How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood by Emily Anthes (Scientific American Mind, April 22, 2009).

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 11:41 AM

Salk Institute by Louis I Kahn

Articles worth reading.

In the 1950s prize winning biologist and doctor Jonas Salk was working on a cure for polio in a dark basement laboratory in Pittsburgh. Progress was slow, so to clear his head, Salk traveled to Assisi, Italy, where he spent time in a 13th-century monastery, ambling amid its columns and cloistered courtyards. Suddenly, Salk found himself awash in new insights, including the one that would lead to his successful polio vaccine. Salk was convinced he had drawn his inspiration from the contemplative setting. He came to believe so strongly in architecture’s ability to influence the mind that he teamed up with renowned architect Louis Kahn to build the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., as a scientific facility that would stimulate breakthroughs and encourage creativity.

Architects have long intuited that the places we inhabit can affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But now, half a century after Salk’s inspiring excursion, behavioral scientists are giving these hunches an empirical basis. They are unearthing tantalizing clues about how to design spaces that promote creativity, keep students focused and alert, and lead to relaxation and social intimacy. Institutions such as the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in San Diego are encouraging interdisciplinary research into how a planned environment influences the mind, and some architecture schools are now offering classes in introductory neuroscience.

Such efforts are already informing design, leading to cutting-edge projects, such as residences for seniors with dementia in which the building itself is part of the treatment. Similarly, the Kingsdale School in London was redesigned, with the help of psychologists, to promote social cohesion; the new structure also includes elements that foster alertness and creativity. What is more, researchers are just getting started. “All this is in its infancy,” says architect David Allison, who heads the Architecture + Health program at Clemson University. “But the emerging neuroscience research might give us even better insights into how the built environment impacts our health and well-being, how we perform in environments and how we feel in environments.”

Higher Thought
Formal investigations into how humans interact with the built environment began in the 1950s, when several research groups analyzed how the design of hospitals, particularly psychiatric facilities, influenced patient behaviors and outcomes. In the 1960s and 1970s the field that became known as environmental psychology blossomed.

“There was a social conscience growing in architecture around that time,” says John Zeisel, a Columbia University–trained sociologist who, as president of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, specializes in the design of facilities for people who have dementia. Architects began to ask themselves, Zeisel adds, “‘What is there about people that we need to find out about in order to build buildings that respond to people’s needs?’ ” The growth of the brain sciences in the late 20th century gave the field a new arsenal of technologies, tools and theories. Researchers began to consider “how can we utilize the rigorous methods of neuroscience and a deeper understanding of the brain to inform how we design,” says Eve Edelstein, a visiting neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, and adjunct professor at the New School of Architecture and Design, also in San Diego.

Now research has emerged that could help illuminate Salk’s observation that aspects of the physical environment can influence creativity. In 2007 Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, reported that the height of a room’s ceiling affects how people think. She randomly assigned 100 people to a room with either an eight- or 10-foot ceiling and asked participants to group sports from a 10-item list into categories of their own choice. The people who completed the task in the room with taller ceilings came up with more abstract categories, such as “challenging” sports or sports they would like to play, than did those in rooms with shorter ceilings, who offered more concrete groupings, such as the number of participants on a team. “Ceiling height affects the way you process information,” Meyers-Levy says. “You’re focusing on the specific details in the lower-ceiling condition.”

Because her earlier work had indicated that elevated ceilings make people feel physically less constrained, the investigator posits that higher ceilings encourage people to think more freely, which may lead them to make more abstract connections. The sense of confinement prompted by low ceilings, on the other hand, may inspire a more detailed, statistical outlook—which might be preferable under some circumstances. “It very much depends on what kind of task you’re doing,” Meyers-Levy explains. “If you’re in the operating room, maybe a low ceiling is better. You want the surgeon getting the details right.” Similarly, paying bills might be most efficiently accomplished in a room with low ceilings, whereas producing great works of art might be more likely in a studio with loftier ones. How high the ceiling actually is, Meyers-Levy points out, is less important than how high it feels. “We think you can get these effects just by manipulating the perception of space,” she says, by using light-colored paint, for instance, or mirrors to make the room look more spacious.

