Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 Mistakes to Avoid in School Design

By: Scott Burge, AIA, LEED AP
Senior Architect, Farnsworth Group, Inc.

 Examples of natural lighting, acoustic panels and color selections.  

Anyone who has ever participated in a construction project knows there are always things they wished they would have done differently. They may find themselves reflecting: “If only I had done ... ,” or, “I wish I would have spent more effort considering …”

Budgets and / or time constraints might make this unavoidable, but it is vital to ensure these words aren’t uttered about crucial or large-ticket items. To have a successful school construction project, we suggest avoiding these “Tumultuous 10”:

Mistake #1 - Not carefully evaluating the proposed site.
Sites close to busy intersections, railroad crossings or areas with heavy air traffic can amplify noise issues and the complexities of transporting kids to and from school. Negating the impact of heavy traffic and outside noise sources is extremely advantageous.

Utilize the site to take advantage of inherent benefits, such as natural lighting, air movement or wind blocks, views and utility connections. A gently sloping site usually is best; one that is too flat or too hilly will struggle with drainage, and the expense for cut or fill will become a challenge.

If you are building an addition, ensure that ample room remains for future additions, on-site water detention, parking and athletic fields.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alphabet Soup De-Coded: Making Sense of Credentials

Based on last month’s blog posting about participation in industry specific organizations, we decided to take the discussion a step further and examine professional industry-related credentials. An assumption often made in the A/E/C industry has become that the more letters and acronyms next to your name, the more important and/or qualified that individual appears on paper. The question then becomes “Is it worth it to earn all of those distinctions?”

During a recent address in June of 2012 entitled “Credentials in the 21st Century Job Market” during the Clinton Global Initiative, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis commented, “It really doesn't matter where you've been or where you want to go, because you're not likely to get far in the current job market without the right training and credentials.”

Many companies, municipalities and federal organizations are now requiring industry designations to qualify individuals and companies.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over a10-year period from 2008 to 2018, 21 of the 30 fastest growing occupations will require a postsecondary certificate or degree. These numbers indicate a greater need for professionals to earn industry certifications, licenses and registrations.

When deciding which distinctions to pursue, this mix of alphabet soup of credentials can be overwhelming. One way to investigate the relevance amongst the number of credentials available is to examine the organizations that sponsor many of these industry-standard registrations and certifications. These organizations and corresponding distinctions include:

In addition to these organizational sponsored certifications, many states offer professional licenses in the A/E/C industry. These licenses add even more acronyms to the mix of alphabet soup including:
  • Professional Engineer (PE)
  • Engineer-in-Training (EIT) or Engineering Intern (EI)
  • Professional Land Surveyor (PLS)
  • Professional Geologist (PG)
  • Professional Landscape Architect (PLA)
  • Registered Interior Designer (RID)
Outside of industry-related requirements, organizations and state licensures, professional distinctions offer other benefits. Industry distinctions help to define A/E/C professionals by: 
  • Allowing for standardization across the country for quality of workmanship
  • Assessing specific industry knowledge
  • Providing an avenue for continuing education

In the end, the pursuit of this mix of alphabet soup of credentials should be a decision made based on the individual and the needs of the company. When decoding this mix of alphabet soup, be sure to consider the following:
  • Industry related standards – is a license/certification required to perform necessary job tasks?
  • Organizational reputation and the amount of organizational involvement
  • Amount of work experience required
  • Opportunity for training resources and continuing education
  • Impacts on career advancement

For more information on professional distinctions, the Department of Labor has sponsored two websites:


Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Participation in Industry Specific Organizations Matters

Many of us at Farnsworth Group are members of industry specific associations; however our level of participation may vary from time to time.  An association is an organized group of individuals with a common purpose, interest or activity. As engineers, architects, surveyors and scientists, associations are instrumental in establishing best practices, education, industry leadership and the technical standards that our industries follow.   Membership in associations is great; you get a membership card and something to add to your resume – but the real value is in active participation, and I don’t mean just going to a couple of meetings a year. Association membership and participation is important for those of us who are seeking to be engaged and take a leadership position in what drives our industry. 

What is the Gain?

Education and information sharing is a big part of what industry associations provide.  Associations host conferences, expositions and forums where you can contribute your knowledge and vision, as well as learn what others are doing.  These events are also a great place to gain a little cachet for sharing your expertise.  Many of our professional endorsements require continuing education of our professional knowledge.  So whether you’re there to learn, there to teach or both, you’ll find an opportunity for professional development and advancement.

Committee and board positions within an association is another way to be involved in sharing new ideas and practices that set standards for the industry and workplace.  These teams are a great place to get to know your peers and work together.  And, it’s a great way to give back.
And maybe the most obvious benefit of industry association membership and participation is the opportunity for networking.  Active participation allows you to cultivate relationships, build awareness of your value and thus be referable, which translates into business growth and opportunity with others in and around your field. 

Network with Us!

