Chad Kohalyk made a stressful move to Japan this spring which means we now get some cool insights into the Canadian experience with Japanese daily life. Recently he wrote about his children’s school and how they establish ownership of the school environment among both the students and the student’s parents. He also links to this short video on the subject.
Unity Homes has posted a new video tour of their Zum model home. It’s more of a sales pitch than a detailed discussion of design and construction elements, but it’s still a nice video for those of us who aren’t in the Northeast and can’t make a visit. The audio on the interior shots has a lot of echo despite all rooms being completely furnished – I hope that’s just a recording artifact.
Painted bicycle lanes always seemed like a municipal sisyphean task – the rate of wear is just so high that it never stays in good condition. I was really impressed by this look at colored concrete color stability, almost a decade and it still looks great.
When I was planning to install an area of fenced yard for the dogs to run around in, I had to decide whether to put it in the backyard or front yard of my home – both areas being similar in size. I ended up putting it in the front yard, since I figured that would give me an excuse to be out front where I can interact with neighbors and people-watch. I see a lot of like-minded spirits in this Curbed article on ‘porch culture’.
Back in late April Fine Homebuilding hosted a webinar on double-stud walls featuring Dan Kolbert and Ben Bogie of Kolbert Building out of Southern Maine. The recording is available to watch here. Video quality is a little rough, but stick it on in the background – it’s always helpful to hear from the people who actually have to build the assemblies.
Forced Landing of the Week:Engine failure leads to a forced landing of an antique P-51 in this video. What’s fantastic is the analysis of the forced landing that is included in a separate interview segment between the pilot Mark Levy and Richard McSpadden of the AOPA Air Safety Institute. There is a lot to glean from the analysis regarding how to manage your own head space while evaluating and reacting to difficult situations.
I’m all for prefab construction elements, but often find that prefab houses are a poor fit for many applications – too rigid in their limitations relating to module size and finishes. A great exception are prefabricated Accessory Dwelling Units – they largely can fit into the size constrains of one transportable prefabricated module and the finishes are driven (in many cases) by affordability/relation to a rental balance sheet so light-weight, flexible finishes are more acceptable. Here’s a good article on Roger and Martha’s prefabricated ADU as well as an architect’s approach to the space. Here is Wolf Industries working in the niche up in the Pacific Northwest.
A video on How the Staircase Made the Victorians Suffer. Not the fastest paced exploration, but worth it for the visual demonstration in the second half of how precarious a poorly designed staircase can be – one slip and you’re falling quite a ways.
Structure Tech released their internal training video on water intrusion. Looks, it’s an hour and a half which is a stretch, but if you can stick it in the background it’s an incredible montage of poor exterior overhang/valley/trim details. Coming from New England, home of the zero overhang cape, it shines a searing light on what a bad design detail that is.
Reuben Saltzman writing on Stucco-Covered Chimneys over at Structure Tech. Chimneys with multiple construction layers (brick and stucco, veneer stone over framing) are a source of headaches – difficult to diagnose and yet a real threat to life and property.
RetroRenovation clued us in that the Daltile Mosaic Designer is back up and running. It’s a need web tool for the layout of mosaic details – I’m curious what the process looks like once you ‘submit’. It looks like perhaps it loops in a local Daltile distributor at that point.
Radiation Source of the Week: Rolling Stone published America’s Radioactive Secret documenting the growing radiation hazard presented by an oil and gas waste product called ‘brine’ which can be contaminated with radium radionuclides. An incredible health and safety risk and, like most health and safety risks, one borne by the lower paid workers in the industry and downplayed by the highest paid.
Radium in [marcellus shale] brine can average around 9,300 picocuries per liter, but has been recorded as high as 28,500. “If I had a beaker of that on my desk and accidentally dropped it on the floor, they would shut the place down,” says Yuri Gorby, a microbiologist who spent 15 years studying radioactivity with the Department of Energy. “And if I dumped it down the sink, I could go to jail.”
USModernist manages an archive of more than a century’s worth of architectural magazines (many even have been run through OCR!). If you have an archive, they’ll digitize them for you. I stumbled on this when someone linked to USModernist’s digitized copy of Christopher Alexander’s A City is Not A Tree published in The Architectural Forum (part 1 and part 2).
