AIA New Jersey Creates Task Force on Lightweight Wood-Framed Construction

edgewater-fire-chopper-2

 

TRENTON, N.J. (March 2015) — In the aftermath of the Avalon Edgewater Building Fire, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) has announced the formation of a task force of member architects to review possible improvements to design practices and building codes and standards in order to enhance building safety in New Jersey.

The Task Force will examine various issues specific to lightweight wood-framed buildings and make recommendations that, if implemented, could reduce property damage, provide additional time for people to reach safety, and allow the fire service more time to effectively address these emergencies.

Justin Mihalik, AIA

Justin Mihalik, AIA

Chaired by Justin A. Mihalik, AIA New Jersey President-elect, the AIA New Jersey Task Force will build upon its standard code advisory processes and conduct these additional meetings to review lightweight wood framing design issues and formulate recommendations to assist New Jersey policymakers in promulgating regulations that will make buildings of this type safer.

“Improving building safety through smarter design has always been a priority of architects,” said Justin A. Mihalik, AIA. “AIA-NJ is prepared to further assist public safety officials in this shared goal with the creation of this task force.”

The Task Force will make advisory recommendations on containment methods and use of lightweight wood-framed construction materials. These recommendations will be formulated into a written report to be presented to official agencies with the intent of improving building safety in the Garden State and around the country. Task force members will include David Del Vecchio, AIA, Robert M. Longo, AIA, Jason Lutz, AIA, William J. Martin, AIA and Yogish Mistry, AIA. The Task force is expected to complete this work in the coming months.

AIA Grassroots Leadership & Legislative Conference a huge success…despite the snow!

Submitted by Justin A. Mihalik, AIA, 2015 ArchiPAC Steering Committee Member

grassroots2015_archiThe Grassroots Leadership & Legislative Conference over the years has moved its focus from Leadership to Advocacy and Legislative efforts, and this year was no exception.  More than 800 AIA members attended the Conference and were trained on this year’s Legislative Agenda.  In addition, AIA Leaders raised $57,000 for ArchiPAC, exceeding the goals for the Conference!  If you have not donated, it is never too late, click here! Thank you to all those AIANJ members who did contribute as we are in full swing to exceed our goals for this Legislative season.

Here is a synopsis of the Talking Points for the Capitol Hill visits.  The full version can be downloaded hereContinue reading

AIANJ Takes home Component Excellence Award from Grassroots Convention

Submitted by Justin A Mihalik, AIA, Co-Chair, AIA Regional Recovery Working Group

aianj_GR15_award3The AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference is always a great event to kickoff the new year as an AIANJ Leader.  This year it was even sweeter as AIANJ took home a Component Excellence Award for Expanding & Sharing Knowledge through the AIA Regional Recovery Working Group (AIARRWG).  The AIARRWG was formed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy by Illya Azaroff AIA, AIANYS, and co-chaired by Justin Mihalik AIA, AIANJ.  The Group organized three workshops focusing on the effects of Sandy on Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark, the Jersey Shore, as well as the State’s infrastructure and critical buildings.  Some of the comments received from the jurors included,

“This is a very strong submission demonstrating collaboration among components and states to promote knowledge of resilience best practices.”

“This is a great example of how components can work together to achieve measurable results on a topic of great importance to the profession. We can all learn from this program!”

“This very strong effort brought together various players to the table in a symbiotic manner with a collective vision and shared goals. I am not aware of any such other strong showing of organizational achievements lead by the AIA, specifically to assess a post-disaster situation, to the extent of what occurred with Sandy. I would hope that these efforts remain in the forefront with the state and federal agencies that have jurisdiction over events such as Sandy.”

On behalf of the AIARRWG, we are very proud of the work we have done and the honor of being recognized by AIA.  The AIARRWG will continue its work to help connect the victims with the various resources in the State, as well as share information with our allied professional organizations and the State of NJ.  If you are interested in joining the AIARRWG please contact Justin Mihalik AIA at [email protected].

Presidents Message – AIANJ Update and Grassroots

Spring is almost here in New Jersey, I know many of us are looking forward to warmer temperatures and to see projects delayed by weather move forward.  Though it is only March a lot has been happening in the architecture community in NJ.

We were saddened this week to learn of the passing of two architects who impacted the architecture community in New Jersey.  Paul DeMassi, AIA, and Michael Graves, FAIA.  Graves took architecture and design beyond structures, whether it was a building, a chair or a toaster he taught that Design Matters.   Read more about his life.   DeMassi opened his firm in NJ in 1971, was a past president of NJ Society of Architects  (AIA-NJ) in 1981, and three term past chairman of the Joint Committee of the NJ State Board of Architects and Engineers.   Find out more information.  The AIA-NJ community if feeling a great loss by the absence of these two members.

aianj_GR15_senator

aiawj_GR15_congDuring the last snow storm here in the northeast, leaders from around the country, and a number of AIA-NJ members were in Washington DC for the Annual Grassroots Legislative and Leadership Conference.   Continue reading

NJ Disaster Safety Assessment Seminar

 

Registration Open Now for Post-Disaster Certification program.

April 11, 2015
8:30 am to 4:00 pm
at NJIT School of Architecture

Click here to Sign Up now !

 

 

2015 Disaster Training Promo II with background color

Support Historic Preservation Funding – Important Deadline March 18th

AIA Members –

Please ask your Member of Congress to support historic preservation funding. Historic preservation programming on the state and federal level relies on annual funding appropriated by Congress to continue to run – we need your help TODAY to make sure that happens. Please ask your Member of Congress to sign on to the historic preservation funding letter.  We need to act fast – the deadline for legislators to sign this letter is Wednesday, March 18.

These core historic preservation programs help stimulate private investment, spur economic growth and create jobs while revitalizing our communities and protecting the nation’s cultural heritage.  The letter for the funding request would provide grants to preserve and protect vital pieces of America’s cultural heritage such as historic civil rights sites and historically black colleges and universities, preserving them for future generations.

Without continued funding by Congress, the offices that administer the Historic Tax Credit and other key historic preservation programs could close, leaving citizens without the needed tools to revitalize, rehabilitate, and protect the places that give meaning to America.

Please act today.

Help protect these programs for the future by telling your Member of Congress that we need their help now and that they should sign the letter by Wednesday, March 18 to make their voice heard!

TAKE ACTION NOW

 

 

In Memoriam – Paul DeMassi, AIA

Paul J. DeMassi Architect and Navy veteran, on the board at Deborah Hospital Paul J. DeMassi, 80, a resident of Lavallette, N.J., passed away on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Funeral is Wednesday at 9 a.m. from the Ippolito-Stellato Funeral Home, 425 Ridge Rd., Lyndhurst, N.J.   Funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart R.C. Church.  Entombment is in Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum. Friends will be received Tuesday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.  Send condolences to stellatofuneralhomes.com.

Mr. DeMassi was a graduate of Pratt Institute and was a sole proprietor of Paul J. DeMassi AIA & Associates PA since 1971.  He was a licensed architect and professional planner.  Mr. DeMassi was past president of the New Jersey Society of Architects, and three-term past chairman of the joint committee of the New Jersey State Board of Architects and Engineers.  He was a member of the board of directors and the board of trustees of Deborah Heart and Lung Center hospital.  He was a Korean War Navy veteran.

Mr. DeMassi is survived by his wife, Barbara (nee Gaccione); four children: daughter Diane married to Wayne Modelfino, daughter Denise married to Christian Valtin, son John married to Catherine (nee Nowak), daughter Debra married to W. Andrew Hanson; 10 grandchildren, Leah, Hailee, Nicholas, Christian, Charles, Thomas, Amanda, Catalina, Charles, Joseph; and three brothers, George, William and John.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Deborah Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 820, Browns Mills, N.J. 08015. – See more at: http://obits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?n=paul-demassi&pid=174402068&fhid=3074#sthash.HfMynDsD.dpuf

AIA-NJA Note From AIA-NJ:

AIA New Jersey is very saddened by this loss to our architecture community in New Jersey.   In keeping with our policy of promoting architecture and mentoring our future professionals, AIA New Jersey will be making a donation in Paul’s name to the AIA New Jersey Scholarship Foundation.

 

If you would also like to make a donation in his name to the Scholarship Foundation, please send donations to:
AIA New Jersey Scholarship Foundation
c/o Jeanne Perantoni, AlA
1011 US Highway 22, Suite 203
Bridgewater, NJ  08807

Lightweight Construction Materials – the Public’s Perception

Mihalick_2014Submitted by Justin A. Mihalik, AIA 
2015 AIANJ President-Elect

As a result of the AvalonBay fire in Edgewater, I was interviewed by PIX 11 news and Al Jazeera America as a representative of AIANJ, for the Architect’s perspective on lightweight wood construction materials.  Architects understand that the building code takes into consideration the use group of a building as well as the construction type of materials in order to determine how then to protect the materials being used in order to meet a minimum standard and to be considered “safe”.  But what is the public’s perception of “safe”?  After all, as Architects, it is our responsibility to design “safe” buildings.  In watching many Youtube videos and reading white papers on the subject of lightweight construction as I prepared for the interview, I found that the public’s perception of engineered lightweight materials, mainly wood I-joists, is that they are “cheap”.

 

There are a few reasons for this that I can understand from a lay person’s perspective.  One being that the material used for the web of the I-joist, which is oriented strand board or OSB, appears to be a cheap wafer board.  A second one is that after a fire, not much of a structure built with these materials is still standing.  Being interviewed at the AvalonBay site, it did not take an experienced eye to see that the stair towers and elevator shafts that were constructed of masonry concrete block were the only structures standing amongst a sea of wood debris.  It was clear to the eye that the masonry concrete block was far superior to the wood because it had survived the fire.

Architects also understand that the building code does not require the building to fully withstand a fire but only that it withstands the fire long enough for its occupants to escape in a safe manner.  The public does not understand that this is in fact the way the building code works.  It is up to the Architect and the owner of the building to design it in such a way that it potentially can withstand a fire and the effects of fighting the fire in order to minimize the reconstruction.  So is the public wrong for having the perception that engineered lightweight wood materials are cheap?  Or is it the industry’s fault for allowing this perception to exist?

There is one other party that should be involved in this conversation and that is the insurance industry since they are making the payouts on policies to then reconstruct these buildings.  Fortunately, no lives were lost in the AvalonBay fire.  So do we then believe that the building code was sufficient?

Any Architect that has been involved in repairing/reconstructing a building after a fire understands that it is a liability nightmare and that the best approach for the owner is to rebuild the structure.  Rebuilding instead of repairing should not be a problem since the insurance policy covers for the “replacement value”.  Well, anyone who has worked on a fire job also knows that the term “replacement value” is vague and does not guarantee that this “value” will in fact cover the full cost of the reconstruction.  A question for Architects to consider is the following: how sustainable or resilient are the current practices in constructing single or multi-family buildings if they cannot withstand a fire?

Recently legislation was proposed by Republican Assemblyman Scott T. Rumana, bill A4195 (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A4500/4195_I1.HTM), and if approved it would impose a two year moratorium on the use of lightweight construction materials in multi-family buildings.  The proposed bill not only includes engineered wood, but also traditional nominal wood and steel bar joists.  If approved, this bill would be devastating to the construction industry and would affect not only job creation, the housing market, but also architectural firms.  Safety is ultimately the most important issue when it comes to buildings.  Does this bill take this too far?

Save The Date – AIANJ Annual Conference

Save The Date:

The AIA New Jersey Conference

October 23rd & 24th

Mark your calendars – speakers and seminars are being finalized  –  Watch for more information soon.

DesignConf2015

Working With The Media – Writing a Letter to the Editor

AIA-NJIn our recent year end review of the 2014 activities of the AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee, we asked you to stay tuned for tools that will help you make a splash in the press. Below, is the second in a series of articles that will help you in that regard. With your help, we hope to be able to leverage our strength in numbers to help promote architects and architecture.

In the inaugural installment of our Working with the Media series, we discussed the process of familiarizing yourself with your local media landscape, including reporters and editors from various mainstream and trade outlets, and local community papers. We discussed a process called source filing, in which you, as an architect, establish yourself as a professional resource for future building and design-related stories that a journalist may be writing.

This is a necessary first step to making a splash in your local publication, but as a standalone measure, it leaves you in a passive position. Source filing vastly increases your chances of being contacted by a reporter when they need a source, but what if you want to proactively offer your expertise to the media?

Without pitching a story to a local reporter, it’s still possible to get published through a simple letter to the editor. A letter should be short – ideally less than 300 words – addressed to a newspaper or website’s editorial staff regarding a specific story or pertinent trend. Once you’ve identified the correct email or mailing address for the editor (usually located on the ‘Opinions’ or ‘Letters’ page), it’s time to get started on your letter.

As you’re writing your letter, keep in mind a few key points:

  • Keep it (somewhat) formal: Begin your letter with a proper salutation and thoroughly check it for spelling, grammar, and unnecessary shorthand writing. The printed letter is a direct reflection of you as a professional!
  • Send it electronically: While sending a physical letter is a novel idea, you greatly increase your chances of being published if you email the letter. It’s far easier for busy editors to copy/paste a letter than to retype it.
  • Clearly state your position in the opening paragraph: Whether you’re responding to a recent article or commenting on a building or architectural issue, make sure that you don’t bury your main point. In the first paragraph, be sure to plainly state your stance in relation to the story or subject.
  • Don’t (always) have a bone to pick: The tendency for many is to write a letter to the editor only when they are upset or opposed to something that a reporter has written. In fact, letters to the editor can be laudatory of a reporter, fellow architect, development project – anything! In fact, as long as you’re offering a fresh perspective, staying positive is a great way to solidify your relationship with the publication in the early stages of your relationship.

Letters to the editor offer a unique opportunity for architects because they are not controlled by an editorial board or journalistic practices. They’re an opportunity to say something constructive, educational, or unique about architecture while solely owning the message. Best of luck and happy writing!

For more suggestions, refer to AIA Best Practices – Getting Good Press on the web at www.aia.org. Please note this is a password protected, member only website. Therefore, we cannot provide a direct link to the site for you. But you can find it under Practicing Architecture; Best Practices; Part 2 – Firm Management; Chapter 6: Marketing and Business Development. You might also find a lot of other beneficial material in this area of the website.

If you would like to read the previous article in this series, please click here.

If you would like to see a sample Letter to the Editor, please click here.

Kyle Kirkpatrick
Account Supervisor
Beckerman PR Real Estate Team

Bruce D. Turner, AIA
Chair, AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers