The Sawyer Report

 

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 The Sawyer Report is a stream of consciousness-styled sometimes tongue-in-cheek OP ED from a Los Angeles genius, of sorts. Me. HaHa. It’s true! My publication, the one that you’re reading was the first digital publication in existence.  My first publication used Aldus Pagemaker Beta version. On mini floppy disc, no ram, just one port. 

 

Saturday March 25th, 2017 – Los Angeles, CA

Yesterday I read about digital addictions, iPads and smartphones. Steve jobs recognized it – his kids were monitored on their usage. Really? That’s something worthy to discuss. Mainly because we have been using digital technology since before the invention of the wheel. Mouse wheel, that is.

They said we were digitally unemployed. Draftspeople set aside due to the advocation of AutoCAD, ArchiCAD, and all the other iCADs like Intergraph, and the like. Wow, we had some high-tech plug and play monitors that were bigger than your grandmother’s TV set. Internet? Hell yes. Dial-up had 28k baud modems. You could actually take your phone handset and lay it in the cradle. It was the bomb.

By the time I spoke to Arianna Huffington in 1989, and told her how to do everything, based on Jeff Sawyer’s BBS online we had progressed to 128 baud, but I digress. Digital addictions? Forget about it! This was full-on hardcore smack. Input coordinate one, x.x. Next input coordinate number two, y.y to the third decimal. 1985 was the year windows intervened. The smart template went bye-bye pretty fast. Ushered in with windows was the ability to navigate. The rest is all history.

We went from making small Key Plan references in the bottom left corner of our plans to actually scaling full-sized floor plans printed to scale. 1986 saw the first printing, for us, of plans that were so scaleable that that alone changed the industry. We were treading on the wave of technological advancements. Having plans that were labeled not scaleable but that were scaleable, and exactly to scale – changed everything. All of a sudden our firm Boisseau Design Group Architects, in Raleigh, NC had something nobody else had. That made us a commodity. 4-5 guys and a girl or two doing what we estimated at the time was the work of 15-20. Using CAD.

While Madonna was singing about prayers, we forged ahead with technological unemployment. Not that I was unemployed. I was, for a time however, until the digital applications I found inside NCSU’s School of Design Lab. My unique position as publisher of Architectural Business Magazine gave me access to every manufacturer in the world, all eager to hock their wares. Suddenly 305 became the address where the entire world turned to give products geared to architecture. Friends who were in the know called frequently for review copies.

Some never came back. Some are still being used. At one time as my brother Jeff will attest we had the entire basement of the house filled with Architectural Business Magazines and products. Stacked to the roof. Delivery trucks had run over the hedges so many times they had to be removed. Jeff’s bulletin board service was the model for what would later be called The Huffington Post.

Our digital addictions occurred long before the iPad, and the smart phone. It doesn’t take a theoretical physicist to determine that we have not only been relying on digital technology as a source for our livelihoods, it has become an integral tool. That tool has just been minimized. I was on a date the other day and to be polite I told her I had to take a call on a flooding emergency and that I’d be one minute. She pitched a fit that I was more interested in my iPhone than I was in her (I was) but again I digress, when I got back to the table we talked about the interuption and addiction to the iPhone.

I saw her point but explained that I own my own businesses. By taking a practical approach to the technology it allowed me the freedom to even be on a date. Without the ability to stay in touch microscopically the ability to run my operations becomes more flexible. It’s like having my MacBook Pro on the job-site. Or a hotel in Albuquerque. I can draft details while in Oregon and my client thinks I’m in LA. Doesn’t matter because it’s all about focus.

While the world focuses on digital addiction, and the lack of concentration it demands, I suggest a rethinking of the debate. It’s like doing calisthenics, it’s a tool. Do you really want to limit your tools? You might want to set some interface ground rules. But limit the use? That just takes longer. I think we need to educate balance in the use of digital applications. Make plans to get out of the house. My calendar rings at 2:30 – time to go for a walk.

