June 2014 Newsletter

Summer Greetings!

I recently had the pleasure of sharing some favorite downtown pastimes with a vendor who was coming through town, and it reminded me of what a great place Austin is!  I was so happy to share the experiences I consider essential, as well as some personal favorites. It even inspired me to try some unique places and activities I hadn’t experienced in the past.  So, my advice to all of us is to live a little. Remember what makes Austin (or your town) special to you, and go experience it again. While you’re at it, snap a few photos and take advantage our summer coupon to get some prints made – they will help remind you during the workday of why in the heck you chose to live here!

As always, thanks for your support over the years. We’ll be celebrating 95 years in 2015…can you believe it?


Luci Miller


The Poet / Architect Merges Genres


Earlier this year, architect Madeline Arakawa Gins died at 72. She was well known for her architectural collaborations with her artist husband, known simply as Arakawa. Together they developed a style called “reversible destiny,” which was notable for its vibrant colors and erratic walls, floors, and other details.

But Gins began her artistic career as a poet. She did not achieve the same level of fame for her work in that genre, but she was an example of the artist who appreciates the connection between poetry and architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright famously said, “Every great architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

However, that’s more of an abstract view of the architect/poet – that architecture itself is, by virtue of its sensibility and structure, poetic. Some architects, like Gins, actually write poetry.

An architect with a keen sense of the relationship between buildings and poems is Turkish architect Cengiz Bekt. Bekt was interviewed by Siobhan La Piana about the connection between the two media while living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Here is an excerpt:

La Piana: Can you talk a little about why you write poetry?

Bektas: I have things to tell. If I can express these things with architecture, that’s fine. But if I have something to say that can’t be said with architecture, I still must find a way to communicate it….

Pek: More specifically, what would you like to say about the characteristics of your poetry? We’ve heard about the qualities of your architecture, what about your poetic work?

Bektas: Literature is made with words, but also with rhythm and with silences. Architecture is about light and about rhythm between spaces…The critics say that my poetry has a specific structure. And in architecture you also have a structure: you have columns, you have beams. …Each of these elements (windows, columns) are like words in a poem. Individually they are not so important; but they bring music, color and light to the whole. In the end, with a poem or a building, you are happy or you are not.

Another famous architect/poet was Le Corbusier. The Swiss/French architect was considered a pioneer of modern architecture, but he also wrote a book the combined his poetry with drawings. The book, called The Poem of the Right Angle, was published in 1955 and expresses Le Corbusier’s worldview. Click here to view this book online.

Corbusier died in 1965, but the concept of an architect/poet continues. A living architect known his poetry is Israeli architect Haim Dotan. Dotan was interviewed by Visual China magazine while he was in China for an exhibition. Here is an excerpt:

Visual China: You are both an architect and a poet. … How do these two identities relate to each other?

Professor Dotan: There is division of labor between left and right sides of our brains, but most people incline to depend on or use only one of them…It is my passion for nature that joins these two identities and lives. Nature both inspires me to write poems and to create architectural design. Natural beauty is often reflected in my work, because it is my wish to introduce such splendor into architectures and cities…The most sublime part of humanity is reflected in the poem’s words. In architecture, I reveal the beauty of human and nature using stone, glass, wood or other materials.

The architect/poet is, then, simply expressing himself in two different ways: words and buildings.


Is Green Fading? Only Because It’s the “New Normal”


The world is coming to grips with global warming, the ice caps are melting, and summer is blazingly hotter these days. So you’d think green construction would be more welcome than ever. Instead, critics are piling on to green buildings that aren’t particularly green, the LEED program is under pressure from competition and some designers, and cost-conscious owners are cautious about anything green that might spike the bottom line.

However, despite these pressures, bona fide green building is still highly popular and becoming more common. Sixty-four percent of respondents to an October 2013 survey by Building Design & Construction magazine said they had used LEED to register or certify projects in the previous 12 to 18 months.

Perhaps the pressures on the green building system are simply the necessary consequence of success – when expectations are met, the bar is raised. And much typical green work simply flies under the radar today because it’s simply the “new normal.”

Not Green Enough

The most poignant criticism of the green building movement has been that some buildings that earn high LEED ratings aren’t really as efficient as the owners felt they were. For example, the LEED Gold certified 7 World Trade Center earned just 74 points on the Energy Star rating, one point below the threshold for “high efficiency.”

One of the main reasons for this failure, according to observers, is modern design that emphasizes large expanses of curtain-wall glass assemblies and “deep plan” designs that require more artificial light and ventilation. Designers add on numerous green features, such as highly energy efficient HVAC systems, to compensate and earn the necessary LEED credits, but the underlying design is hard to overcome.

In contrast, critics note, the design of many older buildings – which had to take advantage of natural light and ventilation because nothing else was available – is much more “green.” If those older buildings were retrofitted with modern, energy-efficient HVAC systems and windows/doors, they would easily be more energy efficient than poorly designed modern buildings. Furthermore, those buildings were erected in city centers, close to public transportation, rather than in distant suburbs that catered to car owners.

However, some green elements that formally would have been praised, such as the use of a tighter building envelope, is now so common that it doesn’t get noticed.

LEED Under Pressure

The U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the LEED program, also has been under pressure in recent years from critics and competition.

A 2010 lawsuit claimed that the LEED system did not live up to its standards. The suit was dismissed, but the point was made.

