Sunday, June 28, 2009

2-flats as Investment Properties

The Chicago Tribune recently published a great article articulating a current [1016] investment strategy: 2-flat ownership.

The 2-flat: A classic Chicago property type.

The article by Heidi Stevens (full text here) hits on a lot of great bonuses of owning a 2-flat as compared to condo ownership, including:
  • Owner-occupied 2-flats, where you live in one unit and rent out the other, qualify for fantastic FHA financing. You can still get a great place with only 5% (or even 3%) down.
  • When rental income is considered, it is possible to afford to buy in a neighborhood that would otherwise be outside of your budget.
  • Need to move? You may not have to sell: you can rent out your unit and borrow against the ownership of the entire building. Of course, this will require you to have lived there for some time to have built equity.
  • No condo associations. Yes, this may require a little more owner 'proactivity,' but that is a small price for real estate freedom.
In short, 2-flats are a great way to both: 1) establish home-ownership and 2) get into the real estate market in an entrepreneurial way. Click here for some more Tribune tips.

If you are interested in shopping for a 2-flat, or any type of Chicago real estate for that matter, [1016] knows a guy who can help you out. And we might even have the place for you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Inside NeoCon 2009

This first-hand account and summary of NeoCon 2009 is kindly brought to you by Erin Bodnar, owner of EEB Interiors, an Inside the Brackets guest contributor.

The resounding theme of NeoCon 2009…Let's make work fun!!

Furniture manufacturers responded to a continuing shift within the modern workforce. Employees no longer want to be restricted within cubicles (!), rather, they want/need
open spaces that foster innovation and teamwork.

Companies such
as Allermuir, Teknion, and Allsteel responded to that by dropping panel heights and creating more open, collaborative workspaces.
Allermuir - Crossover Desk

Teknion – Marketplace

Allsteel – Stride Collection

While some might question the usability of these shrinking workstations, companies are counter-acting that concern by creating a multitude of “teaming areas” where employees can meet and collaborate. The typical conference room is still an option for meetings an
d presentations, but studies have shown that a more casual atmosphere tends to foster creativity. This led manufacturers to introduce a wide array of bar/standing height and soft seating options.

Turnstone was one manufacturer that broke the mold of typical office furniture with their introduction of the
paper table. This light-weight end table is easy to move and allows people to jot their ideas onto the tables’ paper top. (If wasting paper is a concern, you can opt for the writable glass version of the table).

Turnstone also introduced movable screens that provide privacy for groups that choose to work within a soft seating area. Carpet, fabric, and wallcovering manufacturers seemed to follow suit as well by introducing more vibrant color palettes that will compliment the trend toward newly energized workspaces.
Turnstone – Soft Seating and Bar Ht surfaces

MDC Wallcovering and paint manufacturer stretches the limits as they continue to develop their “IdeaPaint” product which is a low VOC, water-based paint that “makes it possible for us to put our heads together almost anywhere.” Basically, it turns any paintable surface into a dry erase board.

MDC Wallcoverings – IdeaPaint

Although colorful introductions reined supreme this year, more traditional offices and formal executive suites were not overlooked. Introductions were highly influenced by residential design style. With people spending more time at the office, we are left to question, “why can’t the office have the comforts of home?” And the answer is…it can! More subdued color palettes, and warmer wood tones created luxurious spaces that any employee would enjoy.

Coalesse – Denizen Collection

Davis – Tix Office LaCasse - Morpheo Collection

Whether your company is progressive or more formal, contemporary or traditional -- NeoCon 2009 had something for everyone!

Erin Bodnar is owner of EEB Interiors based in Chicago. Erin draws design inspiration from her experience with fine furniture, art and architecture, to create spaces with unparalleled elegance and unique flare. Visit her website to find out more. [1016] and Inside the Brackets is proud to have EEB as a collaborative partner. If you see anything you like here, contact Erin. She can help you put it together.

For another photo-intensive review of NeoCon 2009, visit this post on Metropolis POV.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GreenBuildingsNY 2009 Conference: thoughts and observations

[1016] Architecture Principal and Inside the Brackets contributor Andrew Wilson, AIA, LEED AP recently attended the GreenBuildingsNY 2009 conference to bring you this first person account.

"GreenBuildingsNY is the place to source green solutions and materials for the
design, construction, restoration, renovation and historical preservation of
existing commercial, residential and industrial buildings. See how eco-friendly
can be economy friendly. Discover how a smart investment on environmental and
sustainability improvements can deliver up to 20–40% risk free return on
investment. NY Metro focused, convenient, and ever evolving, GreenBuildingsNY
provides easy access to more of the green sustainable products and services that
building professionals need."

Overall Impressions:
While I only toured about 50% of the overall conference floor, and this was the first year I attended this event, I did walk almost the entirety of the Green Buildings presenter booths and got a good feel for the show. The quality of the displays and direct applicability to "green" buildings varied extensively and not in direct relationship. In fact, just determining what some companies did was not readily apparent.

