Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Living Montessori Academy

We're designing a new playground for Living Montessori Academy. Here's a quick look

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seattle Architect

If you haven't checked our new website lately, it's worth a look. And we have a new seattle architecture blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Redesigned architecture website and blog

We've launched our new website at Motionspace Architecture + Design PLLC and a new Seattle Architecture Blog. There's also a new Seattle architecture projects gallery with a number of new projects to peruse. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Home Maintenance & Improvement

A home is many things: shelter, a place to create family memories, a comfort zone, an investment. Regardless of the reasons for owning a home, it makes sense to maintain its value so that it can be enjoyed for years.

Day-to-day living causes an inevitable aging process for any home. But an active maintenance regimen, focusing on a few key systems and finishes, can stem or slow that process. And for products, systems and finishes that no longer benefit from maintenance, investing in replacements and upgrades can refresh a room or curb appeal, provide greater convenience and comfort, and perhaps even lower future maintenance costs.

The thought of staying on top of everything in a home, however, can seem daunting. But actually, it comes down to common sense, a bit of diligence, and a short list of critical products and systems, including:

  • Heating and cooling. It's a simple thing, but changing the furnace filter every three months goes a long way to maintaining the proper operation of a home's entire air distribution system. A clean filter keeps dust, moisture, and other allergens out of the ductwork to keep the indoor air fresh and healthy. In addition, professionally clean the ducts and carpets every 2-3 years. A properly maintained heating, cooling, and air distribution system can last 15 years or more. Within that time, new technologies will have been established to improve energy efficiency and comfort at a level that likely justifies replacing the equipment.
  • Drainage. Rainwater runoff, among other sources of water, must be directed away from the structure to avoid potentially serious problems. Maintaining a home's drainage and runoff system, however, will mitigate that potential. For instance, gutters should be cleaned out and repaired, as necessary, once the leaves have all dropped in the fall and again in the early spring; downspouts should be fitted with extensions or splash blocks to direct or disperse runoff away from the house. In addition, make sure dirt against the house (called "backfill") is kept sloping away from the structure and that plantings do not grow or root closer than 18 inches from the foundation. A common replacement for aging and leaky gutters and downspouts are seamless systems and those that are designed to keep debris out of the trough.
  • Roofing and siding. A new home's exterior finishes, mainly its roofing and siding materials, are designed to last for at least 20 years. That being said, any cracks, voids, or other damage to these finishes during their design life can lead to leaks and related moisture problems.

Visually inspect the roof and sidewalls of the house at least annually for the first five years, and then every six months after that. And, of course, make any repairs immediately. Replacement roofing and siding is a common upgrade, creating a fresh look for the home's exterior and providing an improved barrier against the elements.

There are other maintenance tasks that can further help protect the investment of owning a home and, perhaps more important, sustain or upgrade its comforts and conveniences of a house. The key is to properly maintain a home's materials and systems until they reach the end of their usable life, at which time they should be replaced to not only restore (and usually improve) the performance of the original, but also refresh the look and feel of an existing home.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seattle Architect helps Choose House Colors

We often get calls from clients needing help choosing paint colors. This can be very challenging for people who have never done this before. On most of our architectural projects we help the client choose paint colors, so we have a lot of experience with this. If you need help choosing paint colors, contact Seattle Architects.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seattle Architecture Services

Architecture services offered by design firms can be confusing and hard to compare from one firm to the next. I recently spoke with a potential client who was comparing our pricing to another firm. We were higher, but when I looked at their services, it was for a basic permit set of drawings, which is not enough information for the typical homeowner to construct a project. Our proposal was for full services. When we compared apples to apples, we were almost the same cost. So, when comparing architecture services, it's important to understand what you are getting. For more information visit Seattle Architects and read more.

Hiring an architect

Need help hiring an architect? Here are some tips.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Green Design

Green design is not just something you do because it's hip or the 'in thing to do'. It's something we do because it's the right thing to do. All good architects have always incorporated certain green design principals into design, like using materials efficiently, siting the home correctly, and providing appropriate shading and day lighting. Today there are many more things to be concerned about like the embedded energy in a product. It's much more complicated today because there is a lot more information to sort through. And there is a lot more hype too, so it's important to wade through the hype to get to the facts. To learn more about green design visit seattle architects.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lumen ID Custom Wood Switchplates

We've been in contact with Rand Soellner Architects in North Carolina who wants to offer custom wood engraved switchplates to his clients. He designs beautiful rustic wood homes usually in the mountains or other rural areas. We produced this sample for his clients to consider using in their homes (see image on right). We tried a variety of the fonts, but settled on Papyrus, which coincidentally is Rand's font on his letterhead. It just seems to feel right with the casual and natural quality of the wood. For more information visit Lumen ID.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Seattle Basement Remodel

So many homes in Seattle need their basements remodeled. Often remodeling the basement will double the living space of a home. And the space already exists! We're finding in this down economy that smaller projects like basement remodels become more popular since they are more affordable to complete, and it's a quick way to add usable space to a home.

