Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What to Look for When Shopping for a Home in Chicago: From an Architect’s Perspective.

There are so many factors to consider when buying a new home that it can make even a seasoned buyer’s head spin. So this post is not going to attempt to address them individually, but instead point out a few reasons why it can be helpful get the advice of both a Realtor® and an architect before you make such a large investment.

The Obvious:

If you are buying a fixer-upper, or even planning on doing moderate work to the home, having an architect look at properties with you can offer tremendous benefits:

  • Envision the property’s potential.
    This is what architects do. No need to go into too much detail since there are TV shows about it.

  • Begin to consider how the budget and needs/wants come together.
    This can be very helpful in considering how purchase price and construction costs will add up. By collaborating with reputable builders the guesswork can be eliminated (see post:
    Collaboration is Key to Finding Client Value, April 24).

  • Understand the constraints of working within zoning and building codes.
    It’s not uncommon for a buyer to find what appears to be the perfect place, just to be disappointed when they learn that the zoning district they are in doesn’t allow any additional square footage. On the other hand, a property that would otherwise be unsuitable might be a great bargain if there is room to add a few hundred square feet. Even when working within a building it is very helpful to have an early understanding of how building codes will impact the project. Check back with Inside the Brackets regularly because this might be a topic we will expand upon in the future.

The Not-So-Obvious:

[1016] has assisted clients in selecting their homes and some of the most important observations are those that could impact resale value. For example, condos are often marketed as having a certain number of bedrooms, despite the fact that one or more of them might not meet the code requirements for being a habitable bedroom. This is not a deal breaker, and the room can still be used however the buyer would like to use it, but it’s good to be armed with that knowledge when negotiating price.

The quality of materials, craftsmanship and construction are also characteristics that an experienced architect is able to identify. While shiny new homes usually look great in appearance, it’s good to know what’s underneath when the polish wears off.

The services of a Realtor® are typically free to a buyer, so if you can find one who is also an architect you could kill two birds with one stone.

[1016] Principal Josh Canale is a licensed Illinois Realtor® and Professional Consultant with
Jameson Real Estate.

If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below or find us on LinkedIn (see side bar on the right).

Monday, April 27, 2009

WSJ's Green House of the Future

The Wall Street Journal, one of Inside the Brackets' favorite publications, came out with a feature article today called "The Green House of the Future." Full text available here (may require a subscription log in after a few days). They challenged four architects to imagine and design the house of the future "without regard to cost, technology, aesthetics or the way we are used to living."

Image from Mouzon Design home, included here because of its emphasis on practicality.

What's the deal?
[1016] Architecture thought that it was interesting that despite some forward looking technologies (self-healing building skin, thin-membrane photosynthetic layers, color-changing cladding, etc), the article emphasized several things that are already being implemented in good sustainable design: the importance of urbanism (which we believe should be mostly infill architecture), the importance of efficiency of space, and the importance of incorporating proven technologies (even if they are ancient).

Importance of Urbanism:
The article paraphrased E.O. Wilson by saying, "No matter how advanced we get with technologies, there are things that make the human feel good no matter what. People like to see a horizon view and feel safe." In other words, "aesthetics and the way we are used to living" are not something that can be discounted, even in a futurism competition.

One of the houses incorporated a front porch and another was arranged on three levels to allow denser, urban arrangements. These are hallmarks of the way people are used to living, and the continued trend of the world's population moving into cities means that forward-looking residential architecture and design will improve existing urban environments and acknowledge the continuum of human aesthetic taste and daily needs.

It is impossible to judge the sucess of a building without understanding its context. Architecture and urbanism are completely linked.

Efficiency of Space:
One entry emphasized the use of movable walls and furniture on wheels to allow for traditionally under-utilized square footage (like bedrooms) to be more flexible. [1016] likes this idea a lot, though it is hardly new. It is best expressed in hard loft spaces in urban environments which are some of the most flexible and adaptable spaces available.
The easier a current, or future, user can adapt a space to her needs, the less likely she becomes to tear it down. The greenest building, after all, is the one that's already built.

Improving Proven Technologies:
Despite advances in our understanding of building materials' impacts on the environment, as new materials and technologies are developed and produced, the law of unintended consequences will apply, and sometimes not in a good way. Chemists and scientists did not develop CFCs as a way to harm the ozone layer, after all.

This is not to say innovation should stop, of course, but rather to emphasize the importance of using what we already know works. Even if something already works, the process by which we make it work can often be improved for increased sustainability, as outlined in William McDonough's "Cradle to Cradle."

As the article touched upon, but did not concisely conclude, the green house of the future should be a natural extension of current spatial arrangements and urban locations, not a brand new prototype which represents a break in the way people are used to living. A few break-through technologies will be incorporated into flexibly designed homes, though they should be substantially built with proven ideas in mind.
These are guiding principles of our design philosophy at [1016] Architecture. Improving within authentic environments looks smarter and smarter.

Credit and compliments to the four design teams which produced the content for the WSJ piece, Cook + Fox, William McDonough + Partners, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and Mouzon Design, as well as to Alex Frangos at the WSJ for putting it together. By the way, Mr. Frangos, next time you are looking for residential architecture and sustainable design commentary, feel free to contact us.

Positive signs: Architectural Inquiries are up

AIA recently published the latest Architectural Billings Index (ABI) and the trend is upward. While both the inquiries and billings numbers are rebounding off historic lows, the trend is really what is important for this leading indicator for construction spending.

Graph by AIA

Billings are at 43.7 and inquiries are at 56.6 (50.0 indicates levels were same as month prior), which are well above the lows we saw back in February when [1016] was a guest lecturer for Notre Dame's School of Architecture.

Forward-looking clients are clearly taking advantage of current price conditions to get ahead of the curve. Hiring a good architect is the first step.

[1016] is ready. Are you?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Collaboration is Key to Finding Client Value

[1016] Architecture is pleased to announce an ongoing collaboration with Unified Construction Group (UCG). The goal is to consult each other early on in a project timeline, to refer business reciprically, and to eventually contract services within a design-build project structure. Currently, [1016] Architecture is not a design-build firm; however, the table is set for a sophisticated client to experience the benefits of this collaboration.

Basically this boils down to [1016] and UCG recognizing that there is tremendous realized value for the client when the construction and design teams are on the same page from the beginning of the project.

From the UCG website:

Architectural & Design Services Coordination: UCG has partnered with reputable [1016] Architecture, Inc., a U.S. Green Building Council Member Firm, to provide a “one-stop” option for clients who choose to streamline the design and construction process. This option, also known as Design-Build delivery, has many inherent benefits to the client, including:

  • Quicker project delivery and greater scheduling accuracy:
    The architect and contractor are on the same page from the beginning, ensuring accurate project timetables are made and kept. Time is money.

  • Guaranteed project pricing:
    -Collaborative pre-construction services achieve efficient and accurate subcontractor buyouts, even as the final design undergoes value-driven changes
    -Schematic (early) design input from construction professionals insure value-driven design.

  • Single source responsibility:
    -One point of responsibility for the client means a “no-hassle” experience. Your design and construction entity are under one umbrella.
    -Minimized risk for claims and damages
    -Extended product warranties

A Sustainable Vision(aire) for NYC

I took a tour of New York City's "greenest" condo building yesterday at an event co-sponsored by USGBC Green Builders and ULI. The tour was given by the project manager from the development company, Albanese Development. There was Q and A before, during, and after the walk through, which covered a 4000+ SF residential unit, the building's mechanical penthouse, common roof deck, and the blackwater treatment plant in the basement.
Project data from the developers website:

Status: Under Construction
Project Type: High Performance Residential Condominium/Retail/Public Use/Parking
Project Size: 35 stories, 251 units, 500,000 square feet
Owner: Battery Place Green, LLC
Design Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Architect: Schuman Lichtenstein Claman & Efron
Interior Design: Stedila Design, Inc.
Financing: Heleba (Landesbank Hessen-Thuringen Girozentrale)

From the perspective of an architect interested in high-performance design, I must say that the building really lives up to its grandiose name: The Visionaire (warning: link has embedded sound). Apparently, U.S. Green Building Council agrees, as the developer announced that just two days ago the building was LEED®. Platinum Certified (the highest level possible). The Visionaire completes a sustainable, Battery Park City trifecta for Albanese Development, who also completed residential towers called The Solaire and The Verdesian; both are rental buildings.

Overall, the Visionaire tour offered good insight to the measures that were taken to reach LEED® Platiunum, including:

  • One of NYC's first reGenerative elevators which captures and re-uses energy from the cabs' brakes.

  • A four-pipe fan coil heating and cooling system normally found in high-end hospitality installations, with highly flexible, user-controlled thermostats.

