Sammamish Deck by Josh Brincko

I definitely enjoy designing buildings, and that makes it hard to say “no” to a project. Many architects and builders will shy away from smaller projects because they are not the best for the bottom line, but I see them as more of an opportunity. This deck project is not “just a deck” to me. It is a way to connect a family from the indoors to the outdoors on a regular basis.

This deck is an extension of their kitchen, dining, and living room. The accordion doors allow an entire wall to open completely onto the deck which is perched above the rear yard looking out onto Lake Sammamish. The deck features a gas fireplace, BBQ, overhead heaters, a privacy accent wall, and motorized screens integrated into the structure.

Here’s some photos to enjoy:


Ordering windows is always a shit show by Josh Brincko

Windows may seem simple. They are not. There are many types, formats, makes, models, materials, codes, etc. Each window you order has dozens of options. Here is an example of just one window on a window order (what language is this?):

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Let me first explain the basics of windows starting with how they operate (listed in order of low to higher cost). Fixed, also called “picture,” don’t open. They are “non-operable.” Single hung windows have two “sashes” inside a frame, and one sash slides up and down while the other sash is fixed. A sash is the part of the window that moves, so you can open it. Since the sash on a single hung window only slides up and down over the fixed portion, you can only open half of the window at a time. When it’s open, you now have two layers of glass to look through. When it’s closed, you have a sash obstructing your view halfway through the window. This is my least favorite type of window. Next is a slider that works the same as single hung, except it slides sideways instead of vertical. (Also not my favorite.) Double hung windows are the same as single hung, except you have the flexibility of moving both sashes up and down. Sliders, single, and double hung windows all limit your view out, daylight in, and amount you can open your window for ventilation which is counter-intuitive as to why you wanted a hole in the side of your house in the first place.  Awning windows have no obstructions. The whole sash opens outward with a hinge along the top. The good part is they act like an awning and block the rain while opened, but they usually only open about 45 degrees (so you really cannot push them all the way open). Hoppers are similar to awnings, but the hinge is on the bottom making them tilt outward like a funnel gathering rain to flow into your house. For this reason, many window manufacturers don’t make them, but they are good for venting steam from a shower, for example (if you have large roof overhangs). Casement windows are the last type. These hinge from the side like a door. They have nothing obstructing your view, and you can open them all the way to maximize your ventilation and your view. Just be sure that if they swing out, they don’t hit some other part of your building or into a walkway. These work well for emergency egress windows since they provide a large opening. Some window manufacturers are quite limited in the size they can make casements, however, since they become more unstable as they get wider. Ok, those are all the common window types. 

