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NEWSLETTER ARTICLES From the archives...

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With the New Year, industry leaders are watching for new architecture and construction trends to enter the arena. The most notable trend in 2012 will be reconstruction projects that boost construction activity and generally keep architects, engineers, contractors and developers busy. Whether it’s a LEED upgrade to a building, a remodel, historic improvement or an addition, reconstruction will be the backbone supporting the construction industry until the economy returns to a normal pace.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reported that LEED-certified existing buildings are surpassing their new construction counterparts. During USGBC’s first decade, new construction on LEED projects led the charge until 2008, after which it slowly began to change. A year later, LEED for existing buildings (LEED-EB) projects outpaced those certified under LEED for new construction (LEED-NC) for the first time, a movement that has continued over the last few years.

“At KMA, we welcome the trend of working to update existing buildings with retrofits and sustainable upgrades, especially as new construction slows,” said Robb Walker of KMA Architecture and Engineering. “These modest improvements in greater volume will make a powerful impact on our overall energy use and reduce our greenhouse gases.”

This trend will be further supported through President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative, which passed in February 2011. With the initiative, Obama’s administration pledged to fund $2 billion in public and private investments in building upgrades, working to set a national target of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020. Improving energy efficiency through reconstruction and LEED upgrades will create more jobs in the construction industry, save building owners money and increase energy savings.

Overall, analysts foresee that the construction industry will see slight growth by the end of 2012 or hold steady. California especially leads the pack in a nationwide construction recovery and will have the most construction dollars spent among the states over the next four years. As California comes off of low levels of construction activity, the initial growth rates will be very high. With the state’s economy slowly growing, there will be notable near-term economic growth, which will ultimately translate into greater construction activity.


team 14A fresh face to the KMA office, Project Designer Howard Wang came on board only four short months ago and has since been welcomed with open arms to KMA’s ever-growing design team. Drawn to the way in which KMA values the design process and is committed to providing the best possible product for its clients, Wang’s choice to work for KMA was a simple decision.

With family roots in Taiwan, Wang was born and raised in Atlanta. At the young age of six, he knew he wanted to be an architect and has always been drawn to the technical beauty of the industry. “I love that architecture is both creative and technical. I enjoy the challenges that this confluence of disciplines presents,” said Wang. “I like how beauty can come from simple solutions to complex problems and that these solutions are manifest in physical, tactile form.”

In pursuit of a career in architecture, Wang earned his Bachelor of Science at Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as his Masters of Architecture in 2010.While in Atlanta, Wang worked for a company called Lord, Aeck and Sargent (LAS) where he gained experience in various sectors of the architecture industry, including multi-family residential, mixed-use, and university science laboratories. He also initiated efforts to build a partnership between LAS and a Chinese urban design firm during a two-week trip to China.

Despite great success in Atlanta, Wang had his sights on conquering new territory, and set out to move to San Diego after graduate school. Shortly after, he was hired by KMA where he’s said to have found his niche and appreciates the vision and work ethic of his KMA colleagues. “At KMA, everyone contributes to the design process,” said Wang. “This is the main quality that attracted me to the firm, and it's a rare dynamic to find elsewhere. I think this collaboration of knowledge contributes greatly to the quality of work that we produce, giving us quite an advantage over other firms. I am delighted to be part a of this dynamic team and look forward to my future here.”

Wang is also a practiced musician and in his spare time teaches private lessons for violin and piano. He has been playing classical piano since the age of five and violin since the age of nine. “I think music has contributed to my appreciation of art and creativity,” said Wang. "Music in many ways has parallels to architecture.” In his teenage years, he played with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra and the North American Elite Youth Orchestra (NAEYO). In 2000, he had the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall with NAEYO and was their concertmaster on a tour to Taiwan and China in 2001.

The KMA office is delighted to welcome such a diverse talent to their team.

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The most widespread green building rating system will soon have a new version as drafts of LEED 2012 enter the construction scene for public approval. The new system is phasing in this year with new credit categories, more specific technical requirements and a reach covering more market segments. The refined system signifies the constant improvement and evolution of green design and construction, as well as operations and maintenance practices.

The new LEED 2012 rating system is in response to the increasing prevalence of sustainable building construction and is created to anticipate the evolving direction of the industry.

“As the USGBC plans to refine the LEED system every two years, our team will be keeping pace,” said Alison Warren, LEED AP Designer at KMA Architecture & Engineering. “Although there are always challenges adhering to the new standards, every improvement to the system is one step closer to making our world entirely sustainable.”

The USGBC has provided helpful information for those in the industry to become more familiar with the new LEED system:

Why are the LEED rating systems being updated?
The hallmark of LEED and its ability to affect market transformation is its continuous improvement cycle that enables the rating system to increase in scope and stringency as market readiness increases and new technologies become widely available. With LEED 2009, the primary changes were foundational changes, such as rating system content alignment, credit point value allocation, the development of LEED Online v3 and changes to the professional credentials and certification process. These foundational changes continue to be refined in the context of LEED 2009 but will not be fundamentally changed again with the next update of LEED.

For LEED 2012, USGBC will focus on increasing the technical rigor of the rating system, expanding the market sectors able to use LEED and striving for simplicity in terms of usability. LEED 2012 builds on LEED 2009 in a thoughtful way. It optimizes the foundations in LEED 2009 and will continue to improve the clarity, usability, functionality and interconnectedness of the rating systems through future version development.

