Monday, January 30, 2012

A Case Study – Part 3: The Tree of Life

This is the third post of a series dedicated to a case study of a single project—the VA Roseburg Healthcare System Community Living Center (CLC) Expansion— designed by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects. Click on “A Case Study” in the Labels list at right for the full series.

Humans have always been attracted to particularly majestic and singular trees. It’s part of our nature, perhaps a vestigial legacy of our arboreal ancestry. We view trees as sacred, as symbols of antiquity and strength. We observe their growth, annual decay, and the subsequent rebirth of their foliage, and cannot help but regard them as analogs for our own lives and the promise of resurrection.

As a mythological or religious motif, many-branched trees allude to the interconnectedness of all living things. We speak of the “evolutionary tree” as well as our “family tree.” According to biblical accounts, the Tree of Life sat in the Garden of Eden. The fabled tree expressed God’s benevolence by providing protection and fruit, and thereby regeneration. Trees in other faiths have likewise come to symbolize life and the richness it entails.

Trees also signify points of connection between heaven and Earth: the axis mundi or cosmic tree. As Wikipedia states, the notion of a cosmic tree unites three planes—sky (branches), earth (trunk), and underworld (roots)—allowing travel and correspondence between higher and lower realms. The cosmic tree stands at “the center of the world” as a microcosm of universal order. It supports the heavens while at the same time marking their point of origin.

Yggdrasil, a modern attempt to reconstruct the Norse world tree (from Wikipedia)

Sarah Williams Goldhagen, the architecture critic for The New Republic, has additionally written about trees as visual metaphors of our living in a body on earth:

Trees are static, stable objects. Someone connected to a community is “rooted” there; a psychologically sturdy friend’s feet are firmly “planted” on the ground. We use trees to describe human bodies and souls: the area from our neck to pelvis is our “trunk”; someone reliable is “solid as an oak”; someone exploring a new area of inquiry is “branching out.”

We see in the morphology of trees a parallel with our own upright bodies. We anthropomorphize them, especially those possessed of distinct character or appeal. They shelter us as we gather under their leafy boughs to stay dry or for respite from the sun. With time, they become our companions, reliable and reassuring old friends.

Goldhagen’s treatise about trees focused upon how the associations we make emerge from the fact we live inside bodies, in a concrete world, and we tend to think in metaphors grounded in that embodiment. She noted that tree motifs are appearing in the work of contemporary architects. As I’m about to explain, it is a very real tree, not a facsimile, that figures prominently in my firm’s design solution for the VA Roseburg Community Living Center Expansion project.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Google Earth view of the VA Roseburg Medical Center; north is to the right. The area identified by "A" was the site proposed by the VA; the "B" area is the site ultimately selected after analysis by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects.

The VA Roseburg Healthcare System identified a preferred site for its new Alzheimer’s and dementia care facility prior to bringing Robertson/Sherwood/Architects on board. The site would be south of the existing “Transitional Care Unit,” which was constructed in 1998 in accordance with a design by the late Ed Waterbury, AIA. Ed fashioned the TCU in the mold of a traditional nursing home, albeit one dedicated to rehabilitative care (in other words, the patients are destined to “transition” out of the facility). The VA was determined to build the new CLC Expansion immediately next door to the TCU to take advantage of functional adjacencies and economies. The combined facility would become the Community Living Center.

We quickly realized that the site selected by the VA was less than ideal. Besides being ill-proportioned, it is presently home to the most convenient parking for the TCU. Constructing the CLC Expansion would displace dozens of spaces and a well-used bus loading/drop-off lane. In addition, the new building would eliminate desirable views to the south from patient rooms and common areas in the TCU. If built where the VA envisioned, the CLC Expansion would also relate poorly to the larger campus plan, which formally arrays the original 1932 hospital buildings in Beaux Arts fashion around a large, oval green.

CLC Expansion massing study (orange building in image) on the initially proposed site, south of the TCU (white building).

