Some Ideas to Help Aruba Become the Greenest and Happiest Island #Sustainability #Planning #Architect #Island #Eco #Green #ilmaBlog

Having recently visited Aruba earlier this year, and have fallen in love with the island, I would like to take this moment to reflect on ways that the little island nation can achieve its sustainability goals over the next several years.  Over the past few years it has come a long way but there are still many things left to be addressed if it is to be the greenest happiest little island in the Caribbean as it has set out to do.

One Happy Island

Some background information before we begin — Aruba contains 70 square miles (178.91 square kilometers) of happiness and a population of 116,600 (as of July 2018).

The tiny island gem is nestled in the warm southern Caribbean with nearly 100 different nationalities happily living together. We welcome all visitors with sunny smiles and a warm embrace.

Aruba is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 18 miles (29 kilometers) north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 20 miles (32 kilometers) long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 6 miles (10 kilometers) across at its widest point.

Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean. Aruba is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten; the citizens of these countries are all Dutch nationals. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. Fortunately, it lies outside Hurricane Alley.

Aruba’s economy is based largely on tourism with nearly 1.5 million visitors per year, which has contributed to Aruba’s high population density.

Despite having one of the world’s smallest populations, Aruba does have a high population density at 1,490 per square mile (575 people per square kilometer), which is more than New York state.

During the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, the island announced it aim to cover its electricity demand by 100% renewable sources by 2020. In the same year, Aruba together with other Caribbean islands became member of the Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge, an initiative launched at the Rio +20 Conference aiming for islands to shift towards 100% renewable energy. The benefits of becoming 100% renewable for Aruba include: reducing its heavy dependency on fossil fuel, thus making it less vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and preserving its natural environment.

(Sources: https://www.100-percent.org/aruba/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aruba; http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/aruba-population)

Some of the areas where Aruba seems to be excelling includes their recent ramp up of wind power – capitalizing on the constant wind that keep the tiny island habitable.

Other areas that they can improve on include the following:

Electric Vehicles

A whopping 87 percent of the entire power generation in the Caribbean comes from imported fossil fuels, and because so much of the region’s fuel comes from faraway sources, electricity costs are four times higher than they are in the United States. The economies of these islands are basically at the whim of global oil prices

The Caribbean has some other reasons to be enthusiastic about electric cars powered by a solar electric grid. The islands, on the whole, are small and low in elevation. The vast majority of islands in the Caribbean are smaller than 250 square miles and are fairly flat, with isolated peaks at most. 

This combination makes them ideal for electric vehicles in ways that, just for example, the U.S. is not. Most electric vehicles have limited ranges, with some only offering a hundred miles or less per charge. The higher-end vehicles can go further; the Nissan Leaf boasts 151 miles per charge, the Chevy Bolt 238 miles, and the Tesla Model S 315, but with still-long waiting times for a full charge, that’s about all you’re getting in an individual trip. That’s not great for hour-plus-long commutes from American suburbs, but for smaller islands with fewer hills to climb, that sort of range is just fine.

Customers who drive electric experience common benefits.

  • Charging up with electricity will cost you less than filling your tank with gas. Clients are experiencing savings of up to 50 percent on fuel costs and very low cost of maintenance.
  • Produce no-to-low tailpipe emissions. Even when upstream power plant emissions are considered, electric vehicles are 70 percent cleaner than gas-powered vehicles.
  • “Fuel” up with clean, Aruban-produced electricity and help our island achieve more energy diversity.
  • Drivers enjoy electric vehicles’ silent motor, powerful torque and smooth acceleration.

Although “solar” vehicles would be even better for this region, the ability for the island to “leap frog” ahead of other counties by building in an electric fueling infrastructure would help set it apart from other island nations.

(Sources: http://nymag.com/developing/2018/10/more-like-electric-car-ibbean.html; https://www.elmar.aw/about-elmar/sustainable-energy-and-electric-cars)

Solar Power

Although solar has come down over the past decade I was surprised that not more individuals capitalize on the sunny region with solar roof panels.

