Advanced Design Technologies
We design using cutting edge tools and technologies to create - truly - the highest quality environments for human habitation in the history of our species. It's far beyond the incorporation of high technology in components of the buildings... the buildings themselves are technologically advanced outcomes of rigorously applied building science.
Some people think about our work as Read More →
Passive House at a Glance
The term 'passive' in the context of passive house refers to the reduction or elimination of 'active' mechanical systems. There are many compelling reasons why this is a more intelligent and responsible way to build. Here is a quick list of benefits - in no particular order:- Increased comfort.- Improved reliability.- Pristine indoor air quality.- Dramatic cost savings.- Redirect money from equipment to architectur Read More →
High Performance Architecture Pays For Itself
Once we have a conceptual design solution that has been approved by a client, we typically provide them with a financial analysis of the costs and benefits of building to the passivhaus level of quality as opposed to simply building to current code minimums.
"By building to passive house quality instead of code minimum, our client is investing in their equity rather than spending even more money on utility bills."&n Read More →
Quality, Time and Cost
Quality, time, and cost are the three legs supporting the metaphorical stool of project management. Good project managers constantly work to maximize the outcome for a project in each of these three realms. The most difficult aspect of this nonstop challenge is that each of these priorities compete for dominance over the other two. Quality is surely easier to maintain if we relax our concern about schedule or Read More →
Building and Car Pricepoints
"Design is usually not about luxury, but rather, making the best use of available resources for any given project."
Buildings and cars are both designed and created across a spectrum of price, from low-end to high. Buildings are very different from automobiles in important ways... buildings are much more expensive, long term commitments that may appreciate in value rather than depreciate. But there are s Read More →
400 Mile Per Gallon Architecture
Imagine you are considering the purchase of a new car that gets 40 miles to the gallon... when you learn about a similarly priced high performance alternative that is far better built, looks great, and runs 200 to 400 miles to the gallon, depending on your driving habits. It uses some German parts and a lot of German technology, but it is mostly a domestic product. Oh, and another thing; the maintenance is a Read More →
What Breed of Architect is for You?
Pretty much by definition, embarking on a search for any professional to place your trust in is likely to be a little worrisome. The prospect of selecting and hiring an architect can be something of a challenge, for any number of reasons. On the chance you may be in this situation, or know someone who is, I would like to share some insider knowledge that might help to narrow things down a bit.
"For us, everyth Read More →
Loss, Love, Architecture
"Architecture is not really about buildings, any more than poetry is about vowels."
Life is full of disappointments, small and large. Then there is loss in life, an entirely different matter. The former, time will surely reveal to be relative, perhaps even trivial; the latter is absolute, dimensionless. Time does not heal loss; loss is loss. Grieving only allows us to slowly learn how to cope with loss, Read More →
Perspectives: Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Architecture has the potential to be greatly enriched with an inclusive appreciation of both 'Western' ('European') and 'Eastern' ('Asian') perspectives. This is not to say that we favor Asian style, but rather, that we appreciate the contrasting character of Asian thought systems and what those outlooks can do to deepen and enrich the design sensibilities that, as children of Western culture, many of us have so Read More →
Rammed Earth Architecture
It comes as a surprise to many people to see an architect working in the Pacific Northwest designing and building with rammed earth, which is generally associated with very arid, hot climates and low tech, indigenous building traditions. I became interested in working with rammed earth as an unexpected outcome of research I was doing during the programming phase of a project for a writers' retreat that led me t Read More →
Passive House Northwest
Sam Rodell Architects is featured prominently in the recently published book Passive House Northwest 2016, including several projects recently completed and currently underway and a brief overview of the firm:
"The work of Sam Rodell Architects is characterized primarily by thoughtful attention to the client and the site. Passive house design and certification is simply presumed for any project that inv Read More →
Design in Uncertain Times
No one knows what twist of fate will materialize next week, or tomorrow, or even today. We live with a gnawing awareness that actions we take - or fail to take - now may have profound consequences that are often equally unpredictable.
What are the implications for architecture in this uncertain world? What is our potential to better shape our built environment to help stabilize or improve situations for oursel Read More →
Terroir and Architecture
Our present position begins with the observation that people and cultures are defined by the balance they make between the general and the particular. We feel that in Western society this balance is in jeopardy. Mass culture is becoming so predominant that the local and the particular are becoming less and less evident. This is the 'McDonald's Theorem' - the proposition that international capitalism is creating a uni Read More →
Why We Build Buildings Twice
Before our projects are actually constructed on a site, they are built first in our studios, in a comprehensive computer model. Working closely with specialized experts in each of the disciplines involved, we model every system in the project... not just the architecture, but the lighting, plumbing, ventilation, communications, etc. - It's all virtually integrated and assembled in our studio before it's physically Read More →
Low Voltage Electrical Systems
This article is somewhat technically oriented, but it is also about the larger picture. Our design focus favors taking forward-looking, intelligent advantage of emerging but proven technologies. What we are doing 'under the hood' enhances our work with improved economies and performance - weaving the technical with the artistic, the poetic with the practical, the dreams to the realities.