We persuaded the VA Roseburg administration to reconsider its directive to locate the CLC Expansion on the TCU parking lot. Consequently, its charge to us was to analyze alternative site options and forward a recommendation.

Ultimately, we settled upon a location that wasn’t even on the VA’s radar screen before we started. This site is nestled compactly between the TCU to the south and Building 1 (the main hospital building) and Building 71 (Dietetics) to the north.(1) It offers better proximity to each of these facilities, as well as superior access for service and emergency vehicles. It does not displace as much valuable parking. The site presents the prospect of a direct architectural relationship to the formal greensward. Most notably, it features an impressive collection of mature trees and landscaping, which we could incorporate into our design.

The prospect of fitting the residentially scaled program components amid mature landscaping was very appealing. We strongly believe our chosen site presents the best opportunity to provide patients with the dignified, de-institutionalized, and life-enhancing environment sought by the VA. We envision it as a place of natural refuge, within which the inevitability of time and mortality is managed gracefully.

Plan depicting existing site utilities and topography. Note the locations of Buildings T-13 and T-14.

So why wasn’t this site considered by the VA to begin with? The reason is that it’s already occupied: Building T-13 (Administration) and Building T-14 (Human Resources) are situated exactly where we proposed to locate the new CLC Expansion. The powers-that-be did not recognize its potential because they could not think outside of the box and imagine removing the existing buildings. I should note that the “T” in their designations stands for temporary, as these modular structures were installed as stop-gap measures decades ago to address a space shortfall. Our recommendation to build on this site may have accelerated the decommissioning of T-13 and T-14, but their demise was coming due soon anyway.(2)

The most remarkable of the established plantings we propose to retain is an extraordinarily large and exotic looking Persian silk tree.(3) By virtue of its size and shape (with an expansive crown providing dappled shade), the tree is a commanding presence. It sits squarely between T-13 and T-14, ideally situated to become the focal point of a new courtyard at the center of our CLC Expansion. This specimen is so unique and visually arresting we cannot help but envision it assuming a meaningful role as the proverbial Tree of Life.

The Persian silk tree (my photo)

Real trees, fragrant flowers, breezes, and access to sunlight are among the best means to provide Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with sensory stimulation and exercise, reducing stress and tension. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature will evoke positive feelings and recall pleasant past experiences. Our design will honor the service rendered by the veterans by offering a place of security and natural solace with the silk tree as its focus.

The VA’s stated goal is to provide a comfortable and functional home for veterans burdened by the indignities of memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. Nevertheless, we also want to imbue the project with a symbolic recognition of the entire trajectory of their lives—their place (and also ours) in the grander scheme of things. The silk tree will figure prominently in this regard, reminding patients, their families, and the caregivers of the interconnectedness of life, its cycles, and the passage of time.

As the next post in this series will elaborate, an awareness of the symbolism inherent in the tree, the garden, and the courtyard shaped our design for the CLC Expansion. The persistence of ancient tree myths is a testament to the power of trees as symbols. The site we chose is blessed by the presence of many fine specimens. We found our muse in the magnificent Tree of Life at its center.

Next in the Case Study series: Locus Amoenus

(1)  The Department of Veterans Affairs is short on charm and sentiment when it comes to naming its facilities. No-nonsense acronyms and numbers are the order of the day.

(2) This experience highlights the importance of site selection as a critical component of any project. It isn’t always possible, but having the design team participate in the site selection process increases the likelihood of a successful project. I find it hard to imagine now how difficult our challenge would have been if we were saddled with the original site located south of the TCU.

