December 24, 2012

Holiday Greetings

Season's greetings!

I wish you all the best for the year to come.

December 19, 2012

Ignoring the Spec

'Fear' from 'The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals' London 1872. Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
What? Ignore the spec?
I’m specifying a system that depends as much on the fabricator as it does on the materials. In this case, it’s a concrete countertop, but really, it could be any sort of artisan construction. Another designer at the same firm did the same sort of product, in a different form, about a year ago, and I wrote the spec for that, too. So I asked the first team if they’d recommend the fabricator to the second team.

I got back, essentially, “Well, they didn’t really follow the spec, but they worked hard to match the existing.”

December 13, 2012

Getting - and paying for - a problem-free slab

Lean on me
Think this slab might need moisture mitigation?
I joined CSI's Specifying Practice Group webinar in progress last week, because my buddies were learning so much and tweeting about it. I got there just in time to get good answers to my burning questions about how to handle slab testing and moisture mitigating membranes and how best to pay for them.

October 23, 2012

Polished Concrete

Every once in a while, an article comes out that tells me exactly what I need to know about a system. This is one of those articles.

Polished Concrete Outshines Other Flooring Options - EBN: 15:2

It's what I would have told you myself, plus quite a bit I didn't know or hadn't thought about. Like the acoustical effects of polished concrete, and the relative costs. I suspect that I'll be coming back over and over again to refer to this one.


October 5, 2012

Ceiling Fans

We've come a long way from this motor.
I recently needed to help a client select a ceiling fan, and I wound up learning exciting new things about motors. (Yes, it's a motor pun. It probably won't be the last pun you'll find on this blog.)

In my occasional series about how stuff works, you'll find posts like this one. The goal is not just to satisfy idle curiosity: along with some nuts and bolts, these posts will focus on why you should care about how stuff works, what questions to ask, and how to find out more.

September 24, 2012

CSI is My Tribe and CONSTRUCT is Our Pow-Wow

This year's CONSTRUCT show was especially energetic. I wasn't the only one to notice. Here's a sampling of the hijinks and social time that connected me with my people.

September 11, 2012

Specs: The Sexy Part of Architecture?

Think specs aren't the sexy part of architecture? They should be.

King's Cross Station, photo by Peter Burgess
Strength in a veil. King's Cross Station.
I stayed in architecture, when engineering was looking awfully tempting in college, because I love working with the surfaces people touch, walk on, hear, and smell. And I discovered, later, that I love specs for the control they give me over these very senses, as people experience the finished work. If you want a sexy project, you need sexy specs.

September 8, 2012

Weekend Specifier

Here's a little retrospective of what I've been up to on the weekends.

Countdown to CONSTRUCT 2012

Paulette Salisbury at CONSTRUCT
Paulette Salisbury shows off her special ribbon
I'm ramping up for CONSTRUCT, CSI's annual convention and trade show, which starts Tuesday in Phoenix. It's a gathering of my tribe - we communicate in our shared language, wear special regalia, and participate in traditions that seem obscure to outsiders. Many of the folks who dedicate some or all of their careers to the technical and communications sides of architecture, engineering, design and construction will be there.

August 31, 2012

Anderson Todd's Most Valuable Lesson

Anderson Todd taught my freshman architecture class in the fall of 1986 at Rice University. It might have been his last freshman studio - he was, at that point, everything people mean when they say crotchety old codger: harsh, grouchy, sometimes profane, and very critical. And I was a naïve, teacher-pleasing girl from the top ten graduates of my suburban high school. I never thought he'd be the professor to whom I'm most grateful, for a fundamental life lesson.

August 30, 2012


Let me introduce myself. 

Vivian Volz
Vivian Volz, AIA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP
I'm an architect. Shortly after I became licensed in California, I was asked about my career goals. "I'm a project architect," I said. "I'd enjoy being a project architect for the rest of my life." I did enjoy it, for a very long time. I might easily still be a project architect, if I hadn't tried writing specifications.