The recently constructed government building, Cocolishi, is one of the first buildings on Aruba with a solar roof. The solar panels provide 30 kW of renewable energy.

On the rooftops of the Multifunctional Accommodation Offices (MFA) in Noord and Paradera solar panels are installed. The MFA in Noord is an energy neutral building, this means it produces the same amount of energy as it consumes. The surplus during sunny days will be added to the grid.

Previously, solar panels were installed on the Kudawecha elementary school. These panels produce 175.5 kW solar energy.

The largest school solar rooftop project is installed on the Abramham de Veer School elementary school. This rooftop project produces 976 kW renewable energy.

The Caribbean’s first solar park opened in 2015 over the parking lot of the airport in Aruba. This solar park provide 3.5 MW solar energy and is one of the first renewable energy projects making use of the Free Zone of Aruba.

In Juana Morto, a residential area complex, solar panels are installed on the rooftops of different houses. Together the solar panels generate 13 kW of green energy.

Elmar, the electricity provider of Aruba, installed solar panels on the roofs of their offices. These buildings together provide 9.8 kW solar energy.

There are different decentralized solar projects on Aruba. Together they consist of 5 MW solar PV part and 3 MW rooftop schools & public buildings PV systems. Once built per the 2017 plan, the installation will provide an additional 13.5 MW providing power for approximately 3,000 households.

Given the amount of sunshine this island receives, expanding their solar portfolio seems prudent.

(Source: https://www.freezonearuba.com/business-opportunities/solar-projects-aruba/)

Wind Power

Wind Park ‘Vader Piet’ is located on Aruba’s east coast in the Dutch Caribbean, this wind farm consists of 10 turbines with an actual capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). Aruba’s current wind power production represents about 15-20 percent of its total consumption, which places it fourth globally and still some way behind Denmark, the current global leader, which produces 26 percent of its power from wind. But today, with a second wind farm about to be deployed, Aruba is set to double its wind energy output, placing it firmly in first place.

It’s hard to believe that just a few windmills are able to produce an output of 30 megawatts of energy, suppling 126,000 MWh of electricity to the national grid each year, displacing fossil fuel-generated energy and supporting the island’s transition towards renewable energy sources.

Given that the wind is a constant, exploiting this resource seems like a profitable and intelligent thing to do.

(Source: https://www.utilitiesarubanv.com/main/embracing-the-winds-of-change/)

Off-Roading

I love that the island has embraced off-road vehicles (ORV); it is a great way to experience the beauty around us in a challenging and fun way adding to the experience.  However, it would be very wise to develop designated areas for off-road vehicles to eliminate (or at least minimize) the human impact on the beauty of this island.  Because it’s greatest commodity is the natural beauty – Sun, ocean, nature and wildlife; Aruba (and other island nations) need to consider how to balance the fun aspect with some regulations that will preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations.

As you may already know, the use ORV’s on coastal beaches is an activity that attracts considerable controversy amongst beach users.

ORV driving is considered as main contributor to land degradation in arid regions.

The most obvious physical impacts of ORV on vegetation include plant crushing, shearing, and uprooting. Such destruction of vegetation in arid ecosystems can lead to land degradation and desertification. Desert plant species exhibit varying degrees of vulnerability to vehicle use intensity, which results in changes in vegetation composition, height, biomass, reproductive structures, cover and seedbank.

(Sources: https://serc.carleton.edu/vignettes/collection/35397.html; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X18301153)

I also notice that many locals and tourists park their vehicles on the shorelines which are inhabited by indigenous plants and animals of all varieties.  This too should be lightly regulated through education or ordinances so that leaky old (or new) vehicles do not stain the natural shorelines that not only belong to us but to our grandchildren’s grandchildren as well.  We need to educate people to be more responsible and not disrupt the natural world with our cars , especially when it can be easily avoided with very little cost impact to the planning of the island.

