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NEWSLETTER ARTICLES From the archives...

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By: Walt Chambers, guest author

The feeling and experience of a great street is instantly recognizable. You know it when you are on one. The street has a feeling of place that is engaging and enveloping. It’s comfortable and enjoyable to walk down. Whether it be Portland’s Pearl District, Boston’s Newbury Street, or 5th Avenue in New York City -- they all posses that certain quality. What most people don’t know, though, is how that quality comes to exist.

Great Streets San Diego (GSSD) wants people to know.  GSSD is a new education and advocacy organization in San Diego to help increase the awareness of the design elements needed to create great streets, livable neighborhoods and vital, vibrant cities.

Architecture, in the form of a good street wall, is an essential part of a great street. Yet good architecture is only one of the elements needed. Believing an important building would revitalize a fledgling downtown (and bring greatness by association), some cities have turned to “starchitects” to design trend-setting buildings. Likewise, trendy entertainment districts or stadiums have been built with a belief that importing excitement will result in an actual city. 

But neither starchitecture or stadiums make a great city. Great cities have great architecture because they foster innovation, artistic and cultural diversity and create wealth. They have a variety of good restaurants, museums and theater because their density, diversity and good design make it possible.

What makes a street successful? People. It is people and social interactions that make successful, vibrant, and livable streets and cities. As such, it must be the goal of every architect, designer, planner, engineer, and city official to design an environment that attracts people and facilitates interaction.

Much of what we know about how cities work was brought to light 50 years ago with the publication of Jane Jacob’s seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Great Streets San Diego has adopted her 4 principles and expanded on them with some 21st century input. She put it best; “To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable;”

Good Street Design :: Good Street Wall Architecture :: A Mixture of Primary Uses :: People (Density)

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These four conditions must exist in synergy in order to create good urban streets and neighborhoods. No single one of the four elements alone will create a great urban space.

Architecture’s role is to create a street wall that is engaging to people, enjoyable, and allows people to interact. There is no one solution to architectural design at the street level, but it is safe to say that elements like blank walls, monotony of form or materials, lack of scale, and parking lots are not people-oriented.

As William H. Whyte said, “It's hard to create a space that will not attract people; what is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”

To learn more, go to www.sdgreatstreets.org, and/or follow Great Streets San Diego on Facebook. 


rich 13Rich Guerena
Project Architect and Associate at KMA, Registered Architect in California, LEED AP, NCARB Certified

Where are you from originally?
I normally just say I am from San Diego. My family moved around a lot when I was young, including more than four years in rural Massachusetts before we settled in Oceanside when I was around 11 years old. I went to high school at St. Augustine here in San Diego.

How did you find yourself in the industry, and working at KMA?
In high school I knew I wanted to be an architect, so I got a job at a firm downtown after school and also during summer breaks in college. I received a scholarship to USC School of Architecture and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2002. While I was at USC, I had the opportunity to study in Italy for a semester. Then when I graduated, I came back to work for the same company. When I was getting up to almost the 10-year mark there, I had just gotten married, so I decided it was time for a change in my professional life too. I heard positive things from people I trusted, so I ended up sending my resume to Robb Walker. I didn't interview anywhere else and it took some time, but KMA eventually offered me a job. That was about five years ago.

What has been your biggest career accomplishment to date?
After college graduation, I worked hard to earn a license as soon as possible, and soon after joining KMA I earned my LEED® AP certification. I'm proud of these two accomplishments, but more importantly, I get to apply those skills in my career. One example of applying these skills is our work on the Combatant Crew Training Facility we just finished for the Navy. I'm proud of the fact that the job went extremely smooth and we were able to achieve LEED® Gold certification, when only a LEED® Silver rating was required.

What has been your favorite project to work on so far at KMA?
I couldn't pick a favorite project if I tried. One of the main reasons I came to KMA was to get a wide range of experience and I'm proud of the fact that I have achieved that goal. Currently, I'm part of the team on the Sunroad Centrum II office building, various office renovations of all sizes, military projects, vehicle scanners, institutional and residential projects. I'm pretty fortunate to work for a firm where everyone's voice is heard.

How do you like to spend your time outside of the office?
I'm married to an attorney and we have two kids: Olivia is 3 years old and Connor is 6 months old. My wife and I practice traditional Yang style Tai Chi, and I have been practicing Choy Li Fut Kung Fu for almost five years now, although I am really only scratching the surface.

ecoLines 13

Renovation Delivers Sustainable Architecture In modern architecture, one trend stands out above others: sustainability. While new and contemporary designs often come to mind when thinking of green architecture, many should consider green renovations and adaptive reuse projects as equally important to the sustainability movement in design. Applauded for their creative and innovative design concepts, many green renovations and adaptive reuse projects have generated some of the most innovative and intelligent work in the architectural field to date.