(3)  Also known as a mimosa tree, the Persian silk tree is obviously not indigenous to Southern Oregon and the Umpqua Valley. Horticulturalists imported the species to this region for its ornamental value. It is now actually considered an invasive species in the eastern United States, where it is susceptible to fungal diseases.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Connecting Communities: Investing in Quality Growth

Mark your calendar! Plan to attend this morning session to learn about the challenges and opportunities that face communities as they strive toward development and revitalization. Quality growth can spark a healthier social, economic, cultural, and vibrant community.
Keynote speakers Christopher Leinberger from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and John Robert Smith, President and CEO of ReconnectingAmerica and former mayor of the City of Meridian, Mississippi, will share their experiences and innovative ideas to help our community not only survive, but thrive.
The morning also will include a local panel to discuss opportunities, innovations, and work in progress in our own community.
To attend this free conference, register by Friday, February 3 by e-mailing LTD at or by calling 541-682-6106. Seating is limited.
What:  Connecting Communites: Investing in Quality Growth
When:  Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pedaling for Affordable Housing

Bike & Build is an organization that empowers young adults by raising their social consciousness through efforts to spread awareness about the need for affordable housing. Each summer, team members cycle across the country, working on affordable housing projects along the way while promoting the cause.

According to its website, Bike & Build has contributed $3,387,200 to housing groups to fund projects planned and executed by the participants. Its program introduces young adults (mostly college-aged) to the affordable housing issue, engages them in a unique and interesting way, and creates a prolonged and intimate connection. By funding building projects involving students and young adults, Bike & Build taps the unlimited potential of this crucial demographic.

Most importantly, Bike & Build instills leadership and philanthropic service among its participants. The riders represent our future; the program captures their energy and directs it toward a worthy cause. Many Bike & Build alumni will undoubtedly remain committed to a lifetime of civic engagement.

A young friend of mine, Alex Caves, will be among those pedaling for affordable housing with Bike & Build. Alex is an incredibly creative, energetic, and motivated individual. He is thrilled by the prospect of riding with Bike & Build this summer. I have no doubt that Alex will serve as an exemplary ambassador for the organization.

Bike & Build produces eight cross-country events: Central United States, Northern United States, Providence to Seattle, Providence to California, Southern United States, North Carolina to San Diego, Maine to Santa Barbara and South Carolina to Santa Cruz. Alex will be one of the riders on the North Carolina to San Diego route.

Bike & Build is a 501(c)(3) independent nonprofit organization. In order to participate in Bike & Build, each rider agrees to raise a minimum of $4,500 in donations. Cyclists raise this money in a variety of ways. I’m helping Alex with his fundraising by promoting Bike & Build on SW Oregon Architect. If you’re interested in helping Alex meet his goal of raising $4,500 in donations, click the following link to make a tax-deductible contribution.

Alex plans on filming his entire Bike & Build experience to share the story of how the goodwill of donors is being put to use. He will post pictures and videos on his blog documenting the progress of his North Carolina to San Diego team so that we can all follow along.

I’m looking forward to tracking Alex’s progress this summer. Support Alex and Bike & Build by making a donation today!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Breakfast of Energy Champions

The Eugene Water &Electric Board invites design professionals and builders to its Breakfast of Energy Champions, an informational event about Oregon energy tax credits and EWEB's programs for residential and commercial energy-efficiency improvements. 

The free breakfast presentation will take place at the EWEB’s headquarters on February 1 at 8:00 a.m.

Attend to learn from knowledgeable Oregon Department of Energy representatives about revisions to the State's residential and business energy tax credits. In addition, EWEB’s Energy Management Services Team will discuss how contractors can add value to projects by helping their customers save energy and money. 

What:  EWEB’s Breakfast of Energy Champions

When:   February 1, 8:00-10:00 am

Where:  North Building at EWEB Headquarters, 500 E. 4th Avenue, Eugene OR 97401

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Envisioning Biophilic Cities

I learned of an upcoming lecture that sounds fascinating from the latest issue of the Eugene Weekly. Noted urban planner and sustainability author Timothy Beatley will advocate the greening of cities in a talk this Tuesday, January 17 at Fenton Hall on the University of Oregon campus.

Beatley is a 1981 Master’s in Urban Planning graduate of the University of Oregon (which means that he and I no doubt crossed paths, although I’ve never met him) and secured his PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He presently teaches as the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia.

