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October 20, 2011

Building 15 Story Hotel in 6 Days
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

I’ve seen some time lapse photography videos over the years that impress and amaze. The group that gets together and completes a house in a weekend is fun to watch. The video below, though, of a hotel being built in Changsha, China shows a 6 day period that astounds.


Notice the use of offsite built panels to speed the construction. Some of the other Chinese construction details for structural steel fascinated me as well. The Project Manager triumphed in this project, which was completed last year. Remember this video the next time you’re about to say some construction milestone is impossible.


October 5, 2011

Watching a Plan Come Together
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

The construction company in the video below had less than a day to demolish a highway bridge, clean up the debris and get traffic moving under the phantom span. Watching the time lapse photography execution of the plan fills me with admiration for the planners.


As you consider the challenges facing you this week, this month and next year, take some more time to plan, to contemplate better ways of accomplishing the task. It’s a wonderful thing to watch a plan come together. Become known as an effective planner. Your value will increase as will your level of satisfaction.

Remember, to become a solid planner, you need to pull yourself out of the daily fray and take some time to think deeply about how things could be done better. You’ll need some discipline to extricate yourself from the crisis du jour, but it’s a skill worth learning.


September 23, 2011

Got a Hobbit Client? Here are Some Ideas
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

A young family in England jumped into the adventure of building their own house. The finished house looks unlike any I’ve ever seen. Their creativity inspires me, even as I wonder about the maintenance for some of the practical details. But let’s look at the beauty first (which seems to be a generally good policy) which is shown in this fascinating article.

The outside view above catches your eye, but the two inside shots below astound me. What a gorgeous home!

Here are the young folks that created all that beauty. My son tells me that his generation has lots of folks that don’t accept the American Dream premise, but don’t believe in changing the world either. He says many just plunk down and live in impromptu communities, trying to live life on their own terms. Trying to make beauty, sustainability and a small difference with how they live their lives. I applaud those willing to buck the current and do things their own way.

The photo below gives a sense of how the structure was built. As does the sketch further below. There’s more info at their website.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the practical details here will probably become an annoyance for the residents over time. The moving and twisting of the wood, the likely roof leaks that will follow, the degradation of the straw insulation with moisture and time and the general humidity level in the hose. Yet those concerns may be unfounded. Sometimes an idea is just so cool, that’s it’s worth the risk of some failures in the ultimate execution.

I applaud those that live all in and take their chances. Life goes by quickly. Please don’t tiptoe through it only to arrive at death safely.

Thanks to Gail Funk for pointing out this little gem on Facebook.


August 16, 2011

Quebec House that Fits on a Hill
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

This beautifully apportioned house located in Quebec, Canada looks perfect on a hill. Designed by yh2 Architecture, the roof gives both striking lines and a practical shade.

The interiors are uncluttered and simple. I love the TV that folds up out of the coffee table shown below.

The bathroom also has an inviting feel to it.

The sleeping arrangements shown below remind me of when I worked as a rock and roll roadie and slept in the sleeper of the tractor trailer. If there were two guys in the truck, we’d sleep head to toe (which is much less disconcerting than sleeping face to face). But if your bunkmate’s feet stank, this was not so good.

What do you think of the sleeping concept?


August 3, 2011

Adventures in Singapore
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

Two friends just returned from business trips to Singapore. One runs a company that makes rebar bending equipment and the other a company that makes audio equipment for buildings. Both were amazed at the number of cranes on the skyline. Construction booms in Singapore.

Do you have any idea where Singapore’s located? Other than being in Asia, I didn’t know too much. My friend’s photo below gives my impression of Singapore.

Singapore is an island city-state off the southern tip of Malaysia (just north of Indonesia and generally south of China). The 5 million people have English as their main language and a government that works, though a bit harshly. For example, not flushing the toilet in a public bathroom is a $200 fine. In fact, recently a British tourist grabbed a woman’s butt in a nightclub and is going to receive a series of whacks with a cane across his bare butt as punishment, plus some jail time.  So, if you’re in Singapore, behave.

The friend who runs the audio company stayed at this amazing 54 story hotel shown below. The top floor looks like a boat and has swimming pools that allow guests to swim right to the edge of the roof. Fantastic design.

Yet construction in this high tech city that has become one of the banking, technology and biotech capitals of the world, still uses the scaffolding shown below.

I’d like to visit Singapore and see the boom. If I do, though, I think I’ll be a bit more cautious when ordering supper.

Thanks to Barry Clair of Clair Brothers Audio for the photos and the stories. Also thanks to Barry for pushing ahead with a 50,000 sf factory expansion that gives us American contractors something to build and will provide lots more good manufacturing jobs here. He could have outsourced but chose to build in good old Lancaster County, PA.


July 21, 2011

Too Much Transparency in Government
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

The $105M Columbus, OH courthouse recently completed construction and opened to some criticism. The grand staircase has glass risers and is open below. For now, a security guard stands at the bottom of the stairs and warns women in dresses and skirts that they may want to avoid walking the stairs since they are open to being viewed from below.

It’s your basic “I see England, I see France, I see a judge’s underpants.” In fact, Judge Julie Lynch says, “Men designed it. How can you open a brand new building and not take into consideration half the population?”

The Judge makes a great point. I’ve often noticed that when only men are on the building design team, the ultimate utility of the building suffers. It may come as a shock, but men and women are different. I benefit from pushing to have both working on the design of my projects.


July 19, 2011

Engineers in a Shoot Out in Las Vegas
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

The $8.5B City Center project by MGM Resorts in Las Vegas continues to make the ENR news. The latest installment has some hired gun engineers claiming the Harmon Hotel tower will collapse in an earthquake. Their report states that the 28-story tower’s construction defects are “so pervasive and varied in character that it is not possible to quickly implement a temporary or permanent repair,” and questions “whether repairs are possible.”

Harmon Hotel on left

Local code officials had previously hired a structural expert who stated that the building is “structurally stable under design loads from a maximum-considered earthquake event.” So how can two professional engineers find such widely different conclusions?

It happens all the time. Even in what would seem a straight forward code evaluation, many assumptions allow design interpretations that tilt the answer in one direction or the other. I’m not opining bias by the engineers (though knowing your client prefers a certain outcome tends to color assumptions), I’m stating what I’ve seen many times.  Two structural engineers often aren’t going to come to the same conclusions. Sometimes they come to what appear to be opposite conclusions.

So how do you determine who’s right? The American West solution of a gunfight (ala OK Corral) provides a clear winner but may not get you closer to the truth. Here are some things to consider when facing conflicting structural evaluations:

  1. Ask each engineer to clearly and simply write how his/her analysis varies from the other engineer.
  2. Then ask each engineer to evaluate the differences.
  3. Consider the motivations facing each of the engineers and make a simple list.
  4. Submit this info to a third party engineer, not involved in the dispute, and get an unbiased opinion.
  5. Weigh all the above and make your determination.


July 5, 2011

Concrete Safe House in Warsaw
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

KWK Promes Architects from Poland has designed some cool houses and buildings. The Concrete Safe House located in Warsaw shows how a livable house can convert into a fortress with a button press.

I guess they allowed the pool to fall as collateral damage in an attack.

This inside/outside view gives a sense of the beauty and livability of the design.

And the ability to watch about a 700″ projected TV certainly has to make date night more romantic.

Lots of cool projects are still being designed and built in the world. Don’t get too down-hearted about the market situation in your locale. Just search for the best work you can get and if it’s sparse, take the time to sharpen your skills and abilities. Be better prepared for when the economy wakes up.


July 3, 2011

A Genius Inspired
Filed under: Cool Projects,Design — Tags: — nedpelger

By 1902, Frank Lloyd Wright had dropped out of high school, dropped out of college, worked as a draftsman for a structural engineer, began working as an architect under Louis Sullivan at Adler and Sullivan, and then started his own firm. At 35, he began his move into the Prairie style buildings that would make him famous.

On our road trip, we stopped last Wednesday for a day in Chicago. I’ve wanted to visit Oak Park for years, to see more of Wright’s work. As I strolled from the hotel early one morning while the others slept, I came across a stunning house that I knew Wright must have designed. The Heurtley House, near Wright’s Oak Park Home and Studio, enchanted me. I later learned the house was one of his first fully developed Prairie style designs.

The fundamental characteristic of Prairie style are all present in the 1902 Heurtley House. Wright raised the major spaces  above the surrounding grounds, ceilings are tight to roof rafters (eliminating attics because Wright hated junk storage) and the fireplaces are in the center of the house. The exterior features overhanging eaves, a large central chimney, horizontally grouped windows and terraces and balconies.

My photos don’t really do this beautiful house justice, but at least give you a sense of what stunned me.

FLW was a unique individual. He was in court many times, either from his creditors or his extra-marital affairs. During one of these appearances, the judge asked him to state his name and occupation. He replied, “Frank Lloyd Wright, World’s Greatest Architect.”

The judge commented that this seemed an extravagant claim, to which Wright replied, “Remember Judge, I’m under oath.”

Here’s one of my favorite FLW quotes:

Early in my career I was a very arrogant yound man.. I was so sure of my ground and my star that I had to choose between an honest arrogance and a hypercritical humility… and I deliberately choose an honest arrogance, and I’ve never been sorry.

I don’t promote arrogance (probably because I’m so far from being a genius), but I love to see when a person has a good idea and the gumption to see it through. I think I’m working on one now that I’ll share with you next week.


July 1, 2011

Cool Badlands Detail
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

Driving through the Badlands Loop in South Dakota, some of the prettiest landscape charms you. Here’s a photo from the park website.

I was impressed with the shelters built by the National Park Services. The stucco and steel frames just fit into the park. I particularly liked the bent corner plate that provided lateral stability as well as a look of strength.

Creativity and beauty often come in the most surprising places. As you work and live, strive for both.

Here’s a home video from the Badlands that I made a few days ago. It just makes me happy to watch.


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