Natural Focus
In addition to ceiling height, the view afforded by a building may influence intellect—in particular, an occupant’s ability to concentrate. Although gazing out a window suggests distraction, it turns out that views of natural settings, such as a garden, field or forest, actually improve focus. A study published in 2000 by environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, now at Cornell University, and her colleagues followed seven- to 12-year-old children before and after a family move. Wells and her team evaluated the panoramas from windows in each old and new home. They found that kids who experienced the greatest increase in greenness as a result of the move also made the most gains on a standard test of attention. (The scientists controlled for differences in housing quality, which turned out not to be associated with attention.) Another experiment demonstrated that college students with views of nature from their dorm rooms scored higher on measures of mental focus than did those who overlooked entirely man-made structures.

Green play space may be especially beneficial for students with attention disorders. Landscape architect and researcher William Sullivan of the University of Illinois and his colleagues studied 96 children with attention deficit disorder (ADD). The scientists asked parents to describe their children’s ability to concentrate—say, on homework or spoken directions—after the kids engaged in activities such as fishing, soccer and playing video games in which they were exposed to varying amounts of greenery. “The parents reported that their children’s ADD symptoms were least severe after they’d been in or observing green spaces,” says Sullivan, whose results were published in 2001.

Such findings may be the result of a restorative effect on the mind of gazing on natural scenes, according to an idea developed by psychologists Stephen Kaplan and Rachel Kaplan, both at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. By this theory, the tasks of the modern world can engender mental fatigue, whereas looking out at a natural setting is relatively effortless and can give the mind a much needed rest. “A number of studies have shown that when people look at nature views, whether they’re real or projected on a screen, their ability to focus improves,” Stephen Kaplan says.

Nature views may be more rejuvenating than urban scenes are, Sullivan adds, because humans have an innate tendency to respond positively toward nature—an explanation dubbed the biophilia hypothesis. “We evolved in an environment that predisposes us to function most effectively in green spaces,” he says. In a December 2008 paper in Psychological Science, Stephen Kaplan also proposes that urban settings are too stimulating and that attending to them—with their traffic and crowds—requires more cognitive work than gazing at a grove of trees does.

Using nature to boost attention ought to pay off academically, and it seems to, according to a study that will be published in spring 2009 and that was led by C. Kenneth Tanner, head of the School Design & Planning Laboratory at the University of Georgia. In their analysis of more than 10,000 fifth-grade students in 71 Georgia elementary schools, Tanner and his colleagues found that students in classrooms with unrestricted views of at least 50 feet outside the window, including gardens, mountains and other natural elements, had higher scores on tests of vocabulary, language arts and math than did students without such expansive vistas or whose classrooms primarily overlooked roads, parking lots and other urban fixtures.

Seeing the Light
In addition to greenery, the natural world has something else to offer building occupants: light. Daylight synchronizes our sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, enabling us to stay alert during the day and to sleep at night. Nevertheless, many institutional buildings are not designed to let in as much natural light as our mind and body need.

A lack of light can be a particular problem for schoolchildren. “You take a child who probably didn’t get enough rest, dump them off in front of a school where there’s very little natural light, and guess what? They have jet lag,” Tanner says. A 1992 study followed Swedish schoolchildren in four different classrooms for a year. The research showed that the kids in classrooms with the least daylight had disrupted levels of cortisol, a hormone that is regulated by the body’s circadian rhythms.

Adequate sunlight has also been shown to improve student outcomes. In 1999 the Heschong Mahone Group, a consulting group based in California that specializes in building energy-efficient structures, collected scores on standardized tests of math and reading for more than 21,000 elementary school students in three school districts in three states: California, Washington and Colorado. Using photographs, architectural plans and in-person visits, the researchers rated the amount of daylight available in each of more than 2,000 classrooms on a scale of 0 to 5. In one school district—Capistrano, Calif.—students in the sunniest classrooms advanced 26 percent faster in reading and 20 percent faster in math in one year than did those with the least daylight in their classrooms. In the other two districts, ample light boosted scores between 7 and 18 percent.

Retirement homes can also be too dark to keep circadian clocks ticking away normally. In a study published in 2008 neuroscientist Rixt F. Riemersma-van der Lek of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and her colleagues randomly selected six of 12 assisted-living facilities in Holland to have supplemental lighting installed, bringing the luminosity to approximately 1,000 lux; the other six provided dimmer lighting of around 300 lux. On tests taken at six-month intervals over three and a half years, the residents of the more brightly lit buildings showed 5 percent less cognitive decline than occupants of the six darker buildings did. (The additional lighting also reduced symptoms of depression by 19 percent.) Other studies show that circadian rhythms keep the brain functioning optimally by calibrating hormone levels and metabolic rate, for example. Elderly people—especially those with dementia—often have circadian disruptions. Providing bright daytime light, the researchers believe, could have helped restore their proper rhythms and thus have improved overall brain function.

The wavelength of light is also crucial. Our circadian systems are primarily regulated by short-wavelength blue light; the photoreceptors that feed back to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a part of the hypothalamus that regulates our daily rhythms, relay the most nerve impulses to the brain when they detect blue light. This short-wavelength light—present in sunlight—lets the brain and body know it is daytime. (In contrast, our rods and cones, which are responsible for vision, fire maximally when exposed to green or yellow-green light.)

Researchers recommend using blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and full-spectrum fluorescent lights in buildings during the day; both have enough blue light to trigger the circadian system and keep occupants awake and alert. After dark, buildings could switch to lamps and fixtures with longer-wavelength bulbs, which are less likely to emit light detected by the circadian system and interfere with sleep at night. “If you can give people a lighting scheme where they can differentiate between day and night, that would be an important architectural decision,” says Mariana Figueiro, program director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

A Room to Relax
Although bright light might boost cognition, recent work suggests it counteracts relaxation and openness—effects that might be more important than alertness in some settings. In a 2006 study counselors interviewed 80 university students individually in either a dim or a brightly lit counseling room. The students then completed a questionnaire about their reactions to the interview. The students questioned in the dim room felt more relaxed, viewed the counselor more positively and shared more information about themselves than those counseled in the brighter room did. The findings suggest that dim light helps people to loosen up. If that is true generally, keeping the light low during dinner or at parties could foster relaxation and intimacy.

A room’s contents can be similarly soothing—or the opposite. Neuroscientist Moshe Bar of Harvard Medical School and Maital Neta, then his research assistant, showed subjects photographs of various versions of neutral objects, such as sofas and watches. The examples of each item were identical except that some had curved or rounded edges, whereas others had sharp, squared-off perimeters. When asked to make snap judgments about these objects, subjects significantly preferred those with curves. Bar speculates that this preference exists because we associate sharp angles with danger. (The brain may sense a greater hazard, for instance, from a cave in which jagged rocks protrude from the walls than from one in which rounded rocks do the same.) “Maybe sharp contours are coded in our brains as potential threats,” he says.

Bar provided some support for this theory in a 2007 study in which subjects again viewed a series of neutral objects—this time while their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The neuroscientist found that the amygdala, which is involved in fear processing and emotional arousal, was more active when people were looking at objects with sharp angles. “The underpinnings are really deep in our brain,” Bar explains. “Very basic visual properties convey to us some higher-level information such as ‘Red alert!’ or ‘Relax, it’s all smooth; there’s no threat in the area.’ ” He acknowledges that an object’s contour is not the only element that informs our aesthetic preferences, and his research is still in its early stages. But all other things being equal, filling a living room or waiting room with furniture that has rounded or curved edges could help visitors unwind.

Furniture choices can also influence human interaction. Some of the earliest environmental psychology research focused on seating plans in residential health care facilities; scientists discovered that the common practice of placing chairs along the walls of resident day rooms or lounges actually prevented socializing. A better plan to encourage interaction, researchers found, is organizing furniture in small groupings throughout the room. A 1999 study by psychologists at the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg in Germany and Uppsala University in Sweden examined seating in a different setting. Over eight weeks and more than 50 lessons, the researchers rotated a class of fourth-grade students between two seating arrangements: rows of desks and a semi circle of desks around the teacher. The semicircle configuration increased student participation, boosting the number of questions pupils asked. Other studies suggest that putting desks in rows encourages students to work independently and improves classroom behavior.

Carpeting can also grease the social wheels. In hospitals, carpet increases the amount of time patients’ friends and families spend visiting, according to a 2000 study led by health care design expert Debra Harris, now president and CEO of RAD Consultants in Austin. Such social support may ultimately speed healing. Of course, carpeting is much harder to clean than traditional hospital flooring—and may present a health hazard in some settings—so it may not be appropriate for places such as an emergency room, where there is high patient turnover and plenty of mess. But rooms, buildings or wards that are home to long-term patients, such as assisted-living facilities, may benefit from carpets.