Fortunately, I came prepared, having armed myself with a list of exhibitors I was interested in visiting by utilizing the software developed by Map Your Show. Click here to see how it works, though I am not sure how long this link will stay active after the show is done.

Top Five Standout Exhibitors:

Inside the Brackets would like to acknowledge its favorite products/presenters from the show. ITB's selections are based on the following criteria:
  • If the product was new, or just new to me. I didn't waste time going to large manufacturers displays... I was there to expand the options to bring to my clients.
  • How helpful the company representatives were in person. This is a big deal, because I want to work with people who are passionate about sustainability, not just there only to boost commissions (nothing wrong with commissions, though).

  • Quality and utility of product literature and take-away items. Sorry, but I'm not impressed with a pencil with your product logo on it.

  • How likely I am to specify the showcased product(s) in future projects. This probably has the most weight

#5) Mythic Paint:
A direct, and perhaps superior, competitor to Benjamin Moore's premium lines, Mystic touts itself as "the world's only high performance premium paint with zero VOCs, zero toxins, and zero carcinogens."

In addition to their interior and exterior opaque finishes, the company is scheduled to turn out a line of stains sometime this year.

These products will be a welcome addition to designers working in California and some East Coast state which have very tight VOC and air quality standards.

The company's website has an excellent FAQ if you are interested in more information.

#4) Trespa (metal panels):
Honestly, there's really not that much exciting about metal panels, but Trespa gets the nod for providing the most comprehensive design materials as a take away. Inside the Brackets like this.

#3) Leibherr Appliances:
I was quite impressed with the quality, feel, and look of these refrigeration appliances. The door hardware and action exuded cool quality, and the appliances are available in free-standing, built-in, and fully-integrated options to suit the needs of any design.

Leibherr is a German company which has only relatively recently expanded efforts to sell in the United States. They are positioning themselves as competitors to SubZero, but the representative was sure to stress that they are both greener (100% of their models meet or exceed Energy Star requirements, not so for SubZero) and less expensive than their American counterpart. The company has summarized all of the green benefits for owning a Leibherr appliance in their ActiveGreen campaign.

Liebherr proves that green can be beautiful, and less expensive than other alternatives.

#2) Roofscapes, Inc.:
Melissa Muroff, a Roofscapes Principal, displayed both a noticeable passion for the ideas behind green roofs and a high level of technical knowledge about them. Inside the Brackets applauds Melissa and Roofscapes for their dedication to providing it clients the best possible green roof. Since they don't manufacturer any particular system or component, they are able to look objectively at each client's needs and deliver the best solution.

Also, they incorporate maintenance, landscape design, and roofing contractors upon request to provide a fully warranted and performing product. I hope [1016] Architecture can work with this shop on a future project.
This company is in the top spot simply because Inside the Brackets and [1016] believe in their business model and think that companies that educate and outfit existing building owners with more efficient buildings are going to do the most to lessen the impact of our built environment on the earth.

From their website:
"Sustainability Partners LLC is a collaboration of professionals from the architecture, finance, engineering, real estate, and construction industries who have joined forces to reduce energy consumption and stabilize our critical housing resources. We have pooled this expertise so that we may offer practical insights and advice to property owners on how to design and cost effectively implement energy saving measures for their buildings, while also taking advantage of the many powerful incentive programs currently in place to help finance such improvements."
Any existing building owner in New York should contact Sustainability Partners to see if they can help them save money on operating costs by implementing tax-subsidized building improvements.

Did we miss something big? Let us know.

Further commentary:
LEED Platinum and Beyond (Education Session)
Presented by: Chris Benedict, R.A., and Jonathan Rose of Rose Companies
I happened into this education session to take a break from walking the floor and was pleased with the time spent. While the LEED checklist was not really discussed much at all, the presenters definitely highlighted ideas which make up the backbone of the program. In my opinion, it was more interesting this way.

Chris Benedict presented recent projects showcasing her sustainable building science knowledge. Emphasis on strategies for detailing tight, super efficient buildings composed the bulk of her part of the presentation. One of her latest projects is set to meet the Passive Building Standard (Germany), which according to her is one of the most rigorous "green" building standards in the world. For more: Check out this Passive House article by Greenline.

Jonathan Rose brought an intriguing, casual passion to his presentation on building sustainably (by choosing the right development location). He long ago concluded the most sustainable sites to be dense and urban, and has built several companies around the desire to improve and restore cities. This is, of course, a shared belief of [1016] Architecture, and one we have written about before. If you haven't heard of Jonathan Rose, check out his website (linked above).

Inside the Brackets is the blog for [1016] Architecture, Inc. Visit our company's website to find out more. Comments are encouraged. Please join the discussion about sustainability.

Monday, June 8, 2009

[1016] in Chicago Life Magazine

[1016] Architecture principals Josh Canale and Andrew Wilson were featured in an article called "Infill Architecture" in the June 8, 2009 edition of Chicago Life magazine, the Sunday magazine of the New York Times (Midwest Edition).