Next we will review materials (listed in order of least expensive to most expensive). Vinyl windows are clunky and commonly used because they are the cheapest. You get what you pay for. The frames are so thick because vinyl is not a strong material. They also warp in the heat of the sun. The thick frames and thick sashes leave little glass leftover. They are also usually limited in color to white and other light, neutral tones. Spoiler alert... we see white windows EVERYWHERE. Why is that? It’s because developers are slamming up one cookie cutter home after another, and they are buying the cheapest materials they can. Take some time and look around in design magazines, look in nice neighborhoods, and look at architects’ websites. You will not see many white windows. You will mostly see black windows (or some other dark color). The dark color looks nicer because it blends in with the glass which makes the window look more elegant and not clunky. It blends in better with the glass since glass is perceived to be black. Go ahead, look at the homes across the street. Notice how dark the glass is (unless they have lights on at night). White windows contrast this too much and stand out like a sore thumb. Back to materials... Fiberglass is similar to vinyl, but it’s stronger and therefore the frames and sashes are thinner. You can also get dark fiberglass. These are a great option for nice windows at a low price point. Some manufacturers will even put a wood veneer on the interior surfaces, so you can paint or stain them and have the look of wood inside without the durability issues of wood on the outside. Wood windows are another option. This is the most traditional type of window, but they are becoming less commonly used because they are expensive compared to vinyl and fiberglass, and they require more maintenance. Wood windows look great though. There are lower price point wood windows with thick, bulky frames, and there are higher price point wood windows with very thin, elegant frames that work well in modern homes. Another material option is wood clad. This is simply a wood window covered with aluminum on the exterior, but it does not actually look like aluminum since it is perfectly wrapped around the profile of the wood. Most people cannot tell that it’s not wood - even from close up. The aluminum cladding offers the longevity and durability while still giving you the warm look of wood on the inside and outside. Another window material is aluminum. The price point can vary from less than wood to more than wood. Aluminum windows have come a long way since the ones you remember in the 80’s with sweaty condensation forming on them. Today’s aluminum windows now have a thermal break, which is a concealed layer of polymer that separates an interior portion of aluminum from an exterior portion of aluminum. This inhibits the heat transfer from inside to outside, and it makes aluminum windows energy efficient (and expensive). Aluminum windows are great because they require no maintenance, and their frames are very thin which maximizes the amount of glass, creating nice, clean lines. The next window material is steel. This is the most expensive material since they are basically custom fabricated out of raw steel. Since steel is so strong, they result in very thin frames of less than an inch commonly. These are very striking windows, but they are not energy efficient. The final material for windows is actually no material at all: stopped-in glass. Stopped glass is simply buying a piece of glass (double-paned) and building your own frame around it within the building. Instead of buying the window frame from a manufacturer, you just use trim to attach the glass to the structure of the building. This gives you the cleanest lines since there’s no visible frame. This is common in mid-century modern architecture. This brings us to our next topic: glass. 

When you buy windows, you are not really buying the glass. You are really buying the frame and sash. The window manufacturers build the frames, then they buy glass to “glaze” into the window frames. They are mostly buying glass from two glass manufacturers: http://www.vitroglazings.com/en-US/Glass/Architectural-Glasses.aspx and https://www.cardinalcorp.com/. I favor Cardinal glass for a few reasons. They offer a better warranty, and their product is less likely to fog (in my experience) between the two panes of double-paned glass. They also seem to get better u-values (this is the measurement of thermal efficiency). They offer a few different glass types that range between a balance of best thermal efficiency, best visibility through the glass, and best limitation of solar heat gain. Cardinal’s i89 coating is a nice balance between thermal efficiency without too much noticeable discoloration to the glass. I also suggest specifying black spacer bars between the two panes of glass. This black spacer bar is more efficient than the aluminum ones that are more commonly used, and the black is also less visible. Any manufacturer can do double-pane and triple-pane glass. Single-pane is not typically done anymore. You can also specify a temporary protective film to be applied to your glass to protect it during construction. It is also important to specify whether or not the glass must be tempered. In certain situations such as in bathrooms, near stairs, near doors, and large panes of glass, safety glass is required by code. Tempered glass will safely shatter like a windshield where sharp shards of glass don’t fall into your lap in a car accident. Additional code requirements relate to egress and energy code. The glass and the window frame must be tested together to achieve a certain u-value, and the energy code must be consulted to determine what u-value is required in your situation. The building code must be consulted to determine which windows must be sized for egress to be large enough (when open) and positioned properly, so a firefighter with an oxygen tank can carry you out of a window when you are passed out from smoke inhalation in a fire. This may seem easy to appropriately size a window, but all manufacturers have different limitations on the sizes they can make for operable windows that meet egress requirements. 