One challenge we find is what to do with all the stuff people have accumulated in the basement. One couple wanted to turn their garage into a room to use as a crafts room and storage. Be careful with this, because in Seattle you usually have to have one legal parking space on you property for a single family residence (2 spaces if you have an ADU - mother-in-law apartment). The legal parking space cannot be in the street or in your front yard setback. Of course you can keep your garage and just fill it with all your stuff! You just can't take away that garage door and make it interior living space.

For more information about Seattle basement remodels visit Seattle Architects.

Remodeling your entire house?

Completing a whole house remodel is a challenging project! We've added an article to our website about remodeling the entire house that walks you through the steps and introduces some ideas to think about as you plan your project. For more information visit Seattle Architects Motionspace Architecture + Design PLLC.

Adding a Second Story Addition to your Home

We've added a new article to our website that helps describe the process of adding a second story addition to your home. We're getting a lot of calls for second story additions in Seattle probably because of the lack of land. Often homes are already built to the setbacks, so going up is the only place to add space to an existing home. It can be expensive, though. Usually we budget at least $200/sf (that's a minimum) for construction cost. For more information visit Seattle Architects Motionspace Architecture + Design PLLC.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Handrail Code Items

Handrail codes have relaxed over the years to allow for a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some of the relevant code items for the 2006 Seattle Residential Building Code:

  • Must be positioned 34"-38" when measured vertically above the front of each tread.
  • If installed against a wall, the space between the handrail and the wall may not be less than 1 1/2"
  • Must extend at least from a point directly above the lowest riser to a point directly above the upper riser (it can extend beyond these points). See next bullet point for exception.
  • At the bottom tread, a 'starting newel' is allowed over the lowest tread (meaning the handrail may end a little earlier than above the lowest riser).
  • Handrails must return to wall or to newel post.
  • For the actual handrail you have two choices:

    Type 1: Handrails with a circular cross section must have a diameter between 1 1/4" - 2". If the handrail is not circular, the perimeter dimension must be at least 4" and not greater than 6 1/4" with a maximum cross section dimension of 2 1/4".

    Type 2: Handrails with a perimeter greater than 6 1/4" shall provide a graspable finger recess area on both sides of the profile. The finger recess shall begin within a distance of 3/4" measured vertically from the tallest portion of the profile and achieve a depth of at least 5/16" within 7/8" below the widest portion of the profile. This required depth shall continue for at least 3/8" to a level that is not less than 1 3/4" below the tallest portion of the profile. The minimum width of the handrail above the recess shall be 1 1/4" to a maximum of 2 3/4". Edges shall have a minimum radius of .01".

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Railing Code Items

Many people ask about common items like what are the code requirements for a stair railing. Here are some relevant code items from the 2006 Seattle Residential Code.
  • The top of the railing needs to be a minimum of 34" measured vertically above the nosing of the stair tread.
  • The triangular opening formed by a stair tread, riser, and the bottom railing of the guard rail cannot let a 6" sphere pass through.
  • The railing should not let a 4" sphere pass through any opening (except as noted above).
  • The 'pickets' in the railing can be vertical or horizontal, or follow the slope of the stairs (or every which direction as long as the 4" rule is maintained.)
  • Connections of the railing to the structure should resist 200lb/sf load.
  • A handrail is required too.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

To Bid or Not to Bid

I am often asked the question of whether a time and material contract is better than a fixed price bid (and using a fixed price contract). The decision is different for every client, but for one recent client, putting his project out to bid resulted in big savings. The beauty of the bid is that it introduces competition into the equation. This works especially well when the economy is down since contractors are looking for work. You may even find a contractor who is bidding the job at cost to keep a team that he or she has spent many years assembling intact.