So far scientists have focused mainly on public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and stores. Thus, a homeowner interested in boosting his or her mind through design must do some extrapolating. “We have a very limited number of studies, so we’re almost looking at the problem through a straw,” Clemson’s Allison says. “Now we need to find more general patterns. How do you take answers to very specific questions and make broad, generalized use of them? That’s what we’re all struggling with.”

The struggle should pay off, experts believe, because when designers fabricate buildings with the mind in mind, the occupants benefit. Well-designed special care units for Alzheimer’s patients reduced anxiety, aggression, social withdrawal, depression and psychosis, according to a 2003 study by Zeisel and his colleagues. And school design can account for between 10 and 15 percent of variation in elementary school students’ scores on a standardized test of reading and math skills, suggests a 2001 report by investigators at the University of Georgia.

“Because of advances in neuroscience, we can begin measuring the effects of the environment at a finer level of detail than we have before,” U.C.S.D.’s Edelstein says. “We can understand the environment better, we can understand our responses better, and we can correlate them to the outcomes. I just get chills when I think about it.”

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, “Building Around the Mind”.
Scientific American Mind, April 22, 2009
http://emilyanthes.com/2009/04/12/building-around-the-mind/

How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood
Brain research can help us craft spaces that relax, inspire, awaken, comfort and heal
By Emily Anthes

Human resources – Architectural organization

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 12:49 AM


Employment

Main objective is to hire the right person for the right job. Upon the employment of a staff that have agreed and accept the letter of appointment, they should be a certain period of induction course. This is important to make sure the new staff is given a brief idea on how the organization works, objectives and office manual and operation procedures. Some major companies such as Petronas, TNB may have a week or 2 just for the induction course. New staff should be taught about time management as well as it is the most essential aspect in professionalism. Some offices impose a law of deducting salary for late comers without strong justifications which in my opinion is a reasonable thing to do. The employee should realize about responsibility towards the employer and discipline. To summarize, the organization should have an office manual to be read and understand by a new staff.
For architectural firm, there should be a proper system in dealing with printing documents especially a wide format printing. Some companies have printing department where person who wanted to print out have to fill in a form as a record. In my opinion, this is a good practice as it controls the amounts of error printing and cost wise although it may seems tedious. I have seen the case of a printing of 20 copies of AO drawing that in the end have to be thrown due to error that have been mischecked, to add the pain all in coloured. This mistakes or negligence can cause a fortune.
Consumption, recycle, waste, reuse or whatever you call it should be engraved as part of induction course modul. Program them to get used to reminder such as use recycle paper for draft printing, switch off unused PC, lights, AC, battery charger and other electrical appliances. It may not cost as much as few hundred and thousand per month for a small firm but for a huge corporate organization, it may cost a lot. Shouldn’t we concern about green building practices and sustainability. The point is to set the new staff straight and educate them to have sensitivity and sense of responsibility towards company vision and mission. Hiring incompetent person for the job may bring a disaster especially in construction where timing is crucial. 6 month or 3 month probation period should be enough to determine the capability the staff. Take necessary action if the staff does not meet the expectation whether to transfer to other section which their skills suits them or the last choice to terminate them with proper notice base on labour law.

Training

Training is a process of developing skills, knowledge, capability in order to enhance self capacity to perform job. In architectural field, it may be divided into several types such as design skill, technical skills, presentation skills and management skills. The company should have a mission to be an educational oriented and R&D firm. It not only benefited the staff but the company as well as the good resources developed by the company can be the assets. Fresh graduate architect should be given a chance to involve and explore all stages of architectural services from designing to handing over of the building. Being in the big firm may have wider advantages in exposure to various kinds of projects from housing, mix development, high rise, commercial and educational complexes. However, it depends on the company’s policy as well. Some company just divides the team into design department or construction department in which the staff will involve and be specialist in one specific area only. In my opinion, the staff should be given the opportunity to expand himself and from that we can make judgement on what they are capable of or have more interest in. This is what I call potential development. The training of the staff could be achieved from team grouping and mentoring scheme. Staffs are divided into several teams and they will compete and produce the same design. However, the competition should be approached in a healthy way of having a few alternative and idea sharing. Critique session between groups may help each other to make the design better. Good value and ‘adab’ of giving critiques also should be imposed as without proper control it may lead to ill feeling and heart broken. In a group should have senior and junior members mixed up together. If the office have the record of the staff performance, it’s better to mix up them in order to encourage each other. With one senior management as a mentor, the group can act as an entity that function to help each other and the mentor is the one who encourage and boost motivation. 
Besides that, the spiritual aspect should been train as well. It helps to produce good staff/workers with the strong belief that what they do / the job is part of their responsibility and should not be taken lightly and carelessly. This is where the function of religion and belief is essential in the working environment. A part of training that in my opinion should be developed is Research and Development (R&D). To ensure that all the information and resources that we got through every process been documented, recorded, evaluate and create a mainframe for further research and study. For example, all material samples received should be kept properly, tagged and documented for future reference. The library with hands full of reference is also apart of R&D. The company may experiment on various building materials and produce analytical report to support the findings. These findings and research may strengthen the design intent. Question such as what materials, why that material, which is economical, aesthetically point of view should been ask and elaborate. The training of the staff is a process of give and take from the company for mutual benefit. It is satisfying if people recognize your company for having or producing enthusiastic and competent staff. Some company even sponsored the staff to further their studies in certain field which will benefit the company. With certain term and condition that the staff has to bind an employment contract with the company after graduation, it is for future investment. 