Some additional features that must be decided upon with windows is the hardware. Hardware comes in different colors, different materials, and different styles. For example, the little roto-crank you turn to open a window can be an oil rubbed bronze in a traditional looking style, or it can be white plastic with a more modern style. Or you could eliminate the crank and install your own lockable pushrod or some other hardware that prevents your casement window from slamming open or shut in the wind. Screens are another option. The screen can come in different colors, and so can it’s frame. It can sometimes be hinged, retractable, or removable. Windows can also be separated into different panes of glass (known as lites). The option to install “muntin bars” on your window makes them look more traditional. When glass was first invented, the pioneers could really only make it about the size of a sheet of paper before it got too frail and would break. For this reason, they put muntin bars between several window lites to enable the overall window to be bigger. Today, we can either simulate this, or do it for real. “True divides lites” (TDL’s) have real muntin bars that separates each lite of glass. This is expensive, but it is authentic. You can also fake it by putting simulated muntin bars either between panes of glass or on the interior and/or exterior surface. This looks fake when you look up close. When you have the bars between the panes of glass, it looks even more fake from afar since the glare on the glass does not create a shadow line on each muntin bar that would traditionally be on the surface of the glass instead of between the two panes. Other options you may find on the window order include the shape of the window frame/trim, thickness of the wall it will be installed within, colors, wood species, pre-finished/painted, and so much more.

With so many options, requirements, and technical issues relating to windows, it is appropriate to acknowledge that ordering windows is a major task, and it is also very iterative. Ordering the windows at the right time of the project is crucial too. In some situations where precision is not required, the windows can be ordered before the walls are built (and the walls can be built based on the window order). In other situations, the windows must be ordered AFTER the walls are built, so precise measurements of the walls can be taken to facilitate ordering windows of a very specific size that allow the desired alignments with architectural features such as trims, beams, adjacent doors, etc. This leads to a slowdown in the project schedule, but there’s no way around it when precision is desired. It is important to visit window showrooms and test the different window products, so you can see how they look and feel. The architect and window suppliers go back and forth dozens of times (usually resulting in over 100 emails/calls) to fine tune the window order to get each item correct for the capabilities of each window manufacturer, so you may compare the costs, pros, and cons of each item before signing on the approval line. Windows are one of the biggest material purchases for your project, so it is very important to dedicate the time necessary to get it right. 

Smaller homes cost more by Josh Brincko

I’m always trying to figure out what makes construction expensive. I tend to design higher quality small projects. We know quality costs something extra, but smaller doesn’t necessarily make things cheaper though. Small projects have all the same amenities as large projects. For example, a 2 bed, 2 bath, 1000sf home has the same cost for plumbing as a 2 bed, 2 bath, 2000sf home.

Here’s an analogy. Imagine a 12oz can of soda sells for 50¢, and a 24oz can of soda sells for 90¢. Double the soda is a better value, and they actually make a BETTER profit on selling the bigger can of soda. Let’s say 12oz of soda costs 5¢ to create, the 12oz aluminum can costs 5¢ to create, and the pull tab (which has the highest concentration of aluminum) costs 5¢ to create. That’s a total of 15¢ of materials for a 35¢ profit. Profit is 70% (ignoring things like insurance, marketing, etc).

Let’s say 24oz of soda costs double at 10¢ to create, the 24oz aluminum can costs double at 10¢ to create, and the pull tab still costs the same 5¢ to create. That’s a total of 25¢ of materials for a 65¢ profit. Profit is 72% even though you are getting more soda for less money per ounce.

Buildings work very much the same way. When you proportion out the costs of required amenities throughout the square footage of the building, the bigger building is a better value. Items that are the same exact cost on big projects and small projects include things like: surveys, waterline connection, sewer connection, electrical connection, gas connection, driveway, engineering a 10’ beam costs the same as a 20’ beam, drawing a 100sf room costs the same as a 200sf room, mobilization costs for the builder and subcontractors, the sani-can rental, most tool and equipment rentals, etc.

You can see there’s a lot of items that have a fixed cost that is irrelevant to the size of the project. This makes the cost per square foot of small projects get higher while larger projects get lower. A $20,000 waterline connection fee from the city is a big deal for a $400,000 home but not such a big deal for a $4,000,000 home. You get the point? 

