Grenfell

Dear friends

Did you know that the history of current building regulations begins as a result of the Great Fire of London in 1665, Pudding Lane, etc.?

This week has seen the awful fire at Grenfell Tower in West London.  

I awoke to read the BBC news with a picture of the 24 storey residential tower looking like a burning candle and of residents not escaping.  It was horrific and clearly there was going to be significant loss of life.  I noticed in the article that the​block was recently re-clad.  I thought of the buildings where I’ve used rain screen cladding (all educational).

My thoughts very quickly turned to why the fire had spread this way as I thought of recent fire incidents in our area. 

Fires were contained within the flats​.  (Look carefully in the photo and you’ll see the boarded up window on the left side and very little external scarring, that fire was a couple months ago, no-one seriously injured).  And I know the policy is for other residents to stay within their own flats, they should be safe.  However, I am also aware that re-cladding works have recently begun on several tower blocks in town, procured some time ago, with little involvement from our team of property consultants.  

I haven’t read too many more articles since the day.  The words of the witnesses fills me with tears each time.  Last night my dear husband said l was upset, angry and flailing my arms in the night during my sleep.  I’m fairly certain it’s as a result of this weeks events.

There was no official comment from the new head of assets at work.  Finally yesterday, the head of our architectural team spoke vehemently on the incident with myself and a colleague expressing his concern that no-one in the authority is stating anything and acting as if it’s business as usual.  We discussed the technical issues and the principles of rain screen cladding and what fires need to thrive – fuel, oxygen, heat.  He had already downloaded photos and identified the type of cladding.  He noted that consultants involved had already taking down their websites.

We spoke of Ronan Point.  A tower block which collapsed in the 1960s following a relatively small gas explosion.  We all know that changed the building regulations, introducing regulations to guard against disproportionate collapse.  And this incident may lead to a similar change in regulations.  

The most vulnerable members of our community were living in those high rise dwellings, eideriy, migrants, young families, single persons.  As a designer of the built environment this incident is troubling.  And it has made me think on how often we are asked to compromise as designers, for time or money.  

Health and safety legislation in the UK (CDM 2015) now recognises the role of principal designer, and it seems that this is a responsibility which may soon come to me, as a named individual within the council.  This incident is troubling but I feel that we ought to stand up to pressures from non – designers in our project teams to do what is right, thinking of those people for whom​ we are designing.

For me personally, I am grateful for the Holy Ghost who will direct and guide all aspects of our lives, including design, if we trust Him. 

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me…  master builder

Dear friends

Did you know, and you probably do because you are into words :), that the origin of the word architect is Greek from 

arkhi – chief + tekton – builder

Literally meaning chief or master builder.

In the last month I’ve had several experiences which have reinforced my confidence as a master builder.  I’ll share one of the experiences.  Warning: if you are not into construction you may want to look up some of the technical terminology… but I promise to limit archi-speak. 

The builders were questioning my detail for the main external, upper wall, which is timber clad.  In particular, the position of the breather membrane, which as the name suggests, allows the building to breath.  This is typically positioned on the external side of insulation.  So we’re standing on the roof and the site manager states that the builders are saying they usually put it behind the insulation, otherwise you have to make good around all the brackets (which penetrate the insulation to help pick up the battens for the cladding).  Are you still with me?   How?  Why? He was questioning.  Knowing I had researched the detail and discussed with my own manager (who has 25+ years experience) I was reasonably confident and said words to the effect of, use double sided and single sided tape which are the accessories for the membrane.  I finally told them to contact the manufacturer, which a couple days later on the Friday afternoon, when no further progress had been made and the quantity surveyor was now getting concerned that they were going to have to re-do the insulation because they weren’t sure of the detail, was exactly what I did.  (I think builders, or is it men, lack humility)!  I explained the wall build up from inside to outside, the product on site and the query to the technical department of the breather membrane manufacturer.  Yeah, builders often want to put it behind the insulation but it should be in front, helps protect the insulation; they probably have concerns about workmanship; you could use a different product and staple to the battens but not with the one you have on site. Your detail is correct and they fix it with the double sided tape and make good around the brackets with the single sided tape.  What pleasure I had writing the email to confirm all that!!! Me – master builder! 🙂