So even seem Read More →
The Path to Health and Happiness
Health and happiness cohabit in a powerful alliance. It is a close partnership; one does not fare well without the other.
Neither just happens. Both require attention, both require work. To this simple rule, no exceptions are allowed, no excuses are granted. There are no shortcuts. Anything that presents as such is inevitably a Devil's deal - and of course, the Devil never loses on a deal. Wealth does not afford a Read More →
Architecture and Water Vapor
Water is one of the most powerful forces of nature, and one of the primary variables determining the durability and performance of buildings. Depending on the climate, regional building design responds directly to rain, snow, and ice, but another powerful form in which water interacts with structures is vapor. The glass surface seen here shows behavior of water in all three phase states: solid, liquid, and vap Read More →
Seasons in Architecture and Construction
Growing up, spring was the time my dad and I began to get the building itch. The two of us would design and plan out a project, purchase the materials (and any needed tools…) and wait for the right day to start. The projects we worked on ranged from a shed or a boat to a chicken coop or play fort. Whatever project we chose to do would carry us into the summer and leave us with a feeling of fulfillment and sati Read More →
NOT Passive Solar
One of the most common misunderstandings we see about our high performance architecture is that we are preoccupied with passive solar design - which is actually something we don't have any particular interest in.
It's easy to see why this confusion happens: Passive House (or Passivhaus) sounds just like passive solar, and both are associated with lower energy use in buildings. That's about where the si Read More →
When Walls Meet
Corners are a design opportunity, potentially telling part of the story of a building through the material fabric of a buildings surface. Corners can be a tool for wayfinding, a way to change the visual size of an object or an opportunity to show off great design. Nothing stands out as inauthentic or insincere in a buildings story as a poorly designed corner. Why? Corners often tell us about a buildings cha Read More →
Why We Build Airtight Architecture
Passive House architecture: Healthy, comfortable places to live and work that use a fraction of the energy of mainstream construction. Many people presume this must be all about insulating really well, and while that is important, the amazing performance of a Passive House project actually begins with extremely well controlled ventilation.
As much as forty percent of the energy loss in a building built to current Read More →
Proportions of the Particular
Questions of proportion span across philosophy, mathematics, science, history, and numerous aspects of art and architecture. Two opposing schools of thought about our understanding of reality recur in this context. One camp describes proportional systems as a means to better understand the harmonies of nature, where proportional relationships embodied in nature reveal a (divine) cosmological presence that orders the Read More →
Saving More With Commercial Passivhaus
The savings to be realized by Passivhaus architecture are exponentially increased when we build institutional and commercial projects. We are pleased to have one of the most experienced commercial/institutional Passivhaus architects in the world on our design team. Adam Cohen brings thirty years of experience as both a builder and an architect. He has amassed a notable list of projects, including several 'firsts':& Read More →
Symbolism in Architecture
In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. ~ Peter Zumthor
From a generalized societal perspective, we have for the most part been increasingly creating our buildings and communities with a preoccupation of immediacy - short term results - rather than with a sincere concern for long term appropriaten Read More →
The Possibility of Good
"...to 'be less bad' is to accept things as they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the best humans can do. This is the ultimate failure of the 'be less bad' approach: a failure of the imagination. From our perspective, this is a depressing vision of our species' role in the world. What about an entirely different model? What would it mean to be 100% good?"~ William McDon Read More →
Your Home or Office Can Power Your Car
Passive House: Designing and building buildings so well for a specific site and climate we can eliminate eighty to ninety percent of the energy demands of space heating, cooling, and humidity control. This is fully achievable and affordable today, using readily available technologies and materials. And trust me, the architecture will be stunning, but not odd; I can create nearly any character working in this realm.Th Read More →
Dwelling as Placemaking
"Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build." ~ Martin Heidegger
Our present position begins with the observation that people and cultures are defined by the balance they make between the general and the particular. We feel that in Western society this balance is in jeopardy. Mass culture is becoming so predominant that the local and the particular are becoming less and less evident. This is the Read More →
Effortlessly Increase Your Disposable Income
Does it seem like you just paid all the monthly bills... but it's time to do it all again? Whether you are running a business or a household, all those little piles of cash flowing out the door every month add up.The utilities are costing more every year, and the the cost of energy is likely to increase dramatically moving forward. But what if you could cut your heating and cooling bill by eighty to ninety percent? W Read More →
The Meaning of 'Professional'
The meanings of words shift over time. In the 13th century the word 'nice' meant foolish, or stupid. Today, the word 'professional' has been shifting to refer to pretty much anything done for money. But this erosion of meaning muddies the critical distinction embodied in the term.
