Oops, Water in Painted Stucco

February 10th, 2017

With stucco, you can either let it show its natural color, or you paint it. The problem with painting it is that if any water gets in behind the paint, there’s no way for it to get out. And paint cannot reliably keep water out in the first place—there are always cracks forming in the […]

Oops, Wrong Ply

February 2nd, 2017

A marine-grade plywood would have been a better choice for these backboards. Even an exterior-grade ply with its phenolic binders would have held onto the laminations, though edge protection is always a wise safeguard.

Oops, No Ventilation

November 22nd, 2015

Peeling paint in only some areas of this exterior suggests vapor was gradually making its way through from the inside, loosening the bond between the paint and the wall. Behind the peeling areas you’re likely to find a bathroom, kitchen, or other humid area without a good vent. If this were new, tightly-sealed construction, but still […]

Oops — No Wind

January 21st, 2013

If we learn from our mistakes, students at Sanchez School will certainly benefit from the placement of this fence-top wind turbine.  As anyone walking by could tell you, the generator would do better on top of this 40-foot edifice than at the sidewalk. But would that be enough?  Industry rule of thumb suggests placing turbines […]

Building Science for Owners

January 4th, 2013

For a basic understanding of building science, here’s a powerpoint presentation from EnergyStar. Click on “Crash Course in Building Science” to download it. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=bldrs_lenders_raters.ResESMktgSalesPresentation

Oops – No Photosensor

September 17th, 2012

Well, at least they put in compact fluorescents. Now their bill for this pair of lights is a quarter of what it was. Obviously a photosensor would cut that down to an eighth or so. Say the original pair of 75w incandescents cost 150w x 24 hours x 365 days = 1314 kwh, x .15 […]

Tech Note: Radiant Barriers

March 5th, 2010

I’m always looking for “no-brainers” in construction — things to do that just make too much sense not to do. Here’s my experience with radiant barrier: Radiant barrier is a heavy-duty aluminum foil that reflects 97% of the infra-red spectrum. It’s available on the underside of plywood roof sheathing for new construction, or in rolls […]

Tech Note: Light Shelves

December 12th, 2009

A surprisingly effective way to draw light into a room is by use of a light shelf. These horizontal reflectors are mounted either inside, outside, or on both sides of a southerly-facing window. Sunlight bounces off the surface and onto the ceiling within.  Any bright surface will diffuse daylight effectively. In my office though, I […]

Takematsu Tidbit from ’93

May 23rd, 2009

  Here’s a piece I wrote for the June 1993 Architectural Review. Shin Takamatsu had just designed his own exhibition in the top floor rotunda of the old San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, at the War Memorial Building on Van Ness… *** To anyone already familiar with his work, the most surprising quality of […]