Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fort Worth New Museum of Science and History Needs to Go Back to the Drawing Board

While visiting my family in Fort Worth during the Christmas holidays, I went to the Cultural Center where the town has a cluster of notable buildings. The city recently finished rebuilding the Museum of Arts and Science that was designed by Legorreta + Legorreta and I was curious to see how it turned out.

What a disappointment!

Most of the visitors will be arriving to the cultural center via University or Montgomery Street after taking Interstate 30 from Dallas or from the outer edges of Fort Worth. This museum’s loading dock hides all but the top part of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. The back side of the new museum that is finished with EIFS is what one will see when approaching the cultural center on Montgomery Street.

EIFS is a cheap exterior finish that is constructed with sprayed on textured plastic upon a nylon mesh that is glued upon Styrofoam. If you thump it with your fingers, you will hear a hollow echo. Even though the museum has only been open for a few weeks, the ground crew has easily managed to damage this exterior finish with their trimming tools. You can find gashes on the EIFS walls that expose the Styrofoam near the ground.

Even the architect wanted to hide this ugly side of the building. He added rows of shrubs on top of a long narrow hill (a berm) that acts as a visual barrier. There is a large outdoor area on this side of the building that could be used as an outdoor amphitheater, but a lot of work will need to be done to make that sparse area more inviting.

To get to the front entrance, the visitor must turn on West Lancaster Avenue and then onto Gandy Street. Gandy Street is flanked by a huge parking structure that is currently under construction and an even larger parking lot. The front entrance of the museum is also on Gandy Street. But, to find the front entrance is a challenge.

This awkward cube looks like it should be the main entrance when you approach the building, but it is not...

The large brick cube with the clear glass clearstory that is along the same street wall as the Cowgirl Hall of Fame first appears to be the logical destination to enter the museum. But it is not. The only purpose of this imposing mass is to house a rusty scaled down model of an oil derrick. Not a big attraction for the visitors.

The Urban Cube is that structure at the end of a long unaccessible road..

The main entrance is hidden behind the brick cube. In fact, the four simple glass doors are placed in its own cube that is cleverly named the “Urban Lantern.” This entrance is at the end of the axis created by Burnett Tandy Drive that passes between the rows of live stock barns. Except for a few spots along the curb, there is no parking available on this road. In fact, this road will be closed to vehicular traffic during the Fat Stock Show. This is the annual community event that attracts the majority of visitors into this area. During other times of the year, I guess that the museum is counting on the the visitors to arrive via school bus that will unload scores of children at this front.

Most of the visitors who drive their own cars to this museum will park in one of the two parking areas that are on either side of Gandy Street. Entering through the obscure side entrance near the IMAX Theater would be the easiest route into the building – not the front entrance.

Some of the community leaders of Fort Worth really like this museum because it has its own unique architecture. They like the bold use of colors and the Mexican-American influence of style. These are good design elements to have in a cultural center if they are used with a purpose and with an order.

The Amon Carter Museum, Kimball Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Casa Manana, and the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum are the cultural neighbors of this new museum that clearly have order.

One of these arches are not like the other...

The architect, Philip Johnson, provides order with his post-modern colonnade in front of the Amon Carter Museum. The building is placed upon one of the highest parts of the cultural center and looks down toward downtown Fort Worth much like the Acropolis. There is an elegant arch between the columns that emulate the arched roofs of the stock yard barns. He was very interested in creating an experience for the visitor. Be sure to read more about how experience based design is the best way to boost your profits in your office spaces in the book, “The Designed Office”

The architect, Louis Kahn, provides order with his row of barrel vaults on the Kimball Art Museum. The arches on these vaults are also borrowed from the arched roofs found on the live stock barns nearby.

The architect, Tadao Ando, provides order with his stacked rectangular galleries in the plan of the Museum of Modern Art. He then provides some playful ovals to break up the grid. Mr. Ando studied the arches of its neighbor, the Kimbell Museum, and added similar barrel vaults in his design.

The Cowgirl Hall of Fame provides order with its reference to classic architecture, the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum provides order with its art deco references, and the geodesic dome of the Casa Manana provides an obvious geometric order.

The Museum of Science and History, however, looks like it was designed by a committee. The mass of the building is a mismatched collection of geometric shapes that have haphazard offsets. It appears that the architect started with a bubble diagram to organize the various spaces and then handed it to the various department heads to determine their sizes. It would be very helpful if a grid was used to tie all of the geometric shapes together.

There are several pyramids on the roof that do not relate to anything else. Barrel vaults were used at the ceiling of various public spaces but their profiles are much like one would create if they used a simple circle template. They are certainly not reflecting the flat elegant arches of the other major buildings nearby. Instead, they appear to be designed by an amateur.

I have a lot of fond memories at the Museum of Science and History. When I visited it as a child, the museum was called the Children’s Museum. The museum offers a lot more things for young minds than it did when I was visiting it as a child. They now have the IMAX, interactive learning areas, and a large area for traveling shows.

The one thing that survived the redesign of the Museum of Science and History is the spirit of learning. Children and their family members will continue to come in large numbers to this new facility. Unfortunately, most visitors probably will not ever consider what is mentioned in this blog post.

For them, it will not matter if they were in a new museum or in a new shopping mall. For them, it is just a place to go and maybe learn something new.

But for me, it is important to have a well thought out design that earns its place near such great monumental architecture as its surrounding neighbors. For me, it needs to be more than just another destination.

You can also view a video of this area at my new vlog at

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where to Find a Bunch of Modernist Houses

What are some of the characteristics of a modern home design?

Where can you see a large collection of modern houses in one location?

What is the difference of "modernist design" and "contemporary?"

These are just a few questions that will be answered by my special radio guest Mr. George Smart, tomorrow (Monday, December 14, 2009) at 5:30 pm, EST. George is an expert in modernist architecture. He has a huge following on his web site that is On that site, you will find a large archive of modernist designed buildings, some buildings for sale, and sign up for tours and trips to see prized architectural gems.

From this web site, you will find:
"The Triangle area of North Carolina is the third largest concentration of modernist houses in America. We have more than anywhere except LA and Chicago. Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a nonprofit historical archive for preserving modernist residential design. We are an early-warning system for endangered houses, an exclusive source for modernist house tours, an extensively detailed catalog of North Carolina and national architecture, and a community of knowledgeable advocates for modernist construction."

Feel free to call with your own set of questions during the show. That number is (646) 595-2228.

To listen to the show live, just go to at 5:30 pm EST tomorrow, Monday, December 14, 2009.

See you there!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tigers Woods Wife to Flee to Sweden

Where do you go when your world is falling apart around you? How about to the same quiet island that your parents would take you as an escape during your childhood?

This seems to be what Tiger Woods' wife plans to do.

I really hope that the Woods couple is able to mend their marriage. Word is out that Mrs. Wood has already packed the kids and moved down the block a ways from their own mansion. This seems to be just a launching pad before she really flees to her homeland.

Tiger's wife, Elin Nordegren, used to go to a remote little island in her native country of Sweden as a little girl with her family. Faglaro Island is so remote that it can only be reached by boat. Only two of the some 140 homes on this island are occupied year around. The rest are used as summer retreats.