We have this beautiful world out there which is just now being discovered by young kids in a new way, in school, on iPads, running AutoCAD LT. My feeling – just like when I started – is that you have to put the tool in their hands. They will use it. You can’t limit it. You can educate that there is a need for balance. That balance is informed by planning. Instead of letting technology bog you down let it free you. It frees me constantly. Without it I wouldn’t be the grand Poobah of architecture. I never could have published a magazine.

Leash. Poop bags, Dog. Check. Oops, drone, there it is! Nice. Get out!

The Huffington Post sold in 2011 for just over 1 billion. No  acknowledgement has ever been given for the role the Sawyer brothers played in it’s concept and implementation. Screenplay? Architectural Business Magazine was founded at the Design Lab of North Carolina State University School of Design. The best school for architecture in the world. Period. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction Guide 101 - Forward

by Robert Sawyer

Architecture is a profession that requires an innate skill coupled with a good dose of educated know-how. Practical and artistic considerations are married to form a model of convention. This model is delivered via a standardized selection typology. The architect chooses the delivery method for your particular project type in the initial phases of conceptual planning.

Let’s start by defining what an architect is:

An architect is essentially a scribe. In fact, this early definition from ancient Greece still applies although much has changed in the way of technological applications, codes, materials, legal requirements, and financial considerations.

An architect is an interpreter of vision. Owner’s visionary needs and representations are conformed by the architect. These conformities by definition include the following:

• Architects do not control the means, materials or methods of construction.

• Architects’ drawings show the final results, and any intermediary details that need to be known to make it so.

• Architects are vital to all projects in determining and defining scope, limiting liability, excising cost, defining structure, coordinating elements, and owner representation both to contractors and municipalities.

• Architects’ fees are generally inclusive of the cost of construction. Projects utilizing the services of an architect generally have fewer problems during construction but also are cheaper to build when supervised accordingly.

• It is the responsibility of the General Contractor to provide the final building which meets all of the code provisions, some of which are not shown on the drawings. Such standards are known as conventions, these are standards that are well known enough to be considered common knowledge.

At RSAC we aim to provide a well conceived design which is executed squarely in construction documentation. We’ve learned that sometimes less is more: details which define the means or methods, are best left off of the drawings. Construction can proceed diligently without the expensive inclusion of unnecessary sheets, or endless instructions of conventions.

There are many reference materials available online including the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Association of General Contractors (AGC), the State of California Contractors License Board (CSLB), the interior design association (IDA), and the city of Los Angeles department of building and safety (LADBS), among others.

Download the entire revised edition of Construction Guide 101 by Robert Sawyer by logging onto www.rsarch.org

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SHADOW BOXES

by Robert Sawyer

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Contemporary methodology is always a waxing and waning algorithm. We’re given the context of budget, site, scale, space, and what do we do with it? We constantly eschew the facts in an attempt to obtain a higher order. An order, we hope, will bring about a revolution of context. The perfect project. Never before seen, form following function or vice versa.

Then comes the element of style. Stars come out at night, and the brightest ones hold sway to the motif of the new grand order. Trends mean nothing to these supernovas, neither does budget apparently, and sometimes execution. We live and work in the shadows of these starchitect projects. Absess and indulgence conform to become the gold standard that lesser but ultimately just as capable architects attend to.

The whole propaganda behind architecture is dependent upon this trickle down theory: starchitect choices become trends. Trends become norms, and we adopt those norms for a period of time until there becomes a collective rejection, and the cycle continues.

The public actual believes that only a handful of chosen few can execute great works. Almost nobody knows that pretty much any and all architects are capable of doing gesamntkunstwerks. A gesamntkunstwerk being German for any project that takes a really long time to finish. In our office that’s anything over three weeks.

But lately here in LA we are witnessing a trend that I like to call Shadow Boxing. There are a lot of new homes going up devoid of color. Now, there are foundations such as The Siquieros Foundation who’s mission is to bring color into a concrete world. And, they’re doing a great job painting transformer boxes, and murals throughout the city. But just as foundations are devoted to cleaning urban blight, this new trend of specifying well, nothing, has me concerned.

