What is a Plyscraper?

Ever since the 10-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago was called the first “skyscraper” in 1885, architects have been striving to create ever-taller buildings. Ten stories quickly became 20, 20 became 50, and on and on. In 2009 the Burj Khalifa in Dubai became the world’s tallest building, with its 154 floors towering above ground level.

So why is the mayor of Portland, Oregon, calling a modest 12-story tower set for completion there next year “a true technological and entrepreneurial achievement?” It’s not the affordable housing the building affords, nor its dozens of bike racks or even the roof farm that has Ted Wheeler gushing. It’s that the Framework apartment building will be made almost entirely of wood. Continue reading

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Self-cleaning Windows

What is self-cleaning glass?
The first thing to note about self-cleaning windows is that they’re not, in fact, “simple pieces of glass.” They have a very thin outer coating of titanium dioxide, a white, powdery titanium compound best known for giving that dazzling gleam to paint, toothpaste, and all kinds of other bright white things.

Now if titanium dioxide is, essentially, the white in white paint, it might seem ludicrous to splash it all over a window—something we naturally want to be transparent. But the coating really is ultra-ultra thin. We’re talking about putting a layer 10–25 nanometers deep on glass that might be 4mm thick, which is like sitting a dime on top of the Empire State Building! It reduces the light passing through the glass by no more than about 5 percent. Continue reading

Timing Your Architectural Project

When Should You Start Designing Your Project?
If you’re planning an all interior project, you can start any time! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll have your house in the condition you want it to be, and the sooner you can start enjoying it. If you’re contemplating an addition or exterior alteration, it’s ideal to start planning your project early, but that’s not a hard-and-fast requirement. Starting early will give you and your architect sufficient time to develop the design and drawings on a more relaxed schedule, submit your project for Planning Department approval, and negotiate a contract with your contractor. Continue reading

Selecting Low-Emitting Materials

What are Low-emitting Materials?
Low-emitting materials are products that do not release significant pollutants into the indoor environment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in many common products and building materials that can escape into the air and cause illness and allergic reactions. These emissions are one of the contributors to the situation known as “sick building syndrome” (SBS) in which building occupants experience health and comfort effects. Continue reading

What You Need to Know About Mold

Too much mold can affect the health of you and your family. In addition, mold can damage or destroy building materials such as wood or gypsum board in our homes. This article answers your questions about mold, what it is, where it grows, how it spreads, how it can be prevented. Continue reading

Choosing Your Windows 101: Frame Selection, Glass Options, & Coatings

Windows come in a number of different frame and glazing types. By combining an energy-efficient frame choice with a glazing type tailored to your climate and application, you can customize each of your home’s windows.

Types of Window Frames
Improving the thermal resistance of the frame can contribute to a window’s overall energy efficiency, particularly its U-factor. Continue reading

Understanding Construction Costs: Estimates vs. Bids

When planning a home remodeling or new construction project, one of the first things homeowners usually want to know is how much the work will cost. While costing is squarely in the domain of the contractor and decidedly not within the realm of the architect, explaning how contractors structure the means of costing is part of the job of the architect in educating the client as to the available approaches, and quite often advising which might be the most appropriate for their particular project. Continue reading