Mrs. Woods has reportedly purchased one of largest houses on the island with her twin sister. It has six bedrooms. At the time of this posting, there is no confirmation if Tiger has anything to do with this new $2 million purchase. But, the fact that his wife is planning to move to Sweden with their kids is probably the reason that Tiger announced recently that he is not going to play golf for awhile.

What would you expect this get-away house to look like? My first guess would be along the lines of the ordered architecture that one has seen from Sweden during the last century. You know, designed with simple lines, crisp, very geometric, and probably painted monochromatic. Something like this maybe...

But instead, the house is a two story colonial derivative that looks like it could use a little sprucing up. Here is a photo of the house that Mrs. Woods reportedly bought....

If you would like to know a little more about architecture from Sweden, take a look at other internationally noted Swedish architects such as Ragnar Östberg, Erik Gunnar Asplund, and Sven Gottfrid Markelius. Here are some of their past projects...

Ragnar Östberg

Erik Gunnar Asplund

Sven Gottfrid Markelius

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Live!

Here is the link to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade LIVE right now!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Design Like an Architect with Us - Please Take a Quick Survey

Cut, paste, and go to this link

Did you know that even our US president, Obama, wanted to be an architect before he went into politics?

Everyone has a dream.

Yeah, I have heard a lot of people tell me throughout the years that they once thought about being an architect before they decided to take their current career path. I bet this includes some of you.

Obviously, to become an architect later in life would be a little overwhelming but wouldn't it be awesome if someone created a long weekend where all you had to do is show up at an architecture studio where there is a staff of draftsman ready to draw up the dream house that YOU designed?

You can be like an architect in your own design studio surrounded by inspiring people and buildings that you thought would only be available to you in magazines.

Cut, paste and go to

Be a Starchitect for a long weekend by coming to our Fantasy Architecture Summit retreat.

In order for us to design the perfect get-away for you, we first need to your opinion.

Please take a minute to watch the video above and to fill out a quick survey found at this web link. You can also just click on the link on the right column of this blog under the title, "We need your opinion."

For taking the time to help us know how to create an experience of a lifetime for you, we will send to you a FREE copy of our new book, "The Designed Office" to the first 5 people who email to a copy of the filled out survey. Let us know where to mail the copy of the book and we will get one shipped to you.

Thank you, again, for helping us create and design the time of your life.

Cut, paste and go to

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Something For Nothing: Ambition

Here is a good article from Brian Tracy that describes the type of office workers exists. Which type are you?

Theory X versus Theory Y

In the 1960’s, Harvard Psychologist Alex Mackenzie suggested two visions of people in the workplace, each leading to different forms of motivation in organizations. McGregor called these two views of mankind, “Theory X” and “Theory Y.

“Theory X was defined as the idea that employees were basically lazy, and had to be continually motivated to do their jobs by using the “carrot and stick” method of rewards and punishment. McGregor postulated Theory Y, which said that people are basically positive, desire to do a good job and will strive toward excellence in their work if the proper incentives exist.

McGregor divided working conditions into two categories, hygiene needs and motivators. A hygiene need was defined as including things such as a secure work environment, a decent paycheck, pleasant surroundings, and proper work tools. His conclusion was that the presence of these factors did not motivate people to work harder, but if they did not exist, workers would be demotivated, and would not do their best work. McGregor defined a “motivator” as something more. It was a factor such as special attention from the boss, praise and encouragement, opportunities for promotion and advancement, greater responsibility, and recognition by bosses and coworkers. He concluded that by practicing “Theory Y” management, managers could bring the very best out of their people, and achieve the very best and highest quality results.

Theory Z Management

Based on my experience with hundreds of companies, I suggest a third factor, which I call Theory Z. Theory Z says that people are neither good nor bad. They are neither positive nor negative. They are neither motivated nor unmotivated. They are merely expedient. In everything they do, mentally, emotionally and physically, they are subject to the overwhelming force of the E-Factor. According to this assessment, people are lazy, greedy, ambitious, selfish, vain, ignorant and impatient, and they will manifest these qualities in a positive or negative way depending upon the structure of financial and non-financial incentives in the organization.

Money as a Motivator of Behavior

It has been said that, “Money may not the most important thing, but it’s way up there with oxygen.” The fastest and easiest way to get the things you want as quickly as possible is almost always to have enough money to be able to buy them, whatever they cost. For this reason, the desire to acquire money, quickly and easily, and as much as possible, is a major motivator of human behavior. But it is not usually money that people really want. Sometimes I will ask my clients why they want to acquire a lot of money. After thinking about their answer for a couple of minutes, they finally conclude that what they want more than anything else is “freedom.” In reality, they see money as a means to achieving the freedom they really desire. They define freedom as having enough money so they can get everything they want. Having enough money will enable them to be completely free from worry about safety, security, comfort, leisure, love, respect and fulfillment. They see having lots of money as the fastest way to the good life.

Ten Million Dollars

In our Advanced Coaching and Mentoring Program, we do an exercise in Values Clarification. When everyone is seated, we hand out individual checks made out to each person in the amount of $10 million dollars. Of course, the checks are not cashable, but the idea of receiving $10 million dollars cash gives people an opportunity to fantasize about what they really want in their lives.

We then have the participants break into groups, discuss what they would do if they suddenly received $10 million dollars, and then report back to the group. We go around the room and write down their answers on a white board or flip chart.

Here is the most amazing discovery: almost everything that our clients would want to do, have or acquire does not cost any money! When people think of suddenly being financially independent, they immediately think about quality of life issues.

As we go around the room, the answers that come back are: “I would work shorter days and spend more evenings and weekends with my family; I would take a long vacation with my wife; I would join a health club and exercise every day to lose weight and get fit; I would write the book I’ve always wanted to write; I would get more involved with my church or political party; I would take up painting; I would write poetry; I would reorganize my business and my life; etc.”

This is an exercise that you can do, as well. Imagine that you received$10 million dollars cash, today. What would you do differently in your life if you had all the money that you could ever need? You may be surprised at the answers that you come up with.

Please watch the video on “ambition”

[See post to watch Flash video]
To receive the rest of this video series: Click Here....

Something For Nothing: Ambition

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to Create an Office that will Increase Your Profits

You don’t have to go to your nearest office depot, office max, or staples office supplies in order to pick up a valuable office resource that can transform your office into a marketing tool. Just pick up a copy of the book, “The Designed Office” to find at least 35 profit pointers that can immediately start putting money back into your pockets.

Here are some things that you will learn from the book:

• How to find the best location for your office.
• How to have an eco-friendly office.
• How to control the construction costs and get it built the way you want it built within your budget.
• How to get office furniture for free or at a steep discount.

This book can help you even if you work out of a home office.

If you only saved an average of $150 per month by implementing each of the 35 Profit Points from the back of the book, you would save $63,000 in one year. Can you imagine if you saved an average of $2500 per item per month? You would be putting over a Million Dollars back into your business. The cost of the book is at a near give away price of only $19.95 at

Be sure to pick up your FREE dozen BONUS gifts at that web site too!

This book is also found at and at possibly reduced prices.

You might even find it FREE at a local library.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Was Frank Lloyd Wright an Alien?

As I was dropping my older son off at school, I asked him if he has any big plans today. He said that he was looking forward to hearing a friend of his share his talk during their Communications Arts class about Area 51.

If you are as clueless as I was about what Area 51 is, here is the quick rundown.
Area 51 is an area in Rachel, Nevada that is a restricted site where it is believed the government holds a top secret collection of UFO’s and aliens from outer space.

