Category Archives: Editorial

Social Media is the HGTV of DIY – A wake up call for all you do it yourselfers!

Have you ever watched HGTV and felt inspired to remodel your kitchen, bedroom, or begin a landscaping project?! If so, you may have been delusional about the results, the time it takes to complete, and yes, even its costs. Do it “yourself” really requires a team of professionals to achieve a camera ready result. When you watched that 30 minute DIY TV show, did you see the weeks of prior design work and script writing, did you see the many unnamed workers that perform the work and ask yourself, is that “budget” real, did it include installation costs, adjusted cost of donated products and more importantly did it include the host/designer’s fees? Staging items may have even been brought in during filming that did not stay with the owners. Hours went into editing, camera angles were chosen, and anything that was not perfect was not shown.  Still feeling inspired?

So when something goes viral, when you find a marketing scheme you like for your business, and when you hear success stories from Constant Contact, do you tell yourself “Hey, if they can do it so can I?” Most likely you are wasting hours trying to market your business with no results, you may have several subscriptions and utilizing marketers that are telling you that you are getting “page hits”, but are you getting real-world results?  I bet you are using every single “social media” tool in the Toolbox that is the Internet. Well every job requires a specific tool, knowledge on how to properly use it and unfortunately you are using the wrong end of the screwdriver to paint your walls.

Here are some real world tips for anyone who wants results:

  • Viral versus virus- Are you spamming or stimulating?
  • Unless your logo goes on every product you produce, no one really cares about your label. Use the “free” image that you have been using for your profile picture on social media and Google Business Listings to place an image of what you really do. If you are an architect that only does residential work, well then post a picture of one of your residential projects. That is more of an attention getter than a logo using your initials!
  • Constant Contact will only reach people you have already reached out to! Unless you are a gym, a restaurant or another business that benefits from using coupons, you are wasting your time with e-mail marketing. You are milking the cow twice and making it angry.
  • Unless your target audience is teenagers and college students, get off Facebook for your business marketing. Try this experiment- type the industry and location of your business on Facebook’s search engine. For example, sticking with the architecture theme, try typing architects in NJ. Do you come up? Unless you are a brand, Facebook is for friends.
  • Do use Google or other search engines to increase your results. A great example of excellent marketing was Andersen versus Pella. For a few weeks, when you typed Anderson Windows, the first page hit was Pella’s article on why Pella was better than Anderson.
  • Finally, social media is not “do it YOURSELF”. That defeats the purpose of “social”. No one wants to be friends in real life with someone who only talks about themselves. Nor does anyone want to like, friend, or follow anyone who posts provocative MySpace style photographs of themselves, invites them to play Farmville, Pokes them every 5 seconds, fills up their newsfeed with web cats or emails them 5 times a day without anything interesting to say. Try to market your business as you would a conversation and not a 140 character tweet.

Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA
Regional Associate Director | New Jersey Region

The American Dream: The Pursuit of the American Landscape

Below is an analytical paper about the American landscape and the environment written by Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA



America! So spacious are your skies, amber are your grains, and so green are your lawns.[1] These romantic and picturesque landscapes are instilled into every child through your patriotic songs, that it is no wonder the lawn has become an icon of patriotism. In pursuit of happiness, and of the white picket fence, the canvas of American expression has long been the front yard. These quests for the perfect demonstration of wealth and patriotism come at any cost, regardless of the impact on the environment and the social fabric of the community.

Grass is the American carpet which provides the framework for flower beds, shrubs, majestic trees and our homes.  Grass is derived from the Aryan word ghra – the root word for grain, green and grow. The front yard is a family’s face towards society by which we can judge them and base our opinions. It is our modern caste system; the better manicured your lawn, the better off your family appears regardless of what lies behind your closed door. [2] The lawn is the barrier between two realms, the public street and the private home. It is the epitome of the American dream because it gives all people regardless of race or religion the opportunity to create the image of perfection. However, those who are truly capable of affording the perfect lawn rarely labor on it themselves; instead hire the less fortunate to do the work.