Shadows expose lines and imperfections, casual silhouettes to the built edifice. Shadows are always there, omnipresent followings distorting perceptions to architectural imagination. They are almost never hashed out, thought out or brought out unless, of course, we’re forced to do a shadow study.

It’s these shadows which reflect our imagination as a silhouette that cast long swaths of grey into dark abyss. This, in my mind, deserves to be countered with intelligence, color, and light. Inappropriate as one might think, actually painting the outside of a project a bland mix of the same color isn’t good. It’s horrifying.

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Are choices of bland becoming the new normal? Does good taste give sway to zero imagination? Do I need to worry that a new client will demand that my new cedar cloaked gesamntkunstwerk will be primed and painted in a bath of whitewash?

I suppose that those of us who hope the trend isn’t going to last will be the most disappointed.

 

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Senator Cardin Reintroduces Bill to Increase Employment and Improve the Energy-Efficiency of Commercial Building Roofs

Bipartisan Energy-Efficient Cool Roof Jobs Act expected to create up to 40,000 jobs

Bethesda, MD, June 9, 2014 – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), has reintroduced the ‘‘Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act,” S. 2388, which would boost job creation in the construction industry and significantly increase the energy efficiency of buildings throughout the U.S., lowering energy costs and saving money. The bill would improve investment returns on building energy-efficiency improvements by shortening the tax depreciation period for the installation of new roofs on existing buildings that meet certain thermal performance and “cool roof” requirements.

“We don’t need to choose between good jobs and helping the environment – we can do both with the same policy,” said Senator Cardin. “Cool Roofs provides an opportunity to reduce energy consumption and add nearly 40,000 jobs to a sector of our economy that still has not felt the full effect of our emergent recovery. It’s no wonder this bill, which provides incentives to install energy efficient roofs and simplifies the tax code, has such broad support across industries and labor.”

S. 2388 is co-sponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Senator Cardin also filed the Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act as an amendment (S. Admt 3186) to the EXPIRE Act (S. 2260). U.S. Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) have introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 4740).

The bill reduces the depreciation period for commercial roof retrofits, lowering the current 39-year depreciation period in the current tax code to a 20-year depreciation period for energy-efficient cool roof systems. To qualify, roofs must include systems with insulation that meets or exceeds the ASHRAE Standard 189.1-2011, a model green building standard, and have a cool roof surface in climate zones one through five.

“Congress recognizes the value of commercial building roofs in terms of both national energy policy and providing an incentive for owners to increase the thermal performance of their buildings,” said Jared O. Blum, President, Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), a supporter of the bill. “Most buildings in this country were built before modern energy codes were in place, so upgrading the performance of those buildings with more energy efficient roofs can save lots of money.”

“The legislation also offers a more fair treatment of roofs under the tax depreciation system.  As currently structured, the tax code has created a disincentive for building owners to upgrade their roofs,” added Blum.

The Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act has attracted a wide range of supporters, including PIMA. The bill would create nearly 40,000 new jobs among roofing contractors and manufacturers; add $1 billion of taxable annual revenue in the construction sector; make the tax code simpler and more equitable for small businesses of all types; reduce U.S. energy consumption and save small businesses millions of dollars in energy costs; and reduce carbon emissions by 800,000 metric tons – an amount equal to the emissions of 153,000 cars. Additional supporters include:

  • Alliance to Save Energy??
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
  • Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)??
  • Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)??
  • Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR)??
  • Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)
  • Global Cool Cities Alliance??
  • Institute for Market Transformation (IMT)??
  • Joint Roofing Industry Labor and Management Committee??
  • National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA)??
  • NAIOP: The Commercial Real Estate Development Association
  • Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA)??
  • United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers

A significant opportunity to increase building energy efficiency lies within the commercial roofing sector.  Waterproof membranes on commercial low-slope roofs (i.e., flat roofs) last, on average, 17 years.  When these membranes are replaced, building owners could add a reasonable amount of insulation and substitute a white roof surface (i.e., a cool or reflective roof) for the traditional dark colored roof surface, a practice that would save $12.2 billion in energy costs in just the first ten years.  The annual savings after ten years would be $2.4 billion.  This activity would also avoid and offset 147 million tons of CO2 emissions, an amount that is equal to the annual emissions of 38 coal fired power plants.

