“Always Be Safety”

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Keeping people safe is serious business.

Yesterday, my 3 year old invented automated sprinkler systems.

OK, let’s back up a little bit.  As early as the 15th Century, people recognized the need for a quick, automated response to a fire.  In fact, Leonardo Da Vinci even developed a kitchen system that would help extinguish an oven fire. . . which flooded the fire and the entire kitchen, ruined all the food, and ended the Duke of Milan’s dinner party. . . so you could say it worked.  The sprinkler system as we know it today, really got its start in the early 1800’s.

Over time, systems have obviously become more sophisticated.  In addition to this form of “active fire protection” (meaning that there is a system literally attempting to extinguish a fire), there have been various means and methods developed to promote “passive fire protection” (contain fires & slow the spread of them) and “fire prevention” (eliminate causes of fire & educate occupants).  All three systems work together within a building to, first and foremost, protect the occupants of the building.  Saving the building, if it happens, is a bonus.

Many conversations with my son start with me asking him “What do you want to talk about?”  Some of those conversations investigate the minutia of which super heroes are the best ones (Batman, because he’s “just a guy”,  and Spiderman “because I said so”).  Sometimes we dive into the details of “Where does the mailman get the mail from?”

Yesterday, he asked me “what did you do today?”  So I told him.  It’s hit or miss with these conversations because he really doesn’t know what he’s getting into.  Sometimes, he cuts me off and asks me if I want to play, and yes, of course I do.  I thought he’d never ask!  Other times, though, he listens.  He doesn’t just let me talk. . . he really listens and turns it into a conversation.  I started talking about 2 separate projects that I worked on yesterday, both related to fire protection & safety within existing buildings.  Each has it’s own solution, but each serves the purpose of protecting the occupants inside.  I push the details with him. . . let him know, first of all, WHY people need to be protected.  If you have a “house” (residential occupancy) above an “office” (business/mercantile occupancy), you need to make sure that those spaces are protected from each other.  When people are at work, they’re not home.  When people are at home, they’re not at work.  So if there is a fire in the office at night, everyone is sleeping, and they won’t be safe. . . unless we make them safe.

“Can the fireman come and spray water and make it rain on the building?”  Yes.  Yes they can.  But, they have to drive there first and it might take a couple minutes.  The people still need to be safe until the firemen get there.  According to the rules (the 2009 International Building Code), we have to build our buildings to make sure they are safe, and we have to use materials that stop the fire (passive fire protection).  Sometimes, using the right materials between the office and the house is enough.  At this point, we got into a long back and forth listing things that catch on fire easily, and things that don’t . . . I think this lasted 3 or 4 hours (or at least felt like it).

And then my 3 year old invented the sprinkler system.  “Dad, if there’s a fire in the peoples’ house, they should turn on the rain shower and make it rain INSIDE the building until the fireman gets there (“rain shower” is what we call the shower in the bathroom so it’s more fun).”  I asked him what if the people are sleeping, or what if the fire is not in the bathroom.  “Maybe we can make a building with rain showers everywhere and they turn on by themselves, like when we wash our hands at Wegmans (they have motion activated faucets in the restroom that, of course, we have to try 4,000 times every time we go there – sorry, Wegmans).”

He’s right.  Although, to my knowledge, motion activated sprinkler systems have not yet been installed in any building. . . ever. . . that would be a potential solution . . . for about the first 10 minutes until they went off.  But, together, we came up with a better solution that involves detecting the smoke and the heat before spraying the water everywhere.

Sprinkler systems are expensive, and not all buildings require them.  It’s really an assessment of the type of construction, the nature of the occupants inside, and the size of the spaces.  There are many, many other factors that come into play as well, and every building is different.  You can rely on your friendly, neighborhood Architect to help guide you thru the process!

This morning, we got in the car and drove away, on our way to school.  A few seconds down the road an audible “ding, ding, ding” filled the car.  “Daaaaaaad, you forgot your seat belt!  Put it on so that you’re safety!”  I put it on and quickly changed the conversation before he invented the airbag. . . . . . . .

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Am I a Superhero?!

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Fighting monsters, bad guys, and yucky bugs!

Deep within, a secret identity has been brewing.  It’s something that I’ve been denying. . . but that I’ve always known was there.  Most super heroes get their powers from a significant moment in their lives:  being bitten by a radioactive spider, crash landing on a planet where your regular characteristics are amplified into super strength, or by wearing a green power ring (ok, that one is dumb).  Where did I get my powers, and what exactly are they?

The other day while we were brushing our teeth, Little Guy and I were talking about where different family members were and what they were doing.  “Mom’s at the hospital helping people”, he informed me.  ” I want to help people too.  I want to be a super hero.”

“So, you want to work at a hospital?”, I asked him.  “Maybe you can be a doctor.”