Competition has also emerged. At least three other organizations offer some LEED-like ratings – the Green Globes, the National Green Building Standard, and the Living Building Challenge.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to LEED, however, is simply the fact that many designers now incorporate green elements into their design but do not pursue LEED certification. Nearly a quarter of respondents to the Building Design & Construction magazine survey reported that their projects would earn LEED Silver designation, but that they choose not to invest in the certification process. Basically, these designers are saying that green is normal – no need to specially certify it.

The Pinch of Recession

The recession put a serious pinch on the construction industry, so it’s no surprise that green took a bit of a hit. A survey by Green Building Insider in 2010 – during the heart of the recession – found that the percentage of architects who agreed that green construction was “worth the time and effort” dropped from 96.8 percent in 2007 to 93.8 percent in 2008 to 92.3 percent in 2009.

However, numerous studies show that the long-term cost savings of green attributes more than make up for the extra initial cost, and that initial cost is dropping as volume increases on green-related products. A 2012 study by the General Services Administration found that on average, government buildings constructed with green elements outperformed national averages. They use less energy and water, cost less to maintain, and had happier occupants.

Green Still Matters

The bottom line is that green still matters, because it saves money, helps reduce a building’s impact on the environment, and makes for more comfortable occupancy. But green building is becoming so commonplace – which is seemingly a positive result of the green building movement – that labeling a building “green” or pursuing LEED (or other) certification may eventually become obsolete. When everybody is doing something, it’s simply not worth mentioning.


Miller Blueprint Offering iPlanTable Mobile Demonstrations July 14-15


iPlanTables offer a unique solution for viewing construction drawings and other project-related information.  They virtually eliminate the need for large printed materials and allow for quick access to project files.  Enhance your project collaboration and communication with these interactive touch screen displays!

The iPlanTable Mobile Demonstration Van allows us to bring this technology to your office or job site.  We will be offering iPlanTable Mobile Demonstrations on Tuesday, July 15th and Wednesday, July 16th.  Contact Webb Fox at 512-200-6549 or webb.fox@millerblueprint.com to schedule your iPlanTable Mobile Demonstration today!

View photos of the Mobile Demonstration Van here.

Learn more about iPlanTables on our website.


Tips & Tricks: Photography 101

POWL Lanette and Kate 2014-1

By Lanette Kinnaird and Kate Svedersky
Photographers of Westlake

We’ve all been there before – behind the camera lens, hoping for the best.  This month guest columnists Lanette Kinnaird and Kate Svedersky of Photographers of Westlake are offering a little advice for your next photo session.  Once you do get those perfect shots, Miller Blueprint is here to assist you with an array of printing options – from photo quality papers to canvas to wall adhesives.  Check out our Summer Special at the bottom of this email for great deals on photo prints.  For more information on our photo printing services, contact Ian Cousins, Customer Sales Service Rep, at 512-381-5276 or cssr@millerblueprint.com.

1.  Know your Equipment
Your camera manual can be a little overwhelming, but there are excellent online tips and local classes that can make all the difference. Most cameras have an automatic program feature, which can be a good place to start, however, consider taking the next step. Try a semi-automatic feature like aperture or shutter speed priority.  These settings offer you a little more control and can take your photography to the next level.

2.  Start with the End in Mind
All professional photographers consider the outcome of their photograph before they pick up a camera.  Think about how the photograph is going to be used and the story you are trying to tell.   What feeling are you trying to convey?  Who will be your audience? A little planning can take your photography to the next level.

3.  Be Creative
Before you press the shutter, think about the composition of your shot.  Consider moving your subject to the right or left of the frame to make it more interesting. Try a new angle—get down low or stand up on something to get a different viewpoint.  Think about how you could position yourself and/or the subject in a unique way.  When directing a model, give your subject an idea of what you are wanting, but don’t force it.  Be patient and wait for the story to unfold.

4.  Consider the Light
Natural light can be a photographer’s best friend. The time of day you shoot makes all the difference. The first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset are considered the “golden hours” because of the softer diffused light.   The shadows are longer and images have less contrast, which allows for more detail in your photo.  Remember to consider how you position your subject to the light.  Watch how the shadows fall and try turning your subject to get the desired effect.

5.  Experiment in Post Production
Shooting an image is just the beginning. There are many photography apps and software tools available that can improve your images.  Play around with your photograph after the shoot.  Crop out unnecessary elements that may distract from your subject.  Correct slight exposure problems. Evaluate the look of your color. Small adjustments can take your photography from average to amazing in just a few quick steps. If the shot isn’t your best, delete it.


June Coupon

June Coupon-SmartphonePrints-SameasWindowGraphic

No coupon needed to take advantage of these great deals through the end of Summer 2014!

For more information or to place your order, please contact Ian Cousins, at 512.381.5276 or cssr@millerblueprint.com.


News You Can Use

PSW Urban Homes Raising Money for Residential Developments

New Austin Tavern Mixes Booze and Sustainability

Construction Jobs Part of Austin Political Race

Drought Kills Pool Construction in Lakeway

New Cedar Park Office Buildings Completed

Construction Spending Up in April

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Five Cool Blogs for Old Building Lovers

Vintage Portland
Vanishing St. Louis
Opacity (Urban Ruins)
The G.A.R. Building Detroit
Old Chicago


Top-Paying States for Electricians

Alaska ($74,810)
New York ($70,560)
Illinois ($69,040)
Oregon ($67,860)
New Jersey ($65,770)
Source: 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics