Author Archives: Steve Hall

About Steve Hall

I'm an architect inspired by the craft of architecture. I design with clients to develop building solutions expressive in modern form, material craftsmanship, and technology. My practice builds on thirty years of architectural and construction experience to serve clients in the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina.

Definition: vomitory

Definition: vomitory

Definition: vomitory

vomitory, n.

Here’s an architectural feature to spot as you watch football (soccer) today, Boxing Day in the UK, and American football over the weekend.

Vomitory refers to the large exit/entrance openings within the seating to concourses in older stadiums (e.g., Rose Bowl (stadium) [wikipedia]) and field-level openings in most newer stadiums that teams run back through to the locker rooms. See Vomitorium [wikipedia] for more.

The term is still at several spots in the building code, specifically related to access and exiting in Chapter 10.

(From the every increasing series of definition posts from the 2,300 page, 1975 Webster’s New Century, Second Edition, unabridged dictionary.

Definition: sarking

Definition: sarking

sarking, n.

More fun with the old 2,300 page, unabridged dictionary

I’m going to disagree with my old 2,300 page unabridged Webster’s and say that sarking is properly the asphaltic felt used beneath roof shingles, derived from the shirt, or sark, defined just above. Here’s why…

Asphaltic felt is a great shirt for a house. Felt is simply matted wool, and asphalt would have been some bituminous coating (tar) that it was soaked in. Supposedly pre-industrial craftsman stocking undershirts were black so you can see how close the two definitions would be. (Although I haven’t discovered an authoritative source for this supposition yet.)

Architects used to specify this felt beneath exterior cladding systems. This layer would:

  1. prevent rain soaking and absorb incidental leakage for drying afterwards
  2. channel moisture behind the cladding down and out
  3. block air/wind blown through cladding cracks
  4. slow humidity drive
  5. add a little bit of insulation value, (R-2?) given the felt and intermediate layers of air space

Every proper building envelope system should manage:

  1. bulk water
  2. moisture
  3. air
  4. vapor
  5. thermal flow

So this undershirt really is a great idea for a house.

Historically, the paper was specified by weight, with 30 pound felt being 30 pounds for a roll, which equaled one roofing square, or 100 square feet. 15 pound felt was also used, sometimes in double layers to equal the 30 pound felt.

But unfortunately, you can’t get this kind of felt today. In my adult lifetime of working with buildings, the derived product has become a very lightly coated paper. The old symbol “#” which mean pounds no longer implies the weight. I distinguish #15 “number 15” paper from 15-lb “15 pound” felt as completely different products.

And of course, these changes mean the product has reduced performance in all five categories compared to the original material. So it has been replaced by more sophisticated products for vapor control, moisture barriers, rain screens, drainage mats, pressure relief, venting channels, furring, coatings, and flashings.

Still, despite well-performing new tech products, ye ol’ asphaltic felt is still one of the more viable building products in a modern envelope strategy.

Twilight Clouds


twilight clouds

stacks of twilight clouds

Last night’s cloudscape at sunset and this evening’s cloud cover got us researching sunset specifications:

astronomical sunset:   when the upper limb of the Sun disappears below the horizon (although atmospheric refraction actually means the solar disk is already one diameter below horizon at visible sunset)

civil twilight:   begins when Sun disappears below the horizon (Sun 0° below horizon)

nautical twilight:   when the horizon is no longer visible (Sun 6°–12° below horizon)

astronomical twilight:   when all stars are visible to the naked eye (Sun is 12°–18° below horizon)

dusk:   the end of astronomical twilight until night

night:   no sunlight visible (Sun more than 18° below horizon)

Highcraft Beer Market

Restaurant Budgeting

Thinking about opening a restaurant or food service space?

Here’s a quick primer on budgetary considerations if you are. (Steakhouse, lunch deli, breakfast cafe, bakery, coffee shop, wine bar, beer store, saloon, bistro, fast food, slow food, barbecue, buffet, cafeteria, tea house, greasy spoon, vegetarian hot dog stand, ice cream parlor, pizza pizzeria, concession booth, diner… what am I forgetting?)

Highcraft Beer Market

Start with equipment. I’m assuming you’ve already resolved the concept, the cuisine, and the chef. If not, that’s first before you can figure out what equipment it takes to produce it. Most food service businesses struggle the most with what they need versus can afford. Commercial kitchen equipment is very expensive compared to residential appliances. You can often find used equipment to save significantly, but you’ll still need $50k-$300k depending on your selections for oven, range, grill, exhaust hood (and fire suppression system), toaster, microwave, fryer, coffee station, beer taps, refrigerators, freezers, walk-ins, refrigerated display cases, refrigerated and steam tables, plate warmers, dishwashing sinks, and dishwashers.

The next most expensive category are the utilities and all the water, sewer, grease traps, fire sprinklers, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical, and lighting they support.

Highcraft Beer Market

Bathroom requirements are relatively simple for a small retail space, so expect $10k for a single bathroom with plumbing, fixtures, exhaust, and required specialties: grab bars, mirror, toilet paper dispensers, soap dispensers, mirror, paper towel dispenser/dryer, trash cans, etc. Larger establishments or a full restaurant will need several times more.

Next comes furnishings—cabinets, casework, custom millwork, displays, tables, chairs, host station, artwork, signage, and point of sale.

Finishes are usually inexpensive unless they are lavish, dramatic, or architectural. Flooring is typically the most expensive, but ceramic or vinyl tile are efficient. Exposed concrete floors are also popular but end up being more expensive to satisfy the health department requirements to be sealed. Ceilings over food preparation areas must also be sealed and cleanable. Walls can be painted or have more sophisticated finishes.

Highcraft Beer Market, conceptual rendering

Highcraft Beer Market, conceptual rendering

Lighting is critical for retail spaces. Not only do the illumination levels need to be high, but the color rendering quality much more accurate than typical residential or office lighting. Brands design packaging to sell product and quality lighting shows off that design to its fullest potential.

Construction must be done by a licensed contractor unless you have the experience to do it yourself. The local economy is brisk right now (one of the highest in the US) and I recommend clients budget a 20% premium in pricing.

Highcraft Beer Market, pre-renovation

Highcraft Beer Market, pre-renovation

For design, an architect can walk with clients through the entire design–construction process, including building code analysis, design, architectural and engineering documents for permitting. I also assist clients to find a qualified contractor and administer the construction until completion, tailored to what you need. By fee schedule, design is “supposed” to be 8-12% of construction costs between $100k-$300k, roughly $8,000–$36,000. But it really depends.

For example, a small space that was recently renovated for food service will be much simpler than a large cold shell (no utilities) not intended for food. A stand-alone building is obviously even more complex. It helps if the landlord has drawings of the existing space versus the architect field surveying everything. The level of service can vary, too, from less detailed drawings for experienced clients or extra assistance to incorporate branding into the design and selection of equipment, finishes, fixtures, and furnishings.