Volume 3, No. 13 - December 15, 2009
previous main menu next

BLAST - News and Notes from AIA Northern Virginia

Potomacondo, by AURAFORM, INC (more info)
In This Issue

Why Volunteerism Matters

Habitat for Humanity

In Practice...

Featured Project: Potomacondo


Featured Sponsor: Marvin / LightStyles

Happy Holidays!
From AIA Northern Virginia
Why Community Service Belongs on Your 2010 Agenda
by Matt Shuba, AIA Northern Virginia Communications Director
2009 was a tense year for the American economy, a fact not lost on most architects (or graduating architecture students looking for jobs). Americans love to build, but home additions, new stores, remodels and beach houses everywhere have been put on hold as people have been encouraged to "tighten their belts."

The good news is that the worst may be behind us. Though it has yet to hit the balance sheets of many firms, the stock market has grown for five straight months, employment figures have slowly been stabilizing over the last six, and the nation's GDP grew in the third quarter for the first time in a year. Even stingy housing prices have improved 11 out of the last 12 months. The bad news is that it can take time before it leads to new projects for firms.

But rebuilding a bruised economy can't wait. Hard times don't obfuscate the need for safe housing and buildings, and there are many organizations devoted to organizing volunteer opportunities. If you own a firm and new projects have been slow, consider taking on pro bono work to keep employees occupied while you await projects if you can. Volunteerism helps organizational morale, and an office that feels busy feels strong. From a business standpoint, tax incentives may be available and just as importantly, a next job can come from anywhere. Friends, coworkers, family and acquaintances of satisfied clients can spread your name, whether they paid for your services or not.

Likewise, if you are an individual who is under- or unemployed, volunteerism will keep your skills sharp while you help those less fortunate. You will likely meet other professionals in the building industry, so perhaps service can create job leads as well.

Organizations offering volunteer opportunities for architects include:
  • Architecture for Humanity - Volunteer on projects of all sizes, the world over.
  • The 1% - Organization encourages pro bono work for charitable organizations.
  • Architects Without Borders - Using architecture for international humanitarian causes.
  • Rebuilding Together - Providing needed rehabilitation for low-income homes.
  • You can also consider volunteering locally: in schools, the National Building Museum, or local architectural landmarks. Contact the Chapter for additional ideas.
The holiday season is traditionally a time to reflect on the fortunes of others. The new year gives us all pause to reflect on our own fortunes and set a course for our firms and careers for the year ahead. It's a great time to discover what using your skills for community service can mean for you, your firm and your community.

My Experience with Habitat for Humanity
by Richa Bansal, Associate AIA

Like so many of my colleagues, I am a design professional who has been hit hard due to the economy's downturn. After job hunting for 4-8 hours every day, I find comfort and purpose in contributing my current reserve of available time towards "giving back" by volunteering for various community causes. It is a great way to maintain my presence, cultivate and even broaden my skills, stay connected with other architects and engineers, expand my professional and personal network, stay active, and find fulfillment.

Habitat for Humanity is always seeking volunteers among its numerous locations. They offer a wide range of volunteer opportunity areas, from administrative duties to site work. I am currently enjoying volunteering for Fredericksburg Habitat with the Green Home Initiative.

Some of Habitat's upcoming projects needing volunteer recruits are as follows:

1. The completion of a build in King George, VA with the goal of getting the family in by Christmas. Cabinets, final plumbing, sewer connection, final grade and landscaping are left on this project.

2. A house near Lake Anna. This project was stopped due to insufficient funding to keep two builds going. The Lake Anna project still needs the well and septic systems completed, which is at a significant cost ($25-30,000). The house is ready for flooring, cabinets, and final HVAC and plumbing. Please consult www.fredhab.org for more information, the 3-week build schedule and directions to these build sites.

3. A project in Stafford County near Lake Arrowhead (at the northwest corner of the county). The current plan is for a 3-bedroom home (with septic field constraints), and we want the trade study completed for this project. They need to develop an exterior envelope strategy that comprehends cost/value, EarthCraft requirements, Habitat's "simple, decent home" concept, and utilizes the greatest amount of "free" volunteer labor in a safe, fun way.

In your spare time this holiday season, please consider donating your time and talent to these (or other) projects. Not only will the new homeowners reap life-altering benefits from your work, but you will likely get your fair share of personal gain from a rewarding experience.

In Practice...
Canstruction® Around the Corner
AIA Northern Virginia will organize our 7th annual Canstruction® competition in early 2010. While we are all feeling the pain of the economy, it is even more difficult for the groups trying to help those in need. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), the recipient of our food, has seen a substantial increase in demand for their services over the last year. Our Chapter's Canstruction competition is the single largest food drive contributor to AFAC, contributing over 20,000 pounds of food in 2009. So please consider forming a team for the 2010 competition. It's fun and worthwhile! Watch for information in early 2010.

