Category Archives: News

Why you should never paint your office walls white

“White walls in a room might feel crisp and clean, like a blank slate, but if they’re in your workplace, it’s time to repaint. Color not only affects a person’s mood, but it can also hinder a worker’s effectiveness.” writes Stephanie Vozza in Forbes Magazine. The article correctly points out basic attributes of various hues but fails to consider the nuances of colour and its perception.

When recommending red for detailed work, you don’t want to be bombarded by bright red nor brought into the depths of depression by dark grey-red.

And although blue is an inspiring colour choice, do you want to feel like you’re in the Caribbean or on an ice floe all year round (in Canada)?

Besides the actual colour (hue), you need to consider value (lightness or darkness) and saturation (intensity) to be successful at creating the colour response you desire for an optimal workspace – either at home or in an office.

This is another place where professional advice is well worth the investment.



Another House Demolition

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I see the shell of a 90 year old house and pity the waste of its demolition. I wonder if the new construction materials and methods will last that long. And is 90 years long enough? Ask anyone in Europe and they’ll tell you that 100 years is just the beginning of a building’s life.

What could make us want to demolish an urban house after only 90 years?
We don’t live the way we did 90 years ago.
In 1925 we lived in small rooms, each with its own purpose.

    1. Living and Dining Rooms: We ate as a family in the dining room every evening. We sat in the living room as a family and interacted playing games, talking and listening to the radio; or we shared the space while involved with individual activities such as reading, sewing, doing homework. Today we live in the kitchen: it is now more than just a food prep area.
    2. Bedrooms: Accommodated a double or single bed with bedside table and had a small closet. We had fewer clothes in 1925. It had one light.
    3. Bathroom: The original house had one bathroom with lead pipes. We now want more bathrooms and bigger water pipes that are not lead. We also have new fixtures to conserve water and control water temperature. In 1925 everyone bathed: in 2015 most people shower.
    4. Kitchen: The original kitchen was a food prep area: a laboratory. Rather than being a separate room it is now the social hub of the family: a light-filled space often open to the living room – or living “area”.
  1. We need more power today. Power supplies have been updated several times since 1925. Often walls and ceiling (made of plaster & lath) are damaged and repaired to install such upgrades. Our houses now are being run by technology which is often hampered by old building construction methods.
  2. The coal or oil furnaces with their chutes, bins or tanks were replaced with other heating methods such as electricity and gas. We no longer need a chimney.
  3. Air conditioning? In old houses without ducts the concept of central air is impossible.
  4. Insulation? We now know how much energy we can save by properly insulating our homes. In an old brick-construction building the only way to bring the insulation levels up to 21st century standards is to clad the wall inside or outside: costly and messy.
  5. In 1925 the windows were a single pane of glass puttied into a wood frame: simple and elegant if maintained with regular painting and putty replacement. Today we have triple-glazed windows filled with inert gas to prevent heat transfer through the window. We also use superior sealants to install the new windows.
  6. The original brick construction needs constant maintenance: tuck-pointing and vigilance for water damage. Most urban dwellers no longer have the knowledge or proclivity to do such work.
  7. The foundation may be failing: walls and weeping tiles crumbling, floor heaving from tree roots. These details may make turning the basement into additional living space difficult.
  8. In 2015 most urban families want more interior space than exterior space: we rarely spend free times in private yards.

So will the new house made of wood frame / particle board construction last as long as 90 years?

If you read blogs about aging houses it still really does  depend on maintenance. New finish materials can adequately protect the structure. But when they are eventually demolished will they be safe to add to a landfill?   The questions we can’t answer are the social issues that may see our concept of home evolve so that the 2015 house no longer supports the 2105 activities and the technological advances that can be better incorporated into new construction than retrofitted to old.

In my utopia we will build housing that can adapt.

Interesting article comparing a 1925 house with a 2014 from Wall Street Journal, 01/ 2014:



You want a YELLOW room?

Having just finished a colour seminar at Manderley Fine Furniture I am reminded that I , as a designer, take my knowledge for granted.
We all love yellow with its connotations of sunshine and happiness but did you know that being in a yellow room is not so happy?

Here’s where a little more information can help.
Colour can be described using three attributes:
1. Hue (the colour)
2. Value (lightness or darkness)
3. Chroma (intensity)

So read articles about the psychological and physiological responses to colour considering these three attributes. Is butter yellow the same as sunflower yellow or as ocher?

If you need help choosing a paint or material colour please contact me, I’m happy to help you.


The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.

This title could have been seen in the 1970s when open office systems were born.
Then walls came down as organizational structures flattened and knowledge work became valued. Now the cry is from today’s knowledge workers and their managers.

Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.
Workplaces need more walls, not fewer

By Lindsey Kaufman December 30, 2014
Lindsey Kaufman works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her personal essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Our Town Downtown and xoJane.

A year ago, my boss announced that our large New York ad agency would be moving to an open office. After nine years as a senior writer, I was forced to trade in my private office for a seat at a long, shared table. It felt like my boss had ripped off my clothes and left me standing in my skivvies.

Our new, modern Tribeca office was beautifully airy, and yet remarkably oppressive. Nothing was private. On the first day, I took my seat at the table assigned to our creative department, next to a nice woman who I suspect was an air horn in a former life. All day, there was constant shuffling, yelling, and laughing, along with loud music piped through a PA system. As an excessive water drinker, I feared my co-workers were tallying my frequent bathroom trips. At day’s end, I bid adieu to the 12 pairs of eyes I felt judging my 5:04 p.m. departure time. I beelined to the Beats store to purchase their best noise-cancelling headphones in an unmistakably visible neon blue.

Despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country. Now, about 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the dividers. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs and American Express are all adherents. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisted famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers. And as a businessman, Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. He famously carried the model into city hall when he became mayor of New York, making “the Bullpen” a symbol of open communication and accessibility to the city’s chief.

These new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees, ensuring clandestine porn-watching, constant social media-browsing and unlimited personal cellphone use isn’t occupying billing hours. But employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity. A 2013 study found that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. Meanwhile, “ease of interaction” with colleagues — the problem that open offices profess to fix — was cited as a problem by fewer than 10 percent of workers in any type of office setting. In fact, those with private offices were least likely to identify their ability to communicate with colleagues as an issue. In a previous study, researchers concluded that “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction … was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices.”

The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.

As the new space intended, I’ve formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults. Those who have worked in private offices for decades have proven to be the most vociferous and rowdy. They haven’t had to consider how their loud habits affect others, so they shout ideas at each other across the table and rehash jokes of yore. As a result, I can only work effectively during times when no one else is around, or if I isolate myself in one of the small, constantly sought-after, glass-windowed meeting rooms around the perimeter.

If employers want to make the open-office model work, they have to take measures to improve work efficiency. For one, they should create more private areas — ones without fishbowl windows. Also, they should implement rules on when interaction should be limited. For instance, when a colleague has on headphones, it’s a sign that you should come back another time or just send an e-mail. And please, let’s eliminate the music that blankets our workspaces. Metallica at 3 p.m. isn’t always compatible with meeting a 4 p.m. deadline.

On the other hand, companies could simply join another trend — allowing employees to work from home. That model has proven to boost productivity, with employees working more hours and taking fewer breaks. On top of that, there are fewer interruptions when employees work remotely. At home, my greatest distraction is the refrigerator.  ​

What is Ecology?

Merriam-Webster describes ecology as ” 1) a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments; and 2) the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment.”

Interrelationship is the key word: Interrelationship between us, our natural environment and our built environment – the whole with all its parts. Changing any one part will cause changes somewhere else. The changes will be more than just the ripple of a stone on the surface of a pond. The changes will alter the complex pattern of their interrelationships.

Ecological Design, therefore considers all the interrelationships between systems in the design process from conception through use to post-occupancy. The result of ecological design an only be holistic and truly sustainable. Our goal is make any changes positive for us and for the natural world which we inhabit.

Greening Your Office 1

It’s not as difficult as you might expect to green your office. Even if you’re a tenant in a small building you can make a difference. Here’s an easy way to start. The easiest place to start is in waste reduction.

Step 1: Just like we do at home, we can separate garbage from recycling and compost. How? Replace all trash bins under the desk with recycle paper only bins (or just re-assign the bins you have). Provide recycle cans and bottles, trash and compost disposal bins at coffee stations or lunch rooms only. This simple initiative has several benefits:

  1. Each individual becomes aware of how much trash we create. With awareness comes the opportunity for reduction. For example, if most of your take-out lunch packaging is not recyclable, ask your food vendor to consider a change. If enough customers ask for the change, the vendor may comply.
  2. Compostable waste such as apple cores and banana peels become aromatic before the end of the work-day: in today’s open-office environment this affects the whole neighborhood. If your under-desk bin is not emptied nightly it also invites insects and vermin.
  3. A short walk-break is healthy for an office worker – enjoy the stretch and get the blood circulating.
  4. For the business owner: If under-desk bins contain only clean recyclable paper, a reduced pick-up schedule may be feasible: this could reduce contract cleaning costs.

Why not put recyclable plastic and bottles in the under-desk bin? They contain food and drink residue. See point 2.

To make this work you need to
• Get buy-in. Let everyone know about the change you want to make and their role in it.
• Make sure you have appropriate, well marked recycling, trash and compost receptacles in the designated areas.
• Mark each under-desk bin with a clean paper sign or logo (individuals can participate by marking their own).
• Explain the new procedure to every employee and stress the value of full participation.

Step 2: Make appropriate arrangements for disposal of all waste.

Want to get LEED® certification retroactively?

It happened to me again. I met an architect who had designed and built a great Green building. It was so green in fact, that she was sure it would meet LEED® certification standards.

Congratulations as going green – but caution in trying to certify your project.
Registering and Certifying a project near or after completion is a very difficult challange: the LEED process is proof and document based.
I refer you to my previous article on why LEED projects go awry. Even with an advanced Integrated Design Process, it is difficult to get all the documentation required after the fact.

Here are just two examples of how a project may fail to meet LEED certification standards retroactively:
1 .It is necessary to not only separate all waste but also to document that the separated materials were appropriately disopsed of. Receipts indicating weights of disposal must be kept. Unless the disposal company is aware that they are working on a LEED project, maintains the integrity of bin contents and requests detailed documentation from the landfill or recycling center, credits are left on the table.
2. Commissioning is required throughout the construction process, not only at completion. These critical credits may go unfulfilled because these in-progress calculations are not made or are not properly documented.

The best way to build a LEED project is to engage the client at the outset, form your integrated team, designate or hire a LEED coordinator and Register your project before you finish designing it.

For full LEED information visit