CAD Myths Clarified

Being a formally educated designer and having been providing architectural/construction drafting services to design professionals for over a decade, I find most people, even professionals in the industry, are not clear about CAD (Computer Aided Drafting).
CAD is the way to design.
CAD is a production and communication tool, not a design tool.
CAD is faster.
CAD does produce clean and accurate documents and can be efficient in revisions. But the quality depends on the person using the program.
Manual Drafting and Sketching are outdated.
Manual drafting and sketching are activities directly connected to our brains. Studies show students taking notes by hand in class generally do better compared to students taking notes with their laptops.
In general, people don’t respect the profession of CAD drafting. Even drafters don’t have pride in this line of work. Good CAD drafters are not just computer program operators. They are an essential part of every successful projects. A drafter, CAD or manual, must understand design and construction and how things ae made.
After getting my B.A. in Art with emphasis in interior design and a few year of work experience, I spent 2 semesters (30 hours per week for 40 weeks) to complete the CAD certification program. With the skilled I learned, I was able to work with architects and designers on high-end projects and gain experience. I have invested a lot of time and effort. I get asked often, but I really don’t know how to learn CAD in a short time.
CAD programs does offer many advantages. BIM (Building Information Modeling) and other 3D programs enable us to study the design closely and communicate effectively with the entire team. But what we have neglected is continue to strengthen our fundamental skills such as simply using pencil and paper.

[Project] Joy of Being Grandparents

After the arrival of their first grandchild and another one on the way, the clients felt it was time to renovate their home built in the 1950’s to become a gathering place for the growing family.  The goal was to enlarge the dining room and open up the kitchen.
After surveying the property and studied the clients’ desires, I suggested reducing the size of the intended addition for better use of interior and exterior space and flow of the roof line. The open kitchen would have a eating bar and flow with the enlarged dining room. With the new sliding doors in the dining room, and the enlarged window in the living room, the outdoor area would be connected with the indoors.

Preliminary Design Sketches

Upon finalizing the design, I proceeded to creating the documents both for obtaining the building permit and interior details. Once the plans were approved by the city, and we discussed my recommendations and resources for products and materials, I was off the project. With provided guidelines, the clients were happy to do their own shopping and purchasing. The general contractor is a family friend. Nothing for me to worry.

Interior Drawings

For City Approval

I was invited back when the project was finished. I was not surprised with the outcome because it followed my design. The joy on my clients’ faces were priceless. They enjoyed every part of transforming their home. They had a large crowd of over 20 people for the holidays, and it did not feel cramped. The clients are looking forward to spending time with the grandchildren in the ‘new home’.

Moss Wall Art

We know adding plants to an interior space can add to visual interest and make the space livelier. In recent years, living walls have become popular. However, maintenance for live plants on vertical surfaces can be an inconvenience. I have found something that would add greenery and interest to walls and does not require light or water! Emerald Coast Plantscapes now offers custom wall art made with real moss preserved.
 

I asked my friend Kevin Urquhart, owner of Emerald Coast Plantscapes for more details about this new product:

M (Michelle): Since it is preserved, I assume it doesn’t attract bugs, right? 
K (Kevin): It will not attract bugs. Bugs are attracted to live plants for one of two reasons: 1) they eat the actual plant, or 2) Gnats gather when there is excessive moisture so they can breed and lay their larva. In the case of the preserved moss we use this is not an issue.
M: How about dust? Can it be vacuumed?
K: To dust I would recommend a light feather duster or condensed air held at a distance, like the kind used for electronics.
M: Are there any spaces you would NOT recommend? Restaurants? Hotels? Medical facilities? Classrooms? Are there loose pieces that can fall off?
K: If you were to use it in a restaurant I would recommend placing it as far as possible away from the kitchen as there is usually a lot of grease in the air that sticks to everything then dust sticks to the grease and creates a real mess. Other than that, the only thing I would keep it away from is direct sunlight as this could fade the color quickly. There are loos pieces that could fall if the moss is bumped or rubbed up against.
M: Anything you want to add?
K: Each piece is custom made; shape size etc. We have made them as small as 2’x2’ or we can cover an entire wall. The frames are made to our specifications by a local cabinet maker and we can custom color the frames. Each piece takes on a character of its own making no two pieces are exactly alike. We have just completed a project with a piece measuring 2’ X 7’ in which we placed the client’s metal logo right into the moss.
We can add many elements to the moss such as manzanita branches, driftwood, preserved leaves etc.
We love this new form of creative expression in botanical art. As popular as live vertical wall plantings have become, we have found there are many problems associate with living wall plants. Problems such as expensive installation, maintenance issues with watering and plants outgrowing their space creating high replacement costs. So with the preserved moss you still get a very unique botanical expression with more versatility and less cost and less upkeep.

“We are very excited about the uniqueness of the moss art and the high level of interest we are receiving for custom pieces. Of course, we are also very engaged in delivering the life, warmth and beauty of live plants and services to offices from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica.”

Kevin can be reached at:
kevin@ecplants.com
805-480-9141
ecplants.com
 

[Ask Michelle] Do I Need a Licensed Architect for My Remodeling Project?

In the State of California, not all building projects need to be designed by a licensed architect. According to the chart posted on California Architects Board‘s website, unlicensed persons may design the following:
  • Single-family dwelling of woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height.
  • Multiple dwellings containing not more than four dwelling units of woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height. No more than four dwelling units per lot.
  • Garages or other structures appurtenant to single-family dwelling, or woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height.
  • Agricultural and ranch buildings of woodframe construction, unless the building official having jurisdiction deems that an undue risk to the public health, safety, or welfare is involved.
  • Nonstructural or nonseismic storefronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture, or other appliances or equipment, including nonstructural or nonseismic work necessary to provide for their installation.
If structural design is necessary, the designer (licensed architect or not) will work with an engineer. 
Additional reading:
Consumer’s Guide to Hiring an Architect – California Architects Board

How I Became a LEED Green Associate

As of February 26, 2017, I am a LEED Green Associate.
In September 2016, I came across a Community Green Scholars grant on Facebook. After some consideration, I created an account on USGBC website and managed to submit my application before the November 1, 2016 deadline. Early in November 2016, I was awarded the grant. I was on my way to take the LEED Green Associate exam. the condition was to register for the exam by November 15, 2016, and take the exam before March 1, 2017.
The grant I received included an essential document to read and access to the Eudcation@USGBC. On Christmas Day 2016, I scheduled the exam as close to the deadline as I could.
In January, I attended a webinar held by GBES that helped me understand the exam better. I also bought the book “LEED Green Associate Exam Preparation Guide, LEED v4 Edition” which included online access to flashcards and quizzes.
The day of the exam, I got to the testing center early and review some key points for 20 minutes. During the exam, I read each question throughly. I review my answers 3 times until the time was up. Overall, the exam was straight forward.
I currently don’t have any plan to take the LEED AP exam. My focus now is maintaining the LEED Green Associate credential.