“No, dad.  I want to be an architect like you.”  I slowly looked up at myself in the mirror with “cool guy” squinted eyes, and gave myself a slow, knowing head nod.  I AM pretty much a super hero, providing The People with shelter and design, not letting budgets and gravity stop me from. . . .”I want to be a shark too.”  Well then. . .

Seriously though, some days I do feel like a super hero.  It doesn’t take much.  Sometimes I’m appointed to the role:  “Dad, you be the super hero, good guy and I’ll be the bad guy!”  Sometimes my ‘dad reflexes’ kick in and I somehow manage to leap into action at the right moment and catch my son out of the air (that happens all too often).  But one of the characteristics of a super hero is that they are someone who you might look up to.  Although I am not actively seeking super hero status, I have come to realize that the statement “I want to be an architect like you” carries a TON more responsibility than I initially thought.  Not because he’s actively pursuing a design degree, but because it shows that he’s looking to others as a role model.

He told his teacher that “mom is my best buddy”.  It’s cute.  It makes us smile.  But it also shows us that he’s looking up to us.  He’s putting us in positions that he respects and he’s letting us, and others, know about it.

It’s intimidating.

He’s watching.  He’s listening.  And, like a stereotypical 3 year old, he doesn’t miss a trick.  I guess this is a long winded way of realizing that I need to be a good example, but it makes me wonder what else he is absorbing.  Is it possible that he is learning and appreciating his surroundings and the built environment?  Does he “get it” that the places we inhabit are designed and can be good or bad?  Shouldn’t we be setting a good example there too?  Should our LEGO buildings meet code as well as be aesthetically pleasing?  What’s the design intent of the stretched tensile fabric living room fort?  You better follow the design drawings because you don’t know who’s watching!!

I’m not going to get into the latest edition of the International Building Code with him, and we’re not going to start researching building materials together, but there are things that we can do & learn together that will start to inform his thoughts about his surroundings: “this place feels small”, “I like being here because. . . . “.  Eventually, maybe I can teach him how to leap over tall buildings in a single bound. . . .

Architecture/Design Products:

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Oopsy Daisy Fine Art for Kids has a wide variety of art in different formats (wall decals, framed, etc.).  Some of it can get a bit pricey, but there are a lot of options for reasonable cost.  The print above, “Construction Zone” would be a great addition to any little one building their future.

Check out: Oopsy Daisy:
http://www.oopsydaisy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/oopsydaisyart

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad

Design-A-Kid

I decided to name this blog “Design-A-Dad” because of the fact that I am a new Dad/Architect.  In my “day job”, I work at a firm that designs a lot of high-end retail, custom residential, and Urban Core revitalization projects.  I don’t want to come off as too egotistical, but it takes an amazing amount of talent and dedication to work as an Architect. . . . (ahem. . . ).  

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In all seriousness though, it does take a lot of coordination on a day to day basis, and rightfully so.  We are responsible for not only creating bad-assed environments. . . . (ahem. . . ), but also managing all of the parts and pieces leading up to the day that the over-sized ribbon gets cut and you hand the key to the front door over to the guy with the money (those things rarely happen, by the way).  There’s the understanding of the building code, managing consultants, interpreting Owner needs and requirements, and of course working with the Contractors to get it all finished.  There’s about 5,000 other pieces in there, but the point is it’s a lot. . . and it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility.

Hence the reason there are professional licensure requirements for the people who are willing to sign their name to the finished drawings.  You need this license BEFORE you can be responsible for the project.  You have to prove that you are ready. . . . .(I’m currently in the process of completing a series of 7 tests that make up the Architectural Registration Exam).  You can’t just say “I’m ready”.

So, you can see where this is going:  Once I realized that there are truly NO pre-requisites to becoming a dad, I became both confident and worried (confident that I could handle it. . . worried about the rest of the world).  There’s no license to be a dad.  There’s no test.  There’s no system in place to make sure you’re doing it right.

So, I started doing what I do at work: preparation, coordination, planning.  There are endless resources out there to find all of the answers I ever wanted – and then some.  It’s truly overwhelming for sure.  Read, read, read.  It was helpful to know that I was kind of not the only one who ever has – or ever will be – raising a kid, so there’s some comfort in numbers.  I very quickly learned to listen to everyone while not listening to anybody.  Everyone has a different way than the way you’re going to do it, but within the chaos of articles and forums and online encyclopedias, there are pieces of information that are obviously things you should pay attention to. . . I’ve compiled a few below (click for answers).

And so. . . there was yet another creation on the way.  This “project” had its own deadline, it’s own milestones to meet, and I could already feel the weight of my responsibility for its well being.

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Architecture/design products:

I haven’t purchased this product yet, but I plan to.  Perpetual Kid has a lot of interesting items, but one that I thought would be fun to have was the “Constructive Eating Plate and Utensils” – especially since Little Guy is currently experimenting with all sorts of “real food”.  Now I just have to fine tune my truck noises. . . . . I’m sure the contractors at my next project meeting would love to hear me practice. . . .