Stay in touch with us to find out where you can meet us face-to-face…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Photography in Today's Age
By Amanda Payne

Photography has been an aspect of my life since I was a young girl.  When I was 16 years old, my parents bought me my first “real” camera.  This was not your typical Kodak disposable flash camera that I had been using; this was a Sony digital camera.  Suddenly I could take photos and see instant results.  If I didn’t like the shot, I could just delete it and take another.  As with all technology, once I had my Sony camera, I told everybody “I can never go back to those disposables.”  It is true.  This is what today’s technology has done.  It evolves and often makes us more efficient.  I love the ease of digital photography, but I also feel like I’ve lost a bit of touch with the “art” of photography, which tells a story.  
Certainly photography in our advanced world has steered us into a different direction than when I was younger.  When I was a child, it seemed the camera only got pulled out of the drawer or closet for special occasions.  And you never knew what that photo was going to look like until you dropped the film off at the drug store and returned to see what shot you got (or didn’t get!). 
Today, the camera is an everyday part of our lives.  Cameras are on cell phones, IPod’s … heck, even children’s Nintendo DS’s have a built-in camera.  These types of devices make it easy to generate photos on the internet so it is easily accessible for others to view.  Today there are nearly 7,000 photos uploaded per minute on Flickr.  You can snap a photo with your phone and a few seconds later make it available to the world on Facebook. With this many photos posted on the internet, it is as though photography is no longer a hobby or an art, but just a part of our everyday lives.  Today, everyone is a photographer on demand.   And I haven’t even mentioned all of the software available to ‘enhance’ your photos.
What do you think?  Is photography now simply a universal hobby?  With all these advancements in photography, it’s hard to imagine what’s next on the horizon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Water Conservation and the 2012 Drought
By the Bloomington Water/Wastewater Group

NOAA Seasonal Drought Outlook
As the weather begins to cool and fall continues into its second week, the abnormally hot and dry summer still lingers in the minds of many. Although some areas of the country have received some relief, more than 64% of the country is still experiencing moderate drought conditions or worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. These conditions are expected to persist, especially in the Midwest and Western United States.

This summer’s drought encouraged many municipalities to take a close look at their current water resources and infrastructure. For some, this examination was prompted by a large increase of water main breaks. Others saw their water reservoirs and resources quickly diminishing due to the lack of rain and record hot temperatures. However, there are many preventative measures that municipalities, water systems and even wastewater systems can take to conserve water and mitigate the effects of future droughts.
Aging infrastructure exacerbates common issues a water system could face during a drought. A good master plan with capital improvements that replace parts of the aging system is effective in promoting water conservation and improving conditions during a drought. A potential increase in capacity can also be investigated in certain components of the water system, including the pumps, treatment and storage. A capacity increase can alleviate some of the stress placed upon water resources during times of little or no rain.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Listen Up! Don't Compromise on Acoustics By John Bishop, AIA, LEED AP

Farnsworth Group added acoustic wall panels  that not only buffer noise,
but also creates a dynamic design element that enriches the space.
Today, school districts are under increased pressure to accomplish more with less forcing compromises in many areas.

The acoustic properties of classrooms is one area that we urge districts to take careful consideration before making any compromises. The acoustics of the classroom environment fall in two primary areas: background noise and sound isolation.

Background noise - the sound generated by occupants and devices within the space - serves both as a sound mask and, in the case of sudden or irregular sounds, a point of distraction within the classroom. Sound masking background noise can have a marked impact on speech intelligibility, which in turn can have a dramatic impact on younger students that are lacking the baseline knowledge and context necessary to fill in the gaps in intelligible speech.

Background noise can often be reduced by isolating mechanical equipment from the classroom. By avoiding installing fans, compressors, pumps and other such devices in the confines of the classroom space, all of which generate mechanical vibration and noise, the background noise level can be reduced and speech intelligibility can be improved.

Sound transmission refers to the amount of sound energy that is transferred through intervening walls, doors and ceilings. Mass is often a significant contributor to the performance of a building element in controlling sound – the heavier a wall, the less sound energy will be transmitted through the wall.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Creating a Sense of Place by Looking at Our Past
By Jeff Martin, RLA
The design and development of America’s cities, neighborhoods, public places and open spaces has had its share of peaks and valleys. Population explosions in the latter half of the 1800s and again after World War II meant that homes, factories and businesses needed to be built at break-neck speed. While it did provide much-needed homes and places of employment, it often led to shapeless neighborhoods, cities and regions that lacked a sense of place.

The antidote in the early 1900s was the City Beautiful movement, pioneered by leading architects, planners, business professionals and everyday concerned citizens. Its focus was to make cities and neighborhoods more attractive and livable by implementing bold plans and designs. The result was the creation of charming neighborhoods and cities that have withstood the test of time. Stroll through a 100-year-old neighborhood and you will notice timeless architecture, walkable streets, neighborhood roundabouts, a diverse mix of land uses, highly visible open spaces, and parks accessible by foot or bicycle.

Today, America continues another renaissance in how it plans, designs and markets the neighborhoods, cities, public places, open spaces and regions of tomorrow. And it does this with an eye toward the past.

Click here to read the article...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trends in Interior Office Design
By Sarah Kathro
The conventional office environment is evolving to accommodate new ideas and ways in which business is conducted in today's age. Technology is shaping how we learn, communicate, store information and carry out daily functions.

Every day we learn more about the logistics of how people work and its direct influence on the built environment. Companies have a genuine interest in the well-being and quality of life of their employees. These factors are challenging designers to pay attention to the logistics of these factors in order to accommodate for the ever-evolving work environment. The built environment is starting to mold itself around how human beings operate, not forcing individuals into a space.

As a society, we are taking steps in becoming more responsible individuals when it comes to how space is used, budgeting our dollars, and learning to not take more than what we truly need. With financial concerns and green initiatives as driving factors, the footprint of the office environment is shrinking. And with spaces shrinking and walls encroaching, the office is becoming more efficient in how resources are being used.