In this last week I visited site and the carpenters called me to see them. Up two ladders and onto the flat roof and I stood as they explained a real size mock up of the detail with smaller brackets (another issue).  It’s still too far out I commented as they tried to rationalise but my detail asked for 10mm and this was 25mm.  I’d been doing more research on the brackets detail following an early morning text message from my colleague who is the contract administrator for the project asking me to visit site to see the brackets.  So I was prepared.  As I contemplated losing the counter battens and how to tell them I wanted the brackets closer (a bit exposed), the carpenters explained that wouldn’t work around the window jambs, and then it hit me. Smaller battens and closer brackets.  The carpenters found two battens same size, mocked it up, yes, 10mm space.  And they could deal with the jambs. A little discussion about the membrane well, we’re not paying more to change the membrane so you can staple; I was told the membrane is on site; you’ll have to discuss with the main contractor.  And that was that – I reported to the main contractor, who seemed relieved to not have to get another batch of brackets, and the carpenters could get on with it.  

I absolutely love being an architect, master builder 🙂

poised…

Dear friends

Autumn leaves poised, waiting to fall

Sometimes in life it feels that things are poised, waiting to happen.  Like the leaves on this small tree that I saw this morning.  They’re changing, virtually imperceptibly, from green to yellow to red, poised, waiting for a wind to blow and take them to another stage in their life, away from the tree.  I really must develop more patience, from Mosiah 24 v15, and be peaceful like these leaves!

the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

I feel that things are poised for me a little.  The pre-assessment – before any type of surgery – went very routinely  MRSA swabs, blood test, blood pressure – but when the nurse checked my admission appointment it wasn’t there!  It’s been rescheduled for next week.  Same consultant – a gynaecological oncologist. So I’m back to waiting. I’ve tried to not use too many pain killers, especially at night.  This means I’m in a cycle of a few rough nights followed by a long night when I’m literally so exhausted I have to sleep.  The appointment time has changed – once – from afternoon to morning admission.  Not sure if that has any significance.  And I’ve already decided to not consent to anything other than the hysteroscopy and laparoscopy – we’ve already booked flights to Manchester eight days later!!

Things at work are equally at a poised state.  Our business is being transferred (back) to the local authority, so we are going through the TUPE process.  However the local authority is also having a restructure and the draft structure shows architecture under development (we’ve already heard our new director refer to the architects as the ones delivering concepts), and not within construction management, which we do via our contract administration role.  We are all keen not to be pushed into a discrete role of design and illustration alone.  That is how some practices work, but our small team has built on the fact that we’re all quite rounded as architects. In our favour is that the lead for construction management is old school and believes in the lead consultant delivery of a construction contract.  From January we will be working for our new employer and it feels like everything has been in a state of transition for far too long!  We are poised!! 

International Women’s Day

Dear friends
So life keeps going with all that it brings. 

The funnies: –
Me: (on why there’s a mid season break for extended filming) I don’t think it worked like that in my day!
Daur2: What?  You twerked in your day!!??

The compliment: –
Local Heritage officer: (on looking at my latest project) A very well designed extension.
This is why I’m an architect,  I love creating spaces for all to appreciate 🙂

The surprising/ thought provoking: –
Female friend (mother of 2, same age as me and the LDS seminary teacher): It is cancer. Their going to operate next month,  remove it completely and I have to decide on whether to have reconstructive surgery later in the year.  It helps to talk about it.

And then Mothering Sunday: –
My mother: (after lovely dinner prepared by my dear husband and why it’s not Mother’s Day) It originally started so those downstairs [ie servants] could visit their homes/ mothers at least once in the year. 
My children and husband (expressions – similar – in a card): Thank you for being the best Mummy!!

Latest read: – I’m reading Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje – I’ve read it before; it’s one of my older books retrieved from the garage last spring; it’s a great,  poetic read. 

Latest on running: – I’ve been running a little bit during these wintry mornings – I need to improve my stamina!  but my latest running partner (another mum with dog during early morning seminary) will be teaching seminary (in the absence of the teacher for surgery),  so I’m not sure whether to go down to the park to run on my own… it’s quite light in the mornings now but it’s a big grass and woodland area.  There are other runners… I’ll think on that one.

image
View on my typical early morning run

Finally, to international women’s day, that this is, I can’t say I’ve done anything particular but I did decide (yesterday) to go to the LDS women’s conference on Saturday – I didn’t have much choice,  my mum declared she wasn’t going if I wasn’t!  I also thought on how if we don’t support such activities and conferences, they won’t be organised. It simply means a whole Saturday out… at least a friend is driving this year (it’s towards London).  The workshops do look quite interesting and despite my cynicism, I know I will enjoy the day, and probably meet some old friends.  