  • Natural gas fired heat pump supplies the four-pipe system

  • Occupancy sensors in common areas, with almost exclusively CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs in those areas

  • LED downlighting in-unit (it was noted that some down fixtures had $100 lamps in them!)

  • A PV (photovoltaic) array on the exterior parapet to generate 48kW of power

  • 75% coverage with green roofs

  • Rainwater capture system (captured water is used for landscape irrigation)

  • And the standard mixed of sustainable items you'd expect on unit interiors: dual flush toilets, sustainable harvested (FSC-certified) hardwood flooring, highly-renewable materials for cabinetry, and low-VOC paints and sealants.

Interestingly, Mr. Albanese noted that the units are marketed first as luxury units meeting the demanding standards of the target market, and second, as a sustainable, "green" way of living. I would posit that this is the direction of "green" as it becomes more and more a part of how we build and renovate our building stock.


It is clear that Albanese Development is passionate about sustainability, they even mention social responsibility on their website. This comes pretty close to triple-bottom line accounting, even if they are not using that term. At the Visionaire, they really delivered something to meet their lofty goals.

Developers should take note that sophisticated clients will soon demand these advanced building features as standard, and they should work with design and construction teams that have experience with implementing them.
Check back occasionally, as [1016] Architecture will keep an eye on sales progress for this project and try to bring updates as the units are absorbed in the market, though we are in no way officially involved in this project. However, if you are interested in Chicago high-performance buildings you can check out our website to see another building LEED registered with the certification goal of Platinum, Wrightwood Crossing.

  1. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501(c)(3) non profit that developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.
  2. The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

Getting Caught Up...

In order for anyone who is just finding our site a chance to catch up, below are some of the older news items from [1016] Architecture's website, now preserved for posterity Inside the Brackets.

March 2009:
[1016] recently saved a client over $15,000 in City permit fees without any additional construction obligations. Contact us to discover if you have been missing this value.

March 2009:
[1016] Architecture Principal Andy Wilson, AIA, LEED AP recently appeared in a segment of Fox Business News Channel's "Happy Hour." It all happened fast, but he was proud to represent [1016] and small business owners on national television.

March 2009:
Esther's Island, Nantucket cottage is deemed "The Perfect House" by Ridgefield Magazine and is the cover story of their April 2009 edition. [1016] Principal Andy Wilson AIA, LEED AP worked on this home as Project Architect while at Hart Howerton (HH).

Read the full article here.

Or check out some pictures in our Single Family Portfolio.Other HH project credits: Principal-in-charge: Douglas Wright, III; Initial Project Manager: Carl Pearson.

March 2009:
[1016] presented a lecture titled "A Path to Licensure and Owning Your Own Firm" for the University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture Professional Practice course. The lecture included analysis of current market conditions and advice for recent graduates on how to succeed in the workplace.

Check it out:

March 2009:
Associate intern architect Brian Dolan recently authored an article on Green Bean Chicago, a website dedicated to increasing awareness of how Chicago is one of the country's greenest cities.Read the full article here.

March 2009:
Wrightwood Crossing project website goes live. Check out this g.corp development project, as designed by [1016] Architecture (you might not notice, but we have a project credit at the bottom of the page). The project is LEED registered with the certification goal of Platinum from U.S. Green Building Council.

February 2009:
Managing partner Josh Canale of [1016] is now a Professional Consultant to Jameson Real Estate. Jameson is leader in Chicago real estate services and one of its most successful developer representatives.[1016] is excited about the opportunities that this relationship can offer its clients.

January 2009:
Our associate intern architect, Brian Dolan, achieved the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) credential, continuing [1016]'s dedication to responsible, sustainable design and construction practices.

November 2008:
[1016]'s latest multi-family project is registered LEED with the goal of a Platinum rating. The project is registered on the LEED for Homes track (LEED-H).

This will be one of the first LEED Platinum projects in Illinois, and one of the first LEED-H Platinum projects in the state. The project will take advantage of expedited permitting through Chicago's Green Building Review process.

May 2008:
[1016] Principal Andrew Wilson, AIA achieved the LEED AP credential. [1016] Architecture leadership recognizes the importance that high-performance buildings will play in a sustainable future and seeks to demonstrate that by participating in collaborative approaches to construction that LEED, the USGBC, and other organizations, represent.

So that's what we've been working on at [1016] Architecture. What have you been working on?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creating content

We are in the process of creating some initial content for [1016] Architecture's new blog "Inside the Brackets."

Please check back soon or visit Thanks.

Andy and Josh