Since I cannot sit in on my son’s friend’s presentation about Area 51, I did a little research of my own on the web. It turns out that there is a lot of information about this place. There are blogs, photos, even TV shows including one with Larry King. Some of the information may be true, some not. But almost all of the information that I found was sensational. The findings of UFO’s inspired the TV series, “the X-Files.”

Here is one of the cover up stories that has been circulating around about Area 51; the US government has modeled their planes after found UFO’s. Some of these super-secret planes include the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Stealth Fighter. The “Aurora” has been rumored to be in production that will be a high altitude/high speed plane.

Another conspiracy theory has been that the Aliens have secretly taken over our world and cross-breed with humans.

Can you imagine the impact that would have on the design of our cities if that is true? Frank Lloyd Wright's later designs had a futuristic flare to them. Like the Guggenheim Museum and the Broadacre City. Hmmm. Maybe….Nahhh, that’s just too over the top.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Experiences in Scouting and Architecture

(Image above is the "Tooth of Time" at Philmont Scout Ranch)

I am a big supporter of the Boy Scouts organization. Having gone through all of the ranks of Cub scouts and Boys scouts – Bobcat to Eagle then beyond into Explorers as a kid, a lot of good memories were made and skills learned that help me in my day to day living even now.

Be Prepared, the Twelve Scout Laws and many more oaths and sayings are permanently engrained into my mind. Currently, I am a Cubmaster for my 10 year old son’s Cub Scout pack and an Assistant Scout Master for my 13 year old son’s Boy Scout troop. It keeps me hopping and allows me to enjoy scouting as a big kid.

When I was about 16, I went to the world famous Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM. My tent partner was a guy named Danny that went to a different high school as I, so we really did not know much about each other before the trek.

Long story short, Danny and I remained friends throughout the years (well over 30 years now).

Danny’s and my lives have cris-crossed throughout the years. Danny and I got our Eagle Scout award about the same time.

He went to the Air Force Academy while I went to Texas Tech. He was first stationed in Lubbock’s Reese Air Force Base while I was finishing up my last year at Tech.
Later, Danny and I became housemates in a small town named Wichita Falls, TX while he was at the base there and I was with an architectural/engineering firm.

Now, Danny is a captain of the largest commercial airliner in the Delta Fleet. He flies the 777 to various international destinations from JFK Airport. Again, crossing paths with me being in NYC.

Yesterday, I he called me to see if I was free to have dinner with him since he had the rare opportunity to play during a long lay-over in NYC. It was great to see him again and catch up with what he and his family has been up to between the years that we have not seen each other.

Danny has been really involved with scouting too. It was a thrill to hear about all of the high adventure scouting trips that he has done. His recent trip was a week trek in Europe. There, he had to technical climb sheer icy cliffs with pitons and ice shoes. What a trip.

Perhaps, you will see some designs that I am developing for his 10 acre estate in the hill country of TX sometime on this blog.

I guess what I enjoy most about my friendship with Danny is that we have created similar experiences throughout our lives. Some together, but mostly in different circles that seem to keep overlaping.

These experiences of life really form our perception of where we are and where we have been. My "Experience Architecture" is no different from this. When we design a space with the "Experience Architecture" philosophy, we are tapping into memories and trigger points that our clients have experienced that they want others to enjoy. Our designs help them have those desired experiences.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seven Proven Strategies to Fill Vacant Office Spaces in Dying Downtowns

Have you started to notice more vacancies in your local office buildings and strip shopping centers?

If you watched one of my latest YouTube videos, you will see me in front of a vacant office/warehouse building that is 720,000 SF. It used to be a major distribution plant for K B Toys before they went out of business in NJ.

How can we fill our vacant offices in our dying downtowns?

That was the subject that I spoke about last Monday at this year’s Main Street Forum. Although my new book, The Designed Office, will give you invaluable tips on how to find the best office space for your business needs, give you critical design principals to have your architect/engineers/interior designers to follow, how to build-out your new office space on time and within your budget, and many other maintenance and “green” ideas, you won’t hear much from my book when reviewing the DVD of my Main Street Forum talk, “Making Your Work Place Work for You.”

Instead, I spoke about the changes of our economy, challenge the notion that “green” design is of any benefit to the tenant or to the landlord, and I give some strategies that towns can begin to implement now to boost the sales and leases of their commercial real estate within their central business districts.

Here are seven strategies that towns can implement to help reduce vacancies in their downtowns:

1. Create a safe environment. If people have any reason to fear of their safety, any other strategy will not help fill vacancies.

2. Don’t have a blocked up Main Street that forces drivers to park their cars behind the commercial district while creating a pedestrian mall where Main Street once existed. This might have worked successfully in a couple of places in American, but for the most part, the result of this urban experiment was a disaster. People just found other places to shop.

3. Follow the LEED requirements for Existing Buildings if possible. My talk will illustrate how building owners have filled their office buildings faster than their competition while increasing the value of their building’s bottom line.

4. Have a nice variety of stores and offices that compliments, does not compete, and surrounds an anchor store or industry.

5. Resist having Real Estate offices in prime locations of the CBD. Real Estate offices can often afford to lease or own prime downtown real estate. But when they do, they attract on time shoppers who are not interested in mingling around the downtown shops over and over again. They are there to only buy a home that is not even located in the central business district.

6. Have a good partnership between the local government officials and the private sector (merchants, residents, civic groups, corporations). For example, if you have townspeople who have lived there all of their lives and don’t want change while also having young and up-in-coming professionals who want to transform the town, you will be constantly in conflict while the vacancies continue to climb.

7. Good Ambiance. The Main Street must have a soul. This can be done with landscaping, events, sidewalk cafes, street lights, historical references, plenty of parking, and the use of our Experience Architecture design philosophy.

If you would like a copy of the DVD, just email me at to inquire about it.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Herding People Like Cattle

Why in the world would I post such a crummy photo?

It is to make a point.

Look how all of the fuzzy people are grouped together. Notice that they are all herded roughly along the dark grey line on the floor.

There is no sign that says, “Stay on this side of the line.” There isn’t even a definite traffic pattern that people must follow. In fact, there isn’t anything in this room except for a few stairs and columns. It is a large, open room where people wait until their trains are called out at Penn Station of NYC.

This is another example to show how people are affected by their surroundings. Even if there are subtle color changes on the floor, people will react to it without even realizing that they are doing it.

If people can be so affected by the design of their surroundings by purely accidental design, imagine how powerful it can be if you have an architect that uses the “Experience Architecture” design philosophy with intension!

With “Experience Architecture,” can you see how your customers might want to keep coming back to your store? Can you see how your employees might want to stay at least a full 8 hour day in the office and actually contribute to a full day’s work? Can you see how an entire dying historical downtown can attract the affluent through intentional design?

“Experience Architecture” is POWERFUL! Make it work for you, your business, and your downtown. Here's how:

Come to the Preservation Conference and the Main Street Forum to hear me elaborate on this very important subject. I am going to share some cutting edge strategies that can boost your business and revive your downtowns in any economy. The event will be in Liberty, NY on November 1st and 2nd. Just click on the “Main Street Forum” icon to the right to register.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to Fill Vacant Commercial Properties

There is no place you should rather be than in Liberty, NY on November 1st and 2nd this year.

