Course Snippet: Drier by Design-Designing to Keep Water Out

Here is a snippet from our new, fully narrated course: Drier by Design-Designing to Keep Water Out. All our courses are AIA and state approved for continuing education credits to help satisfy architect renewal requirements.

"Construction Methods Used to Exclude Moisture

There are three primary components to keeping water out of our built environments. One is good maintenance and one is good construction. This portion focuses on good design, which involves precautions that can be implemented on the drawing board to prevent infiltration.

One example of this is taking care not to create thermal bridges which negate the effectiveness of a thermal envelope. Thermal bridges are structures and components that extend continuously through building envelopes. They allow transfer of cold to the inside portions. Inside, the mistake creates a great opportunity for condensation on cold interior surfaces. Cantilevered beams, cantilevered balconies and cantilevered soffits are all construction methods that tend to result in thermal bridges. A break or expansion joint in the continuity of a slab or material that extends from inside to the outside is always a good idea when possible. This helps with both thermal performance and condensation control.

The effectiveness of vapor and air retarders is badly compromised when penetrations and gaps through them are left unsealed. These barriers must be continuous to work well. Specifications in design documents must include a requirement to check and seal such gaps. When coatings to be applied are intended to be impermeable, all joints and cracks should be sealed to prevent water and air infiltration.

When the project is a retrofit and a moisture barrier was not installed originally, vapor resistant paints become a good option, if the designer can recommend their placement in the proper location. Multiple coats of a glossy acrylic paint could be one such option.

Tools for Analysis and Design

During the design stage of a building, a manual or computer-based moisture analysis can be completed that will somewhat predict amounts of moisture expected to penetrate the envelope in the future. These steady-state calculations are based on specific parameters set by the designer. Conditions are best selected for various seasons in the locale where the building is located. These gross calculations are done for ‘typical’ wall sections and materials and do not account for finer design details like flashings and thermal breaks. Manual methods include use of Dew Point, Glaser or Kieper diagrams. Computer models include MOIST and WUFI, which incorporate actual weather data and model moisture infiltration over a one-two year cycle. Most computer models do not, however, allow much input by the user."

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Longs Peak Toilets in Colorado Recognized In AIA Awards

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recognized 12 exceptional designs with the 2019 Small Project Awards. They describe the program as “raising awareness about the value and design excellence that architects can bring to projects, no mater their size or scope.”

One interesting project called Longs Peak Toilets brought a unique design to a national park in Colorado. The National Park Service partnered with University of Colorado design program called ColoradoBuildingWorkshop to re-design and construct new backcountry privies at the Rocky Mountain National Park. According to the design program, “the new Long’s Peak Privies explore lightweight prefabricated construction and emerging methods of waste collection to minimize the human footprint in Colorado’s backcountry.” This unique and innovate construction assembly allowed for a quick set up in 8 days. The design of the architecture disappears into the surrounding landscape, helping hikers enjoy their experience better.

View the other recipients of the Small Project Design on the AIA website. The AIA gave out awards in 3 categories:

  • Category 1--small project construction, an architectural object, work of environmental art or an architectural design element that cost up to $150,000 in construction.
  • Category 2--include small project construction that could cost up to $1,500,000 in construction.
  • Category 3--could include small project construction, an architectural object, work of environmental art or an architectural design that is under 5,000 f2.

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New Course Snippet: Aging in Place-Eliminating Pitfalls

Here is a snippet from our new, fully narrated course: Aging in Place-Eliminating Pitfalls. All our courses are AIA and state approved for continuing education credits to help satisfy architect renewal requirements.


We have a long history of aging, pretty much since the beginning of time. It is no longer difficult to predict what will happen in our lives and bodies as we add to our years.