Professional specifically describes a highly qualified individual conscientiously delivering knowledgeable and skilled service to Read More →
Shading Data - No Guesses Allowed
One of the many aspects of site specific architectural design now standard practice in our pre-design research process is to acquire a forensic understanding of the shading conditions that will alter how our architecture will be exposed to the sun over the course of each year.Designing high performance buildings, there is far less room for intuition and assumptions commonly taken for granted in the design and const Read More →
Cakes Left Out in the Rain
That natural forces will act on, and ultimately destroy, any contribution we make to our built environment persists as one of the few things we can be sure of about the fate of any building. For architects, this presents a challenge somewhat analogous to that of medical professionals who, destined to ultimately surrender the battle associated with our desire for immortality, heroically strive to help u Read More →
Chemical Hazards in Consumer Products
Building with toxic materials is such a bad practice, in part because we are embedding them into environments where people then tend to have long term exposure to them. It's good to be aware that carcinogenic and toxic material is not only found in scores of products in the building industry, but also in common consumer goods. One informative website that works to provide helpful information about this is healthySt Read More →
Design for Aging
We experience our environment in very different ways as we age. Too often, we fail to fully appreciate the importance of this simple but profoundly important reality.Architecture for the elderly is a distinctly different challenge that requires knowledge, awareness, appreciation, and empathy generally missing from architectural education. It's often something designers are relatively oblivious to - especi Read More →
Choices Reflect Values
"Simplicity, clarity, singleness; these are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy." ~ Richard Halloway
Imagine that in your left hand, you hold a bottle of very low cost wine... and in your right, something like a Willamette Valley Pinot or a Napa Valley Cabernet. The similarities are obvious enough; 750 ml of fermented grape juice, in glass containers. They have roughly equivalent alco Read More →
Rammed Earth: Deep Green by Design
A view of earth from space reveals a trace band of blue - our atmosphere - just visible across the sunlit edge of our planet. Below, eighty percent of the globe is coated by salt water but a fraction of the depth of that atmosphere. The remaining surface area rising just above the seas supports an exponentially thinner layer of organic soils. David Suzuki has offered the observation that if we accurately modeled th Read More →
Toxin Free Consumer Products
This is the first TV free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), built by Philips Electronics. We need to support industry leaders who are demonstrating that innovation can move us away from industrial production that poisons the environment. BFRs, used in circuit boards and plastic casings, do not break down easily and build up in the environment. Long-term exposure can lead to impaire Read More →
David Suzuki Explores Rammed Earth
In this short film clip, David Suzuki visits a home built with SIREWALL - rammed earth walls that are insulated, steel reinforced, solid sandstone. Unlike traditional rammed earth, SIREWALL is a top tier, cutting edge contemporary architectural material appropriate for any climate.
Read More →
Thermal Mass in Architecture
To design and build structures that are thermally comfortable but effectively minimize energy use, it seems clear that some form of thermal mass should be part of the equation in most climates. Thermal mass acts like a 'thermal battery', storing heat energy. It stabilizes internal temperature, absorbing heat energy when the mass is cooler than ambient conditions and radiating it when the mass is warmer than ambient c Read More →
Building Legacy Architecture
Building with durable, inorganic materials such as SIREWALL means spending more initially to create buildings that will not burn, rot, or otherwise decompose. What are the implications of designing buildings that will stand for generations rather than years?A brook trout swims freely... within the boundaries of the streambed. Both the stream and its inhabitants are constantly changing, but the stream structure change Read More →
The Fulcrum of the Power Grid
The railroad system that spans our continent represents one of the most ambitious historical achievements of our nation. Our infrastructure of power utilities gradually eclipsed that incredible achievement in both scale and significance. We are the beneficiaries of over a century of ongoing investment in the distribution of electricity. This incredible asset is poised to play a major role in facilitating our transiti Read More →
The Adoration of the Joint
"I put the glass between the structural members and the members which are not of structure because the joint is the beginning of ornament. And that must be distinguished from decoration that is simply applied. Ornament is the adoration of the joint." ~ Louis I. Kahn
How design elements and materials are brought together reflects the integrity of almost any material composition. Thoughtful selection and assembly Read More →
Getting to Simple
