The Journal
All Entries
Spokane Architect's Journal - Building and Car Pricepoints
Building and Car Pricepoints
Design the best building for your budget

"Design is usually not about luxury, but rather, making the best use of available resources for any given project."   Buildings and cars are both designed and created across a spectrum of price, from low-end to high. Buildings are very different from automobiles in important ways... build...

Spokane Architect's Journal - 400 MPG Architecture
400 MPG Architecture
Save money, breathe easy...

Imagine you are considering the purchase of a new car that gets 40 miles to the gallon... when you learn about a similarly priced high performance alternative that is far better built, looks great, and runs 200 to 400 miles to the gallon, depending on your driving habits. It uses some German parts...

Spokane Architect's Journal - High Performance Architecture Pays Big Dividends
High Performance Architecture Pays Big Dividends
Save BIG by building smarter

Once we have a conceptual design solution that has been approved by a client, we typically provide them with a financial analysis of the costs and benefits of building to the passivhaus level of quality as opposed to simply building to current code minimums. "By building to passive house quality in...

Spokane Architect's Journal - What Breed of Architect is for You?
What Breed of Architect is for You?
Pair your project with the right team

Pretty much by definition, embarking on a search for any professional to place your trust in is likely to be a little worrisome. The prospect of selecting and hiring an architect can be something of a challenge, for any number of reasons. On the chance you may be in this situation, or know someone w...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Perspectives: Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Perspectives: Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Technological mastery versus sensitivity and harmony

Architecture has the potential to be greatly enriched with an inclusive appreciation of both 'Western' ('European') and 'Eastern' ('Asian') perspectives. This is not to say that we favor Asian style, but rather, that we appreciate the contrasting character of Asian thought systems and what thos...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Rammed Earth Architecture
Rammed Earth Architecture
The best walls on earth

It comes as a surprise to many people to see an architect working in the Pacific Northwest designing and building with rammed earth, which is generally associated with very arid, hot climates and low tech, indigenous building traditions. I became interested in working with rammed earth as an unexp...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Loss, Love, Architecture
Loss, Love, Architecture
It's not about buildings

"Architecture is not really about buildings, any more than poetry is about vowels."    Life is full of disappointments, small and large. Then there is loss in life, an entirely different matter. The former, time will surely reveal to be relative, perhaps even trivial; the latter is absolu...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Breathing Clean Indoor Air
Breathing Clean Indoor Air
By weight, you breathe more than you eat and drink

Optimum interior air quality has become an increasingly prominent concern in our work. Passive house interior air quality is pristine because highly filtered fresh air is constantly being exchanged with the interior air. The passive house standard requires filtration systems that achieve a MERV (Min...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Design in Uncertain Times
Design in Uncertain Times
Two options: Be part of the problems, or be advocates for advancing solutions.

No one knows what twist of fate will materialize next week, or tomorrow, or even today. We live with a gnawing awareness that actions we take - or fail to take - now may have profound consequences that are often equally unpredictable.  What are the implications for architecture in this uncerta...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Quality, Time and Cost
Quality, Time and Cost
Choose two... Then choose one

Quality, time, and cost are the three legs supporting the metaphorical stool of project management. Good project managers constantly work to maximize the outcome for a project in each of these three realms. The most difficult aspect of this nonstop challenge is that each of these priorities c...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Passive House at a Glance
Passive House at a Glance
Integrating building science to build better and smarter

The term 'passive' in the context of passive house refers to the reduction or elimination of 'active' mechanical systems. There are many compelling reasons why this is a more intelligent and responsible way to build. Here is a quick list of benefits - in no particular order:- Increased comfort.- I...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Art as a Way of Life
Art as a Way of Life
Six minutes of inspiration

A quiet conversation with artist David Secrest in his studio and home in the Flathead Valley of Montana....

Spokane Architect's Journal - Design-Build Architectural Practices...
Design-Build Architectural Practices...
Pros / Cons

"Hiring your architect separately from the builder allows you to select your first choice for both, and to defer committing to a builder first thing, before you really know what you're going to build." ~ Sam Rodell One of the decisions you will make when you select an architect is deciding the...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Proportions of the Particular
Proportions of the Particular
Considering the particular within the universal

Questions of proportion span across philosophy, mathematics, science, history, and numerous aspects of art and architecture. Two opposing schools of thought about our understanding of reality recur in this context. One camp describes proportional systems as a means to better understand the harmonies...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Carbon  Neutral Architecture
Carbon Neutral Architecture
The 2030 Challenge: All new buildings, developments, and major renovations carbon-neutral by 2030

The built environment is responsible for three fourths of annual global greenhouse gas emissions: buildings alone account for 39 percent.  Eliminating these emissions is the key to addressing climate change and meeting Paris Climate Agreement targets. The American Institute of...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Advanced Design Technologies
Advanced Design Technologies
Yes, that's a badass Porsche - and it's 100% electric

We design using cutting edge tools and technologies to create - truly - the highest quality environments for human habitation in the history of our species.  It's far beyond the incorporation of high technology in components of the buildings... the buildings themselves are technolog...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Path to Health and Happiness
The Path to Health and Happiness
Health is a design issue

Health and happiness cohabit in a powerful alliance. It is a close partnership; one does not fare well without the other. Neither just happens. Both require attention, both require work. To this simple rule, no exceptions are allowed, no excuses are granted. There are no shortcuts. Anything that ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Meaning of 'Professional'
The Meaning of 'Professional'
Why hire a licensed professional?

The meanings of words shift over time. In the 13th century the word 'nice' meant foolish, or stupid. Today, the word 'professional' has been shifting to refer to pretty much anything done for money. But this erosion of meaning muddies the critical distinction embodied in the term. Professional&nb...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Rammed Earth: Deep Green by Design
Rammed Earth: Deep Green by Design
It's not a 'dirt' wall - it's a natural, toxin-free, sanitary rock wall

A view of earth from space reveals a trace band of blue - our atmosphere - just visible across the sunlit edge of our planet. Below, eighty percent of the globe is coated by salt water but a fraction of the depth of that atmosphere. The remaining surface area rising just above the seas supports an...

Spokane Architect's Journal - My Mentor's Mentors
My Mentor's Mentors
What I discovered they all had in common

"There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. It is...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Terroir and Architecture
Terroir and Architecture
Listening to this place

Our present position begins with the observation that people and cultures are defined by the balance they make between the general and the particular. We feel that in Western society this balance is in jeopardy. Mass culture is becoming so predominant that the local and the particular are becoming l...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Low Voltage Electrical Systems
Low Voltage Electrical Systems
A brilliant alternative

This article is somewhat technically oriented, but it is also about the larger picture. Our design focus favors taking forward-looking, intelligent advantage of emerging but proven technologies. What we are doing 'under the hood' enhances our work with improved economies and performance - weaving ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Why We Build Buildings Twice
Why We Build Buildings Twice
See it all - before it's built

Before our projects are actually constructed on a site, they are built first in our studios, in a comprehensive computer model. Working closely with specialized experts in each of the disciplines involved, we model every system in the project... not just the architecture, but the lighting, plumbin...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Architecture and Water Vapor
Architecture and Water Vapor
Why understanding building science is crucial

Water is one of the most powerful forces of nature, and one of the primary variables determining the durability and performance of buildings. Depending on the climate, regional building design responds directly to rain, snow, and ice, but another powerful form in which water interacts with str...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Cakes Left Out in the Rain
Cakes Left Out in the Rain
"... If it leaks, it's art."

That natural forces will act on, and ultimately destroy, any contribution we make to our built environment persists as one of the few things we can be sure of about the fate of any building. For architects, this presents a challenge somewhat analogous to that of medical professionals who, desti...

Spokane Architect's Journal - David Suzuki Explores Rammed Earth
David Suzuki Explores Rammed Earth
(10 minute video tour)

In this short film clip, David Suzuki visits a home built with SIREWALL - rammed earth walls that are insulated, steel reinforced, solid sandstone. Unlike traditional rammed earth, SIREWALL is a top tier, cutting edge contemporary architectural material appropriate for any climate. ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Why We Build Airtight Architecture
Why We Build Airtight Architecture
Air sealing is the 'secret sauce'

Passive House architecture: Healthy, comfortable places to live and work that use a fraction of the energy of mainstream construction. Many people presume this must be all about insulating really well, and while that is important, the amazing performance of a Passive House project actually begins wi...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Building Legacy Architecture
Building Legacy Architecture
Site matters more than stuff

Building with durable, inorganic materials such as SIREWALL means spending more initially to create buildings that will not burn, rot, or otherwise decompose. What are the implications of designing buildings that will stand for generations rather than years?A brook trout swims freely... within the b...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Dualities in Design
Dualities in Design
It's not always desirable to resolve differences

Yang: The active, masculine cosmic principle in Chinese dualistic philosophy.Yin: The passive, female cosmic principle in Chinese dualistic philosophy. Differences may be experienced as complimentary attributes. It is not always necessary or desirable to resolve differences. It has often been the...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Design for Aging
Design for Aging
Old people are not sick - they are old

We experience our environment in very different ways as we age. Too often, we fail to fully appreciate the importance of this simple but profoundly important reality.Architecture for the elderly is a distinctly different challenge that requires knowledge, awareness, appreciation, and emp...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Choices Reflect Values
Choices Reflect Values
How do we love the children of all species, for all time?

"Simplicity, clarity, singleness; these are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy." ~ Richard Halloway Imagine that in your left hand, you hold a bottle of very low cost wine... and in your right, something like a Willamette Valley Pinot or a Napa Valley Cabernet. The ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - NOT Passive Solar
NOT Passive Solar
'Passive house' reliably performs - it's pure physics

One of the most common misunderstandings we see about our high performance architecture is that we are preoccupied with passive solar design - which is actually something we don't have any particular interest in.  It's easy to see why this confusion happens: Passive House (or Passivh...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Shading Data - No Guesses
Shading Data - No Guesses
Knowing exactly what sunlight will do

One of the many aspects of site specific architectural design now standard practice in our pre-design research process is to acquire a forensic understanding of the shading conditions that will alter how our architecture will be exposed to the sun over the course of each year.Designing high perfor...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Triple Glazed Window Benefits
Triple Glazed Window Benefits
Why invest in better windows?

Triple glazed windows are the new stars of window energy efficiency... but why should you care?  Comfort. Comfort is the reason you will want to use triple glazed windows. Before we get too far on why you should be excited about energy efficiency and comfort, here is a brief history of US windo...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Symbolism in Architecture
Symbolism in Architecture
Thoughts on authenticity - or lack thereof

In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. ~ Peter Zumthor From a generalized societal perspective, we have for the most part been increasingly creating our buildings and communitie...

Spokane Architect's Journal - HERS Index:  The Home Energy Rating System
HERS Index: The Home Energy Rating System
It's like having a car dealer window sticker for your home

 The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured.   HERS scores are designed for new homes (or homes after a complete renovation). When builders need to meet efficiency standards, they use the HERS Index, which has...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Your Home or Office Can Power Your Car
Your Home or Office Can Power Your Car
Dramatically better and smarter buildings

Passive House: Designing and building buildings so well for a specific site and climate we can eliminate eighty to ninety percent of the energy demands of space heating, cooling, and humidity control. This is fully achievable and affordable today, using readily available technologies and materials. ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Toxin Free Consumer Products
Toxin Free Consumer Products
Leadership and innovation in industry

This is the first TV free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), built by Philips Electronics. We need to support industry leaders who are demonstrating that innovation can move us away from industrial production that poisons the environment. BFRs, used in circuit boar...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Building A Timeless Wooden Boat
Building A Timeless Wooden Boat
A rhythm between problem solving and problem finding

"In my view, the connection with the processes of making continues to be seminal, and a wise architect today searches deep personal friendships with craftsmen, artisans and artists to reconnect his/her intellectualized world and thinking with the source of all true knowledge: The real world of mater...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Language of Mechanical Comfort Systems
The Language of Mechanical Comfort Systems
Just in case you were wondering