Liberty, NY is the town that was had to lend a helping hand to the wayward hippies that found themselves cold, hungry, and in need of first aid during the famous Woodstock concert.

Liberty, NY is now the destination of many movers and shakers who want to learn from experts how to revive their dying downtowns and create massive profits within their central business districts.

Come join other forward thinkers, NY and NJ state officials, town planners, merchants of downtown shops, architects, and leaders of a lot of townships throughout the east coast to become a leader of progress for your community.

For the third year in a row, I have been invited to speak at the Main Street Forum that is Monday, November 2nd, 2009. My topic will be for advanced thinkers at the Catskill Artists Gallery at 11:00 AM EST.

The title of my talk is, "How to Make Your Workplace Work for You."

As retailers close stores and corporations downsize, what are some new and productive uses for this excess space? We’ll look at new concepts, new uses, and old but half-forgotten solutions that can turn vacant properties into cash-flowing asset during our information packed 40 minute disussion.

You will also learn some key green design solutions that others are doing that immediately puts money back in their pockets for ZERO personal investments, and see successful case studies that will make you want to go make it happen at your own hometown.

Be sure to sign up for this event NOW! Just click on the black and white Main Street Forum icon at the blue column of information to the right of this blog post.

Oh, by the way, we will also be talking about some key proven stategies found in the book, "The Designed Office." Get your copy by clicking on the book icon to the right of this post to get a head start. Then, we can build upon what you already read from the book.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wind Energy Systems

I can still hear his annoying hyena sounding laugh over 30 years later. He taught freshman architectural design at my alma mater, Texas Tech University.

If you take a look at the photo above, you will see his office window. It is located in that dark vertical slot between the two bulks of the building. The window looks down onto a bridge that connects this sidewalk (in the foreground) to the entrance just under this slot.

Below the bridge is a courtyard that funnels 100 mph wind on some of the most commonly occurring wind/sand storms of Lubbock, TX.

I used to stand at a 45 degree angle against this wind tunnel.

Poor freshmen would carry detailed models of their architectural design that they worked on for weeks in their nearby dorm. The models would explode from the burst of wind over and under the bridge. This is what really amused this professor. Fortunately, it did not happen to me.

Wind can be a nuisance and it can also be an asset. Architects are learning about more ways to harness the wind in order to generate energy and to produce fascinating forms. If you are considering installing a small wind system in your home, check out this article from

Ah, go ahead and scroll past the really technical stuff….

Frequently Asked Questions on Small Wind Systems

Below are frequently asked questions related to using a small wind energy system to power your home. The frequently asked questions below will help you determine if a small wind energy system is practical for powering your home.

By investing in a small wind system, you can reduce pollution and reduce your exposure to future fuel shortages and price increases. Deciding whether to purchase a wind system, however, is complicated; there are many factors to consider. But if you have the right set of circumstances, a well-designed wind energy system can provide you with many years of cost-effective, clean, and reliable electricity.

What are the benefits to homeowners from using wind turbines?

Wind energy systems provide a cushion against electricity price increases. Wind energy systems reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, and they don't emit greenhouse gases. If you are building a home in a remote location, a small wind energy system can help you avoid the high costs of extending utility power lines to your site.

Although wind energy systems involve a significant initial investment, they can be competitive with conventional energy sources when you account for a lifetime of reduced or altogether avoided utility costs. They length of the payback period — the time before the savings resulting from your system equal the system cost — depends on the system you choose, the wind resource in your site, electric utility rates in you're area, and how you use your wind system.

Is wind power practical for me?

Small wind energy systems can be used in connection with an electricity transmission and distribution system (called grid-connected systems), or in stand-alone applications that are not connected to the utility grid. A grid-connected wind turbine can reduce your consumption of utility-supplied electricity for lighting, appliances, and electric heat. If the turbine cannot deliver the amount of energy you need, the utility makes up the difference. When the wind system produces more electricity than the household requires, the excess can be sold to the utility. With the interconnections available today, switching takes place automatically. Stand-alone wind energy systems can be appropriate for homes, farms, or even entire communities (a co-housing project, for example) that are far from the nearest utility lines. Either type of system can be practical if the following conditions exist.

Conditions for stand-alone systems

• You live in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 4.0 meters per second (9 miles per hour)
• A grid connection is not available or can only be made through an expensive extension. The cost of running a power line to a remote site to connect with the utility grid can be prohibitive, ranging from $15,000 to more than $50,000 per mile, depending on terrain.
• You have an interest in gaining energy independence from the utility
• You would like to reduce the environmental impact of electricity production
• You acknowledge the intermittent nature of wind power and have a strategy for using intermittent resources to meet your power needs
Conditions for grid-connected systems
• You live in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 4.5 meters per second (10 miles per hour).
• Utility-supplied electricity is expensive in your area (about 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour).
• The utility's requirements for connecting your system to its grid are not prohibitively expensive.
• Local building codes or covenants allow you to legally erect a wind turbine on your property.
• You are comfortable with long-term investments.

Is my site right?

To get a general idea if your region has good wind resources, look at the state wind maps. The maps will show you if wind speeds in your area are strong enough to further investigate the wind resource. Of course, the maps are just a starting point — the actual wind resource on your site will vary depending on topography and structure interference. And a localized site with good winds, such as a ridge top, may not show up on the maps.

Another source for wind data is the National Climatic Data Center, which collects data for selected sites and makes area wind data summaries available for purchase.
You will need site-specific data to determine the wind resource at your exact location. If you do not have on-site data and want to obtain a clearer, more predictable picture of your wind resource, you may wish to measure wind speeds at your location for a year. You can do this with a recording anemometer, which generally costs $500 to $1500. The most accurate readings are taken at "hub height" (i.e., the elevation at the top of the wind turbine tower). This requires placing the anemometer high enough to avoid turbulence created by trees, buildings, and other obstructions. The standard wind sensor height used to obtain data for the DOE maps is 10 meters (33 feet).

You can have varied wind resources within the same property. If you live in complex terrain, take care in selecting the installation site. If you site your wind turbine on the top or on the windy side of a hill, for example, you will have more access to prevailing wind than in a gully or on the leeward (sheltered) side of a hill on the same property. Consider existing obstacles and plan for future obstructions, including trees and building, which could block the wind. Also realize the power in the wind is proportional to its speed (velocity) cubed (v�). This means that the amount of power you get from your generator goes up exponentially as the wind speed increases. For example, if your site has an annual average wind speed of about 5.6 meters per second (12.6 miles per hour), it has twice the energy available as a site with a 4.5 meter per second (10 mile per hour) average (12.6/103).

What about legal, environmental, and economic issues?

In addition to reviewing your site and particular situation and goals, you should also
• research potential legal and environmental obstacles
• obtain cost and performance information from manufacturers
• perform a complete economic analysis that accounts for a multitude of factors
• understand the basics of a small wind system, and
• review possibilities for combining your system with other energy sources, backups, and energy efficiency improvements.
Establish an energy budget to help define the size of turbine that will be needed. Since energy efficiency is usually less expensive than energy production, making your house more energy efficient first will likely result in being able to spend less money since you may need a smaller wind turbine to meet your needs.

