Saturday, January 31, 2009

January AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Each January, AIA-SWO partners with the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) to conduct a joint meeting for the benefit of our members about the state of the local economy, specifically the prospects for the construction sector in the coming year. Perhaps not surprisingly, this January’s joint meeting was remarkably well-attended, with over 200 AIA-SWO and CSI members on hand, as well members of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), and the Construction Financial Managers Association (CFMA). Everyone was at the Eugene Hilton Conference Center to hear about “Projects in the Pipeline” from a panel of speakers representing some of the major public and private sector entities that together have been responsible for much of the local construction activity in recent years.

This year’s panel included:

Philip Farrington – PeaceHealth
Jon Lauch – Eugene School District 4J
Chris Ramey, AIA – University of Oregon
David Suchart – Lane County
Denny Braud – City of Eugene
John Tamulonis – City of Springfield
David Hauser – Eugene Chamber of Commerce

A message echoed by all of the speakers was that, despite the dire straits we are navigating through this worsening recession, there is reason for optimism. Some of this stems from the fact that federal stimulus money will soon find its way here. For example, Jon Lauch of District 4J reported that $3.4 million has already been earmarked for infrastructure upgrades, such as repairs to roofs of existing schools. Chris Ramey likewise mentioned that the University of Oregon will receive $2.9 million specifically for the purpose of tackling a backlog of small deferred maintenance projects. Denny Braud told the audience that the City of Eugene has thirty public works projects totaling $25 million that are “shovel-ready,” including plans for a $4 million pedestrian/bicycle bridge crossing I-105 at Delta Ponds that will realize the City’s vision of a more comprehensive bicycle path network.

Together, the federal stimulus funds being directed to our local public agencies are relatively modest; nevertheless, this is money that will help retain or generate employment for projects that otherwise would not have moved forward.

There is also optimism rooted in the diversification of the local economy since the last deep recession during the 1980s. This diversity may help cushion the impact of the current economic downturn. Indeed, our speakers highlighted the positives, describing a number of promising developments, either on the boards or already under construction.

According to Philip Farrington, the investment that Peacehealth has made in its new Riverbend hospital will pay dividends for many years to come, as the construction of ancillary and related developments will continue. Peacehealth also remains dedicated to its Sacred Heart at University District facility, although immediate construction plans there will be deferred until 2010.

David Suchart pointed to Lane County’s proposal to build the Martin Luther King Education Center, which would be constructed next to the existing Juvenile Justice Center. He also listed the County’s projects for developing federally-qualified health centers (FQHC), and the replacement of the existing Child Advocacy Center.

David Hauser reminded everyone that the massive new State of Oregon psychiatric hospital and penitentiary projects in Junction City are in the planning stages. In addition, he mentioned the prospects for a large new Veterans Affairs medical clinic to be sited in the Eugene-Springfield metro area, as well as the growth of innovative companies such as Bulk Handling Systems and Life Technologies.

John Tamulonis cited the development of a new Hilton Garden Inn, located in the Gateway area of Springfield, as well as the extension of Lane Transit District’s Em-X bus rapid transit line to the Gateway Mall and International Way. Jerry’s Home Improvement Center in Springfield is planning a $1.7 million expansion, and Phase 2 of the Bring Recycling Center is also in the works.

You can either be a “cup half-full” or “cup half-empty” kind of person. I’m a “half-full” type myself, and I am confident that the Eugene-Springfield metro area simply has too much to offer to truly collapse economically. There will unquestionably be hardships – we’ve seen layoffs at major employers such as Country Coach already – but the potential for success long-term is too great not to be optimistic. For those of us in the architectural profession, the goal should be to seize upon the opportunities inherent in this potential and facilitate the kinds of future developments that will further enhance livability, sustainability, and the attractiveness of our community for years to come.

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All of the credit for the success of the January meeting’s program goes to the Willamette Valley Chapter, CSI. If you’re not familiar with the organization, the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is a national professional association that provides technical information and products, continuing education, professional conferences, and product shows to enhance communication among all the building design and construction industry's disciplines. Kudos to Willamette Valley Chapter president Mark Richards and WVC program committee chairs Larry Banks, AIA, and Jon Texter for producing not only the “Projects in the Pipeline” panel discussion, but also the excellent educational seminars and products show prior to the dinner meeting.