After all this,  I recognise that our family is greatly blessed by our Father in Heaven.  I am very grateful for where we live and the time we live in and the opportunities we have.  A different place,  a different generation,  and we would be living very different lives. That goes for all of us.  Take care. 

a London trip

Dear friends
It’s been ages!  I started this post several days ago but after a great lesson in relief society yesterday on personal histories where the following quote was shared, I need to make a greater effort to get over my fatigue in the evenings and write.  Here’s the quote, which I’ve kept next to Malachi 4 verse 6 to remind me that family history is about us living too:

“Everyone has something they can share. I’m not famous.  I don’t have anything that would be newsworthy,  but I have stories. ”  Tafta Johnson Watson

Remember when you turned 16 years?  Well,  we had that special birthday in our family last month and Daur1 decided she’d like to celebrate with a visit to the capital city and it was my pleasure to take her.  There were a number of things on the London wishlist:
1. Buy a dress for prom – #1 priority “we have to get it now while the sales are on!”
2. Eat lunch in Soho (Chinese buffet preferably).
3. Visit Covent Garden.
4. See Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and generally as many of ‘the sights’ as possible in a day trip!  Fortunately it was payday a few days before our outing, last Saturday, and I am always one for travelling, maybe not shopping, but walking and sightseeing, that is me!!

So, we boarded the national express coach at 0740h Saturday morning – “why are you doing this?” teased my dear husband as it was just getting light – and we headed off.  An hour later and we were within Greater London and I was pointing out Twickenham Stadium of which Daur1 later commented on,  which [football /soccer] league are they in? and admiring the architecture, some great 1920s and 1930s residential.  Anyone arriving into London by coach knows that means London Victoria Coach Station,  a simple bus station on a corner facing an iconic structure, the National Audit Office – in fact, both buildings are great (in my opinion) and the white blocks mean their hard to forget.

Oyster cards purchased,  we made our way to Fonthill Road,  Finsbury Park.  The road where anyone in the know buys dresses and it didn’t disappoint.  It seemed there were several school girls doing prom dress shopping – the sales – but the first purchase was for me.   I saw,  and tried on a great African style dress which looked like it was made for me – long, fitted,  colourful,  I knew I would regret not buying it.  And then I also decided to buy a cute and colourful African peplum peplum style skirt for Daur2.  Thinking about it,  those purchases were probably my mistake and why today I feel the trip ruined me financially!!!

A fer trying on several dresses,  in several shops,  Daur1 had established, not burgundy, not red, not puffy skirt, definitely not going home with nothing.  I’m grateful for messaging as Daur1 messaged yet another dress to a group of trusted friends back home and I messaged my husband.  It has a high enough neck line,  with matching shawl/scarf to cover shoulders, not a full skirt,  and critically for Daur1,  heels will have to be worn, it’s long!!  With the emergency oast and raisin cookies now finished and task complete,  we headed back to central London and Covent Garden – the market, the Royal Opera – where Daur1 was in awe and exclaimed “This is AMAZING! I’m going to study in London!!”  It’s still a den of iniquity, I joked! Really,  I think everyone ought to experience living in a capital city at least once in their life, preferably when they’re able to explore all if has to offer.  And in the UK we have 4 to choose from – Edinburgh,  Cardiff,  Belfast and London. Culturally nothing compares to living in a big city – the galleries, the built environment, the businesses, the transport,  the government.  Clearly there are big non-capital cities which are also great places but, for me,  there’s a certain buzz when you are at a seat of government.

American Apparel

Was the next exclamation and I couldn’t understand why Daur1 was so impressed with American clothing,  until she pointed out the shop to me with a roll of her eyes and headed in to browse.  From there we walked to Leicester Square “So this is where Jennifer Lawrence was!” We admired the street artists,  art and comedy and musicians.  We wandered up into Soho, Chinatown,  came across the most urban primary school – Parish of Soho Primary, then on to Piccadilly Circus.  Bright lights and advertising wasn’t so impressive since we emerged from the street right under it but there was the bagpipes player and usual throng of people around Eros, or is it Cupid?  We bought hot dog, chips, falafel and water then headed on to Trafalgar Square, Whitehall,  Houses of Parliament,  Westminster Cathedral and then back up Victoria Street and the coach station.

