Latch Required in Fire Doors – Opening Protectives

April 30, 2009

Under the International Building Code, fire doors and swinging pairs of fire doors must be provided with an active bolt that can secure the door when locked.

One spot where this could be easily overlooked is restrooms shared between spaces where the restrooms do not have lockable doors. If a door is in a fire wall, you need to be able to latch it closed.

New Trends in Concrete Formwork

April 29, 2009

It was a festive day at the Patella residence today near Chief Hosa in Golden, Colorado. The contractor, Tinker Homes, was busy wrapping up the finishing touches on the foundation and is preparing for a pour in the next few days.

I was out to do the obligatory foundation inspection. I have done quite a few of these inspections over the last several years and have noticed a new trend in foundation formwork: the aluminum forms.

Aluminum Foundation Forms at the Patella Residence

Aluminum Foundation Forms at the Patella Residence

The benefits of using aluminum forms seem far superior to the old method of plywood forming for formed cast-in-place concrete. Aside from the dimensional stability of the forms, the overall quality of the pour seems much better with tighter tolerances. When the architect (in this case, me) designs a “builder friendly” foundation for the home, without a lot of funny dimensional corners or wall length, the forms go up rather quickly without the need for custom corners. While geometry doesn’t always work in our favor, we always try to design the building shell to be as friendly as possible for the contractor. In situations where unique angles or unusual wall lengths are necessary, there are a variety of solutions within the aluminum forming system itself, but the crew can always revert to a wood solution if necessary.

They go up faster and with fewer issues. The only downside, as I understand it, is the initial cost of the forms. However, they will last far longer than re-used plywood forms. If you don’t have a lot of projects to spread the initial cost over,  I understand that there are a number of rental companies that will rent the forms on a per project basis. That is how Tinker Homes does it, and judging by their track record, they’re pretty happy doing it that way.

Erecting Aluminum Forms

Erecting Aluminum Forms

One additional huge plus: the design of the forms themselves are such that you can use the erected wall as a ladder. The foundation crew loves this, and I must say, so does the inspector!

Letter of Recommendation for EVstudio Architecture from Ted De Bruin

April 28, 2009

Ted De Bruin and I have started to talk about our next architectural project together and I thought that it would make sense to show the great letter of recommendation that he wrote for us.


Now it is only fair to reciprocate and tell you that Denver Ted’s Philly Cheese Steaks are the best that I’ve had in Denver. You should defintely head over to 13th and Pearl to have one while you contemplate your architectural project.

Navigating The Highlands at Breckenridge Design Guidelines with an Architect

April 27, 2009

I have been involved with a number of projects in The Highlands at Breckenridge, and this post centers specifically around navigating the design review process in the most expedient way possible.

First thing to note here: all design review processes will take time, and sometimes even be rather aggravating. However, it is important to remember that the purpose of the design review process ultimately leads to increased property values as the quality of design is regulated and, in fact,  mandatory. This is a good thing.

There are a couple of mandatory requirements that you will have to comply with before you even get started.

1) You must have a licensed architect involved in the design of your home. They will not allow submittals from home designers, contractors, plans books or do-it-yourselfers. No matter how qualified your team may be, they only recognize licensed architects to prepare the design submittals and administer the design process.

2) Make sure you have the most current version of their design guidelines and that it is for the appropriate subdivision. This will be a leather bound book that will serve as your architect’s bible throughout the design process. There is a tremendous amount of information in this book, and your architect will spend many hours pouring through the details.

Design Guidelines notebook - Take a lot of notes!!

Design Guidelines notebook - Take a lot of notes!!

3) You must own the property before getting started. While this seems obvious, it isn’t always the case for developers. However, the HOA requires that only property owners have the right to start the design process. As far as I know, they will not make exceptions.

The process is fairly straightforward, but do plan on ample time between each step for the appropriate submittals to be prepared and reviewed.

The major benchmarks for the design review process are as follows:

1) The Site Analysis Sketch. The first step in the design process will be with the site analysis sketch. Prior to the Pre-Design conference, your architect will have to spend some time on the site and assess the various site features. Remember that the more you can show them about what you would like to do, the better your success will be during the Preliminary Submittal phase. I personally recommend that the architect spend a lot of time on the site during different times of day, and be able to anticipate conditions for the extremes of different seasons.

Site Plan for "Ptarmigan Roost" in Discovery Hill

2) The Pre-Design Conference. The site analysis sketch is the basis of the discussion during the Pre-Design conference, which is mandatory for the architect and Owner on site with the review board. This is a very responsible approach to any new design, and helps to align everyone with the initial vision. If the home is to be a log home, now is the time to make that known to the board.