Making the Jobs Bill Work for Architects
Congress is moving quickly to develop legislation aimed at preserving jobs and reducing unemployment. In fact, the House hopes to craft a bill by Christmas. With the Architecture Billing Index maintaining a negative score, indicating a reduction in demand for design services, and architecture firms suffering the effects of the ongoing economic crisis, we need your help to ensure that this potential legislation is developed with provisions that work for architects. The AIA has provided Congress with recommendations for policies that will bring about short- and long-term recovery to our economy and lay the groundwork for more vibrant and sustainable communities. Congress will debate this bill in the coming weeks. You can help make sure that the plan helps the design and construction industry get back to work. For additional information and a link to help you easily contact your member of Congress, visit our website here.

The AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Green Projects Awards
This awards program recognizes the benefits of sustainable design and acknowledges architects as leaders in the creation of environmentally responsible design solutions. Now in its 14th year, the program is one of the best known sustainable design recognition programs in the nation. Winning projects will be recognized with an AIA/COTE award certificate and acknowledged in the national press, on the AIA website, and at the AIA National Convention in June 2010. A new online submission process is in place. The registration fee for members is $325. Entries must be received by January 15. For complete information, visit the AIA website here.

Featured Project

Washington, DC

The project is a complete gut of a 1,400 square-foot condo on the sixth floor of the Potomac Plaza across from the Watergate. It overlooks the river, the Kennedy Center and the Memorial Bridge.

The owner is a retired Architect.

What interested me initially about the project was the unlikely and unpredictable cooperation between a retired Architect, with a long and distinguished career, and myself, a young Architect with a new firm just starting out. There seemed to me to be a real opportunity to learn something, and to listen. The space and the friendship that emerged is the product of that cooperation.

The space is open, like a gallery of living.

The architecture is intentionally mute. It is conceived to recede humbly to the background, so the art and furniture and sculpture, and the breathtaking views of the city, can come forth proudly to the foreground. Black parquet floors, gray walls with gray plastic laminate and MDO casework, and a white stepped-ceiling to increase the perception of the space's height, are collectively the canvas for brightly colored paintings and custom-upholstered classic modern furniture.

The owner and I enjoy the classic modern aesthetic, and we wanted to create a kind of homage to the rigor with which modern architecture was edited. Visitors often comment, "It's one big open space and modern, but somehow it feels warm."

That was the goal; the essential without the esoteric.
              -Matt Jarvis, AIA, Principal
Photography by Reel Works Media, LLC
Added Dimensions, Contractor

January 8 - Architecture in the Schools Exhibit
6:30p-8:00p, at Virginia Tech's Washington Alexandria Architecture Center, 1001 Prince Street, Alexandria. The exhibit showcases projects from Virginia and Maryland schools, featuring Arlington Traditional School, Groveton ES, Navy ES, Nottingham ES, Thomas Jefferson HS and McLean School of Maryland. The AIS program is organized by AIA Northern Virginia, the Washington Chapter AIA and the Washington Architectural Foundation. Members and guests are welcome to attend the exhibit opening. Refreshments will be served. The event is free and reservations are not required. Contact the Chapter at aianova@aianova.org or (703) 549-9747 for additional information.

January 11 - AIA Northern Virginia Board Meeting
4:30p-6:00p, at the Chapter House, 205 South Patrick Street, Alexandria 22314. For additional information, contact the Chapter House at aianova@aianova.org.

January 20 - YAF + WIA Happy Hour
6:00p-8:00p, at Vapiano's, Ballston. The Young Architects Forum and Women in Architecture are combining their happy hours. Please come out to Vapiano's and make some new friends!

January TBD - Construction Tour of William McDonough's New School of International Service at American University
Plans for the tour are underway. Organized jointly by the YAF and WIA, advanced registration will be offered to WIA and YAF members first. Remaining places will be offered to the general membership. Watch for future announcements in BLAST and on our website calendar at www.aianova.org. For additional information and registration, contact the Chapter House at aianova@aianova.org or (703) 549-9747.

February 16 - Annual Chapter Open House
Save the Date. Join us to celebrate Mardi Gras at the Chapter Open House.

Featured Sponsor

Marvin Windows / LightStyles, Ltd.
(800) 326-5914
Silver Sponsor

The market has seen an increase in opportunities to work with rental property owners, such as Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and very often design is only half the way to a client singing your praises with recommendations and accolades. The other half is selecting products that achieve great design while reducing costs for property owners in the immediate and long-term. Helping your clients identify opportunities to reduce management headaches, like selecting products that are truly low maintenance and offer a proven longer lifespan, will help you standout as a big picture-thinker.

Product selection of windows and doors is a high return project area to apply this thought process. Consider products made with materials that have been proven to shine in their segment, like Integrity Windows and Doors from Marvin, made with Ultrex®, a pultruded fiberglass. Ultrex reflects heat up to 350° Fahrenheit and expands and contracts at the same minimal amount as glass, so extreme temperature fluctuations will not compromise its longevity or performance.

Integrity has also quickly become a favorite for its award-winning recycling and waste management programs, products that use up to 33% recycled glass content, ENERGY STAR® qualified performance on all standard products, including Low E II insulated glass with Argon standard, and use of Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) wood. All this and Integrity has a factory right around the corner in Roanoke, VA - speeding up delivery time, offering increased LEED® credits, and reducing the company's carbon footprint.