Nosara Recycling Plant / sLAB


Visit the Kickstarter Campaign here.


A small group of students and architect Tobias Holler of sLAB Costa Rica at the New York Institute of Technology, have teamed up to design and build a communal for Nosara, Costa Rica – a city that is facing grave problems with sanitation and illegal dumping of garbage on beaches and in wildlife areas. Construction started last summer after a Kickstarter campaign that raised $15,000 helped provide expenses and costs associated with housing the students that assisted with the construction. A relaunch of the Kickstarter campaign will provide the project with additional funds to bring the students back to accelerate the pace of construction. The funds also support the documentary by Ayana de Vos, whose film follows the progress of the project and features waste management and sustainability in Costa Rica.

Join us after the break for more. (more…)

The Rise of Design/Build Architecture Inspires “All Hale” Love Story

Hale County Animal Shelter / ; © griner

All Hale, a new film written by Anita Banerji, follows the story of college student Alice Walker who finds herself in a small town in Hale County, Alabama building a home for a family that is going through personal and financial hardship.  The movie is filmed on location, with a variety of unique Hale County architecture serving as the backdrop for a story that rekindles a love for “home-grown architecture”.  At a time when so much emphasis is focused on “starchitects” and the “Bilbao effect”, the story of this movie has a social agenda that highlights the backlash to this phenomena: the rising trend of design/build architecture.

Join us after the break for more on the underlying social inspiration of this film and a sneak peek at the trailer. (more…)

The Movement Cafe / Morag Myerscough

Courtesy of Morag Myerscough

Designer: Morag Myerscough of Studio Myerscough
Customized ice cream bicycle: Luke Morgan
Furniture: Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan
Location: Waller Way, Greenwich, Se10 8JA, UK
Project Year: 2012
Project Area: 140 sqm
Client: Cathedral Group


Ghana: Nka Foundation announces 10X10 Shelter Challenge

2011 Mural Project by Artmakers Inc, Courtesy of Nka Foundation

The Nka Foundation has announced a new competition, open to all students and graduates of design, architecture, art, engineering and schools interested in rural community projects in , that is a design-build challenge at the Abetenim Arts Village near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of .  The 10×10 Shelter Challenge is an on-site competition structured as a “design-build camp for learning-by-doing” in African Architecture.  There are no fixed deadlines with 5 available month long periods to sign up,  the first beginning this October, 2012.

Join us after the break for more details on this unique competition. (more…)

Williams Tsien and Davis Brody Bond selected for new U.S. Embassy in Mexico City

The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has announced the selection of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Davis Brody Bond to design the New Embassy Compound (NEC) in , . After an intense round of presentations and interviews, the duo was selected from a talented shortlist of nine architectural/engineering teams. As reported on the Latin American Herald Tribune, the jury believed that “their portfolio of work is compatible to the local culture and shows sensitivity that highlights their connection to the character of the site.”

The Mexico City project is the first solicited under OBO’s Design Excellence program. It will embody a holistic approach that values the balance of aesthetics, cost, constructability and reliability. The design phase is expected to take place over the next 20 months and a construction contract is expected to be awarded in 2015.

Reference: Latin America Herald Tribune

Update: Transitional Shelter Project in Haiti / MICA

© David Lopez

When we last heard from David Lopez and his students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) they were in the process of constructing a prototype of the Transitional Shelter for Disaster Relief in .  The project started in a Design|Build studio in the Spring of 2011.  Acquiring funds to prototype the design became a challenge.  Students spent the summer and fall of 2011 completing the design and reaching out to organizations for donations and materials. and Whiting Turner Contracting Company gave critical donations that made it possible to begin construction.

Follow us after the break to catch up on the status of the project. (more…)

Shortlist Announced for New Embassy Project in Mexico City

The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has shortlisted nine design teams for the New Embassy Compound in City. The design/bid/build project, scheduled for construction in fiscal year 2015, is the first solicited under OBO’s new Design Excellence program. This holistic approach to project development and delivery seeks to utilize the best methods, technologies, and staff abilities to produce facilities that are outstanding in all respects. The overall strategy focuses on the integration of purpose, function, flexibility, art, safety, security, , and maintainability.