He is the author of BiophilicCities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning (Island Press 2010), a book in which he outlines the essential elements of a biophilic city. These include being a place that learns from nature and emulates natural systems, incorporates natural forms and images into its buildings and landscapes, and designs and plans in conjunction with nature. According to Beatley, a biophilic city cherishes the natural features that already exist but also works to restore and repair what has been lost or degraded.

In a conversation with Weekly editor Ted Taylor, Beatley commented about how the architecture community is largely oriented to buildings, but he would like to see the discussion go beyond just the design of structures. “We need that bond with nature,” he said. “The evidence is pretty convincing that we carry with us, in our ancient brains, the need for connection with the natural world in order to be happy, healthy and productive.”

Because of other commitments next Tuesday, I unfortunately won’t be able to attend Beatley’s lecture. If any of you do attend, I’d welcome your comments on my blog about your impressions and what you may have learned.

What:  Envisioning Biophilic Cities, a lecture by Timothy Beatley

When:  Tuesday, January 17, 2012 – 5:30 PM

Where:  Fenton Hall, room 110, on the University of Oregon campus

Cost:  Free

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Case Study – Part 2: Cultural Transformation

This is the second post of a series dedicated to a case study of a single project—the VA Roseburg Healthcare System Community Living Center (CLC) Expansion— designed by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects. Click on “A Case Study” in the Labels list at right for the full series.

The VA Roseburg Healthcare System has provided first-rate Alzheimer’s and dementia care to veterans for many years through the Protected Care Unit (PCU) on its main campus in Roseburg, Oregon. Unfortunately, the PCU is physically deficient in many ways, particularly with respect to a recent mandate from the Department of Veterans Affairs to transform the mode of care to a more patient-centered approach. This post describes the impact of that “cultural transformation” upon our design for the new CLC Expansion, which will entirely replace the old PCU.

The transformation involves a move away from the traditional nursing home paradigm —characterized as a system that fosters dependence by keeping residents well cared for, safe and powerless— to a “regenerative” model. This innovative model is also referred to as “resident-centered” care because a goal is to increase the resident’s autonomy and sense of control. The VA is a late-adopter, only now catching up with the private sector and the trend toward this enlightened philosophy of care.

The VA has a huge suite of design guidelines for its healthcare facilities, which we’re obliged to follow. These guidelines prescribe everything from goals for energy reduction to the exact size of spaces devoted to storage of clean linens. Periodically, these guidelines become outdated and in need of renewal. For the CLC Expansion project, our design team found itself on the cusp of a major update that resulted in the current Design Guide for Community Living Centers. We initiated design of the project and meetings with the PCU staff without the benefit of the new guide. At the time, we didn’t know we would be thrust into the middle of a contentious cultural transformation debate pitting in-the-trenches caregivers against well-intentioned policy-makers in Washington, D.C.

The consequences of finding ourselves in the middle of this transformation were significant. We started, stopped, and then started again the programming and design processes.(1) Initially, the program called for separate memory-care and hospice suites totaling 22,000 gross square feet; with the changes wrought by the transformation, the VA reduced the overall project scope and abandoned plans for the 10-bed hospice. Ultimately, the program would require 20 Alzheimer’s/dementia patient beds housed within a facility totaling approximately 18,000 square feet.

Most importantly, our new charge was to focus our programming effort upon the quality of life to be provided to the patients, rather than upon achieving machine-like efficiency and maximum staff convenience. This is not to diminish the importance of functionality; rather, it reflected a desire by the VA to honor and provide its resident veterans with as dignified, de-institutionalized, and life-enhancing an environment as possible.

It’s difficult to overstate the magnitude of this shift in focus. The Roseburg VA’s excellent staff knows what works for them when it comes to delivering care to its PCU patients. The challenges the nurses face everyday—from dealing with inappropriate outbursts, paranoia, and violent behavior, to assisting with everyday tasks like eating, bathing, and dressing—cannot be ignored. It’s no surprise that their world-view is filtered through a lens that focuses upon operational efficiency. They must contend with issues that few of us outside of their profession can fully appreciate. Nevertheless, the latest research regarding Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias highlights the importance of good design as a treatment factor.

Functional Relationship Diagram from the Design Guide for Community Living Centers, June 2011

Fundamentally, the new program objective involves mitigating the realities of aging, including issues related to rehabilitative, memory, and palliative care by providing a supportive and comfortable environment. This means creating a real home for those being cared for in a house-like setting. Accordingly, our design for the CLC Expansion project will promote a culture of care that is patient-centered rather than staff-centric. This direction is supported by critical research and evidence-based observation.

Keys to this new model of care are the following principles:
  • Understandable architecture
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Safety
  • Wayfinding
  • Minimizing confusion
  • Settings for small groups
  • Providing residents with options
The cognitively impaired patients in the CLC will likely be divided into two sub-populations:
  • Those who suffer from diminished memory and flawed judgment but are active and fairly physically adept.
  • Those who are profoundly physically and mentally impaired.
There are several national models of culture change in the housing of memory-care patients that our team looked to. The common thread is a philosophy that supports resident choice, the creation of individualized living spaces, and respect for each person’s individual needs. Planetree and the Green House Project are two of these models.

The new program follows both the Planetree and Green House design models by requiring a residential-style kitchen, a fireplace, and plenty of natural light through windows and skylights. The staff and patients will use the kitchen in each “house” for baking cookies, making coffee, toast, etc. The CLC staff does not envision full preparation of meals at these kitchens as this would be handled by Dietetics, located in a neighboring building on the campus. In this regard, the operation of the kitchen in each of the houses will not fully conform to some patient-centered care models because meals are not cooked on site. Regardless, meals prepared by Dietetics will be brought to the residential kitchens and served family style or consumed by patients in accordance with their own schedules.

In addition to the private bathrooms within the patient suites, the CLC Expansion will include a shared grooming room with a bath spa in each house. This will allow residents through restorative care to maintain (for as long as possible) their ability to perform basic activities, such as combing their hair and brushing their teeth.

The CLC Expansion will also feature a salon and a home for a companion dog that will have the same free access to the secure courtyard outdoors that the residents would have access to while being contained by an attractive fence.

An important consideration is the need to control unauthorized exiting from the facility. Intentionally or otherwise, residents may attempt to leave their home. Accordingly, the project will incorporate access control systems, such as proximity card readers, delayed egress at emergency exits, and a sallyport vestibule at the gatehouse entrance to the secure courtyard. Other measures will include camouflaging of doors not normally intended for use by the residents.

The design will be comprised of distinct and home-like units. These will best meet the needs of cognitively impaired residents who are mobile and energetic, and/or restless or particularly disoriented. Such a concept eliminates long corridors and makes it easy to include small, family-scaled gathering spaces.

Each unit will be staffed by a team of universal workers, known as Shahbazim, rather than registered nurses. Shahbazim will perform personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping, and laundry tasks. The VA will provide a clinical support team, which will include nurses, therapists, physicians, dietary professionals, and pharmacists. The assigned nurses will be available to each home on a 24-hour basis. The other clinical professionals on the team will visit the houses regularly and as individual residents require.

Patients and staff will collaborate to create a daily routine that meet an individual patient’s needs. There is no predetermined routine, facilitating patients’ independence to the greatest degree possible.

Altogether, the effects of the cultural transformation mandate upon our design for the CLC Expansion have been huge. The mandate fundamentally shaped our response to the challenge of providing a respectful home for veterans tragically afflicted by the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Read the forthcoming posts in this series; my expectation is that you’ll easily grasp how meaningfully the VA’s paradigm shift has impacted our design solution.

Next in the Case Study series: The Tree of Life

(1)  We originally initiated programming in March of 2010, proceeding through site selection, conceptual design, schematic design, and completing design development before the VA asked us to halt work in February of 2011 because of the new mandate. Since restarting, our team has revisited the functional program and carried the project through all of the subsequent phases. We’re presently preparing the construction documents. The VA hopes to solicit bids for the project this April, with construction beginning by mid-Summer.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Case Study – Part 1: Introduction

Community Living Center Expansion, VA Roseburg Medical Center (Schematic Design image by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects)

Wikipedia defines a case study as an intensive analysis of an individual unit (e.g., a person, group, or event) stressing developmental factors in relation to context. Wikipedia further describes a case study as a means to explore causation in order to find underlying principles. Dissecting the process by which an architectural design problem is outlined and its resultant solution identified provides a classic case study subject.  

I am currently involved with a project that presents an ideal occasion for such a case study. The client is the Department of Veterans Affairs. The assignment is to design a new home for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at the VA Roseburg (Oregon) Medical Center. My intent is to illuminate how Robertson/Sherwood/Architects (RSA) and our team of collaborators are trying to create a work of architecture. 

The primary reason I decided to present a case study of this project (for which design remains in progress) is that it so clearly offers an opportunity to inhere meaning in built form. I’ll explain this in greater detail throughout the series of posts I plan to write about the project and its design process. The focus of this first essay is to outline how rich this opportunity is.  

Nearly all design problems today are burdened with considerations so complex and constraints so severe that our ability to consciously apply principled intentions toward them is diminished or precluded altogether. Too often the results are merely competent (or sometimes less than competent) solutions to measurable concerns. We and our clients are pleased when we get the basics right: the project comes in on budget; the building achieves its performance goals; the users are happy with how their new spaces function; and so on. However, most of us will acknowledge that transcendent architecture is expected to do much more.

Because of our necessary focus on all that is measurable, we sometimes lose sight of the poetry in what Louis Kahn defined as the unmeasurable. He believed the human condition requires a balance between the two, between knowledge and intuition, between the temporal and the eternal. According to Kahn, acknowledging the presence of the unmeasurable is a necessary step toward creating architecture that helps us understand the world in which we live.

For my part, I have described good architecture as life-affirming and springing from optimism. Good architecture also aspires to be lasting and significant, serve as an interpreter of our existence, and act as a medium for narrating and representing space.

We recognized the potential of the new VA Roseburg Alzheimer’s and dementia patient facility as soon as we became aware of the project. Here was a prospective commission with a long-time client, for a program with well-defined needs, and for which the science of care was rapidly evolving. Also, the project fell neatly into a sweet spot for RSA: not so small that it would be difficult to fully explore themes of interest to us, nor so large that we would have to team up with a larger firm and concede some design control. We pursued the job aggressively and the VA rewarded us with the design contract.

Our firm has worked on projects for the VA Roseburg Healthcare System since the mid-1980s; I’ve had the good fortune to be our firm’s primary contact with the VA for much of that time. Invariably, everyone at the VA I’ve worked with has been genuinely appreciative of what we bring to the table as design professionals. The VA’s contracting officers, staff engineers, and project managers contend with an enormous bureaucracy and its attendant foibles, but they do so effectively and with good humor. They provide us with welcome support and encouragement, if not always the most generous budgets. They understand their own limitations. The bottom line is the folks at the VA Roseburg Healthcare System are a pleasure to work with and a client most every architect would covet.

Setting for the CLC Expansion (my photo)

The VA christened the future new home for its Alzheimer’s and dementia patients as the “Community Living Center (CLC) Expansion” because it will augment the existing Transitional Care Unit and form a residential care precinct on the Roseburg Medical Center campus. As I will discuss in a subsequent post in this series, the VA charged us with identifying the most suitable site for the project. The spot we ultimately selected is packed with promise, a fact we did not fully grasp until after we were well underway with developing our scheme.