"Like all great performances, a great work of art makes complexity look simple. It is executed with style, skill, and grace. Any genuine work of art is created through tremendous discipline, not put together out of a grab bag of random references and trendy trim. Great art eliminates everything superfluous and nonessential to deliver a strong, clear message in the language of its time. It intensifies all of our res Read More →
Collegiality and Teamwork
"Listen to the man who works with his hands. He may be able to show you a better way to do it." ~ Louis Kahn
"And always - always, say Thank You." ~ Mike Kelly
My role during construction is generally to act as my client's agent, working to ensure that what was designed is what is built, the obligations of their construction contract are being honored, and what they are being billed for as construction Read More →
We created these computer model images exploring options related to detailing proposed new niches in the wall of a condominium. They are quick proportion and lighting studies of a concept we were refining for our client's urban nest, which we are in the process of transforming room by room.This is forensically accurate light modeling. There are large windows facing north that bring in a good deal of ambient dayli Read More →
Travel and Architecture
One of the most addictive aspects of a career in architecture is the level of ongoing learning that it engages one in throughout the entire arc of a career, of a lifetime. The sources of this 'continuing education' need not be distant or exotic travel. The insights offered by local interactions and every day life are generous indeed. But to expand ourselves beyond the boundaries of familiar contexts and references, Read More →
"Where there is style, there is no need for a style." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright
Social networks provide opportunities to engage a diverse community of people in conversations to reveal a broad sampling of opinion on any topic. I have occasionally posed questions to fans of my Sam Rodell | Architect Facebook page, and have found many of the responses to be interesting. I appreciate the feedback, and often find it pro Read More →
Designing for Natural Light
One of the first things we do with a new project is build a detailed and accurate three dimensional computer model of the land and its physical features from a survey. The survey work is usually completed using both a laser theodolite and satellite GPS data. The topographic model created from this data is calibrated with the specific altitude, latitude, and longitude of its physical location on the planet.
This co Read More →
The Intelligent Choice
Europeans have lived with high energy costs for a long time, and have a strong pragmatic awareness of the costs associated with heating and cooling buildings. So it may come as no surprise that the leading standard in energy savings comes to us from Germany: The Passive House standard.
It's not a brand - anyone with the knowledge and desire can use these technologies. The advantages are clear: a means to create be Read More →
Passion, Innovation and Efficiency
There are no shortcuts to excellence. An ever present tension in architectural practice derives from the need to not only work well, but to do so as efficiently as possible. Each project we undertake represents a leap of faith - on everyone's part - on our ability to arrive at an optimum result without actually knowing what that result will be, or even exactly how we will arrive there.
We employ a proven methodolo Read More →
Cultivation of Expression
Buildings are anthropomorphic interventions in the natural environment - in other words, we live in a built environment that we create largely in response to the way we live within our bodies. Architecture serves far more than physical needs, but the human body is a primary determinant of architectural form. Everything from the scale of enclosed volumes to elements like windows, cabinets, or doorknobs is a response t Read More →
The First Step to Net Zero Energy
A 'net-zero energy' building generates more energy than it needs. The most important item in Net-Zero design is reducing the demand for energy. This is the main principle behind the Passive House concept, so it should be a natural progression for architects designing to the passive house standard to also pursue Net-Zero Energy. A passivhaus project is already over half way toward being a Net-Zero Energy project.Here Read More →
Life on Water
Dwelling in architecture, we live between earth and sky. Architecture is about a specific situation, bound to a fixed location. It defines a particular place, shaped and sometimes defined by where it stands. Place, in this context, is both physical and cultural.
Most of the globe is covered by water, of course, and for many reasons throughout history, we have ventured for Read More →
Steer Clear of Toxic Tile
Most ceramic wall or floor tile is now manufactured out of the United States, and the use of highly toxic heavy metals in the glazes is common. Most of the tiles you will see, especially in retail outlets, were manufactured in China, or in Cambodia or Vietnam by Chinese companies. The environmental impact of the manufacturing practices of these companies is severe, as are the health risks to laborers and regional r Read More →
What Plants Can Teach Us About Storing Energy
Biomimicry: What plants can teach us about storing energy... Good bye, fossil fuel dependency!