It was a great day and I’m thinking of doing it again,  with the others.  It was lovely spending time with our eldest daughter.  We are similar in many ways and yet very different.  But or enjoyment of the simple pleasure of walking through streets,  admiring architecture and spaces, it was great.

I know this has been a very diary like post but I don’t want to forget what we did.  My phone lost it’s charge not long after we arrived at Covent Garden so we didn’t get many photos.  I learnt to enjoy the moment more and even though I spent more than I planned,  I’m glad for a memorable time with one of my babies 🙂

 

a thought on work

Dear friends

The scaffolding has been coming down on one of my projects, we’ve been on site about 18 months, with another 3 months or so left, and finally we can appreciate what legacy we will leave for the city. It’s quite exciting – I’ll post photos in a different post.

Leaving site last week I felt a renewed excitement, for my current job. And for projects I’m currently working on, at design stage.  I also began thinking on why I initially wanted to work on public sector projects, like schools.  Because with public projects, I feel a responsibility to design and deliver the best for the whole community. The challenge is its funded by the community, by government funding, from our taxes.

Meanwhile, I submitted the planning application for a new school building on the east side of town.  This is a little controversial with locals since it’s proposed on a disused playing field used, by some locals, as a dog toilet and bus shortcut through the broken fence.  I feel we’ve given some valid reasons why it should be developed for the school, which is expanding.  We’ll see if the planning authority agrees in a few months. 

We’re having an architectural team management meeting in Starbucks or Costa, or similar!  Three of us 🙂  it’ll be a welcome respite with my two senior colleagues that I’ve been with for over 8 years…  (Later…) we had our meeting (Costa) and I felt decidedly guilty as our team leader said he saw the team moving forward with us three… that was not the time to reveal I’d updated my CV and am looking for a new job…

changes…

Dear friends

It has been a really long time since writing.  I am sorry – I hope you can forgive me.  It has been a very busy time with changes for the family, and at work.

New term, new schools, new journeys, new friends for the children.  Within the visual changes outside with Autumn we often see changes in our lives too, particularly here where the academic year runs from September to July.  They are all settling well and its strange to think their combined age is 50 years!  Time keeps ticking.  I had a friend that once told me that a friend of hers had given her the advice to see difficult times in our growing children’s lives as phases – I’ve done that and this present phase is great.  I am grateful that they are healthy, I am grateful that, generally, they are good friends to each other.  I am grateful that each of them has chosen to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and I pray for each of them that they may stay close to Him, through all the good and bad times to come.

At work, we continue to hemorrhage good staff = 😦  When we work on projects together, I feel like we’re another big family – and as architect, I’m that mother hen who gathers the consultants together and lets them know it’s going to be OK – or I make a terrible mess and forget something crucial – I really should have got that quote for a habitat/ ecology survey back in the summer when they could look for invertebrates (slow worms!!).  It’s hard to explain about how I feel about the other consultants – they are like brothers, big brothers, little brothers, chatty brothers, quiet moody brothers, best friend brothers.  The best way to describe it when you work on a project together, and you stand as lead consultant, as project architect, is that you’re not really any better than anyone else, you’re simply ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ and that’s what helps you to see further, to see more.  For me, the consultants are the giants.  I could never be, and have never wanted to be, a structural engineer, a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer, an electrical engineer, but I have the greatest respect for them because without them the thoughts in my head would not stand up, be lit, be warm, or be safe!

I submitted an application to be registered as a conservation architect.  I may have mentioned before that this is something that I’ve been working towards and the current application round closes on Monday.  I started it a while back but to collate the dossiers, on four projects, well, lets simply say I was up until 0100h this morning.  The assistant was off and I had cleared my diary to get it done and in the post by 2pm.  Unfortunately, the printers thought otherwise, and after a couple of trials with the nice paper – the ink not fixing, changing settings, annoying colleagues (oops, a brother 🙂 )who also wanted to print urgent documents (I deleted my 60 page document from the printer queues… I’d selfishly sent it to the three printers not realising it was going to take so long…), learning how to use the binder – I printed on ordinary paper, bound three copies, and met my dear husband after school’s were out and posted it special delivery, to arrive by Monday.  I’m very excited about it and really hope, and pray, that I’m accepted.  There is one other conservation architect in the entire UK business and he’s nearing retirement.  My conservation engineer brother, who sits behind me, is often traveling out of town to far flung corners of the UK, so I’m hoping it will bring some interesting opportunities. I’ve desperately been trying to remember and find a talk which touched me about continually improving and being prepared for work but I can’t find it – sorry, I think it’s by Dieter F Uchtdorf.

