“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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Pretend Architecture

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Not the land of make-believe

This month’s theme is “Building” at my son’s preschool.  They are building with blocks, deciding what does and doesn’t work as a building material, and creating “all sorts of buildings” according to Little Guy.  I also have a project in the framing stage that just happens to be about a minute from the school.  So, after I collect him from his day, we swing by the job site and, depending on what is going on, we stop by and check on things.

“It’s like a real house.”  This may very well be some of the most complimentary Architectural critique that I’ve ever received.  I certainly hope my clients feel the same way!  But there was much more behind the seemingly obvious observation.  It is, in fact, a real house…or at least on its way to being one.  “What do you mean?”,  I asked him.  He told me that “First it was just words.  Then it was on your papers and it was just pretend.  Now it’s just like a real house that we are in.”

Yes.  Yes it is.

We proceeded to make our way in and around the newly framed walls that just barely define the different spaces on the first floor.  I showed him the kitchen and explained where the sink would be.  “This is where the oven goes.  Over here will be the fridge.”  “That sure is a big kitchen, huh, Dad?”  Down the hallway, into the bathroom where he asked where the sink would go and proceeded to “pssshhhhhhh, wash his hands.”  “What will this be?  Is this a window?  Do you have to jump out the front door? (the grade outside hasn’t been finalized yet).”  It was truly amazing and extremely fulfilling to answer his questions about what exactly was going on in the skeleton of space we made our way thru.

“I like it.”, he let me know when we got back in the car, and I’m sure I smiled ear to ear.  “Dad, where does everyone sleep?”  We had not been able to visit the 3 bedrooms upstairs because…well, they didn’t exist yet!  He said he can’t wait until the stairs get built.

It was, indeed, “just pretend” at one point.  The design process does start with “just words” when the initial flood of ideas, the wants and needs of the client, all come out.  There’s budget and timing and there’s sometimes things that people know they want, and know they can’t afford.  There’s managing expectations, determining the level of my involvement in the process, and of course, making sure that the most important people (the ones paying for and living in the house, of course) remain connected and engaged during the process.  And we haven’t even started yet.

Little Guy and I review drawings together.  We look at “pretend” spaces and attempt to identify them.  “What kind of room might this be?  It has a big table in it with lots of chairs.  This is a door.  This is a window.”  We test questions like “Why can’t the cars park on the roof?  Why should the playroom be on the opposite end of the house from Dad’s office? (some answers are more obvious to me than they are to him…)”  I like to think that he is absorbing all of this, and I’m sure he is, but at the moment, it’s just us having fun talking about what I do; showing him how spaces can be designed beforehand, and aren’t just the result of someone nailing a bunch of boards together.

This, of course, can apply to any number of things we encounter in our daily life.  Things can be designed.  We can design them.  I hope to instill in him the idea that we don’t have to just accept things for what they are.  We can think about how we want things to be. . . and make it that way, or at least experiment a little bit and make stuff up for the fun of it.  It’s something that happens in the Architectural profession all of the time.  We have ideas competitions, or hypothetical design solutions for non-existent projects.  It sharpens the pencil, sharpens the mind, and maybe results in some ideas we may not have thought of otherwise.  Sounds exactly like something we should be doing with our Children!

 

Architecture/Design Products:

book

The LEGO Architecture book came out last year.  It’s a story and visual guide to the LEGO Architecture products that I’ve highlighted in the past.  Another product that may be more for Dad than for Little Guy, but as he gets older. . . we’ll see!

Check out:
LEGO Architecture book
LEGO Architecture Series 
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Because I Do

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“I’m extremely frustrated.”  It’s a short sentence that says a lot.  I’ve been pursuing a few job leads that haven’t amounted to anything yet and the jobs I am working on have seemed to become just a little more difficult.  Except, it’s not me that said that sentence.

Little Guy is making the rounds as a new three year old (always hold up 3 fingers when you tell people you are three because. . . then they will get it).  He’s exploring and explaining every single thing that’s around him and it’s all really amazing  (and often a very amusing process) to be a part of.  And of course, every once in a while, a toddler will get extremely frustrated.  I’m just surprised that he could tell me that.

I asked him how he knew those words and he replied, “Because I do.”

How do you know that song?  “Because I do.”
How did you remember where the coffee aisle is?  “Because I do.”
How did you know how to change the oil in the car? . . . . well. . . we’ll get there. . .

There’s an endless feed of information coming across his world view, and I’m pretty sure he’s taking it all in and saving for later.  If you press him a bit, you can get it out of him.  “We sing that song in school”, or “This is where we got coffee last time.”  But it doesn’t matter how he knows those things, it matters that he knows them.

