennsylvania proved just how dangerous gas leaks become over time. If you smell gas, evacuate the building.
 Mr. Robert Sawyer is a California Licensed Architect and is available for interviews at:
Whistleblowers now can file complaints online with OSHA:

Whistleblowers covered by one of 22 statutes administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now will be able to file complaints online. The online form will provide workers who have been retaliated against with an additional way to reach out for OSHA assistance online.

Currently, workers can submit complaints to OSHA by filing a written complaint or calling the agency’s (800) 321-OSHA (6742) number or an OSHA regional or area office. Workers now will be able to electronically submit a whistleblower complaint to OSHA by visiting

“The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their rights without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers’ most essential protections,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “Whistleblower laws protect not only workers but also the public at large, and now workers will have an additional avenue available to file a complaint with OSHA.”

The new online form prompts workers to include basic whistleblower complaint information so they can be contacted easily for follow-up. Complaints automatically are routed to the appropriate regional whistleblower investigators. In addition, the complaint form can be downloaded and submitted to the agency in hard-copy format by fax, mail or hand-delivery. The hard-copy version is identical to the electronic version and requests the same information necessary to initiate a whistleblower investigation.

Detailed information about employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets and instructions regarding how to submit the form in hard-copy format, is available online at

The London Fire Department reports an unknown number of casualties at this hour as survivors are being pulled from the Apollo Theatre structural collapse. Full story: Another report here:





Shawmut, an East Coast-based $850 million dollar national management construction firm responsible for LA flagship stores including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Tory Burch on Rodeo Drive, has just expanded into an LA office in the mid-Wilshire area.

In addition to the firm’s newly established LA outpost, the team is currently under construction on a new ChristofleBarney’s and Santa Anita Park, as well as recently having recently completed culinary hotspots Nobu and Nikita in Malibu, and Del Frisco’s Grille in Santa Monica. Other notable national clients include Apple, Le Bernardin, The Waldorf Astoria, Harvard University and Yale University.






Phaidon Press launch Phaidon Atlas: Architecture for Architects (, a global online resource for the best examples of contemporary architecture, spotlighting thousands of projects built in the 21st century.
The product of 6 years of extensive research and the input of over 200 architects, universities and experts from around the world, this new digital resource is designed to evolve as a growing online community to help build a global network for architects to communicate and share ideas, and will be a must-have research tool and an essential resource for anyone creating, studying, involved in, or passionate about the field of contemporary architecture.



Editor’s Note:

The architect’s* (builder’s also) nightmares are many, but we may refer to a few of them. There is the client who does not know much about building but who has friends who do, to whom he goes for suggestions — and, unfortunately, gets them! Were these suggestions made to the architect directly he could in most cases dispose of them; but his client becomes an intermediary, carrying back his defence or explanation in a garbled form to a judge who is prejudiced against him. The client often begins to feel that if he knew more about the game he could himself catch the architect out. Strained relations, inconsistent with lofty ideals of charity, supervene — and we have a case of architect’s nightmare (builder’s also!)

We have the client who, like the ancient Athenians, is always looking out for some new thing. His architect can do nothing without discussing the advantage of something he has not thought of adopting and is usually unsuitable and inappropriate. Yet, because the client and not the architect has mentioned it first, the client feels he has got his architect at a disadvantage, and the poor fellow is much in the position of a man who runs for a train with insufficient time and failing wind. This is another well-known form of nightmare.

The economical client is often a trial and discipline to those whom he employs. His architect can do nothing without being told of something somewhere else which was cheaper, and a continual stream of such reminders gradually destroys the architect’s peace of mind, leaving him in the position of a convicted fool — an experience akin to a nightmare. The architect who builds for a client whose finances cannot well bear the strain naturally fares badly. He is placed in the position of a man who insists on his solicitor fighting a weak case. If by a miracle he wins, his judgment is justified; if not, it is human to attribute his failure to inefficient professional advice.

These and many other forms of nightmare might be described, but it suffices to say that one and all of them are obviously attributable to the client’s failure to digest and understand the true nature of the sympathetic and altruistic architect he has employed. Summing up the evidence we have briefly marshalled, we may say that architectural nightmares such as we see around us owe their origin not so much to the failure of architects, but to their super-abundant sympathy for their clients, while the architect’s nightmares have their origin in the failure of the client rightly to understand and estimate the full merits of the profession. The treatment in both cases is obviously not to administer remedies to the architect, but to the general public. We are refining pure gold at our numerous architectural schools, while what is needed is to leaven the mass and make the public recognize the talent which is theirs to employ. But touching the minor question of the education of the architectural student, we have indicated the nature of another aspect from which it may be approached.

We may arrive at a definition of virtue and vice by studying either, and is it not possible that in all fields of thought it is sometimes well to adjust our views by considering not only what is, but also what is not? We have often been asked to give chapter and verse for a condemnation of bad design, which we have found difficult precisely because we have never troubled to analyze the nature of what displeases us, while we find it easy to explain the merits of what we consider good. As the proper study of mankind is man and not good men alone, so our proper study is building and not good building alone, and it is only mental laziness which leads us to restrict the extent of our survey. We are but the instruments on which our clients play their harmonies or strike discords, and what is needed is that the performer should receive a training which will enable him to appreciate our manifold merits. - The Editor

Adopted from the classic reference text: ca. 1922 American Architect & Architecture C 373602 – Fornightly, New York


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