Our House/Centerline Farm/Blog for the STAY-AT-HOME dad ARCHITECT

We started our House Addition and Renovation Project in 2019 and it is an ongoing project. We bought our house and Centerline Farm in January 2014 with the intent of rehabbing the house and property. We consider it a work in progress! I have included before and progress photos, a basic rendering, and some of the drawings. Most of the Exterior is complete, with some painting remaining on the East and some landscaping/ walkways/ patio work that is ongoing.

December 14,2016

Coffee with Dad with no drive-thru

Sometimes you just need a break from work and to spend time with your “office helper” getting a cup of coffee, shopping when no one else does like early on weekday mornings, or eating lunch and putting the iPad or laptop or phone or newspaper or all of the above down. A few weeks back, I had to run something to my wife at her office and I left all of my portable work tools at my home/office except my phone. I wanted a coffee, and Charleston's and my favorite place for that in St. Joseph has no drive-thru. Ironically neither does my second, although my third does, but it was too far. So we went in and she sat down with her cup of whip cream and we had coffee. Now, she has spent some time there at the coffee shop, especially when she was smaller, she would sleep in her pouch on my back while I worked and my wife would stop by to bring us lunch. What a memorable experience!

Now about the no drive –thru. As a part time stay at home and full time working Dad, businesses have missed out on my business at times because it is easier not to stop than take all the kids out of the car. Instead of stopping for a coffee , I may just go to a “lesser” fast food drive thru. I will purposefully drive farther to the bank with a drive-thru so I don't have to take the kids out of the vehicle as it adds 15 minutes plus at least to any endeavor especially if you have all three. I like to get out of my vehicle and walk and all that fun stuff with shopping and I still do but there are times I even wish there was a drive-thru at the farm store or grocery store. I have put off shopping more than once because of this. I know there are some stores that offer curb side service, in more urban areas than where we live, and sometimes I think that would be such a great idea. However, usually I enjoy the time shopping, getting coffee, and food with my “office helper”. The fact that I can generally set my own schedule makes it all the more better.

For now we will make the best of it all and Dad will try not to spoil his “office helper(s)” too much with buying too many toys!

Getting coffee, now she has even started saying the word, coffee!

November 21,2016

Traveling as Seen Through the Eyes of a Little Person, My Daughter

It was a few weeks ago that we took our somewhat annual family vacation (it is somewhat annual because I never seem to know until the last minute if I can go due to my business) with my wife's family to Martha’s Vineyard. My wife and daughter Charleston and I flew out from Chicago Midway to Boston Logan a few days after the others and it was Charleston’s first flight. The airport and airplane ride were an adventure, that is for sure. The rental car, getting to Boston too late to make it to the Ferry through all the traffic, and staying at my wife's cousins house were all an adventure too, and made for one tired 19 month old girl. However, we made it to the island and had a great time.

One of the things that stands out from the trip the most for me with my Architecture detailing mind are the door handles in the hotel. Those lever door handles that we specify in every project to meet the building code requirements/ accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities act. They have become so common, that when I wanted to put a standard door knob on a maintenance building in a project for concerns of security and durability it was hard to find an exception in the building code to allow. Also when I purchased a commercial door from a supplier for my barn, I didn't want a lever handle with the horses going through, and the supplier was shocked and had to dig for a knob. Anyways, back to the story. My daughter has not really figured out how to turn door knobs yet at our house, and I know it won't be long. However, in the hotel on the island there were lever handles on the door at the right height and guess who figured out how to open them, yes my little princess daughter. She opened the room door into the hallway, opened a door with a handle for the first time easily because of a standard required design detail!

I have posted before about Accessibility and Universal Design and I find them very important and necessary in design. Sometimes I feel that in our desire to both develop the requirements and trying to legally meet all requirements, we don't always think everything through. I know my daughter will very much sooner than later figure out how to open all doors, and I will have to adult proof the handles, I mean baby proof, but things like this make me wonder if there are better ways to handle door hardware in certain situations.

All in all we had a great trip and besides Charleston's lack of sleep from not wanting to miss anything, it was a great time had by all!

Traveling Midway Airport

May 25, 2016

Taking the Kid(s) to Meetings and Site Visits

My office is in my home on my beautiful small farm in a peaceful friendly small community. There, I said it, I work out of my home! For a long time I hated to admit that I work out of my home for to be a "successful Architect" I had always thought you had to have a fancy office with high visibility in a city. Yes there are times I wish I had a separate office, but I have come to realize it doesn't really have anything to do with the quality of work you do. I go to clients, I meet them where they are at or at a place that works for all involved. However, how do I handle this as a stay-at-home Dad and Architect. Well I do have to admit I utilize the flexible daycare, currently my daughter and sons go regularly to daycare one day a week with the option for more if needed, I utilize school time for my sons, and I have my very helpful and supportive family so I can get to meetings myself, especially the initial meeting to try to get a good idea of what type of client it is. This helps me to know whether I can bring a kid(s) to a meeting.

