Today, USA Architects held an in-house seminar and hands-on demonstration of the accessibility regulations.  Several of us spent time in a wheelchair, attempting to navigate around our office.  The results were both awkward and eye opening. 

 Let me say that none of us here at the office have spent time in a wheelchair, but that does not mean that someday we might not have to, either temporarily or permanently.  While we were focusing on being wheelchair bound, the regulations are in place to also address others that may be disabled in other terms.  It could mean you are on crutches, have an arm in a sling or have other physical disabilities that limit your mobility and functioning.

 First, the five foot turning radius (which I am dubbing the “circle of death”) is virtually impossible to navigate.  Many attempted to achieve this and found that keeping within the radius a difficult task.  Most of us truly formed more of an ‘oval’ when attempting this maneuver.  Remember, this is the minimum recommended turning radius floor space.

 Maneuvering hallways and turns was a little less challenging, but some had a hard time running a straight line, bumping into walls and other obstructions along the way.  It reminded me of the bumper car rides at amusement parks.  Moving through the doorways (with the doors open) even presented challenges with a standard width wheelchair (27” +/-).  With the minimum clearances at doorways of 32” this only leaves a 2-1/2” clearance on each side for fingers, elbows and arms.  I know that the oversized units would be impossible to use under these circumstances.

 Our office entrance from the elevator lobby is a double door with levers on the lobby side, closers and panic hardware on the inside.  The ability to manipulate the lever, open the door far enough, all while keeping the wheelchair stable gave most of us a problem.  From the inside, using the panic hardware, again while maintaining the wheelchair still, and getting through the door was difficult.  These were all attempted while positioning the minimum side clearances.

While our kitchen is fairly spacious, no one could access the sink (not designed for accessibility).  With a table and chairs, getting to the refrigerator and opening it was a challenge.  And, the wall cabinets were just out of reach.

One person in our group attempted to move into a cubicle to simulate working.  The computer keyboard, located on an articulating arm below the work surface, did not allow clearance underneath.  This also did not allow close enough access the telephone and much of the working surface.  Turning the computer on and off was impossible.

 I was the one to access the bathrooms.  I found that pulling up to the urinal, just would not be close enough to take care of business.  I also realized that to access the accessible toilet stall, required backing in, a real challenge while opening the stall door (I think back-up mirrors are necessary for this).  Once inside the stall I realized that I probably would not be able to make the transfer, let alone ‘drop my drawers’ in the process.  I think that you may need to plan ahead due the extra time involved in getting into “position.”

 The elevator in our building was easy to access, however, once inside, I found myself having to make the turn-around through a series of maneuvers.  I cannot imagine what it would have been like with more than one person accompanying me.

One last item to note is doorway thresholds.  They became a real challenge, especially into the bathroom, where a transition from carpet to ceramic tile had a marble threshold.  Opening a door with a closer, while overcoming the threshold, and maneuvering the chair through the doorway, gave me a greater appreciation of the challenges people confined to a wheelchair have to overcome.

 I think the wheelchair we were using needed some mechanical work, as it pulled slightly to the left.  A full alignment and brake check is probably in order as well as a replacement of the wheel bearings.  Is there a wheelchair repair garage out there?  Do they offer loaners?  I can say this was exhausting and truly limits mobility as we (mostly) normal people participated in this event.

Remember, the regulations are minimums!  So, next time your client asks about accessibility perhaps you should have them do this exercise.  I truly believe their questions would be answered.


Motorcycles and Architecture – How does that work?

ImageMy love of motorcycles began at a young age when my older brother took me for my first ride.  I must tell you it has been an adrenalene rush ever since.  I also now know why dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows!  The open road feeling, the rush of wind, the blue sky above, the leaning into every curve, the acceleration….all amounts to a wonderful experience. I had my first solo experience when I was 18, riding a friend’s bike, which totally hooked me even more.  I have ‘graduated’ through the ranks of the various sizes and find myself comfortably on an 1800 Goldwing.  This ‘Cadillac’ of motorcycles delivers sheer comfort and hugs the curves like nothing I have ever been on before.

But, let me get to the point.  How do Motorcycles relate to Architecture?  Architecture relates to the environment it is in.  Motorcycle riders adapt to the roads and environment.  Architecture presents beauty in the built environment.  Motorcycles present beauty on the road.  After all, why do heads turn every time a motorcycle passes by?  Both Architecure and Motorcycles follow the “Form follows Function” (see:  Architecture is designed for a specific purpose for occupants.  Motorcycles are designed for many different tastes and uses, such as a cruiser, tourer or sport bike.

