Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No new Ideas

There was a time in graduate school when I thought I was coming up with new ideas everyday!!  As it turns out I just hadn't look around enough to realize in a world of 4 billion people with a history of thousands of years, everything has been done before.

Left-These stairs are fairly original with their balusters in tension and the structural handrail which supports the treads.  Though I've not seen this before, I'm sure this is not a first.

Below Right-The idea of lowering a portion of the ceiling or an exposed steel beam under an 18' long skylight is not new.  Nor is the metal frame with the recycled lats and the exposed cans.  All Ideas I've borrowed from others.

Mark, who had recently been published, taught a valuable interactive history and design course where this idea was embraced and used as a tool.

Below and Right- Assignments from Mark Gelertners ARCH 6686.

What we would do is look at an example of architecture with regard to a specific element of architecture, such as massing, entrances, perspective, and light, and symbolism, just to name a few. We would then systematically deconstruct a building of our individual choosing which exemplified the characteristics and break the concept into it's simplest components.

On a piece of 16x24 paper, we would graphically represented these architectural components and our analysis and complete a design of our own using our imaginations coupled with the lessons learned from analyzing precedents.

Ever since I've not ever been reluctant to look at architecture I like and analyze it for it's merits or even employ the characteristics I like into my own work.

Remember, there are no new ideas. But architecture isn't about the ideas, it's about the completion of ideas and with my post modern minimalist style, refinement of details is very important. Ultimately it's all about the details.

Right-A design of mine I call the 'spider'  It's an adjustable, removable, and disassembleable frame for a table pictured without the top.  The stem fits into machined vaults cast into the concrete floor. 

Below Right-A steel table.  Though the edge detail was borrowed, the design evolved through materiality and circumstance.

The best idea in the world isn't new and is more complicated than it seems.  Where the art and skill come to play is the refinement of the detailing, the attachments, the water proofing, and the special conditions.

I call this adaptation, but that's the topic of another professor, Keith Loftin who taught me so much about the process of architecture, an NFP (Near Future Posting).

To quote myself, 'complexity comes from the execution of simplicity'  In other words, always keep the design simple.  Complexity will happen on its own.

Above-a very simple post and beam.  No new ideas but a difficult connection to resist uplift on the beam with no visible connection.

Right-I've seen lots of chain downspouts.  It's not the idea but the scale that make this one successful.

All work shown above is original design work by Brad Hankins

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Kayaking in the San Juan Islands is one of my favorite local activities. I especially like the Klepper for its comfort and sailing ability. This trip found us in moderate wind, large tide shifts, and fast currents so we did more paddling than I usually do.

Every time I visit the San Juan Islands, I'm slightly more concerned about the pollution, the private and public bluff and shoreline edges, and the tide lands. There is increased clearing, development, and commercialization, with, it appears, too little regard to protecting these very special resources (including damage from whale watching, guided kayak tours and fishing).

On this trip I particularly noticed the trampling of Possey Island, a cute island outside Roche Harbor that I've been visiting for two decades. It is missing understory, is compacted and the trees are not looking healthy. It seems to me like the over use by commercial kayaking tours is taking it's toll. It certainly is making it difficult for the rest of us to use the island. Out of 8 reservations for the next few weeks, five of them are for commercial kayak tours. I certainly hope their use fees are greater given their high impact on the island. I also hope they are helping to support our state parks in other ways. I also wonder if commercial use should be restricted until the island can recover.

Spieden Island is always interesting. It once had albino antelope of some sort but this time all we saw were Big Horned Rams. I wonder if they came down the Colorado river, crossed the Cascades and swam out to the island? Or is their presence the result of ignorance and too much money? There are many signs of overgrazing and erosion. It's scary because once the native plants loose their hold and the earth starts to erode from grazing the entire ecology of that island is threatened. It is so much easier to care for our land while it's still healthy.

And of coarse there's beautiful Jones Island, with it's amazing camping, along the southwest corner. Of interest, although this island supports motorboats, it seems to be in good shape.

Special thanks to Washington State Parks, the people who volunteer for the parks, the rangers and organizations like Washington Water Trails, for tending to these very special islands. I'm also grateful for my companion, Joe Greene, for patiently listening to me express my concerns for the environment.


The Eckert/Lyon pond was fully drained, repaired and re-filled in the middle of June, just over one month ago. And just in the nick of time!!

Above-an example of the variable pond edge, which allows for increased retention, attractive pond edge during periods of reduced water levels, and habitat for all kinds of critters, including polliwogs and frogs!

This property once was wooded and wet, able to absorb and store a tremendous amount of water and sustain all kinds of life throughout the year.

In the last few years, due to construction, logging, clearing the understory, compaction and bulldozing of forest duff, the land had all but lost it's ability to hold water resulting in poor water absorption, excessive runoff and puddling.

Elliott Menache of Greenbelt Consulting, after being contacted about the property's water problems, referred the clients to dbBrad and Fran Abel Landscape Consulting. We were hired to create a solution for the flooding. We focused on hydrology, environmental concerns, habitat and aesthetics.

Above--the collector pond receives runoff from the land and roof water from the residence.
Below--the large retention pond already full of life after only one month.

There were lots of frogs on the site, remnants of previously forested land and, although there was too much water in the rainy season, it was parched in the summer sun. Life was leaving the area.
Above--picture of a tadpole compliments of Wikipedia

But during a site visit yesterday with Fran Abel, we discovered that there are already polliwogs in the pond! In solving the flooding problem, we've also restored habitat.