The main challenge with sun and wind energy is storage. Because the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing, we need to be able to bank away renewable energy when it's available for times when it is not. A team from Harvard is learning how to do just that... from plants. They are looking to photosynth Read More →
Building with Organic Materials
All the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full. Ecclesiastes 1:7
Waste does not exist in nature. In the natural world, everything is cyclical; everything happens in closed loops and dynamic systems of loops. One familiar example would be the hydrological cycle, in which energy from the sun charges the atmosphere with water vapor and moves it inland on thermal currents, where it falls to th Read More →
Choice and Cultivation
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~ Henry David Thoreau
To function, even at the most basic level, we must be selective in our interaction with our environment. We must filter the majority of the flood of potential information aro Read More →
My Mentor's Mentors
"There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where yo Read More →
"If there is a beautiful view, do not spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly at it. Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition - along paths, in hallways, in entry ways on stairs, between rooms. If the view window is correctly placed, people will see a glimpse of the distant view as they come up to the window or pass it; but the view is never visible from the places w Read More →
Breathing Clean Indoor Air
Optimum interior air quality has become an increasingly prominent concern in my work. Passive house interior air quality is pristine because highly filtered fresh air is constantly being exchanged with the interior air. The passive house standard requires filtration systems that achieve a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 12 or better - meaning dangerous contaminants have been removed from the air, Read More →
Design for Future Abundance
The classical English pattern of using the village commons (that communally owned and used land which was available for pasturing private livestock) did not involve a conflict between public and private welfare as long as there was enough land. However, as herds increased, the over-grazed land became less productive so that the herdsmen had to increase their stocks in order to stay even, and thus the commons were des Read More →
Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
It is no secret that our dependence on oil reaches into every aspect of modern life. This must change - actually, will change, whether we like it or not. Not only are we wreaking environmental havoc burning fossil fuels, it is certain the costs will continue to dramatically rise, impacting every corner of our economy. Global demand is steadily increasing as supplies are steadily tapering. It is a problem of epic scal Read More →
Regional Authenticity and Architectural Sincerity
In virtually all our travels now, we see all manors of decorative devices employed in the built environment. Most represent, overtly or indirectly, intentions, aspirations, or values. Often, signage supplements or simply replaces architectural iconography.Regional authenticity is undermined by the forces of globalization and by the unbridled use of 'theme' centered imagery. Architectural 'style' is oft reduced in thi Read More →
Spaces for Creative Collaboration
Unleashed Online Media asked for offices that reflect who they are and support how they work. What was required was a balanced blend of collaborative, open space and personal, individual space that express and foster progressive thinking and positive energies. The design and construction schedule was extremely short, and the budget called for highly creative solutions.
The top image to the right is an artifac Read More →
Dualities in Design
Yang: The active, masculine cosmic principle in Chinese dualistic philosophy.Yin: The passive, female cosmic principle in Chinese dualistic philosophy.
Differences may be experienced as complimentary attributes. It is not always necessary or desirable to resolve differences. It has often been the case, in my experience, that eliding them is likely to be a less potent or successful design strategy than celebrating Read More →
Optimizing Walls for Energy Performance
We assign a very high priority to comfort in buildings - specifically, thermal comfort. One of the basic distinctions between being inside' and 'outside' is that when we are inside, we expect to be comfortable. We essentially live in two climates - interior and exterior - and the construction assemblies that make up the floors, walls, and ceilings of our buildings, often referred to as the building envelope, mediates Read More →
All Around Us, Obsolete New Buildings.
Because they use such exorbitant quantities of energy, new buildings built to code are actually going to be obsolete from day one of occupancy.
"Built to code is a euphemism for built to the lowest legally permissible standard." ~ Sam Rodell
Most buildings currently under construction are fated to become dramatically more expensive to occupy and lose value as energy costs increase, Read More →
We designed and built our home on a site in a small development enfronting wetlands. Rather than extending the ubiquitous domesticated landscape of American suburbia into the native landscape, we instead pulled the wetlands and native landscape back into the domesticated realm of the housing development, weaving our building into it.
The Mallard couple pictured here takes up residence every March on one of t Read More →
Waste is Food
A 'circular economy' is a term for an industrial economy that is, by design or intention, completely restorative. In a circular economy, material flows are of two types: biological and technical. Biological nutrients are designed to reenter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients are designed to circulate at high quality without entering the biosphere. But everything is reused. In a circular Read More →
Blackened Cedar Siding
The term "Shou-Sugi-Ban" is Japanese (焼杉板) and translates to "burnt cedar board". The term describes the centuries old Japanese technique of charring "Sugi" (cedar) planks.For centuries, Japanese carpenters used recovered driftwood from the coastlines of Japan for an artistic finish that also improved durability. Japanese driftwood was prized for its unique appearance and durability due to the weathering proc Read More →
Building A Timeless Wooden Boat
"In my view, the connection with the processes of making continues to be seminal, and a wise architect today searches deep personal friendships with craftsmen, artisans and artists to reconnect his/her intellectualized world and thinking with the source of all true knowledge: The real world of materiality and gravity, and the sensory and embodied understanding of these physical phenomena."~ Juhani PallasmaaI have bee Read More →
Designing with Sheets of Light
One of the most exciting and interesting aspects of architecture is lighting design, and emerging technologies are creating an ever expanding horizon of design possibilities. This is a flexible 'light sheet' that provides high quality lighting while eliminating many of the constraints and challenges traditional lighting options impose. This new medium for lighting combines the mechanical, electrical and light s Read More →
"When you make things well, it's an ethical thing." ~ Stanley Tigerman
Instant gratification in architecture is highly over-rated. As an architect, being published and winning prestigious design awards is validating and gratifying, but this kind of recognition also tends to be fleeting, capricious, and superficial.
