Saturday, June 30, 2007

Material Girl

I'm lucky that I work in an office that has a full staff of interior designers and landscape architects. These people make my life fifty times easier on most days. They work with things I don't usually use and understand little details that I don't. Of course, I know these same things about my job that they don't, but you understand what I'm trying to say. However, one's project budget and/or scope does not always allow for the use of these folks.

Case in point: the four small projects I'm working on for Jann right now aren't big enough to really warrant having an interior designer on board. Also, the projects I'm doing are in buildings that we designed in the last six years, so the interior design work is already partially done. Interior designers prepare a palette of materials--flooring (tile, sheet vinyl, VCT, carpet, etc), paint, wallcovering, wall tile, wood laminate or wood stain, fabrics for upholstery or drapes or cubicle curtains, finshes for casework, and so on--and then make a finish schedule that lists each room and what finish it gets where. Each room is listed by name and number, and then s/he says what goes on each wall and on the floor and what plastic laminate goes on the cabinet faces and what's on the countertop and what's on the ceiling. Then, s/he creates a finish plan to show more clearly where accent paints go, what the floor pattern looks like for the VCT and sheet vinyl and carpet, and so on. This is a fair amount of work that I usually don't do. But due to the scope of my projects, these tasks fall in my lap.

Which is not all bad. Bear in mind that all these projects are remodels inside larger projects that DA has done in the past six years, so someone already did a finish schedule and palette for them. I can go to the existing finish plan and schedule and legend and see what colors and materials were listed in the area and put those in my new plan.

Would that it were so easy.

First of all, some of the areas I'm working on now need materials that weren't there originally. The admin area that's turning into the end scope procedure suite needs sheet vinyl for the procedure rooms, plastic laminate for casework, and VCT for the halls and recovery cubicles. So now I have to look at the areas around this new department to see what those areas used and use those here. Except that the project went through a huge VE process halfway through construction (what?! even Jann rolls her eyes when she tells the story) so some of the finishes were taken out. Here I am, specifying paint and plastic laminate that exists nowhere else in the project. This place isn't gonna match a damn thing anywhere else.

Oh, and here's an open letter complaint to ICI/Dulux Paints: hey dumbasses, what's the idea behind renumbering and renaming every single paint in your catalog? Paints I used two years ago have been rendered unfindable and therefore unspecifyable in my new project. And there's not even a feature on your website that would allow me to put in an old name and number and get the name and number it is now. Why the hell not? Oh, 'cuz there's a metric crapton of paint colors in your catalog, you say? Well, imagine being a design professional trying to figure out what the hell ever became of A1817 Fawning Mist when all your color descriptions now look like NORAD launch codes. Bite me. I'm specifying Benjamin Moore.

Anyway, the fun part is that I get to go to the top floor of our building and look through the Interiors Library. It's a well-lit room with skylights and shelf upon shelf and row upon row of carpet squares, VCT samples, paint card books, ceramic tile sample drawers, fabric swatches...oh, Lawd, 'tis a strange little heaven up there. I was late picking up Guy from work on Friday because I spent 15 minutes looking for one plastic laminate sample. Oh, for the glory of looking at interesting linoleums! I really like digging around up there because it's a whole world I'd love to know more about. Sometimes, I run into the interiors part of the office and ask a couple of interior designers, "These colors are going in a CT scan room. Should my accent wall be a saturated green or this lighter green here?" Four women stand up in their cubicles, squint their eyes, and proclaim the lighter green for a patient treatment area. I get along pretty well with interiors gals. I've covered for them and shielded them from the wrath of many a project manager, so they're pretty amenable to helping me pick between two colors or find something that works better with an existing tile. A little silly, some of them, but their hearts are in the right place. Would that the same could be said for my eye for color.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Drop the remote and step away from the black box.

Here's a recent article from the Healthcare Advisory Board:

Teens who sleep in during weekend face Monday "jetlag" 06/26/2007
Teenagers who sleep longer on weekends to make up for missed sleep during the week actually reset their internal clocks, leading to symptoms reminiscent of jetlag come Monday morning, according to research presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Minneapolis. Noting that teenagers often restrict their sleep during the week to complete homework and get up early for class, Brown University researchers analyzed how 15- and 16-year-olds' sleep patterns impact their classroom performance. The researchers found thatsleeping in on weekends "pushes back the brain's cue to be awake on Monday morning for school," leading to grogginess and "a mismatch between the internal clock and sleep behavior." Although experts recommend that teenagers get at least nine hours of sleep nightly, Reuters notes that achieving such a full night's rest "may be easier said than done" (Reuters, 6/13).