Evaluation

Working environment cannot be separated from performance as it is the key for the company success. It is not something new in big corporation where the staff performance will be reviewed annually or monthly. The evaluation / appraisal are some kind of motivation for the staff to be better, to improve and to develop in their career. The reward could be in term of bonus together with letter of appreciation, present/gift, rank promotion or to some extend shares of the company. In order for the company to evaluate, there should have a performance record system. However the flaw in this system which was created by man itself are bias evaluation, evaluation base on preference/favourite and bribery. That is why it is important for the company to establish professionalism and work ethics among the staff. For Muslims, we do know that working can be part of ‘ibadah’ if we do it for the sake of Allah’s ……and we fulfill our responsibility by giving the best effort as possible. To the assessor, it is in your hand that the staff will be better or the other way around.  
After the appraisal, there should be a session for individual meeting between the management and the personnel to explain, get feed back, motivational input on the appraisal review. It is for the staff to get the idea on what he should improve, for him to express any dissatisfaction towards the company or merely to give encouragement and appreciation of their hard work. This session will be beneficial to both the office and the personnel by highlighting the area need to be improved besides developing the sense of caring upon the staff.

Motivation

One aspect to determine the company’s survival is staff’s motivation. Besides bonuses and promotion, there are a lot can be done to boost the staff’s morale. The management may create several groups of committees among the staff. For example, Sports and recreation committee. Organizing games among staff and their families will tie a strong relationship between the organization and the personnel. The activities may be organized on weekly or monthly basis depending on the participants. Who knows, they may among those talented sportsman which can be office representative to compete in tournaments bearing the office/organization flag. I remember somebody told me they do have inter firm sports event back in 90’s. Or they can conduct a proper programmed activity such as Family Day on annual basis. Family involvement in the company is important as it give the impression that the company care about their staff fully. It also develops sense of trust among the family that they will allow and support the staff in work matter. For example, they will allow the staff to stay back late at night for submission. 
Some companies also organize an annual trip to interesting places be it in Malaysia or abroad. This is the contribution package by the company for a year of hard work. Other than that, the celebration in the office is a good means to ease stress a bit. They can have a birthday celebration once a month for any person whose birthday in that particular month. Other cultural celebration also may be organized to show respects to the staffs related. Normally, they may have a celebration of main big festival such as Hari raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Cristmas depending on the multi ethnic staff that the company has. 

Welfare

Some of the welfare issue does include in the employment contract, terms and conditions such as annual leave, maternity leave, health insurance, medical benefits, family benefits and so on. I would like to discuss on other things which are commonly not written in the contract. As for companies that have Muslim as their staff, I would like to suggest them to provide a space for pray or mini ‘surau’ which adequate to cater for congregational prayer both for male and female. It would be best if the space is within the office area. It may seems too much if the building itself have their own praying area .However it may effect the working hour of the staff if the distance is far and who knows how long it would take if the praying session is add up with smoking and chit chatting session. By having a paying area in the office, it can be a place to conduct religious talk to strengthen the spiritual aspect of the personnel. Strong spiritual belief result to good working ethics which contributes to productivity as Islam encourages us to strive for the best. 
As human being, we are not free from mistakes and problems. Due to that nature, it is good if the companies has the counseling committee or have anybody who is capable to listen to others problems. This is important if the problem affect the staff performance. By having the problem acknowledge by the management, some counter measure may be taken to ease the burden of the staff involved. This matter has to be carefully taken care of as once that been trusted as a councilor should not reveal the problems to others/ethic of councilor. 