Sometimes I can get away with that during the day too.  At Studio m Architecture + Design, I’m constantly reviewing projects for code, aesthetic, & overall thoroughness.  How do I know how much clearance is needed in and around an ADA restroom?  Because I do.  I don’t expect clients to “get into it” with me and start questioning why I know that or what events lead up to today so that I can solve the problem without looking in a code book (although I would be more than happy to do that).  I make decisions because I’m a professional and I have years of experience and lots of opinions about how things should be.

We put our trust in people who “know things” every day.  You get on the train in the morning and the people operating it know what they’re doing.  Why?  Because they do.  I think.  Well, there’s obviously a system in place that will make sure that the right people are there so that I don’t have to worry about it. . . right?  Probably?  I mean, you know, the National. . . Train. . . Drivers. . . Association. . . NTDA, right?  I know I have a few expensive pieces of paper in the drawer that represent people who are basically saying, “Yeah, he does.  He knows things.”

So, somewhere along the way, we stop taking someone’s word for it (and that’s a good thing).  How do you know that that block tower is going to stand?  “Because I do.”  Hey, you’re right!  Good job.

How do you know that I can take this wall away and my building won’t fall down?  Well . . . . . It’ll work, but we’re going to have to consult a Structural Engineer and once we have his calculations, I’ll design everything according to his recommendations (he’s licensed too).  Once we have everything coordinated, we’ll size the final structural members that will replace the wall.  All of the drawings will, of course, be signed and sealed and additional drawings will be included to detail how exactly everything will look when we’re finished.  Don’t believe me?  No worries.  The drawings are then sent to the local jurisdiction for review and permitting. . . although some of those people use 3rd party specialized review services to ensure proper review of the design.  THEN, you can get your wall removed. . . well. . . by someone who is licensed to do it, and after he’s finished, we’ll all go back and make sure it’s right.

So, my advice to Little Guy?  Keep reading.  Keep learning.  I’ll take your word for it most of the time, but when you start to “know” things like that you can land in the pool by jumping off the roof. . . . don’t be surprised if I start questioning your knowledge.  It’s nothing personal.  I just know that you might need a little help along the way. . . because I do.

 

Architecture/Design Products:

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The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has a store with lots of Wright inspired products.  I’m coming full circle back to FLW.  Every college architecture student gets flooded with “falling water” related material because he’s basically the only Architect that most people have ever heard of.  But there’s a reason for that.

The Prairie House Blocks are really nice and capture the long, horizontal lines that define the style.  These look a little smaller than typical blocks, so check to make sure they’re not too small.  This is one of those toys that could be for the budding designer. . . . or maybe for dad. . . .

Check out:
http://www.shopwright.org/product/blocks-prairie-house/blocks
http://www.flwright.org/

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
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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:

construction-zone_nb22313_3

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

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It’s still here!

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Wake up!

“I have a blog”.  I keep it updated and current, and once in a while I let it slip for a bit of time – like maybe 17 months give or take a few days.  A few comments from friends over the past week have pointed me back here.  “Don’t you have a dad blog?”, “What ever happened to those ‘articles’ you used to write?”, and “I guess you don’t blog anymore, huh?”

So, I came back to take a look, dusted the cobwebs off a few posts, read some of my ‘articles’, and I quickly realized that I missed it!  Why did I ever abandon Design-a-Dad?!  I need to get back on this!  I’m going to post something right. . . . (phone rings – detailed, hour long contractor question & answer seeking ensues. . . . ).  Oh yeah.

I can’t complain. . . or at least I shouldn’t.  My ‘one man show’, Studio m Architecture + Design, is doing well.  At any given time (including right now) I have several things in the design stages and construction phase that I should be working on.  When that’s not happening, Little Guy is patiently waiting (or at least. . . waiting) to do lots of fun stuff with me, and is smart enough to say things like “you can work later” to lay the groundwork for a little guilt that I’m “on the ‘puter”.

So, that’s it:  I’m busy.  That’s my excuse for not posting.  Welcome to parenthood, right?  “You didn’t come to the Halloween party last week” (I was trick or treating).  “We need to grab a drink tomorrow night” (I was driving to a client meeting an hour away).  “Come on, Dad, let’s play ‘Paw Patrol'” (OK!).  As much as I love my job, and I love my Son. . . I am tuning into the fact that I need some little outlets here and there.  I’m not talking about going on a week long self realization retreat in the desert. . . but maybe a little break now and then to do some of the things that I like to do.

And here we go . . you have to take a first step, and that’s what this post is all about.  Next up is the James Bond movie. . . and yes, I do want to grab that drink!  Hopefully I can maintain a little time for me.  We shall see (Now back to reviewing bids for our new home build in the Spring. . . . .I’m fulfilling the role of G.C.  How much time could that require????).

Architecture/Design Products:

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This book was featured by the American Institute of Architects recently and, although I have not purchased it yet, I think it’s going to be a hit with Little Guy.  Let’s face it though, it may be a little intricate for a 3 year old (unless it’s appropriate to color everything one color in a circular pattern).  I see something like this and I think of cool things I can do with it.  It could be interesting to give him a page every 6 months and have him color it.  Over time, I would have a progressive timeline of his coloring abilities. . . all on an architectural based graphic which might be cool in a series of frames for the office.

