Monday, July 30, 2012

...and now it's time for a break.

Due to a flash sale from Airtran last week, my sister was able to fly out on Saturday to visit me for a few days.  She hasn't been out for a visit to the Mile High Cit-tay since January of 2010, right before my kitteh Maddy crossed the Rainbow Bridge, which means she's just now meeting Gracie, aka The Floof. And Hazel hasn't been snuggled with extreme prejudice the way Aunt Kitty snuggles for two years.  Kittehs suspect nuffin.

It's been one thing after another at the office, with two big projects in very needy stages. Gestalt's Uber MOB is in CA, so every question is urgent; St. Ermahgerd is just starting schematic design, so we're making fast and crucial decisions regarding how the building should look and how the departments should be arranged and laid out.  I've been moving so fast and furious lately that I've actually been getting in Howie's grill, being defensive and reflexively irate.  Kitty's appearance in the Mile High gives me an opportunity to take a Monday off and bring my blood pressure down a little bit. 

Breathe, snuggle kittehs, flip through Elle Decor, and rest.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Like the proverbial cat covering crap on a marble floor...

Last week, Bosley dropped big news on a small group of us.  A long-awaited project for a replacement hospital, medical office building (MOB), and specialty clinic in Montana was finally approved to move forward.  And we're already behind.

St. Ermahgerd Hospital and Clinics of Bieffee, Montana was built during the Hill-Burton era of the 1940s and 1950s, are were many of our clients' existing facilities.  As one might expect, these facilities are now outdated: too small, too big, too expensive to retrofit to work with the new requirements for HVAC and filtration requirements, too impossible to fix.  It seems so odd that a building that's "only" 50 years old cannot be salvaged for medical care, but that's how much the field has changed since these facilities were built.  Hospitals must have separate ductwork to put a high volume of filtered and conditioned air into the building and to take it out of the building back to the air handling units that filter and condition the air.  A third set of ducts must take air from certain areas and vent it directly outside, do not pass go, do not collect $200 from Medicare or insurance companies.  Ducts take up a lot of space above a ceiling, and if the 1955 hospital you're in is only 12'-0" from the floor to the roof, well then...that's not gonna work. And we haven't even begun to discuss the difficulties of installing updated electrical, data/IT, and medical equipment.

So a lot of these facilities end up building some or all new buildings for actual patient care, and they either put all their administrative functions into the old building, or they sell the old building to someone to use as office and meeting space.  Some of our clients trade the old hospital with the city and county authorities in exchange for a site on which to build anew.  Wheatlands Hospital in Wheatlands, KS, did just this.  (Longtime readers of WAD know that Wheatlands was the project I was finishing up just as I started this blog back in 2007.)  St. Ermahgerd will be selling their old building, I think, and know they're buying a new property on the edge of town.  They were on the edge of town when they built their original building in 1940 and then added on most of the present-day facility in 1950.  They're now landlocked in town and need to be able to expand.  So, off they go to the new edge of town, where they'll be landlocked again in another 50-80 years.

Today begins a busy next several months for our project team.  St. Ermahgerd needs to break ground on their two clinics this fall, and they want to break ground on the replacement hospital next summer. And by the way, we haven't done a lick of actual design work yet, because they didn't have their funding in place.  We gave them a program and a facility size along with a hypothetical exterior design back in February, and they've been simmering and dealing with financing since then.  And now, it's go-time with extreme prejudice.  

This project will be like Wheatlands, but bigger and faster. But this isn't our first rodeo--it sure isn't mine.  We're ready for a bumpy ride, but we'll be doing it in style.  It's just how Design Associates rolls.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On the door of a women's room in the basement of a Denver building...

Aw, man, I really gotta go, here's a--

Are you kidding me?  I'm in the basement and I gotta make a deposit at the First Bank of Vitreous China, and here's the sign I'm given?!  [flips up middle finger] Here's my sign for you and your toilet room apartheid.  

I've been in this toilet room, and I think I know why they haven't retrofitted it.  Making a stall inside the toilet room itself wouldn't be that hard, but there's a rather circuitous path from this door to the door of the actual toilet room.  I suppose they could put automatic openers on the doors--this one and the toilet room door--but those are generally $1,000 each and require running power, etc. to the doors and possibly changing doors and door frames.  Again, we're running into the equivalent-experience thing here.