About PIMA

For over 25 years, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) has served as the unified voice of the rigid polyiso industry proactively advocating for safe, cost-effective, sustainable and energy efficient construction. PIMA’s members, who first came together in 1987, include a synergistic partnership of polyiso manufacturers and industry suppliers. Polyiso is one of the Nation’s most widely used and cost-effective insulation products available. To learn more visit www.polyiso.org.

The following is an excerpt from a comment on an article that is going out worldwide on a marketing website: The Architect Marketing Show episode 1.

Dear Enoch,

As a Licensed General Contractor and Architect, I can tell you that most people respond to notions of perceived value. For eons the construction community has ridiculed architects for being idiots without any real working knowledge of construction, which is true. It’s not something that needs to change either. There is a natural order to things. The contractor deals with much larger sums of money, and therefore controls everything. (Hang on, let me finish!)

What needs to change, in my opinion is the public’s perceived value of architecture, and it’s processes. For example, I thought many years ago that my homespun architectural contract with it’s simplified provisions would be beneficial. However, I found out ten years later that all I was doing by not alliterating all aspects of the work was devaluing my product and services. Once I began to circulate the standard AIA contract, I found a noticeable higher regard for all that my thought process entailed. This translated to a greater respect for that process. Out with the old, in with the new.

I’ve got a doctor friend who sees patients for ten to fifteen minutes. His clients bring him cookies. He has had a single client give him $10,000.00 gift certificates to Carroll & Co. of Beverly Hills for the last half dozen years, as well as getting paid  for the service on his usual billing scale. I’ve often wondered how scraping a mole off of someone is more important than prodding safe and economical shelter. I believe the question is more important than the answer. We have to ask ourselves in the A+E industry, how do we stem the tide?

Architects have to stop talking about contractors in a negative light. It reflects very poorly on the professional. Owners truly believe all that they are told until somebody starts pointing a finger, then all contracts become suspect. They don’t know who or what to believe. It’s usually a tugging (insert other word here) contest. The outcome may appear to benefit the architect, but in the long run whether true or false, the contractor will spend more time with the owner, have more of their money, and gain influence over all they meet. Educating them all is a must.

By taking a professorial role, admitting where you are weak, allows for a more free-flow of information, and a smoother running project. By continuing this relationship over time, each of us can become stewards of the industry and help stem the tide. We can no longer afford to be talked about as neophytes when we pull out of the driveway. Our commitment to education extends to the owners that we serve. It will raise both up to a new standard which will end the backsliding of the profession, which is exactly where we’re at: low tide.

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CALIFORNIA LAND MORE VALUABLE THAN IMPROVED LOTS

Interesting comment from a seller who’s sitting on a redevelopment lot in Westchester, CA yesterday. We stopped at a pair of lots located in a residential neighborhood where the average lot size  is ~6,000 sf. and sell for about $120 psf of lot area improved. Amazing, however is that the lots are offered as “Land – only.” The realtor stated this when I first called to enquire as to price. Now, this pair of lots are sub-standard. They’re less than 4,000 sf each, and are less than 40 ft. wide. Not much room for a driveway and parking. Actually parking on that site would be almost impossible at 90 degrees, and far less desirable at an angle. I guess the realtor hasn’t figured that out yet. He’s asking a million bucks for the postage-sized stamp of a lot (each, lol.) This, as he described was just for the land, because it’s in a redevelopment zone. Heh heh, he must not really be looking at the truth of the zone and it’s requirements.

First of all – RD1.5 is a redevelopment zone but you would have to actually build out the parcel to gain any ROI.