Stormwater

Following up on vehicle management along the shorelines, another thing I noticed was stormwater runoff; which is not much but should be managed now to avoid a small accumulation over time.  It is still early enough to employ best practices and manage any future problems by building a robust infrastructure now before things get worse.  Because the island is so small it looks like much of the run off drains directly into the ocean.  Following best practices will ensure that the clear waters stay that way long into the future for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Circumstances alone should prompt islanders to manage stormwater runoff:

  • Traditional community boundaries often centered on natural drainages (e.g., Hawaiian ahupua’a and Samoan village structure), so residents are aware of how land use changes can affect watershed hydrology.
  • Local economies rely on clear waters, healthy reefs, and robust fisheries; thus, BMPs designed to eliminate sediment plumes offer immediate, visible results to resource users.
  • In some locations, rainfall is the primary source of freshwater, so using BMPs like cisterns or storage chambers to collect runoff for potable and non-potable reuse makes water supply sense.
  • Tropical vegetation is fast-growing and plays a huge part in the water cycle, so stormwater management approaches that take advantage of canopy interception and evapotranspiration to reduce runoff have a high chance of success.
  • Island infrastructure is subject to big storms, rising seas, and tsunamis; therefore redundancy within the stormwater system improves resiliency.

Things that should be considered as the island faces increased development includes the engagement of “low impact development” which is an approach to land development that meets the following conditions:

  1. Avoids disturbance of existing vegetation, valuable soils, and wetlands to the maximum extent possible (e.g., minimizing site disturbance and maintaining vegetated buffers along waterways);
  2. Reduces the amount of impervious cover and, thus, stormwater runoff generated on a site through careful site planning and design techniques; and
  3. Manages runoff that is generated through structural and non-structural practices that filter, recharge, reuse, or otherwise reduce runoff from the site.

(Source: https://horsleywitten.com/pdf/Feb2014_IslandBMPGuide_wAppendix.pdf)

Desalinization

Tasked with providing water for a population which more than quadruples with tourists throughout the year, the Caribbean island of Aruba is building a new 24,000 m3/day (6,340,130 gallons) desalination facility to process seawater from beach wells. Paul Choules & Ron Sebek discuss technical details of the installation, set to replace older thermal desalination units.

This is so awesome and could become a really great way for Aruba to expand its market into other emerging countries that are facing water issues.  Abruba could use its extensive knowledge to help other arid climates deal with lack of drinking water, taking Aruba to the next level as a global leader in this realm.

(Source: https://www.waterworld.com/international/desalination/article/16201943/desalination-plant-profile-aruba-the-pearl-of-the-caribbean)

Cogeneration of Power

Justin Locke is director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit. He said it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power.

“Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources,” added Locke. Aruba’s plan includes building new solar and wind farms, converting waste to energy, and working to increase energy efficiency.

Aruba has set the ambitious goal of becoming the first green economy by transitioning to 100% renewable energy use. Currently, Aruba is at 20% renewable energy use.

Aruba is known for being sunny all year long and its cooling trade winds. By capitalizing on these natural resources, the island can generate renewable energy. The island is lowering its dependence on heavy fuel oil, lowering CO2 emissions, and reducing environmental pollution.

By steadily continuing its momentum with its green movement and implementing cogeneration of power production it will help the island become sustainable and resilient.

(Source: https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/your-country-and-the-netherlands/united-states/about-us/aruba-and-you/sustainability-in-aruba)

Conclusion

Although Aruba has promised to become green it is not absolutely clear that it will be able to achieve its aggressive 2020 goals.  However, the future is bright if Aruba is able to continue on its path and starts to take these issues into greater consideration making it a premier destination for people to enjoy.  Becoming the world’s greenest island will ensure that tourism continues to flourish and that the country will continue to thrive in an environmentally-friendly way that will help restore and maintain the attributes that has made it what it has become famous for – a place for people from all over the world to come and enjoy the natural world away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the world in a way that seems to be reminiscent of a simpler time and offers us a chance to connect with something much larger than ourselves.  As temporary stewards for the environment it is up to us to protect that which does not belong to us so that future generations can also appreciate these valuable experiences.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


The @FelicianoCenter’s @MIXLabDesign Design Charrette for “B.E.L.A.” Summer High School Program Entailing the Redevelopment of a Significant Urban Historic Site #UrbanPlanning #Redevelopment #Business #Entrepreneur #Education #HighSchool #DesignThink #Innovation #NJEd @MontclairStateU

On July 9, 2019, in the capacity of University Architect at Montclair State University (and Alumni of the Feliciano School of Business). I had the privilege of participating in a design charrette with a local high school. The project consists of an urban redevelopment site with a precious historical building at the site. I was invited by the people who run the Montclair State University MIX Lab (Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship), an interdisciplinary hub for transformative innovation, and digitally mediated making.

