Cub Scout Bike Rodeo

August 30th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

-Stop on a Dime-

Cub Scout Pack 300 had their annual Bike Rodeo a couple of weeks ago at Sechler Park in Northfield, and a good time was had by all.

We started out with a discussion about bicycling safety and hand signals, then hit the course. Yes, we transformed the parking lot into a miniature road system, complete with signage, crosswalks, and a water hazzard. Parent leaders coached the scouts as they approached each roadway element. The photo above shows a contestant in the “Stop on a Dime” test of skill. If the Scout’s front wheel stopped on the dime, he won it! Looks like a miss this time. We also had a snail race to test the scouts’ balance and bicycle control. Helmets were required of all riders.

Afterward, we all pedaled to Dundas and back on the Mill Towns Trail, then replenished our energy with ice cream cones.

- Off to Dundas-

- Bikers -

That’s me on the recumbent bike, and the kneecap band-aid in the photo is the only first aid we needed for the event.

We’re starting our 2006-2007 program year next month, so give me a call if your son is interested in joining us! 507-645-9020

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We’ve got Hail!

August 29th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

- Natural Ventilation-

-Pitch That!-

- Windshield -

 - Roof Damage -

- Valley Holes -

When the recent hailstorm hit Northfield, we received damage like most of the city. The photos speak for themselves, I think. We were lucky; no one was hurt and our house stayed dry through the storms.

I’ve got more shots if you’d like to see them, but they’re primarily for my insurance adjuster’s interest.

I didn’t get many photos during the storm; I was too entranced with the awesome power of the hail.

Hope I don’t get another chance. I’m sure Northfield feels the same.

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Northfield Deck and Pergola

August 14th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Pergola and Clouds

A little bit of painting is all that is left to be done for this deck in Northfield, designed by Peter Schmelzer of Vivus Architecture + Design and built by Northfield Construction.

Our client asked us to design an upscale, shaded deck to enhance the look of the home, supplement the existing screen porch, and provide space for outdoor entertaining. The resulting deck responds in scale and proportion to the existing home, improving the aesthetic of the home.

Guard rail and pergola

-Deck and Pergola-


We like how the light plays on the structure, highlighting the intentionaly simple geometries of the pergola and guardrail. The paint is still fresh, so the deck hasn’t seen much use yet. As the summer winds down, the final touches will be added and the deck will be inhabited, the true test of its beauty and functionality.

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Gore Vidal on Style

August 11th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.”

Gore Vidal

This quote caught my eye, given my recent interview with Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity ( who recently published “Design like you Give A Damn“.)

It’s a really thought provoking quote for me because of the many definitions of style in architecture. Initially, I disagreed, since I see historical architectural styles being parodied in modern residential construction. Then, after more thought, it became clear that Vidal is talking about personal style not just any style. That brought me back to the primary lesson (among many) of the Master’s Thesis: to design sustainably, I have to know my values, for they guide my choices both consciously and subconsciously. Or, in Vidal’s words, I’ve got to know who I am. “What I want to say” relates to the expression of the values and the importance of those values relative to that expression. Example from practice: balancing north-facing windows with heat loss. Not giving a damn means being commited to your values and expression. I’m a convert. The definition works for personal style.

I’m not ready to apply it to architecture, but I open to discussion on the matter. Let me hear your thoughts through the comments!

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Historic Addition and Remodeling Underway

August 11th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer


Although the house is not on the National Register of Historic Places, it is an older home that still has a lot of character. We worked hard in design to support and enhance that character with the new addition, despite limited lot space. How? Through careful attention to proportions and details and through listening to and echoing the existing architectural language of the home.

What doesn’t meet the casual eye are other issues important to the owner that the plan addresses, such as natural ventilation, energy efficiency, appropriate openness to the neighborhood, handicap accessibility, space utilization, and keeping the addition small.

We are pleased with the initial response of passers-by and the neighbors: The Owner already reports unsolicited comments about how well the addition blends in with the existing house in Northfield; it’s not even sided yet!

Mueller Dahl Remodeling is building the addition.

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Architect saves the day during construction!

August 9th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Sometimes, homeowners decline having their architect stay involved with their project during construction. It makes sense at first, given the natural impulse to save money. However, experience has taught us that it is often better to keep the architect on the team.

Here is an non-local example from the Not So Big House Forum, in which I participate from time to time:

Homeowner: Posted 27 July 2006 02:10 PM
I came home to find that the subcontractor laying the slab for our basement floor did not put in the expansion joints. We have had problems with him since the getgo. He has had to be forced to do everything according to plan. I now doubt whether he put in the vapor barrier or the mesh called for on the plans. Our contractor came to the site to remind them prior to pouring and the engineer at the architects office also told them to do the expansion joints. I do not know what to do our what the consequences my be. ????? I am so angry

Peter: Posted 07 August 2006 10:21 AM
My understanding is that concrete shrinks as it cures, so the joints you are after are actually “control joints”, controlling where the inevitable shrinkage cracks occur.
There are two ways to do these joints: tooling them in or saw cutting them. Cutting leaves a narrow kerf while tooling can offer a variety of edge configurations.
Have you retained your architect for construction administration? If so, they should address the issues with the contractor on your behalf.

Homeowner:Posted 07 August 2006 01:31 PM
Thank you. The sub ended up saw cutting them. My husband had not wanted the expense of retaining the architect for construction administration, but this incident with some others changed his mind. Luckily the architect was available (and just waiting for us to realize our folly). The contractor is perfectly ok with it, since they have worked together in the past. Whew. Learn as you go.

Peter: Posted 08 August 2006 05:29 PM

I’m glad you worked it out to your satisfaction.

As an architect, I recommend Construction Administration services to my clients, but the expense is often viewed as too much. Then, when there is a problem, it is often too late for an easy fix, a situation which we would all like to avoid.

Could I post your comments on my weblog, to help my prospective clients understand the value of having the architect involved during construction?

Homeowner: Posted 09 August 2006 10:33 AM
Go right ahead and post my comments (edited or not). It may help someone else avoid a headache, and if spouses are in disagreement over the expense, it may help sway one to the other side. Frankly I would tell anyone building to contract for Architect’s Construction Administration services.

Things are going so much smoother now. There were other questions relating to unexpected site developments and the architect drew up new details to make sure we had an aethetically pleasing and cost effective solution.

Why go through all the expense and time to work with an architect to plan the best house for your own needs and then let it up to chance and a contractor whether or not you get the house you envisioned? We are not wealthy people, but we have a spectacular site and no stock plan was going to do it justice. I don’t want to be disappointed and I would rather put off some work or do it myself than compromise the plan to death.

I added the emphasis above, because it matches our experience.

Let’s be clear here. This may have been primarily a miscommunication between contractor and owner or it could have been the homeowner’s inexperience with expansion joints. Either way, it had a significant emotional impact on the homeowner. Had the architect been involved at the time, the issue would have been quickly diffused, saving the homeowner some emotional energy. Sometimes contractors and homeowners speak different languages, and your architect can translate.

Three things I really liked from the last comments.

First, the change in the homeowner’s tone and level of satisfaction after the architect became involved again.

Second, the change from a bumpy road to a smooth process.

Finally, the evident teamwork between owner, contractor and architect to handle unforseen situations to the owner’s satisfaction.

What a strong testament to retaining an architect for construction administration!

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Quote: Woodrow Wilson

August 3rd, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.”
-Woodrow Wilson

We agree! That is why we have named our firm VIVUS!

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