While architects often focus on empty lots for future development, renovation projects play an important role in positively affecting the environment as architects are tasked with creating “new form out of old fabric.” There is an abundance of energy and materials that reside within existing buildings which can reduce waste and land use, require less energy and decrease the general consumption of materials.

KMA has recently taken on a renovation project for the Newbreak Church located in Ocean Beach. The 6,000 square foot one and two-story church is being renovated to give the facility a more modern feel while blending in with traditional elements. The existing wood and brick exterior cladding of the facility will be removed to create a sleek, contemporary look, and the entrance will be relocated to provide church-goers with a spacious gathering area shaded by a trellis.

“The renovation and added contemporary designs truly complement the original, traditional style of the church,” said Don Blair, president of KMA. “There was no need to knock down the church to bring new life into the existing structure. We feel that by giving a new look to the existing church, it fosters a greater sense of community and neighborhood revitalization.”

While renovation and reuse projects can be more complex than and not as glamorous as brand new, sustainable development, for many companies, achieving LEED® certification with minor renovations and retrofits has been a commonly desired goal. Motivated by the prospect of increased property values, reduced utility bills, and being recognized as a “green” company, a noted upturn in green building upgrades has contributed to keeping the architecture and design industry afloat in difficult economic times.

In the pursuit of sustainable development, communities have much to gain from adaptively reusing existing buildings. Bypassing the wasteful process of demolition and reconstruction alone provides an extraordinary environmental benefit. While many future architectural trends are likely to unfold, renovation and adaptive reuse will always be an essential component of sustainable development.


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By: Todd Vinson, Pacific Aerospace Consulting, guest author

There was a day when functionality, not funding, was the driving force behind the engineering industry’s approach to developmental Test and Evaluation (T&E). We expected, and generally received, full funding to conduct our engineering projects. As a result, we conducted our evaluation projects with a rigor that included technical reviews and test-planning meetings that outlined plans to conduct simulation and laboratory testing, followed by testing in an environment that more closely resembled the real-world environment of the device under test. For military applications, we moved from the bench to the simulator, then to the aircraft or ship (or weapon or sensor), then to operational testing.

At risk of over simplification, the only real variable in the developmental test process was when to transition from one phase to the next (from ground to flight, for instance). We relied on our engineering experience for those decisions. Regardless of the soundness of the test strategy, we included plenty of regression testing into the schedule to allow for fixes and re-tests. We covered ourselves. Sure, we maximized efficiency where possible, but not to the extent that required a new business culture or mindset. However, times have changed, and so must our thinking if we intend to continue in the developmental test arena.

The Department of Defense (DoD) commissioned a Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of how military and industry facilities do T&E. The DSB findings were released earlier this year and should serve as a wake-up call for us all. Among other findings, the report cited lack of disciplined processes from an eroding workforce and loss of senior T&E experience.

The DSB report also cited excessive time for incorporation of fixes and the need for greater emphasis on integration testing. These findings drove a modification to the Defense Acquisition Guidebook, which now places greater emphasis on technical maturity risks and less on the more traditional cost and schedule drivers. The changes are also reflected in acquisition contract language, which assumes the reader’s thorough understanding of the role of integration in the acquisition process.

The requirement for a change in mindset doesn’t stop there. Government test agencies are responding to the changing Defense Acquisition world. For example, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) is changing their organizational culture (not just organizational structure) to provide a more efficiently tested and easily upgradable product for their customer, the soldier. They are not the only government test facility doing so.

If this sounds like private sector language, it is. The DoD is admittedly taking a cue from the commercial world by downsizing workforce, consolidating facilities, engaging in selective purchase of new systems to support current critical needs, and investing only in technology that addresses critical needs for the future. This issue is pertinent to more than those who provide support to a government customer. It affects technology, how we use it, test it, and provide it to our customers.

Pacific Aerospace Consulting believes that adapting to this new testing culture rests in innovation and thinking beyond traditional approaches to problems. What if we don’t offer a fixed set of renewable energy choices for the customer, but instead we develop renewable energy solutions literally based on the customer’s needs, with a return on investment (ROI) calculated from real-world data? What if we take advantage of the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our teams, and develop unique and innovative solutions that combine T&E engineering, marketing, and on-site installations and evaluations?

Or what if we create new ways to use emissions from existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units to assist in power generation by feeding the emissions into renewable energy components (wind, solar, or thermal)? The result is a hybrid solution costing less than a new system, running more efficiently and generating a much lower carbon footprint than a traditional power generator.