Continue reading for more information and to review the well-known shortlisted architects. (more…)

Barnsworth Exhibition Center by IIT Design Build Studio


The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe’s is one the most iconic modern residences in the United States. Situated in Plano, Illinois, near the Fox River, its location is nothing short of picturesque. However, what may not be known is that due to its location, it has been subject to the wrath of the local river. Specifically, on September 14, 2008 a torrential rain storm caused the Fox River to overflow and flood the house, resulting in extensive damage to the interior, furniture, and the large wardrobe of Edith Farnsworth. The IIT Design Build Studio led by Professor Frank Flury was sought out by director Whitney French to distill a solution to house the 12’ x 6’ x 2’ wardrobe that was unable to be accommodated in the visitor center. More details after the break. (more…)

2011 matR Project: “The Passage”

© Victoria Capranica

A team of graduate students recently created a temporary installation on the University, Kent campus in . The project grew out of an internal challenge in the matR design competition. Designed by graduate students Brian Thoma, Carl, Veith, Victoria, Capranica, Matt Veith, and Griffin Morris, the tunnel-like structure called “The Passage” was a study to support the conceptualization and actualization of innovative and experimental material research. The students created the initial form in Rhinoceros with a couple Grasshopper definitions as a waffle structure of 26 vertical ribs and 24 horizontal struts. More images and information after the break. (more…)


© Gino Santa Maria -

Like anything that works well in life, chemistry is one of those things we can’t explain but is often the key ingredient that ensures that something ”works”. What is chemistry? Is it shared passion? Is it mutual trust? Who knows, but you know when you have it and you know it when you don’t. Having it is magical.

My team recently tore down an old beach house and we are beginning to build a new home for a couple where the chemistry was spot on. From the very beginning, we had a client-builder relationship that both parties committed to, nurtured and developed. Now that the project is underway, managing expectations while achieving maximum quality are just a few of the main ingredients in nurturing this chemistry. Building quality relationships with city officials and inspectors is not only mandatory for a successful job, but it also enhances my client’s trust in me. Then there are the neighbors. My clients need to co-exist with these people long after we are gone, so keeping them happy is vital to my client’s satisfaction with me. Chemistry is bumped up another notch when my clients see us working harmoniously with the neighbors and minimizing disruptions. (more…)

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

via Flickr: miri695

Everyone knows the old adage and has most likely been stung by its inevitable truth.  What happens, eventually, is that the other shoe unfortunately falls; the truth rears its ugly head and leaves us with egg on our face.

Well, it is no different in the world of architecture, construction, and real estate.  Being deceived is a product of wanting something for less than its real value.  Oftentimes we fall into the deception trap to close an unwanted gap between our budget and what we want actually costs.  Budget and cost either match or they don’t!  Expecting to get something for nothing, while human nature, is foolish. Either today or somewhere down the line, the truth will come out or it may be very hard to accept.

Five years ago, when the real estate and construction boom was out of control, there was always a shortage of really competent help because everyone was so busy.  Prices became artificially high. People who were less and less qualified entered the workforce and were being hired regardless of the obvious. Let’s use Brooks as an example.  I remember Brooks say, “He’s only a plumber.  I’m not him paying $32,000…it’s only plumbing.”  So instead of paying the licensed/insured/bonded plumbing company what they deserved, he had his general contractor friend (first mistake) hire some under qualified guy in order to “save” about 30%.  “That’s gonna pay for my Viking stove,” he boasted at the time.


Alma’s Story: Sometimes you just know

© Fotolia

We just left off with Budget Is What Budget Does… well this posting will help with any clarifications.