Potential Legal and Environmental Obstacles

Before you invest any time and money, research potential legal and environmental obstacles to installing a wind system. Some jurisdictions, for example, restrict the height of the structures permitted in residentially zoned areas, although variances are often obtainable. Your neighbors might object to a wind machine that blocks their view, or they might be concerned about noise. Consider obstacles that might block the wind in the future (large planned developments or saplings, for example). If you plan to connect the wind generator to your local utility company's grid, find out its requirements for interconnections and buying electricity from small independent power producers.

Pricing a System

When you are confident that you can install a wind machine legally and without alienating your neighbors, you can begin pricing systems and components.
Approach buying a wind system as you would any major purchase. Obtain and review the product literature from several manufacturers. Lists of manufacturers are available from the American Wind Energy Association; however, not all small turbine manufacturers are members of AWEA. Manufacturer information can also be found at times in the periodicals listed below. Once you have narrowed the field, research a few companies to be sure they are recognized wind energy businesses and that parts and service will be available when you need them. Also, find out how long the warranty lasts and what it includes.

Ask for references of customers with installations similar to the one you are considering. Ask system owners about performance, reliability, and maintenance and repair requirements, and whether the system is meeting their expectations.

The Economics of Wind Power for Home Use

A residential wind energy system can be a good long-term investment. However, because circumstances such as electricity rates and interest rates vary, you need to decide whether purchasing a wind system is a smart financial move for you. Be sure you or your financial adviser conduct a thorough analysis before you buy a wind energy system.

Grid-connected-system owners may be eligible to receive a small tax credit for the electricity they sell back to the utility. The National Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the 1978 Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) are two programs that apply to small independent power producers. PURPA also requires that the utility sell you power when you need it. Be sure you check with your local utility or state energy office before you assume any buy-back rate. Some Midwestern rates are very low (less than $.02/kWh), but some states have state-supported buy-back rates that encourage renewable energy generation. In addition, some states have "net billing," where utilities purchase excess electricity for the same rate at which they sell it.
Also, some states offer tax credits and some utilities offer rebates or other incentives that can offset the cost of purchasing and installing wind systems. Visit the DSIRE web site, which contains a database of financial incentives for wind energy. Check with your state's department of revenue, your local utility, public utility commission, or your local energy office for information.

What equipment do I need to run my own home wind energy system?

All wind systems consist of a wind turbine, a tower, wiring, and the "balance of system" components: controllers, inverters, and/or batteries. Hybrid systems use additional equipment, like photovoltaic panels and diesel generators to ensure electricity is available at all times.

Wind Turbines

Home wind turbines consist of a rotor, a generator mounted on a frame, and (usually) a tail. Through the spinning blades, the rotor captures the kinetic energy of the wind and converts it into rotary motion to drive the generator. Rotors can have two or three blades, with three being more common. The best indication of how much energy a turbine will produce is the diameter of the rotor, which determines its "swept area," or the quantity of wind intercepted by the turbine. The frame is the strong central axis bar onto which the rotor, generator, and tail are attached. The tail keeps the turbine facing into the wind.

A 1.5-kilowatt (kW) wind turbine will meet the needs of a home requiring 300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month, for a location with a 6.26-meters-per-second (14-mile-per-hour) annual average wind speed. The manufacturer will provide you with the expected annual energy output of the turbine as a function of annual average wind speed. The manufacturer will also provide information on the maximum wind speed in which the turbine is designed to operate safely. Most turbines have automatic speed-governing systems to keep the rotor from spinning out of control in very high winds. This information, along with your local wind speed distribution and your energy budget, is sufficient to allow you to specify turbine size.


To paraphrase a noted author on wind energy, "the good winds are up high." Because wind speeds increase with height in flat terrain, the turbine is mounted on a tower. Generally speaking, the higher the tower, the more power the wind system can produce. The tower also raises the turbine above the air turbulence that can exist close to the ground. A general rule of thumb is to install a wind turbine on a tower with the bottom of the rotor blades at least 9 meters (30 feet) above any obstacle that is within 90 meters (300 feet) of the tower.

Experiments have shown that relatively small investments in increased tower height can yield very high rates of return in power production. For instance, to raise a 10-kW generator from a 18-meter (60-foot) tower height to a 30-meter (100-foot) tower involves a 10% increase in overall system cost, but it can produce 25% more power.
There are two basic types of towers: self-supporting (free standing) and guyed. Most home wind power systems use a guyed tower. Guyed-lattice towers are the least expensive option. They consist of a simple, inexpensive framework of metal strips supported by guy cables and earth anchors.

However, because the guy radius must be one-half to three-quarters of the tower height, guyed-lattice towers require enough space to accommodate them. Guyed towers can be hinged at the base so that they can be lowered to the ground for maintenance, repairs, or during hazardous weather such as hurricanes. Aluminum towers are prone to cracking and should be avoided.

Balance of System

Stand-alone systems require batteries to store excess power generated for use when the wind is calm. They also need a charge controller to keep the batteries from overcharging. Deep-cycle batteries, such as those used to power golf carts, can discharge and recharge 80% of their capacity hundreds of times, which makes them a good option for remote renewable energy systems. Automotive batteries are shallow-cycle batteries and should not be used in renewable energy systems because of their short life in deep cycling operations.

In very small systems, direct current (DC) appliances operate directly off the batteries. If you want to use standard appliances that require conventional household alternating current (AC), however, you must install an inverter to convert DC electricity to AC. Although the inverter slightly lowers the overall efficiency of the system, it allows the home to be wired for AC, a definite plus with lenders, electrical code officials, and future homebuyers.

For safety, batteries should be isolated from living areas and electronics because they contain corrosive and explosive substances. Lead-acid batteries also require protection from temperature extremes.

In grid-connected systems, the only additional equipment is a power-conditioning unit (inverter) that makes the turbine output electrically compatible with the utility grid. No batteries are needed. Work with the manufacturer and your local utility on this.

Hybrid Systems

According to many renewable energy experts, a stand-alone "hybrid" system that combines wind with photovoltaic (PV) technologies and/or a diesel generator offers several advantages.

In much of the United States, wind speeds are low in the summer when the sun shines brightest and longest. The wind is strong in the winter when there is less sunlight available. Because the peak operating times for wind and PV occur at different times of the day and year, hybrid systems are more likely to produce power when you need it.

For the times when neither the wind generator nor the PV modules are producing electricity (for example, at night when the wind is not blowing), most stand-alone systems provide power through batteries and/or an engine-generator powered by fossil fuels like diesel.

If the batteries run low, the engine-generator can be run at full power until the batteries are charged. Adding a fossil-fuel-powered generator makes the system more complex, but modern electronic controllers can operate these complex systems automatically. Adding an engine-generator can also reduce the number of PV modules and batteries in the system. Keep in mind that the storage capability must be large enough to supply electrical needs during noncharging periods. Battery banks are typically sized for one to three days of windless operation.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

There is much talk about having solar panels on roof's of homes. In fact, a friend of mine is doing quite well with his solar panel business. Particularly with commercial properties that are cashing in on tax rebates which will pay for the full installation costs of the the project.

Here is an interesting video that discusses some of the basic issues of solar energy. It exposes some facts that you need to be aware of before you decide to install solar panels on the roof of your house.,32068,33575328001_1916895,00.html

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Recession Relief

What can we do to fill all of these vacancies in commercial properties that we see popping up everywhere? This video will steer you in the right direction.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Trust Me, I'm an (Unlicensed) Architect

If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?