Yes, I have brought each of my three kids to many meetings. I usually take my daughter since my sons are in school, but sometimes I will take one of them. I can only recall one meeting where I brought all three, and it was a board meeting where I was needed as a board member to make quorum right before Christmas and I had warned everyone and they were okay with it. Since I usually take my now almost 14 month daughter to meetings, I will share a little about that. I do bring her to board meetings and committee meetings I go to regularly and she does very well with her easy going personality. I also bring her to some project meetings and site visits, especially those that are close and take an hour or two maximum. I used to feel bad about this, until I started doing more residential work and it is not uncommon for parents to have kids around. I have even had clients for commercial projects bring their kid(s) to meetings. I can remember trying to get everything coordinated at the last minute to go to an important meeting without my daughter, only to find out my clients had their toddler there! I didn't worry about bringing my daughter from then on.

What about the site visit and field measuring? Again I approach this the same as meetings and if it is close and a one to two hour visit max, I will often bring my daughter and/or son(s). My daughter is usually very good in the carrier, or what I call pouch, or in the stroller if it is one level. There have been some fussy times for her during site visits, but generally she is very easy going. Last Friday we walked/ measured the front portion of a 55 acre site very close to my home/ office that I am working on drawings for a new log cabin to be built on. I carried her In her pouch, quickly realizing I need to start carrying her on my back exclusively as she got a little fussy and she is getting so big it is better for her. One thing that I am having to adjust to fast no matter if it is a meeting, site visit, or working at my home/office, is that she is getting more mobile! No longer does she want to sit with Dad the whole time.

It has been an adjustment as it is not always easy to focus at a meeting and on the task in front of you with distractions from the kid(s). However, it has helped me to manage time better. And being able to see my kids growing up while doing the work I love is awesome!

At a board meeting...notice her coat, snacks, and meeting notes on the floor!

May 8, 2016

The fast food RESTAURANT experience

My purpose for this blog is to relate my experience as a stay-at-home dad working full time as an Architect. Since so much of Architecture is about, or should be about, how people use spaces, I feel I have a unique point of view on how parents and their children utilize spaces. Since my 6 and 8 year old sons go to private school, much of my time now is with my thirteen month old daughter. However, the time spent with my sons before they went to school, homeschooling my oldest in kindergarten, time after school, and from the school breaks where I have my sons with me much of the time gives me a lot of experiences with all three kids. Here I will explore the restaurant experience some, particularly the fast food restaurant.

The restaurant experience with little kids often involves fast food for multiple reasons. First of all there is usually no arguments about the food! At some restaurants, the play area is a big attraction on those not so nice days when you need to get out of the house. The toys in the kids meals are great! The free wi-fi is great for working and downloading with, especially since my home/ office is rural and in a location where I can not get cable internet. I don't have a problem generally with internet speed because I use cellural data, but this does require me to deal with data caps. The internet in itself at my office could be a topic for another blog post!

Yes, I will admit, I am a Dad that works while my kids play in the play area at fast food restaurants. However, I sit inside the play area with them no matter how busy and crazy it is.

I have noticed some things that are helpful in fast food restaurants and some that are not so much. The unisex/ family restrooms sometimes located in or adjacent the play area are helpful with three kids so you don't necessarily have to pack up everything and leave the play area and then come back. A lack of baby changing tables or broken ones is something I have frequently run into. Since (public) Restroom design is such a big part of Architecture, the changing table Is a topic I would like to explore further at another time. A lack of outlets to plug the laptop into in the play area and in the eating area has caused some issues from time to time.

When my thirteen month old was big enough for a high chair, I realized how important and helpful these are. With her love of nuggets, fries, subs, etc. I can sit at a table and work while she eats. The condition of high chairs sometimes with broken straps and unclean can make them hard to use. On a side note I seem to really notice high chair conditions as a small job I had in high school was to repair and refinish all of the wood high chairs for my neighbor who owned an area Dairy Queen at the time. With my daughter becoming more mobile, the time sitting at the table is decreasing, so I have to adjust accordingly. The main door layout, parking layout, sidewalks can also contribute to helping get the kids in the restaurant safely and having a good experience.

The fast food restaurant is something my family enjoys. The fast food restaurant truly has helped with working as a stay-at-home Dad.

April 11,2016

Some background information for a Blog for the STAY-AT-HOME dad ARCHITECT

Near the end of July of 2013, we decided that restarting my Architecture Firm was the best thing to do for our family and my career. I had run the firm prior to that for about one and a half years in Michigan before moving to Iowa to work for another firm for about two and a half years. In that time a lot had changed. We had moved and adopted two of our foster kids, and they were then 6 and 3 years old when I was restarting the business. The oldest, Dalton, was starting kindergarten soon. However, we were moving back soon to the area I started the firm originally. We also knew that the living situation when we moved back was temporary until we bought a house. So, Dalton could have potentially attended kindergarten at three different school districts, not a good idea. We decided homeschooling was the best option, and I would homeschool along with growing the business. With a good support network of family, friends, and a part time baby sitter, I had time to get to meetings and focus on the work at hand. I helped my son and watched him progress from barely knowing sight words to being able to read on his own. It was challenging, but awesome.