What will LEED 2012 look like?
LEED 2012 is a technical update to the LEED rating systems, including the Building Design + Construction, Interior Design + Construction, Operations + Maintenance, Neighborhood Development and LEED for Homes rating systems. It presents the opportunity to engage with LEED program development and will include multiple public comment periods, responses from USGBC member committees and a ballot vote among USGBC’s industry-wide membership.

What are the differences between LEED 2009 and LEED 2012?
The differences between LEED 2009 and the update to LEED are limited to three main areas:

  • New Credit Categories that help teams understand how to best achieve their project priorities.
  • Changes to Technical Content that increases the technical rigor of the rating system. The proposed technical changes are based on market data, stakeholder-generated ideas, expert engagement and advances in technology and market acceptability of LEED and green building practices.
  • Revised Point Distribution that will more closely tie the rating system requirements to the priorities articulated by the USGBC community.
The next LEED 2012 public comment period will be open from March 1 through 20, which marks the start of the program delivery process. The third draft of the rating system is focused on providing a simple-to-use, technically advanced and more robust system. Once the comment period process concludes, LEED 2012 will be balloted this June and launch in November.

Projects currently registered with LEED should follow the version under which they are currently registered. Project teams will not be required or able to register for LEED 2012 until it has undergone a ballot vote by USGBC membership.

For more information about LEED 2012, please visit USGBC's website.

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perpendicular 14The New Year ushered in change at KMA. In an effort to start 2012 fresh, the entire KMA office set out with a goal to transform the current state of their offices into a harmonic, collaborative space better suited for the inventive and creative minds that work there.

The inspiration to redesign the office began when Senior Associate B. Moon Hajjar, the office’s “weekend warrior,” redesigned a small area of the office, now known as the Vertical Studio, with variable height furniture to accommodate new patterns of work environments, the requirements of which were not met by the thirty-year old, built-in desks. Hajjar incorporated two adjustable computer tables previously purchased by KMA that were not being used into his design of the new space. Two 20-hour days later, the office remodel race began. The need for a more modern, conducive and collaborative space inspired the team to push the remodel beyond one small space.

“Since the beginning of 2011, our company culture has changed 180 degrees, so this redesign is just another stepping stone to a better working environment,” said Hajjar. “It is as much about experimentation as it is the practice of the design values that we offer our clients. We are the guinea pigs that test the work environments we design. In school, we were left to design our own studio spaces, and that tradition has found its way back into our professional studio at KMA.”

Once completed, the KMA team will have redesigned 75 percent of the upstairs work area and common space. KMA employees have performed all of the labor during lunch, on weekends and at any other time someone felt the desire to pick up a paintbrush or screw gun. In addition, the flex space has doubled as a result of a smaller team and the use of computers, which don’t require as much physical storage space.

With help from their friends at BKM Office Works/Steelcase, KMA now boasts a Bix Lounge in its new Café area, a four top c:scape unit and a brand new Frame One six top.

In addition, friend Mark Kent of MK Marketing helped KMA source Acoustigreen ceiling panels that were cleverly repurposed for pin-up wallboards in the Café area, while Rich Nudo of Tandus Flooring provided a deal on carpet tile that was mixed in with the existing tile to give the floor some much-needed life. All-in-all, the added space, new amenities and colorful design elements have the KMA team thoroughly enjoying their new digs.

“I believe the new space is more conducive to our collaborative approach to design and the way we work in general,” continued Hajjar. “I feel like we are a closer company because of the environment we are creating. Our group is very open and horizontal so there is not much that goes unsaid, which can make for some very heated and critical discussions. As we continue to cultivate this open approach to our work, we see constant improvement in the quality of our designs with greater value to our clients.”

quick left 14One of KMA’s keys to success is its ability to work efficiently as a team through collaboration at all levels of the design process. What exactly is the secret to keeping a team focused and moving in the same direction? KMA’s superior collaboration is supported through its team charter, a road map outlining the team’s purpose, goals and values. Having a shared understanding of why a team exists and what it is trying to accomplish is the most critical factor in high-performance companies.

To begin moving your team in the same direction, consider creating your own team charter. Below are some key elements that can be adopted into your company’s vision.

A team charter should have three main components to help define the team and keep it on track: Team Purpose (Mission), Measurable/Verifiable Goals and Operating Guidelines. Within these components, adaptable key elements of a team charter can include:

  • Purpose and Key Responsibilities: the reason for the team’s existence and what individual members hold themselves accountable for as part of the team
  • Vision: a results-oriented picture of the team that describes what members commit to achieve together sometime in the future
  • Values: beliefs or principles that define what is important to team members and serve to guide the team’s actions and decisions
  • Goals: specific, measurable results that are aligned with the team’s purpose and vision
  • Roles and Responsibilities: description of who is on the team and their functional responsibilities
  • Mutual Expectations: ground rules that clarify how team members will interact, collaborate and support each other, as well as give each other feedback
  • Operating Procedures: descriptions of meeting structure, communication norms, decision-making methods, conflict resolution and reflection strategies
As your team moves forward day after day to complete its purpose, use the charter to help guide your company to success.

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