M.I.X. stands for Making and Innovating for X, where X is the unknown, that which exceeds our grasp, the future, and the open-ended nature of creativity, good design and big problems. The co-directors of MIX Lab are Iain Kerr, associate professor of Innovation Design, and Jason Frasca, entrepreneurship instructor.

I graciously accepted Jason and Ian’s invitation to participate as a guest critic along with another fellow professional, Frank Gerard Godlewski of Fellsbridge Studio LLC, who specializes in historic preservation in the area where the redevelopment project is located.  The format for the design charrette, hosted by the MIX Lab for the high school program led by high school teacher, Kevin Richburg, included: (1) The students, in groups of 4-5, presented their concepts for the redevelopment of the site (there were 5 teams); (2) the guest critics gave suggestions and further thoughts on how to further explore and develop the student’s ideas; (3) the guest critics summed up their thoughts for all the students with key take-aways.  The following is a recap of what I learned from the students (in so far as what is the most significant to them) and the key take-aways I offered the students (in no particular order of importance) from my perspective as an Architect who has been involved in the planning, design and construction of projects over the past 20-years.

What the Student Teams Focused on as Key Ideas for their Projects:

  • Historic preservation of the existing building
  • Connecting with local community
  • Local and state pride
  • Affordability
  • Sustainability
  • Celebration of diversity and inclusion
  • Love of the arts
  • Focus on the user “experience”
  • Spaces for families to enjoy
  • Entertainment
  • Accessibility to quality food and goods
  • Mixing of “Bright and Bold” historic and modern elements
  • Transformative
  • “Modern” vibe

Proposed Amenities of the Re-Development Site:

  • Supermarkets (one group proposed a two-story whole sale supermarket)
  • Open-air markets (farmer markets, etc.)
  • Retail, restaurants, food trucks
  • Open space, a square or plaza
  • Parking for visitors (possible tunnel or bridge)
  • Parking at perimeter

Types of Buildings (Programmed Spaces)

  • Main historic building’s exterior appearance
  • Main historic building’s exterior appearance
  • Explore modernization of existing historic building interior to suite new uses
  • Mixed use buildings with green roofs and roof top patios
  • Modern, light and transparent
  • Restaurants and sports bars
  • Entertainment – bowling alley, arcade, movie theater
  • Arts – Museum showcasing tradition and innovation
  • Grocery stores
  • Food trucks
  • Retail
  • Technology/electronics-based retail
  • Main historic building’s exterior appearance
  • Explore modernization of existing historic building interior to suite new uses
  • Mixed use buildings with green roofs and roof top patios
  • Modern, light and transparent
  • Restaurants and sports bars
  • Entertainment – bowling alley, arcade, movie theater
  • Arts – Museum showcasing tradition and innovation
  • Grocery stores
  • Food trucks
  • Retail
  • Technology/electronics-based retail

Types of Exterior Spaces

  • Open spaces with green lawns and fountains
  • Places to reflect and remember
  • ·Field with stage and seating
  • Outdoor seating for restaurants
  • Areas to relax

Key Take-Aways & Ideas for Further Exploration:

