Monday, April 30, 2007

As long as it's not phlegm, we can fix it.

The above was the punchline for any mistake in the punchlist today. Someone of our merry band of four (the project engineer from the contractor, one of the owner's reps, the electrical engineer, and me) described a passionfruit as having "seeds surrounded by phlegm", and it was all downhill from there. On a good punchlist, most of the stuff that needs fixing are small dents in the drywall and mistakes in paint. Sometimes, the paint is too thin or you can see brush strokes in the paint. Sometimes the paint forms in blobs that need to be sanded or cleaned off. Sometimes sealant between casework and a wall or at a windowsill blobs onto another surface or dribbles down. Those blobs (of whatever substance) need to be removed.

We're never sure what to call these blobs when typing the punchlist. Usually, it's up to me, the "articulate" one, to come up with an appropriate name for these blobular blemishes. I usually say something like, "Remove excess paint drippage from windowsill." However, necessity is not just the mother of invention; it is also the crazy aunt of creativity. Other names that have been offered up for the paint and sealant drippage:
  • paint boogers
  • goobers
  • gunk
  • funk
  • phunk
  • ook
  • blobs
  • pooky

That last one was offered up by one of our party with small children.

We spent some time this morning backchecking rooms that weren't ready to check at earlier punchlists. Then, we checked the patient wing. For some reason, even it still took about 6 hours to get everything done. By the end of it, we were worn down, which is a hazard. A hazard not just in terms of being tired while driving home, but also a hazard in that one doesn't check things as closely as one should. Unlevel ceiling grid and unaligned cabinet doors sail under the radar, and operation of faucets don't get checked; there needs to be an overt hole in the wall or an entire door missing for something to be noticed. By the very end, my electrical engineer, Ursula, didn't even notice that an entire light fixture was missing in a bathroom. I happened to notice because here salt-n-pepper hair wasn't glimmering like it usually did under the compact fluorescent can lights. I pointed it out, she looked up, and said, "Huh. Good catch, Pix."

However, the building looks fan-freaking-tastic.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pixie Clinton and the Pee Funk All-Stars

Last week, Denver got two inches of rain in a day, which is a lot of rain for us. Not only did we get a lot of rain, but it was accompanied by some major-league wind. Lots of wind + lots of rain = water in our enclosed balcony here at El Condo del Pixie y Guy. Our enclosed balcony has always been our storage area and cat litter room, really something of an afterthought in the spaces we inhabit each day. Located on the north side of our place off both of the bedrooms, we usually keep the blinds closed anyway, so the condition of the enclosed balcony never really crossed our minds...until this week.

We had been smelling wee-wee on and off this spring (a particularly damp spring), so on a whim Guy scored a good edal on a black light on eBay. Friday night, he cut off all the lights in the house and walked around, looking for glowing splotches that would indicate kitty pee. Nothing much in the house, perhaps a few splatters in my bathroom where Maddy lays on my rug, but then he walked into the back balcony. "Good GOD!" he exclaimed. "It's like they don't even know where the litter box is back here!" The funk was emanating from the enclosed balcony. It was 11pm, though, so Guy decided to do more investigating on Saturday. Sleeping that night was intolerable--despite having a bunch of windows on the balcony open and running a fan back there, the stanktageousness came in waves. I rubbed my face and hands with a lavender balm/moisturizer to counteract the fumes and go to sleep.

I came home Saturday afternoon to find most of the balcony's contents in our formerly-clean living room. Guy ripped up about 40 sf of carpet and found a puddle of water underneath the carpet and pad on the northeast corner. "Okay, first of all, why is there a pad under this carpet?" Guy asked aloud to no one in particular. (Note: Guy used to install carpets and parquet flooring with his brother as a summer job.) "This is an outdoor space, really, even with these flimsy little walls around it. And why are there wood nailers around the edges of the room? Now there're holes in the concrete floor, and we're gonna have to either leave them there or fill them in, or..." He shook his head. "Fuckin' ridiculous."

The funk was even worse Saturday night. I was tipsy from one glass of wine at a seafood restaurant and could barely sleep anyway, but the smell was even worse. Between the Death Funk 4000 Remix and dinner not agreeing with him, Guy spent a fair amount of the night in the second bedroom, where somehow the funk was less funky.

Today, Guy ripped out all but about 20 sf of the carpet and put it, strip by strip, into plastic trash bags. Technically, we're not supposed to dispose of remodeling materials in our condo's trash, but we have less than 120 sf total to throw out, so we're not taking it to the municipal dump. Hence, Guy's parsing it into several bags, which he will dispose of over the course of a couple of weeks. When he put a strip of carpet and funktified padding into a plastic bag and let it sit for several minutes, about a cup and a half of water collected in a corner of the bag. Eeuuww. No wonder the house was rank; the moisture combined with cat pee made for a funk that wouldn't dry out. Guy sprinkled the bare concrete with baking soda and has left the windows open. It'll be in the 50s tonight, so it shouldn't be too bad.

There's still more work to do back there. We need to remove the big chunks of carpet glue and repaint the balxony, reseal the base of the wall around the outside edges of the balcony, and maybe put a small rug back there just as something warm to stand on when cleaning a catbox or ironing or getting something out of the freezer. We're also going to take the opportunity to purge the contents of the room. We only have 1,315 sf total in our unit, and we need to use the space more wisely. Getting rid of some stuff will make that easier, we're sure.