This article compliments several topics central to the firm's design and business practice, but especially (and obviously) infill architecture.
[1016] is glad to contribute to a broader discussion on sustainable ideas underlying infill architecture, especially in Chicago, and would like to offer the following clarification for Inside the Brackets readers:
  • Wrightwood Crossing is seeking a LEED® Platinum rating, but it will not be "earned" until after construction.

EEB Interiors: Designs for Life

[1016] Architecture is happy to announce a collaboration with EEB Interiors, a Chicago-based Interior Design firm founded by Erin Bodnar. Erin is an experienced designer who services residential and commercial clients, potentially giving [1016] Architecture clients access to the following services in a seamless package:
  • Furniture and Finishing Specifications
  • Interior and Exterior Color Consultations
  • Design and Creation of Custom Furnishings, Bedding, and Window Treatments
  • Statements of Probable Cost for FF&E project components
  • and more

From the EEB website:
"EEB Interiors caters to a wide range of clientele including residential, corporate and commercial projects and is renowned for their unprecedented quality of design, meticulous attention to detail, as well as adhering to the very highest standards of professional integrity. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our projects and our ability to transform spaces utilizing a juxtaposition of both contemporary and traditional design elements."
Visit the website to find out more: EEB Interiors: Designs for Life

"We are very excited to work with EEB Interiors, and Erin," says [1016] Architecture principal Josh Canale. "Our clients stand to benefit greatly from her detailed and creative input to our designs. Working with EEB Interiors throughout the project process will ensure realization of a complete vision."

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?

[1016] Architecture is dedicated to working with other design firms to combine expertise. Collaboration is key to project success and client satisfaction.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Smart Owners Consider Design-Build

An adage in the building industry states something to the effect of: “Choose two things you want from this list: 1) Quality, 2) Schedule, 3) Budget, because you’re not going to get all three.” Sadly, the majority of the traditional ways in which buildings are designed and constructed enforce this saying, also known as “the Project Triangle” as true. However, sophisticated owners willing to step outside the confines of the triangle can find reward.

If you are an owner weighing options for an upcoming building project, and you are interested in saving time and money while increasing the quality and reliability of the finished product, then consider design-build as your building delivery method.

Even if a formal design-build project structure is not desired, a client should absolutely insist on teaming with architects, engineers, and contractors who tout a collaborative approach.

By consolidating design and construction knowledge into a single design-build entity, the owner benefits without an added administrative or contractual expense; no construction management contracts, and no headache from administering this management effort in-house.

The advantages below are from the owner’s perspective. They seek to illustrate how a single-source design-build entity (D-B) providing the design and construction services for a building project (one contract between D-B and owner) can be superior to the more traditional, two contract method (where owner contracts separately with architect and contractor).

In design-build, from project conception the designer and the constructor are in tune with the entire scope of the project and can tackle all project challenges holistically. Ideally, this approach would happen naturally in the real world with any project structure, as the end goal of any project team should be a successful project. The problem is that the two contract structure of most projects does not formalize this relationship in a way that places the owner’s definition of success in the interests of all parties. The general contractor and designer often find themselves at odds. A properly incentivized Design-Build project structure can turn this problem into advantages for the owner.

Potential advantages of design-build to owner:
  1. Increased ability to control budget
    a. At early stages of design, the D-B can realistically assess project costs and place meaningful emphasis on the validity of these budgets based on the fact that building systems and details are chosen by the same entity that will build them.
    b. A guaranteed maximum price (GMP) can be arrived at sooner than in a traditional design-bid-build process because not all design documentation must be completed for the D-B to issue a 100% budget price. Further, the scenario of a lowball bid and subsequent changes orders resulting from “design deficiencies” during construction is eliminated.
    c. Therefore, the owner’s budget used for discussion with lenders, investors, and management will be more accurate earlier and later in the project.
  2. Increased project quality
    a. The D-B is incentivized to find the best systems (within budget) because it is standing behind not only the detail selection OR installation, but both of these importance aspects of building quality.
    b. Under certain circumstances, an owner may want specific criteria of building performance to reach measurable thresholds. For example, envelope leakage, daylighting levels, or production capacity for a manufacturing facility. This scenario is impossible to enforce in traditional building delivery structures where one entity is responsible for executing the design of another, because neither will guarantee the other’s work. Design-build consolidates responsibilities in the interest of all parties.
  3. Compressed project schedule
    a. The D-B team can assemble reliable construction schedules earlier in the design process than in a traditional design-bid-build process, allowing the owner to get a clearer picture of when they will be able to occupy the building.
    b. The D-B team can use the entirety of the design timeline to bid portions of the project and order long lead items to consolidate bid and construction timelines.
    c. Single-source responsibility allows construction to begin prior to the completion of design documents, without risking price increases and delays associated with fast-tracking projects with incomplete documentation.
    d. Finally: time is money. So this advantage is integral to the budget control listed above.

Not all projects may lend themselves to the design-build delivery method, but surely the advantages available warrant a look. Ask yourself, "Is design-build right for my next project?"

[1016] Architecture is ready. Are you?

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