Reign In España 2011

2 Reasons To Celebrate

When Tile of Spain launched its inaugural "Reign In Spain A&D" Tour Program in 2009, it selected a group of four architects and interior designers who participated in a free, week-long architectural opportunity to visit Spain and Cevisama 2010 that would occur every February.

The 2011 edition will consist of six American journalists and the four Reign in Spain winners and coincides with Cevisama, the International Ceramic Tile and Bath Furnishings Show held in Valencia. The first half of the trip includes a few days exploring a region of Spain to immerse in the local culture, see notable sites and attractions that are of architectural and design significance and to gain a general understanding and appreciation for Spain. The latter half of the trip includes visiting Cevisama, factory and booth tours and a press conference. - Tile of Spain

So how does one win in the Reign In Spain? "Odds of winning depend on the number and quality of applications received. Participants are selected based on the information provided in the application and not by a random drawing or other element of chance." For the 2011 Edition, the search for four architects and interior designers began on November 1, 2010 until December 1, 2010. I was notified on December 10, 2010 as one of the winners and was told to pack my bags because they're sending me to the cities of Zaragoza, Teruel, and Valencia.

What did I do upon learning that I will be going to Spain? Like any self-respecting architect who's about to embark on a trip where Bullfighting is a national spectacle, I bought a ticket to the nearby Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and watched Spanish culture--in this case the film, Antonio Gaudi, by Hiroshi Teshigahara. That was a good refresher course on Spanish culture. My conversational Spanish is rusty so I will rely on my fellow winners and the rest in the Reign In Spain groupie. I can already tell that this trip is going to be a blast as I hang out with the other winners who seem interesting and accomplished architects and interior designers. Don't believe me? Then read what one of them has to say about this in Life Of An Architect.

In case I get hit by a charging bull, here are the rest of the people in this Spain groupie:

Reign in Spain A&D Winners
· Bob Borson, associate principal and architect at Bernbaum Magadini Architects in Dallas, Texas. He also writes and maintains www.lifeofanarchitect.com and can be followed on Twitter @bobborson and www.facebook.com/lifeofanarchitect.
· Andie Day, principal of Andie Day LLC, Boston, MA. Andie maintains an active blog http://www.andieday.com/blog/ and can be followed on Facebook and on Twitter @AndieDay.
· Scott Knudson is vice president of design for Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners PC, Washington, DC.
· Lira Luis, principal architect, Atelier Lira Luis, LLC. in Chicago, maintains a blog and can be followed on Twitter @liraluis and Facebook

Media Junket
· Mike Chino, Inhabitat.com (Twitter @MikeChino)
· Arpi Nalbandian, Tile Magazine (@TileMagazine, @TileEditor)
· Megan Mazzocco, Architectural Products
· Jean Dimeo, Hanley Wood Business Media (@JeanDimeo)
· Paul Anater, Kitchen & Residential Design blog (@Paul_Anater)

And the complete Reign In Spain group:

As I go celebrate in "España" on February 4-12, 2011, there is another type of celebration happening concurrently and coincidentally in another "España". The University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila will turn 400 years old, located in a main thoroughfare called "España", named after the Spanish name of Spain, the Philippines' colonial power for 333 years. UST was where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Architecture before going for graduate studies at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. For 2011, we will reign in España--a true celebration on both accounts. Viva España!

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Sustainability Starts At The Skin

What you wear determines your comfort. With the changing of seasons, so does our clothing change. The same is true for building envelopes. These provide more than enclosures to interior spaces. They act as transitions from the exterior to the interior. Conditions from the outside determine our intended comfort conditions for the inside space.

The building skin, just like clothes, play an important role in regulating our comfort level. It is critical for architects and designers to understand how the selection of materials, its life cycle cost, and how it performs with the rest of the systems will impact the operations of a building.

The advent of Building Information Modeling aids us in determining the feasibility of a structure. Add to this a new systems-thinking where architects and designers can pre-determine its performance in conjunction with the rest like the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and even structural systems, and we have the "Path to NetZeroTM" as a result.