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The February AIA-SWO chapter meeting will feature a presentation by Greg Hansen of Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers, about the latest trends in architectural lighting. Greg has taught lighting design at Lane Community College’s Energy Management Program since 1994; he has also presented at Lightfair International, and is a frequent lecturer and instructor for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC), the Northwest Energy Education Institute (NEEI) and the Oregon section of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). Greg has a MFA in Architectural Lighting from Parsons School of Design in New York City, and is Lighting Certified (LC) by the National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions. Mark your calendars: the meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at The Actors Cabaret in downtown Eugene; the social hour begins at 5:30.

Our February program sponsor is STS Coatings. STS Coatings manufactures a variety of construction products. These include the Roof Guardian Technologies line of roof maintenance systems for virtually every type of roof, as well as the GreatSeal polyether-based sealants that include no solvents, ensuring adhesion to most any construction surface without fear of product incompatibility. STS also manufactures the Wall Guardian single-component, liquid applied air barriers and the HeatBloc-75 spray-applied attic heat barrier. STS Coatings is represented in Oregon by Frank Saldana of BVS and Associates. Thanks to Frank and STS Coatings for being the AIA-SWO sponsor for February!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

ICS Update

Last October's AIA-SWO chapter meeting featured a discussion about the City of Eugene’s Infill Compatibility Standards (ICS). As explained at that meeting, these standards will become a set of tools to regulate the amount, form, and appearance of new residential development in established areas, while simultaneously enhancing neighborhoods by improving the design and the impact of infill development.

The ICS Task Team has been busy since last fall, producing a preliminary list of infill issues and defining problems and potential solutions for each issue. These range from the amount of required parking for new multi-family development to the need for a set of common design standards for new small infill developments like secondary dwelling units, alley access houses, and flag lot houses.

The work has progressed to the point where it is now time to take these ideas out for broad public input. The ICS outreach subcommittee has produced a flyer introducing the Infill Compatibility Standards project. Click here to download a pdf version of this flyer.

According to the City, the goal of the planned public workshops is to brainstorm potential ICS solutions, allowing for public input and feedback cycles before specific code language proceeds through the public hearing and adoption process (slated for early summer 2009).

The public workshops will be held on the evenings of February 12 (at the Downtown Library), February 26 (at South Eugene High School), and March 3 (at North Eugene High School). Times, rooms, and agenda content are still being finalized. See for updates.

Terri Harding is the City of Eugene’s ICS project manager. She may be reached at (541) 682-5635 if you have any questions regarding the ICS project or the upcoming public workshops.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Transformational Stimulus

At the most recent AIA Oregon council meeting, board members discussed the effect of the recession upon Oregon architectural firms, particularly in Portland. The American Institute of Architects is taking steps politically to help its membership mitigate the consequences of the economic meltdown. Nevertheless, I left the meeting concerned about whether our profession has the political chops it takes to compete aggressively for what will be in the best interests of architects, our communities, and the environment.

A case in point is President-elect Obama’s forthcoming $800 billion economic stimulus package. In anticipation of its passage by Congress, AIA National has developed the Rebuild and Renew Plan, which details our profession’s recommendations for the allocation of the stimulus package money. The plan calls upon the new administration and Congress to spend significant portions of the proposed economic shot in the arm on the design and construction of energy-efficient, sustainable buildings and communities. Rebuild and Renew includes an analysis of the potential impact of the economic recovery proposal on the creation and retention of jobs in the architecture profession. The problem is that the political success of the stimulus package is predicated upon immediate results. Consequently, there is an emphasis upon spending the money quickly on “shovel-ready” projects to give the economy the jolt it needs to prevent the country from falling further into recession. This emphasis will not necessarily benefit architects in the longer term if funding is not also reserved for planning the future projects the country will need to reshape itself along sustainable lines. We don’t want the stimulus money spent poorly on projects that are hastily planned and executed. We do want a sustainable recovery.

The architectural profession may lack the political wherewithal to compete effectively with other interest groups pursuing their cut of the stimulus package. There is undoubtedly an urgency shared by everyone with a hand in the pot that as much as possible must be grabbed as quickly as possible before it’s too late. As large a sum as $800 billion is, it can be split in only so many ways. Ideally, the money will be spent in a manner that is consistent with longer-term goals and strategies in mind. The problem is that our political process doesn’t necessarily favor the needs of the entire nation or world above the narrow interests of individual members of Congress and their constituents. Short-term thinking and influence peddling are the order of the day on Capitol Hill.