To conclude, this is all matter to develop love and responsibility for the company. With love, the staff will do the work diligently and sincerely thinking that the successful and failure of the company is shared and felt by them as well.


You've made my day

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 12:17 PM



Today is another day with the same routine, 15minutes travel to workplace. A stack of as built drawings to be reviewed, a few inspection requests and some other things waiting to be attended to, some problems on site to be taken care of. With all this, my emotional stability is still at B+ level until I went to the pantry and toilet at noon to find out there is no water and you didn’t have a clue on why’s that happening. That’s not all, the internet connection was down as well disrupting the downloading of a couple of drawings send by the head office to be presented asap. Then went to do other things, only to find out that photocopy machine is not working due toner problems and same goes to the printer which one of the colour is run out of supplies. So you cannot print, cannot photocopy, the basic offices equipment and supplies is not available such as files, A3 papers, blank CD and even the portable hard drive (no thing such a LAN system here). Would like to conclude everything as FRUSTRATING (level C-). (Disclaimer : This story is fictional and does not related to any parties)

The basic office supplies for the site management team on site are under the main contractor’s responsibility. Problem such as shortage of power supply and water supply should not happen even the site is under construction. The supply should be tap from a constant supply with approval from the local authority. Back up supply also should be put into consideration as we do not know what will happen in the future. Additional water tank and generator in case of supply failure should be considered. Imagine if it happen during the night of working hour. It’s a pity if the job could not be carried out due to shortage of power. What could happen if the supply does have problems for a couple of days? It sure does affect the timeline and progress of the job.

For basic office equipment, there should be a person assigned to check all supplies in a week, month basis or whenever needed to ensure necessary action of acquisition of the supplies may be done.

The consultants are human being which could be affected by emotion even they shouldn’t as it is against the principle of professionalism. However it does give a bad impression on the main contractor’s performance and management. Lack of sensitivity on basic needs will reflect upon the project/job as a whole. Good contractor will not do this kind of mistakes. It like you went for an interview for a corporate top management position with a round neck T shirt with short and slippers. You’ll be lucky even to be able to meet the interviewers. Its all about impression and sensitivity.

GLASS RAILING - partial detail

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 7:04 AM

click image to enlarge

Saudis Trivia

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 12:52 AM



The population of Riyadh being the capital of Saudi Arabia has been drastically increased for the past 10 years (estimated to be around 6.4million). It comprises of 60% of Saudis and the rest are expatriates from various parts of the world. If I may summarized based on my observations, here are qualities and behavior of Saudi people / Saudis or Non Saudi who has been assimilated and absorbed by the locals.

1. Upon entering small store (bakalah, kedai runcit) they tend to greet the shopkeeper with Assalamualaykum. This is a very good practice as a Muslim which we may instill in our Malaysian culture. Some of them even greet each other while passing by even they don’t know you.

2. Congregational prayer in the mosque has been practiced for 5 times daily prayers. All of them from as young as 5 years to the elderly with walking stick obediently performing the duty in the mosque. I even saw someone with a wheel chair attending the congregational prayer as well. The shops are all closed during prayer times and the people swarmed the mosque just like during Friday prayers. That is why you may find mosque at every 500m from each other. I can even hear multiple times ‘azan’ (calling for prayer) been delivered from my house.

3. They do love kids a great deal. I bet if u have a kid and go to shopping mall, there will be at least one person to greet and play with your kid. Even a 7 year old kid will at least touch your baby’s hand. Some may give sweets or candies and there’s a few times they ask to photograph my kids. I can say it is nearly none this kind of things happening in Malaysia. Kids are being taught to aware of strangers as the rising cases of missing children. It’s frightening to think about my children safety in Malaysia compared with here in Saudi.

4. I guess they do love to just stay at home on the Friday morning. If you want to have a quiet and peaceful driving along the road in Riyadh, it has to be on Friday morning before the Jumaat prayer. For us, its time for our trip to Batha for a taste of delicious and moist shawarma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawarma). It is hardly to see Saudis on Friday morning. Driver washing the car is common things to see around this time. However, it change starting after Jumaat prayer till the sun set, all of a sudden the deserted road will be flocked and cramped with traffics.

What about the other side of it? In that case you may have to search for others opinion as I only point out about what I like about them (Saudis).
Have a nice day.