I have to be in Wheatlands at 8am tomorrow again. We're punchlisting the exterior as well as the patient room wing. Hopefully, I can sleep tonight without having my olfactory senses assaulted with the chemical equivalent of a frying pan and an atomic wedgie. It would be nice to drive to Kansas with a good night's sleep.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Detail of the Week: The Long and Winding Road

Okay, this is kind of a detail but kind of not. I suppose it's more of an explanation than anything. Yet again, Wandering Author's comment on my last post asked how is it possible to design a room into which it is suddenly found impossible to move equipment. There's more than one reason for this happening, all of them perfectly legitimate.

First: most medical equipment companies understand that not all of their products are sold to brand new facilities. Often, equipment comes crated in more than one piece, and someone moves the crates into the finished space (i.e., with flooring, paint, wall base, ceiling, lights, casework, etc. in it). Then, the installer (sometimes that's the general contractor, and sometimes it's a special installer either from the equipment vendor or approved of and trained by the vendor) unwraps the equipment and moves it into place, hooking it up to power, water, etc. Hence, it's generally not a problem to fit a piece of equipment through a 3'-0" opening.

Second: it's easy to read equipment sizes on the vendor's cut sheets and not make the connection. The sterilizer in question in the last post is described as being 35 7/8" wide. A door is described as 3'-0", or 36" wide. Sounds good, right? Ah, but remember that door frames have a stop in them that the door whacks against when it closes. This door stop is usually about 1/2" to 5/8" deep. So, in a good situation, the actual opening in the door frame, even if you take the door off its hinges, is only about 35". That little fact is easy to forget. Granted, sometimes the doors coming into a soiled processing room is more like 3'-6" wide or even 4'-0" wide, but those doors are also very expensive, so when the owner needs to reduce costs and assures us that all of their soiled processing carts will fit through a 3'-0" door, then we'll give them 3'-0" doors because they'll work just fine for daily use.

Third: there's a shitload of medical equipment in a 70,000-square-foot hospital, and it's no surprise that something's not gonna work quite right, not fit in its spot, or not fit through a door. Sitting on my desk right now is a book of equipment cut sheets for this project, and I kid you not, the binder is eight inches thick. It's the biggest 3-ring binder I've ever seen, and the sheets actually are bursting out of it. When the equipment consultant and I looked at the cut sheet while on the phone together, she said, "Well, I reckon they were expecting us to actually have time to read the whole cut sheet, huh?"

So what do we do with the cut sheets? And what the hell is a cut sheet anyway? Cut sheets are the pages that show pictures of a piece of equipment and also detail how big it is, how much it weighs, what kind of electrical power it needs, what kind of water supply it needs, what kind of ventilation needs it has, and what areas of clearance are required around it (to name a few things). For more complicated pieces of equipment, the cut sheets also detail information about mounting the equipment (does it go on the wall? does it sit on the floor?) and what the contractor needs to provide in order to install the equipment (the equipment comes with the mounting plate, but the contractor will need to provide unistrut supports above the ceiling). The design and construction teams use the cut sheets to make sure they have everything they need to make sure that the equipment can be used when they get there and will actually fit in the room/on the counter/under the countertop/under a 9-foot-high ceiling. Usually, reviewing these cut sheets allows us to notice if something's really big, but alas, we missed this one.

Honestly, Wheatlands has gone pretty well in terms of equipment coordination. The sterilizer and a surgical scrub sink have given us issues, but that's about it. Equipment-wise, we've been lucky.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's always at the last minute.

Lordamercy, y'all. The past few days have been riddled with emergency calls and last-minute issues at Wheatlands. We're less than 60 days away from ribbon-cutting and opening the doors. On Monday, it was locating the laundry equipment that just got bought because everyone thought someone else was buying it. On Tuesday, it was mitigating storm drainage off the roof through the hospital's front yard. Today, it was finally wrapping up a long-overdue RFI pertaining to some extra equipment for the radiology department. I swear to Barry Manilow, if it weren't for the last minute, wouldn't a damn thing get done.

About 3:30 this afternoon, after the storms have passed, my job superintendent calls.

"Hey, Pixie, it's Mutt."
"What's the good word, sir?"
"Hey, um...y'know the pass-through sterilizer in the surgery department?"
"Yeah, what about it?"

"We can't get it through the door into the room."
"I'm here. Um...what're you thinking of doing about it?"
"Well, see, we're gonna have to take a door out and knock out some drywall to bring it in, but I thought since we'd be taking out a door, should we just go ahead and order a new four-foot door for that room?"
"What's the lead time on a new door and frame right now?"

"Six to eight weeks."
"So the door would be missing when the hospital opens?"
"Um...[swears under his breath] yeah."

"Let me make some calls."

I call the equipment consultant. She calls the sterilizer vendor. She calls me back. I call Mutt back.

"Tell me something good, Chaka Khan."

"Well, I feel for you."
"Ha ha."
"Yeah, yeah. Look, the sterilizer: the equipment consultant says that the sterilizer might need to be repaired, but it won't be necessary to replace it until about ten years from now, at which piont it'll be time to renovate and they can put a four-foot door in then."
"'Kay. So we're keeping the three-foot doors?"
"Yep, we're keeping the three-foot doors."
"Pleasure doin' business with you, Pixie."
"Likewise, Mutt."

LIke I said, if it wasn't for the last minute....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Random Tuesday Amusements

Though I've been pulled off the Pomme de Terre project indefinitely, I'm still on the emailing list. One of the project managers in our office sent out the following email today:

Team: [One of the engineers] will be out of the office starting today and will be returning Friday May 11th. He is available by cell phone in an emergency. He and his wife are about to have a new baby!