(this article is by:Amanda Kolson Hurley,additional research by John ScappiniRelated ArticlesSave / Share and found at

Michael Angelo Gideo owns a small business in Plano, Texas, that specializes in custom-designed backyards. His company installs swimming pools, builds outdoor fireplaces and patios, puts up decks, and tackles landscaping projects. The company, Backyard Architect, has a website at
A fitting name, right? The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners doesn’t think so: Gideo is not, and has never been, a registered architect in the state of Texas; nor is his company affiliated with a registered architect. By Texas law, one of these conditions must be met if the term “architect” or “architectural services” is used in a business name.

Early this year, after Backyard Architect came to their attention, board staff sent Gideo warning letters, notifying him that he was violating both the state Architects’ Practice Act and the Landscape Architects’ Practice Act. He didn’t respond. In March, board staff met informally with Gideo to tell him that his continued use of the term “architect” in his business name was illegal. “He gave us no legal reason why he was [still using the term],” recounts Michael Shirk, the board’s managing litigator. Gideo’s website stayed live, the name unchanged.

James Madison Jackson
Jackson served two years in a Texas prison for theft and is currently awaiting trial for writing worthless checks in North Carolina. But his “gateway crime” was the unlicensed practice of architecture. Once employed as an architect by Dallas firm Gromatzky Dupree & Associates (he was dismissed when they discovered that he wasn’t licensed, despite his claims to the contrary), Jackson has received felony indictments for illegal practice in both Texas and South Carolina. More recently, operating various construction businesses, he racked up liens totaling more than $1 million—not to mention criminal charges and a trail of angry victims.

Credit: PJ Loughran
So in July, an administrative law judge advised the board to impose a penalty against Gideo of $200,000. That’s $5,000 a day—the highest penalty the board is authorized to assess—for each of the 40 days (or longer) that Gideo had violated the law.

Rule-Breakers and Fakers

If Texas Board of Architectural Examiners v. Mike Gideo stands out, it’s for the jaw-dropping penalty recommendation, not for the fact that someone without a license to practice architecture touted himself as an architect or offered architectural services. That part is all too common. Unlicensed practice is nothing new, and neither are attempts to curtail it. Many states have had laws on the books for decades stipulating that architects stamp drawings of all structures above a certain square footage. The intent is to safeguard the health and welfare of the public: An office building or day care center with major design flaws poses an obvious risk to the people inside, as does an unsound or barely habitable home.

In any given year, hundreds of complaints about unlicensed practitioners are filed with state boards by members of the public; by bona fide licensed architects; and by building officials (alerted, perhaps, by a set of unstamped drawings). Who are the offenders?

They include an architecture school professor who used the phrase, “as an architect, I … ” in a newspaper article she wrote (Iowa, 1997, cease-and-desist order, no penalty), and a licensed architect who was found to have published his business website—with multiple variations on the verboten title “architect”—before he had obtained his license (California, 2006, $500 civil penalty). There are respected architects, already licensed in one or more states, who obtain a license in another—but only after starting work on a project there. At the other end of the ethical spectrum are the people who steal dead architects’ seals and fraudulently stamp drawings with them.

In between the shoulda-known-betters and the downright crooks are a lot of overreaching drafters and builders like Gideo. Almost always, a state board’s first step after investigating a complaint is to send a letter explaining the protected nature of the terms “architect” and “architectural.”

Do the violators really not know that what they’re doing is illegal? “A decent number” of cases are due to ignorance, confirms Douglas McCauley, executive officer of the California board: “Folks are genuinely not knowledgeable” about the law. However, he adds, “You also get a fair number who know the law, and … are operating on the edge.” Joseph Vincent, administrator of Washington state’s board, estimates “right off the top of [his] head” that about 75 percent of these violators don’t understand the legal protection of the title or how they’ve infringed on it. The other 25 percent “are more deliberate—and then we pursue appropriate actions.”

Under the laws of numerous states, single-family homes or structures of less than a certain square footage are exempt from the requirement that an architect be involved in the design. So the line between houses and townhouses, or between 4,000 and 4,500 square feet, can start to look blurry. “When you [i.e., a contractor] … do a residential design for a doctor’s house, and the doctor comes back and says he wants you to do his office—that’s where [unlicensed people] cross the line,” says David Minacci, a lawyer whose firm investigates and prosecutes cases of unlicensed practice in Florida on behalf of the state board there.

Cease and Desist

The letter of warning, or a sterner cease-and-desist order, is usually enough to prompt voluntary compliance, the common goal of all state boards. The board officials interviewed for this article emphasize public outreach as an essential tool, and a few can point to full-fledged education campaigns. California’s board “subscribes to a philosophy of … preventative rather than remedial,” says McCauley. He rents a booth at the statewide conference of buildings officials and cultivates a relationship with the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD). New York director Robert Lopez has visited Pratt Institute, City College, and other schools to talk about the importance of licensure.

But all the outreach in the world can’t stop someone who’s intent on misrepresenting him- or herself or committing fraud, and in such cases, boards get tough. How tough depends on the state. Texas’s $5,000-per-day maximum penalty is not typical, and some boards are essentially toothless—West Virginia’s, for instance, has authority only over licensed architects, so it doesn’t even track cases of unlicensed practice, let alone prosecute them, says the board’s executive director, Lexa Lewis. Among the states with the most enforcement muscle are Texas, Illinois, Florida, Nevada, and California; those with the least include Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Idaho, as well as the District of Columbia.

Sullivan, Stevens, Henry, Oggero & Associates
As a firm composed of non-architects, Houston’s Sullivan, Stevens is well within its rights to design single-family homes in Texas, thanks to a legal exemption. However, that exemption doesn’t apply to multifamily dwellings or commercial structures above a certain size or height. Texas’ board learned that not only had Sullivan, Stevens drafted plans for two townhouse communities and a sales office (all nonexempt), but the City of Houston had permitted them—satisfied by an American Institute of Building Design stamp where an architect’s should have been. The board ordered Sullivan, Stevens to cease and desist from the practice of architecture and recommended a fine of $25,000; the case was settled before a hearing was held.

Credit: PJ Loughran
Law-abiding architects should be encouraged by one trend: A number of state legislatures have recently conferred more power on boards of architecture. Washington’s board did not have the authority to send cease-and-desist orders until 2002; before then, it had to try to convince reluctant district attorneys that illegal architectural practice deserved their attention. Likewise, in 2003 New York’s State Education Department, which oversees 48 professions including architecture, received the authority to investigate and prosecute illegal practice. Before that, the board had to turn complaints over to the attorney general—never an easy sell. (If a case is serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution, even relatively powerful boards still have to go begging to the district attorney or attorney general. “The unfortunate reality is,” says McCauley of California, “when DAs are looking at rapes and murders—architectural issues—you can imagine where we fall in that continuum.”)

Florida voted for a different kind of change seven years ago, passing a law that allowed the board to contract with a private vendor for disciplinary services. The law firm that David Minacci works for—Smith, Thompson, Shaw & Manausa of Tallahassee—got the contract. Minacci says that going after unlicensed practice has been his top priority—and the numbers attest to that. “When you look at the numbers compared to when the DBPR [Deptartment of Business and Professional Regulation] were [handling enforcement], there’s no comparison whatsoever,” Minacci claims.

