Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mary, Joseph, and Florence Nightengale, you must be joking.

We were supposed to get signoff from the OB/GYN clinic staff, but nay, 'twas not to be. Two of the nurse midwives showed up steaming because they were about to have an office with no window, so we had to do some fancy footwork to fix that, but then we were short another exam room. Just as we found that exam room again, the infection control director (who had been AWOL from these meetings for three weeks) finally showed up and nearly passed out when she saw how small the clean and soiled utility rooms were, so we spent some more time trying to find room for those. Finally, after everyone had left the meeting (because naturally it ran too long and everyone had meetings to go to and patients to see and things to do), it was just me, the Gestalt project manager, the head of OB/GYN staff, and the infection control gal, and we decided to take six seats out of the waiting room in order to get everything to work. Taking the six seats will leave them with only one less chair than they have now...but three more procedure rooms, which should help the waiting room empty out faster. They've been complaining up and down that they can't possibly lose any waiting space, because they're always full. Then how come no matter when we go up there to look at the space, the waiting room is never more than half full? So, at one point we gave them 48 chairs, compared to their existing 43, and now they'll have 42. But all the people who complain about not having enough waiting room space had already left the meeting by the time we figured out how to fix the clean/soiled utility issue.

If y'all won't tell, I won't tell.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Oops.

A short one today, folks, but it involves indulging in one of my guilty pleasures: looking at building and construction mistakes and repairs. If it's bad enough to grab my attention, I'm whipping out the camera, or at the very least I'm calling my husband's attention to it so we can be catty about it and figure out if it's poorly-built, not thought out, whatever. Join me for a turn in the litter box, won't you?

This is in the stairwell of my favorite just-renovated library, and I have to wonder how this got missed. Did they forget that the wall base needs to terminate into something? It's just hanging here at the top of the stair stringer, like an unreturned high-five at a Super Bowl party. If you insist on using wall base in the stairwell, it would have been better to find some small, super-lo profile moulding or wall base to do the job, instead of slapping some Johnsonite around the edge of the landing and hoping no one will notice. Mm-mm-mm. [shakes head, sips riesling from wine glass]

Eeek. What happened here? I feel like I remembered seeing a big crack in the stucco on this wall a while back, so maybe this is where it was fixed. Thing is, stucco has integral color--it's already colored when it goes on the wall, so it's not something that you paint after you've installed it. Unfortunately, the new stucco is a different color than the existing stucco, and everyone driving by can see it. I'm not aware of stucco having fading issues in the light (architects who are WAD fans, do you know? I don't put a lot of stucco in my projects), and besides, this is on a north wall, so there shouldn't be a lot of direct UV rays on this wall. They might have to do a surface painting of this side, like it or not. [takes a couple of sips from glass of riesling]

Oh Lawd. [gulps riesling, asks for another glass]

I have no idea what in the name of Mario Botta happened here. I imagine this was a tuckpointing job gone wrong. (Tuckpointing is the process of removing/replacing/repairing the mortar between bricks.) Here's why I'm especially alarmed: see those bricks inside the wall? That tells me that this house has a lot of age on it, and the building made it a double-wythe (at least) exterior wall. Back in the day, baking and curing bricks was harder than it is today in terms of getting a consistently strong and well-cured product. Depending on where a brick was in the kiln, it might not fully cure, plus the little old kilns of the turn of the last century couldn't get as hot as the kilns of the last 50 or so years. Why does this matter for this poor homeowner? It means that the softer, less-strong bricks are on the inside of the exterior wall, and now that they're exposed to the weather, they may absorb a bunch of moisture that may be hard pressed to get back out of the wall once they brick it back up.

More riesling, please!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

[ssssskkkkkkkknnnnkkkkk] Ehn.

That's the sound of having a cold, complete with post-nasal drip, for almost two weeks. I felt like I'd shaken it last weekend, so I go for a run at 6:15am, come home, shower and dress for work, and suddenly I feel like I'm walking through mud as I walk into the office. I'm looking forward to work, I should say--I think we've almost got consensus on the 9th floor OB/GYN clinic, and even the doctor is on board--but I just felt like I physically had no energy. It finally hit me yesterday that, oh gee, I might still have a cold, and I'm going to continue having it if I don't let my body rest.