I’m sure you will do a good bit of research and find average square footage costs on the internet. These are often very deceiving because they are often based on the past, and construction costs continue to rise over time. Also, they are often based on other locations or averages of locations instead of a place like Seattle that is one of the most expensive places to build with difficult soil and seismic activity requiring expensive foundations. The low supply and high demand doesn’t help either. Lastly the cost per square foot model gets so far out of line when you are proportioning it over a small project (anything under 2000 sq ft). This is partially why remodeling is so expensive (not to mention all the cost associated with protecting an existing house while builders surgically work on it to make the old stuff and new stuff match). It is common for a simple home in Seattle to be built for over $350 per square foot. It is also common for a similar quality, but smaller home or addition with the same amenities to be built for over $600 per square foot or even over $1000 per square foot if the home is even smaller. It is helpful to bear this in mind when doing your preliminary planning. 

How to fire your architect (so you can work with Josh instead) by Josh Brincko

Several times each year, I have been chosen as the “relief pitcher” when someone’s original architect doesn’t work out, so here’s your tutorial on how to fire your architect. This happens usually because: the architect is too busy to care about the project, or they can’t design something the client likes, or they are not willing to do what it takes to get permits approved. I have developed a reputation for being successful in these situations, and I’m often the first suggestion builders offer their clients when the architect the client found doesn’t work out. Builders are in a position where they can really recommend anyone, and they commonly choose me since they find me to be an effective member of the team.

So here’s how to fire your architect (this would also work for firing me, by the way): 

1. Read your architect’s contract. Ensure there are no legal or financial ramifications for terminating. Be smart about it, and terminate at the right time to avoid loss of work, time, and/or money. Don’t terminate until after they have given you the latest work they have developed. Don’t enable the architect to hold the work hostage. Send your contract to Josh to review and offer advice. 

2. Make sure there is an invoice that still needs paid. This is your negotiation point that gives you the upper hand. Be aware of any retainers, and be certain you can get any retainers returned. Consult with Josh for strategy here. I don’t collect a retainer for my design work because I think they show a lack of trust between both parties, and I am confident I will be successful in earning the money by providing a valuable service the client is happy to pay for.

3. Before you break the news to your architect, ask them if you can have the AutoCAD files. Let them know your nephew is trying to learn CAD for a school project, or you just want to have an extra source of file backup. Give the architect a good reason for them to WANT to give you the CAD files. The files are technically the property of the architect usually, and they do not typically have to give them to you. For me, I let others use my files because I think it’s the ethical and most efficient thing to do. There are a lot of architects that will not let go of their files though. If you can get these CAD files, it will make my job MUCH easier when I take over as your architect. Also ask for the 3D model files if the architect has done any 3D work. Tell the architect you are trying to learn Sketchup, and they will likely be impressed by your diligence and give them to you.

4. If you cannot get the CAD files, at least get the most recent PDF files, and insist that the architect adds dimensions to them (if they are not already on there) since I will need to redraw everything that has been done up to that point. Also ensure you get the documents from consultants such as survey, geotech, structural, and civil engineers. 

5. Compile all of your files onto an email or thumb drive to give to Josh. Be sure you include everything such as drawings, permit forms, and any other documentation created for your project. Josh needs to somehow figure out where you left off without repeating work that was already done. Keeping the files concise and organized will make this job easier. For example, combine all of your permit documents into one PDF file named “permit documents” instead of giving Josh 59 randomly named files that he will need to open, analyse, understand, and determine what to do with them. Make the hand off easy by naming the files and combining similar items. I once had someone send me hundreds of image files. Some were drawings, and some were inspiration images. I needed to open each one individually to determine what to do with them. All of those inspiration images could have been combined into one file.  

6. Once you get the files, you should pay the architect for the work they did. If they did work you requested, you should pay for it - even if you don’t like the work. It will still be useful work moving forward because design is a process of elimination of sorts.  

7. Now it’s time to fire your architect. If you’re not comfortable doing this, just tell them you won’t be moving forward with the project - that way they won’t take it personally (if that bothers you).  

8. If you did inform your architect that she or he is fired, let them know that you have already started working with someone else, and give them some constructive criticism so they can improve.  