And today (Saturday), my dear husband and I spent nearly 10 hours (so Son1 informed me!) away from the children; road trip to the London temple 🙂

And I’ll finish with a scripture a great, thought provoking scripture:

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
2 Nephi 2 v25

Palmyra lost

Dear friends

I’m sorry to read today – BBC news article – about the destruction of the temple at Palmyra, Syria. It seems insane, to me, that historical buildings and art work should become targets. But I suppose that is part of any ideological war.

I’m working on qualifying as a conservation architect and I love the care that can be found in older artefacts. This summer we visited a Gothic church (or two!) in France – those vaulted ceilings are an inspiration. 

Why did they build like that?

One of our dear children asked me.  To glorify God, I explained – they were building the best for God. 

Those buildings, constructed following a simple belief system of worshiping Deity, are marvels in whatever culture, because of the belief of those that caused them to be built.  I’m sure there were some unrighteous happenings during their construction – slave labour, exploitation, corruption – and there was death and injury.  For those reasons too we should never forget – that construction may be their only legacy.  I find when visiting such historical places that my mind reflects on the people of that time.  My spirit is touched by their lives.

So I’m grateful for those that work hard to record buildings, edifices, so we can visit, reflect and grow. 

blogging… et al

Dear friends

I’ve been having a bit of a blog designing session – and it’s all left me feeling exhausted.  It began yesterday with Daur1 designing a blog logo/ banner and has ended with me trying on and off various themes to find one that I feel portrays me!  For a designer of buildings, I’ve found it difficult to get my head round why certain themes don’t do certain things and although there’s probably some add-on/ plug-in that can be done, I’m not into the technological aspects that badly.  I simply want it to be attractive, easy to read and navigate, and reflect a part of me. What do you think?

I return to work tomorrow after two weeks on leave so that is probably adding to the exhausted and stressed feelings.  Although, it is all change in a few weeks; the assistants will go back to university and we will have at least one new one.  And a couple of the projects were at feasibility and concept design stage so it will be good to work a little more conceptually while others are still on holiday.  Despite my moans about work, I do enjoy being an architect!

I’ve had quite a few thoughts about what I want to write about – there’s clearly the whole death of a lion issue versus death of a negro; I’ve been doing family history and have been thinking on how I bear the signs of yesteryear; a new shopping centre has received planning permission and it looks like another ship (I need to do a blog on how many buildings in our town look like ships).

I think I’ve shared this scripture before but it does seem very appropriate for all the eclectic thoughts going round my mind, from Mosiah chapter 4, verse 27, King Benjamin’s words:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

time for yourself – a poem

Dear friends,

I mentioned how a few weeks ago we cleared out the garage.  Well, I came across one of my old sketchbooks from university days, 1990-1991 and in the back was a poem I wrote for a project.  I think every RIBA School of Architecture does a ‘design a retreat’ project – no-one can claim that RIBA validated architecture courses are anything other than creative – I sketched the section of an onion, wrote poems and drew an androgynous figure!  Anyhow, I thought you might enjoy reading the poem – I’m not a poet, I’m an architect, so I’m sure the more literary among you will see room for improvement 🙂

time for myself

Time for myself and not for the world

of strife & malice …

and competition

to succeed, to win.

Why never to be yourself?

But here’s the chance

with a time of its own,

and still enough time for me.

So that I can grow,

in the world

but not of it.

A chance to dream, or rather ponder

without worry of waking,

work, food, work.

Here, at one with nature –

for are we not nature ourselves? –

we can be honest,

with nature,

with ourselves.

Having honesty enough not to hide

– we can hide but a short time in our dreams

from the world –

but if we are true to ourselves,

we need no dreams to hide in,

for we have nothing to fear.

The world can not harm us,

it can not touch us if we are honest,

showing integrity

being ourselves.

and then we can go back,

knowing that we’ve lived,

to our fullest potential,

And,

knowing that we had time for ourselves & not for the world,

living for that one dream, above all,

To return.