Field trip to Silver Beach March 2014 after running some business errands in St. Joseph

After Dalton was finished with Kindergarten, I picked up a part-time teaching job at the local Community College. We decided to send him and his brother Colton to the local Lutheran School for first grade and pre-school respectively. With a flexible daycare and good support system, I was able to continue growing the business while still having the kids at home some with me while I worked.

This was the case until April of 2015 when we had a beautiful baby girl, Charleston. Working from home, I was able to spend much time with her and Mom, Erica, until she went back to work full time in June. Charleston now spends a lot of time with me and has become a regular to meetings and site visits with me. With her fairly easy going personality, this seems to be going well! Again the flexible daycare has been invaluable!

I am thankful for the time with the kids although it can be challenging at times! There are so many great things I have learned about being an Architect and running a business, being an entrepreneur, running a small horse farm (oh I haven't even mentioned that yet), and being a stay at home dad. I am planning more blog posts to discuss what I have learned and how I feel this has improved my design knowledge and capabilities.

2016; Site Visit to an Office Building with Charleston in her "pouch"

August 20, 2015

Thoughts on Baby Strollers, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Universal Design

As my family and I were at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, Indiana last week as participants in the Annual Mule and Donkey Show with our Mule, Mirabella and Donkey, Doug, I made some observations about accessibility that I thought are important to share. Being that this was a working vacation for me as I brought the portable office, my mind was often thinking about things directly or indirectly related to Architecture. As I was pushing my four month old baby girl, Charleston, a

round in a stroller from building to building with different levels, I told my wife, Erica, that I had much more appreciation for all of the Handicapped Accessible Ramps and Doors I have designed in my career as an Architect. This caused me to think about the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, which is an important part of every commercial and public project I work on as an Architect. An Architect is responsible for the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Public, and because of this we have to address Building Code and Accessibility Codes in nearly every project we work on. I believe the ADA to be a very important and critical part of building design and it is not just intended for those in wheelchairs (as often assumed) but for any disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) is what is required to be used for ADA accessible design in New Construction and Existing Construction.

So, I started thinking about the ADA and since it seems to be beneficial to parents with children in strollers, does the ADA address this situation in the ADAAG. Searching through the guidelines, I realized it does not address babies at all except for accessible baby changing tables. However, the design guidelines in the ADAAG have provided access to buildings and within buildings that are beneficial to parents with babies in strollers.

Then a thought came to me about the concept of Universal Design that I had heard a little about in the past. So I looked into this a little more and realized that it may be in this Universal Design process that we can not only address Accessibility of a building and site but also accessibility for everyone.

“Universal Design takes into account the full range of human diversity, including physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities, as well as different body sizes and shapes. By designing for this diversity, we can create things that are more functional and more user-friendly for everyone.” (From the website Universaldesign.com)

In my opinion, I feel that this Universal Design concept needs more research and more thought by all Architects including myself. I have never felt that something like this needs to be addressed by legislation, but by education. I feel that as an Architect we often get too focused on designing to the minimum requirements of the ADA that we don’t think of the bigger picture and everyone who will be using the space. So, let’s design spaces for everyone who uses them!

January 17, 2015

What Does an Architect Do?

The Common Response from People as to what an Architect does is, “An Architect Designs buildings and/ or houses.”

    • Architects do design buildings, and design is a very important part of a building project, however only 20% of the time spent by an Architect on a Traditional Bid Project is spent on Design.

      • A Traditional Bid Project, also referred to as Design-Bid-Build, is where an Architect is hired by the owner to put together a full set of plans and specifications to bid the project for construction.

      • Specifications are basically the instruction manual that covers how to bid the project and the materials to be used in the project.

      • Bulk of Time spent on a Traditional Bid Project is for Drawings and Specifications, while the remainder of time is spent on Design, Bidding, and Construction Administration.

Architects are required to be Licensed or Registered in the State(s) in which they complete projects because they are responsible for the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the public in buildings.

      • This includes understanding and designing projects to meet applicable Building Codes.

      • Understanding Fire Safety and designing projects to meet applicable Fire Safety Codes.

      • Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act and designing projects to meet the requirements.

      • Understanding Building Structures, Plumbing, Mechanical, and Electrical Systems and working with Professional Engineers to develop those important drawings for the project.

An Architect can assist a client during any phase of a building project from preliminary space planning, preliminary cost estimates, Design of the project, Development of Final Drawings, Bidding, through Construction Completion.

Design Study Sketch Example

FInal Construction Drawing Example