“Environmental control systems tend to be treated rather like the Cinderella of architecture; given only the plainest clothes to wear, they are relegated to a back room to do the drudgery that maintains the elegant lifestyle of the other sisters: light, form, structure, and so forth." ~ Lisa Hesch...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Sam On Meet The Elite Podcast
Sam On Meet The Elite Podcast
Five minute pitch for Passivhaus

A quick summary of what we've been up to with high performance 'passivhaus' building design.  Why do all of our clients request this option? Interview with Sam Rodell, AIA...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Passive House Northwest
Passive House Northwest
We were early proponents of an exponentially growing movement

Sam Rodell Architects is featured prominently in the recently published book Passive House Northwest 2016, including several projects recently completed and currently underway and a brief overview of the firm:   "The work of Sam Rodell Architects is characterized primarily by thoughtful ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Possibility of Good
The Possibility of Good
Less bad doesn't mean good

" 'be less bad' is to accept things as they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the best humans can do. This is the ultimate failure of the 'be less bad' approach: a failure of the imagination. From our perspective, this is a depressing vision of our spec...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Welcome, come on in!
Welcome, come on in!
Entrance should be a highlight

Celebrate your home or office with a well-designed entry sequence. Like the path into a great cathedral, every entrance and the route you take before and after can potentially create a rewarding experience of moving from one place to another.  Imbuing that transition with a powerful mem...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Seasons in Architecture and Construction
Seasons in Architecture and Construction
Plan ahead

Growing up, spring was the time my dad and I began to get the building itch. The two of us would design and plan out a project, purchase the materials (and any needed tools…) and wait for the right day to start. The projects we worked on ranged from a shed or a boat to a chicken coop or play ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Dwelling as Placemaking
Dwelling as Placemaking
Home is not a house so much as it is an experience

"Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build." ~ Martin Heidegger Our present position begins with the observation that people and cultures are defined by the balance they make between the general and the particular. We feel that in Western society this balance is in jeopardy. M...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Effortlessly Increase Your Disposable Income
Effortlessly Increase Your Disposable Income
Build a better property

Does it seem like you just paid all the monthly bills... but it's time to do it all again? Whether you are running a business or a household, all those little piles of cash flowing out the door every month add up.The utilities are costing more every year, and the the cost of energy is likely to incr...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Chemical Hazards in Consumer Products
Chemical Hazards in Consumer Products
Toxins have no place in our everyday lives

Building with toxic materials is such a bad practice, in part because we are embedding them into environments where people then tend to have long term exposure to them. It's good to be aware that carcinogenic and toxic material is not only found in scores of products in the building industry, but ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Signature Architecture
Signature Architecture
In search of True

"Where there is style, there is no need for a style." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright Social networks provide opportunities to engage a diverse community of people in conversations to reveal a broad sampling of opinion on any topic. I have occasionally posed questions to fans of my Sam Rodell | Architect...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Thermal Mass in Architecture
Thermal Mass in Architecture
Enjoy the surprising benefits of an 'energy battery'

To design and build structures that are thermally comfortable but effectively minimize energy use, it seems clear that some form of thermal mass should be part of the equation in most climates. Thermal mass acts like a 'thermal battery', storing heat energy. It stabilizes internal temperature, absor...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Travel and Architecture
Travel and Architecture
You had to be there

One of the most addictive aspects of a career in architecture is the level of ongoing learning that it engages one in throughout the entire arc of a career, of a lifetime. The sources of this 'continuing education' need not be distant or exotic travel. The insights offered by local interactions an...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Fulcrum of the Power Grid
The Fulcrum of the Power Grid
Utility companies face growing challenges

The railroad system that spans our continent represents one of the most ambitious historical achievements of our nation. Our infrastructure of power utilities gradually eclipsed that incredible achievement in both scale and significance. We are the beneficiaries of over a century of ongoing investme...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Adoration of the Joint
The Adoration of the Joint
How architectural elements embody expressive potential