  • Site plans – Delineate site elements separately from building elements (so easier to comprehend) using color or graphics (Example)
  • Floor plans – Delineate building areas/rooms with designated color so it is easier to understand program of spaces (i.e., circulation vs apartments vs retail vs support spaces, etc.) (Example)
  • Work together as a team – commemorate each other’s strengths but give everyone credit even those whose work may be behind the scenes
  • Focus on one main idea (let other ideas support the one main theme)
  • Context and Scale – Observe and learn from the surrounding community; apply those elements to the proposed project so that it complements the adjoining communities
  • Materials – Understand how the new materials can complement the historic ones (let the original historic building stand on its own and celebrate its historical significance)
  • Consider “big box” retail versus the Local “pop ups” (gentrification good and bad)
  • Parking/Transportation – As mass transportation has changed from ships to locomotives to buses and cars; look to the future as the world heads to autonomous vehicles (particularly China).  If parking is required think about how a parking lot or parking garage can be transformed in the future.  Example
  • Sustainability is important but do not forget to consider W.E.L.L. as well.  LEED/Sustainability concepts Resource 1 ; Resource 2 also check out the following link for ides about other program types for the redevelopment project Resource 3
  • Consider more technology in your projects, for instance: Smart CitiesAR/VR, and other innovate concepts, like: Immersive Experience and Virtual reality in theme park attractions. Also consider utilizing QR Codes as a teaching tool.
  • Consider developing a pedestrian mall by converting an existing street into a pedestrian friendly zone like they have done in Jersey City, NJ or Times Square, New York City, NY or Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas, NV, the taking cars, trucks and buses off the street and giving the spaces back to the pedestrians who can enjoy it (also it would make the entire site one big site instead of two separate parcels dived by thru traffic).
  • Lastly, and not least important, when considering injecting modern elements with historic architecture, it must be considered whether the original is to remain intact or be altered.  There are interesting examples of tasteful alterations, however, the older I get the less comfortable I am with injecting new with old for the sake of “shock” value (where as a student of architecture 20 years ago the concept was more appealing).  I reminded the students of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, and the ensuing debate that is going on whether or not the renovations/upgrades should be true to the original or whether the new design should be bold and innovating and perhaps less true to the original.  Whether the designers choose to go in one direction or another much thought should be given to preserving the historical elements of our precious structures because they are irreplaceable (think Grand Central Station in New York City, NY, which acted as a catalyst for the preservation movement).  Click here to read about the history of the Preservation Battle of Grand Central Station.

Overall, I was impressed by the talent and creativity of all the students and I was pleased with the quality of their presentations. I hope I was able to contribute in some small way to the success of their respective projects.  The high school student participants’ contributions to the build environment would be welcomed by the design and construction industry, since the students are willing to understand and develop their skills in the area of deep thought, innovation, design, construction and socio-economic concepts at an early age.  I gladly encouraged each and every one of them by letting them know that if they choose a career in architecture, engineering, real-estate development, construction or related field that they would certainly all be able to achieve their goals based on their willingness and eagerness to learn and present their visions and concepts.   I hope my involvement was as rewarding for the students as it was for me.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


Augmented Reality Enables Children to Learn in the Real World #ilmaBlog #Education #VR #Technology #Classroom #MyUniversityArchitect #Architect

MBDs (Mobile broadband devices, or smartphones) allow students to access and collect additional information and clues. Students use EcoMOBILE activities developed with an augmented reality application, to navigate between “hotspots,” view information, answer questions, and observe virtual media overlaid on the physical pond.

Students can capture pictures, video, or voice recordings and take these back to the classroom to help make sense of school lessons. Through augmented reality we provide students with visualizations that would not otherwise be apparent in the natural environment (for example, virtual x-ray vision so that they can “see” a virtual carbon atom as it moves through the processes of photosynthesis and respiration).

These augmented reality experiences allow students to conceptualize and discuss processes and complex relationships that are otherwise difficult to describe or visualize.

We would love to hear from you about what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,

FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Jeff Venezia, AIA of @DIGroupArch

Who is Jeff Venezia, AIA?

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia and has practiced in New Brunswick since 1981. He is presently a Principal Owner and President ofDIGroupArchitecture, a 32 person firm specializing in K-12 Education, Higher Ed, Senior Living and Healthcare. He heads the design and marketing efforts of the firm as well as the Academic Studio which includes K-12 and Higher Ed.