The partner on this project, Bosley, a usually crusty and cranky fellow, responded thus:

Nothing worse than a used baby. Glad they're getting a new one.

Meanwhile, I spoke too soon yesterday about being underemployed. We had an equipment emergency at Wheatlands (something wasn't going to fit, didn't get ordered at the right voltage, blah blah blah), so I worked through lunch in order to have enough time to finish drawings for Prudence. When I finally gave her the set at 4:45, she was surprisingly courteous and thankful. As I was walking back to my desk, an associate in the office who has worked with and shared staff with Howie in the past stopped me and asked if I'd have some room to help him on some projects that may be about to crank up and run quickly. While I don't want to lose my position on MCRC, I sure don't like being unbusy. I'm keeping my fingers and eyes crossed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Much ado about do

I find myself in the rare and odd position for being underemployed right now. Now that Jacqueline's back, Howie has pulled me off of Pomme de Terre. I suppose that's not a bad thing, per se; after all, who needs the madness? However, working on that project was helping other people and giving me something to do with at least 20 hours of my time per week. Meanwhile, Wheatlands is winding down in a big way. My next punchlist is a week from today, and the next one will be two weeks after that. Now that the building's nearly done, there's not much left for me to do. A couple of weeks ago, I was foisted onto a small office project for Prudence, the head of our interiors department. While Prudence's project has been able to fill in my 40 hours for the past couple of weeks, I'm at the point where I either need to take these drawings all the way to construction-document quality or I need to find something else to do to help fill out 40 hours.

MCRC has yet to begin...still. They've purchased a site, but now they need someone to run the hospital while the doctors who own it practice pshychiatry instead of fill out paperwork. (They had a guy who was gonna run it, but his experience was more towards regular hospitals, not psych facilities.) Howie keeps sending me heads-ups on different little projects that are just barely beginning, trying to keep me busy and in the loop on something, anything, but I'm just not fully busy.

At this point, I'm first going to check with Prudence as to how developed does she want this little set of interior tenant infill drawings. After that, I have a couple of people to talk to that Howie said need help. However, I'm a little concerned because the teams Howie mentioned are working, or about to start working, in Revit, which I have yet to use in earnest.

It's weird how tired you can be after a long day of stretching 6 or 7 hours worth of work into 8. It's a double-edged sword, stretching work. In the short run, it's not a bad thing. You try to spread out your hours for a few weeks, and then something starts up and you're busy again and it's all good. But if you have to stretch for more than a couple of weeks, it'll wear you down, especially if you're stretching your time on projects that aren't yours and you don't particularly enjoy and have a hard time taking ownership of. I'm strangely tired and, despite the fact that the sun is coming up earlier and earlier each morning, I'm having a hard time getting out of bed to work out and get started each morning.

Architectural work--business, indeed--is cyclical like this. You're busy, then you're not, then you are, then you're not. It's just how it is. Gotta say I'd rather be busy as hell than bored as hell.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Detail of the Week: Mama said punch you out

I keep blogging about what I look for in a punch list, but it might be easier just to show you a few examples.

These door and drawer faces are looking good. The drawer faces are all in line with each other, the handles have been installed so that they're secure and parallel to the floor, and the doors and drawer faces are in the same plane. In other words, they just look like how you'd expect casework (cabinets) to look.

These doors are just barely off plumb from each other. I would note this in the field on my punchlist and put a piece of tape by it only if the space between the cabinets was noticeably not parallel all the way up to the top of the doors. I might also note the space between the doors as being too wide, unless this is a uniform look amongst all the doors in this building. By the way, the casework needs cleaning in both of these photos.

The top of these two photos is an example of both bad paint and a bad wall base corner. The paint along the wall corner on the accent paint wall is streaky from where the painters went from a roller to a brush. Ultimately, it looksl ike the painters still need to put another coat of paint on the wall in its entirety. Also, note the corner on that wall base: it's been split at the top. Actually, it might be two different pieces that have been stuck together and crammed into the corner--you can especially see the crammed look at the bottom of the wall base, where the bottom should flip out but doesn't. Pixie says nuh-uh. The bottom photo shows the right way to do base: miter the corner. Miter each end of the base so that the bottom flange is continuous all the way around. However, I can't tell the quality of the paint job from the photo.

This is bad ceiling grid. Granted, the photo is a little blurry, but you can see that the edge angle of the ceiling grid is not level with the drywall above the window. Also, someone needs to touch up the paint in this drywall over the window and finish caulking the window.

Mmm, yeah baby, that's a nice grid angle. (Cue wakka-wakka 70s guitar.) It's even with the window opening all the way across. However, someone still needs to apply sealant at the edge of the window frame. Keeps moisture and air infiltration out of the room that this window is in.

In other news, I got some nice bookstore/coffee shop time in last night, but alas, both Guy and Sarge lost some cash in the poker game. Evidently, the landscape department swept the poker tournament. How do those tree-planting so-and-sos manage to do that at every poker game? My next-door cubicle neighbor, Derek, managed to get to the house early and got to meet and pet Maddy, who was a complete petting-whore for him and even twitched her tail like she was happy to see him. As if! After Jimmy Ray showed up with his poker table, though, Maddy ran and joined Hazel, hiding in the bedroom, where we kept them for the rest of the evening. With eleven poker-and-beer hounds in my clean, lovely Modernist condo, it was probably best.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Kids, I'm wore slap out. After getting up at 4am and punchlisting and meeting all day and having to come home to write a letter for Wheatlands' new CEO, I'm frazzled. My legs don't ache like last time, thank heavens, but my back is feeling a little tweaked. In other news, though, the hospital is looking really beautiful. I wish I could show you photos of it, but I fear someone out there in cyberspace might surf upon it and recognize it and get me in a world of trouble.