"I put the glass between the structural members and the members which are not of structure because the joint is the beginning of ornament. And that must be distinguished from decoration that is simply applied. Ornament is the adoration of the joint." ~ Louis I. Kahn How design elements and mat...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Getting to Simple
Getting to Simple
Eliminate the superfluous and nonessential

"Like all great performances, a great work of art makes complexity look simple. It is executed with style, skill, and grace. Any genuine work of art is created through tremendous discipline, not put together out of a grab bag of random references and trendy trim. Great art eliminates everything su...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Collegiality and Teamwork
Collegiality and Teamwork
Collaboration in service to the project

"Listen to the man who works with his hands. He may be able to show you a better way to do it." ~ Louis Kahn "And always - always, say Thank You." ~ Mike Kelly My role during construction is generally to act as my client's agent, working to ensure that what was designed is what is buil...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Detailing Light
Detailing Light
Forensically accurate light modeling

We created these computer model images exploring options related to detailing proposed new niches in the wall of a condominium. They are quick proportion and lighting studies of a concept we were refining for our client's urban nest, which we are in the process of transforming room by room.This ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Designing for Natural Light
Designing for Natural Light
Forensically accurate sun studies

One of the first things we do with a new project is build a detailed and accurate three dimensional computer model of the land and its physical features from a survey. The survey work is usually completed using both a laser theodolite and satellite GPS data. The topographic model created from this d...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Steer Clear of Toxic Tile
Steer Clear of Toxic Tile
Offshore sources are highly suspect

Most ceramic wall or floor tile is now manufactured out of the United States, and the use of highly toxic heavy metals in the glazes is common. Most of the tiles you will see, especially in retail outlets, were manufactured in China, or in Cambodia or Vietnam by Chinese companies. The environmenta...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Intelligent Choice
The Intelligent Choice
The win-win option you need to know you have

Europeans have lived with high energy costs for a long time, and have a strong pragmatic awareness of the costs associated with heating and cooling buildings. So it may come as no surprise that the leading standard in energy savings comes to us from Germany: The Passive House standard. It's not a...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Passion, Innovation and Efficiency
Passion, Innovation and Efficiency
Establish clarity of intent early

There are no shortcuts to excellence. An ever present tension in architectural practice derives from the need to not only work well, but to do so as efficiently as possible. Each project we undertake represents a leap of faith - on everyone's part - on our ability to arrive at an optimum result with...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Cultivation of Expression
Cultivation of Expression
Gravity never rests

Buildings are anthropomorphic interventions in the natural environment - in other words, we live in a built environment that we create largely in response to the way we live within our bodies. Architecture serves far more than physical needs, but the human body is a primary determinant of architectu...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The First Step to Net Zero Energy
The First Step to Net Zero Energy
Begin by reducing the need

A 'net-zero energy' building generates more energy than it needs. The most important item in Net-Zero design is reducing the demand for energy. This is the main principle behind the Passive House concept, so it should be a natural progression for architects designing to the passive house standard to...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Choice and Cultivation
Choice and Cultivation
The task of our time is to combine vitality with calm

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~ Henry David Thoreau To function, even at the most basic level, we must be ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - When Walls Meet
When Walls Meet
Where changes of mass, plane, color or texture feel most comfortable

Corners are a design opportunity, potentially telling part of the story of a building through the material fabric of a buildings surface. Corners can be a tool for wayfinding, a way to change the visual size of an object or an opportunity to show off great design. Nothing stands out as ina...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Life on Water
Life on Water
We live between earth and sky - or between water and sky

Dwelling in architecture, we live between earth and sky.  Architecture is about a specific situation, bound to a fixed location.   It defines a particular place, shaped and sometimes defined by where it stands.  Place, in this context, is both physical and cultural...

Spokane Architect's Journal - What Plants Can Teach Us About Storing Energy
What Plants Can Teach Us About Storing Energy
Do it like rhubarb does it

Biomimicry: What plants can teach us about storing energy... Good bye, fossil fuel dependency! The main challenge with sun and wind energy is storage. Because the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing, we need to be able to bank away renewable energy when it's available for ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Building with Organic Materials
Building with Organic Materials
Why build with stuff naturally destined to burn, decay, or rot?