Another aspect of this design problem that makes it so noteworthy is the VA’s goal of truly creating a home for those who served their country and now require compassionate care in return. Our duty as architects is to provide these men (and a growing number of female veterans in the future) with as supportive, respectful, non-institutional, and rich a setting as possible in which to live their remaining days. We regard this duty as an honor and do not take it lightly.

The VA also directed our team to design the CLC Expansion project to comply with the federal Sustainable Design and Energy Reduction Manual for New Construction and use LEED’s Healthcare Rating System as a guideline for documentation and compliance. The reasons include long-term operational savings for the VA, a healthier work and patient environment, and a desire to contribute toward the reduction of greenhouse gases generated by the manufacture and transport of construction products. We’re pleased the VA embraces sustainability as an ethos and endorses LEED certification for the project.

All in all, the CLC Expansion presents a synergistic convergence of factors—a “Goldilocks” commission, perfect for RSA; a supportive client; a serendipitous site; a worthy cause; and a mandate for sustainability—which together form the kind of design challenge architects dream of. It’s a project for which we hope to create genuinely meaningful architecture. We’re embracing this opportunity by applying as much care and intellect as possible.

VA Roseburg Medical Center

Hopefully, no one will read this case study series and think of me as overly boastful or bigheaded. I’m simply proud of the project and our approach to it. If anything, our solution will appear thoroughly unassuming because that happens to be the appropriate response to this design problem.

Future posts in this series will each address a specific aspect of the project, beginning with its functional brief, and progressing to site selection, conceptual design, sustainability, and so forth. While the initial entries are a record of what has already passed (we’re presently in the Construction Documents phase), subsequent posts will occur in “real time” as the project moves forward.

Upon its completion, this case study will serve as a chronicle of our design process for the VA Roseburg CLC Expansion project. If I’m skillful enough, it will offer a glimpse into how we think as architects and at the same time tell a compelling story. The design process is still unfolding and chapters remain to be written before we know if the tale will have a happy ending. I hope readers enjoy the case study series of posts and regularly visit SW Oregon Architect to find out.

Next in the Case Study series: Cultural Transformation.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

CSI BUILD: January 24

Mark your calendars: BUILD 2012, one of the biggest events on the local construction industry calendar, takes place on Tuesday, January 24 at the Hilton Hotel & Conference Center in Eugene

Hosted and organized each year by the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute, BUILD is your opportunity to attend free educational seminars and an always excellent construction products show. The event’s generous sponsors include Turner Construction, CH2M Hill, Dea-Mor, Twin Rivers Plumbing, and FM Sheet Metal.

BUILD’s education seminars are a great way to earn AIA CEUs (one learning unit for each session) and enhance your technical knowledge. Nine different seminars will offer a compelling range of construction-related topics. No pre-registration is necessary—just show up and attend! 

BUILD takes the place of the regular January AIA-Southwestern Oregon chapter meeting. CSI Willamette Valley annually invites AIA-Southwestern Oregon and other design and construction industry organizations to BUILD’s dinner program, which has typically focused on economic forecasts for the coming year. 2012 is no exception, and this year’s program features Dr. Timothy Duy, Director of the Oregon Economic Forum, who will address the question “Are We There Yet?”

Because seating is limited, you do have to RSVP to reserve a spot for the dinner presentation. If you plan to attend, let Tana Baker of Chambers Construction know by reaching her via email at

BUILD is not only a day of rich technical education, but also a vibrant social and networking opportunity for the entire design and construction community. Celebrate the optimism of the New Year and connect with your colleagues: the architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, bankers, owners, insurers, attorneys, and accountants that BUILD our community. Attend BUILD 2012!

What:   BUILD 2012

When:  Tuesday, January 24, 2012
  • Seminars & Product Show 1:00-5:00 pm
  • Social Hour 5:00 pm
  • Dinner & Program 6:30 pm
Where: Hilton Hotel & Conference Center, Eugene

Cost:    Education seminars & product show: FREE. Dinner & program: $30 (students: $10)