Rest doesn't come easy for me. The good part about being unable to sit still and/or procrastinate is that I get a lot done, but the downside is that when I really need to rest--with a cold or a sprained ankle--I'm terrible at it. Right now, though, my sinuses hurt and I feel achy, so I'm going to go lay down with a cheezy magazine (thank God and Anna Wintour that my sister sends me her couple-of-months-old issues of Elle and Lucky) and get some rest. Holla!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ten pounds of program in a five-pound building

One of the hardest things about doing renovations is trying to accommodate all the spaces that the users need. If the renovation project won't allow us to add onto a space (either because of budget or physics), we have just the space we have and no more in order to fit all the program's needs. Sometimes, we have even less space than we started with due to code or growth issues. What makes fitting all these rooms and spaces into a limited space so difficult is helping the users realize that they can't have it all and need to prioritize.

As I pass the 1st floor Gestalt Bierstadt project off to Buster to do CDs, I'm now working through SD/space planning with the 9th floor OB/GYN clinic. OB/GYN includes some other women's subspecialties, like dealing with infertility or ovarian cancer or gestational diabetes, so it's not just Pap smears and pregnancy tests. There are lots of procedures going on up on the 9th, and it's a busy-ass floor. Presently, they say they don't have enough exam rooms, and some of the subspecialties are practically standing on each other for procedure room space. So, Design Associates' first floor plan for them involved shrinking the waiting room to make more exam rooms and then lumping the three nurse practitioners into one larger-than typical office. Next, we were told that the infertility clinic was moving out, so we used its space to make more exams and procedures for the rest of the remaining subspecialties.

Getting the right people in the room for a user group meeting is critical. Too many people or the wrong people can make a space useless once it's built. The goal is to get the one or two (sometimes three) best folks in the room to provide input, and they will share info and questions with the rest of the staff and bring that back to the weekly or bimonthly user group meetings. Our user group meetings for OB/GYN have mostly consisted of the OB/GYN nurse manager, who would occasionally bring along her second-in-command nurse to provide input on the spaces and workflow. This is excellent; nurses are more aware of workflow and staff and patient issues than physicians. That's not to say that the doctors don't know how to put a department together, but it's been my experience that they know a lot about the part that they do, but not as much about the part that the nurses deal with all the time, which affects more of a department's layout. The other problem with having docs at user group meetings is that they can't always make it to the meetings--there's an emergency, they're out, appointments are running late--and the only way to get good feedback on a department is to have the same group of people present every time.

So imagine our surprise when a white-coated OB/GYN doc strolled into the user group meeting a few weeks ago, at five minutes before the meeting's end, took one look at the plan, and pronounced it all wrong--the waiting room was too small, these nurses need to be over here, the NPs can't share an office, etc. I was ready to put my red pen through her eye, but fortunately for me, the doc, and the project manager for Gestalt said that she would meet with the department in a few days and we're out of time for this meeting, so sorry, there's another one about to start. The project manager (who deserves her own post) looked at me and apologized profusely, then asked me to send her a PDF of the plan so that she could talk the department through the plan at their separate meeting. She worked through the plan with them, came up with a few solutions, and then gave the plan to me. When I got it into CAD, she and I then sat down together to work through all the rooms and spaces and... just wasn't going to happen. If you want a room for these four nurses, it has to go in this corner because we can't get a door into this little spot and both of these procedure rooms need to be on an inside wall with no windows. If you want the NPs to have separate offices, you're going to lose two more exam rooms, which you say you so desperately need. If you want space for six nurses at your nurse station, you're not going to have room for a sink, microwave, and fridge. That's it.

User group meetings rarely go past 90 minutes, but the OB/GYN ones go on for two flippin' hours while the nurse manager and the doc and the department head beat the hell out of every square inch of the plan. People, I don't want to do anything that feels good for 90 minutes, so you can imagine how done I am with a 2-hour user group meeting. I'm ready to stab everyone with the red pen, and I give less than one tenth of one crap about a private bathroom for the staff. Go use the big one that's centrally located on the floor and STFU. If you want more waiting room (even though we're giving you more exams and procedure rooms and technically you're not supposed to need a lot of waiting if you have more treatment space, but I'm just the architect), then you're gonna have to give something up, like exams or private offices or an extra storage room or something. What are you willing to give up? What are the biggest priorities for this floor, in descending order? You only have this 12,000 sf that's 98 feet off the ground, so how do you want to use it?

Pass the riesling, please.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: My library's back, and I'm gonna be in trouble

Hey-laaaa, hey-laaaaa, my library's back!

Okay, that was lame, but there's a reason for my throwback enthusiasm. The Ross-Cherry Creek Library has been undergoing renovations for the past 3 or 4 months, and it's finally open! This is good for the community, but especially for me. When it comes to books, I'm a junkie, and libraries are methadone clinics. They allow me to indulge in my addiction without jeopardizing my health, sanity, or wallet (by buying books on the street--shame!!). I celebrated my favorite library's reopening by taking a few pictures.

This is the entry into the library. Not markedly changed (some new glazing and signage), but oh the inside...!

I know! Look at that! It's amazing! Not only has the inside been really transformed, but they've also installed auto-checkouts. From what I've heard, doing this won't take away jobs but rather will allow the existing staff to use their time more effectively. Hey--is that a skylight in the middle of this building?

Freaking. Brilliant. Uplighting hidden on the beams that disperse light on a bright surface provide the illusion of a skylight. I've seen this done now and then in healthcare facilities too, and it's a great way to provide light in a space.

The rest of the facility has been repainted, recarpeted, and reorganized.

Even the children's reading area has gotten a li'l makeover too. I think they're still getting the books back in there from the other libraries.

Other changes I've appreciated is that the toilets have all been replaced, and the stairway is no longer enclosed and on an "emergency exit only" alarm system. The only way to get downstairs to the meeting rooms and restrooms was through a slow-ass elevator, and now I can use my own two feeties to get to the women's room. Upon this visit, I checked out four CDs and five books. Outta the way, kids! Pixie's got a literary jones!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

As soon as I get a new paddle, someone adds more $&*@ to the creek.

When I completed my deadline on Friday, Guy asked me to pick him up on my way home, as he was feeling under the weather. By the end of Friday, my day off after working like hell on the Gestalt 1st floor DD deadline, I finally came down with his bubonic death funk. While he was leveled more so than I, I've still had pretty low energy (about 50%-60% of Typical Pixie Energy Level), and I've been congested and had sinus goo draining into the back of my throat, which dries me out and leave my throat feeling raw. Meh.

Thing is, I really wasn't able to be sick this week. I got sick at the end of my day off, after mopping all the hardwood floors and cleaning out the fridge (Mom, plz 2 come vizit kthx, kitchen needs cleaning), and then I had to spend Tuesday getting ready for my Gestalt user group meetings, which took up most of Wednesday and Thursday. We had one more round of meetings with all five first floor departments to make sure that we have all their equipment and casework correct in the plans as we head into CDs, and then we had another user group meeting with the OB/GYN staff in Gestalt's Bierstadt building. That user group meeting today was a two-hour Bataan Death March of trying to find a good place to locate the advice nurses and the reception desk and the department head, one of the physicians, and the nurse manager continually changing their minds about who works where with whom and what they should be near. Ninety minutes in, I nearly stabbed one of the clients with my green pen and thought, "There isn't enough Sudafed to make this tolerable".

So I dig through hours of meetings and then go home and collapse, and I don't post on WAD or clean or catch up all my other writing projects or anything. And of course, I feel guilty for not getting more stuff done, but it feels like I'm not sick enough to stay home and not well enough to go to work. I'm not well enough to work out, but I'm not sick enough to sleep in. Not that I can sleep; I doze and then wake up and feel how dry and achy my throat feels, and then Guy starts snoring, then Hazel readjusts and curls up closer to me. (To be fair though, Guy hasn't slept in the same bed as me for nearly a week because he's been so uncomfortable and unable to breathe and sleep well.) At least tomorrow is a half-day for me. I can practice trying to rest with the extra time. Maybe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Initiative versus communication, or, the Thunderdome Battle in My Head

Lawdamercy, y'all. The last two weeks have been exhausting. I'm taking today off so that I can a) catch my breath and b) get caught up on errands and housework. Yes, I know that sounds lame, but nothing makes me calmer than a clean house, and I could use a venti-half-caff-no-foam cup of calm right about now, funk soul brotha.

I've had four deadlines over the past two weeks, but this biggest among them was the DD deadline for Gestalt. We're remodeling several departments in multiple phases on the main floor of the Bierstadt Building, which is a logistical nightmare. Each department needs to go somewhere else to function while we remodel their space, and they can't all move at once or the clinic can't function. Plus, this will be the first of several multiphase remodels to happen on other floors in the building. By the time we're done, the people who go to Gestalt for their healthcare are going to despise the names Design Associates and the contractor on the project, Glasnost Construction. But they will like having a nicer clinic to work and receive care in, one that doesn't look like it was done in 1989 and all that's missing is Melanie Griffith with a krinkle perm and NFL-worthy shoulderpads in her menswear-esque suit jacket standing behind the check-in counter. It's going to look amazing when we're done.

I've mentioned before that DD stands for design development. This set of drawings and specifications gives a good, clear picture of what we're doing, what everything's made out of, generally how big it is, and so on. The contractor's not going to build off of DDs, but rather s/he's going to price the project off of them. So the general rule for DDs is this: if it costs money, put it in. Show it, draw it, label it, and tell the contractor it's there. If you put something expensive into the project after DDs, contractors get annoyed because they haven't budgeted the money for the solid surface countertop/exotic handblown light fixtures/entire extra five rooms to be remodeled. It's important for the DD set to be complete and well-coordinated as well, because if the engineers' drawings don't match mine, it throws up red flags for the people pricing the drawings, and they will usually just throw extra money into the project because they don't yet have a clear picture of the project.

This DD deadline snuck up on me big time, unfortunately. I came back from a three-day weekend in which I worked on some stuff for my industry group presentation, and I realized that the DD set was due in two weeks and I had hardly anything done on the interior elevations I'd been working on. And I realized that the help I had for the project had, so far, been no help at all. Allow me to introduce Buster, a licensed architect pushing 40 and who has spent most of his 15-or-so-year-long career working on banks and small commercial buildings, an airplane hangar or two, and for the past few years, Gestalt's clinics. Buster came to DA about a year after me, and he had a few more years of experience on me, though neither of us were licensed. However, I got licensed before he did, which he says prompted him to get on the ball and finish the tests. Buster is a decent enough human being, but I'm not entirely impressed or pleased with his professional performance. His emails--to clients, engineers, contractors, whoever--look like he's taking dictation from Nell. No punctuation or grammar or even a clear sense of what he's asking or trying to say. I frequently read his emails and think, "God, if I hadn't been in that meeting with him, I'd have no idea what he's asking." Talking to him in person isn't much better, sadly, so I can't blame a learning disability. I ask him what he's doing on the project right now, and the answer is some broad expression like, "I'm scrubbin' these drawings" or "I'm getting through it" or "Just pluggin' along." Scrubbing for what? Plugging along on what? More unsettling throughout the project was the common refrain of "oh, this set's in great shape."

Let me back up. One of the five departments we're remodeling in this phase of Gestalt is a pharmacy. Buster has remodeled and built several pharmacies, and he was available as this project kicked off, so we all decided together (Buster, Sven [the partner in charge] and me) that Buster would handle the plans, interior elevations, and detailing of the pharmacy, and I would hadn't the other four departments, which were all less intense. What I discovered as the project went along is that Buster took me literally when I said, "You handle pharmacy, and I'll handle everything else." When I went in last weekend to print out and review the set, nothing had been done in the set--the cover page was kinda updated, but the index page had nothing, and all the other sheets--wall types, general info, site, code/life safety plan and info, doors and windows schedule and elevations--were untouched, left as they had been when they were copied over from an earlier project. Even more frightening to me is that the stuff that had been copied was incorrect in some places, such as the address of the engineers on the project--it was their old address from 2007 before they moved into their new office...while I was working on MHRC.

Details, you might say. Mere details, Pixie, why are you losing your mind over that? They're easy to miss, and no one gets hurt. Right? Every detail is important to architects. It has to be important because it's a detail that can make or break a project, that can be the difference between a good project and one that lets water into a building where people are doing surgery. And that's when I was blown away by Buster's seeming lack of attention to detail. I noticed on a project that he did a couple of years ago for Gestalt that he put down the wrong occupancy for a project. The project was an outpatient surgery suite, which was an I-2 occupancy, but he showed on the drawings that it was a B occupancy. That's a big difference, people. And fair enough, the project made it through and got approved and looked at by the authorities having jurisdiction, but I call that luck. And when the health, safety, and welfare of my clients and their clients is on the line, I don't like trusting in luck.

So last weekend, I marked up the set heavily and was blown away that he hadn't looked at any of these sheets on the project that he could totally work on. He would occasionally come up to me and say, "well, I've got the pharmacy almost to CD-level, do you need help with any of your stuff?" and of course I'd say "no" because I thought he meant "did you need help with the other departments", not "did you need help with the entire rest of the set". I especially heavily marked up the code info and life safety plan, because I found it startling that we appeared to have no information on the location of rated walls in this existing building that we'd been doing work in for at least five years now. When I insisted that we go take a peek regarding locations of rated doors and walls, he was extremely resistant, saying "We're a B occupancy and we have sprinklers--it washes away our sins!" yes, but the building is 13 stories tall, which makes it a high-rise, and there may be some rules we don't know about regarding rated walls. Frankly, though, after seeing the occupancy mistake on drawings he put out not more than three years ago, I don't trust his word regarding code matters. It's apparent to me that he's not looking at details, and that gives me great concern. In general, he seemed reluctant to do much of anything--each request for effort or assertion that x or y info should be on the drawings, Buster balked. "This isn't Glasnost's first project," he'd say. My reply was, "Just because we've worked with them before, and worked at this building before, that doesn't give us an excuse to give them half-ass DDs." Buster would make some weird grunting noise. I couldn't tell if he was complaining but trying not to use actual profanity, or if he was reluctantly conceding a point.

I expressed my concern about the state of the set to Bosley and asked his advice. Bosley said, "If it was my team, I'd want to know. I can't fix problems unless I know they're there. But bear in mind that each partner is different." I went to Sven and discussed the problem, and Sven's reply was that he trusts Buster, and when Buster works on a project alone he gets everything done. Having said that, Buster does sometimes taking direction from people at his level or below his level. Ultimately, Sven felt like after the DD set went out, we should all sit down and figure out who's in charge of what from here on so that we close any gaps in getting work done.

Over the past week, I've vacillated between two points of view. One is this: "Pixie, you're the head of this project, and as such you can't blame other people when things aren't getting done. If you're working on four other projects for Jann and Bosley and Howie while working for Sven, you can't expect people to know that you need help, even if they know you're working on other stuff. People aren't mind readers, and it's your job to direct workflow."

The other point of view is this one: "Dammit, Buster is a licensed architect, too. Not only does he have more years of experience in general, but he's done several projects for Gestalt before. This isn't his first set of DDs, and he knows what goes into a set of drawings. If he's done as much as he can with his original portion of work, there's nothing stopping him from taking some initiative and being useful and working on the more general sheets in the set. This isn't Pixie's set, it's DA's set. It's our set, and everyone has to give a damn. He's a decent enough guy, but that's no excuse for doing slack work."

After all this internal dialogue, I finally come back down on the side of my original complaint. Buster doesn't take a lot of initiative to solve problems and make the set a good one, nor does he take ownership of a project if it's not him and just him 100%. Had I know this when I started working on the project, I certainly could have made myself clearer and prevented some of these lack of communication issues. The reason these communication issues blow me away is that I have interns that can do this stuff without being asked, so why am I not getting similar performance out of a licensed professional? I suppose some truth lies in something Bosley once said: "The ARE only tests for minimal competence in architects."

So, at the risk of starting another firestorm on WAD, having just gotten through a firestorm, what's everyone's take on the communication versus initiative debate? How much must we be explicit about, and how much "should" people know?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

[slumping on the chaise with a glass of wine, Part Two]

Y'all, it's been a while since I've been this worn out. Tomorrow is the last of my four deadlines in nine days, so I'll be glad to be done. After a couple of days' rest with Guy (who is also planning to do everything it takes not to work this weekend), I'll be able to post more about the lack of initiative in the workplace and why I watch interior designers for fashion tips.

See you on the other side with my big-ass glass of wine, peeps!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: The fun of juxtaposition

Still on a deadline, kids. No rest for the weary...or catty, in my case. Anyway, I thought I'd show y'all some interesting images I've taken over the past year that show odd things next to each other.

This little wee barely-1,000-square-feet house is in Cherry Creek North, a very posh neighborhood in Denver. The surrounding buildings are 3,000sf stucco and lick-n-stick stone behemoths, but this little throwback to Denver's rural past refuses to budge. Plus, it's on a double lot. You just know the owners are loving. it.

A lone gate-like sentinel in the north Country Club neighborhood. There's a big iron lantern-thing on top, but it doesn't appear to have electricity in it (from where I was anyway), and there's no gate or fence attached to it. It's just standing there in this person's side yard, begging everyone to remember when it was useful.

You're an iron fence? Well screw you, I'm a vine!

Old-school in the shadow of new-school.