Monday, July 4, 2011

Bullish on EBURD

Great things are in the works for an area east of downtown Billings, known by the acronym EBURD. It stands for East Billings Urban Renewal District and it holds some of the greatest commercial, industrial and even residential development potential in our city. Make that RE-development as this is an area east of downtown that was established nearly 100 years ago and much of it has deteriorated or has been neglected over the years as our city pushed to the west end and heights. In the last few years a few visionary companies and organizations have begun to change that condition. First Interstate Bank, the Billings Food Bank and Red Oxx Manufacturing have completed projects or are in the process of making new investments in this area and hold the belief that this area holds significant promise for our community.

The establishment of a form based code has been in the works and promises to be implemented at the end of 2011. This new code will help develop areas within the EBURD that can have flexibility in how buildings are sited in relation to setbacks, size, height and form of the project. This should allow for a more neighborhood feel, density and potential for successful returns for investors and property owners in this area, as well as making it a desirable area to work and live.

Our firm is working with several clients to redevelop existing buildings or construct new buildings or additions within the district. These companies exemplify the belief that this area holds great new/redeveloped promise for the core of our city. I look forward to being part of the progress and seeing the outcome over the remaining years that I practice Architecture.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I was recently awarded a Better Bricks Award in the Architect category for our firm's work on projects that implement high performance design strategies on new and renovated buildings. My philosophy in working with clients has for quite awhile been that sustainable strategies implemented in buildings should have a payback for investment in energy efficiency within the life of the particular system, loan term of the building or occupancy term of the tenant or owner. A number of years ago I came across an article by a gentleman named Scott D. Johnson, Ph.D., formerly with CH2M Hill titled, "The Economic Case for High Performance Buildings". This article instilled confidence in me and my work with clients that high performance buildings could be good for the planet and the owner's pocketbook. While it is sometimes still challenging to convince owners that some of these strategies are worthwhile, with energy modeling we have implemented sustainable solutions into projects that we were previously not able to convince people of. The press in recent years and increased code requirements for efficiency are obviously helping this effort, but using this concept of buildings being green in both environmental and economic terms has helped our firm convince more people of these strategies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today the legislature-the house- voted down House Bill 439 that provided bond financing for projects to be constructed by the State of Montana. This bill would not have been enacted unless tax revenues exceeded a level that would have allowed funding of the projects within the bill. The fact that these projects will not happen eliminates the possibility for significant work for architects, engineers, general contractors and subs within our state. This will essentially mean no new state building projects for two years. I saw this as Montana's opportunity to show some sign that the economy was going to turn the corner. In communities like Billings and Missoula where two major projects were planned at the Universities, this confidence building opportunity will not happen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

2010 and the start of 2011 have been interesting times to practice architecture and somewhat of a departure from the previous 10 years in Montana and likely many areas of the country. My firm has been one of the few in the state to have benefitted from significant diversity and not latching onto the influx of out of state money and focusing on the allure of high end projects. We have benefited from stimulus money on some projects and through our diverse workload makeup, been able to maintain a steady workload. It will be interesting to see how architecture practice treats firms in the coming years as the economy recovers. Many architects are still out of work with the constricted economy and those without well rounded skills and/or diverse project type experience are finding themselves on the sidelines or out of work for so long that they are pursuing careers in related fields or altogether different pursuits. The current envogue specialization for our firm appears to be medical projects and project types related to the aging baby boomers. I remember 12-15 years ago hearing that projects for elderly would be a growing opportunity. Nationally focused firms have grabbed the majority of projects in our area in this area of specialization. There have been some projects to pursue in this area.