We value our grass almost us much as we value our homes. In fact the grass on our lawn accounts for 15% of the total net worth for a typical home. [2]  We must declare the lawn as ours and solely ours. It is boldly stated with mailboxes that read our names, the fences built to separate us from our neighbors, the tulip borders along our sidewalks, and the chemicals applied to prevent unwanted pests from entering our lives. Man sets himself apart from nature as opposed to being a part of it by denying life and prosperity to the organisms that use his land. Ironically, proper maintenance is crucial for the value of your home, but not only the maintenance of your lawn, but also your neighbors. Unmaintained adjacent properties can depreciate the value of your own home. To help people cope with poor neighbors, many cities implement beautification programs which mandate proper lawn care.

gfgffgdThe back yard strongly contradicts the front yard. The front yard is our formal face towards the community. It is stern straight forward and properly groomed. It is serious with defined purpose. We know the driveway as the place for the car, the porch as the transition between grass and flooring, the daisy lined walkway as the only path to the front door. The backyard is the opposite, it is silly and chaotic. We place our leisures in the back and barricade them with fences so that neighbors dare not see our imperfect side or bodies.We leave the backyard for fun for our children and our pets and as an oasis for retreat for adults. The backyard is the place for the Fischer-Price plastic cottage, the sandbox, and the Jacuzzi. Bare spots in the lawn are ideally good because they demonstrate use of the land. The bare areas show the places of dense traffic.

The suburb is a characterization of the urban and natural worlds. It takes on the idealized characteristics of each situation while ignoring the less desirable parts. The suburb keeps the close knit neighborhood like atmosphere seen in successful urban areas. They are also located conveniently close to resources. The suburb holds the being in contact with nature part of the rural landscape, but this nature is artificial, planted, manicured and heavily fertilized.

The competition for the perfect lawn leads to heavily chemical produced lawns which run off and pollute the environment. Globally in 1997 over $37 billion dollars were spent on pesticides. Rachel Carson first spoke about the dangers of pesticides, especially DDT in her essay entitled, “Silent Spring.” She goes on to talk about how DDT has put in danger the epitome of the United States, the bald eagle. The use of DDT made it impossible for the eagle to breed. “Conventionally maintained lawns are sterile, unhealthy habitat’s that consume time and precious resources and poison watersheds.” [2] The use of pesticides has rendered the United States sterile, right down to the symbol of our nation.


Greener grass does not equal a greener environment. We impact our environment in a multitude of ways. Several issues that will affect our future are the reduction of habitat and the increasing of global warming. Lawn care is a major factor affecting our environment. Chemical runoff from pesticides and fertilizers pollute our streams and underground springs. These pollutants travel throughout the food chain and cycle back to affect us in the plants and food we eat. We change our environment by planting non-native plants that do not provide food for native species and are invasive to existing plants. By removing trees, plant, insects, and animals from our yards, we create a sterile environment that does not support a diversity of living organisms. Even by mowing our lawns, we are endangering the environment as lawnmowers require fossil fuels to run, which pollute our air. “Man is everywhere a disturbing agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned into discords.” [2]

Small steps towards a greener American society may aid in improving the impression for the rest of the world on America. The fact that America is a nation of consumption and abuse of natural resources, creates the opportunity for the United States to set an example of how to act environmentally friendly. America is the land of opportunity, of change and it has harvested such great ideologies of what it is to dream, that it is in fact the perfect nation to harbor a land that is pure and eco friendly. Simple steps from everyone and a desire not for materials but rather freedom may forever change the impact America has on its own land.

The new American lawn can still meet the aesthetic need of the lawn while also improving shading. Shading your property is a great way to reduce your energy bills and to promote activity. Move away from an open vast green carpet towards one that is covered and full of vegetation and life. Reduce the use of chemicals and irrigated water while increasing biodiversity. We need to move away from the industrial lawn with our preconceived notions of the American lawn and move towards the new values of the freedom lawn. We need to challenge the idea of the typical American dream and make it into a dream that is your own!


Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA
Regional Associate Director | New Jersey Region


[1] Bates, Catherine. “America the Beautiful.”

[2] Bormann, F. H., Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe. Redesigning the American Lawn. 2nd ed. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2001.

[3] Joni Mitchell. Big Yellow Taxi. Rec. 1970. MP3. Warner Brothers, 1970.

Save Thorncrown Chapel

From the desk of Robert Ivy, FAIA, EVP/CEO of the American Institute of Architects – The AIA opposes efforts to erect high power lines too near Arkansas’ jewel, the Thorncrown Chapel by Fay Jones. An online petition can be found here. Please help spread the word.Thorncrown-Chapel-E-Fay-Jones-2

metamorphAIAsis- Emerging Leaders

metamorpAIAsis image

The Intern Development Program (IDP) prepares future architects for the requirements of our profession. However, it is through the AIA that the Leaders of Architecture are made.

Every day we listen to advocacy for the profession. When you open AutoCAD each morning, when you point a major design flaw in a project and even now by reading this article, you are advocating for architecture!

It is easy for us to talk about architecture. What is not easy is talking about architects. Furthermore, it is even harder to talk about yourself. Buildings are stagnant, they are what they are. We can classify buildings by period, style, and recall a number of facts that would impress your college history professors. But can you talk about yourself in the same way, with the same passion, as you can your favorite building? If your answer is no, then you should consider becoming more involved in the AIA and its programs.

One simple problem for emerging professionals is the fact that we are not architects; how can you speak for something you are not. Let’s forget the term architect for the moment (as that is an entire lengthy discussion in itself), and replace it with the term Leader. What the AIA is good at accomplishing is evoking passion for what you do and passion is what inspires leadership. There are no state laws that prevent you from calling yourself a Leader!

As a 2nd time attendee of the annual Grassroots Leadership Conference held in D.C., I have noticed a drastic change between 1st time attendees and those who return. During my 1st conference, I followed my local chapter and only sat next to somebody I knew. What I missed was the wealth of information and mentorship every person in that room possesses. When I had the opportunity to attend the conference again, I was not shy about asking people to share their knowledge with me!

In hopes of inspiring you, I will begin my conversation with you by instilling some knowledge…

Let’s reimagine this quote by Louis Kahn where the Brick is not your building, but it is YOU!

And if you think of Brick, for instance,
and you say to Brick,
“What do you want Brick?”
And Brick says to you
“I like an Arch.”
And if you say to Brick
“Look, arches are expensive,
and I can use a concrete lentil over you.
What do you think of that?”
Brick says:
“… I like an Arch””

Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA
Regional Associate Director | New Jersey Region


Rebuttal to the ‘3 Little Pigs’ as a Discriminatory Story against Contextual Architecture

Once upon a time there were three little architects. One architect built his home with straw, the other of sticks and the last of brick.

The first architect handpicked straw from the field outside his property, while the second gathered sticks from the forest floor. The final architect, well that architect ordered his custom-made bricks from thousands of miles away for just 10 cents a brick! What a steal oinked this little architect. Little did he know he would soon be facing $4 dollars per brick shipping and holding fees. Weeks passed, but still no bricks.

The first two architects received their Certificates of Occupancies within days of starting, while the only paperwork the third poor, little architect received were change orders and more bills.

Homeless and distraught, the third architect had to stay with the other architects while his site sat full of dirt. Months past, and finally boxes of bricks arrived!

“How do I build with these?!” he squealed. He picked up his phone and called Wolfe Contractors. They were at the site in minutes, and the architect hired them. Wolfe employed Union Contractors and it took weeks before a brick was even laid. The contractor huffed, and he puffed, for more and more money. Soon the architect was completely broke.