But, the real connection comes while riding on a motorcycle through a city or along the countryside.  It is impossible to describe ‘how much more’ you see when on a bike.  The open air around you allows you to see more than when you are ‘confined’ in a car.  I have observed so many more building details while on my motorcycle than while riding in a car (much to the dismay of my passenger wife).  The only expereince that comes close is riding in a convertible, with the top down, which is not quite the same.

I can only tell you that the combination of these two passions has been a real blessing.  Should everyone ride a motorcycle?  Should everyone be an architect?  The answer to both you already know.

The next time you see a motorcycle on the road, I know you will remember this post.


A hidden GEM.  The best kept SECRET.  Best thing since SLICED BREAD.  No matter what phrase you can come up, CSI is the best organization in the construction industry.  What other organization offers the diversity of membership (look-I am a member), a diversity that offers access to the best minds across the board (look-I am a member).  You get to meet and pick the brains of these people (look-I am a member).  Why join?  I ask WHY NOT?  You cannot afford to not join.  It is a valuable INVESTMENT in your future.  If you are serious about your career, you NEED to belong!

Join CSI online between Wednesday, June 13, and Wednesday, June 20, and pay only $192 — a 20% savings — for your membership. Use promo code “12spring20” when you join at promotion is only available to new members joining at the professional level. Chapter dues are not included in this promotion. To join:

  1. Visit
  2. Select “Join Now”, and then click “Sign Up as a New Member”
  3. Enter Promotion Code 12spring20 when prompted
  4. Click the “Add Discount” button


Questions? Ask me, I am a member! 

Art, Architecture, and Life

Art, Architecture, and Life

I need to express my gratitude to my mentor and lifelong friend, Jim Musselman.  Jim was my high school art teacher, and has remained a friend through the years (almost 50 years so far).  This April, Jim will be 97 years young.  His spirit and wit has helped form me into who I am today.  Not through teaching Art, but through teaching Life.  “The difference between success and failure is a four letter word, WORK.”  This ethic has stayed true to form in my life. 

I remember spending countless hours under Jim’s watchful and caring eye.  His encouragement always stretched me to a higher goal, forcing me outside my comfort zone.  His classroom was full of energy and community.  Many of the people in that community were influenced  and encouraged to reach beyond where we thought we could achieve.

Some of the things we learned from art are balance, texture, composition and relationships.  These elements hold true in architecture as well.  When we see a painting that has balance, texture, composition and relationship, we find it pleasing to our eye.  We envision ourselves swept into the realm of the image.  How true of Architecture as well.  The functionality of a building dictated by these same elements draws you into it, makes you feel comfortable and has flowing spaces, acting just like a great painting, tickling the senses with a sort of awe.

I believe that is what has kept me close to these elements in my life.  Art and Architecture complement each other in a way like none other.  The natural beauty of the world around us, captured by art, is complimented by the structures we place them in and around.  They work effortlessly together to enhance our lives.  We invest in the creativity of others, through buildings and art.  I cannot imagine a life without them both.

Reading this entry, I hope it inspires you to a higher calling of selflessness in life.  Invest in others, without any expectation in return.  Help them to find balance and composition in life.  Mentoring and friendship will never return empty.   That person may turn out to be one of the greatest assets in your life. 

Thanks Jim, for investing in my life.

What is Architecture?

“Architecture brings the materials of the building together like a musical score. Great Architecture is like a symphony in the clouds” -M2 

 We tend to loose sight of what we accomplish in this practice, and how it affects individuals.  We strive to make the spaces we create functional and comfortable for the inhabitants.  Form, Light and texture all bring the essence of our creations face to face with the users.

No matter how simple, or how complex, each structure provides a space for people to function and enjoy each day.

CSI Academies

When is it time to stop learning?  NEVER!  The CSI Academies, being held in SanDiego March 1-3, 2012 is an excellent opportunity to invest in your career.  Network with industry leaders and learn more than you expect!  Deadline for the early bird discount is February 1st.  Do not miss out on this event.


Leadership Thoughts

These are a great start toward the proper attitudes in becoming a Great Leader

The 11 Commandments For an Enthusiastic Team

1. Help each other be right…not wrong

2. Look for ways to make new ideas work…not for reasons they won’t

3. If in doubt… check it out! Don’t make negative assumptions about each other

4. Help each other win and take pride in each other’s victories

5. Speak positively about each other and your organization at every opportunity

6. Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what the circumstances

7. Act with initiative and courage as if it all depends on you

8. Do everything with enthusiasm…it’s contagious

9. Whatever you want…give it away

10. Don’t lose faith…never give up

11. Have fun!    

 “Ian Percy, motivational and business speaker”