Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Waffle Breakfast" or "The 25 Hour Day"

Its been a while... I'll admit it.  I've posted about 13 days LESS than I should have this month according to my average for the first two months.  As you can imagine... this does not bode well for the rest of the daily habits:  no blogging, no pushups, no spending reports, no french.  Bleh.  But If you remember from one of my previous posts I described one of my new habits/celebrations as the post-all nighter waffle breakfast.  In the past two weeks... I've eaten a LOT of waffles.  That said, this will be a post about a multitude of concerns that pushed me towards extra waffles and a "25" in the Wednesday column of my time sheet.
I'll start at the beginning:  In the past three weeks, three people from my project team (of six) have left.  Those three people were also the people who had the most long term experience with the project.  It is also important to mention the fact that I have had four deadlines since the beginning of April.  Oh... and my project manager got chicken pox and was out of the office for about six days during the last two deadlines.  That sets the stage a little bit, imagine too much work with a shrunken inexperienced (on the project) team.  At each of the previous meetings there have been so many changes that we have edited essential building elements (elevator location, entire building dimensions and proportion blah blah blah).  That is our given environment, next I'll give a list of very generic requirements for this project:

1.  Renovation to an existing building in Paris (we are adding a "new building" on the roof of an old warehouse/factory)

2.  This is a "master planned" project.  One team of architects set up rules, and about six other companies are each designing their building to fit within the rules.  Our company has Two buildings, I am in charge of one of them.  The master planners coordinate all project teams, they also change things for the lower floors which will be commercial space.

3.  I have one neighbor, with whom I share a wall.

4.  There is a restaurant shoved into the bottom two floors of my building... but I am required on floors 3-7 to go to a lot limit that is on TOP of the restaurant.  This means I have a mechanical shaft (for the stove) running through my building to the roof.  This mechanical shaft is as large as my bedroom in my apartment in Jersey City.  

5.  We have a client beyond the master planning team who have their own set of requirements.

6.  These clients are building "social housing," or super cheap government subsidized housing.
6a. In social housing EVERY apartment needs to be handicapped accessible.

7.  The client is also a savvy developer and has been making a lot of money for a long time building social housing, their requirements are intense.

8.  We are contractually obligated to create a certain amount of square meters of housing as well as a certain number of apartments in that square meters.

8a.  There is a chart that shows us how many apartments of each TYPE there needs to be (5% studio, 25% 1br, 35%2br, 30% 3br, 5% 4br)... also a sub chart that shows us that more importantly we need to have a mixture of 3&4 bedroom apts that adds up to 35% of the total.

9. Each apartment type has a prescribed number of rooms, each room has a prescribed maximum area, each room also has a minimum dimension for window space.  

10.  We need to have a magical efficiency ratio.  We measure this by comparing the rentable space (literally the floor that you can rent... not space inside walls) to the total built space.  This has to end up at 87%  The calculation has a lot of complicated gimmicks and loop holes but this is the basis.
10a.  This requirement makes me pull my hair out.

*11. The BBM (big boss man) needs to like the look of the project.

I starred 11 because it is a general office requirement, but makes this process unbelieveably more complicated.  Usually social housing is designed as just that... social housing.  I believe that when the project was conceived it was unknown what housing type we were working with... thus it was unrelated to its eventual programmatic function.  So... hopefully if you've made it this far you have a sense of the complexities of the drawings, as well as the environment we are creating these drawings for.
About twelve days ago (soon after the three senior project team members left) a co-worker and myself decided to start from scratch.  After a full three months of people working on it prior.  With six days before a monthly presentation to the master planners.  This was a response to a mis-understanding of apartment sizes and a requirement to cut the building from 5000 square meters (50,000 square feet) to 4400 (44,000 square feet... hopefully you're all catching the math).  We had to keep the same number of apartments. We had to keep same rentable to built ratio.  We had to keep the BBM happy, with a very similar form.  
In addition to this, a consultant that will be on site working our project through the built stages stopped by the office and begged us to try to simplify the process and to use rational thought to make it work.  We were excited by the idea, out of 63 apartments in the previously presented edition there were about 55 unique apartment types (this means a lot of drawing... a LOT OF DRAWING).  After thoroughly disproving the ability for the previous building to be "fixed," we consulted the rest of the office for some fresh ideas.  A few mentioned that the access to the apartments, or the public corridors off the elevator, seemed a little large or unnecessary.  From there we drew about ten quick schemes of re-approaching the elevators and hallways in new ways.  We found one we were happy with... but we had to also imagine a way to fit all the correct apartment types at the right size as well as keep the right percentages.
After our very basic sketches we spent almost four hours doing MATH in an attempt to predict the reality of the building.  If you've made it this far you'll be rewarded to know:

A.  Our ratio of rental to built space = 85%  We were almost disappointed but,
B.  We cut the total area down to 4300 square meters... 100 more than they asked.
C.  We fit in 64 apartments... the last version only had 63 apartments.
D.  Our apartments are within 5% of the "prescribed apartment size"
E.  We have about ten different apartment types with minor variations on each.

I mentioned "about twelve days ago" for a specific reason.  While, I know the exact time and date that we made the decision to re-work the base elements of the project I also marked 25 hours on my time sheet for a single day... making it quite hard to consider it a measly twelve days.  That week deserved quite a few waffles.


  1. you should also note the level of "odor" that grew due to your lack of purchasing cleaning items
    ...think homeless guy smell

  2. what Mary said... those are the kind of details I am looking for in an update