Tomorrow night is Poker Night, in which Mile High Guy will take all of Sarge's and Elliot's and Jimmy Ray's money. While the testosterone is humming, I'll be out and about having my own girly evening alone. Detail of the Week will be posted on Saturday.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dang, how come I always miss all the good beat-downs?

Tomorrow morning, I will leave Denver before I usually even get out of bed. We've decided to start tomorrow's punchlist of Area B of Wheatlands Hospital at 8am. It's about 3 hours or so to Wheatlands, depending on traffic, weather, etc. Do the math, if you feel so inclined. It'll be the same group as last time: one of the owner's reps, the contractor's project engineer, the electrical engineer, and moi. The head of IT from Wheatlands hopes to join us, but we'll see how hectic his schedule is. We'll have to stop at 10am for the OAC meeting, and then we can likely pick up where we left off after that. Regardless, I won't be stopping back by the office on my way home. I'll probably be fried by then.

Which is a shame. Ethel, a permanent Pomme de Terre project team member and my shopping/spa partner-in-crime, told me today that tomorrow is Jacqueline's first day back after a long and well-deserved maternity leave. "Man, you're gonna miss the sound and the fury," she chuckled. "Batten down the hatches!" I shrugged at first. Well, the rest of the team will finally be back from Taterville, where they've been meeting with the users of Pomme de Terre for the past three days, and they can catch her up then. I'm more thanksful to be gone when they return than when Jacqueline returns. However, it occurred to me that Jacqueline will likely be disoriented when she sees all the changes and progress made, and when she's not in control, her stress levels go up. When her stress levels go up, she lashes out. Well, here's hoping that motherhood has given her some perspective and calmed her down.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sympathy for the ADA

First of all: ding ding ding ding! Faded is our winner: yesterday's post title was indeed from Ghostbusters. Congratulations, Faded. You win absolutely nothing, but you do have even more of my respect.

Meanwhile, I can't figure out what the hell I've done to my calves. I ran on Wednesday, did the bike on Friday, and went for a long walk on Saturday, and by sundown on Saturday my calves and hips were killing me. I limped around all Sunday, moving as little as I could, and even today I've been in pain. I've been walking stiffly, even dragging my feet now and then. Stairs...oh, stairs suck. Going up and down the stairs in the office today made me limp even more and favor my left leg for some reason. I favored my right leg on Sunday.

Usually, people think of ADAAG's space requirements helping people in wheelchairs, but the rules are for all kinds of handicaps, including visual and audial handicaps. As for mobility-impaired individuals, there are those in wheelchairs and then there are those who are sometimes referred to as ambulatory handicapped. These are people who use a cane or walker, for example, or perhaps they have issues getting in and out of chairs, like many of our elderly population.

This was me today: wincing from mystery hip pain as I got out of my fancy-schmancy office chair, limping and favoring my left leg as I hoppity-hopped downstairs to go to the restroom, slinging my arms awkwardly as I'd try to keep up with Guy going to the elevator in our condo building. Guy asked me if I'd been drinking enough water, which my friend Dame Judith asked me about yesterday. I've increased my water intake in thepast 48 hours in hopes that it would help the pain, but only a tiny bit so. I must've jumped around while being excited about something or pushed with the wrong muscles too many times, and only time and rest will heal the aches. In the meantime, movement is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

I suppose it's not very fair or accurate to say that I feel a handicapped person's pain right now. My injury will be gone in a week or two, but a major injury stays and makes life difficult for the rest of a handicapped person's life. They get to deal with the injustices of navigating stairs and having to park too far away and trying not to hold up an elevator every day.

It makes me think of something I saw a few years ago. I was stopped in my car behind a bus in heavy downtown traffic. The bus was taking for-fricking-ever to move. I was shouting obscenities by the time the bus left the curb and went on. A few of the cars behind me either honked or zoomed around the bus in a huff. When the bus pulled away, I saw a small, thin, frail old woman with a cane and an oxygen tank trembling on the sidewalk. A taller but also old, thin, and frail man was standing by her, holding her against his chest in his thin arms, one bony hand on her back, the arm protectively around her shoulders, the other hand patting the thinning white hair on her head. She leaned wearily against his shoulder, eyes peeking over his arm through thick glasses. In her magnified eyes, I saw a mix of fear and exhaustion. How tiring it must have been for them to get anywhere in a big, busy city. How frightening to be rushed and be made to feel a burden, an annoyance. It occurred to me that we weren't far from a medical center; I bet that's where they were going. And now, after the exhausting process of just getting off the bus, they would have to walk across another street or two to reach the medical center. More frustration, more exhaustion. At least they had each other to make the trip a little easier.

When people complain about all the space and expense required to make curb cuts, accessible door handles, and 5-foot turning circles, I say shut the fuck up. You might need that space some day.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Crossing the streams

I've gotten the most interesting invitation. Through six degrees of Miss Kitty, I might get to speak to a college class near where my sister Miss Kitty teaches. She knows someone who knows someone who wants an architect to speak to their class of impressionalbe young college-age minds. I'm trying hard to figure out how to put together a 90-minute discussion of modern architecture and how its changes reflect American culture at large. I'm also trying to figure out how to get all this done in time to fly into Atlanta and do this lecture in about a month's time. I suppose this will tell whether I'm cut out for teaching.