Sure enough, during the three-year period from Nov. 1, 1999, through Oct. 31, 2002—i.e., before privatization—the Florida board issued 20 cease-and-desist orders per year, on average (that number includes orders issued against unlicensed practitioners of interior design as well as architecture). By comparison, the three-year period from Nov. 1, 2004, through Oct. 31, 2007, yielded an average of 184 cease-and-desist orders per year, an increase of more than 800 percent.

Florida’s high-double-digit numbers of cases for each of the last few years dwarf any other state’s, and effectively produce what looks like an upward trend of enforcement nationwide. Even so, anecdotal evidence from other states suggests that the trend may be widespread. Joe Vincent of Washington has noticed “a fair uptick” in complaints, which he attributes to the board’s newfound ability to take substantive action against offenders. Similarly, Melinda Pearson, the board director in Nebraska, says her board seems to be getting more complaints after it hired a compliance officer, who is responsible for follow-up. If Vincent and Pearson are correct, a proactive board can inspire a state’s architects to help regulate their own profession by lodging more complaints.

Cutting Corners—and Budgets

Besides hypervigilant architects, what could be driving the numbers of cases higher? The economy is an obvious answer, but there are different theories as to how it affects illegal practice. Minacci, in Florida, actually perceives a slight drop in complaints over the last 12 months, which he attributes to residential designers going out of business. But Texas’ Shirk sees the pendulum swinging the other way because of recessional cost-cutting. “I do think that with the economy being in the slump it’s in, there has been an increase in building design occurring without the use of architects when [they] should have been involved.” A particular problem in his state is the design of nonexempt structures by either unlicensed building designers or by engineers, who may claim to be qualified to perform “comprehensive building design.”

And as all 50 states—although some more than others—are tightening their belts due to the ongoing economic crisis, enforcement may suffer. In California, whose budgetary woes are legion, McCauley’s staff of 23 is now subject to a three-day-per-month furlough. “Suffice it to say, our resources are being restricted. And it certainly is going to affect the timeliness of our actions and ability to do some of the positive things we do, like outreach.” The Florida board’s contract with Minacci’s law firm was cut by 20 percent last fiscal year, although Minacci believes that the fines he helps the state collect should protect against further cuts.

Although Lopez’s office received new powers back in 2003, it had to wait a few more years for commissioner’s regulations on precisely how to implement the law, Lopez says. So is New York’s surprisingly low tally of disciplinary actions going to shoot up anytime soon? “I would expect those numbers to climb as we put this process in place,” Lopez says, adding that New York’s procedure for handling misconduct by licensed architects has been formulated ahead of that for unlicensed practice.

Will Lopez’s office start sending compliance agreement letters again, as it did back in the early part of this decade? “As staffing numbers permit, we’ll be able to [pursue] some of these cases,” is his circumspect answer.

James Arriaga
As an unlicensed employee of New York City’s Department of Education, working in its construction unit, James Arriaga unlawfully practiced architecture with a little help from the bogus stamp and seal of an actual licensed architect. He was found in 2005 to have defrauded more than 150 people over a four-year period. Arriaga pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to four months of weekends in jail and five years’ probation, and was ordered to make reparations to the city in the amount of $10,000. Needless to say, he was required to resign from his government job.

Credit: PJ Loughran
What’s in a Name

Reached by phone in late July, Michael Angelo Gideo was happy to talk about his dealings with the Texas board, though his reaction see-sawed between defiance and bewilderment. Backyard Architect, he says, is “just a play on words,” which he compares to “Lawn Doctor”—“and I don’t see anybody getting harassed on account of Lawn Doctor.”

When asked if he would change his company’s name, Gideo responded that he wouldn’t. A few minutes later, he backtracked, saying he might change it to Michael Angelo II. Gideo acknowledges that he could see why the state wanted to regulate use of the title “architect”—“I can see their side, too; they’re trying to protect the people”—and claims that he’d like to find an architect to affiliate with, and thereby satisfy the law, but it will take time.

Will he pay the $200,000 penalty? “How would I pay that? How would you do that? It’s ridiculous.” He says he has stopped opening mail related to the case and hasn’t retained an attorney.

Just before this issue went to press, the governor-appointed board members (they do not include Shirk, a staffer) voted to adopt the judge’s proposal. “Respondent’s ongoing and purposeful disregard of the laws within the Board’s jurisdiction indicates that a significant sum of money must be imposed to deter future ... illegal behavior,” reads a passage in the final order.

If Gideo fails to pay the penalty in full or to appeal within 50 days of the order’s issuance, the board will seek an injunction against him in district court. After that happens, he could end up with the attorney general’s office seizing his assets.

No doubt Gideo’s behavior was “extremely serious,” as the board found, but $200,000—that’s a lot of money. In response to this observation, Shirk e-mailed, “Big State–Big Penalty.” The e-mail had a photo of the Texas state flag, with a legend in large-point, red type:

“Don’t Mess With Texas Architects.”




Keep your eyes and ears open
If a friend or family member has hired a supposed architect who seems less than competent, check him or her out. Scan the ads in your local paper; do a Google search for “architect” + “[your town or city]” to see what names and websites turn up.

Report, report, report
If you suspect that someone is practicing architecture without a license, take your concerns straight to your state board. Many board websites now allow you to verify a person’s licensure by means of a quick name search. Be sure to follow through on your sleuthing and, if warranted, lodge a complaint: After all, it’s stipulated in the AIA’s code of ethics and professional conduct.

Contact your local AIA component
If you think illegal practice is a problem in your state, let your AIA chapter know. It may have enough lobbying power to make your state government sit up and take notice.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fun to Assemble Bookshelf

Check out how easy it is to assmeble a Legare bookshelf. This guy is only 12 years old and he can casually put a whole bookshelf together in about one minute. As you can see, this would be perfect for college students, urban living, kid's study areas, and home offices.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Lane Launches into the Media

Thanks to my friend, David Mathison, I now have more ways to share my passion of architecture with others. David is like the wizard behind the curtain. He really spilled the beans when it came to exposing the new and innovative ways to communicate to others.

David recently launched his new book, "Be The Media." In this book, he gives away more stuff than you could imagine. He even shows how authors, writers, columnist, cartoonists, syndicators, and licensors can self-publish their own information and get it to more people than would ever begin to reach.

Other media methods that are discussed are blogs, moblogs, newspapers, videoblogs (this one really interests me), websites, wikis (got to go to his book to learn what this is...), and zines.

This is perfect for producers of music, films, podcasts, radio, and television shows. It is also perfect for architects, like me, who want to find the best way to get the word out about any cutting edge architectural idea.

So, keep a look out for this book. You can buy it at

Also, be on the look out for more cool things that are discovered in this book from the desk of Larry Lane.

I better start putting my radio show together. It airs in only 2 hours (at from the posting of this blog article. (David has a radio show too, it is at He talks about how to create your own internet radio show on page 147).

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Smackdown" with Frank Gehry

“Smackdown” with Frank Gehry

Posted by Jay Walljasper in Town Square
The popular real estate and urbanism blog Curbed created this image to describe the ongoing debate (Photo credit: Curbed LA)
This year’ Aspen Ideas Festival lived up to its name with a lively exchange about Placemaking vs. the iconic architecture of Frank Gehry and other “starchitects”. But not in the way anyone expected.

