Most ideas are based upon speculation. An idea might be deduced from education or experience and thought through, but until one poses questions to a qualified person or invests the time necessary to become a knowledgeable individual, ideas are speculation none-the-less. This situation is a fundamental reason why we attend school, or in my case, why I applied to be a Kompas Fellow.

After six months of investigation, I produced a set of drawings that led me down a path where I learned the “right” questions to ask, but also found the appropriate group of people who could answer them.  As a result of that approach, I recently received confirmation from two masonry contractors. These contractors advised that they would bid differently a modular project and a non-modular project. With this feedback, I’m inclined to suggest that in an effort to reduce construction costs, the architect should be encouraged to adhere to the masonry module whenever possible.

In my first case study modifying the singular wall appears to save the client a day’s worth of labor cost, which can range anywhere from $800 to $1,600. The larger implications of the modification collectively, considering all the affected walls, may run upwards of $4,800 of additional savings merely on labor. Theoretically, this modification also pushes the timeline up by a full week.

Brick is one of the cheapest materials used on a project, so the reduced amount purchased is rather insignificant. As it happens, my investigation also proved that the decision to use of a J-channel surrounding the material change in lieu of a brick return equated to negligible savings for that one wall.

Despite the fact that this example did not result in a tremendous amount of construction savings, I am hopeful that other opportunities will lead to a larger differential. An important aspect of my research is to emphasize sustainability and there are still ample opportunities to make what architects currently do more efficient at no additional cost. I am excited to see where my research takes me next!

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

This past month has been one big learning curve for me. It started with schematic design which transitioned into design development work for a residential development planned along the Fox River in South Elgin, Illinois. Once a week I have been able to take a step back from project work to devote time to my fellowship project. These recent efforts have resulted in a significant shift in my research approach.

After reading up on a handful of optimization techniques including advanced framing, I have decided to focus on making material dimensions between the exterior envelope and the interior layout not only compatible, but more efficient. This refined focused was achieved in part by discussions with professors at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of Washington, Seattle. Although my approach has changed, my goal remains—to improve how architects design in order to accommodate standard building sizes thereby reducing waste.

In an effort to achieve this goal, I’ll be studying one of the firm’s nearby projects currently under construction. Specifically, I plan to hone in on two of the building’s structural bays containing two corner units and a stairwell. After documenting everything within the scope I have set for myself, I plan to create a 3D model of the ‘As-Built’ framing conditions. From this model I’ll identify places of opportunity where adjusting the design would have increased sustainability. I am excited to see what the next month will hold as I jump into modeling and learning more about framing.  

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship

During my final month of fellowship, the pressure was on to wrap up the final essay and prepare for the end of term presentation. I worked diligently to make the process of reading about wood stud and brick analyses both interesting and exciting. Amid the editing process, I added more than 15 new images and diagrams with the goal of transforming the essay into a captivating read. Decide for yourself by checking it out at Issuu.

Kira Rosenbaum

February 2017

With just over two months to go until my fellowship concludes, April has been a big month in terms of getting things put together. After settling on an essay format, I have been writing as much as I can between project deadlines. I’m actively reaching out to product representatives and firms to get primary sources to bolster my findings. This effort includes reconnecting with those who originally expressed an interest in assisting my research initiative.

The past ten months effectively break out into three distinctive sections. The first I’ve identified as background and historical information of standardization, light wood construction, and bricks. My intention within this section is to use a simple approach to enable those with no background in construction or architecture to follow alongside those with years of experience. The second section focuses on the investigation into wood studs and the associated alternatives. And, the final section explores brick and alternatives to structural and veneer brick.

Although there is a fair bit of editing to do before my essay is put up for peer review, I am excited with how the end product is shaping up. 

Stop in to @KompasFellowship on Instagram to see the big reveal as I transition from my working title and unveil my final title.

I began the first major element of my fellowship – building an as-built Revit model. This model will not only test my theories, it will also test everything that I have learned to date. After shooting and analyzing 300+ photographs of as-built wall framing conditions at one of MA’s nearby residential developments, my current task involves drafting each of the unit walls and placing all of the as-built studs.

One of many goals for my fellowship is to provide MA with the tools necessary to implement the standards I hope to establish. As a result, the drafting platform used for my research must seamlessly integrate into the MA design process. This ultimately means that I am working exclusively in Revit, the same platform used by the firm for all projects. Attached is a screen shot of my in-progress model.

Once the as-built Revit model is complete, I will begin to examine how the design could be altered in order to optimize the use of materials. I foresee the outcome of these minor changes between the unit layout and the exterior envelope to be an elimination of redundancy and waste.