Of course, creating innovative solutions brings us back full circle to the subject of designing innovative approaches to T&E and integration of the technology. Given the new culture, the first step in our test strategy is in realizing that we are testing to a new requirement: a new mindset. Once that is realized, renewable energy technology will give us plenty of opportunities to implement the fix.


perp 13KMA is doing its part to provide women with the tools to build a career in construction. KMA associate, Heather Mertes provided a helping hand last year to The National Association of Women in Construction’s (NAWIC) summer program, MAGIC camp.

MAGIC camp, short for Mentoring a Girl in Construction, is a weeklong summer program designed to train female high school students the skills of up to five trades in the construction industry, including plumbing, masonry and electrical work.

In 2010, MAGIC camp volunteers put their heads together and came up with the Solar Green House project for the campers to build on a parking lot of the Stanley E. Foster Construction Tech Academy (CTA) in Kearny Mesa. Heather volunteered her time to provide a design concept and construction documents for the project.

“The best way for students interested in design and construction to obtain valuable experience is to get involved in actual construction projects,” said Heather Mertes. “It was so rewarding for me to see the design take form and to know that the drawings I provided were easy for them to understand and allowed them to efficiently build the structure within a week.”

For one week, high school students constructed the Solar Green House with donated building products and materials, and mentoring support from MAGIC volunteers.

The rectangular 213 square foot Solar Green House includes a gravel pad for housing compost worm bins and a cistern to capture water from the roof downspout for a drip irrigation system for the greenhouse plants. The south-facing shed roof supports two solar panels to power interior lights and the drip irrigation system.

The green house also features opaque polycarbonate panels on the walls and roof, essential for allowing visible solar radiation from the sun to be scattered and absorbed by the plants. Other design features included: a sliding barn door; ample open space to house plant racks; built-in-shelving and tool storage; and “whirly” roof vents. Proper ventilation is essential to a successful green house as it helps regulate the internal temperature, allowing for fresh air to circulate and also aids in reducing pest infestations. Heather’s specific design to balance light, temperature, C02 and water will help optimize future plant growth in the Solar Green House.

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“The girls did a remarkable job in such a short amount of time and should be extremely proud of their new green house,” continued Mertes. “I was so pleased to hear from the MAGIC Committee that the green house was a great addition to the campus and the science program, and that it is functioning very well.”

During the construction process, not only did the girls in the program utilize their technical skills, they had the opportunity to learn about teamwork, leadership and achieving a goal and left a permanent legacy for CTA. Heather’s support with the project will have a meaningful impression on the lives of many young girls and help propel a new generation of women in construction.

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Increasingly, architects and designers are tapping into social media to connect with industry peers and promote their work. But for architects, do these online pursuits pay off?

KMA has found its way into the social media world, and is present on Facebook, Twitter, as well as Archinect and Architizer, social media platforms designed specifically for the industry. The firm is using social media to improve online searches, establish thought leadership, be a part of the industry dialogue and allow potential clients to get a glimpse of their work.

So how are architecture firms capitalizing on social media these days to capture the attention of potential clients? Here are a few strategies:

Facebook: KMA and other architecture firms have tapped into Facebook to provide updates of projects, provide industry news and act as thought leaders in their communities. Facebook users can follow projects from start to finish, read about recent coverage and get involved in the conversation.

Twitter: Perfect for real-time updates of projects, Twitter is useful to reach out to the local community and media to share industry news and project coverage.

Blogs and Newsletters: By sharing weekly or monthly blogs and newsletters, architects can share news, industry updates and projects statuses with current and potential clients. KMA's quarterly newsletter is widely read and shared among peers, and also shared via other social media platforms for additional exposure.

Architizer: Essentially the "Facebook for Architecture," the site was developed to provide exposure and networking opportunities for designers. Architects are able to showcase their past, present and future projects, as well as the talent on their team.

Crowd-sourcing: Cities are beginning to benefit from crowd-sourcing methods to gather input from residents and apply the information they receive to make tangible improvements to communities and neighborhoods. For example, Bristol, Connecticut is seeing the power of collective thought with the development of a vacant 17-acre former shopping mall site. The developer rolled out a "crowd-sourced placemaking" campaign which allowed the community to be part of defining and deciding what would be built on the 17 acres. The process empowered residents to suggest and vote on ideas that would then be presented to the City Council for approval. Read more about this project here or see how other industries are creatively using social media at Mashable.com.

KMA and other architecture firms that successfully integrate social media into their practices may see generated interest in their work from journalists and other architects. In the fast-paced world today, it helps to have a voice and presence in the online world to foster new opportunities.

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