Paul Theroux’s The Kingdom by the Sea published in the 1980’s mentions a resort company called Butlin’s which is still in business today. It’s a package vacation company that, uh, doesn’t get a lot of respect in Theroux’s travelogue. The geography of their facilities is fascinating – they’re described as being located in “traditional seaside towns” but the nearby town is more marketing than reality, with no true connection to the resort compound. The most charitable metaphor I can come up with is “beached cruise ships.”
Lighting Vendor of the Week: I had a client looking for display lighting that will fluoresce some minerals he wants to display and had a difficult time finding a vendor for UV display lighting. Waveform Lighting looks like the pretty good solution, reach out if you have a better one!
Check out the video for Weval – Someday put together by Páraic Mc Gloughlin. The lightning fast rate of imagery, each set based around a common characteristic, is a neat look at the built environment. Patterns Patterns Patterns.
This work reminds me a bit of a house built to the specifications of Madeline Gins and Arakawa profiled in this 2008 New York Times article. In this case the goal was to make the occupant uncomfortable to ward off aging and death. There is a thin line between a challenging environment and an inaccessible environment.
69 Bravo is a privately owned helicopter service station located in the Santa Monica Mountains built to support fire fighting activities. I don’t think you’ll find infrastructure like this in city simulators or planning textbooks.
Deep Dive Article of the Week:Bloomberg profiles Star Wipers, a recycling success story. As the tariffs between the USA and China have developed over the past few years, it’s been interesting to see how many building products were impacted especially in the hardware and lighting space.
The New York Times took a look at niche stores in NYC back in November, profiling stores that only sells pencils, rubber stamps, antique cash registers, and vintage video games. What struck me from the pictures is how small these spaces are – enough room for stock, a couple of customers, and the proprietor. You see spaces like these pop up in development pitches all the time, a set of micro store fronts or a ‘food mall’ or a ‘craft market’, but there always seems to be trouble filling them consistently. One of my favorites was a small storefront Grillo’s Pickles ran in Inman Square, Cambridge for a couple of years.
In These Times spends some time discussing the slow but inexorable rate of rural hospital closures with a focus on Appalachia. Coming from Maine, the issue there was less acute – most of the closures were related to advanced treatment centers and maternity services. As parts of the country become more divorced from convenient medical care, how does this impact work injury treatment? Thinking about the remote construction teams I’ve worked with, some hours from a hospital, the first aid kit wasn’t better stocked or the team trained in emergency medicine. At what distance from a hospital should you start training your team in wilderness first aid?
They’ve been around for a long time, but just in case you’re looking for a leather-free steel/comp toe muck boot check out Bog’s line of slip on boots. Currently all of the lace up versions have leather ever since the Turf Stomper line was discontinued a few years ago.
I’m not sure where I saw the question (perhaps in the Lost Art comments?), but someone was looking for a metric tape measure and was linked to FastCap’s ProCarpenter line. I’ve got to admire the specificity involved in having a tape measure line with six different tape types.
I came across a small aside in an article about Frederick Douglass about his short history as a real estate developer, responsible for building a short stretch of row homes known as Douglass Place in 1892. The homes were built on the site of the Methodist Episcopal Church which Douglass attended in his younger years, and which had become dilapidated by the time he acquired the property for redevelopment. A 2015 Baltimore Sun article has some pictures from inside one of the homes, all of which still stand today.
Matthias is an oddball with evergreen appeal, I was recently re-linked to his personal study on wood joint strength.
Places published a piece in April about shade as a civic resource and, as the wet heat bears down in the Midwest, it’s clear how easy it is to make the urban environment bearable or unbearable for pedestrians. I bike to work mostly under a leafy canopy except for one glaring asphalt six-lane intersection. A noise and heat mini-hell. One business along that street recently removed their awning and now the sidewalk feels less like a protected space and more like an extension of the gutter. I’ve been privileged to live my entire life in a Tree City.
Charity of the Week:Miles4Migrants funds plane tickets used to re-unite the families of refugees and asylum seekers using donated airline miles and cash. A wonderful person I grew up with really cared about their program and volunteered a lot of time (and miles), based on his own family’s experiences escaping poor circumstances. He recently passed away at a young age, so now seems like the right time to help fill his shoes.