Now, we all have our when-I-was-a-kid stories, but here's one I can say without exaggerating. As a teenager, I got at least 8 hours of sleep per night. How, pray tell? Oh, I'm so glad you asked.

We didn't have TV.

Well, let me back up. We had a TV, but we only had an aerial antenna that you had to go outside and manually turn it if you wanted to get channels from a different city. You pointed it one way to get NBC, ABC, CBS, and PBS from Atlanta, another way to get the same channels from Columbus, and yet another way to get one of several Alabama PBS stations. As a kid, watching "The A-Team" or "Knight Rider" tooks some work; you really had to want to watch to put on shoes and go fix the antenna. It got to the point that watching TV was too much work for not a very good picture, so I never really formed the habit. Fast forward to high school, where we've moved into a larger home closer to school, but Dad still only hooked up an arial antenna to the TV. My stepsiblings ached over trying to get the picture right while I sat at my desk upstairs, slamming through solving trigonometry problems, reading Madame Bovary, and conjugating French verbs. My friends might have known more about Beverly Hills 90210 than I did, but I went to Georgia Tech with all but $300 a quarter of my expenses paid due to academic scholarships.

Kids might be "restricting" their sleep for "homework" and getting up early for class, but I can almost guaran-damn-tee you that they're getting their tube time (and video game time) every night, and that cuts into sleep time. I went to high school in the early- to mid-1990s, and I know my friends were awake into the late night;I'd be surprised if teens today were that much different. Myself, I've realized lately that having a TV on and even being in the same room with it on keeps me artificially awake and energized. Light from the sun disappears around 9pm here in Denver in the summer, and when I'm allowed to read in a room away from the TV, I get snoozy right about the time the sunlight disappears. If the TV is playing a music/radio station at a low volume, I can calm down as if I'm in the other room meditating or doing restorative yoga, but otherwise I can't be int he same room with it for at least 30 minutes before bed.

Yeah, I know it's easy to bash TV for a number of society's ills, but it does take up a lot more of our time than it ought to. I saw a bumper sticker this afternoon that said, "Fight prime time--read a book." Thanks, I think I will.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A very special WAD post

I was inspired recently by BaxterWatch to have a mole checked out, so off to the doctor I went this afternoon. The doctor checked out the mole I thought might be a problem, a large stain-like mark on the side of my face, and she pronounced it...a liver spot.

Kids, I'm 31.

Dr. Coolio, whom I see on a regular basis in her white coat, denim skirt, and black-and-red cowboy boots, said the best way to make sure a mole is not a problem is to put a piece of clear adhesive tape (like scotch tape) over it, trace around it with a pen or marker, then stick that tape piece on your calendar a few months from the day you traced it. When that day comes, put another piece of tape on, trace it again, and compare the two. If you see changes, call your doctor.

"Huh," said I. "So my main 'mole' is a liver spot, and my other weird mole just gets lots of zits in it, I guess 'cuz it's on the side of my face that I hold my work phone on, y'know?"
"Hmm, let me see it," she said. She rubbed her finger over the raised mole. "You get a lot of pimples in this mole?"
I paused. "Yeah...and they take a little while to heal."
"This one I'm actually concerned about, Pixie," said Dr. Coolio. "It's raised, has a little bit of asymmetrical coloring, and you say it gets acne that's slow to heal in it." She wrote down a phone number. "Call this number and talk to the dermatology folks on the 6th floor. it'll take a few weeks to get in, but I'd rather be safe than sorry."

Also, Colorado is so close to the sun that we have some of if not the highest skin cancer rates in the nation. So wear sunscreen, kids. An ounce per body.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Housecleaning is truly truly truly outrageous

Guy has made extraordinary progress in decluttering the house. He's emptied out cabinets and closets and drawers, and he's even reclaimed the living room for me by completing the painting and waterproofing on the north balcony and moving all the now-streamlined contents of said balcony back onto it. (However, we still have a bunch of stuff on the sofa that's going to Goodwill.) After being a complete slacker for two weekends, it was my turn to do some cleaning. I pulled several boxes out of the bottom of Guy's closet and began sifting through the contents. Much to my delight, I found some of my old toys.

The kittycat used to sleep on my bed at college. The middle bear I got during elementary school, and the bear on the right has joints in its arms, legs, and neck so it snuggles into you if you hug it over your shoulder. Then, I found a seriously awesomeo radical bit of my late elementary/early middle school days: my old Jem dolls.

