Friday, January 8, 2010

Architect Sketch

There's nothing like a little architecture humor in these challenging times. The link to this UTube video came from a IT blog posting. I get these IT alerts because the organization of computer code is also referred to as architecture. I always delete these, but this one got my attention.

Here's the full blog posting, but I found the following conclusions insightful:

"... before building your design you need to know what your mission requirements are.  And you need a good relationship with your customers and how they serve the mission.

If there was ever any doubt of that, I’d like to point out a great example highlighted by Monty Python in a skit named… “Architect Sketch.” In it John Cleese plays an architect who seems to have created his design without an approved business architecture. The result is a design that does not meet the intended mission needs. (In the same sketch, Eric Idle, seems to have a design that reflects mission needs, but shows signs that it might not be executable).

The sketch is a great way to drive home many lessons in IT architecture, don’t you think?  Here are a few that come to mind:

  • IT customers should very clearly spell out the requirements that need solving (by the way, most are are not very good at this)
  • IT architects must ensure they are designing to mission needs
  • Sometimes poor technical designs are picked because they are the only thing that comes close to meeting the mission
  • Sometimes designs are picked because of relationships
  • ... another point this skit humorously highlights.  In the end, the customer choose the poor technical design over the good one because it was closer to meeting the mission, and because the architect had a relationship with the customer, as evidenced by the well executed masonic secret handshake.

    Lesson overall: Good enterprise IT is always about people and the mission.  When enterprise IT is designed without a good understanding of the mission, disaster can result."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Direction for 2010

In recent months my work has centered around energy retrofits, and I have been able to discuss alternative approaches with an energy efficiency team while working on proposals for a Sustainability Training Center in New Bedford. I also imagine testing these different approaches at the Center.

The overwhelming experience in 2009 was the ultimate comfort of a well insulated space in the New Bedford townhouses. I never believed it was possible to feel completely warm when its well below freezing outside. In the past I have specified foamed in place insulation in two attics, but never got to experience the space during a deep freeze. 

One of those projects was done five years ago, and the top of the line insulation was not the most important part of the design-build. Instead the luxurious aspects of a master bedroom-bath suite got all of the focus. Those days are now long gone, and I've been thinking a lot about what may take its place. Let's face it our homes need upgrades, but at a smaller price tag and with a return on investment that improves our comfort and reduces fossil fuel consumption. 

After feeling the comfort and knowing the energy savings of a deep energy retrofit, I can think of no reason why we don't gut the interior wall finish of exterior walls and get them fully sealed and insulated. True it may seem like a big mess, expense, and hassle, but it's nothing like the disruptive renovations of past years where added space and fine finishes were the priority and thermal performance was an after thought . Even the idea of freshly painting an outside wall that hasn't been properly sealed and fully insulated seems an incredible waste and a sentence to enduring cold winters. I truly believe now is the time to get over the sense of disruption or added expense (really for how long and for how much?? a couple days and a couple $K) to achieve well sealed and insulated outside walls.

It is exciting to think of design-build on a room by room basis for deep energy retrofits for a relatively small investment.  Of course even more exciting is the project that includes a needed renovation while kept on a tight budget with performance and form as priorities over glamour and charm.