Precast concrete technology - Architectural finishing

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 5:33 AM

Hedorf's residence Hall, Denmark (KHR Architect)

Being in Saudi Arabia for the past 3 years enable me to conclude that besides steel, glass enveloped building, precast concrete fa├žade is widely use here as it is somehow practical. Besides been used as a structural member, its also use as final architectural finishing elements. What is precast concrete?


Precast concrete is a form of construction, where concrete is cast in a reusable mould or "form" which is then cured in a controlled environment, transported to the construction site and lifted into place. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precast)

Why I said it is practical here?
When we discuss about practicality in construction, we cannot avoid to relate it with cost, time and process/method.

CLIMATE - First of all, lets take a look into Riyadh climate being in the central region of Saudi Arabia. This city has 2 types of climate which are summer (April-Oct) and winter (Nov-Mar). The temperature during summer can go as high as 50 degree C while during winter it may go as low as -5 degree C. The difference in temperature is about 55 degree which is considered extreme. Compare to Malaysia, The difference in climate is about 15 degree C. The extreme climate condition in Riyadh does affect the performance of building materials as building elements tend to contract in cold and expand in hot condition.
In term of method, precast concrete as define earlier, is developed in the controlled environment. It saves the hassle of curing consideration on climate. However the design of the precast panel should incorporate building movement into consideration. Example ; soft joints, movement joint, expansion joint.
Unlike ‘in-situ’ concrete casting or plastering works, one should take consideration on the curing issue especially during summer. Fail to do so may result failure in concrete strength or debonding substrate. Certain chemical also need to be implies to enhance bonding ability and expand/contract reaction. And if the concrete did fail due to climatic response, the main contractor has to bear the cost of rectifying the works. In this case, cost implies.

QUALITY – Precast concrete panel is constructed using mold. The quality of the outcome mainly depends on the sub contractor / specialist in precast concrete. The QA/QC should check the mold prior to casting process. The thing that the main contractor has to take care of is the erection process unless it was done by other parties. The final finishing such as paint either can be applied later after erecting or could be pigmented during the molding process. Pigmented concrete is good for long term cost saving in term of maintenance. The sub contractor for precast concrete is held responsible for the quality issue which the main contractor could highlight before acceptance of the precast unit.
For non precast work, more on site QA/QC and supervision is needed before, during and after the casting work. The formwork, setting out, the reinforcement, the materials, grade of concrete, etc have to be properly supervised and executed. It requires more materials to finish it such as plastering accessories, paint works, concrete preparation and repair. Again, cost implies in the matter of rectification works and the methods involved along the way.

SITE PERSONNEL AND LABOUR - labour usage for precast concrete process may be minimal from the main contractor’s side as they just emphasize on supervision and QA/QC. The delivery of the precast panel can be regarded into sub contractor’s responsibility.
In comparison with in situ casting, the labour may expand from the preparation of formwork and reinforcement, concrete pouring, post concreting process and finally finishing. Supervision in hourly basis also increases throughout every stage.

TIME – In term of timing, it may be affected by certain factors such as the complexity of the precast panel, mobilization of precast into site and technology availability. However, provided that the precast sub contractor is reliable, from the design of the precast to the inspection period, in my opinion precast construction is faster than in situ concrete casting. As the quality take place, it sure save the time of major repairing of the concrete surface. If the panels are repetitive, it also saves the cost and time of rebuilding formwork as well as labour wise.

Considering the nature of the construction industry in Saudi Arabia, I may suggest that it is best to go for precast solution where it is possible. Precast method also better in dealing with curvy design and organic form where it reduces the uneven and undulation of concrete surface which easily exposed under the sun by the shades it creates. However, the main contractor may have to invest more on the short run but it does save a lot on the long run as we don’t want to be as a saying ‘save a penny, lose a pound’ or ‘save a halalah lose a riyal’.

Back to basic - understandable, readable and constructable shop drawing

Posted by mashrabiya | Posted in | Posted on 2:35 AM


A shop drawing is a drawing or set of drawings produced by the contractor, supplier, manufacturer, subcontractor, or fabricator. Shop drawings are not produced by architects and engineers under their contract with the owner. The shop drawing is the manufacturer’s or the contractor’s drawn version of information shown in the construction documents. The shop drawing normally shows more detail than the construction documents. It is drawn to explain the fabrication and/or installation of the items to the manufacturer’s production crew or contractor's installation crews. The style of the shop drawing is usually very different from that of the architect’s drawing. The shop drawing’s primary emphasis is on the particular product or installation and excludes notation concerning other products and installations, unless integration with the subject product is necessary.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shop_drawing)

From my perspectives and experience here shop drawing is derives from coordinated drawing between all disciplines (architecture, mechanical, civil, structural and electrical) and suppliers details. The coordination task is mainly under the main contractor’s responsibility.