All the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full.  Ecclesiastes 1:7 Waste does not exist in nature. In the natural world, everything is cyclical; everything happens in closed loops and dynamic systems of loops. One familiar example would be the hydrological cycle, in which e...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Layering Views
Layering Views
It's not enough to simply orient spaces to a view

"If there is a beautiful view, do not spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly at it. Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition - along paths, in hallways, in entry ways on stairs, between rooms. If the view window is correctly placed, people will see...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Design for Future Abundance
Design for Future Abundance
Talking about sustainability as 'doing without' is counterproductive

The classical English pattern of using the village commons (that communally owned and used land which was available for pasturing private livestock) did not involve a conflict between public and private welfare as long as there was enough land. However, as herds increased, the over-grazed land becam...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Regional Authenticity and Architectural Sincerity
Regional Authenticity and Architectural Sincerity
Meaningful design is not driven by gratuitous 'decoration'

In virtually all our travels now, we see all manors of decorative devices employed in the built environment. Most represent, overtly or indirectly, intentions, aspirations, or values. Often, signage supplements or simply replaces architectural iconography.Regional authenticity is undermined by the f...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance

It is no secret that our dependence on oil reaches into every aspect of modern life. This must change - actually, will change, whether we like it or not. Not only are we wreaking environmental havoc burning fossil fuels, it is certain the costs will continue to dramatically rise, impacting every cor...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Spaces for Creative Collaboration
Spaces for Creative Collaboration
The Unleashed Online Studio

Unleashed Online Media asked for offices that reflect who they are and support how they work. What was required was a balanced blend of collaborative, open space and personal, individual space that express and foster progressive thinking and positive energies. The design and construction schedule wa...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Optimizing Walls for Energy Performance
Optimizing Walls for Energy Performance
Conventional assumptions turned upside down

We assign a very high priority to comfort in buildings - specifically, thermal comfort. One of the basic distinctions between being inside' and 'outside' is that when we are inside, we expect to be comfortable. We essentially live in two climates - interior and exterior - and the construction assemb...

Spokane Architect's Journal - All Around Us, Obsolete New Buildings.
All Around Us, Obsolete New Buildings.
There is rarely justification for building 'to code'

Because they use such exorbitant quantities of energy, new buildings built to code are actually going to be obsolete from day one of occupancy.  "Built to code is a euphemism for built to the lowest legally permissible standard." ~ Sam Rodell Most buildings currentl...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Restorative Intervention
Restorative Intervention
Design with nature - not against it

We designed and built our home on a site in a small development enfronting wetlands. Rather than extending the ubiquitous domesticated landscape of American suburbia into the native landscape, we instead pulled the wetlands and native landscape back into the domesticated realm of the housing devel...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Waste is Food
Waste is Food
(7 minute video)

A 'circular economy' is a term for an industrial economy that is, by design or intention, completely restorative.  In a circular economy, material flows are of two types: biological and technical. Biological nutrients are designed to reenter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients are des...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Blackened Cedar Siding
Blackened Cedar Siding

The term "Shou-Sugi-Ban" is Japanese and translates to "burnt cedar board". The term describes the centuries old Japanese technique of charring "Sugi" (cedar) planks.For centuries, Japanese carpenters used recovered driftwood from the coastlines of Japan for an artistic finish that also improved d...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Designing with Sheets of Light
Designing with Sheets of Light
Continually innovating LED technologies

One of the most exciting and interesting aspects of architecture is lighting design, and emerging technologies are creating an ever expanding horizon of design possibilities. This is a flexible 'light sheet' that provides high quality lighting while eliminating many of the constraints and chal...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Heirloom Architecture
Heirloom Architecture
Architecture has to be measured in elephant time

"When you make things well, it's an ethical thing." ~ Stanley Tigerman Instant gratification in architecture is highly over-rated. As an architect, being published and winning prestigious design awards is validating and gratifying, but this kind of recognition also tends to be fleeting, capric...