I hope you find this helpful, and I hope you don’t use this tutorial on me:) 

Heather by Josh Brincko

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Heather is a silent but loudly helpful voice in the background of Josh Architects. Heather hears all of the tricky planning situations that Josh encounters, and she always offers sound advice. She is the wife of Josh, and she also came up with the idea to start the company. 

Long ago, Josh ran his company as, International Studio, which started back in 2004. Josh has an interest in the “international style” due to its simplicity (and it actually has a lack of style). It works anywhere in the world and is timeless. By working with what you have, the solution is innately born without any added useless decoration. International Studio was named after this concept, but it was also a name that appeared to be a larger brand that could appeal nationally and beyond. This enabled Josh to focus on his interest in furniture design and appeal to manufacturers around the world. After a few years of chasing this dream, it was realized that there were more architecture commissions coming in than furniture ones, and designing furniture was not necessarily the goal. Josh really just liked furniture design because it was fast. You can design something and see it built in the same day if desired. What Josh really likes is designing, and furniture design was just a way of designing more frequently. As more and more architecture commissions came in, Josh also realized the furniture design industry was a broken system, and he found that he was actually getting his fair share of design opportunities with architecture alone. 

This is where Heather stepped in. She is a brilliant advisor with a keen sense of marketing in our digital world. She studied journalism and mastered in digital marketing, she worked at Microsoft, Real Networks, and Disney/ABC, and she is now a prolific artist and respected photographer. She recognized that Josh’s work appealed to people in his community because they appreciate his personal interest in their design problems, he offers a high level of personal care in his service, and he is truly an expert in designing homes in the Pacific Northwest. She pitched the idea to him. She told him, “you are not a corporate architect. You are an artisan architect. You need to sell you - not some company.” That is where Josh Architects was born. The official business name is Josh PS. Architects are considered professional service providers like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, so we have to put PS after our business name instead of inc like other businesses. So technically, the business name is just “Josh”. 

Heather played a pivotal role in helping Josh succeed since his brain is so buried in the craft of designing homes. She was thankfully able to see the bigger picture and put it into action. She setup the website, she crafted the story, she took all of the photographs of the work samples and headshots, and she curated the video on the website. We owe this whole image to Heather. It’s not really an image. It is real. It is who Josh really is. It is his passion, and he owes it to Heather for helping him see it. 

-Written by Josh in the third person (since it sounded confusing to me in the first person). Thank you, Heather! Much love! 

Can I reuse my old windows? by Josh Brincko

You can, but... 

Here’s the thing. Old windows do not meet energy code. When you install a window, whether it’s in a new window opening or an existing one, that new window must be compliant with the minimum insulation values dictated by the current edition of the energy code.  Your old windows likely do not meet the requirements of the energy code since the energy code is updated every three years to require windows to be more energy efficient.  

Additionally old windows must be removed in order to be reused. The process of removing the window is really not that hard. A laborer could remove a window in 15 to 30 minutes. This assumes the laborer does not need to take any precaution to try not to damage the window during removal. If the laborer is supposed to maintain the quality of the window during its demolition, the process of removing that window will simply take longer. The laborer will need to ensure the window is more surgically removed to prevent any scratches, breaks, cracks, or any other defect from occurring during a demolition process that is typically not a very eloquent process. Once the window is removed, it would also need to be rehabilitated. This means the laborer would have to spend time scraping caulking and other adhesives off of the window frame to ensure it is clean and ready for re-installation later. The laborer would also need to make any repairs to the window to fix any inadvertent damage that may have happened during the removal.  This prepping and repair will certainly take a good amount of time. I would estimate at least around four hours of time would be spent just to get the window ready for re-installation. Once the window is ready for re-installation, then it needs to have a strategy to make installation possible. New windows have more efficient hardware known as flanges that enable them to be installed more easily than older windows. Since older windows do not have a nail flange, they must be installed with a different method that involves shimming and caulking that also takes more time and results in a less watertight outcome. The installation of a new window, with its nail flange, is a quick and easy process. It usually takes half the time of an install of an old window. It also gives you a more watertight seal. With all things considered, it takes much longer to deal with the removal, prep, and installation of old windows when trying to reuse them. New windows simply take less time to install and result in a better outcome.  And they actually look like new windows because they are new windows. The cost of purchasing the new window is typically easily offset by all the additional costs that it takes to attempt to reinstall old windows. Using new windows is a much better deal typically.