Architect / Draughtperson should put in mind these 2 things :
1. What kind of information required
2. Who will read the drawing

Its like when you buy furniture from IKEA which you have to assemble yourself, you’ll be given a diagram on how to put up the furniture together. The diagram should be easily understandable by the customer be it the customer is a skilled class worker or a layman. It’s the same when we are talking about shop drawing. It should be able to be read by the installer/builder.

For this project, all the drawing are organized and prepared by the main contractor. It is contractor’s responsibility to ensure it is fully coordinated to meet the specifications as prescribed in the contract documents/drawings. The architect as the head of design department should ensure the drawing issued for approval is properly coordinated with structural, civil, mechanical and electrical discipline.

I remember during my matriculation centre, we have been taught about technical drawings in our graphic communication subject. We have been introduced to architectural floor plan, elevation, section and axonometric. These are common communication tools used in building construction. There are even various kind of plans depending on what purpose of the plan or what information to show. For example, site plan, building plan, landscape plan, reflected ceiling plan etc. Different plan require different set of information. Plan with crowded information not always the best as it may be confusing and distracting if it is filled with unnecessary and repetitive information. It goes back to 2 aspect to be taken into account as noted previously. To summarize, here are the things that I have gone through during checking the shop drawing.

LETTERING SIZES – specifications sizes too small. No standardization on the lettering format. Not to mention the arrows for the specs, too small, missing and incorrect point. I got to admit that looking at drawing that is hardly to read is frustrating and affect the emotion of the checker. Though I as possible as I may to be professional, I just couldn’t help if the mistakes repeat more than twice.


DIMENSIONING – dimension is the most important information to give rough idea on the sizes especially to the fabricator even they have to do site measurement for confirmation. Unnecessary dimension should be avoided. Give clearer point of dimension from A to B. Give set out point, think on how the builder going to start, what dimension do they need. More consideration on dimensioning if the shape of the building is curvy or irregular such as angle, radius etc.

LINE WEIGHT – basic aspect on graphic communication in drafting. One should able to identify on which one need bold line and which are not. In elevation, one that stands out or much to the front is bolder than the one beyond. In details, the one with solid/rough build up should use thicker line such as concrete, structural I beam. The lighter materials use thinner line. The thinnest line should go to hatching as I just an indication of materials and in some cases its better not to hatch than the opposite.

SCALE – scale of drawing will determine the complexity of the information delivered. Depends on the size of the project, some drawing require blow ups or enlarge details up to five times. The drawing should able to give information required and readable. If the drawing is too crowded, some section/part may be excluded and blow up with bigger scale for clarity. Nevertheless, the sizes of lettering should remain the same/standardize even the drawing scale is different.

BUBBLE REFERENCES / ANNOTATION – reference bubble are use to indicate a blow up or section details to be referred to another drawing. Reference number should refer to correct drawing/details. This mistake could have been avoided if proper drawing management is developed.

CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS WRITING – specifications is very important to be written correctly as it will incur cost, procurement and contractual implications in a construction project. As the shop drawing will be a legal document, it is essential to thoroughly checked and standardize the specifications. I have encounter a few cases where the specs in one drawing differ with another drawing even it’s the same thing. It is the architect / coordinator’s responsibility to ensure the specs is as per approved materials and method statement.

PRESENTATION – aesthetic is the most important consideration in architecture. The way we want the building look nice, it’s the same with the drawing. It should be presentable and neat. Things such as alignment of lettering, overlapping of specs and drawing, blank space occupy most of the drawing area and arrangement of drawings/details should be taken care of in the 1st place.

I could not refrain myself from putting half of the blame to the technology. With the advance drafting method using computers, Computer Aided Design (CAD), by right it should make the drafting more accurate and less mistakes. However, it as per says about computer technology, ‘garbage in garbage out’. It still depends on the users/drafters itself. The architect in charge / coordinator should ALWAYS do the final checking of the drawing before issuing it for approval by the consultant.