I have arrived at the understanding that for me, the only meaningful goal related to profe Read More →
Phase Change Materials
Putting Nature's Magic to Work For Us: Phase Change Materials
We see it all around us, all the time; temperature changes make stuff freeze, melt, or vaporize. These 'phase change' transformations, in which molecules change from one state of matter to another, are so common we take them for granted. Ice cubes in a drink, no big deal!But there are some interesting physics involved in every instance of these little m Read More →
Details and Intention
When we experience good design - whether it is the design of a product, a service, or an environment - seemingly small, nuanced details we may well not even be conscious of will often exert a powerful influence on our perceptions. Even without knowing why, we are drawn toward the intentions of our benefactors. We like what they are up to. We appreciate what they provide without really needing to understand why or how Read More →
Art and Science of Architecture
In Western culture, science and art are often thought of as existing in separate worlds. Our higher educational institutions support this notion, for example - coursework is generally offered in the arts, or in the sciences. Yet we need look no further than the rise of Apple to recognize this is a false choice. In design, and in life, art and science are dance partners to the music of quality and innovation.Louis K Read More →
Three Dimensional Point Clouds
Technical innovation continues to rapidly and profoundly impact the practice of architecture. Here is one example: We can now perform a three dimensional laser scan of any built environment, rapidly collecting the locations of millions of points in space, creating a digital file housing a massive bundle of data known as a 'point cloud'. This point cloud can be 'read' by the three dimensional modeling software that pl Read More →
Zero Net Energy Owners Speak Out
A Zero Net Energy Home produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in zero net energy bills and zero net carbon emissions. But the story does not end there. Zero Energy Homes have many other advantages over standard homes and so-called 'green' homes. They are very quiet, they provide fresh filtered air, they are very comfortable, and they are very sturdy homes. When the modest extra cost to build a Zero Read More →
Environmentally Optimized Commercial Laundry
You might not think of architects as being particularly interested in laundry as a design issue, but we get really excited about saving our clients money and easing the impact that the facilities we create have on the environment. And when we're talking about thousands of tons of laundry being processed annually, the stakes are large... very large. We can cut hot water usage by 90% or more and dryer energy usage in Read More →
Designed to Fail
This sextant is an example of sophisticated navigation technology designed and built to reliably function over a hundred years ago. It is well designed, anticipating challenges of use in extreme conditions when accuracy could be a matter of life and death. It is well made, of materials selected to stand up to a harsh marine environment over time.In a sextant, there are no delicate parts that will break, no computer Read More →
Reintroducing China to Rammed Earth
China is undertaking the largest building boom in the history of the world. A young and talented pair of Canadian architects are working to introduce SIREWALL rammed earth as a healthy, sustainable option for building beautiful and durable architecture in China.
Read More →
How I First Noticed Architects
The Boy Scouts have a merit badge for architecture. And yes, I have one. On my journey toward the rank of Eagle scout, my world opened up in many ways, but surprisingly, it was the experience of earning this relatively obscure merit badge that influenced the course of my life. R. G. Nelson, the distinguished Coeur d'Alene Idaho architect, was my counselor. This was just a little quiet volunteer community servi Read More →
The Third and the Seventh
"Lighting has been and still is one of my obsessions when creating art. I think it's a key element on many levels: as a tool for composition, narration, in the emotions it provokes." ~ Alex Roman
We love what computer visualization can do for our clients, design process, and clients. We work with it enough to have a special appreciation of gorgeous works like this, which raise the medium itself to the level o Read More →
Coaxing a Stone
"You say to brick, "What do you want, brick?" Brick says to you, "I like an arch." If you say to brick, "Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?' Brick says, 'I like an arch.'It is important that you honor the material you use. You don't bandy it about as though to say, 'Well we have a lot of material, we can do it one way, we can do it another way Read More →
Preserving Darkness to Design With Light
Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide offers insights into how thoughtful architects and lighting designers pay attention to light (and to darkness) to design more healthy, delightful spaces and integrate the built environment into the world in more gracious ways.
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You are quietly being poisoned...