The results of a job put out to bid to several contractors can often be startling. It is not uncommon to find bids varying by thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sometimes it makes me wonder if they are looking at the same drawings! Many times contractors will say a bid is a waste of time because everyone is using similar subcontractors, and everyone has similar overhead, so everyone should be about the same price. This probably holds more true in a good economy, but my experience on projects put out to bid is that prices vary greatly. A recent project had bids from $270K to around $410K. Another project bid from $325K to $575K. And recently I had a basement remodel bid from $25K to $125K.

It's important to be sure to qualify each contractor. In some situations you'll want to throw out the lowest bid. But if the lowest bidder is qualified to do the job, there may not be any reason NOT to take the lowest bid and benefit from these savings.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Eight Things to Consider when Looking for an Architect

If you’re looking for an architect you’ve probably read the 20 things to ask an architect article published by the AIA by now. While this is a good list, we wanted to add a few more questions and suggestions to add to the selection process. Some of these suggestions are from our insight gained from working in actual offices and interviewing with hundreds of potential clients. Other issues arise from knowing how a good office functions and technology is used by the best firms. So here’s our list:

1. Visit the architect’s office.

An architect’s office can say a lot about their design aesthetic and creativity. Unfortunately many first meetings with a client will be at their project site, so you may not have an opportunity to see the architect’s office. Consider scheduling a visit at the architect’s office within a few days of the initial meeting.

2. A disorganized architect’s office might be a red flag.

An architect has to organize hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of information, and a disorganized office might be a big red flag. However, don’t confuse artist creativity with disorganization. Models or model building supplies, trace paper and sketches can be a sign of real creativity, but project information is normally stored in binders and filing cabinets. Large piles of paper are probably not a good thing.

3. Ask your architect if they are using 3D software (the answer should be ‘yes’ – then ask them if they are using BIM).

The latest architectural software is called BIM (building information model) and the more sophisticated architects are using this. A house or project designed in BIM is completely or almost completely designed in 3D. In addition, in many cases the software can help eliminate errors in coordination of drawings since the 2 dimensional drawings are all ‘extracted’ from the 3D model. The software also keeps track of things like sizes of each door and window, and when a size is changed in one drawing, it is automatically updated in another. This can be a real help in reducing errors.

4. Education is the foundation of an architect’s experience.

While attending a good school can help assure your architect has a good foundation to build upon, usually a better indicator is how an architect did in the school they attended. From my experience in school and teaching, only 10%-20% of students are really talented designers and very few students got significantly better as they went through school. To get a sense of how someone did in school, ask about design awards they may have won or exhibitions they may have participated in.

5. Know who you are going to work with.

If you are hiring a multi-person firm, find out who you will actually be working with. Many times the person you are interviewing with won’t actually be doing much work on your project. If the person you are going to be working with isn’t in the interview, ask to visit the architect’s office (see #1) and meet the person or people who will be on your team. Ask to see the credentials of those team members as well.

6. Architects communicate with drawings as well as words.

Look at the architects drawings and ask questions about them. It may be challenging to read or understand drawings if you haven’t done that before, but if you can’t understand them after an architect explains them, then either the drawings are not very good, or the architect has a hard time communicating – both might be red flags.

7. A complete set of construction drawings includes specifications.

Not all information is communicated within drawings. Plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, finishes, expected quality levels, and other information that is easier said in words than in drawings are communicated in written specifications. If your architect doesn’t prepare specifications, then you’ll likely be answering many questions during construction and may be hit with change orders.

8. Look at the architect’s website.

A well designed, well organized website can communicate that an architect is organized and can assemble information in a clear format. If their website is out of date or they don’t have one, this might be a hint that they are behind the times.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Welcome to our blog - first post

Welcome to our blog: the (un)common house by Seattle Architects Motionspace Architecture + Design

I'm excited to start this new venture where we can post information in a more informal manner than our main website, and cover a wider variety of topics without having to worry about it's organization (architects tend to worry about things like that!). I am hopeful that in the coming months and years that we can turn this site into a place where others can come and see what it's like to work with an architect, or what it's like to work in the design profession in general. I have to confess that I'm a bit of a design junky (it is my drug of choice!) and I follow automotive design, furniture, industrial design, graphic, and web design pretty closely. All of those things influence me in some way or another, and help me to look at things with a new or different perspective.

I'd also like for this not to become a 'one way' conversation. Soon we'll be introducing a new page on our website where anyone can submit a question for us to consider answering in this blog. Of course, you'll have a better chance of getting your question answered if it has to do with architecture or design rather than bioengineering or aeronautics! We'll have a posting when that feature is up and running.