Balance will become a significant issue. This problem can arise from a loss of physical strength, effects of different medications, cognitive and visual impairments. Without thinking through a strategy to prevent or at least minimize falls, an issue with balance can become a significant health hazard. It’s a really good idea to periodically determine if loved ones (or you) can safely do these:

  • Climb up and down stairs with confidence
  • Stand and sit down again on chairs, beds, toilets, etc.
  • Get into, bathe and safely exit bathtubs and showers
  • Drive and return from destinations, from a standpoint of both physical and cognitive capability
  • Bend down and pick up items from the floor or lower shelves
  • Easily carry items like grocery bags and laundry baskets
  • Successfully use public transportation
  • Keep the home and property clean
  • Properly use all appliances
  • Manage personal health

A consequence of deciding to stay at home, whether alone or not, is the strong possibility of home accidents. Depending on the severity of the accident and whether injuries occur, if someone falls, they may not be able to get back on their feet. Cognitive issues like dementia can lead them away, but not necessarily back home. Extended periods of solitude, especially around holidays and in periods of inclement weather, can foster feelings of depression. In the presence of confusion and absence of assistance, medication use can turn dangerous when ignored, taken in excess or inadvertently combined with other medicine. Limited mobility leads to other issues like avoiding grocery shopping or failure to make scheduled health appointments. There are also various health conditions like strokes or Parkinson’s disease where the victims can simply no longer function alone.

Even if your loved one will allow you to make changes, it’s a very good idea to ease into them gradually. Prioritize the changes you (and they) feel will be beneficial and set a time frame to implement them. Discuss options and let the resident choose which ones will best meet their needs. Then accomplish agreed upon tasks in portions. Give those you love a chance to adapt to a few changes, before the next set is implemented. If all that sounds like it will be easy, it won’t.


Don’t Expect Gratitude. Sometimes we just do what we have to do, regardless of the resistance faced. But don’t expect aging loved ones to be grateful when we suggest or implement changes in their lives.

  • No one likes to change, not even us. We have set routines, set ways to do things, habits we cannot break if we tried, and even ways we’ve developed to do things based on many, many years of experience learning to get it right. Regardless of whether another way seems like a better choice to you, if we haven’t decided on the necessity of change ourselves, nothing will be done.
  • No one likes to admit they can improve or be improved, not even us. If we felt like there was a better way to accomplish something, we would already be doing it that way. What we generally don’t care for, is someone younger than we are, telling us how much better they can make our lives. Especially when they are our children. We don’t really intend that anyone should decide for us which of our possessions we will need to eliminate in order to declutter. What we own, we own for a reason. We’d rather take chances with falling than give that priceless item away. Store it in another place for a while? That’s ridiculous. Why pay for storage when we can just keep storing it here?
  • No one likes role reversals, not even us. When we have been in charge our whole adult lives, we don’t expect to have anyone dictate anything to us. We are the decision makers and problem solvers in our relationships. We have years of experience and hard-earned wisdom on our side. If we want your advice, we will ask for it.
  • No one likes admitting they need help, not even us. We have spent lifetimes helping others who need it. We have little interest in feeling helpless, tired, weak or damaged. Because in our minds, we are still strong, twenty-year-old problem solvers. To admit otherwise will be to acknowledge the coming end of our time. Do we need help? No, but thank you anyway.

Graduated Change. The best proven approach on how to get aging loved ones to let others help is to implement changes in phases. Really! These are based on stages and correspond with phases of the aging slowly coming to terms with the idea that, somewhere along the line, agility has been traded for wisdom.

Phase 1 – Fairly Unaware: At this point, while others may see problems developing, the resident does not. There is no motivation for them to live any differently than before. They won’t discuss the issue, seek out information or acknowledge any need. At this point, there is no point in attempting to implement any changes.

Phase 2 – Pondering: The resident is becoming aware that maybe, just maybe, problems are surfacing that it might be possible to counter. Maybe something should change. This realization is often triggered by a bad event, like a fall with injuries. Now the resident is at least open to discussing options and specific solutions to the things they now perceive to be issues.

Phase 3 – Implementing: At this point, residents are ready to make changes and modifications. If changes are implemented gradually, resistance to them will be lessened. No more changes than are absolutely required should be made. It’s not a bad idea to discuss beforehand what trigger events should precipitate which changes. Everyone should be aware that sometimes, necessary changes in one space may involve taking room from one that is adjacent.

Phase 4 – Maintenance: Residents are beginning to even make changes in their behavior. Whatever will be necessary to maintain their status quo and remain at home. They realize a worsening of their situation might make that impossible. At this point, they will accept almost any changes that hold out hope. This is usually a point no one wants to reach. Winning probably wasn’t worth it."

