HS thinking Architecture, Engineering or Construction.. in Chicago?

Posted in 26LAB, a design education, High School AEC Education by DS26 on 02.08.2011

Well… JOIN US!

We have launched 26LAB, NFP a not-for-profit organization in Chicago. This is a life enrichment program & learning lab, concentrating in ages 14-18 (high school) but also hosting a myriad of other activities.

26LAB has a website… visit us online.

The organization’s main goals are

using architecture, engineering & construction education

to help youth ages 14-18, and others, develop their

critical-thinking, communication & interpersonal skills  +

we help our students express themselves, develop & express their ideas, all while helping others.

Of course we’re exploiting social media to spread the word & raise capital funding for 26LAB… here are our links :

@26LAB / presence on twitter

26LAB > blog on wordpress

26LABmov on YouTube


HS.. thinking Architecture?

Posted in a design education, High School AEC Education, projects, stuff by DS26 on 01.27.2011

If you’re a High School student now, and are not sure but have the suspicion that maybe you would like to be an architect, there are many wonderful programs nationwide to help you explore design before you have to concretely make a decision.

I, myself, am involved in one, offered by Duke University via the Duke TIP program.

This particular program is a 2-week boarding session where we concentrate not only in Architecture, but other building industries and also matters of Sustainability.

This year, 2011, will be my 2nd time participating. 2010 was actually the founding class (picture below) and some of our students have left the class with great passion and inspiration to continue in the path to becoming architects. We also had future engineers and builders.

[ follow the link for Duke TIP Arch here ]


Another great program is the one led by my undergraduate school Director Aron Temkin, now professor and Dean of the School of Architecture and Art at Norwich University. Located at the Fallingwater residence designed by famed american architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this program is a 1-week boarding program that

is an interdisciplinary architecture program for students interested in exploring environmental and design related issues in the context of one of America’s most significant works of architecture

[ for more about Fallingwater HS Residency ]


There are other local non-boarding programs around, like the CAF (Chicago Architecture Foundation) Teens program. Offered during the summer in the City of Chicago.

[ more about CAF Teens in Chicago ]

CAF, in addition, offers a program at Taliesin, studio founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Or the summer Architecture program offered by IIT (Illinois Institute of Technolgy), also in Chicago, located in the famous campus with buildings designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Rem Koolhaas.

[ more on HS iit summer architecture ]


There are specialized High Schools around the country that are also tracked in Architecture, for those of you that were undoubtedly born for the art.

Like DASH (Design Architecture Senior High) in Miami.

I probably would’ve attempted to get in if I would have known it existed…

Many programs, many places, chartered schools, etc… do your homework.

Google “High School Architecture”.   :)

Duke TIP 2011

Posted in a design education_@Duke by DS26 on 09.17.2010

… I’ve been called upon to return. YES !!!

Lovely to know that our efforts paid off, and our beloved ‘Green Architecture’ class (though we prefer ‘Sustainable’) went over so well that we’re coming back for round 2.

On July of 2011 we will spend two more weeks of fast-paced design, sustainability, engineering and construction with high school students selected from all over the country.


results are in… did they love it ?

As some of you may know, I was part of the staff this past summer for the Duke TIP program, at Duke University.

The class :

Green Architecture 2010 (we suggested to change it’s name). It included 9th through 12th graders.

(picture above is the class, and we asked them to make a structure… ha!)

The Results :

The numbers below represent the highest ranked response out of 24 students in the class.

Q1. What they enjoyed the most…

17 answered the Interactive Group Planning Activity

This is what the planning activity looked like… plan + present to the class. It was chosen random, and they did 3 or 4 different complete site plans (including developing a programmatic solution)

Q2. What is recommended to improve program next year…

6 responded they want a level II class (not many submitted an answer)

Q3. What they gained…

13 answered ‘Knowledge’

Q4. Under additional Comments…

one response read

“All of the instructors were great. Tabitha was extra personable and gave us more specifics about getting into the field of Architecture.”

a few others:


“Can I come back?”

“I came into this course not knowing how I would like the ‘green’ aspect. But now I absolutely love it because of how much I loved this course.”


As much as it was a learning experience for them, it also definitely was for me. There was magic in seeing how the untainted minds of them would think through problems, and resolve for a solution.

By the end of the two week course they completed a building project, on their own, sustainable, and had to develop a 3D Google SketchUp model, pin up, and formally present to all of us.

There was so much talk about our class, they actually gained an external audience coming in to the presentations.

Their solutions were genius. I can be certain some will stay in the A/E profession(s), and will be outstanding.

Enjoyed spending time, telling them about the profession, and even played “apples to apples” and poker endlessly.

I enjoyed every minute, and hope to return next year. We’ll see if I get invited.

For now, I can honestly say…

…  I Feel Loved !


Steel BM #Fail(ure)

Posted in a design education by DS26 on 08.28.2010

In having began my Master in Engineering at IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology), I find myself wondering :

Why are there some crucial things we don’t learn in Architectural Structures ?

Truth is that the recognition of failing conditions in a structural system has got to be at the top of our abilities, especially when visiting an existing building for rehab.

By that I do not mean that all Architects must be experts… after all that is why we sub-contract Structural Engineers. But, it is important that we are aware.

Can you honestly tell me you recognize a condition? every time?

Since I believe the answer to both questions is likely no, for most people… for my first “Pro Structures (for Architects)” post I will show you what the three major failure conditions are in Structural Steel Beams.

1. Lateral Torsional Buckling

Or LTB, this is the most detrimental, and it will likely quickly lead to complete collapse. It is the one that should be prevented at all cost.

With that being the case, the picture below is only a demonstration of the member’s behavior.

Ultimately, the beam would tilt into an angle, typically from the bottom flange.

Here’s a diagrammatic depiction of the condition :

2. Local Flange Buckling

Local Flange Buckling (LFB). It is a concentrated reaction in an area of either the top or bottom flanges, and it results in a type of lift (vertical buckling).

Here is a picture depicting the condition in an existing structure (at the bottom flange) :

3. Local Web Buckling

Local Web Buckling (LWB) is the least likely to occur. Similarly to LFB, it is a concentrated reaction in an area of the web that results in a type of side lift (a type of horizontal bubbling).

Here is a picture that depicts LWB in a structure :

As the picture above demonstrates, this last seems locally severe. In this case, one actually can clearly see both LFB & LWB.

Note that LFB & LWB both occur when the ratio of size between the web and flanges is too large. To clarify, the web is to thin, or the flanges are.


Next time you (Architect) get a call for an ‘Existing Conditions’ walk through in a steel building, prior to starting a job, you are more equipped (with big words) to include the ‘Failing Conditions’ (if they exist) in your Report.

~ Don’t forget a Disclosure Statement that you have not assessed the structure, rather you have observed and do recommend an inspection.   :)

let’s talk CONCRETE(ly)..

Posted in a design education_@Duke by DS26 on 05.28.2010


. . . + C H E M I C A L   A D M I X T U R E S  +  R E I N F O R C E M E N T . . .

Simply put, the material rules our world. It can be found everywhere from infrastructure (roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, etc) to buildings, sidewalks, furniture, and more.

Understandably, it is so widely used because of “permanence”. It’s ability to exist, its strength, and to resist wear and tear, all for a really long time.

Don’t take me wrong… we love it. Concrete that is. It can be ‘formed’ at will.

[ formed: cast – in – place by means of wood formwork ]

Why are we discussing it if it’s loved, widely used, and “permanent” ?

Good question !

Concrete is really old, and common place. At one point in time, back before we lost its recipe (after the fall of the Roman Empire) it might have been a ‘Sustainable’ material.

Today, the process of making concrete is everything but sustainable.

Also, we’ll look to see if there are alternatives…

IN HISTORY [ Opus Caementicium ]

Caesarea Maritima, city harbor built by Herod the great (25-13 B.C.) now found in ruins in the mediterranean coast of Israel, is the earliest known use of underwater Roman Concrete technology.

Types of Concrete, as well as preparation methods and instructions, can be found in the “Ten Books of Architecture” by Vitruvious, dating back to 25 B.C.



‘Clinker’ is made by combining limestone and clay, and heating in kiln at 1450 d C. (2642 d F.)

Following, the clinker is ground to powder form. Now clinker, in raw material is a combination of elements such as calcium, silicon, aluminum, oxygen, and iron.

[ So far so good… sustainably. Or so it seams. What about the grinding process ? The equipment required ? or the energy used ?… and furthermore, the energy that is used by the kiln ? ]


Water will be the agent to take cement into the process of ‘hydration’.

Depending on water to cement ratio, one can control workability versus strength.


Fine or coarse. Usually sand, crushed stones, and other natural material.

Most of the time recycled aggregates (those from previously demolished material) can be used in mix design, helping preserve those ‘sustainable’ construction methods.

So… they are all natural materials ?… Doesn’t that make it ‘Sustainable’ ?

The answer to that, sadly, is no.

Even though all materials are natural, the processes we use to crush and grind the materials, the energies used in the ‘kilns’, and even all of the oil used for transport, and emissions, actually create one very un-sustainable cycle.



Additional substances that, combined with the Basic Composition of concrete, will give the material additional desired qualities or specific characteristics.

EXAMPLES of Admixtures:

1. Superplasticizer: increases strength by reducing needed water in mix.

2. Accelerator: reduces time needed for curing.

3. Retarding: increases time needed for curing.

4. Pigment: adds color to concrete.

[ curing: the process of the concrete drying, while gaining strength… must be according to engineered mix design, strength desired, etc. ]

Unlike the basic composition of concrete, now we have seen that artificial additions are made for either looks or characteristics.

This ‘artificiality’ only exacerbates our ‘sustainability’ (lack thereof) problem.


Reinforcement is steel, in the form of bars or ties.

Concrete is reinforced because without it the material is weak in ‘tension’. Concrete without reinforcement is good only in ‘compression’.

Reinforcing Steel (or commonly ‘rebar’) is made of carbon steel, carbon as an alloying natural base, but then manufactured into ribbed barks.

And, you guessed it ! … creating ribs cannot be too sustainable.

For a Bigger Picture of the material, and processes related, do refer to bottom of post for the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels – Concrete”


Listen in to a leader in the forefront of bio-material development. The video will speak for itself…

But, isn’t Rachel Armstrong just speaking of an idea ? a concept ? … she is not showing us anything.

well, that is true, but hold on.. there are other people that are diving into this with some physical evidence.


Correct !

for example, Ginger Krieg Dosier, an assistant architecture professor, received the 2010 Next Generation Design Competition award for the development of a bio-brick.

– Dosier’s act of alchemy was to apply science to design. “There are thousands of examples of microbial mineral precipitation in the scientific literature, but few if any of them have been explored for use in fabrication of construction or design materials”

( excerpt from Metropolis Magazine )

For more on her design / development, you can visit the article for [ Next Generation Design ]


Also, let’s listen to someone that’s thought up a natural remedy for concrete…

Bio-Concrete. He poses the possibility of “maintenance and repair in the future”… but

what if we could implement the same natural processes for simply its creation ?

BIOMIMICRY (or Biomimetics):

A new emerging science where natural processes, systems, and materials, are being emulated for the creation of problem solutions.

The one at hand : Architecture and Construction.

If you are interested in learning more about Biomimicry, visit the [ Biomimicry Institute ]