About the Firm

DIGroupArchitecture is a process-centric architecture and design firm. We work tirelessly with our clients to understand their priorities, evaluate the physical and budgetary constraints, and communicate potential options. As a result we create distinctive design solutions that help our clients achieve their vision, with unwavering attention to detail at every scale.

It is our unbiased approach to scale that helps us evolve in the changing climate of contemporary architecture. As many of our clients’ priorities have shifted away from ground-up architecture to renovations and adaptive reuse, our interiors studio has flourished and our graphic design studio has developed a diverse portfolio of projects in environmental graphics, signage and wayfinding, and brand identity.

80% of our business comes from repeat clients.They appreciate our “whatever it takes” approach and principal involvement at every level of every project. Our goal is to make every client a “legacy” client doing project after project and improving the experience of those who occupy the facilities we have created together as partners.

         Memorial Elementary School

         Phillipsburg High School

         Remsen Ave. Firehouse

         Jonathan Dayton High School Media Center

 

Click to Follow the DIGroup: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was about 12 years old.  I loved model building, drawing and construction and just knew from that time on what I wanted to be.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

I think the biggest challenge has always been living up to the level of trust your clients place on you to deliver a project that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?  

Most clients are memorable in their own way.  Since a lot of our work is for repeat clients we get to know them extremely well over time, both professionally and personally.  The best highlights of any of our projects is the reaction of the end users as to how we’ve improved the quality of their everyday lives.  That occurs most often in our Healthcare, K-12, Senior Living and Community Rooms projects.  One of our top highlights was having our Memorial Elementary School in East Brunswick receive the 2013 AIA New Jersey Honor Award for Excellence in Design, the first NJ public school to be recognized with that award (see photos above).

How do Architects measure success?     

We measure success by how a project meets the goals established in the very beginning, especially with regard to program, design, budget and schedule.

Good design does not have to cost more – it requires patience and commitment to doing it right.

Grow the business, develop a transition of ownership strategy, continue to focus on improving our architectural, interior and graphic capabilities.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?  

Unquestionably Alvar Aalto.  I love the way his buildings embrace the landscape and often look to him for inspiration.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?  

My favorite historic building would be the Pantheon in Rome.  Favorite contemporary – the Kimball Art Museum in Texas by Louis Kahn.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

We need to reverse the trend of being considered by the public as a commodity.  We need to educate the public and our clients on the value added in what we provide in the services we perform.  We are not copy or toilet paper. 

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?      

The greatest influence on my design work was my 3rd year architecture professor who demanded only the highest quality work from me and forced me out of my comfort zone to continually strive to learn from every project, to grow and become better as an architect.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?   

Airport – I love the idea of doing something at that scale.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?    

A National Geographic photographer.

 What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?     

Always be true to yourself, treat people fairly and conduct yourself with the highest level of integrity.  Your word should be your bond.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?  

Challenges:  the economy, dealing with diversity in the work place and the ever-increasing reliance on technology.  As mentioned above, the competition and lowering of fees continue on a downward spiral.

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?  

Don’t just adapt to change – embrace it.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?     

Take risks and have the commitment to see them through.  Be a good listener.  Show a concern and appreciation for your employees.  Be proactive in solving problems.  Never let anything fester.  Once the attorneys get involved no one is happy with the outcome.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Matthew B. Jarmel, AIA, MBA of @JarmelKizel

Mr. Jarmel is an Architect, Real Estate Developer, Renewable Energy Enthusiast, Entrepreneur and Owner of Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers Inc.

He received a Bachelors of Architecture from NJIT in 1990 and an MBA from Rutgers University in 1994. He can be found online at the following social media sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

About the Firm

Since the firm’s founding in 1975, Jarmel Kizel has worked its way from the inside out; originally concentrating on the interior design of corporate offices and since has grown into a full-service Architectural, Engineering, and Interior Design firm that provides a single point of accountability for all aspects of design services. The firm’s size and abilities enable it to handle a broad spectrum of projects while allowing the principals to put their seal on every one. With in-house Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection Engineering, clients can look to Jarmel Kizel to have all aspects of their projects designed and managed by one firm.