(Oh, and you get bonus points if you can name the 1980s blockbuster movie from which I took this post's title.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Detail (sorta) of the Week: Cleanliness is next to punchiness.

I was gonna post another detail about punchlists, but I had some inspiration today while doing some hardcore spring cleaning. Next Friday is Guy's turn to host Poker Night, which will also be the last Poker Night with the inimitable and irreplaceable Jimmy Ray. His wife got a promotion, so he is indeed headed back to the Midwest. (That's a story for another posting.) Our house has been something of a wreck since Guy started painting a few months ago, and it was time to really start cleaning at least the areas that guests would see. We can close off the two bedrooms, but the kitchen, dining room, living room, and bathroom(s) will need to be scrubbed down.

So, I found myself on hands and knees this afternoon, wiping down the tile base along the bathroom walls, and suddenly I realized something: This happens at my buildings too. See, in any building under construction, all the painters and plumbers and carpenters and so on finish their work and move out of the area. Then, the contractor hires a cleaning company to come in and clean the area. What do they clean? A better question would be what do they not clean!

They dust mop (Swiff, shall we say) and wet mop hard surfaces like ceramic and quarry tile, VCT, and sheet vinyl. They vacuum carpet. They damp wipe everything: painted walls, countertops, cabinet doors, shelves inside and outside the cabinets, doors into rooms, wall base, blinds, everything. They dust off or wet wipe vinyl wallcoverings, shake out and spot or steam clean draperies or fabric wallcoverings, wipe and dry windows to be spot free. They wipe down every sink and toilet, wipe and dry off stainless steel counters and sinks (don't want spots, now do we?)...they even wipe off the lenses and shades on light fixtures.

Imagine wiping down Every. Single. Surface. In your house. Imagine your house is empty of stuff--no dishes, no knickknacks, just basic or even no furniture...but you have to wipe, scrub, and clean every surface. I found myself thinking about this as I scrubbed the walls and ceiling of my bathroom with Clorox Clean-Up and water, wiped the underside of the toilet bowl, scoured the tile floor and wall base, and swiped my now-tattered sponge across the plastic laminate of my bathroom counter. My condo is only 1,315 square feet. Imagine having to clean this thoroughly over 68,000 square feet.

I nearly fainted at the thought. I'm such a wimp--my upper back and lower calves hurt from all that crawling, scrubbing, and mopping. Time to curl up on the sofa and put my feet up.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Guy's new office is a pretty nice one. It's a new office that's part of a larger architectural corporation, so while he's waiting for his new job to start up, he's working on drawings that have come out of other offices for projects in Colorado. One of them is a renovation and addition to a birthing center, for which he's completing and detailing the drawings and taking them through construction documents. It's not the most exciting thing to do, but it's work, and it's a good way to get familiar with how a company's drawings tend to look.

Guy noticed something odd on these plans: all the interior wall were 5 inches (5") thick. Interior walls in a commercial building with metal framing are 4 7/8" thick. Each layer of drywall is 5/8" thick, and the metal stud in between is 3 5/8" deep. Guy was so frustrated by this that he emailed me over at DA to send him a CAD file of just a regular wall object to use. "I just need to replace these shitty walls with real ones," he said.

Now, I know, I know, 1/8" doesn't sound like a whole hell of a lot. But think about it: if you draw eight walls parallel to each other, like the walls of offices going down a hall, you're off by an inch at the end of that row of offices. Think about how many walls would be in a 200-foot-long patient tower: you could be off by over a foot at the end of it. And a foot is enough to make something suddenly not comply with code or not have enough space to make another patient room. So draw the walls right, people.

Sadly, I got a taste of this myself today. As Wheatlands winds down and the design team traipses off to Taterville for more Pomme de Terre meetings next week, I'm going to be helping the head of DA's interiors department with a tenant finish project. I don't know what Prudence (head of interiors) is teaching her girls, but it's not fuckin' right. This interior finish plan I was updating had 5" walls in it. Okay, it's a small space, less than 3,000 square feet, but wonder why no one respects interiors gals? Why they're often looked at as the retarded younger sibling in the design and construction family and everyone makes fun of them as paint-and-pillow-pickers? Here's why: because they don't draw things like they're gonna get built. Because they don't even know basic ADA clearances and don't show them in their plans. Because they haven't grasped basic aspects of the software they're using to draw their plans, and they have their interior walls at all different heights in the plan so only half the walls show up in the ceiling plans. If you want your staff to be taken seriously, you have to train them seriously. You have to train them to understand what they're designing and make it a priority to have them represent things accurately.

Also cool about Guy's new company is that they have an on-staff meteorologist that helps somehow with the design of large-scale civil and highway projects. I'm such a Weather Channel freakazoid that I wanna party with this dude, take him out for Jager shots and discussions of microbursts and virga. Guy's meteorologist says Denver's supposed to have up to 18" of snow by the end of tomorrow. Buckle up and bundle up, kids. Wait...isn't it April?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Punched by the punchlist

I was so exhausted after doing the first punchlist in Wheatlands yesterday that after I got home more than 12 hours after leaving it, I ate dinner, conferred with Miss Kitty about a cover letter, and took my achy ass to bed. Punchlists are a lot harder than I remembered.

As I've described in an earlier post, a punchlist is a visual inspection and check of basic operations of a building. The architect walks from room to room and looks at everything. Here's a sorta-kinda comprehensive list:

  • Doors: Is door clean? Does it have any marks, scratches, dents? Is the hardware in the door complete--can the door lock if it's supposed to lock? If it has a closer, does it close the door? Does the door hang flush in the frame both depth-wise and length/height-wise? Does it close and latch with a normal amount of force? Are silencers and seals fully adhered to the frame?
  • Floors: Is the flooring wrinkled? Stained? Damaged? Discolored? Wrong flooring type or pattern? Missing? Does it need cleaning/polishing/sealing?
  • Wall base: Is it wrinkled? Fully adhered to the wall? Scratched? Marked or dented? Missing? Does it need cleaning?
  • Walls: Is the paint completed? Are there any scratches, marks, dents, or splatters of adjacent colored paint? Is the wallcovering fully adhered? Do the patterns match up properly? Are the chair rails/wainscots finished completely? Are handrails complete? Are there any nails sticking out that could poke a hand? Are the nail holes filled and sealed? Is ceramic tile complete? Any cracked or chipped ones?
  • Ceilings: Are all the ceiling tiles in one piece and laying flat in the grid? Are the tiles clean? Is the grid clean? Any dents or damage? Any dents or paint issues in any drywall ceilings or soffits?
  • Lights/electrical: Are the lights installed? Do they work? Are all the lights/ballasts in the fluorescent lights? Are all the electrical devices and faceplates/outlets complete? Is there any paint/stains on the outlets and faceplates? Are the lenses or housing of the lights in one piece? Is there any debris in the lights? Are lights set properly in the ceiling grid?
  • Plumbing: Is there hot and cold water to the sinks? Do toilets flush, fully evacuate bowl, and refill? Do sprayers work? Do fixtures leak? Are shut-off valves operable? Are escutcheon plates on all pipes going into walls?
  • Casework (cabinets): Are finishes complete? Any scratches, dents, debris on them? Are the surfaces clean? Do all drawers pull out and push back in with a normal amount of force? Do cabinet doors open and close properly? Do doors stay open when left open? Do magnetic catches keep doors closed? Do doors hang plumb and even with each other? Are drawer faces in line with each other? Do access panels work easily?

Yesterday, the owner's representative, the on-site field engineer from the contractor, the electrical engineer, and I walked around the first of four wings of Wheatlands for six hours, inspecting room after room and marking things to correct with painter's tape while typing the notes into the contractor's laptop. I don't know if I own any shoes I can stand in for six hours. Stand, walk, lean down, stand up, jump to stick something high on a wall near a mark, stand, turn around 720 degrees while looking up, walk, lean, get the picture. My lower calves and ankles/Achilles tendons were aching such that even this morning at 6am, I was walking with my feet bowed out. By the time I got home last night, both of my entire legs hurt all the way to the outside of my hip. I need new inserts for my Vibram-soled work boots if I'm gonna do three more of these. The field engineer said Area 1 was the hardest for her to do too, thought it would seem like the easiest since it had lots of offices and some repetetive exam rooms.

I'm gonna go put my feet up--literally--and chill out.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

I wanna go where everybody knows my name

Or can at least pronounce it.

Let's see if I can describe my minor but annoying predicament without revealing my identity. Here's the deal: Pixie is a shortened version of my name, as if my full first name was Pixieanna, or something like that. Historically, even if I introduce myself as Pixieanna, within a few weeks or even days folks start calling me Pixie, or even Pix. So, when I moved to Denver almost seven years ago, I had Pixie put on my business cards and would introduce myself as such.

In the past several months, so it seems, no one who doesn't know me personally can pronounce the name "Pixie". Case in point: I went to a bagel/coffee shop recently, and gave the gal my order and my name, Pixie. A few minutes later, a young man who appeared to very much speak English as a first language comes to the pick-up section of the counter and called out the order for "Mikey". None of the three other customers nor I stepped forward to take the bagel. But then I thought....I got the attention of another coffee shop employee: "Did he call for 'Pixie'?" I asked. The woman went to the order that had been laid down on the counter, a toasted-and-peanut-butter-smeared orphan. She conferred with the young man who'd called out "Mikey." Then, just as I'd suspected, the young man picked up the order and brought it right to me.

"Pixie," he said, "My bad." Then he gave me the wrong size coffee cup (but that's a different bitch session).

What the fuck, Chuck? I understand that my (actual) name is pronounced differently in Latin American Spanish, so when I order a pick-up food order from someone with a strong Latino accent, I pronounce my name such that the person spells it correctly and can get it to me. I've had problems in the recent past with prouncing my name on the phone, say, to get a restaurant or hotel reservation. My name ends up as 'Bixie' or, God forbid, 'Dixie'. When at a crowded restaurant and needing to put a name on the waiting list, I use Guy's first name, since it always gets understood as 'Guy' in a crowded, loud lobby. However, when they need a last name, I use my last name. It's a nice, simple British last name. However, Guy's last name is decidedly German: it has seven syllables and requires the person pronouncing it to clear their throat, crack their neck, and bang a steel pot with a wooden spoon twice to say it correctly. So, we use my last name for reservations. When we got married, most folks (except for his family) asked if I was taking his name. No, I replied. Why? they'd ask. Because his last name is ________, I'd reply. What?! they'd say. And I'd say, exactly. What. If you have to ask, I'm not repeating it, and I'm sure not jumping through a bunch of legal hoops to take on one more struggle needlessly. Besides, my own dad, God rest his soul, gave me a perfectly good last name to use.