Obama does predict that the stimulus package will spark the creation of a clean energy economy, doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years. He also envisions modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings, improving the energy efficiency of two million American homes, and developing new energy technologies. It’s an understatement to say that Obama’s interest in promoting clean energy and sustainable communities is welcomed by architects and environmentalists. Ironically, it is the depth and severity of this recession that has been the catalyst for a stimulus package that may do more to transform the future of the built environment than was ever imaginable when the good times were rolling.

So while I fear that the architectural profession may fail to fully secure its agenda and fair share of the stimulus package, at least the opportunity has presented itself. I’ve never been a political animal, but when I head to the 2009 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, in early February, I will enthusiastically advocate on behalf of our profession and our planet’s best interests. Despite my uncertainly about our power to shape the political landscape at the highest levels, the last AIA Oregon council meeting galvanized my resolve to try and make a difference.

For more information on the AIA's Rebuild and Renew plan, or to download the full report, visit

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Architect’s Journey – Will Bruder

“Truly memorable buildings exploit the tension between the sensual and the intellectual, strive for the balance of the poetic and pragmatic, and search for elusive qualities, both timely and timeless.” Will Bruder

I’ve long admired the work of Arizona architect Will Bruder. Well known for his influential and idiosyncratic desert modernism, Bruder has in recent years traveled further afield, working in such diverse locales as Portland, Maine and Madison, Wisconsin. He presently is the 2009 Pietro Belluschi Distinguished Visiting Professor in Architectural Design at the University of Oregon.(1) He will be delivering his lecture titled "Built/Unbuilt: An Architect's Journey" in both Portland and Eugene next week.

The two lectures will be held in Portland on January 22 and in Eugene on January 23. The Portland lecture is at 6 p.m. at the UO in Portland, White Stag Block event room, 70 NW Couch Street. The Eugene lecture is at 6 p.m. in 150 Columbia Hall on the University of Oregon campus. The lectures are free and open to the public. For more information about the lectures, contact the Department of Architecture at 541-346-3656.

Will Bruder is one of those increasingly rare architects who received no formal university training in architecture,(2) instead having obtained professional licensure through apprenticeship with Paolo Soleri and Gunnar Birkerts. He opened his practice in 1974 and since then has been involved with over 600 projects, including the Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. He is currently working on large-scale community master plan projects in Glendale, Arizona and Denver, Colorado.

Nevada Museum of Art, Reno. Photo by Grant Mumford

Be sure to attend Bruder’s lecture in either Portland or Eugene to learn more about the personal journey taken by one architect toward the creation of regionally sensitive, environmentally responsive, and undeniably beautiful works of architecture.

(1) Bruder will teach design studio and a seminar class for architecture and interior architecture students during his ten-week appointment as the Belluschi professor.

(2) Bruder studied art and engineering, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1968.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

President’s Message - January 2009

Serving as the Credible Voice
For many of us, the turn of the calendar from one year to the next traditionally is accompanied not only by celebration, but also with a sense that we can start afresh. We reflect upon what has passed and earnestly make resolutions to improve ourselves in the year ahead. The AIA-SWO board is no different in this regard. We’ve resolved to move forward in 2009 on a number of initiatives that will emphasize providing tangible benefits to our membership. Our plan is to turn our chapter’s structure and resources toward furnishing these benefits effectively and efficiently.

One aspect of this plan is to promote the AIA-SWO as the credible voice for quality design and the built environment. The goal is to heighten awareness and understanding of the value of architects and our contribution to society. Ultimately, it’s our hope that these efforts will lead to the public mindset that, when it comes to seeking out expertise about the future of our built environment, AIA-SWO architects come to mind first.

Thinking strategically, AIA-SWO president-elect Michael Fifield recently presented a possible blueprint for enhancing this perception to the AIA-SWO board. With the objective of improving the built environment within the community and region, Michael believes that the AIA-SWO might:

  • Stress “smart growth” strategies as a method of achieving environmental sustainability (and ultimately, economic sustainability).
  • Work directly with the City of Eugene and other municipalities on policy issues as well as specific projects (e.g., nodes, corridors, downtown).
  • Assist our local municipalities in developing demonstration projects that advance meaningful and creative solutions to various issues (for example, housing affordability, or the development of a vibrant downtown).
  • Conduct “forums” (quarterly perhaps) on specific issues with presentations of case studies from other areas (with a discussion of how those projects may be appropriate for Eugene and other municipalities).
  • Provide a column in The Register-Guard each month on some issue of importance.
  • Conduct brainstorming sessions in a public community meeting on a regular basis to discuss critical issues.
  • Develop a yearly “white paper” addressing critical issues and recommendations for improvement/change and distribute this (perhaps as an insert in the R-G; it could be associated with the annual “People’s Choice” Awards insert).

Another vehicle for serving as the credible voice is to continue producing design workshops or “charrettes” on behalf of public agencies, tackling timely urban design issues. For 2009, we are planning two such charrettes. The first (actually two workshops on consecutive Saturdays) will provide AIA-SWO architects with the opportunity to weigh in on ODOT's controversial Willamette Crossing project. Our second charrette will assist the Eugene Water & Electric Board and its consultant team with exploring the future of its downtown riverfront property, potentially the most important piece of real estate in Eugene.

I believe that architecture and urban design are increasingly in the forefront of public discussions regarding the future of our communities. Part of this may be attributable to a greater civic awareness of the importance of sustainability and the prospect of significant federal investment in public infrastructure. However, I’m also sensing more interest in architecture on the part of the local media. It’s noteworthy that The Register-Guard recently picked up an AP newswire story about Frank Gehry. This is very good news. Although the article had no local content, it does help readers build their vocabulary so they can better talk and think about what constitutes good design. Indeed, I foresee our chapter further engaging The Register-Guard and other media outlets as our allies in expanding the dialogue about design and architecture as Michael Fifield has suggested.

AIA-SWO Chapter Committees
If you’re interested in helping to position our chapter in the forefront of public discussions about shaping the future of our communities, consider volunteering your time for one of the many AIA-SWO committees that will be active this year. Let me know what interests you and I’ll make sure that you’re notified of the appropriate committee meeting times and activities. My recap of the December AIA-SWO holiday party included a complete list of the currently active AIA-SWO committees. Click the link below:

January Chapter Meeting
The first chapter meeting of 2009 will be our annual joint event with the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). The meeting’s program will be “Building Projects in the Pipeline 2009,” a panel discussion regarding planned projects that constitute our own local “economic stimulus package.” A subtext underlying the discussion will be the state of the economy and its ramifications for the design and construction industry in the coming year. Given the turmoil in the financial markets, the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, and the deepening recession, there is no doubt that this is a program that will be well-attended. The discussion panel will include:

Philip Farrington – Peacehealth
Dave Hauser – Eugene Chamber of Commerce
Jon Lauch – Eugene School District, 4J
Chris Ramey – University of Oregon
Mike Sullivan – City of Eugene
David Suchart – Lane County
John Tamulonis – City of Springfield

Professional associations represented at the meeting will include not only us and the Willamette Valley Chapter/CSI, but the local chapters of NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) and CFMA (Construction Financial Managers Association).

Note that we won’t be meeting on our regular date and location for this month’s meeting. The dinner and program will occur on Thursday, January 29, 2009 at the Eugene Hilton Hotel and Conference Center. The social hour and a product show begin at 5:30 PM; dinner will be served at 6:30, and the program begins at 7:00. CSI has really stepped up their game for this year’s program, and in addition to the evening’s program will be offering free educational workshops on a host of building issues from 2:00 – 4:30 PM. Topics include sustainability experts discussing green roofs and photovoltaics for roofs (AIA learning units will be available).

The cost of the January dinner and program is $25 and reservations are requested. To RSVP for this special joint meeting, contact Tana Baker at or 541-687-9445. See you there!

Randy Nishimura, AIA
2009 President, AIA-Southwestern Oregon

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Enrollment is now open for two linked courses offered by Alder Fuller’s Euglena Academy designed to help our community understand the true nature of climate change. One – Climate & Gaia – focuses on the systems sciences, especially Earth systems sciences (geophysiology) necessary to understand climate and climate change. The other – With Speed & Violence – focuses on what is currently happening to Earth's ecosystems, and the astonishing and very sobering story of how rapid and extreme climate change has occurred in the past. These two courses form the core of Euglena’s Climate Adaptation Program (ECAP). Architects may find one or both courses useful as a foundation for developing design strategies to increase the built environment’s adaptive capacity in the face of rapid climate change.

ECAP will:
  • Address the severity of our climate crisis from a systems sciences perspective
  • Simultaneously address development of a realistic, workable program that our communities can use to not only mitigate, but prepare for adaptation to climate change

  • Make clear both the necessity and the value of a systems view of life & Earth, especially geophysiology; i.e., humans need to become familiar with the concept of Gaia – a self-regulating planetary system that operates similar to their own physiology.