The bricks sat there dormant until the third little poor architect was able to borrow money from the other two architects who already paid off their mortgages. Finally, after more and more months of waiting, the project was complete!

During the architect’s house warming party, a major earthquake struck. The area was prone to such occurrences; fortunately for this architect, he had already included seismic calculations into his design. However, this earthquake was unlike any earthquake ever felt before and it shook and it shook the three little homes. The straw and stick house stood intact with a few stray straw and stick pieces gone astray. The poor brick structure stood, but a large crack ran straight down the center of the building. That night was an extremely cold, wet night. The expanding and contracting ice split the brick house in half and it was condemned.


peist noahFairy tales utilize anthropomorphism and whimsy in order to tell their tales which engrave moral undertones in the minds of young children. In such cases, vestigial feelings remain such as in the story of three little pigs, where the material that could withstand the huffs of a wolf is brick. This leads to the assumption that brick is always the right material to select because no “wolf” can penetrate it.

Brick has always been revered for its strength and symbolic meaning of fortitude. Even today, brick homes sell for more than wood stud homes. Is this because subconsciously we worry that someone will knock on our doors and start blowing it down?!

Brick is not without its disadvantages:

  • Brick does not do well with extreme shifts such as mentioned in the story above. Being porous, water can easily penetrate the bricks and begin cracking when it turns to ice.
  • Bricks need repointing in order to replace loose mortar.
  • Brick cannot be laid during inclement weather such as rain.
  • Efflorescence can form making the bricks look like they are covered in chalk.
  • Brick buildings can easily shift from their foundations and are not great for seismic areas or areas that do not offer a solid rock foundation.
  • It is a lot harder to move or repair a brick building versus wood construction.

For centuries homes have been built of sticks and even hay and they are still standing today. Log homes are very popular in wooded areas with inclement weather. Early colonial towns would come together to build a new log house by harvesting nearby trees and using mud to fill the gaps of the wood.  Despite the misconception that building your home out of a flammable material such as wood is a bad decision, it may come as a surprise that some heavy timber homes will remain standing longer than unprotected steel buildings! This is because heavy timber takes a longer time to burn, where unprotected steel, due to its high thermal conductivity, quickly heats up and loses strength during fires making it prone to failure. Heavy timber construction even has a special class of construction called Type IV.

Straw-bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw as structural elements and/or insulation. Straw is a naturally fire retardant with a very high insulation value. When combined with clay, its biggest disadvantage- rot- is greatly reduced making it an ideal choice in farmlands over the centuries. The dry straw that makes up the bale is very combustible when loose, but compressed in the form of a bale, the straw does not trap enough air to allow easy or rapid combustion.

In the story of the 3 Little Pigs, the two other pigs are referred to as being lazy because they built their homes from easily accessible materials and even had time to sing and dance. In today’s sustainable based society, these two pigs would earn LEED credits and be celebrated for their architectural choices, while the carbon footprint of the brick home would be criticized.

There is a reason for regional contextual architecture. For centuries people have already experimented with building for climate. They did it without central air, automatic window blinds, sprinkler systems and heating. Years of perfecting natural smart design choices are thrown to the waste side with new technology. One can build an ice igloo in the Mojave Desert and use cooling systems that prevents it from melting, but is this the most intelligent, sustainable method to architecture?

Now, let’s take a step back and imagine that for arguments sake the Wolf’s name in the ‘3 Little Pigs’ is Sandy! Sandy hit unexpectedly and caused massive destruction leaving many homeless. We should look at why certain homes were destroyed and why others survived in order to build a more “wolf” resistant area. This should be the focus and moral on rebuilding after Sandy struck. For example, small wood-framed homes that survived have a major advantage in rebuilding. They are easier to repair, elevate and place on piers versus a large double-story brick McMansion. Eliminating basements and switching to pier buildings can ease the damage caused by these unexpected forces and prevent homes from being dislodged from their land. Replacing all windows with hurricane windows will reduce potential dangers caused by the wind and debris breaking glass and harming the occupants inside. Lastly, rebuilding natural barriers such as sand dunes that have protected these areas for centuries will bring contextual architecture back to its rightful place.

With technology, overpopulation, and ease of building, we have stripped away all context from where we live and how we live it. The boom of construction through cookie cutter homes have littered the landscape with inefficient outdated inappropriate “brick” homes. We should not look at architecture as just build it right, but rather build it suitable!

Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA
Regional Associate Director | New Jersey Region


Lessons From New Orleans

NJIT Lessons From New Orleans


With New Jersey currently at the center of the track for Hurricane Sandy, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the need for proper hurricane preparedness. Please take a few moments to review the information on the National Weather Service website, which can be found here.

A Letter from AIA EVP/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA

Dear Colleagues:

I am very pleased to share two exciting opportunities we’re taking advantage of to raise public awareness about architects and architecture. The first starts Tuesday, July 24th when the AIA will sponsor National Public Radio’s Cities Project, a weekly series. Airing on the popular afternoon broadcast, “All Things Considered,” the segments will report on the trends of urban life today and the challenges facing today’s cities. Implicit in every story are the questions: how do we want to live? What do we want our cities to be?

AIA clients and the public listen to NPR. Furthermore, members address these central questions across the spectrum of practice, from residential to regional design. The AIA sponsorship message will air immediately following each episode: “Support for NPR’s Cities Project comes from members of the American Institute of Architects; working to build better homes, businesses, and communities. ‘Building for life.’ More at A-I-A dot o-r-g.”

We’ll receive additional mentions on “All Things Considered” and several mentions weekly on the “Diane Rehm Show,” one of the most respected daily radio programs airing nationally. All told, in live broadcast and in rebroadcast online or on premium channels, the AIA message will reach nearly 60 million NPR listeners. You can see the schedule for the NPR Cities Series here.

The second opportunity lies in television and the Web. Some of you met or saw Stephen Chung, AIA, at our annual convention, where he hosted our “Architect Live” broadcast center. He has been so committed to helping educate the public about architects and architecture that he has created his own public television series that we will sponsor. The program he will host, “Cool Spaces,” debuts this Fall as a PBS Primetime Special and will air on nearly every public television station in the country. His show, which has been in development for several years, will profile many of the most provocative and innovative structures in North America, all of which have strong public space.

Through our sponsorship, an AIA message will be featured in the opening and closing credits reaching 95 percent of U.S. households. Plus, we’ll receive additional exposure through a website dedicated to the program.

Stephen and his producers have developed a program that tells the story about what architects do and the impact of architecture in our lives that should capture the attention of both younger and older audiences. In 2013, PBS will produce six additional primetime episodes and our sponsorship will open up additional opportunities to educate the public. You can see a promotion on the series here.

We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to support these two programs that demonstrate how architects add value and contribute to a better built environment. Adding our message of commitment helps build public recognition and relevance in a meaningful way.

Dovetailing with our repositioning efforts, these media opportunities will reach out as we continue our own planning. Their timing couldn’t be better.


Robert Ivy, FAIA
EVP/Chief Executive Officer
American Institute of Architects
1735 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006

A Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

To the Editor:

Jon Gertner’s recent story (True Innovation, Sunday, February 26, 2012) about his soon to be published book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, was welcomed by those of us who have been advocating for the retention and reuse of the Eero Saarinen designed Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ. Mr. Gertner’s story highlights the accomplishments of Bell Labs’ far-reaching technological prowess while it establishes the context of the Holmdel facility as an important architectural model.

The innovations were rooted in open-minded thinking and the sharing of knowledge, all supported by architecture that itself was flexible, new and original. The Holmdel facility featured aspects now commonplace, including the first uses of mirrored curtainwall, vast open floor plans and an overall rational plan that extended out to include the park-like setting of 472 acres designed by Sasaki Walker and Associates. Bell Labs is a product of our unique American character and the expression of how exceptional architecture fosters and embodies technological ingenuity.