Anyway, the name pronunciation thing has been bugging me this weekend. And if that's the biggest thing annoying me at the immediate present, then I really dont' have a reason to bitch too much, huh?

Off to Wheatlands tomorrow morning to do a punchlist of a couple of departments.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Detail of the Week: Expansion Joints 2, Electric Boogaloo

Oh, like you didn't see that '80s throwback joke coming a mile away.

I found some more shots of the building I used for the exterior expansion joints DoW, so I'm milking this concept for all it's worth. See, the big expansion joint running along the outside of the building also has to come inside, too. When you build walls in a building, you have to anchor the framing of those walls to the structure, right? And if the structure likes to move, and the wall you build is running across that expansion joint, then the expansion joint goes through the interior walls too.

Now, I tried to annotate these photos a bit on my clunky photo-editing software at home, so let's see how well it publishes...

Ha! It works! You can see the gap left in the drywall where the joint will go. What will fill this joint? Something that looks like this:

Several companies make expansion joint covers; this one happens to be by Watson-Bowman. You can kind of see inside it on top how it looks like a "W" in plan, which allows it to expand and contract in place while being attached to both sides of the joint.

But this is below the ceiling. What's happening above the ceiling?

Since no one's gonne see it, the contractor here has chosen to simply cover the joint with a piece of drywall. This is okay, I guess, as long as the wall isn't rated. If the wall is required to have some kind of fire or smoke resistance, then the contractor would have to put the expansion joint cover shown above all the way up to the underside of the structure above. Speaking of structure, what happens when these vertical and horizontal joints come together?
In this case, they just kinda come together. Again, if this joint isn't in a rated wall, then the drywall-over-the-gap should suffice. If it is rated, then we need the cover piece all the way up here. The light stuff you see in the joint is insulation. What's going on on the roof, on the other side of this gap? I think you've seen the photo before....

The leg on the left of this joint is what we're seeing the underside of in the photo before it (if that makes any sense on a Saturday afternoon).

Okay, I think I've beat this topic up quite enough. Next week's DoW will tie in with something that BaxterWatch has explained on her website. Blogging in Stereo: can you stand it? Only one way to find out...!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Let the games begin.

Tomorrow is my last regular site visit to Wheatlands before the punchlists begin. For those who aren't familiar with the concept, a punchlist is both an object and a process. The architect walks around the building, or a portion of the building, and checks each room to make sure it's spot-on perfect. No dents or blobs of paint on the walls, no peeling plastic laminate on the counters and cabinets, no wrinkles in the wall base, no stains or kinks in the carpet, no dings in the ceiling tiles, all sprinklers and pipes in walls and ceilings have escutcheon get the picture. Anything that needs to be fixed is noted by the architect, either on a checklist or on a tape recorder, and they also often put a piece of painter's tape or small colored stickers next to the offending blemish. Sometimes the contractor walks with the architect, sometimes not. Then, the architect writes up the list (called a punchlist) and gives it to the contractor to be rectified.

My first punchlist is next week. What this means is that I've got to make the almost-seven-hour round trip to Wheatlands, Kansas and back to Denver once a week for the next six weeks instead of the usual every-other-week trip that I've made for the past ten months. Good thing I get reimbursed for mileage.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Permission to beat the laundry consultant, Sir.

We hire consultants for everything: structure, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and electricity in the building, to name the basics. When the building is complex, like a hospital, there are more systems and things for which one needs consultants, such as low-voltage systems (like communications and nurse call systems), medical equipment, and kitchen/food service and laundry equipment. The company that I've used for laundry and food service in the past was hired on for Wheatlands started out pretty helpful, but the guy who got the project after we got past design development makes me chew glass.

Skip could not seem to send me drawings on time. When he did finally get them to me, he would add walls and doors to the plan I had sent him. First of all, this is a no-no: don't fuck with the architects drawings. Second of all, if you need a door or wall added, you tell me and I put it in. Again, see rule number 1: don't fuck with my drawings. Skip's specifications (the written directions of how and what to build and products to use in the project) were incomplete, unclear, confused (like he wrote the equipment list twice with different machines listed in each list), and also late. There was a great deal of confusion after the construction documents went out because the 100% specs still had Skip's 95% specs--he didn't send me his final specs until the contractor and I caught the mistake and I had to poke Skip with a sharp stick.

Now, Wheatlands is nearly done. The building will be opening in mid-June, two weeks early. The contractors and the hospital had a sudden shock: each thought the other was going to buy the laundry equipment. We all understood that the contractor would install said equipment, but no one had planned to buy the stuff. So, suddenly, the owner's got to come up with over $75,000 to buy washers, dryers, carts, soap dispensers, and so on. I asked Skip for an equipment dealer from whom the hospital could get the equipment needed. Skip finally found me a name, but not before he groused about how crappy it was of the contractor not to spring for the equipment and how his spec was written such that it was clear that whoever's installing the stuff should buy it too. The owner wanted to confirm the washer type: two different ones were listed in the spec. Skip emails back the name and model number and said, "It's the only one listed in the spec."

Finally, the owner calls me, saying that the equipment vendor whom Skip recommended was giving them some seriously conflicting info: the washer Skip specified didn't exist according to the national distributor; the dryers were oversized for the hospital's size, they didn't actually need a pass-through washer, as the job could be done with a single-sided washer; a pass-through washer costs $50,000 and requires seven weeks to get to the jobsite, while a single-sided washer could be to the site in a week and only cost $8,500. I felt like the pass-through washer had been a code requirement, so I passed the owner's concerns on to Skip in an email.