For the uninitiated, Jem (tm) was Hasbro's attempt to merge pop music with a Barbie-type doll. A cartoon was eventually made for three seasons featuring the dolls as characters. Barbie was large-busted, small-waisted, and 11.5" tall. Jem and her group, however, were more properly proportioned and more like 12.5" tall. Jem dolls also came with their own stand, which made playing with them or lip-synching to the cassette tapes that were sold along with the dolls. Above, this is Clash (left) and Synergy (right). Clash was part of the bad girls' rock group, The Misfits, and Synergy was the computer that help Jerrica Benton use holograms to turn into Jem. Clash used to use her computer to jam Synergy's signals...or maybe this is more than you even care to know.

That's Glitter n' Gold Jem (left) and Jetta (right) of the Misfits. Jetta played saxophone, like my sister Miss Kitty. Another cool thing about the Jem dolls is that they were more flexible. Barbies only have knee, hip, and shoulder joints that move in one, maybe two directions. However, Jem dolls had knees, hips, elbows, and shoulder joints that had varying degrees of bending and a human-like range of motion. Jem dolls also had one hand open and one hand semi-closed, so they could actually hold a microphone or saxophone or something. Even cooler was Glitter n' Gold Jem, whose elbows, knees, and ankles, as shown above, flex in and out. I used to use this doll for figure sketching as a kid.

"Look at me with my crossed legs and my hand on my hip. I'm so all that. Waving like the queen of preteen girls' role models in plastic, elbow elbow wrist wrist..."

High Plains Drifter Barbie finds Jem putting on airs again, after all these years in the plastic tub. HPD Barbie was originally a Malibu Barbie from the late 1970s who, despite our best and overt efforts, we couldn't throw away. We threw her in a trash can in the early 80s, but she fell out of a hole in the Hefty bag. We threw her in the back of Dad's truck as he went to the dump in the late 80s, and she fell off the truck. I thought I'd left her at home when I went to grad school in 1998, but she ended up in the bin with the Jem dolls. And HPD Barbie doesn't take kindly to articulated-plastic-joint tomfoolery.

"You best knock that sisy-Oprah-book-club-hand-wavin' shit out, princess."

"Whatever. You can't kick my ass, HPD Barbie. You can only flex your knee twice."

"Yeah? Let's see how you like my Scorpion Death Lock, Singy McPrissyPants."

"Auugh! AAAAUUUUUGGGGHH!! Jetta! Help me! I'm tapping out! Auugh!"

"You started this, sister; you're on you own. She's got painted-on tan lines; I'm no match for her."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Damn Yankees

The big news around here is that the Rockies swept the Yankees here in Denver. They won all three games this week during the Yankees' first visit to da Mile High Shizznit since 2002. Here's the thing though: Coors Field only sells out once or twice a season, usually opening day and maybe a summer fireworks game around a major holiday. But the three Yankees games were sold out months in advance, and ticket prices were way jacked. Usually, the Rockies charge $75 per seat for a box/club seat, but just seats near homeplate (not at, but near) were going for that this week.

Side One of the Yankees Visit Existential Pastoral Sporting Meltdown: Local fans and even some of the Rockies' players and staff are pissed that this is what it takes to pack Coors Field. Where the fuck are all these Yankees fans coming from, anyway? Why is Rockies management putting so much effort into pushing this game series? Dammit, the Rockies are over .500 right now for the first time in a while, so why are the Rockies getting second billing at home?! This is bullshit! (Pixie's aside: Why the hell do they even have weekday daytime games? I'm trying to just go six blocks to meet my pal Vinnie for drinks and gossip, and these fucktards are driving like crap and in my way! Does no one know how to make a right turn anymore?!)

Flip Side of the Yankees Visit Existential Pastoral Sporting Meltdown: "Yankees fans are everywhere, Pix," said Vinnie at McCormick's Fish House in Lodo, his large fist wrapped around a highball glass, manly manicured fingertip idly wiping away a drop of water from the glass in the 93-degree Denver heat. "Fans have come from Kansas, New Mexico, Utah even, to see the Yankees get anywhere near this neck of the woods." True enough. Plus, did I mention that this is the first time in a long time that the Rockies have been over .500? These owners refuse to invest in this team. Everytime some no-name kid gets hot and starts hitting well or pitching well, they trade him. There are still a couple of huge contracts still on the books for players that were either traded or just gone. Oh, and recall that $75 a seat in the club/box seats? That's the second highest club seat price in the entire League, National or American. The only higher price is at Fenway Park for the Red Sox, but they've actually won a championship and had winning seasons for a long time. Don't expect people to rally around a ho-hum team with few recognizable names from year to year and expensive seats.

So, I see both sides of the brouhaha. (I'm a Libra, what did you expect?) Still...I'm over these weeksday day games.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trail of Tears or Bataan Death March? You be the judge.

Howie, Dash, and I met at a fast food restaurant just outside of Denver near the airport to carpool the other three hours to Wheatlands. I thought I might be asked to drive, and I was right. Good thing I'd filled up before leaving town.

After arriving a little late (I drove pretty slowly after we saw three Kansas State Patrol cars in a 43-mile stretch of state highway, more than I'd ever seen in almost two years of going to Wheatlands), we spent the next two hours in a meeting with the member of the hospital staff who'd been the staff/design team liason and followed construction. Markie is the kind of person who...sigh. He's sometimes insightful, helpful, and very diplomatic. However, he also is a big fish in a small Wheatlands pond, and if he's not happy, then no one can be. If it's not perfect, then it's an almighty disaster in his eyes. He will forget everything that contributed to the situation at hand and can only see that Nothing Is Right and This Is All Wrong. Howie, in turn, would like to say Bite Me and Grow Up, but that doesn't lead to getting a good reference later from a past client to a potential client.

So, for two hours, we listened to Markie grouse somewhat politely about doors that weren't operating correctly, noise issues in the main corridors, this, that, and the other. We talked through the amount of soil it would take to correct the retention pond as well as alternate plants to use in the landscaping. Howie, to his great credit, did extremely well in the meeting. He did a lot of listening, making sure he understood what Markie and the hospital wanted, saying more than once that Design Associates had not done a good job of listening and getting things right and that we appreciated the chance to come out and make things right, etc. He as well as Dash made reference to the fact that cost had been such a focus that we lost sight of the look of this project. Markie, also to his credit, agreed that there were some factors that weren't DA's fault that made this site lok so bad, including pressure from the contractor and the owner's rep on cost, cost, cost.

We then walked around the building and made note of a lot of grading issues in general. Water draining from the roof through lambstongues were cuttign deep grooves in the soil down to where you could almost see the foundation (very uncool). Grading had been done in some areas such that water was ponding close to the building and sidewalks (also very uncool). We looked at the doors that needed better security and a location for a new employee parking lot. Finally, Markie let us leave after two hours.

When we got in the car, I looked Howie in the eye and said, "You are not paid enough."
Howie barely flinched, just perceptibly raised an eyebrow. "For what, that ass kicking we just took for two hours?"
"Yeah. You were amazing in there. The picture of diplomacy."
"Man, that was excruciating." Howie loosened his tie. "I need an ice cream and a nap."
Dash looked over his shoulder at the building as I drove out of the parking lot. "Not to be derogatory, but I think the contractor hosed them on that grading. The ponding and washouts are inexcuseable."
"Hm," mused Howie. "We need the civil engineer out here to see if this got built the way he drew it. Something's not right."

Let me be clear. I have yet to meet a truly wrong and/or truly evil client. They want what they want, and they paid to have a good building that looks good, works well, and holds up over time. Wheatlands had every right to ask for a decent site. But sending Markie to have that discussion is like sending Don Imus to teach sensitivity training. He's just...tweaked. He exhausts those who must work with him and tease out what he wants or needs. This may the hardest part of being an architect--understanding inarticulate clients and helping them become literate in what you do.

Howie was a busy mofo. He's been out of the office for two weeks solid, save about three hours. He came to the office after the Wheatlands meeting for a couple of hours, and then he goes on a much-deserved vacation tomorrow for a week and a few, then off to some more meetings. Howie literally won't be back in the office until July. In the meantime, I'm working for Jann, staying busy, and keeping Howie out of jail by driving him to and from Wheatlands today. He was on the phone for the entire three hour trip there and two-and-a-half hours coming back. Just trying to catch up on all the crap he's been missing for the past two weeks. I don't know if I ever want to be that busy. In Howie's case, it's a sign of success. While I'd never want that much work, I have to say that hearing his voice make call after call is somewhat comforting. His voice has a high top layer, but somehow underneath that, I hear his slight Bostonian twang in a deep tone that is more felt than heard. i know that doens't make any sense, but it's a comforting sound, hearing his voice spit information rapid-fire into voicemail after conversation after voicemail. It's the sound of progress. It's the sound of work going on in the office and getting done, the sound of job security. The sound of Someone Who Knows What the Hell They're Doing Around Here. And it makes me glad he's my boss.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Papa's Day, aka Not-Doing-A-Damn-Thing-Today Day

Father's Day provides me with an uneasy, wistful feeling. My dad's been gone for a little over ten years now, and I get pretty pissed when I hear people around me groan with the "burden" of having to do something for Father's Day. Look, if you still get along with your dad, then please stop acting like it's such a fucking problem to call the guy. I wish to Christ I could every day, so pick up the phone and put a little effort into it, okay? Knowing this day puts me in a funk, Mile High Guy and I walked a few blocks to our favorite breakfast restaurant, Brunch-O-Rama. (If any of you want to come to Denver, I'll tell you its real name. Its true identity would allow folks to triangulate my condo's location within a couple of blocks.)

We went to breakfast, then home to hang around with the kitties.

Hazel says, "Happy Kitty-daddy day, Papa! Quit trying to pick me up and pet me!"

Maddy likes more interaction. "Can we go bug Papa, pleeze?"

"That's better. Pet the kitty, Papa! Pet me!"

Happy Papas' Day to all!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Staring at the computer screen

Like many of y'all out there, I spend at least eight hours a day working on a computer, so when I don't have much to say it gets tough to make myself sit down in front of the screen yet again and blog. For the past three days, I've been working on specs. See, architects make two kinds of documents for use in building a building: drawings and specifications. The drawings show what a wall is made of, how big it is, and how far apart the walls are in a building. The specifications, or specs, as we call them in da biz, are documents (written in Word, for example) which explain what brand or kind of drywall (gypsum board in da biz) to use, how we wants the joints taped, what brand(s) of metal studs are okay to use in the wall, how we want surfaces treated before you install something, how much bowing or warping is acceptable in a piece of drywall or wood, etc. You need both drawings and specs to make a project complete. So, I've been working on the specs for the procedure suite so that Jann can review them and make sure I didn't change anything she wouldn't allow.

Oh, hell, I haven't even mentioned the Medical Trials of Sarge lately. Back in late May, Sarge had a wisdom tooth removed, and unbeknownst to him, it got hella bad infected. Having not had a whole lot of surgery ever in his life, much less oral surgery, he didn't think too too much of the swelling in his face. When he returned to his oral surgeon for his one-week checkup, the doctor walked into the exam room, shut the door, and said, "You're going into surgery tonight." Didn't look in his mouth, nothing; just proclaimed him ready for the table. Turns out by the time they got in to drain the infection, Sarge was about a half hour away from needing a tracheotomy, as the swelling was starting to close up his throat. So, instead of relaxing on his vacation-at-home a couple of weeks ago, he spent three nights in the hospital. Then he cam back to work with a PICC line in his arm for the antibiotics and a huge gauze patch on his jaw where the incision was still draining.

Here's where I notice something about men and women:

In my experience, most men can watch gory horror flicks but get squeamish at the sight of real blood. Most women, however, seem to be the opposite. Guy watched The Exocist with no problem and no side effects, while I had nightmares for at least two weeks afterwards. Meanwhile, everytime a surgery show comes on TV, Guy has to change the channel whil I'm sitting there, munching on lasagna and pointing at the screen saying, "Now that looked infected. Good thing they took it out in pieces, though."

So, Sarge shows up with tales of how much infection the doctor drained out and how he drained it and flashing his gauze patch, and all the guys around me (Derek, Elliot, and Norman) are practically falling out of their chairs, goosepimply, twitching, and dry-heaving. At the same time, I'm standing there wanting to poke the incision with a stick to see if anything else comes out. Alas, Sarge woudn't let me do the pokey thing and I had to settle for staring with intrigue at the dark stain forming in the gauze.

Pixie: Ooooh, your incision is leaking goo!!

Sarge: Is it? Damn, I gotta clean it and repack it when I get home.

Pixie: Clean? Repack? Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! [waving my hand frantically] If you have to clean it before you leave the office, I wanna help!

Sarge: [edging away slowly] You're creepy.

So Sarge has been busier than a cat covering crap on a marble floor due to playing catch-up from all the extra medical time he's missing by having to go get a fresh injection of antibiotics for his PICC line every morning. I've actually been pleasantly busy this week now that the procedure suite has been cut loose. Busy's not bad, as it helps pass the time. Alas, it's all passing while I sit in front of my computer screen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Random grousings from Pixie and her coworkers

  • Pixie: Homeland Security needs to create a Fashion Police division. When they do, I'm taking Jann to the best lingerie store in Denver, and we're getting her some decent bras. Honestly, she needs to lift those things off of her lap, for once! And those sweaters circa 1992! Please, she has got to stop the madness.
  • Elliot: What the hell do these IT guys from the hospital want with card readers and an intercom system in the next-door MOB [medical office building]? Putting an intercom system in an MOB is like putting one in your apartment building--you don't need it! If someone calls you, they don't call to a central switchboard, they call right to your suite! This is not a hospital! THIS IS NOT A HOSPITAL!
  • Derek: Look, my wife and I are expecting a baby in a week, and I'm really looking forward to it. But can people please stop bringing their infants and small children into R-rated movies?! If any of you catch me doing that, roll up a newspaper and smack me on the nose with it. Seriously.
  • Pixie: People are scared of the wrong things. Everyone's freaked out about terrorist attacks, but how many have happened in the US since 9/11? None! Stranger danger is all around us and it's all we're fed, especially women, but no one seems to realize that seven in ten women are sexually assaulted by someone they know. We're scared of the wrong things and tolerate the shit we shouldn't be putting up with!
  • Derek: June 27th is Take Your Bike to Work Day. If I take my bike to work that day but drive a Hummer the rest of the year, does that make me better than Pixie, who carpols with her husband every day in a that 36-mpg Honda Civic?
  • Elliot: Maybe Guy should get a Hummer.
  • Pixie: Only if he buys me some jewelry.
  • Norman: What's a hummer?

Well, what can I say? None of y'all paid to get into this show; don't go expecting quality, now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Architecture through ADD

For the past nearly-two years, I've been working on one project, doing several tasks at a time in the service of that project. While working for Jann for the past couple of months, I've been put in charge of four small projects, each with different timelines and issues involved. I come home worn out at the end of each eight-hour day because my brain has been jumping from project to project to task to task. I'm working on the following, all of which will be built at different times in the fall:
  • A 5,000 sf scope procedure department
  • A 9,000 sf radiology department
  • A two-room CT scan replacement
  • A three-room nuclear medicine remodel

My days are spent drawing a few hours and getting some info for Jann, then giving it to her and having her tell me, "Okay, now hold off for a while until I've had my meeting tomorrow afternoon." She directs me what to work on next, trying to keep things moving on the projects and keep me busy. Finally, we got good news yesterday during a meeting with the contractor for the procedure suite and the imaging suite (imaging = radiology in medicalspeak). The procedure suite can move forward immediately, so I've been given license to ill. After she meets with the owner and consultants tomorrow, we'll officially be in design development phase.

Okay, a quick rundown of the phases of a basic architectural project in order:

  • Schematic Design (2 weeks-4 months): this is when the architect and client work together to figure out how the rooms (and departments, in a larger building) will be laid out. Discussions include what order visitors and/or staff should go through the spaces as well as what should be close to or far from what. If it's a freestanding building or an addition, entry and exit points to the building are figured out and a basic exterior look is proposed, along with some exterior materials. When the owners sign off on the design, you move to the next phase.
  • Design Development (4 weeks-6 months): as the name suggests, the design gets developed. A few rooms might move around, but for the most part, nothing's moving. Interior finishes are introduced and worked through with the client. The architect meets with the client now to make sure that they understand the client's workflow and make sure that the proper cabinets/casework are located in the rooms, as well as check with them about equipment being installed and ensuring that all the right utilities are provided at each equipment and casework location. The mechanical, plumbing, and electrical engineers will meet at least once with the clients during this phase to make sure they are providing the right kind of air, power, water, gases, etc. If any exterior work needs to be done, the architect begins to figure out how to put the exterior together and makes sure it works. After the client signs off yet again, we move on.
  • Construction Documents (4 weeks-6 months): now the architect and her consultants do the heavy work of detailing the design, making sure that it will be very clear to the contractor how big things are, how they look, how the architect wants it built, where things stop and start and are located, etc. Lots of coordination happens during this time--the architect and her consultants trade electronic drawings on a regular basis to make sure ducts aren't conflicting with structural beams or fancy-schmancy ceilings and soffits, making sure pipes and ducts are coming out where the architect needs them to (or she might have to move some casework), etc. Finally, the drawings are printed, stamped and signed by the architect in charge, and we move on.
  • Bidding and Negotiation (2-4 weeks): this phase happens now if there was no contractor on board yet. Most of the projects I do hire a contractor early on so that they can get estimates on the drawings as the design process goes along. This helps on big projects, like hospitals, because you can keep a handle on costs and reduce the risk of delaying the project because of money. In these situations, the contractor will do a cost estimate exercise after DDs and at least once during CDs. However, if there's no contractor on board before CDs, the drawings are put out to bid and a contractor is chosen based on their bids for the project. Then, we start building.
  • Construction Administration (8 weeks+): like I said, we start building. The contractor mobilizes on site: gets a trailer or office onsite, secures the construction area, performs an demolition necessary (unless they've managed to pull a demo permit early in order to get ahead), and starts building stuff. The architect makes periodic visits to the site to make sure all is well and also answers questions. The architect also answers questions via email/fax from the contractor. More on that when I actually do it again in a few months. My radiology suite will be built in about 10 weeks. Larger projects, like my 70,000sf Wheatlands, required about two months of site work to prep the site and a year of building the building and parking lots. Pomme de Terre, which is a quarter to a half-million square feet and several buildings in all, started a year ago and will be done in 2012.