Today the firm provides a unique service platform that provides a single point of accountability for architectural and engineering services formatted to assist clients with managing their project’s design needs from site design and land entitlements to building design through construction oversight.

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

I knew when I was in Junior High School that I wanted to become an architect.  I grew up in the industry in that my father is a commercial interior designer, he actually founded our firm in 1975, and I was exposed to design and construction at a very early age.  My dad totally remodeled our home and he had my brother Richard, who is a civil engineer and partner in our firm, and myself helping and working with tools. 

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?  

The architectural and engineering industry can be very rewarding.  There is tremendous emotional fulfillment to see your ideas first take shape on paper and then through construction.  I take great pride driving by a building our firm has designed and saying we did that.  Despite the rewards the business of architecture can be very difficult.  Our industry is first hit by a recession, hardest hit and usually the last to recover.   One of the greatest challenges of working in the profession is learning how to batten down the hatches and weather the economic storms when they come. 

Any memorable clients or project highlights?  

I have many projects I am proud of many clients that I respect and that have become good friends and even partners over the years.  Some of the more notable projects I have worked on include designing the Bear Stearns Campus in Whippany, NJ.  This project was developed over years and ultimately included approximately 700,000 sf of office and data center space in five buildings, two of which we designed and the rest we designed major renovations to.  Unfortunately Bear Stearns does not exist anymore but the campus is still there.  We also were fortunate to design the first major redevelopment project in Plainfield, NJ where we designed four buildings for the Union County Improvement Authority that included a 100,000 sf office building, two retail buildings totaling 40,000 sf and a parking structure.   This project acted as a catalyst for new development in the city.   Over the last several years the firm has been very active in NYC designing many mixed use large scale projects, we have a 17 story building under construction in Queens right now.   One of my most memorable clients is The Learning Experience.   The Learning Experience is a national and soon to be international brand of child development centers.  We designed their first center 16 years ago and have since completed over 200 projects throughout the country for them.  Because of the volume of projects we have completed for them, about 70 in NJ alone, I gained tremendous experience in land entitlements and have become an expert in land entitlement strategy.

How does your family support what you do?    

The creative process can be very time consuming, running a business and being creative magnifies the time required to be an architect.  Some days I leave the house at 7 and if I have a hearing don’t get home until midnight.   Other times I am hopping on an airplane and away overnight.   My family is supportive in that they understand the taxing requirements of the job.   With that said everything I do is for my family.  So I make sure my wife and children get the attention they need from me and we plan as much quality time as possible.

How do Architects measure success?     

Some might say you measure the success of an architect by the quality and aesthetic of the buildings he or she designs, or by how much wealth and fame they have obtained.  To me a successful architect you have to be a strong leader, a strong communicator and be able to balance the aesthetic and technical issues of a building’s design all while understanding the functional and economical goals of your client.  The architect that can achieve this can become successful.  Ultimately success is measured by obtaining the respect of your peers, clients and even contractors in the industry.  

What matters most to you in design?      

Achieving my clients goals of function and budget while creating a building that is safe and attractive.   

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?  

Our firm has developed strong skills in real estate development which include land entitlements and real estate economics.   Many times we set the strategy for how to present a project to planning and zoning boards, explain the process to our clients and even their attorneys, advise on PILOT and other incentives, building valuation and assist in making introduction to equity investors and lenders.   These skills make us stand out from our competitors but not necessarily obtain higher fees.  Our goal for the next 2 to 5 years is to expand our Real Estate Advisory services to create additional revenue as a “Fee Developer” and on our own development account.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?     

I respect the design styles of many current and historic architects.  I am a big fan of the Chicago School and of those architects Louis Sullivan is probably my favorite.  I like this style for the buildings of the time were the first commercial buildings and first to break away from using ancient detailing by employing and emphasizing technology in design.

Do you have a coach or mentor?

I do not have a specific coach or mentor but I like to bounce ideas off of my team, clients and friends.  

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?  