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

The construction of buildings is said to be the culprit of up to nearly a third of the air pollution and other environmental issues we currently face. As an aspiring architect, I hope to find a way to mitigate some of the corollary associated with the architects’ role in this problem. As one of the 2016 Kompas Fellows, I will be exploring the potential benefits to changing how architects approach projects. Over the course of the year, I will formulate and test a method of design based around using whole material sizes with the hopes of reducing the construction phase in its timeline, budget and environmental degradation.

Since starting at Myefski Architects earlier this month, I have begun researching what exists in terms of sustainable design practices. I’ve also begun to pick the brains of my coworkers as to what goes through their heads as they design and why they make certain design decisions. Their experience and knowledge of construction has been and will continue to serve as a great resource for me as I move forward in establishing and testing my method of design on some of the projects in MA’s portfolio.

Stay up to date with my research by following the Kompas Fellows on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

Kira Rosenbaum

September 2016

From left to right: this is how all of the walls should look (16" OC); the same wall one floor up (8" OC); an exterior wall that has six more studs than necessary on a corner.

Investigating the implications of shifting the east façade walls in by 2-1/8” has been more difficult than anticipated. Determining the monetary reduction of eliminated bricks, in a perfect world, was to be an easily achieved calculation-based sum. As it happened, quantifying the labor savings is precisely where things began to get complicated.

The International Masonry Institute, combined with resources within MA’s network of brick representatives and contractors, provided some guidance on the subject of labor cost calculations. This resulted in answers to questions like, “How many bricks can one expect to be cut in an hour’s time?” and, “Do bricks come pre-cut similarly to pre-cut wood studs?” Questions—which were assumed to have simple answers—turned out to be rather challenging and case specific. Overall, I discovered there is quite a bit more to the analysis portion of my research project than initially imagined.​

Kira Rosenbaum

November 2016

My recent fellowship activity has involved contemplating why our culture accepts manufactured products of limited customization and rejects others. The automobile for example is a widely accepted manufactured product. It is completely manufactured in a warehouse and offers limited customization. A manufactured home on the other hand is not widely accepted. Our culture rejects this product and prefers a home that is constructed onsite and completely tailorable.

 Mass production has successfully proven the car is built faster and cheaper in-house, so what is stopping construction from following suit? Is the stigma surrounding prefabricated homes limited to only those that fall under the manufactured, modular, or panelized designation? Or, is it simply the words that turn people off?

 Ironically, most new construction contains components such as doors, cabinetry, windows, and appliances that cause the project to be classified as prefabricated. In order to be deemed ‘prefabricated’ a portion of a project must be constructed offsite. This begs the question: Is there a fundamental difference between the shell and the elements within that makes society shy away? In light of prefabrication’s definition, it would appear that nearly—if not all—projects these days fall under its classification.

 A technology I am excited to explore more in-depth is called Ready-Frame by BMC. This product enables unique designs to have all the necessary framing components cut per specifications. The product is bundled and labeled by wall in a warehouse as if it were a catalog home or kit house and shipped onsite.

 In choosing Ready-Frame there are some additional upfront cost for design fees, however those costs are recouped in labor savings because this technology enables faster construction. Also, unlike modular or panelized construction which is constrained by shipping method size capacity requirements, transporting Ready-Frame’s unassembled components requires a smaller truck and more walls can transported per trip. For a construction method that has been standardized and value engineered, I truly believe this might be the next step in making the wood construction industry more efficient from both a monetary and a sustainability stance.

 I challenge that the sooner society accepts prefabrication, and all the opportunities that go with it, the quicker the industry will see a rise in efficiency. These efficiencies will come in both in time and in material use, thereby reducing the cost of both. And in some cases, quick in-field assembly would equate to earlier occupation thereby turning a profit sooner.

 Review BMC’s informational videos to learn more about Ready-Frame:

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

Kira Rosenbaum

January 2017

Kira Rosenbaum

May 2017

With my time as a Kompas fellow wrapping up in a few months, I have begun to piece together a showcase of my yearlong efforts. In a profession driven by aesthetics, how one conveys their ideas is—for better or worse—just as important as what one has to say.

I put off this decision with the hopes that my research would govern the format. A book seemed too arbitrary for a research project that is rooted in fine details and after talking with my current mentor, Jeremiah Diamond, an idea occurred to me. Why not take a cue from one, if not the most, defining document in the field, the building code.

Although a book and the building code may not seem all that different, something about the building code format feels like it will do my research justice. With this direction, I now have a plan for my final months.

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

Kira Rosenbaum

March 2017

Kira's blog

Kira Rosenbaum

April 2017

Being a Kompas Fellow has taught me a great deal about the architectural industry and my career aspirations. It is a rare opportunity as a young design professional to have the autonomy to develop one’s own innovative idea while simultaneously getting work experience. I strongly recommend the Kompas Fellowship program to all those who have an interest in architecture and an inkling for pushing the status quo. My exploration and studies continue this Fall at The University of Virginia where I will be pursuing a Masters of Architecture degree.