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NEW Architects 30-Hour Complete Renewal Package for All States**

Are you an architect or designer licensed in multiple states?

Architects Training Institute now offers a new package to make fulfilling CEU requirements for multiple states simple and easy! This 30-hour renewal package will help with architect continuing education across different jurisdictions and will meet all online* state continuing education. It fulfills requirements for all 50 states and is equivalent to 30 HSW credits.

*New York and Nebraska require architects to take part of their required hours in-person—check your state page for details.

This renewal package consists of 10 courses:

  • Course 1: 2017 Gable End Anchoring and Framing in High Velocity Hurricane Zones Advanced (1 hr video, FL adv. Building code)
  • Course 2: 2017 ADV Thermal & Moisture Protection: Keeping the Weather Out (1 hr online narrated, FL adv. Building code)
  • Course 3: CA Building Code Division 2: Accessibility (5 hr online narrated, CA ADA course)
  • Course 4: AIA Successful Building Design (3 hr online narrated)
  • Course 5: AIA Construction Documents For Successful Projects (3 hr online narrated)
  • Course 6: Getting Decked: And Choosing How That Happens (3 hr online narrated)
  • Course 7: Weatherization and Energy Efficient Building Course (4 hr online narrated)
  • Course 8: Acoustical Design in Modern Architecture (4 hr online narrated)
  • Course 9: Danger in the Damp – Dealing with Mold (3 hr online narrated)
  • Course 10: Drier By Design – Designing to Keep Water Out (3 hr online narrated)

Credits earned on completion of this course will be reported to AIA. Certificates of completion for both AIA members and non-AIA members will be available to print upon completion of this course. This package is registered with AIA for CEU credit.

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Lasers Used To Map Out Notre Dame Cathedral

The task of restoring Notre Dame is underway after a fierce fire shocked Paris and the world on April 15th. The fire ravaged two-thirds of the roof and collapsed the cathedral’s spire. The main structure was saved after firefighters prevented the flames from spreading. French President Emmanuel Macron says he would like the church to reopen within 5 years but experts familiar with medieval restoration work said that type of timeline is unrealistic and could take around 2 decades to complete.

The restoration of Notre Dame in the upcoming years will be supported by modern digital technologies. Hexagon and Leica Geosystems has made available laser scanning data of Notre-Dame captured by the late Dr. Andrew Tallon. It consists of scans from fifty locations in and around the cathedral, with more than one billions points of data. The laser scans will help with the reconstruction of the church with an accuracy of 5 millimeters.

Andrew Tallon was an architectural historian and Professor at Vassar College, who adopted 3D laser scanning technology to measure buildings more precisely than traditional means could. Tallon with the assistance of Columbia’s Paul Blaer, was able to scan Notre-Dame Cathedral inside and out over a 5 day period back in 2010. They did this by using a Leica scanner on a tripod and positioned it repeatedly—to map out the dimensions for a digital three dimensional form.

Tallon’s interest in 3D laser scanning technologies goes back to 2001 when he helped produced the first laser scan of Beauvais Cathedral using one of the first Cyrax laser scanners. Nearly 10 years later, he was one of the first to use Leica ScanStation C10s to produce a high-density scan of Notre-Dame. The Leica C10 helped workflow to be more productive with sophisticated new functions and advances in cloud-to-cloud registration that made scanning much faster. Speed on the project was important in the fact that the cathedral in Paris is visited by approximately 13 million visitors per year. Scanning the cathedral with an area of 4,800m2 had to be to a minimum so that the daily liturgy and tourists were not disturbed.

“This type of work simply would not have been possible before the 3D laser scanner. Manual measurement would have required extensive scaffolding and months of work to accomplish—not to mention the inevitable errors due to imprecision,” Tallon stated in a global magazine of Leica Geosystems.

Tallon’s 3d laser scanning and research is featured in a documentary called Les cathédrales dévoilées.

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Pepperdine’s Architecture And Fire Safety

Pepperdine has developed a shelter-in-place policy with close collaboration with the Los Angeles County Fire Department that allows students to remain on campus for a range of disasters, including the Woolsey Fire that hit California last fall.