I was recently introduced to Kingspan's Path to NetZeroTM during the Greenbuild 2010 Conference in Chicago. "It's a unique tool that will simulate the process of achieving high performance and net zero energy buildings," as described in Kingspan's microsite. The application, which will be made available as a free application for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Android mobile devices, was produced as a result of a white paper from the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industries about the goal of achieving net zero energy buildings by 2025.

I had the opportunity to test drive the app prior to its launch date during Greenbuild. Some of my observations include:

  • There is a good selection of standard wall composites typically used in office, warehouse, and school building types. (EIFS, split-faced block, tilt-up, and single skin with batt insulation, insulated metal panels)
  • The geographic location, which affects the climate conditions surrounding the building, is limited to major cities at the moment.
  • The results allow you to compare the energy savings at 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%.
  • The ease of use of this app allows you to switch from one wall composite to another with a tap on the touch screen.
As an architect, will I have a use for this app? Here are some ways I can think of that this tool will help me in my practice:

  • I can use this app during schematic and design development phases of a project. I see it as a handy tool to streamline the exploration of the differences in cost between one type of wall composite versus another type.
  • It can be a useful tool to help a building owner make decisions on where to allocate resources, whether it is for purchasing a bigger equipment, or achieving an airtight building envelope that will help reduce equipment size.
  • It can be a quick and cost-effective way to have an overview of the effects of exterior material selection early on in the project without having to go through a detailed cost estimate.
  • It's a handy tool in conjunction with BIM.
Download and check it out in January 2011.
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10 Reasons To Walk Away From A Project Or Client

"In negotiation, the one thing that really strengthens your position is the ability to walk away from the deal."
In a tough economy and with the current state of the architecture profession, I have made people wince and disagree with my stance regarding deals and/or clients, particularly when financial projections are nearing the red mark status while there remains an unknown forthcoming project win. Back when I was still starting out as an unlicensed architect, the pressure to accept every single project from anyone was so high. I'd even beg clients to let me work on their projects pro bono. In retrospect and several gray hairs later, I realized that accepting an undesirable opportunity was as risky as driving a car with faulty brakes.

These days, as a licensed architect I've become selective of opportunities I accept and here are 10 reasons why:

1. The client is asking the entire work for free.

Clients who undermine your work will only continue to do so. Be very careful about organizations to which you give your free time, of course there are some exceptions. It might create busy work for you now, however, this will keep you away from going after opportunities that actually pay your worth. Clients who ask you to work for free have no intentions of paying for your services in the first place and in the future.

2. The client steals ideas.

It's one thing to help or give value to people. It's another thing when they fail to give due credit to your contribution let alone begin to claim your ideas as their own. These clients have no intention of working as a "team" and are only after the spotlight. I usually ban these types for future work.

3. The client doesn't treat you with respect.

If the client has a filthy mouth or rude in any way, they will be that way throughout the duration of the project. Unless you are willing to accept that kind of abuse, you're better off expecting respect across the board.

4. The project will expose you to ethical or illegal risks.

Architects are expected to act in accordance with the profession's Standard Of Care. Any project is not worth compromising ethical or legal values.

5. The client causes nothing but grief.

When the client is impossible to please, chances are, even if you give them the sun, moon, and stars, they will still have reason to complain about your work. Do you really want this dark cloud looming over your head all the time while it continues to sap your creativity and enthusiasm for other projects? A healthy dose of grief in any project is understandable. It's when it begins to affect your health and outlook that it becomes poisonous.

6. The client won't pay what you're worth.

They want "the (champagne) works" but will only pay for it with a beer budget. If you continue to agree to every single thing the client requests without proper compensation, you are subconsciously setting up expectations from them to your detriment. Don't allow a project or client degrade you.

7. Trusted industry colleagues had bad experiences with this client.

What do other colleagues have to say about working with this client? Is this client about building long-term business relationships or just a one-time business transaction? Clients who are only after a one-time business transaction won't really care much about collaboration and trust since their only goal is to move forward with their agenda.

