Thursday, September 30, 2010

Building in a Hurricane Prone Area

Many people relocate to lowcountry from inland communities where there are not hurricanes. So often the first question a new resident asks is "What are the best practices for building in a hurricane prone area?". Buildings need to simultaneously resist wind, rain, and flood.

The International Residential Building Code (IRC) made significant revisions after Hurricane Andrew that have been proven to prevent structural damage from wind. In fact, during the 2004 Florida hurricanes, no one died in any structure that was built under the revised code. The code requires that the building is tied together from the roof rafters to the foundation; the building is designed to withstand wind shear; the windows, doors, and skylights are protected from windborne debris; and the exterior finishes are securely fastened to the structure.

The success of the structural code changes highlighted the problem of rain entry into the building. Before when a homeowner was missing a roof, he was not concerned with a leaky window. Preventing rain infiltration is now a new focus in home construction. Many property insurance companies will give homeowners a discount for some of these best practices. The key items include: The roof needs an overhang to keep the rain off the building; provide sill pans under all windows and doors; flash all windows, doors and other penetrations; provide a drainage plane behind the exterior finish material to allow the water to escape and the wall to dry; provide a secondary roofing membrane; design closed crawl spaces that are dry and watertight; and drain the rain away from the house through the use of gutters and sloping the ground away from the building.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has understood for several decades how to prevent flood damage. The basics are general common sense; elevate the livable space, floor structure and heating and air-conditioning ducts above the 100 year flood plane and the potential storm surge; install hydro-static vents to prevent flood waters from collapsing foundation walls; build with materials that tolerate getting wet; and design the walls to easily dry after they get wet.

The ASHRAE Guide for Buildings in Hot & Humid Climates recommends to design and construct buildings in hurricane prone areas using the following steps in order of priority: keep the building from blowing away; keep the rain out; elevate the structure above the flood plane; building with materials that tolerate soaking; and design the wall assemblies to easily dry with they become wet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SC Higher Ed Building Moratorium

As president of the American Institute of Architects South Carolina, I hear regularly from our members about the grim economic environment throughout the state. The Governor's idea to solve the state budget woes and the rising cost of college tuition with a moratorium on construction is short sighted, especially since the universities have said that the lack of state funding, not building projects is the cause of rising tuitions.

Typically, the construction industry accounts for nine percent of the national gross domestic product and the state of South Carolina needs to do everything possible to put our large construction industry back to work. My husband and I are both architects and have had our firm for 21 years. In good years we pay five figures in South Carolina income tax, in 2009 we paid $44 and it looks about the same for 2010. If all the architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors and suppliers in South Carolina were fully employed, it would generated hundreds of millions in tax revenue and the state could appropriate more money for higher education to reduce tuition costs.

The fact is there is no better time for building projects: Interest rates are at an all-time low; construction companies are eager to work at very competitive prices; our state economy badly needs a stimulus; and fully employing our construction industry workers will boost state income tax receipts. Every $1 billion spent on building projects increases the state's gross domestic product by almost $2.3 billion; creates 24,000 jobs with $720 million in personal income. We need jobs - not moratoriums!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Let's Blog Off about Facebook

This is my second post for a Let's Blog Off topic. This week the question is "Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people?" My quick answer is they connect the world.

I was introduced to Facebook in March of 2009 I got an excited phone call from my college pal Wayne, pictured above in that stunning lime green paisley sports coat. "I HAVE FOUND GWEN ON FACEBOOK! YOU HAVE TO JOIN!"  So I joined. After we graduated from Auburn in architecture in 1982, we lost track of Gwen. The last time I had seen her was at my wedding. We had head rumors that she had married a Spaniard and was living overseas.
The rumors proved to be true. Gwen had lived in Germany, Spain, Switzerland, China and Japan; she was currently living in Spain. She was planning a trip to the states in a few months and we arranged a mini-reunion with Wayne at my house. This would never have happened without Facebook. Since then I have connected with friends and family and enjoy hearing what they are doing.

Around the same time, my marketing consultants suggested that we start a business facebook page to complement my blog...but due to my advanced years we should wait a few months before starting to tweet! I have been tweeting for almost a year and find it to be the most valuable of the social media that I use. On Twitter I follow lots of architects and designers. Since I live in a small town, it helps me stay connected with the outside world.

Most of my clients live somewhere else and are building a retirement or pre-retirement house here, so they find us on the internet. Therefore, the larger presence we have in cyber space the easier we are to find. A great blog that sends quite a bit of traffic to my web page is Houzz  I don't use LinkedIn much but through a connection on LinkedIn I was quoted in a story in Residential Architect magazine
It didn't result in a new client contact but it might one day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

AIA North Carolina Convention

I just returned from the AIA North Carolina Convention that was held in Asheville. Here are a few of the highlights

There was an interesting seminar on the restoration of the Thomas Wolfe House followed by a tour of the house. Thomas Wolfe last lived in the house in 1916 so the interior is typical of that period. The Wolfe family lived in the house until it was sold to the city of Asheville and turned into a museum.

I can not imagine cooking for a boarding house full of people in that kitchen!

Regional Director Jim Rains and his posse of flower children worked the crowd soliciting donations for the AIA North Carolina Political Action Committee. I don't know if AIA National President, George Miller contributed.

On Saturday afternoon I went on a tour of the Asheville River Arts District and saw these funky stools made from old gears.
I had never seen a rain barrel quite like this one.

The highlight of the convention was the design award's gala that was held at the Biltmore House. What a treat...and the award winning projects were great, too.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Slice of Heaven

This is my first blog-off challenge and the topic of writing about my "Slice of Heaven" was easy because I am one of the lucky ones who lives in paradise. This is the view from my back terrace overlooking the inter-coastal waterway. I live on Lady's Island which is just across the river from Beaufort, South Carolina. I never tire of the view..there is something about a long view that is very relaxing. One of the best things about being on the marsh is the abundant bird population. We see Herons, Egrets,  and Wood Storks in the marsh. There is a Osprey that preens it feathers every morning in a snag that I can see from our bedroom. Hooded Mergansers arrive in December and were renamed Christmas Ducks by our girls when they were young.
We hear owls every morning and have seen a Great Horned Owl in a tall pine tree and a Screech Owl on our terrace after he collided with our sliding doors. Fortunately he was just stunned and soon flew away.
The kitchen looks out to the river on the West and into a courtyard on the East. I see a different group of birds in the courtyard. The two most exciting to spot are Painted Buntings and Pileated Woodpeckers. We keeps several birdbaths and they are usually full of Cardinals.
One day when we were out kayaking a manatee swam by us...really cool! Michael, my husband fishes behind our house. A few years ago he found a sweet spot and would leave the house asking how many fish I wanted him to bring home for dinner!
The marsh and river views are always changing and can be very dramatic. We watch rain storms approach down the river. You are probably thinking that it is difficult for me to leave my house and go to work... once again, I am lucky. Our office is on the same piece of property as our house but in a different building. The view below is from the office.
Even though I live in paradise, it is on a flat barrier island and is in a small town. So when I leave my slice of heaven I either go to the mountains or to a city. I grew up in Tennessee, so I have to get my mountain fix and enjoy those long views especially when backpacking!
We have a lush, semi-tropical landscape with huge Live Oak trees draping Spanish Moss but there is very little fall color. The marsh changes from bright green to gold and there is an occasional tree here in there sporting some color. So a trip to the mountains in the fall is a real treat.

My priorities when traveling are great architecture, great art and great food!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Components of Closed Crawl Spaces

Until around 75 years ago, houses in the Coastal South were built out of solid lumber components of stud walls, diagonal sheathing, wood siding, and the interior was finished with plaster. When the walls got wet they were able to dry because there was no insulation and plentiful leaks to let air circulate in and out of the walls. There was not a problem with mold because solid lumber is not eaten by mold. Without air-conditioning, high ceilings, porches and cross ventilation contributed to making the house bearable in a hot, humid climate. This sounds like a good system except thermal comfort is almost impossible to achieve in a leaky, un-insulated structure .