The policy was developed after a close encounter with a wild fire in 1985 and has been implemented for every fire since 1993. Another key reason that Pepperdine took more preventative measures was how close they are to the Pacific Coast Highway. If Malibu residents are ordered an evacuation, gridlock becomes a big issue especially since a lot of students may not have vehicles.

Pepperdine’s best defense against wild fires is the campus design itself. Its architect was William Pereira, who was based in Los Angeles. Pereira was commissioned to create a master plan for Malibu in 1965, but the plan was never made public. Instead he was able revisit his ideas with Pepperdine years later when they gave him the opportunity.

Curbed describes the campus as “Mediterranean modern: angular cast-concrete volumes situated around wide concrete plazas with spectacular ocean vistas.” The campus structures make good use of fire-resistant decorative materials like glass and ceramic. Even the shape of the buildings with steep Spanish-tile rooflines helps ensure that fire won’t get trapped beneath the eaves. Of Pepperdine’s 830 acres—500 acres have no structure. Pereira’s vision for the campus included dense clustering of buildings to maintain open spaces. He also preserved a meadow and designed a water infrastructure to recycle waste water and store it on site.

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Weatherization and Renewable Energy Course

This is a snippet from our Weatherization and Renewable Energy Course - Purchase the course for AIA & State Credit

Thermal and Moisture Protection

Most construction claims result from a failure of the building envelope or shell caused by poor design or construction. Often, damage is caused  by contractors and laborers while maintaining or erecting residential and commercial structures. Unfortunately, the original building plans or original design may lack sufficient detail to prevent exterior shell failure.

Workers often fail to assemble structures in accordance with properly written plans. Too often, workers are uneducated about proper construction of building systems and the use of materials per the manufacturer’s recommendations and reasonable “best practices” for construction of homes and buildings in coastal, mountainous or areas with relatively high humidity. Thermal and moisture protection is the entire country’s problem!

Occasionally, construction workers inadvertently damage the building envelope while maintaining or working on items not directly related to the building exterior, causing it to be compromised and fail over the course of time. The time it takes for an “EXTERIOR SHELL” mistake to cause noticeable damage can take from only a few days to several years. At times, repairs may cost more than the building is worth!

Unfortunately, most workers and contractors of new homes rarely get to see, first hand, the mistakes they’ve made. It usually takes a period of time before the building shell failure becomes evident. Often, the failure happens after the original warranty has expired and the repairs are then the responsibility of the disgruntled home-owner who feels compelled to hire a different contractor!

Improper design, construction application and inadvertent damage can all compromise the exterior shell of a structure and result in immediate or delayed building envelope failure. Building shell failures often result in water being allowed to enter the structure in a manner that is contrary to the intended design. Water must be forced to the exterior of the envelope by weep holes or ventilation.  Delayed failure is almost always more expensive to remedy!

Primary claims.  Water, whether liquid or vapor, when allowed to enter the building shell can cause a host of problems. Warranty and insurance claims result from:

•  Damage to exterior systems and structure
•  Failure due to rot
•  Damaged, unrelated components that are not part of the building envelope
•  Mold

In areas prone to damage by water and water vapor, programs are often available to provide weatherization and energy conservation services at no cost to households with relatively low median income. Primary funding for these programs is from the U.S. Department of Energy with other funds from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, utility companies and local entities like Community Action or Habitat for Humanity... Yes...there is program assistance for those who need it, but remember assistance still costs taxpayers. In the long run, everybody pays!

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5 Things Architects Can Do To Help With Climate Change

1. Retrofit Existing Buildings

An easy way to reduce the carbon footprint is to not build new buildings. Minimize the demolition and maximize the reuse of existing structures. Transforming a building also helps preserve history and installs future promise.

2. Reduce the Use Of Concrete

The main reason concrete has a huge carbon footprint is because of the large quantities being used. A study recently showed cement and concrete is responsible for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions. “If concrete is replaced by almost any other material, it would have a bigger carbon footprint,” said Piers Taylor, founder of Invisible Studio If the construction industry is to make a reduction in CO2 emissions, it needs a new strategic design approach when it comes to concrete.

3. Understand How Buildings Are Performing In Use

Whole life carbon is viewed through embodied carbon and operational carbon. Carbon emissions associated with a building’s day-to-day energy can be measured through information from energy bills and meter readings. This information can give architects a better understanding of how well a building is performing and help encourage them to engage with design solutions.