Honka Log Home in The Highlands

Honka Log Home in The Highlands

3) The Preliminary Submittal. This is really the meat and potatoes of the design itself. Conceptual drawings for the site plan, floor plans and elevations are submitted at this phase for review. The design requirements guiding the architect in the design of the home are complete and well outlined in the design guidelines, which are going to be unique to each subdivision within the Highlands. It is our experience that the board very rarely compromises on any of the requirements set forth in the guidelines, so depart from them only with extreme caution (and with some buy-in from the board). Otherwise, you may wind up with a significant redesign on your hands. Also, be aware that while they call this a “Preliminary Submittal”, the submittal requirements are such that your architect will actually begin developing some of the Construction Document level of detail and completeness. This is why it’s particularly important to make sure that the guidelines are being adhered to – otherwise, there is a lot of documentation that could be required to change.

Sample SD level exterior elevations for submittal

Sample SD level exterior elevations for submittal

4) The Final submittal. There are typically not many surprises at this point. The schematics have already been approved in the Preliminary phase, so provided you didn’t make any major changes or violated any of the regulations, this actually goes pretty smoothly. Just make sure that your design team or your contractor is able to procure the proper materials samples for the board.

5) The Pre-construction conference. At this phase, the board will meet with the selected contractor on site and go over the expectations and requirements of the board. We highly recommend selecting a contractor that is familiar with The Highlands process as they will be involved with numerous submittals and reviews throughout the construction.

6) The Final Inspection. This is the obligatory inspection by the board to verify that the plans were built as drawn and no field changes created a nonconformance. Should be a breeze provided your contractor stuck to the plans.

Recently finished home in Silver View

Recently finished home in Silver View

It is essential that each of these steps be adhered to as they can legally put a stop to any work on the property persuant to the HOA agreement that is entered into at closing. Remember though, that this process is for the benefit of the owners, so while you may feel that there is unnecessary slowdown to the design process, the end results will be well worth it. Also, if you have commissioned a talented and experienced architect, you will find that the process will go far smoother – especially if they have worked in the Highlands before.

If you own property in The Highlands, and are just starting on your journey to building your dream home in Breckenridge, please give us a call and we can help you navigate process…and have fun doing it!

EVstudio Ask A Colorado Architect – Arts Day (First Friday) on Santa Fe

April 26, 2009

Our Denver office will be open for First Friday (May 1st) on Santa Fe Drive in Denver from 6-9 PM. I’ll be there along with Kacy to answer any questions that visitors ask about architecture and architects. If you haven’t been by to see our Denver office, please drop in. And if you have anyone with casual questions please send them along.

This is our first time doing this, if people show some interest we’ll plan to do it more often.

Restaurant Floor Plan for Tenant Improvement – Taste of Himalaya Nepalese Restaurant

April 25, 2009

Editor’s Note: This page was relocated in 2009 to I’m not sure why this particular post is referenced here in search engines. Please visit our new location for many more articles on restaurants and restaurant floor plans. Thanks.


In 2007, I was the architect for the Taste of Himalaya Nepalese Restuarant in Evergreen, Colorado. One of the things that made this restaurant floor plan especially difficult was that tenant space could only be accessed from one side (the front). Most restuarants have a front, where the customers are, and a back where the kitchen is.

Because the back of Building E at Bergen Village is 15′ above the ground we had to devise a clever way to put the kitchen at the front of the store. It is clearly not acceptable to bring all of the food and trash through the dining space. The solution was a long thin kitchen with food storage and freezer space at the entry, tinted windows and doors and a dining area wrapping around the kitchen. The best views are actually at the back and this solution maintained access to those views and the patio to the side.

What this illustrates is that each tenant improvement space is unique and having architectural input early on can really help explore the possibilities.

For more ideas read about a New Construction Mexican Restaurant floor plan that we designed.

Also, I’ve posted information on a checklist of what information you need for a commercial kitchen.

Assembly Occupancy Groups as Defined in the International Building Code

April 23, 2009

One of the first steps in any building project is evaluation of the appropriate occupancy group. This drives building size, building height, construction type, exiting and fire separations.

One of the groups with the largest numbers of occupants is Assembly. Assembly is the occupancy for gatherings of groups of people for meeting spaces, eating establishments, performance spaces, etc. Section 303 of the International Building Code defines the 5 types of assembly occupancies.

First, the exceptions. A building or space with less than 50 occupants is a B occupancy (Business). Also, a space with less than 750 sf that is an accessory space is Group B.

A-1 is the group for viewing of performing arts. These spaces frequently have fixed seating and include movie theaters, concert halls and traditional theaters.

A-2 is the group that applies to eating establishments. It includes restaurants, bars, banquet halls and night clubs.

A-3 is the group for worship, recreation and amusement uses. It is also the catch-all for other uses not specifically called out. The uses include galleries, religious worship spaces, courtrooms, sports spaces without seating, lecture halls, libraries, museums, pool halls, bowling alleys, transportation waiting areas and funeral parlors.

A-4 is the group used for indoor sporting events that have spectator seating. That means arenas, pools, tennis courts, skating rinks, indoor soccer fields and so on.

A-5 is the group used for outdoor sporting events. This includes stadiums, bleachers and grandstands along with amusement park structures.

Of course if you’re looking at assembly occupancies there are quite a number of additional code sections that you should review. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.