So, there you have it. It's the least I can do, since I haven't done a Detail of the Week in a month or more.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Nothing gets things done like procrastination.

The house is still a mess from cleaning up the back balcony and trying to fix the leak in the balcony enclosure walls. We have piles of clothes laying about from us cleaning out our closets. All the stuff from the balcony is in the living room, and everything from our closets and drawers are laying about in our room and the TV room. All the blankets that should be in the cabinets in the hall are laying around the living room, bedroom, and TV room because the cabinets aren't done. The house hasn't really been cleaned well since late April. So what's the best use of my time on a warm Saturday afternoon? That's right: gardening.

I went to the farmers' market this morning while going for a long walk and found some herbs for my container garden. The gal at the plant nursery booth recommended that I trim back my parsley so it wouldn't overwhelm my other herbs, and that I put my chocolate mint (which is invasive) and my rosemary (which likes drier soil than most herbs) in separate pots. I spent a great deal of the early afternoon digging in the dirt, cleaning pots, scooping soil, breaking up root knots, spraying down plants with organic herbicide, and enjoying the warm day.

Oh, then I boxed up the give-away clothes, changed the futon cover, and swept and swiffed the house. Then Guy came home and it was time for margaritas and quesadillas at our local cantina. I consider this day well-spent.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Major Yawnitude and the Temple of Zen-like Acceptance

Faded recently posted a comment about how I should enjoy the silence (to quote Depeche Mode) and bask in how still things should be this summer. After giving this some thought, I've realized what a good point he had/has. All these little projects I have going for this gal in the office (whom I suppose I should name if I'm going to be working with her all summer) should keep me just at 40 hours for a few months and even some into the fall, depending on the schedule. Again, I should thank my lucky stars. Guy was bored out of his perfect-haired skull this afternoon, whereupon he sent me an email only titled, "You can come rescue me at any time." (I drop him off and pick him up from work each day. He's a brave man to tolerate my granny-like driving to and fro.)

Here's the thing about architecture the business: it varies. It's tidal, seasonal, cyclical, call it what you like. But it ebbs and flows. This time last year, I was working about 60 hours a week and had been doing so since November of 2005. Howie was crazy busy with all his projects and needed help like a mofo. Meanwhile, a couple of Alex's other project managers had very little going on.

A year later, the tides have turned. Pomme de Terre's deadlines got pushed back a couple of months, buying everyone the time needed to do a good job and not have to work much if any overtime. Wheatlands is pretty much done, except for this landscaping brouhaha in which we've recently become enmeshed. Derek's and Elliot's MOB (medical office building) projects are slowing down or coming to a close. Jimmy Ray and his wife/sugar mama moved back east last week. Things...are...quiet. So bosses scramble (well, a good boss will, that is) to find work to keep people occupied until things pick up, and we all know that things are gonna pick up. They just do.

So, I'm going to enjoy this Zen-like state of just being busy for a few months. It's become clear both implicitly and explicitly that this is going to last for a bit, so I'm going to quit fighting it and just do it, do a good job, and move along. Guy and I have some small cleaning/remodeling projects that need completing, so this lull in our schedules should allow us time to finish them. It should also leave us the time and energy to do some fun stuff--a baseball game here, a comedy concert there, a camping trip a little later. That'll be nice for once. Last year while working on Wheatlands, I was also taking the ARE (which I'm sure I've bragged about a lot already) with Guy, which means that we only went to the mountains twice in the entire ski season. Then, Guy tweaked his back and we missed camping and hiking for the summer. Not this year. We're gonna actually do stuff for once. Yay!

Oh, Guy's actually cleaning in the other room. I guess I should go help....

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Mile High Pixie and the Temple of Ennui

There's a good reason I haven't been posting a lot lately. Well, a couple of good reasons. For one thing, there hasn't been a lot going on project-wise. My previously-promised project, MCRC (Mendwell Center for the Reality Challenged), is still in a holding pattern. And since there are only a few things left to do on Wheatlands, I'm having to help another project manager in the office with a few small projects she has going on. A CT replacement, a radiology suite, a procedure suite, and a storage-room-turned-nuclear-medicine-treatment-room...little stuff. It's all doable, but it gets annoying because a) it takes a lot of energy to switch between three or four projects in an eight-hour period, and b) they're not really my projects, per se. At any second, my new project could start and leave this poor gal high and dry, or worse, I'd have to start like gangbusters on my new project while still having to finish up these little projects.