Check out Fantastic Cities.

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Top 10 Reasons my Son is amazing

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You will hear it again and again how incredible peoples’ kids are.  They are much more advanced than they should be for their age.  It’s unbelievable that they can already do this one thing that nobody else in the world could do at that age!  And if, like mine, your facebook friends are an ever increasing pool of people who are contributing to the world’s population, you have a front row seat to it all.

There are infinite “cute” pics that fill my screen – lots of the kiddos sitting there chewing on something – a few of them holding something they shouldn’t be – lots of them dressed in clothes that they couldn’t care less about.  Although a picture’s worth a thousand words, maybe sometimes we need to know why you think so.  So, here is why I think that my son actually IS amazing:

1. Mind Control
Little Guy is lucky enough to have been born with the power of mind control.  I didn’t realize it at first.  I thought that maybe we were all just getting to know him better and anticipating his wants and needs.  Not the case.  At 13 months old, he can already direct me to do things he wants me to do without me even thinking about it.  Just the other night – in a comatose state – I rose from my bed, changed his diaper, and returned to my resting position without even realizing what had happened.

2. Eccentric Food Critic
Although he has not developed a British accent yet, Little Guy has already perfected the “don’t bite your tongue” approach to judging food – in both presentation and in taste.  Some reality TV cooking shows have taught us that sometimes, the brutal truth is what the aspiring chef needs to motivate them properly.  In “spot on” impressions of Gordon Ramsay, plates are tossed across the dining area, food is spit out, and frustrated but determined cooks head back into the kitchen in an effort to continuously please.

3. Male model
I cannot complete a shopping trip without a slew of googly-eyed ladies swarming my son.  I’m not kidding.  Babies are cute, for sure, but I believe that Little Guy has been sneaking out at night to watch Jake Gyllenhaal movies while listening to Michael Buble – all the while studying their every move to assist with his own crooning efforts.  We are in trouble. . . .

4. Passion for Life
How do you wake up in the morning?  Do you get up, get excited, and stand up in your bed jumping up and down in anticipation of the day?  Do you laugh and smile when someone opens the bedroom door to take you from your cozy bed?  Can you hardly wait to see what the day will bring?  He does.  Maybe we should too. 

5. Thirst for Knowledge
I’ve never seen anyone become enthralled with a credit card.  Some of them are pretty cool, don’t get me wrong.  I customized mine with some of my photography, but they are still just mundane pieces of plastic – to me.  After swiping my payment method the other day, a little, grasping, flexing hand reached over in a silent ask to inspect the item I was holding.  It was either a credit card or a rare, newly discovered artifact that had only just now been experienced for the first time by humans.  Amazing, indeed.

6. Slight of Hand Magician
Like David Blaine, Little Guy leaves people standing there in awe asking, ‘What just happened?’, or ‘Where did that go?!”  With the quickest movement, something that was just in his hand one second ago is gone.  Divert your eyes for an instant, and he’s across the room.  Amazing, scary, and absolutely keeps you on your toes.  A true entertainer.  Does anyone have a dollar bill or a cell phone I could borrow?  Don’t worry. . . . you’ll get it back. . . .

7. Cold Hard Self Control
There is a quality that James Bond, 007 has that shines when he is held captive.  Despite the evil villain’s best efforts to get him to break, the secret spy can endure hours of uncomfortable situations all while keeping his cool and still managing to deal out witty remarks.  Likewise, my son can push the same button over and over and over again listening to the same sound or quirky song again and again and again.  Sometimes he’ll look me in the eyes and without flinching, just when I think it is over, he pushes it again.

8. Stamina, Tenacity, and Perseverance
Sometimes, despite my best efforts, there is nothing I can do to stop the drive and effort that this kid puts forth.  He wants to go over there and he wants to go over there right now.  Nothing will distract him.  Nothing will divert his attention.  There is one goal and one goal only.  He will also enroll me in helping him get there.  Nothing will stop him and you had better not try.

9. Conditioned, Determined Triathlete
Not exactly “swim, bike, run”, but more like “climb, climb, climb”.  Little Guy will crawl right over you if you’re in the way.  Up the stairs, thru the chairs, over the cushions. . . there’s always a leg being thrown up in an attempt to rise above.  Most of the obstacles are taller than he is – doesn’t matter.  I don’t know how many things per day I attempt to get over that are as high as my shoulders.  He attempts them all.

10. Instant forgiveness
Sit him in the playpen for 2 seconds or take away the deadly weapon that he’s chewing on and you will definitely get an earful from Little Guy.  How COULD you!?  But bygones are bygones, and as long as you are up for it, he’ll gladly hang out and play some more once the worst part of the day is over.  At the end of the day, all is right again.