8. You cannot deliver what the client wants.

Sometimes the client will ask for services beyond your area of expertise. Be honest and transparent with them about this issue. If it's something you're not in a position or not licensed to deliver, refer them to someone who can meet their needs. You win twice in this scenario: first the trust of the client, second the person or company you recommend will owe you a favor--you can collect from them at a later time.

9. You have another (better) opportunity. 

This will be worth more of your time than forcing a project that will cause more harm than good.

10. The client is better off working with your competitors.

It is okay to walk away from a project or a client if it clearly is a bad deal from the start. Trust your gut instincts--if it doesn't seem right it probably isn't. You'll be happier to see that you won't have to deal with them and all the associated headaches. Let them go to your competitors and have them deal with the headache while you work on better opportunities more worthy of your time.
“Good architecture requires more than a good architect. It requires a great client—a risk-taker.” - Steven G.M. Stein
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2010 National Geographic/Aspen Institute Environment Forum Scholar

This year, I am fortunate and honored to be given the opportunity to attend the Aspen Environment Forum as an Environmental Scholar of The Aspen Institute and National Geographic Magazine. I recognize this as a unique and excellent platform to voice commitments as well as sentiments with a focus on the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industries as they relate to the built and natural environment. I feel the responsibility to share with my closest peers, the complex and challenging ideas that will be discussed about energy, the environment, and the economy. As a result, me and my team decided to create this page as a sounding board to communicate the day-to-day events that include extensive programming, large plenary sessions; panel discussions; one-on-one interviews; multiple, concurrent morning and afternoon sessions; unique daily seminars; luncheons; casual conversations; dinner events; and evening exchanges.

Please use me as a voice and avenue to bring your thoughts and ideas to the Aspen Environment Forum. In return, I will give you a play-by-play experience of what is transpiring during the Forum.

Post ideas on the wall "about energy, environmental conservation, climate change adaptation/management and the economy -- focusing on what we can do as citizens, corporations, and countries."

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How Do You Measure?

They say the world is becoming flat. The advent of the internet allowed us to overcome geographical boundaries and limitations.

In the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries, we see more teams working on a project from different locations. The architect may be designing a museum from the USA, while the project is located in Asia, the engineers including the contractors will perhaps be based in the project location's continent. The average project team member now finds himself/herself collaborating on different time zones, cultural backgrounds, languages, and locations. It is then important to look at three tools that could reshape the way we collaborate, measure the effectiveness of our online marketing campaigns, and essentially do business.

1. Google Docs
While the AEC industries rely heavily on Building Information Modeling (BIM) software for drawing collaborations, some aspects of the building process will require the use of documents, spreadsheets, and forms. Since Google Docs is free and web-based, I see this tool as very useful for start-up companies. In architecture for example, the contract or specification documents can be generated using its word processor. Collaboration and revisions can be made simpler since those in a project team can view and edit simultaneously a specific file, even though they are at different locations. The spreadsheets can be utilized for cost estimating and value engineering process in a project. Again, the ability to work simultaneously on the same file in Google Docs streamlines the process. These tools may or may not be effective in all project types though. However for smaller startup firms, this tool will greatly reduce overhead costs associated with purchasing software productivity tools.

2. Google Analytics

This tool allows you to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) of any marketing campaign you launch online. Most architects or designers have their own websites these days. It serves as an online business card. I've known of some designers who completely abandoned printing business cards altogether and opted to give out a "www.yourcompanyname.com" when asked for a business card. In a way this makes sense since the company website will contain all of the contact information, if not more, about a business. From an environmental standpoint, it also minimizes the need for printing on paper, and thus producing an environmental chain reaction from the lessening of the trees cut to produce the paper and contributing less to landfill when the business card gets obsolete.

Now just because one has created a website it doesn't mean that people are scrambling to go online and click on your website. Creating traffic and measuring the results through optimizing the website will become a useful tool especially if we want to see how our online presence is being perceived by our clients or targetted clients. It will allow us to answer the question whether or not they right clients or audience are actually finding us online. We may have a plethora architectural projects we showcase in a website, however, if this is not seen by potential clients, then it defeats the purpose of having an online presence.