Above, what used to be a drainage ditch is now a stream, collecting surface runoff and filtering/cleaning/aerating the circulating water.

Not only frogs, but birds of all sorts, little beetles and dragonflies, underwater centipede-like insects and numerous other assorted creatures and in and around the water. Where did they all come from and how did it happen so fast? A nice example of "build it and they will come."

The reward for restoring the land, controlling the water and being so environmentally concerned are the new little polliwogs swimming at the edges of the newly finished ponds and the stream. A few with legs already and after less than one month. Note: the running water, fish, birds and frogs are keeping the area free of mosquitoes

Above--Wetland is flooded after pumping the pond for repairs. Roughly 15,000 gallons are shown here, with room for more.

So if you have a flooding problem, or a lack of habitat, or a concern for the organisms that feed the animals that make up the delicate balance of our food cycle and the health of the planet, don't hesitate another minute to call for a consultation: 360 920 8280

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Gator Guard

In continuing my research on Raccoons, Koi ponds and predator prevention, I came across this product claiming to be the best prevention against raccoons. I've e-mailed the company to find out if such a predator would be effective in the northwest where raccoons have never seen a compadre chomped by an alligator before.

Above-Gator Head, a potential deterrent to raccoons and other Koi pond predators. Avaliable as the Gator Guard on a Florida based website about Koi Preditors

Given the persistence of the critters and the known difficulties with controlling them, I'm hopeful that this could be a solution because it's far easier than an electric fence or the alternative (shown below).

Above--about the only solution I've found that will keep raccoons out. Effective if not totally void of aesthetics!
Below--potential prey of the Gator Head at the FrEdLey project from 2008. A plastic duck meant to attract water fowl but is probably keeping the frogs away!

Below--other possibilities for controlling wildlife around a pond!!

Friday, July 2, 2010


Liabilities to Assets

When we started, the site was a mess.



But with some recycling, restoration and critical observation and creativity, We asked the land --'what do you want to be'-- And it responded!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

E/L Week 4

When we started week four, the lower pond was full making it look more complete than it actually was. After pumping water out of the pond to do edge work and repair a damaged area, the lower pond looked like this.The stream liner was in place with some of the larger rocks positioned, but all of the edge work remained to be done.
There are different details for different conditions and often we would pull the liner back, see what we had, talk about what we wanted, often moving onto a more general area while we considered the needs of a more specific area.

Besides the edges, the ledges are very important to the finished believability of a pond. The shelf creates shallow areas for habitat and plants as well as holding rocks and logs which not only looks better than the liner but help to protect it from the sun and animal damage.

Seeping water was a problem with patching the liner so I rigged up a way to clamp and hang the liner. If it's not clean and dry, the mastic won't adhere.

Joe takes a break while we decide where to move rocks and what our next step will be. My intent here was to create a small pond in the stream so I set the large rock on the liner on a bed of sand so it could settle tight against the liner and would create ponding.

After a week of rolling, tucking, moving rocks and talking to frogs and grasses, this is what we have...

The only thing left to do is resolve the outflow. I'm still evaluating different pond heights and edge conditions which has to wait until it rains. Once it is overflowing and I can finalize the outflow into the wetland.


Raccoons are the largest of the procyonid family, nocturnal and omnivorous. Because of their ability to eat almost anything, they have adapted well to urban locations. They are very territorial with males as large as 60lbs and territories of 20 square miles.

Cute little fur bearing critters that are smart, persistent, patient and more agile than most people think. Smart enough to out wit a rain bird's spray pattern and superb climbers-- not even most tall wire fences will keep them out.

Two raccoons, one albino, hanging out on top of a fence, alive and well.

While it is illegal to feed or have raccoons as pets, perhaps given their territoriality the best way to solve the problem is with the problem. Consider a large male raccoon with a collar and an invisible fence. No razor wire, chain link, electrified lines or gates. Just a 50lb territorial male raccoon patrolling the perimeter of your pond. Perhaps a dog may be the better alternative to this idea.
In Washington, it is illegal to relocate wild animals. Trapping and relocating doesn't work any way because animals will either be killed over territory disputes or killed attempting to travel back home.

Killing them requires a permit during open season but is legal if they are damaging persons or property. These rules mostly pertain to farmers and crops. While this is an option, it certainly is not my preference.

The best design I've found on the web suggests a two or three tiered electric fence about 18" tall. The first wire should be withing 2" of the ground helping to prevent smaller animals such as otters from getting under and no more than 6" apart. The one in the sketch is probably 16" tall with wires about 8" apart and not much more than a deterrent.

The designs I really like step back as they step up, meaning that after first wire, second wire is inbound 6" and 6" taller. This requires longer stakes at 45 degree angles prone to falling over or multiple stakes and a lot more work or custom standoffs.

I've come up with a system 100% design and with not a shred of actual evidence that I believe to be the best fence yet.
This sketch shows a simple little fence, good for all small rodents because of the buried loop of chicken wire. By running the wire through nylon insulators, snug in drilled holes, it provides a clean taunt look that is unobtrusive visually.

With the electrified component, the chances are that in trying to climb they will touch one of the lower wires and if not, in crossing, they will certainly touch the top wire.

A non electrified version of a rodent fence.

And finally, like with all my projects, providing for the necessities of life without increasing consumption of energy has led me to solar fence research and at $166 and capable of electrifying 25 miles of fence against hogs and horses, this little 6 volt system capable of functioning with periods of up to 21 days of darkness is a winner.

Parmak solar pak 6