Spokane Architect's Journal - How I First Noticed Architects
How I First Noticed Architects
Thank you, R.G.

The Boy Scouts have a merit badge for architecture. And yes, I have one. On my journey toward the rank of Eagle scout, my world opened up in many ways, but surprisingly, it was the experience of earning this relatively obscure merit badge that influenced the course of my life. R. G. Nelson, t...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Sam Rodell Photography
Sam Rodell Photography
Helen Keller once stated, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”.

"I am an Architect with a life long love of travel and photography."   (Click on the link if you are interested in exploring travels behind my lenses over the years.)...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Preserving Darkness to Design With Light
Preserving Darkness to Design With Light
(TED Talk Video)

Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide offers insights into how thoughtful architects and lighting designers pay attention to light (and to darkness) to design more healthy, delightful spaces and integrate the built environment into the world in more gracious ways. ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Coaxing a Stone
Coaxing a Stone
Architecture exists both in the material world and in the realm of ideas

"You say to brick, "What do you want, brick?" Brick says to you, "I like an arch." If you say to brick, "Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?' Brick says, 'I like an arch.'It is important that you honor the material you use. Yo...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Phase Change Materials
Phase Change Materials
Passive energy storage sinks can lower heating and cooling demand

Putting Nature's Magic to Work For Us: Phase Change Materials We see it all around us, all the time; temperature changes make stuff freeze, melt, or vaporize. These 'phase change' transformations, in which molecules change from one state of matter to another, are so common we take them for grante...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Details and Intention
Details and Intention
If our work is well designed, benefits will far outweigh costs

When we experience good design - whether it is the design of a product, a service, or an environment - seemingly small, nuanced details we may well not even be conscious of will often exert a powerful influence on our perceptions. Even without knowing why, we are drawn toward the intentions of our b...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Art and Science of Architecture
Art and Science of Architecture
Any architectural firm worthy of the title must excel both artistically and technologically

In Western culture, science and art are often thought of as existing in separate worlds. Our higher educational institutions support this notion, for example - coursework is generally offered in the arts, or in the sciences. Yet we need look no further than the rise of Apple to recognize this is a...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Three Dimensional Point Clouds
Three Dimensional Point Clouds
Digitizing the material world

Technical innovation continues to rapidly and profoundly impact the practice of architecture. Here is one example: We can now perform a three dimensional laser scan of any built environment, rapidly collecting the locations of millions of points in space, creating a digital file housing a massive bu...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Zero Net Energy Owners Speak Out
Zero Net Energy Owners Speak Out
Monthly energy savings exceed the increase in the monthly mortgage payment

A Zero Net Energy Home produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in zero net energy bills and zero net carbon emissions. But the story does not end there. Zero Energy Homes have many other advantages over standard homes and so-called 'green' homes. They are very quiet, they provide f...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Environmentally Optimized Commercial Laundry
Environmentally Optimized Commercial Laundry
Being environmentally proactive is good business

You might not think of architects as being particularly interested in laundry as a design issue, but we get really excited about saving our clients money and easing the impact that the facilities we create have on the environment. And when we're talking about thousands of tons of laundry being pro...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Designed to Fail
Designed to Fail
We have much to learn from simple sophistication

This sextant is an example of sophisticated navigation technology designed and built to reliably function over a hundred years ago. It is well designed, anticipating challenges of use in extreme conditions when accuracy could be a matter of life and death. It is well made, of materials selected to...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Reintroducing China to Rammed Earth
Reintroducing China to Rammed Earth
(7 minute video)

China is undertaking the largest building boom in the history of the world. A young and talented pair of Canadian architects are working to introduce SIREWALL rammed earth as a healthy, sustainable option for building beautiful and durable architecture in China. ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Third and the Seventh
The Third and the Seventh
(Gorgeous 12.5 minute film)

"Lighting has been and still is one of my obsessions when creating art. I think it's a key element on many levels: as a tool for composition, narration, in the emotions it provokes." ~ Alex Roman We love what computer visualization can do for our clients, design process, and clients. We work...

Spokane Architect's Journal - You are quietly being poisoned...
You are quietly being poisoned...
(Compelling 1.3 minute SIREWALL video)

Most people assume there is some level of oversight protecting them from unhealthy building. That is not the case. No form of regulatory oversight is concerned with the levels of toxic materials embedded in building materials. Building codes, for example, primarily focus on issues like life safety ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Teachers are Heroes
Teachers are Heroes
"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth." ~ Diogenes

Good design is supported by vibrant culture.Vibrant culture is built on rigorous, critical, and broad education.Strong education requires a partnership of engaged parents and a close community of powerfully empowered support to create meaningful challenges and co-create open possibilities for stud...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Experiencing Expression
Experiencing Expression
"Your world is a living expression of how you are using and have used your mind." ~ Earl Nightingale

I know a lot of skilled architects who know what great architecture is - and really appreciate it - but can't create it. They have many skills, lots of talent, and deep knowledge, but lack some essential capabilities that are required to be a well rounded architect. They usually play an important ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Lessons From Being a Developer
Lessons From Being a Developer
Our Passive House clients need not face a false choice between a better building or a better operational budget

Becoming licensed as an architect is a long, challenging process, but that is just the first step toward becoming an Architect, which is a lifelong journey. In my particular case, it has included decades of experience as a general contractor, building our designs for our clients... as well as becomi...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Responsibility and Gratitude
Responsibility and Gratitude
We find nothing more rewarding than creating harmonious outcomes for clients

"Our life work is built on a foundation of reverence, responsibility, and gratitude."  ~ Sam Rodell Imagine building a scale model of the earth 75 yards in diameter. The biosphere in this model would be roughly the thickness of the skin of a tomato. It is here, between earth and sky, where t...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Designing with Thermal Analysis Tools
Designing with Thermal Analysis Tools
0% guesswork - 100% Physics

Our buildings are designed to isolate the interior climate from the exterior climate, which means we need to consider every way energy moves between the interior and exterior, including the roofs, walls, floors, doors, windows... literally every square inch of the places where heated or cooled spa...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Investing in Design
Investing in Design
It determines value as well as cost

Hiring an architect is expensive... but embarking on a significant construction project without a good architect is likely to be much more expensive.An investment in the service of a qualified, competent, and committed architect optimizes available resources with a design solution truly responsive...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Column Design Alternatives
Column Design Alternatives
Virtual mockups for visualization and evaluation

The virtual mockups in these videos explore alternative approaches to how beam and column materials and forms could be composed in a project we are working on now. One option looks at a relatively traditional cluster of four wood posts supporting dovetailed beams intersecting above, with a base elem...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Peril of Political Polarization
The Peril of Political Polarization
We literally do not have time for this

My thought is that liberal/conservative does not equate to good/bad, or the other way around. I tend to see it more as a yin/yang situation. Balance being the ideal; each perspective needs things from the other. I think that is likely to be true in general across history, and true in politics at l...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Smoking and Motorcycles
Smoking and Motorcycles
You will make, and learn from, bad choices along the way...

I live with six material objects handed down to me from my Swedish immigrant father, one of which is a hand carved cigar box fashioned into a representation of a log cabin. Lift the cabin, and it raises on an concealed internal pedestal. Lower it, and the cabin will dispense a cigar, cradled on th...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Lunch in Lima
Lunch in Lima
(3 minute video)

Design is everywhere we act with intention.  This exceptional restaurant in Lima, Peru celebrates distinct regional creations from a wide variety of locations in Peru, each from a specific elevation above or below sea level. Lunch - with wine and beer pairings - is a three hour experience invo...

Spokane Architect's Journal - 200 Years... Going on 300
200 Years... Going on 300
Reclaimed old growth timber

Hundreds of years in the forest... another 100 years as a barn.  Now, preparing for another century of life.  As I traveled through Bozeman, Montana on my way to Big Sky, I stopped to snap some images of these beautiful timbers being unloaded on a sunny afternoon.   Their past ...