Understanding embodied carbon is equally important as operational carbon, and there are BIM-based tools to get an easy and fast assessment on projects.

4. Treat embodied carbon with higher importance

According to The Architect’s Journal, “The embodied carbon costs of the materials and systems we choose for our buildings, perhaps surprisingly, make up the majority of a building’s lifetime carbon emissions.” Architects oversee the design’s carbon performance.

Reducing carbon and being resource efficient goes hand-in-hand like using recycled content, the reuse of structures and buildings, and using renewal materials. To understand this the architect must understand the supply chain of:

  • What things are made of
  • Where they come from
  • Where they will be going at the end of a building’s life

5. Make sure every design has optimized massing and orientation

Work hard early in the design process to help optimize the building performance. They are basic principles but getting the massing and orientation right early on will help pave the way for net-zero buildings. Answering questions such as:

  • Is the building using more energy just because of its form?
  • Does it have too much surface area or too much glazing?
  • Is its thermal envelope easy to map?

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Northern Florida Revisits Building Code

Florida has some of the toughest building codes in the nation, but Hurricane Michael showed that the northern part of the state and the panhandle did not. The category 4 hurricane made landfall on October 10th at Mexico Beach. Entire blocks were flattened and 75% of the town gone. According to, the estimated insured losses topped around 6 Billion dollars from Hurricane Michael.
One factor for the extreme destruction of Mexico Beach and nearby cities were the substandard construction practices that predated the building code. Craig Fugate, the former head of FEMA and a longtime emergency management official in Florida, told NPR “it’s not a bunch of high-rises. It’s not a lot of new construction. This is multigenerational Florida families. Many of them were descendants of folks who fished the areas.”

South Florida took serious actions on improving their building code in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew hit. Miami-Dade and Broward counties implemented strict standards to making structures withstand winds up to 175 mph.

Don Brown, a former legislator from the Panhandle and sits on the Building Commission, says “We are vulnerable as any other part of the state. There was this whole notion that the trees were going to help us, take the wind out of the storm. Those trees become projectiles and flying objects.”

The Florida Building Commission is in the process of revising the state code but realtors, homebuilders, and the insurance industry will have a voice as the state considers how to prepare for another storm like Hurricane Michael.

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Seattle Takes A Closer Look At Infrastructure For Earthquake

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a convergent plate boundary in the Pacific Ocean, that stretches from Vancouver Island in Canada to Northern California. The Cascadia Subduction Zone can produce large earthquakes when ruptured and could exceed a magnitude 9.0.

Research from the M9 project, a study estimating the impact from a magnitude 9 Cascadia quake, shows that high rises are at greater risk than previously thought. The Seattle Times reported the estimated effects of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in the region stating, “the vast, sediment-filled basin under Seattle can magnify the type of ground shaking that puts high-rises at risk of collapse by a factor of two to five, which can trigger stronger surface effects than earthquakes in nearby California.”

As a result of the M9 findings, Seattle and Bellevue plan on revising their seismic construction standards for new buildings over 240 feet (20 stories tall). The new standard would require high-rises to be stronger than and sturdier than their predecessors without sacrificing cost.

There are also concerns regarding Seattle’s older high-rises. Many of which were constructed between the 1960s-90s, before the dangers of earthquakes were fully understood. They have a greater risk of damage and collapse because of their fracture-prone welded joints, which are suppose to secure the steel frame, and poorly-reinforced concrete supports.

Ron Klemencic, CEO of an engineering firm that helped design many of Seattle’s and San Francisco’s tallest buildings, expressed more concern with the water systems and older brick buildings than the high rises. High-rises are generally designed to withstand winds that exert more force than an earthquake shaking.  Klemencic’s company is headquartered in the Rainier Tower, despite its fractured-prone welds.
“That should tell you that we’re not particularly worried” he added.

Although the M9 results mean that high-rises aren’t as safe as previously assumed, people should not be concerned with the “Big One” happening tomorrow. They should take steps and be prepared for the future. Having a plan in place and working towards a solution later down the road helps increase the chance of solving the problem before its too late.

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