Most people assume there is some level of oversight protecting them from unhealthy building. That is not the case. No form of regulatory oversight is concerned with the levels of toxic materials embedded in building materials.
Building codes, for example, primarily focus on issues like life safety in the context of fires and earthquakes.The construction industry is a toxic disaster, from source to installation, and Read More →
Teachers are Heroes
Good design is supported by vibrant culture.Vibrant culture is built on rigorous, critical, and broad education.Strong education requires a partnership of engaged parents and a close community of powerfully empowered support to create meaningful challenges and co-create open possibilities for students of all ages. It's happening out there, and it's amazing. Go Pirates! Go Dragons! Go Bulldogs!Passionate teachers ar Read More →
Design-Build Architectural Practice
"Hiring your architect separately from the builder allows you to select your first choice for both, and to defer committing to a builder first thing, before you really know what you're going to build." ~ Sam Rodell
One of the decisions you will make when you select an architect is deciding the role they will have in your project as it is built. What you may not realize is that you may actually be making this ch Read More →
I know a lot of skilled architects who know what great architecture is - and really appreciate it - but can't create it. They have many skills, lots of talent, and deep knowledge, but lack some essential capabilities that are required to be a well rounded architect. They usually play an important if specialized role on a team, in a larger firm. Their contributions to the profession are often exceptional within the Read More →
Lessons From Being a Developer
Becoming licensed as an architect is a long, challenging process, but that is just the first step toward becoming an Architect, which is a lifelong journey. In my particular case, it has included decades of experience as a general contractor, building our designs for our clients... as well as becoming a project developer, simultaneously acting as the architect, contractor, and client for a multi-million dollar invest Read More →
Responsibility and Gratitude
"Our life work is built on a foundation of reverence, responsibility, and gratitude." ~ Sam Rodell
Imagine building a scale model of the earth 75 yards in diameter. The biosphere in this model would be roughly the thickness of the skin of a tomato. It is here, between earth and sky, where the story of each of our lives, and indeed the history and future of all terrestrial life is written. It's a dynamically Read More →
Designing with Thermal Analysis Tools
Our buildings are designed to isolate the interior climate from the exterior climate, which means we need to consider every way energy moves between the interior and exterior, including the roofs, walls, floors, doors, windows... literally every square inch of the places where heated or cooled spaces encounter the outside world. Most of these 'boundary conditions' consist of a variety of materials assembled in fair Read More →
Investing in Design
Hiring an architect is expensive... but embarking on a significant construction project without a good architect is likely to be much more expensive.An investment in the service of a qualified, competent, and committed architect optimizes available resources with a design solution truly responsive to your property and to you. Investing a fraction of the overall cost of the project in professional design services wi Read More →
Column Design Alternatives
The virtual mockups in these videos explore alternative approaches to how beam and column materials and forms could be composed in a project we are working on now. One option looks at a relatively traditional cluster of four wood posts supporting dovetailed beams intersecting above, with a base element below. The next is a more minimal solution with four steel angle sections replacing both the wood posts and base. Th Read More →
The Peril of Political Polarization
My thought is that liberal/conservative does not equate to good/bad, or the other way around. I tend to see it more as a yin/yang situation. Balance being the ideal; each perspective needs things from the other. I think that is likely to be true in general across history, and true in politics at least since the French Revolution.Polarization is getting us nowhere, and we don't have time for it. We need active, sinc Read More →
Readers Poll: Best Architecture Firm
It has been an honor to be recognized by the readers of Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living Magazine as 'Best Architecture Firm' for many years now.
A couple of decades ago, I made the deliberate decision to stop submitting projects for design awards or otherwise publicizing my work in any way. I was interested to learn how, over time, my professional empathy and sensibilities may be sharpened practici Read More →
Evolution to Rainscreen
Effective long term management of water, in vapor, liquid, and solid form, is crucial to building durability, comfort, health, and safety. Much has been learned in recent years in the building science field about the behavior of water in building assemblies. This film looks at the history of the wall, from the earliest examples of human construction forward, all the way to the sophisticated assemblies now used to m Read More →
Smoking and Motorcycles
I live with six material objects handed down to me from my Swedish immigrant father, one of which is a hand carved cigar box fashioned into a representation of a log cabin. Lift the cabin, and it raises on an concealed internal pedestal. Lower it, and the cabin will dispense a cigar, cradled on the ridge beams of the roof. I enjoy dwelling with this little artifact that, as he was fond of saying, came from the old Read More →
Revitalization of the Bozeman Cannery
As a designer my days are filled with thoughtful, interesting, and talented people. I am often left speechless, wondering "Who in the heck thought up this one!"