My favorite historic building is the Roman Pantheon.  It was built around 113 AD and has the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever made which has a giant hole in the center that allows the sun and the moon to shine in along with the rain.  It still stands 2000 years later.  The Romans were great builders, they invented concrete, experimented with reinforcing concrete with brass chains and even developed zoning rules and regulations.   As far as contemporary buildings there are so many that I love.   I lean towards high rise sky scrapers

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

Although new technologies are implemented in the profession and we go through these stages where we preach design build vs a separation between design and construction professionals the industry has not changed much in my career.  I find it interesting that Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” which was written in the 40’s and takes place in the 20’s and uses the architectural industry as a back story to promoting her political views speaks to many of the same type of players and issues in the industry today.  There are developers, contractors, politicians and architects.  There are residential, public and commercial buildings and she even tackles issues such as affordable housing.  All the same issues we deal with today.   I do not see major changes in the business of the profession.  Although I do see major technical influences which will affect the way we design and build buildings.  There is a robot that lays brick now.  I think as the world gets smaller through technology building codes and licensing laws will become more standardized.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?

The use of BIM is becoming the most prevalent tool used in the design of buildings.  It allows architects and engineers to work in 3 dimensions, quickly and efficiently to improve coordination and actually see the building take shape on the screen.  Despite my comment about the brick laying robot above most construction is still done with heavy machinery and by hand.  However, technology has taken over the management of projects from creating schedules, to tracking financing and creating a database of information.  

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?      

This answer may seem odd to most architects but my great influence in design arrives from an understanding of real estate economics tied to a building’s function and economics.   When a student at NJIT I took an elective in real estate development.  It was taught by a gentleman who ran the development arm of a now defunct savings and loan so we will allow him to remain nameless.  However, he was very influential in that he said he hated architects and found them to be a necessary evil in the process because the law forced them on him to use.  Obviously, this got most of the students in the class upset but I wanted to know why he felt that way.  He thought that architects only cared about what the building looked like and had no understanding or really care for what it might cost to build, what’s its function was to be or how it generated revenue for its owners.  He introduced me to the business side of why clients build in the first place.  This motivated me to go on and obtain an MBA with a concentration in real estate development and urban land use after architectural school.  I feel that the business education in conjunction with my architectural education make me a stronger architect and have been the most influential on my design.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?     

I have been fortunate to work on almost any type of commercial project.  I would like to be exposed to more hospitality projects.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?   

I hope to mentor the next generation of architects in a way that they can understand the business goals of the client and why they are building so that they can better respond to the client’s needs I also want to mentor them to be strong leaders and great communicators.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?

I would advise them to not only pursue their dream of designing buildings but to learn about the profession as a whole, to learn about the process of becoming an architect and career choices in the industry.  When I was in school no one told me how to become a licensed architect I had to figure it out on my own.

What does Architecture mean to you?     

It is my profession, it is my life!

What is your design process?     

First understand the client’s program goals and budget, then study the site and zoning constraints, roll up my sleeves and dive in.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?     

A civil engineer and or real estate developer.

What is your dream project?     

A really tall building in a major city that becomes a landmark for years to come.  If I can be a partner in its ownership even better.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?     

Respect and care about the people you are leading, be kind but stern.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?     

All challenges revolve around people.  First finding qualified people, there is a tremendous shortage of qualified architects and engineers, second finding people that can see the big picture first before the crawl into the details and finally finding people that can communicate effectively.   As far as trends see my answer to where I see the industry going above

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?      

I am optimistic that we are at the beginning of a sustainable economic growth period.  This will provide many of us with significant projects to choose from and an even more challenging labor shortage.  An executive leader will need to be able to recruit talent and keep them motivated to stay.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?     

I do not know if I am any smarter today at 50 then I was when I got out of school in my early 20’s what I have gained is life experience.  The most important lesson is that people will surprise you. Some will impress you, some will disappoint you, some will be loyal and others not.  I have seen some crazy things happen some good and some bad.   Just when I think I have seen everything someone surprises me. 

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?      

Learn your trade, be good at and then learn to be a good communication and leader and business person.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA