Here’s How Architects Are Pushing for Safer Design Policies

Architects and Designers Urge Action on Healthier Policy Priorities

In the wake of the pandemic, designers and architects are inventing new solutions for nearly every sector of design. According to the World Health Organization, 19% of factors that affect our health and well-being are directly related to the built environment, making architects and designers key to protecting public health.

Metropolis Magazine recently wrote about three recent initiatives that introduce new building standards to help mitigate COVID-19 exposure and create healthier (and more sustainable) spaces during and after the current pandemic.

Built Environment Experts Petition the WHO, Urging Enhanced Guidance on the Role of Buildings in Addressing COVID-19

In a recent petition, more than 790 architects, engineers, and interior designers from over 50 countries have joined forces in a statement to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, urging the WHO to advance best practices in indoor environments to protect from the spread of COVID-19.

“If the WHO recommends best practice air standards now before vaccines and therapeutic solutions are available, it will have a strong effect towards raising the public’s awareness of places where they spend time,” the statement reads, noting that air pollution affects our most vulnerable populations.

Approximately 70 percent of The Ng Teng Fong General Hospital by HOK is naturally ventilated, representing 82 percent of inpatient beds. The building uses 38 percent less energy than a typical Singaporean hospital and 69 percent less than a typical US hospital. Courtesy Rory Daniel

So far, the petition has gained the signatures of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and the World Green Building Council, to name a few. “We hope that this global call to action will demonstrate that our buildings, our businesses, and our communities can be at the frontlines of this fight if we deploy them wisely,” says Rachel Gutter, president, IWBI.

USGBC Creates New LEED Safety First Pilot Credits + Healthy Economy Commitment

Back in June, the U.S. Green Building Council released guidance to address the pandemic and support buildings with reopening strategies. Four new Safety First Pilot Credits outline best practices that are both sustainable and align with public health guidelines related to cleaning, re-occupancy, HVAC, and plumbing operations. The credits are a part of a USGBC strategy released in May titled, Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy.

“These new credits are a first step in helping the building and construction industry demonstrate its commitment to sustainable strategies as part of building a healthier, more resilient future,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO of USGBC in a recent press release.

In addition to the credits, the USGBC also released a Healthy Economy Commitment, urging public health officials and elected leaders to take action on green building policy priorities.

AIA Launches Policy Platform 2020

Earlier this month, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) launched the inaugural Policy Platform 2020 that serves as a statement on the organization’s policy priorities for U.S. presidential candidates and Congress.

Embodying the idea of “Building a Healthy America,” the platform focuses on three key areas: Economy, Climate Action, and Healthy and Equitable Communities. Committing to zero carbon practices, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, promoting toxin-free living in affordable housing, and strengthening water and air quality policy are a few highlights.

“AIA supports strong and unequivocal policies that ensure that urgent climate change issues, including those that disproportionately impact communities of color, are immediately addressed,” stated AIA EVP and chief executive officer Robert Ivy, in an August 6th official press release.

*The full version of this article was originally published on Metropolismag.com


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AIA’s Tips for Career Resilience

Despite the economic uncertainty facing the world right now, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) wants to help all architecture professionals keep their careers going strong. They recently hosted a webinar where they spoke to four panelists who lived and worked through the last Great Recession. Below are the highlights from their advice on how to have career resilience during difficult times.

Utilize Your Network

Staying connected with previous professors, classmates, or co-workers is a great way to find new opportunities. Here are three simple tips for using your network:

  • Be upfront when looking for a new job, and give back by helping others in their search once you find a position.
  • Reach out to professors, even if you weren’t close. Remember: your school wants you to succeed.
  • Reach out to career services, alumni networks, and local AIA chapters to ask for help, request a mentor, or re-engage when you need encouragement.

Get Involved

  • Use design competitions and events to supplement your portfolio with new building typologies to broaden your experience.
  • Volunteer with AIA, Open Architecture Collaborative, USGBC, Urban Land Institute, and others to extend your network within the profession and to stay engaged if you’re working in a different field.
  • Keep pursuing your license to maximize your skills and marketability.*

*Architects Training Institute consistently adds new online continuing education courses starting at $29

Think Outside the Biz

  • Expand your search to different sectors, different size firms, and new locations. Or consider architecture-adjacent positions such as real estate or facility management.
  • Panelists who accepted positions like these during their job search said they gained useful experience that gave them an advantage in future interviews.

Whether you’re a recent graduate or experienced professional, always remember you have resources and a support system that will help you through economic hardship.


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Thermoset Technology – Stronger & Lighter Than Steel

Stronger and lighter than steel, Thermoset technology may be the future of architecture. According to an article by Arch Daily, this revolutionary material solves many common structural and construction problems while simultaneously allowing architects a new freedom with their designs.

Originally created as aerospace technology, advanced fiber-reinforced materials are now being used in the manufacturing of new buildings, opening new and exciting design possibilities for architects.

Makers of these materials can manufacture building components off-site, and the light-weight material is then shipped to the construction site where it can be put together quickly and easily by smaller crews of contractors, thus cutting down on construction costs.

Additionally, the strength of Thermoset materials far out-weighs steel, by nearly 6 times. This strength has immense applications for building considerations, allowing for more structural freedom while still providing protection from environmental hazards like earthquakes.

Another benefit is that these materials can be molded into literally any shape, giving architects open concept freedom when it comes to building design--fantastic shapes can be brought to life on a huge scale while still maintaining structural integrity. The possibilities are quite literally endless.


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Detroit Revitalization

In 2013, Detroit became the largest municipality in the country to ever have filed for bankruptcy. Nearly 7 years later, city leaders are bringing the city back from destruction: one revitalization project at a time.

While the city still has many problems, ranging from abandoned buildings to infrastructure issues, city leaders have begun implementing initiatives to revitalize the city. Big on the docket: city planning. According to an article in The Architect’s Newspaper, Maurice Cox, architect and former Charlottesville mayor, has developed a team of “36 planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape designers” billed as a think tank to reignite the city of Detroit—preserving existing culture while rebuilding infrastructure in a fresh and vibrant way that will encourage investment and draw new populations to the city.

Cox and his team are determined to harness Detroit’s high levels of community engagement, taking advice gleaned from town halls and other resident inputs to achieve their goals. Many of the team’s initiatives have focused on areas with low population density that are surrounded by higher population-dense areas. Their plans have included a new bike/pedestrian loop through median-income neighborhoods, neighborhood re-designs, and building incentives throughout the city.

In the spirit of preserving Detroit traditions, developers have been given double density allowances if they are able to preserve the architectural facades of buildings while re-designing the interiors. This plan is one of many ways that city planners are trying to encourage developers to keep the unique landscape of Detroit in tact while providing new and improved spaces for residential and commercial use.

Another initiative being put into place by developers Fitz Forward, is a complete overhaul of the Fitzgerald neighborhood, where over 300 properties will be revitalized. By remodeling some homes and beautifying vacant lots with parks and meadows, the developers seek to draw targeted populations to the neighborhood, thus revitalizing the area for current residents as well. Fixing up run down properties and drawing in new tenants helps home owners currently in the area by bringing up property prices and making the area more secure.

These types of projects show forward thinking on the city planner’s part: by determining the needs of current and future citizens alike, they are aiming to use design as well as innovation to heal the city. Both strengths and weaknesses abound in Detroit, but Cox and his team are working hard to “provoke a new kind of urban revitalization: one in harmony with nature and existing cultures, [and] informed by the urban progress made over the last few decades.” (ArchPaper)


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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.

"PROBLEMS TO BE EXPECTED WITH AGING

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.

EXPECT RESISTANCE

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."

To see the rest of this course, visit our site!


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New Course: Danger in the Damp–Dealing with Mold

Architects Training Institute’s new course is called Danger in the Damp—Dealing with Mold. It will examine the design and construction methods of systems designed to withstand water penetration. It will start with an understanding of these systems and finding the source of intrusion then repairing and prevention.

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • Terminology used to discuss how entrapped water creates problems for building users
  • Measures to retard the infiltration of moisture into built environments
  • Where and why mold growth occurs
  • Testing and inspection to find water damage
  • Systems and procedures to inventory moisture damage following intrusion
  • Immediate and secondary actions steps to take following water intrusion
  • Indoor air quality issues and how to identify them
  • How to deal with mold growth, once it is discovered

Here is a course excerpt on the ways to reduce the chance of water intrusion:

 

There are straightforward steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of water intrusion. Specifying and using building materials that neither accept nor hold moisture is one practical solution. For example, rigid insulation will not hold moisture, whereas cellulose insulation will absorb the same. Metal siding will repel water, but wood siding becomes saturated unless protected. Single ply membrane roofing offers no lapped joints wherein moisture can reside, but that is not true of asphalt shingle roofing. Sandwich panels containing insulation faced with steel or aluminum sheeting are another prime example of materials which by their nature, repel moisture.

Construction detailing using forethought before construction begins can deny water entry. It is primarily based on a good imagination and an understanding of water behavior. Since precipitation tends to flow downhill, flashings below copings, below windows, above door and window openings and above breaks in the continuity of the building envelope where water should lap down over the next shield in the water barrier, will keep water from entering. If wind striking a building face has the potential to drive water up under flashing, then caulking should be specified, or other barriers put in place to prevent that. Capillary breaks can prevent water from bridging gaps. If there is a cavity into which moisture can enter and collect, weep holes should be provided to let that collected water drain from that cavity, back to the exterior. The devil is in the details, but unwanted moisture intrusion can be in the lack of them.

The above-mentioned material specification and detailing decisions should be choices made during the design process. The idea is to create a continuous envelope of materials that repel water and will not allow moisture to get through them and into the interior.

Another useful tool is ongoing efforts to find and eliminate any newly created gaps in the envelope through which moisture can get inside. Inspection during construction is the best time to do this, but it is also part of ongoing maintenance efforts. Indoor sources of moisture (other than the breath of inhabitants) can be found and fixed or eliminated. Uncontrolled air movement that pulls humid air in from the exterior can be controlled with airlocks or other known design devices.

New Course: Drier By Design – Designing to Keep Water Out

Architects Training Institute has a new course called “Drier By Design-Designing to Keep Water Out.” This course will focus on moisture resistance principles and methods in a systematic fashion. This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • A basic understanding of how water moves, migrates and behaves
  • Typical sources of excess moisture in our build environments
  • Proactive prevention of unwanted moisture through planning and design
  • Methods used during construction to prevent the intrusion of water
  • Post-construction prevention of leakage by building envelope inspection
  • Common points of failure through which water can gain entrance
  • Prevention of water intrusion through control of condensation

Here is an excerpt of the course giving you several general rules of thumbs used to determine where to specifically locate vapor-resistant materials in roofs and walls.

 

Basements and crawl spaces are always susceptible to water accumulation, but precautions can be put in place to minimize the risk. The grade should be sloped away from the structure to prevent groundwater from standing against it. Downspouts should be extended above or below grade to discharge points well away from a building, with connections checked on a regular basis. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean. Below-grade walls should be sealed to resist moisture intrusion. Drains and sump pumps can be installed below floor levels to capture and expel any moisture that does make it inside the space. If installed and depended upon, proper operation of these pumps should be tested on a regular basis.

Walls will be either face sealed or drained cavity assemblies. Those which are drained, like masonry veneered walls, should have a secondary barrier installed behind the first face. At the bottom of this secondary cavity should be materials and methods to collect unwanted water and redirect it from the interior, back out to the exterior. Those which are sealed on their faces only, like EIFS finishes, have only one barrier with which to resist water penetration. Unless very close attention is paid to detailing during installation, these type finishes are very likely to fail.

Humid air moving into and through roof and wall cavities is a major transport mechanism of moisture. In cold climates, warm, moist inside air should be kept from exfiltrating out of the envelope. In hotter climates, warm, moist air must be kept from infiltrating inside. Pressurization and depressurization of the interior in response to exterior pressure changes can help slow down that air movement, even in high-rise construction that creates a stack effect.