Did you know that in 1912, the Gallatin Valley was known as the ‘Pea Capital of the Nation,” producing 75% of the nation’s crop? The Bozeman Canning Company was opened in the summer of 1917, canning peas, beans, and meat.
Between 3,000 and Read More →
Today I learned a new term. . . 'Parkitecture'.
Yellowstone National Park is located a mere 45 miles from Bozeman and just 15 miles from Big Sky, Montana. We often forget how lucky we are to sit in proximity to such beauty and natural wonder.
Old Faithful Inn is quite possibly the biggest and best example of Parkitecture. In the winter of 1903 - 1904, just 40 laborers built the Robert Reamers mas Read More →
Genius in Bozeman and Big Sky
As a designer, I'm always seeking creative, inspirational, one of a kind artists to work with. Sophistication, craftsmanship, and beautiful details are all found locally right here in Bozeman Montana. Here are just a few choice examples:
Michael advocates utilizing reclaimed resources, and thrives on one-of-a-kind pieces. Fine furniture, doors, cabinetry... If you can explain Read More →
Paradise for Designers
Located between Bozeman and Big Sky Montana you will find Earth Elements... a paradise for designers. The Earth Elements Design Centers feature the finest in home finishes including slab, tile & stone, wood flooring, bath and kitchen fixtures, door hardware, appliances, lighting, and cabinetry - all housed under one roof. Interactive showroom installations showcase the latest trends in cabinets, countertops, pl Read More →
200 Years... Going on 300
Hundreds of years in the forest... another 100 years as a barn. Now, preparing for another century of life. As I traveled through Bozeman, Montana on my way to Big Sky, I stopped to snap some images of these beautiful timbers being unloaded on a sunny afternoon. Their past life included being transformed from timber on the property to a turn-of-the-century barn in eastern Montana.
No Read More →
Design Rules Worth Breaking
"To create, one must first question everything."~ Eileen Gray
As my creative minds wanders, I'm always asking myself "What if..."? I'm constantly pushing the boundaries of Interior Design 101. Designing in Big Sky and Bozeman makes it easier to step outside norms as so often, these projects are vacation homes and clients enjoy stepping a bit outside their comfort zone. Here are half a dozen e Read More →
The Eclectic Vibe of Bozeman
New to Bozeman? Five quick tips:
Check out the Museum of the Rockies. The famous dinosaur man Jack Horner actually works there...you know that little movie called Jurassic Park? Yep….that's him. Dinosaur skeletons, fossils, bones! It's impressive!
What puts the cool in Bozeman? Cactus Records. This ever evolving locally owned record store is Full of CDs, novelty gifts, vinyl r Read More →
'Mountain Modern' has become the most asked for design character in Big Sky and Bozeman. This 'style' is favored by designers and homeowners that want clean shapes with natural elements. Open floor plans, use of local materials, exposed craftsmanship, pleasing color palettes and low maintenance landscaping are all timeless features that make for easy living in the mountains. Here are my top 5 Read More →
Undecorating in Montana
Recently I purchased an old home in Bozeman, Montana. The neighborhood is fabulous, blocks from Montana State University, Old trees, screened in porches and cracked sidewalks make this the most charming and sought after part of the city. I did what I could afford and bought the most run down home within a two mile radius of the university. I could see the potential. Now my journey begins.
My Read More →
How Interior Design and Color Influences Happiness
I live in Bozeman, Montanta, and prior to this, was in Big Sky, Montana for 15 years. These are a wonderful places to live.
In Big Sky, the schools are small, people are friendly. With only 2000 permanent residents, I found Big Sky an Idyllic place to live. Shortly after moving there I learned that Big Sky has only three seasons:
Ski season, fish Read More →
How to 'Become a Local' in Big Sky
I moved to Big Sky, Montana from Seattle, Washington in 1999.
I grew up in Montana but was happy living in the city and didn't think I would be returning My career was taking off. I was working for a great architecture firm in the city - everything was happening for me…. I was ‘adulting’.
Then I had my first child, Harry. Everything took a backseat to him. Read More →
One of the coolest things about Bozeman, Montana is the level of affection the community shares for dogs. On almost every block in downtown Bozeman, you will find bowls of water for dogs. Many businesses have dogs in their stores. Many owners allow employees to bring their dogs to work.
I am a dog lover! You can't do much better than a dog for security, protection, and companionship. Read More →
Montana Architecture Firm
We have opened an office in Bozeman, Montana, to serve the southwestern Montana region and beyond. With active projects ranging from western Oregon and Washington to western Montana, we are delighted to be working across a broad spectrum of the natural wonders of the American Northwest.
As an architecture firm, we have learned that we can work effectively as a team across any distances with the benefit of modern c Read More →