Figuring if you purchased both parcels at the bargain price of 1.8 million, then added four units (limited by parking – a determinate of lot size.) You might expect to spend upwards of $240.00 psf on new construction, site improvements, utilities and landscaping – adding another 75.00 psf of lot area. So, let’s figure an FAR of 70% of lot area or 2,800s.f. max per parcel x 2 = 5,600 sf tot. / 4 = (4) 1,400 sf units. Cost projections – however loosely done are 5,800 sf @ 240.00 (minimum new construction finished cost in this area.) = $1,392,000. Site improvements and landscape including utilities will run another $112,000. Most of that as anyone will tell you is spent on the DWP, or waiting for the DWP!!! Oh and of course A+E plus Permit fees at another $100k.

Total costs thus far = 1.8 million Lot cost + 1.392million Construction + $112k + $100K = $3,404,000.00 hard costs not including soft costs such as Hardware, Maintenance during construction, Insurance, and Mortgage carrying costs. But, let’s reduce. The 3,404,000 is an accurate investment – I’d bid that anyway. Divide that number by four to determine unit costs. I get $851,000.00. Let’s divide that by the square footage: I get $607.85 psf. Average new home prices are fetching 575.00 pdf in the neighborhood. So, it looks feasible if you want to work for free, and make ZERO income. What’s happened here?

Basically, the realtor has worked all the special math on the equation. He’s deduced what the property is worth as a finished project, and he’s removed the ability for any developer to improve the property by removing any anticipated profits. He’s sculpted the profits you should make on the project for himself – in advance of selling the lot. And, here we go again. This is year 2004-5-6-7 all over again. If we need any regulation of the industry at all it should not be of the financial services industry – it should be the target capitolists and opportunists who’s money-grabbing sellers should be limited to a percentage of cost at no more than twenty percent profit. In an area where conscience does not govern, it’s the opportunists who create bubbles similar to the cycle that we just completed all over again.

###Robert Sawyer is an internationally acclaimed author and is Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Business Magazine since 1985.  He resides in Los Angeles, CA and is the principal partner of Robert Sawyer Architects & Construction. The Sawyer Report is copyrighted and may not be quoted or used without written permission from ARCHITECTURAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE.

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Keyword: Inventory 

Real Estate buzzword saving the day or newest real estate reality
9/19/13
Ok, so we seem to be climbing out of the world’s worst recession since civilization began. As far as recessions go, what we went through was not a recession. It was worse than a depression. After speaking to those survivors from the Great Depression, it was far worse. Even during the depression you could walk into a grocery store and buy a discounted loaf of bread. Prices for building materials plummeted during the depression. Costs were relative to the buying power the dollar had and as such, even though unemployment was high, it was all pretty much doable.
The load of crap in the Repression we just all experienced was thus: no cash flow for any company in any sector of the marketplace. Prices remained at a constant with 2005 and continued upwards. Housing bubbles burst leaving builders at risk and homeowners high and dry. Variable ARM mortgages were sold to cover the profits of brokers who dropped like flies when the FED stole all of the money we had. And, similar to the last recession in 1990, real estate took a tumble. 
 
Except this time, we saw the Real Estate profession gather steam early and strong. We saw incredible work effort from the likes of Stephanie Younger of Westchester, CA. Seemingly overnight the realtors were out walking the neighborhood reaching out to the residents. Quiet assurances were given that the market was bad, and that the bad market was good. For instance, in this new world order the lack of listings drove the market backwards and back up to pre-2006 levels. You can’t keep selling what isn’t there, right? 
 
Brilliant. Now, I’m sure that Stephanie took cues from the Realtor’s Association, and I commend her for that. But, in light of an impending blow-out of doom and gloom which many people glom onto like lemmings, she and her colleagues were out in force. Making it happen, and I gained a new respect for these agents, the profession, and the process. Similarly, lessons can be gleaned from the actions and efforts of this gallant group of people. They put the country back on it’s feet using smart logistics, and that’s the kind of implementation that architects should be responsible for.
We are the keepers of the real, the guardians as Peter Eisenmann once told me. 
 