I ran into a colleague of mine recently and he shared with me a story about a client that I was interviewed by 6 months earlier.  Let’s call her Alma. At the time of our initial meetings, I knew that I wanted the job because of its style demands, yet I knew that I really didn’t want the job.  Sometimes you just know.  For one, and one reason only, she was going to be very difficult.  Like the sign at the auto mechanics shop for hourly rates:

Price for labor

Price for labor if you watch

Price for labor if you help

She had remodeled her own home, and it looked like it. An eclectic combination of eras, worldly styles, and personal touches that was all placed into an original stucco box at the beach. Not one room had any rhyme or reason nor any relation to any other room in the entire house. The outside had fresh paint over facia that was held together by termite snot. Pretty picture, huh. But her perceived knowledge of construction was the one thing that would ultimately isolate her from ever being able to achieve her goal. She thought she knew more than me.  Sometimes you just know.  And this was one of them.


Reality Check: Budget Is What Budget Does

© FotoLuminate -

Remember we left off last week with “It cost what it cost“. Does your budget really reflect what you want it to, or what you wish it would?  BIG DIFFERENCE. Remember it cost what it cost and there is really no way around that, so manage your expectations within your budget. It is your budget. No one forced you to that budget, it’s yours.  If the budget exceeds your taste or requests…. than the pile of poop you are about to step in was put there by no one else, but you.

Ok now clean off your feet and let’s get down to business. MANAGING expectations is only one of the many challenges I face as a designer + builder.  To be honest with you, sometimes more modest budgets force wonderful opportunities to create great results within the means.


Design + Build: It cost what it cost

© Fotolia

There really is no way around the time tested adage; You get what you pay for.  Good things cost money and better things cost more money.  Where does one draw the line on good enough?  Cars, clothes, watches, diamonds, food, vacations… the list goes on and on.  However, when it comes to our home, do we really give it enough consideration?  Our home is where we spend a great deal of our time.  Our home is also our most personal possession.  It may very well reflect almost everything we do in our most personal times.  The quality of our homes could very easily parallel the quality of our lives. Simply stated, “if you don’t like going home, how happy can you possibly be?” However, if home is a place where you would rather stay, then you really have something.  Shouldn’t your home be your favorite place to be?

If you don’t like how much something cost, what are you supposed to do?

A- Change your taste so something cheaper will suffice.
B- Save your money so you can afford what it is that you really want
C- Squeeze your master builder to the point that you can afford to get what you want at the expense of him or someone else….


Design + Build: Marriage


Editor’s note:You can now follow @SteveLazar on Twitter!

Funny I should say marriage. But to some degree, the relationship between the client and the master builder is a marriage of sorts. It also has an analogy to becoming pregnant. But I will save that for another post. I am married. For almost 20 years… and yes, to the same person. 4 awesome, yet exhausting little offspring, add even more chaos to the mix. Back to the point. The homeowner and team, whether a DESIGN / BUILD team or an architect and accomplice needs to be anchored in trust, communication, and equal vision.

Just like a marriage. My guess is, the more the merrier, adds inherent conflict, and will probably not work out. Less is more. Trying to decide to go to the movies is never simple in my family. The easy solution is ask them if they would like to join us for a family movie or would you rather mommy and I go to movies and you guys get a babysitter? The choice is simple and clear-cut.


Design + Build

Architect, image via Wikipedia -

Editor’s note: is a new series by Steve Lazar, owner and operator of Lazar Design/Build, focusing on aspects of the profession usually left unsaid.

Look up the word ARCHITECT in the dictionary and there is the typical Latin root of the word and other roots of the word, but essentially it says nothing more than MASTER BUILDER.  Your architect or master builder will head your process in the proper direction.  Let’s call the “point man”, the “go to guy”, or the “solution.”  Whatever he is referred as, it is imperative that your chain of communication is with one and only one person to eliminate confusions today, tomorrow, and in the future.  There is an inherent challenge to the standard relationship between the homeowner, the architect, and the builder.  There are three different entities, all with possibly different goals or objectives.

Home owner:         budget

Architect:                creation

Builder:                   conflicted

Who is the client? Is the home owner? Is the architect?  If the builder is hired by the home owner than of course the home owner is the client.  Typically, this is the standard relationship. However, the builder also has some allegiance to the architect, and this is where things can start to get conflicted.  The builder is caught in a pickle between two different entities with possibly two different goals.  If budget is not a consideration than there is no conflict.  In 20 years of designing and constructing custom homes, I have never been bound by some sort of budget.