ECAP will employ components already offered at Euglena Academy – lectures, workshops, and courses (including the two reading seminars discussed here) – but can also be customized to meet specific needs for specific groups, such as:

  • Architects & builders
  • Climate activist organizations
  • Food & agriculture organizations
  • Health care professionals & organizations
  • Alternative energy & energy conservation groups
  • Educators, including high school, college & university
  • Alternative transportation, esp bicycles & mass transit
  • Land agencies: BLM, USFS, Corp of Engineers
  • Policy makers: governors, representatives, mayors, city councils, county commissioners

The two courses beginning this month have been designed to explicitly explain why projections based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and models significantly underestimate the true nature of climate change with regard to scale, speed and severity. The fact is that we are very likely already past the "tipping point" for large-scale changes, and thus physically unable to stop large-scale climate change with any mitigation effort. We may slow it, and should try, but we probably won't stop it. Groups attempting to address climate change without understanding this are missing crucial information, and their efforts will be far less effective as a result. In addition to mitigation efforts to slow it, we must begin active preparations for adaptation.

With Speed & Violence is a reading seminar based on journalist Fred Pearce's book of that title. (Subtitle: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change). It includes information making it clear that the majority of climate researchers acknowledge that the IPCC is underestimating the crisis, and that they are frightened by what they are learning. This course will help individuals and groups working on climate change understand the nature of what we face with much greater clarity.

Climate & Gaia is a reading and lecture seminar based on the first four chapters of James Lovelock's book "The Revenge of Gaia". Lovelock firmly grounds his diagnosis of Earth's climate crisis in published systems sciences, especially geophysiology, the science that he founded 30 years ago with Lynn Margulis. Climate change can fundamentally not be fully understood from outside the perspective of geophysiology. Alder Fuller understands that many do not condone some of Lovelock's solutions, and neither does he. However, Dr. Fuller asserts that to ignore James Lovelock’s science & assessment of the climate crisis is a recipe for planetary catastrophe. That is why Euglena focuses predominantly on the first four chapters of Lovelock’s book dealing with the science instead of the last six chapters dealing with his proposed solutions.

The ECAP core courses can be done in either order, separately or together. Both are 8-week programs, each meeting once a week on Wednesday or Thursday evenings beginning this month. Enrollment ends January 22, 2009. For more information, contact Euglena by e-mail at or phone at (541-762-1217).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Consider value, not just cost

I contributed the following letter to The Register-Guard, which was printed in the January 2, 2008 edition of the paper. I wrote it in response to an article by Susan Palmer of The Register-Guard on the subject of EWEB's selection process to select a consultant team for its riverfront master plan process. While not directly stating that fees would be the primary selection criterion, her article used the word “bid” repeatedly to describe the fee proposals of the teams under consideration (the “bids” of the five shortlisted teams were also printed). For architects, any notion about bidding fees is a bugaboo. The AIA-SWO board regarded the article as an opportunity to educate, to clarify that design professionals should be selected on the basis of the most meaningful factors – qualifications, competence, and previous performance – rather than as a result of a focus on fees. This should especially be the case when the scope of a project is not well established at the time of the consultant’s selection.

Consider value, not just cost
The Dec. 29 coverage in The Register-­Guard of Eugene Water & Electric Board’s effort to select a master planning consultant for its riverfront parcel prominently displayed each contender’s fee proposal. Readers may have the impression that cost is the only factor being considered by EWEB’s Community Advisory Team. Not so. Cost is one of many considerations. The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects applauds the work being done by these community volunteers.

EWEB wants the greatest value, not the lowest cost. The advisory team is deliberating carefully because it’s in the best interests of EWEB and its ratepayers to not base the selection on cost alone. Design professionals do not sell a commodity but rather their knowledge.

Professional architects and urban designers turn undefined concepts into realistic visions, plans and specifications. They take an idea and give it definition.

EWEB wants to ensure that the future of our downtown riverfront is in the hands of the most qualified and competent team possible, not simply the one that offers the lowest fee proposal — which isn’t a “bid.” The likelihood of a project’s success would be reduced if the selection was merely a bidding process.

Good design may cost a bit more, but it pays for itself many times over the life of the project. For the sake of our city and its downtown riverfront, EWEB can’t afford not to hire the best consultants available.

Randy Nishimura, 2009 President
American Institute of Architects – Southwestern Oregon Chapter


SW Oregon Architect has been picked up by ArchiBlog, a portal of blogs about architecture. ArchiBlog collects articles from hundreds of architecture blogs and includes them in its daily digest. I’ve added a link to ArchiBlog on my “Sites of Interest” list in the sidebar.

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