I got back a cranky, snippy, adversarial nastygram.

I got curtly, typed answers, like, "Yes, that washer does exist." Really, well where? Who told you it did? Give me a name and number so we can call them. He told me to disengage the guys that he'd recommended and gave me a new name to speak with. The last straw was his response to my polite emailed urging to help the owner and equipment vendor work through this because time was of the essence and the pass-through washers have a long lead time. His response was roughly, "Lead time doesn't matter because the contractor has had this project for a while. If they failed to get the equipment because of oversight or plain old incompetency, that's still no reason for the owner to go rewriting codes to save a little money."

My eyes crossed. My fists flexed reflexively. I forwarded the email to Howie, who was at home with a cold, and typed one line: "I've had enough of Skip."

Howie called me a couple hours later after breaking through his Benadryl haze. "You'll be glad to know that I've demanded that Skip not be on any more of our projects."
"Thank you, Sir," I replied with clenched teeth. "What shall I do with this particular love note of Skip's?"
Howie sighed. "Call him and tell him you understand his frustration, but we need an email from him that we can forward to the owner that doesn't sound like it's blaming anyone. Talk him through his answer to each question; you're good at wording things clearly but politely."
"Will do," I replied.

I put in a call to Skip and got his voicemail. I told him I understood his frustration but needed an email we could forward on.

A few minutes later, I got an email from Howie. I spoke with [Skip' s boss] and he's going to talk with Skip about keeping his emails professional, more team-oriented, and less adversarial.

Damn skippy.

Monday, April 2, 2007

What Architects Watch

I'm not a TV fan. Rather, I wasn't historically a fan of TV. Growing up in the rural south, our house only had an aerial antenna, which one had to go outside and turn manually if one was tired of watching Alabama Public Television and wanted to watch Georgia Public Television instead. I spent most of my afternoons, evenings, and weekends running hither and yon over our neighbors fields, up and over terraces left behind by farmers several decades ago, across creeks, dodging cow patties in the nearby cow fields, and generally enjoying the outdoors in the country. When the sky grew dark and the bobwhites settled down for the evening, I went indoors and read and did my homework. Occasionally, we could get the TV to pick up Alf or The A-Team, but more often than not, it was the radio and a battered library copy of Watership Down.

Fast forward to grad school, 1998, Gainesville, Florida. I'm exhausted from 10- and 12-hour days of classes and time spent in Studio. I need a break, I need to relax my mind and not push it for a while. I need to do laundry. I got cable and started watching pro wrestling. I wrote my thesis on an inpatient mental health facility for the homeless mentally ill while listening to Tony Schiavone proclaiming that Diamond Dallas page was attempting a suplex off the top rope onto Ric Flair. And yes, all while doing my laundry.

I loved my cheeze, but then I moved to the Mile High Cit-tay after grad school, and I was so confused in my new loft apartment downtown over whether I was supposed to get Dish or cable, so I got neither. I gave my TV away to a gal who eventually moved to California. At the same time, I started dating Mile High Guy, who, growing up in suburban St. Louis and being a rabid sports fan, was never without a TV except for when he was stationed in Germany in the Army. He'd come over to my place and we'd listen to NPR while he ate my homemade tofu and spicy peanut sauce and super-sweet iced tea. I'd go over to his place and we'd watch Monday Night Football and I'd eat Hamburger Helper (which I'd never had before) and chocolate milk with Guy. Fifteen months later, we move in together in a modernish condo on the edge of downtown. I say no TV. Guy says TV, dammit. We compromise: the TV is in the second bedroom/office/den. No TV in our bedroom, none in the nice living room.


Despite my best efforts not to become enamored of certain shows, I do like a few out there. Guy and I got hooked on Heroes this fall, and we enjoyed the sci-fi-yet-philosophical Kyle XY on ABC Family. As a former improv comic, I can be easily glued to Whose Line is it Anyway? as well as the animated sitcoms on Fox. But I have two hardcore TV lurrves: Cops on Fox and Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel.

Cops is like watching a parade of dumbasses. It's pure guilty pleasure to watch people with various types of mullets tell the police that it's their mama's car and they're on their way home from a friend's (whose name that cannot recall) and they just had one or two drinks and I don't know whose crack pipe that is, officer. I'm just incredulous at watching this show sometimes. Watching Cops has convinced me that I can never be arrested for anything as long as a) I have my driver's license, b) I'm wearing shoes, and c) I hav emost of my natural teeth.

Then there's Deadliest Catch. Whenever I feel like my job sucks, I watch that show. When I hate sitting in the conference room chairs that won't let my feet touch the floor so they fall asleep, I watch people spend 20 hours a day in subfreezing temperatures doing intense and constant physical work. When I grouse about how poorly we design professionals are paid, I watch the greenhorns on the boats barely clear any pay for such grueling work. When I gripe about a paper cut from a huge set of drawings, I watch a young man fall over the edge of a boat in ten foot waves and be snatched from the waters just in time to save his life (90 seconds in the Bering Sea in the winter is instant death from hypothermia).

I've said all this to tell you that I won't be posting tomorrow because the new season of Deadliest Catch starts then, and I'll be plastered to the screen and settling in once again to get inspired by the gutsy souls who risk everything to make money in a short, brutal crab fishing season. (And I'll switch to Court TV during their commercial breaks to watch Cops. I'm not always noble.)