When PPS president Fred Kent, a speaker at the Festival two years ago, posed a question to Gehry in the Q-and-A following Gehry’s presentation, the world-famous architect refused to answer.

When Kent repeated the question about why iconic architecture so often fails to create good public places, Gehry called him “pompous” and waved his hand in a gesture that eminent political journalist James Fallows described as “a dismissive gesture, much as Louis XIV might have used to wave away some offending underling.” Fallows described the scene in his influential blog for The Atlantic.

And Fallows’ blog became the place where ideas about what constitutes great architecture were debated. This was because Gehry refused to engage in discussion about his work, even at an event billed as a Festival of Ideas.

Frank Gehry brushing aside Fred Kent and his question, as moderator Tom Pritzker (responsible for the Pritzker Prize) looks on.

Gehry responded first in the blog, explaining that he didn’t really want to be at the Festival and that at age 80, he gets “freaked out by petty annoyances.” He also charged that Kent (who remained unnamed in Fallows’ first two blogs and Gehry’s response) was “intent on getting himself a pulpit” and “marketing himself at everyone’s expenses.”

Kent responded in Fallows blog on Friday, writing, “That Gehry was dismissive of the subject itself and so self important in his response shows just how far removed he and other proponents of ‘iconic-for-iconic-sake’ architecture are from the reality of urban life today.

“Around the world citizens are defining their future by focusing on their city’s civic assets, authentic qualities and compelling destinations,” Kent continued, “not on blindly following the latest international fads conjured by starchitects.”

But what’s most interesting here is not the heated exchange of opinions following a controversial appearance by the most famous architect of our time. It is the wide scope of debate that has been stirred.

David Sucher took up the issue in several postings on his City Comforts blog.

Frank Gehry has been quoted saying "I do not do context", amounting to barren public spaces and a limited scope of responsibility for the architecture profession.
And Fallows himself—probably as famous in news journalism circles as Gehry is in architectural ones—seems fascinated by all the energy sparked by this question about how to create great public places.

On Friday he began his blog with a sense of amazement, “I used to think that a topic like — oh, let’s see, US-China friction — was controversial, or climate change, or Google-v-Microsoft, or McNamara-v-Rumsfeld. That was before I innocently stepped into the crossfire concerning the effect of “star-chitects” like Frank Gehry on the urban landscape.”

Whatever else comes out of this lively discussion, I think it shows that discussions about how we create congenial public places where people can come together is a major issue of our times.

Public space is not just an aesthetic detail, or minor sideshow for the design community. It’s central to the fabric of lives and future of our society. Which is why it’s no surprise that opinions on the subject are so strong.

The public space on the waterfront of Bilbao in front of Gehry's building is a site of frequent muggings as a result of the limited reasons for people to be there.

PPS Commentary–Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Curbed LA–Frank Gehry Smackdown: Iconic Architecture vs. Public Space

Apsen Ideas Festival–Full Video of Gehry Talk (Kent/Gehry conversation at approx. 54 minute mark)

Article from blog post at

Frank replied to the reaction to his actions on another blog ( and said,

Dear Mr. Fallows -

Fair enough - your impression. I have a few lame excuses. One is that I'm eighty and I get freaked out with petty annoyances more than I ever did when I was younger. Two, I didn't really want to be there - I got caught in it by friends. And three - I do get questions like that and this guy seemed intent on getting himself a pulpit. I think I gave him an opportunity to be specific about his critique. Turns out that he followed Tommy Pritzker [the moderator of Gehry's session] around the next day and badgered him about the same issues. His arguments, according to Tommy, didn't hold much water. I think what annoyed me most was that he was marketing himself at everyone's expense. I apologize for offending you. Thanks for telling me.

Best Regards,

Frank Gehry

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Broker Blood Feud

From the "New York Observer." View Story On One Page Print This Story Share This Story By Dana Rubinstein
July 31, 2009 | 8:05 a.m.

It’s the end of July, and for the brokerage community, that means one thing: Crain’s publishes its biannual list of Manhattan's top office leasing deals, using data from CoStar. Though, frankly, publishing the list this annus horribilis—and then writing about the publishing of the list—seems to border on the sadistic.

But hey! It’s our job!

Let's get the obvious out of the way. CB Richard Ellis, the city’s (and country’s) largest commercial brokerage firm, retained its position atop the heap, representing the tenant or landlord in 22 of the 50 biggest leasing transactions of 2009. As we said, that’s not surprising. Nor should we be surprised that the sum total of all 22 of those leasing transactions was pitifully small—but we were, because apparently we still retain some capacity for shock. Those 22 transactions totaled a mere 1.75 million square feet. This time last year, when CBRE also topped the list, its transactions totaled 4.9 million square feet.

In a market where everybody’s suffering, you find solace where you can.

“We feel great about the results,” said CB Richard Ellis executive managing director Matt Van Buren. “We think in a down market, more so than ever, market share matters.”

If that’s the case, then both Studley and Newmark Knight Frank, both firms specializing in tenant representation, should feel proud.

Studley had three transactions in the top 10 (including the top two), and seven in the top 50, totaling 808,686 square feet. This time last year, it appeared only three times in the list. Studley chairman and CEO Mitch Steir attributed his firm’s impressive showing to its focus on tenant representation (a not-so-subtle jab at some of his competitors, like Cushman & Wakefield and CBRE, which represent both tenants and landlords—sometimes at the same time!).

“We believe that it’s quite difficult to advocate for a tenant zealously when one also has a fiduciary responsibility to a landlord,” Mr. Steir pointed out.

CBRE is the Yankees. C&W is the Boston Red Sox. They’ve been beating each other up for years and years. Along come the Tampa Bay Rays. New team. Getting their legs. You know who went to the World Series last year, don’t you? - Newmark Knight Frank's Jimmy Kuhn

Newmark Knight Frank tied archrival Cushman & Wakefield in the number of deals it had on the list, appearing on at least one side of the negotiating table in 13 big leases in the top 50, totaling 868,265 square feet. This time last year, Newmark appeared only 11 times in the list. Cushman & Wakefield, also on at least one side of the table with 13 big leases, inched out a slight lead over Newmark in total area leased, with 892,284 square feet.

And while Cushman, like everyone else, saw a marked decline in transactional activity, its drop-off in big leases was not as severe as CBRE’s. Last year this time, Cushman had 1.9 million square feet of leases in the top 50, a decline of 53 percent to CBRE's 64 percent drop (note: not in total leasing, but in the number of square feet of leases that appeared in the top 50 this time in 2008).

Cushman & Wakefield did not respond to a request for an interview. But Newmark Knight Frank president Jimmy Kuhn described the brokerage hierarchy thusly:

"Let me give you an analogy. You probably won’t use it. Do you follow baseball?"

Not really.

"Everybody will tell you today that the three best teams in baseball all are in the American League East and nothing matters other than that: the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. In the real estate world you can talk about the entire country all you want, but the only thing that really matters is New York City. CBRE is the Yankees. C&W is the Boston Red Sox. They’ve been beating each other up for years and years. Along come the Tampa Bay Rays. New team. Getting their legs. You know who went to the World Series last year, don’t you?"


"The Tampa Bay Rays."

The above article can be found at
Editor's note: Mr. Kuhn said "Tampa Bay Buccaneers," referring to the NFL franchise, and the original version of this story reported that. We believe, however, he was referring to the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball.

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