Known as "Hyper Text Markup Language" is the language predominant in webpages. Is it important to know how to write in this language? Yes and no, because its efficiencies lie on how it will be utilized. Images and objects can be embedded in a page to allow for interactive forms. There are other tools these days that streamline the HTML code process to make it more user-friendly for the average person to build an online presence through websites without necessarily being able to write in HTML language. However, knowledge and understanding of this language process, is important to fully utilize its potential in architectural projects.

Architects may not be computer programmers however these three tools are essential elements that could change the way architectural projects will be administered.
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The Republic of Brands

"A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation." - Lexicon
The ubiquitous furniture of all time could possibly be the chair. The selection of a chair can make or break a designed space. This utilitarian object, believed to have been invented by the Egyptians, has seen an evolution in form over the last centuries. There are numerous design expressions rendered for it, however, the one that stands out for me is the Series 7 chair by Danish furniture design brand, Fritz Hansen, also known as Republic of Fritz Hansen. Mention the name Fritz Hanzen to an architect or designer and an iconic image of a chair will probably come to mind. From a furniture production company that started in 1872, it is noteworthy for a brand to last more than a century in business and still keep growing. So what makes a brand stand the test of time, just like its products?

From Denmark (part2)

There are three things that make this brand an icon of quality among architects, interior designers, and savvy consumers.

1. Quality.  When I visited their factory in Denmark in 2008, I witnessed the stupendous craftsmanship that goes into the manufacture of each chair. Each piece is made by artisans who are committed to producing furniture of premium quality. Each furniture is also inspected individually for quality control under rigorous testing methods.

From Denmark (part2)

2. Timeless Design. It's simple, sculptural design exudes class and functionality. Fritz Hansen, a Danish carpenter, has collaborated with leading architects and furniture designers around the world in the likes of Arne Jacobsen (designer of the Series 7 chair), Poul Kjærholm, Hans J. Wegner, and Piet Hein that led to the iconic fame the brand now enjoys. The design exhibits clean and straightforward forms while maintaining its functionality.

From Denmark (part2)

3. Sustainability. The sheer quality of both materials and craftsmanship make ownership lasting. When a chair is meant to last almost a lifetime, it's an almost zero contribution to landfill, minimizing impact on the environment. The selection of raw materials like wood is sourced from well-managed forests. Metals, paper, cardboard, textile, leather, or plastics are recycled wherever possible. All of these practices show a commitment to preserving our environment.

From Denmark (part2)

With these elements evident in this brand, it's no wonder the furniture itself becomes a conversation-starter whenever it is set amidst a well-designed environment that essentially becomes part of The Republic of Brands, this case, the Republic of Fritz Hansen. “It’s our ambition to create classics. But you know we cannot create them. It’s the consumer, that by the end of the day, will decide, what become classics.” says Jacob Holm, President of Fritz Hansen in the Republic of Fritz Hansen website.
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A Look into Frank Lloyd Wright's Organic Principles in the context of today's Sustainable Initiatives

Part One: Wright's Taliesin has become regarded as a living laboratory for sustainable design. The pairing of the native landscape with Wright's organic architecture provides the perfect setting for studying the relationship between the natural and built environment. Luis discusses living in Taliesin shelters, highlighting the "learning-by-doing" methodology and how this strategy can be applied to achieving sustainable benchmarks in LEED.

Part Two: Side by side analysis of Organic Principles and the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) benchmarking system

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A Day in the Life of a Green Urban Lifestyle

Some comic relief...Wanna know what a day in the life of an architect living and working in the city is like? Read on.

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The Unifying Force

Check out this SlideShare Presentation from KA Connect 2010 conference for the AEC industry held at The Wit hotel in Chicago:
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Blurring Inside and Outside

Architect Lira Luis discusses transparency as it relates to architecture
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