Traditional House and Site

Traditional house and site

Traditional house and site

This is a quick snapshot of a traditional house and its site plan currently in progress. I'm posting this to illustrate the larger view of architectural design.

It's common to understand traditional residential design as the simple front elevation shown in the black and white image. These are easy to create as a mirage to fool the eye without really understanding the relationship of all the materials and forms. About 99.9% of "blueprint" plan websites do this. But the designs are not grounded in reality.

Neither are they grounded on the ground.

That's the point here, the house design and the site need to be connected for a cohesive approach.

This site plan shows the front drive circle aligning with the entry gable of the house. Existing topographic lines (light grey) and proposed (bright green) plan how the ground is re-graded. Each line represents one foot. Compare how the topopgraphy drops off around the house to the right in both site plan and elevation. See how they match? The grade makes a huge difference to each side of the building. But this isn't something that a simple house plan coordinates. It takes working back and forth between the two to refine the design.

This is called site-specific design.

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Utility Colors

Utility Colors

Utility Colors

A water line break in my front yard is an opportunity to review the American Public Works Association (APWA) color coding standard for underground utilities:

RED : electrical
ORANGE : data (phone, CATV)
YELLOW : gas (and oil, steam)
BLUE : water, potable
GREEN : sewer
(not seen in the photo above)
PURPLE : water, non-potable (irrigation, reclaimed)
PINK : survey
WHITE : excavation

You'll notice the markings in my yard include two orange lines, one for telephone and the other for cable television. It's not uncommon for multiple services to be present that are owned or managed by different companies. In the Triangle exist many other common services: fiber optic data, liquid petroleum, natural gas distribution, security, satellite downlinks, irrigation, and re-claimed water.

These conventions came about because buried services are a huge hazard and having conventions to locate and key them are critical to the nation's infrastructure. A 1999 US Department of Transportation study was the impetus for tying local, regional, and national governments and utility companies to a clearinghouse of locating services available to the public for free. This is done through the auspices of the Common Ground Alliance.

If you're planning any kind of construction, repair, or installation within the ground, get all the utilities located for free through the website or three-digit telephone number: 811.

SteveHallArchitecture uses these same colors in our electronic drawings for consistency with the AWPA standards and continuity with what we see in the field. In a fast growing area like the Triangle, you'll see these markings everywhere. Next time you take a walk, test yourself on the standard!

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Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017 was a big day for most of the country with a very rare total solar eclipse visible across much of the country.

In Cary, North Carolina, we only achieved about 95% of totality, but it was still an opportunity to test some basic optical principles and photography skills. So I set up a pair of 10x power binoculars as a projector and was pleasently surprised at the details I was able to photograph.

Solar eclipse, first shot

Solar eclipse, first shot

Even from the first photograph, a line of sunspots could be seen across the orb. The gear is nothing special. All of these photographs are of the image projected through the binoculars onto a white piece of paper and are taken with a Nexus 6 smart phone.

About half way to totality, a strange redness in the sky was obvious to several of us observing the event. Despite the short shadows from the midday solar position, the sunlight appeared as if at the end of the day. A significant diminishment of the radiative energy was obvious, too, and everything felt much cooler despite the continued glare.

Solar eclipse at maximum

Solar eclipse at maximum

2:44pm was the maximum pnuembra (shadow) for the photograph above. You can barely see the last sunspot grazing the edge of the moon's edge.

Solar eclipse photography setup

Solar eclipse photography setup

This was a five minute setup. The binoculars were screwed onto a cheap tripod and a large piece of foamcore board was hurridly cut to fit over the objective ends to create a shadow on the observation board. Gentle re-adjustment from time to time re-centered the image to maintain maximum focal clarity. This photo is from early in the event, and we later adjusted it to place the observation board on the ground so the projection was larger and focus more finely adjusted. (The golf umbrella and chair in the background were never used, the event was too exciting to sit down!)

Solar eclipse shadows

Solar eclipse shadows

Shadows during solar eclipses are curious. Tiny openings between the leaves of trees act the same way the binocular setup works and effectively project the sun's image onto the ground. The only difference is that the binoculars use lensees to magnify the image with a short focal length and the tree "pinholes" magnify the images according to the proportion of distance of the hole to the ground.

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