Thank you to all who have assisted me during my fellowship term. The experience I’m walking away with would not have been possible without your support.

The opportunity arose recently where I was able to apply my fellowship philosophy of standardization to a new design component - kitchen and bathroom layouts. After looking over several projects, the most efficient and typical layouts for a variety of unit sizes were identified. Next, the accessibility and clearances for typical appliances were reviewed to ensure the code compliance. By setting these standards, design teams can quickly update the base layout with the appropriate sizes when a new project begins. The effort results in saving a lot of valuable start-up time.

Assisting with a punch list for my fellowship case study project was also one of my recent assignments. After spending hours studying the plans and taking hundreds of pictures of the framing, it is nice to return to see all the walls closed up and things almost ready for occupancy. Included below is an exposed ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo of a wall that I had previously identified as exhibiting atypical framing. 

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

Kira Rosenbaum

June 2017

After many hours of modeling as-built conditions of a 47-unit residential development I’ve been studying, I began to notice something unexpected. Not only were none of the walls framed 16 inches on-center (OC), but the same unit type was framed differently from floor to floor. At first I was concerned that something was off with my field work.

How could there be one-of-a-kind framing conditions on every wall? Had I screwed up when filing the 300+ pictures I had taken?

Immediately I reviewed my field notes, measurements, and photographs. I went to Josh Sacks, Senior Project Manager at Myefski Architects, as Project Leader for this development I asked him if he knew what was going on. He explained that the inspector had required additional studs be installed directly under trusses on certain walls, but that did not explain why all the walls in the building turned out this way.

This was around the time I realized what originally appeared to be a problem would actually help to support my theory. The labor, material, and environmental impact of uniquely framing every wall is surely going to make the conclusions of my research all the more compelling.

Another realization also became apparent. I had expected to see the same or similar atypical framing conditions in each of the walls that deviated from standard framing practices. These deviations perhaps evidence of a builder’s signature style or repeated drawing misinterpretation. With custom framing conditions on every wall, this was clearly not the case.

I was left wondering, why did this happened in the first place? If architects prepare stud spacing plans and they are not referenced, what else can be done? Is off-site modular construction really the only solution, or can architects find a way to design that makes off-site construction a moot point?

I reviewed this situation with my fellowship mentor Mike Karkowski, an Associate at Myefski Architects. We decided a trip to the site together was in order. For a variety of reasons, some more logical than others, we could find only one wall—in one unit—on one floor that was framed with the intended 16 inch OC studs. With this discovery I’ve relocated my attention to the only unit of the 47 currently under construction which contains the singleton 16 inch OC wall that was framed as expected. 

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

Kira Rosenbaum

October 2016

Kira Rosenbaum

August 2016

Kira Rosenbaum

December 2016

As architects, we can only foresee and plan for a set number of variables when the actual construction of our visions is in the hands of others. Even if one were to go to the extreme of planning out how to utilize every inch of a material, the chances of something going differently in the field is extremely high. Consider how often materials are subject to poor cuts, or damaged or misplaced.

It is far more practical to accept that there will never be a complete elimination of all material alterations. Yet, I do think there is some merit in the attempt to reduce these alterations. In this stage of my exploration, my research has pointed to the generation of a formula. The formula’s concept is based upon linear feet and opening sizes variables. It also accounts for opportunities to utilize left over material from earlier courses.

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.

Kira Rosenbaum

July 2016

November has been quite an eventful month with several important milestones. After completing a Permit set for a residential project in South Elgin, my focus quickly shifted to manipulating design details within my case study project.

I achieved a brick module on several walls by shrinking the window size and moving an exterior wall in 2-1/8”. The original design did not utilize a brick module in these areas. The drawings below serve as a comparison revealing how the design was impacted.

This discovery was a satisfying step toward my fellowship objective and the timing couldn’t have been better—November marked the close of my fellowship’s first trimester and a scheduled overview presentation to the entire firm.

November also held a different kind of milestone in my development. The mentorship has been vital in obtaining the necessary understanding and foundation to effectively pursue my innovative idea, so it makes sense that it will evolve alongside my research.

Ensuring access to all MA has to offer, I transitioned from my initial mentor, Mike Karkowski, to Josh Sacks. Mike was a pleasure to work with; he provided vital in-the-field explanations and answered all of my questions about materials and construction details.

I am excited to see what this next trimester has in store. Josh happens to be the lead architect on the project that I have been using as my case study, so it has been an easy transition. I look forward to discussing with Josh the rationale behind some of design decisions I’ve observed.

Next, I plan to delve into the repercussions associated with my design modifications in the form of a cost benefit analysis. The analysis will identify estimated labor costs, material costs, and the resulting implications on time line. This analysis will determine if the modifications were advantageous and offset the 4SF loss in the unit.​

Stay up to date with my adventures and research on Instagram @KompasFellowship.