Should we give a “pass” to professionals when they are late? by Josh Brincko

What are our expectations when waiting on professionals to help us?

When you need to see your doctor for something, do you call your doctor and expect to get what you need at that very moment? Not really. You wouldn’t call your doctor personally to make an appointment  since the doctor is busy doctoring. Instead, you would call the receptionist and make an appointment... unless it is an emergency. Doctors are revered as highly esteemed professionals, and we respect their time accordingly. When you are waiting in the doctor’s exam room, and the doc shows up 20 minutes late, it is easy to get frustrated. We should think about the bigger picture though. What was the doctor doing before he or she came to check on your nagging cold? The doctor could have been talking through someone’s surgical options with a life threatening illness just minutes before checking on you and your cold.

When you do have a true emergency, it is EXPECTED, however, that the doctor will help you IMMEDIATELY. This immediate care is essential for your well-being, and it will probably make the doctor late for helping someone else that had an appointment when your emergency occurred. This seems fair when thinking about the big picture, but it’s easy to lose sight of it when you’re sitting in the exam room for a late doc to show up. The doctor is not at liberty to discuss the reason for their tardiness since it’s required to keep the other patient’s medical information confidential.

How does this example relate to working with other professionals? Do doctors get a pass because they are dealing with human life? It seems like it. If your CPA is late for an appointment, do we get upset? Yep. Do they get a pass? Not really, but should they? Your CPA may have been helping someone deal with a stressful letter that came from the IRS, and immediate attention may be necessary to protect their financial security and put their stress at ease. If I was just asking some routine tax questions, I would be OK with my CPA being late to meet with me in that situation. The CPA is supposed to keep other clients’ information confidential, so again, we may never be privy to the reason the CPA might be running late. This is not a matter of human well-being though, so if a CPA was late often, it could simply be the result of the CPA having too many clients. That high work load may be a disservice to the attention you may deserve from that professional. If the tardiness is too common, the pass should be revoked.

How about an attorney? This is another professional that deals with confidential information that typically deals with a stressful, time-sensitive situation in someone’s personal life or business. If your attorney is late for your meeting, it could have a profound impact on meeting a deadline with a court order that could have a major impact on your financial well-being. Many things an attorney does are subject to deadlines outside of an attorney’s control, so it is important for attorneys to schedule their workload accordingly to prevent too many deadlines from happening at the same time. If an attorney is late for your meeting to review a legal question you have, think about the bigger picture. Perhaps they just found some unexpected evidence that needs analyzed before a hearing the next day to prevent someone from losing their home. I would be OK if my attorney was late to meet with me if they were dealing with something like this for somebody else. Again, the attorney must keep these things confidential, so we will not know the specifics and should give the attorney a pass. If this happens too often, it could be the result of the attorney having too many clients for them to manage, so the pass should be revoked. 

Architects also deal with very time-sensitive matters. Like doctors, architects’ decisions protect the health and safety of human life, and like CPA’s, architects’ decisions protect the financial well-being of the most expensive thing a client may ever purchase: the construction of their home. If the architect makes the wrong decision, it could have a major impact on human life - and not just one life like a doctor, but an entire building full of humans. We hear stories about people getting trapped in buildings during fires, buildings crushing people during earthquakes, and freak accidents when things fail during construction. The role of the architect helps to protect human life in situations like these. Buildings are also expensive. They are far more expensive than most medical procedures. The architect must make decisions that result in the way materials get purchased and installed. If done improperly, those materials mail fail, leak, and impact all the thousands of dollars worth of materials and human life below it. This could result in the shutdown of a business which also results in loss of income for that business. Architects must take a high degree of care in designing and monitoring the quality of the buildings they design to prevent loss of large sums of the client’s money and ensure the people in the buildings are safe. Architects also deal with very time-sensitive information. Deadlines from building departments are not negotiable. If an architect is late, it could add a year to a project timeline in some situations. Think of the financial ramifications that could have for a client. If a construction condition arises that needs immediate attention, the architect’s creative problem-solving skills can prevent an unsafe condition for the laborers, or it can simply provide a solution to an impossible problem that results in keeping the labors working. Without the architect’s quick action, the labors could be out of work, and the client’s building will get done late. This could cause financial impact for the laborers who rely on their paycheck and the client who needs to move into their home before their lease on their rental ends. 

As an architect, I take my role very seriously. I understand my attention may be needed at any moment. I may need to shift from one obligation to focus my attention on something more critical. This is part of the job. There has been a few times in my career when I have had to cancel a meeting or show up late as a result of project emergencies. We notify the client when this happens, and we appreciate the understanding since we would have done the same for them if the tables were turned. I mitigate many of these project emergencies by doing 3 things: 

1. Keep a reasonable project load and the right project team. If I have too many projects at a time, it’s not possible to keep up with the obligations. If I don’t have enough projects, I would not be able to pay my overhead expenses. The right balance is essential.

2. I respond to every client request within a day. This enables me to get an early start on all tasks, so if an emergency comes up, I can focus on it without having a major impact on my other projects. Once the emergency is over, I can resume the task that I had already previously started. If I had not already chosen to make progress on it, that task would be nowhere near completion and likely exceed its deadline if I had to start from scratch. Having an early start makes a big difference in getting things done on time. This sometimes means working at unconventional hours of the day or night, but that is part of the role of being a professional.

3. I set expectations accordingly. When a client has a request that is time-sensitive, I work on it NOW. When something is not time-sensitive, I give the client an estimate of how long something may take to complete, and I check in each week to update them as progress is made. Often times, my work is dependent upon the work of other professionals such as engineers, so I must also manage their timing too, and keep the client informed regularly. I also gauge expectations based on the clients’ interactions. If I ask a client a question, and it takes them 3 days to answer, that demonstrates the timing is not critical. I try to respond to clients faster than they respond to me. 

Most projects take at least a year and often two years to design and prepare for construction to begin. There is a lot of work and a lot of waiting during that time as we coordinate the efforts of surveyors, structural engineers, civil engineers, geotechnical engineers, and bureaucrats at building departments. Much of the waiting tends to be from clients making decisions and building departments reviewing documents.

On a few projects, I have added up the number of days of wait time for each party. On all of these projects, the most days of wait time has always come from the client, followed by the building department, and followed by consultants. This is surprising. The building department does take a long time to review plans, but we wouldn’t expect clients to take longer to make up their minds. The is attributed to the large number of decisions that need to be made. Most clients do respond within a day, however. A building department may take 90 days to review plans, but a client easily has more than 90 decisions to make. We send hundreds of emails with hundreds of drawings, and all of these require decisions. If a client takes one day for each decision, that attributes to the long timeline. These decisions all have huge financial impacts, so it is understandable that clients take their time to make informed decisions. We do our best to give our clients the information they need in a timely fashion to enable them to make good choices. We appreciate the opportunity and trust our clients give us, and we also appreciate their patience when we must focus our attention temporarily elsewhere. In the end, we work as expediently as possible and treat all projects with the same level of care. 

Jack and Jill Bathrooms by Josh Brincko

Interconnected bathrooms are disturbing. Let’s explore to learn why this concept, which may seem like a good idea, is disturbing.  

Reason 1: it’s interconnected, and it’s a bathroom. Think about that. The goal should not be convenient entry for more than one person into a bathroom which is the space where privacy is really THE main goal.   

Reason 2: Locking the door is awkward. Jack wakes up in the middle of the night to pee. Jack opens his bathroom door within his own bedroom, enters his shared bathroom, turns on the light, and shuts his door (creak, slam, jiggle jiggle). Then he goes and locks Jill’s door (jiggle jiggle). Jill has a nightmare of a monster attacking her from the bathroom as light emanates from below the door, and she hears that unmistakable sound of pee followed by a drip drippity drip, SLAM ... yeah, Jack is a good brother and put the toilet seat down for his sister...that was the SLAM Jill heard. And finally pshhhhhhhhhh clank goes the faucet as he washes his hands, then jiggle jiggle creak as he exits the bathroom and goes back to bed (while Jill is sweating from the nightmare Jack just caused).  

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Reason 3: entering the bathroom from your brother’s room is awkward. Did you notice in the commentary above that Jack remembered to put down the toilet seat, but he forgot to do something else? He forgot to unlock Jill’s door when he was done! So, in the middle of the night, when Jill needs to get up to pee, she needs to go out to the hall to enter Jack’s bedroom to get into their weird shared bathroom. Jiggle jiggle creak as she opens Jack’s bedroom door. Ewww grosssssss she mumbles as she steps in something unknown but likely disgusting on her brother’s bedroom floor in the dark. Then BAM $&@#! she yells as she runs into the dresser drawer that Jack didn’t close in his dark bedroom. Yea, that’s right, your sweet innocent daughter just swore, and it’s your fault because you gave her a creepy interconnected bedroom. Now Jack is awake and yells at Jill to get the $&@#! out of his room. Both kids are now awake, screaming at each other, then they become too tired to do well in school, then they can’t get into college, and they cannot become employed because of the filthy language they developed because of their shared bathroom. Then you have two 30-something trucker mouth kids still living at home and still sharing their bathroom. It’s a self perpetuating problem. Ok, back to the point... The argument ends, Jill shuts Jack’s door, locks it, does her business, and storms back into her room, locks her bathroom door to ensure her creepy brother doesn’t wake her up when he uses the bathroom, and she tries to get a little sleep before school the next morning. She will not get into the deep sleep REM phase where the info in her brain is properly sorted, stored, and easy to recall later. All the studying Jill did for her test the night before was now just a waste. She eventually fails her test, loses interest in school, and soon becomes a goth chick and listens to death metal music and rarely leaves the house.  

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Reason 4: getting locked out of your own bathroom is awkward. Once Jack and Jill get accustomed to their sibling entering their room, they start to lock their bathroom door from the inside when they are done peeing to prevent the sibling from coming into their room later. The next person who needs to use the bathroom can’t get in because they locked themselves out from their own door and still forgot to unlock the other door. Now you have two locked bathroom doors. At 3am, they come to wake you up... DAAAAD! DAD! DAAAAAD! Or... MOMMMM!!! I can’t get in the bathroom. You reluctantly wake up, step in the gross thing on Jack’s floor and bump your shin on his dresser, yell profanities, and look for something to stick in that little hole on the doorknob to unlock it. You teach both kids how to unlock it themselves, so they won’t wake you up again. You can’t get back to sleep before your 5:30am alarm while wishing you would have listened to your architect about not building a Jack and Jill bathroom. 

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Reason 5: it is awkward to walk-in on your brother while he is peeing. Both kids just get accustomed to unlocking their door with the pinhole method you taught them in Reason 4 above, and inevitably, a sibling will see things they never wanted to see when they pick the lock and enter without knocking. It will eventually happen.   

Reason 6: are you really still reading this? Don’t do a Jack and Jill bathroom. Just put the door in the hall, and avoid the problem altogether.  

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Solution: for the ideal shared bathroom, we can design a situation where Jack can be taking a shower in complete privacy while Jill is brushing her teeth at the sink and even using the toilet in a private toilet room. It takes up the same space, and our creativity will leave your family well-rested, good-mannered, and your kids will have the life skills needed to be able to move out of your home well before they turn 30 :) 

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