Bell Labs Holmdel, completed in 1962, has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and the was subject of a recent award winning Charrette sponsored by AIA-New Jersey, Docomomo-NY/TriState, and Preservation NJ. Publication of this book and recent news that a prospective buyer has emerged for the two million square foot office and research facility present an excellent time to renew our call to Holmdel Township and to Alcatel-Lucent to work together to find a way that will assure the site’s future.

Michael Calafati

Michael Calafati, AIA
Chair, Historic Resources Committee, AIA-New Jersey
March 1, 2012

Michael Calafati is principal of Michael Calafati Architect, LLC, Cape May, NJ and co-editor of the Bell Labs Charrette: A Sustainable Future.

January 2012 Reginal Director’s Report

By Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA
AIA NJ Regional Director ’11-‘13

In my Regional Director Report addressed to our new Chapter President, Laurence Parisi, AIA and co-addressed to Officers and Trustees of AIANJ, I mentioned that my first article of 2012 E-Newsletter would be dedicated towards a call for all of us to work together and to start on this road by attending what I believe is AIA’s best organized and presented program, OUR Annual Grassroots Conference.

There is no doubt that the profession has fallen on some hard economic times.  As such, OUR membership numbers have suffered, causing many to questioned “Why the AIA”?  Well I found that this question is an age old one and was asked and explained in a speech given at the University of Florida School of Architecture by Edwin Bateman Morris, in April of 1952.  Mr. Morris was a member of a much smaller professional staff at AIA, then Headquartered at the Federal-period and original home of the Col. John Tayloe and family.  The Octagon OUR home from the turn of the last century had been the temporary executive mansion for President James Madison and his wife Dolley. It is most famous as the place where the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812 was signed on February 17, 1815.

Why the AIA?; was dedicated to the concern many had as to the direction and intent of the Institute. In reviewing the speech I found that Mr. Morris covered it all.   The AIA is a professional organization where we can find companionship with others similarly trained with the same ambitions, tastes and aims.  There was mention of the earliest goals for continuing education though he used the word ‘encyclopedia of gathered knowledge’ to be shared by all in place of CEUs.  Fellowship was in the forefront.  He mentioned meetings where architects would gather congenially together and where information can be and is often easily exchanged. Grassroots is just such a meeting where this happens. While the word intern is not mentioned, the explanation of the transition from schools of architecture to the practice of the profession was clearly advanced.

With interesting and sometimes outright funny quips such as the tale of the man who realizing that McKim, Mead & White employed a large drafting force, asked Mr. Stanford White how many men were in the organization, Mr. White was said to reply, “One hundred and ten.  One hundred at the drafting-boards; and ten in the toilets!”

Certainly the goal of the speech was to instill vigor, foster and encourage change in the profession directing young people to joining the AIA.  He explained that the Institute was taking charge of public-spirited items formerly supported by collateral architectural organizations.  Legal facets, legislative needs, but above all the respect and approval of the profession by the public were being advanced by the Institute. We continue to do that today.

Grassroots is the gathering where AIA can prove to any skeptic that being involved in the organization pays.  While the foundation of our education is in schools of architecture, the understanding of the practicality of what we do for a living is advanced at this meeting of leaders.  The perfection of meeting nearly 800 other architects from all over the country is accelerated by the imagination groomed and improved as well as brought into focus by the break-out sessions offered over just a few days in Washington, DC.   There is no doubt that one can acquire the qualities that make a great architect, working alone.  However, the union of many architects working together makes for an uplifted profession.  The guiding hand of an organization such as the American Institute of Architects is where we want to be and you want to be with your peers at Grassroots in March.   I call for the Chapter and the Sections to fund as many of our young leaders as is possible to attend what has evolved in a GREAT gathering of ideas to help move OUR organization forward.  I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Thank you,


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