Still, though, if I had to pee and I was in a wheelchair, and I saw this sign, I'd be mighty, um, pissed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: How to know if your toilet isn't ADA accessible

Step 1: is there at least 42" clear outside your stall door? No?

Step 2: Well, are there any grab bars inside your stall, and the stall is 60" wide by 56" deep?  Not so much?

Step 3: Exit the stall.  Are you sure there isn't a path that's at least 42" wide outside your stall?  Really?

Step 4: Can you turn on the water at the sink with the equivalent of a closed fist?

At least one of the sinks, anyway?

Step 5: Is the top of the sink surface at no more than 34" off the floor, and there's clear space under the sink, and the sink apron is no more than about 6" deep, and the pipes are protected from you hitting it with your knees in a wheelchair?

Hmm, then maybe you really do need to go to the toilet room marked "accessible" in this shopping center.  This toilet room definitely doesn't meet your needs.

I see separate accessible toilet rooms in a lot of retrofitted buildings, and while I appreciate the effort, it still creeps me out that if I have even the slightest disability, I have to go to a separate room.  ADA requires that persons with disabilities have an "equivalent experience" in places like zoos, aquariums, movie theaters, and even office buildings.  They can't not be able to use the space, but they have to be able to experience all the functions and educational content, entertainment experience, etc. from whatever limited spaces they can occupy.

But what that often means in retrofitted buildings is that people in wheelchairs get a entrance on the icky-shady side of the building, or even in back.  They get a weird separate toilet room that's not always near the other toilet rooms.  They still get to enter and operate the building, and they still get to go pee, but it's not quite the same.  Like sitting in a chair isn't enough difference already, they have to go to a different entry or floor or part of the building to get their most basic needs met.  It's almost like...separate but equal.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Visual Quasi-Inspiration: Cherry Creek Arts Festival 2012

The monsoons from Mexico hit Friday afternoon, just in time to cool down the Mile High City for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival.  Of course, those of you glued to the Weather Channel know that the heavy rains bring a mixed blessing to those fighting the wildfires: the rain puts out fires, but the lightning can also start blazes, plus the water sluicing over burnt ground tends to cause flash floods.  Some people never get a break, I swear...

But in the streets of Cherry Creek North, the arts were alive and well with folks showing off amazing paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works...and making a living off of selling them, no less.  Musicians kept the area humming with a stream of live performances, and the food vendors perfumed the neighborhood with spices and hickory smoke from their outdoor grilles.  I got some holiday shopping done ahead of time, and I also realized that I was really rested after a three-day weekend...rested enough to go home and do some art of my own.  Here's hoping everyone takes a break this July and does something good for their souls!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The roof, the roof, the roof (and everything else) is on fire

Well, not exactly, but you get the point.  There are separate fires burning north of Denver, west of Denver, and south of Denver, and the recent record highs and lack of rain have not been helping matters. Generally here, it's been hitting 70 by 8am and then mid- to high-90s by 2pm, and humidity keeps scraping along at about 5%-15%.  (Meanwhile, Scarlett in Vegas snorts with laughter at our wah-wah-it's-so-dry-and-hot-here lamentations.)

Guy and I are safe, as we live five minutes from downtown Denver.  However, one of my coworkers had to evacuate her house while on vacation across the country.  (I don't know how she did it, but she did it.) Mostly you notice the fires here in town by smelling the air and finding a fine layer of soot/black dusty sand on everything outside...or on your floors if you left the windows open for a few hours.  I went out to swim the other morning, and it smelled like someone was having the mother of all cookouts.

So, I owe St. Blogwen the Patient and Beneficent an apology for not responding sooner re: the Gaping Maw of Burning Fury in the Mile High.  I've been writing an application on my own behalf to join a professional organization with great prestige (no, not the Masons) plus three presentation proposals to a variety of architect-y conferences.  And naturally, all of these things were due July 1st, so I spent most of June running like...well, my head was on fire.  I'm looking forward to a quiet July, but you know how well-laid plans of mice and men and pixies oft go astray. But here's hoping for some quiet time by the pool with a cheesy fashion magazine for the next few weekends in a row.