So, next time your client asks to design something in a preconceived style, please keep in mind the excellence that was exhibited by the Realtors Association. Say no, you only design to the style dictated by the program, the site, and the code restrictions. Stupid blocky architecture with preconceived notions about style are incredibly damaging to the profession. The public at large really wants customer service, and that needs to be tempered by educated, real, experienced good judgement. Let’s give it to them, and hope that Stephanie Younger calls when it’s time to break ground.
 
see also FED expert:www.watchdogonwallstreet.com
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Robert Sawyer is an internationally acclaimed author and is Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Business Magazine since 1985.  He resides in Los Angeles, CA and is the principal partner of Robert Sawyer Architects & Construction. The Sawyer Report is copyrighted and may not be quoted or used without written permission from ARCHITECTURAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE.
 
Real Estate Tips From The FieldFlorida Realtor Paul Da Costa Finds Value, Relies on Good Advice7/30/13

As we pull ourselves out of the recession inch by inch, survivors share their stories about how they made it through. One interesting person is Paul Da Costa who began flipping houses long ago, and continued to do so throughout the Great Recession.
 
As with many realtors Paul has a rule book he developed to determine feasibility for projects. First, he recommends using a licensed architect for each of his projects and has noted a distinct difference between the affordability and efficiency of those projects which are well-planned and those which are left to chance. His cutoff point for handling a job on his own comes with the need to move any walls. In Florida the codes require an architect for any such work.
The mistake that is often made however is when a home or business owner asks a tradesperson their opinion about work to be done. They are quickly lulled into a false sense of security as they don’t possess the skill to render a qualified opinion. The trauma really begins with asking the right question to the wrong person. Facility managers and homeowners alike waste millions annually on poor retrofits or replacements that were completely unnecessary in the final analysis:
At the end of the day tradesmen need to make money and they will tell you anything regarding what they think you are willing to spend. And there is usually no recourse for a non-professional opinion except learning that valuable lesson.
Mr. Da Costa notes it is becoming commonplace to see a punch list from insurance companies when their policy is declined. They are policing the workplace in an effort to defend against claims. Very often they find sub-par workmanship and make policyholders correct the deficiencies prior to receiving a policy.
Residential flip markets have unique demands. Mr. Da Costa has developed standard criteria he says have helped keep home sales positive. These include:
1. Total paint inside and out including garages.
2. Landscaping in keeping with the neighborhood.
3. Kitchens comparable with others in the neighborhood.
    Some useful items may include
    Roll out shelves, lighter cabinet colors, lazy Susan’s, Caesarstone or coriander counters.
4. Baths
    Replace mirrors
    Recessed soap
    Marble slab with holes for razors, etc.
5. Closets
    Places for everything
    Solid shelving
    Chrome poles
    Clean design
6. HVAC -replace if over five years old (residential only)
    Mechanical direct costs are minimal in comparison to the perceived value especially in Florida where it is even greater.
7. New carpet.
Mr. Da Costa has advice for those in the redevelopment and flip market:
Less involvement may be more. This does not mean abandoning your projects. He stipulates a 10% penalty in all his contracts for cleanup for example. Interesting that showing up on your own project site with a broom in hand or a pair of pliers and offering to lend actually may result in contractors not showing up. Your own involvement as a manager should be managerial if possible. Many contractors who see a DIY guy on-site will ALWAYS turf their responsibility for fixing mistakes. This can be avoided by not offering to help in the first place.

Loyalty among the workforce results in repetition which, in turn, fosters respect. In the long run this loyalty helps to reduce costs as deals replicate themselves through your own internal network. This loyalty also reduces drama and there is less chasing people around. You can succeed in the housing flip market using sound business decisions. However if you really want to pursue the project of your dreams then utilize the advice of experts. Paul Da Costa has proven that these ideas work and should be adopted by anyone that wants to get into that market.

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Robert Sawyer is the internationally acclaimed author and Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Business Magazine since 1985.  He resides in Los Angeles, CA and is the principal partner at Robert Sawyer Architects & Construction. The Sawyer Report is copyrighted and may not be quoted or used without written permission from ARCHITECTURAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE.

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