I guess I can't really complain. Guy's project at his new office has yet to start in earnest, so he's super-bored. His office assured him that it would start soon, just hang tight, please don't quit, go to these code classes in the meantime, please don't quit. I might be bored with these little projects, but at least I'm not bored bored.

And frankly, I've earned my boring pedestrian life, and I say that with no humor (for once) or regret. Most of my life has been spent in one whirlwind or another of drama, anguish, fear and anxiety. I've gotten to where I like the fact that as soon as Guy and I hit the door at 5:30 in the evening, we're in our lounge-around clothes/pajamas. Friends call at 7pm to ask would we like to go out for a drink and dinner? and we can say with almost a grin thanks, but we just finished dinner and we're already in our PJs, but maybe this weekend? After months of 60-hour weeks working on Wheatlands plus studying for and taking (and passing!) the ARE, it's great to come home after an eight-hour day and cook dinner while bantering about with Guy on whatever topic: Barry Bonds, the head of NASA talking crap about global warming, how should we clean up the back balcony where we store everything, and so on.

So, I suppose instead of trying to conquer the Temple of Ennui, perhaps I should hang out and stay a few days (or weeks) in one of its suites. Maybe lounge around by the pool, raid the minibar, whatever. As my mom once told me, "You're bored? Good. Be bored. It's good for you."

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hell yeah.

Ther's no other way to describe seeing an entire small town turn out to the ribbon cutting of a building you've worked on and bled over and stayed up for and missed eight months of weekends for and worried about and watched go up column by metal stud by sheet of drywall by light fixture by carpet roll. I've been on Wheatlands since the middle of October 2005, and seeing everyone stand in the parking lot of my little (well, 70,000sf) hospital on an unseasonably cold rainy day with tornadoesque clouds on the horizon means a lot. Some local politicians came out and chattered a bit, but it was more meaningful to have the bigwigs (the CEO, the hospital's board president, and my big boss Alex) thank us for all our work. And hell yeah I liked hearing my name over that PA system. That CEO's nly laid eyes on me three times, but he gave me major props during his speech (and attributed some tasks to me that I didn't do, which makes me wonder if Howie's head didn't explode). It was beyond a delight to walk around the building and listen to people go "oohhhhh" over and over. 100,000 words in the English language, and nothing says it better than "oohhhh." What can a shorty say?

I drove Susanna there and back. She designed the interior finish palette, which was glorious (and no, that's not a gushy exaggeration--they were glorious and warm and beautiful), and her car was having issues so I drove. We both agreed that Leslie, who was still having to partly run Pomme de Terre because Jacqueline is only back part time, is losing her damn mind and is frustrating the hell out of everyone. Wanda, on the other hand, has been given some tasks on a secondary PdT project that, combined with being on or doing whatever she's doing, makes her quite enjoyable to work with. Leslie, however, is doing what I did on Wheatlands. The team has been told that they're not allowed to work overtime, but she won't just tell Howie, "This new task you've given me requires that I work overtime if you want all of this done by the end of Thursday." Susanna has no problem saying this sort of thing. when she does, Howie prioritizes her tasks, which allows her to--guess what?--work only 40 hours a week like she's supposed to. Susanna also has a zingy sense of humor, which makes me like her even more.

She and I were the last to leave the ribbon cutting. Derek came out to see how the building's exterior (which he designed), then had to leave early to make an appointment back in Denver. Alex and Howie rode together, which sounded like a recipe for disaster. Howie tried to hitch a ride with me at first. "Would you mind?" he asked. "I've had two huge had-to-go-to-court speeding tickets, and if I get another one they'll take my license away." I quoted this to Susanna, who said, "So he wants to ride with someone as opposed to exercising some self control?" Like I said, Susanna's got a great wit. Howie ended up having to drive his car whil Alex used to the time to read some contracts and make some phone calls.

While standing in the parking lot at Wheatlands, my cell hone went off. Turned out the be Derek, laughing his ass off. "Guess who I just passed on the highway, pulled over on the side of the road by a Kansas state trooper just outside of Sunnyvale?"
"...oh God, no!" I started to laugh.
"Yep," said Derek. "Howie...with Alex in the car."
I passed the message on to Susanna, who crowed in vindication.
I got another cell phone call on the way back to Denver from my owner's rep. "Pixie, What kind of car does Howie drive?"
I described it (candy apple black late model muscle car), and the rep said, "Well, I think I saw him pulled over by a state trooper--"
"--outside of Sunnyvale?" I asked.

He cackled. "YES! That's just the place! Oh Lord, it WAS him!"
Susanna could hear the rep laughing al the way from the passenger seat. She shook her head. "The cops won't have to take his license away. His wife's gonna do it for them."

Was it a good day? An amusing day? Hell yeah.