Programming+ : An Enhancement to Traditional Architectural Programming

Recently, Fremer Architects submitted a proposal to the County of Los Angeles for strategic master planning for the Department of Public Social Services. It was unique project in that the user had performed a facilities consolidation report based on Business Process Re-engineering, which the winning architect would use as a basis for a master space program.  Interestingly, the Department of Social Services was facing an upcoming increase in demand of client interaction due to impending major health insurance laws, yet the result was a decrease in footprint of the department. We began thinking, why can’t architects be involved in Business Process Re-Engineering?

Business Process Re-engineering is a concept that was first defined in the early 1990’s. Two Boston-area management consultants, Michael Hammer and James Champy advised businesses on how to cut costs and improve quality in a time of impending technological advances. The idea has seven main principles: (1) Organize around outcomes, not tasks, (2) Identify all processes and prioritize them in order of urgency, (3) Integrate information processing work into the real work that produces information, (4) Treat geographically dispersed resources as if they were centralized, (5) Link parallel activities in the workflow instead of just integrating their results, (6) Put the decision point where the work is performed, and (7) Capture information once and at the source. (Rouse, “Business Process Reengineering (BPR) definition”) To us, Business Process Re-engineering sounds like a good supplement to the traditional programming services offered by architects.

Programming is the process of defining the architectural problem, which must be completed before the design process commences. Most architects are familiar with the programming process to the point that some consider it their specialty. One firm, Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott, pioneered a scientific process for programming, that was the topic of the book “Problem Seeking” written by their employee William Peña. The five steps are: (1) Establish Goals, (2) Collect and Analyze Facts, (3) Uncover and Test Concepts, (4) Determine Needs, and (5) State the Problem. The “Establish Goals” phase exists to find an over-arching goal to set the tone of the project. In other words, the idea is to find a theme for analyzing the data, as there are many options that can become of it. An analogy would be “the sum is greater than the parts.” By collecting and analyzing facts, the architect learns about the character of an existing facility. Once facts are collected, concepts should be stated. They are not definitive architectural plans, as they are usually diagrams or non-graphic concepts. The final step before stating the problem is to determine needs. The type of needs that are determined are the practicalities of the project, including construction cost and time.

One downside to programming is it has the tendency to base an architectural problem on results from the past. Today, entities and organizations change so quickly, that the processes used even ten years ago are drastically different than the processes used today. 

What if architects study their clients’ organizational procedures, and discover alternatives to the current processes of a client? If these alternatives alter their finances, the result would be a drastically different program for the building. One example of this is the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, who initiated a company-wide program called SMART Working, which resulted in a 38 percentage reduction in building square footage. (“How Can SMART Working Help a Company Save Money?”) At one of their locations, they moved to a new building 25 percent of the size of the original, by employing a “hoteling” concept in the new building. The concept of “hoteling” eliminates any permanent work space for any employee, and replaces it with temporary stations that employees can work and/or meet at in a variety of settings, ranging from very public tables to more private conference rooms. (“Cost Efficient, Open-space Office Designs: Ditching Desks - and Privacy”)

As architects, we can be part of the conversation with owners in “re-engineering” their business due to our ability to think analytically, critically, and spatially. It doesn’t mean we have to take over the process, just be part of it. In that method, the architect in the room can provide direct feedback to business processes being debated and discussed, rather than waiting to translate business processes into diagrams and eventually building plans. Coincidentally, this act of involving the architect in this brainstorming phase of the project can be considered “re-engineering” itself as an example of the principal “linking parallel activities.“


Works Cited

“Cost Efficient, Open-space Office Designs: Ditching Desks — and Privacy.” Knowledge@Wharton. The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 19 June, 2013. Web. 12 January, 2016    <>

“How Can SMART Working Help a Company Save Money?” GlaxoSmithKline Research Triangle Park Consolidation and Workplace Guidelines. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Rouse, Margaret. “Business Process Reengineering (BPR) Definition.” SearchCIO. 1 June 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <>.

Energy Savings through Lighting Control

Recently, Lutron Electronics presented an enlightening (…sorry…) seminar in our office on lighting controls and their benefits in creating a more sustainable working environment.

The US accounts for roughly 4.4% of the world’s population according to the US Census Bureau (source), but we account for 20% of the world’s energy consumption. We spend nearly a fifth of that just to operate commercial buildings (so this statistic doesn’t even include the energy we spend on our cities’ infrastructure, our homes, or our industries). A full 28% of the energy used in commercial buildings is spent on lighting.  Now if we do a little more math, based on the stereotypical 9-5 commercial work-day (which we know we're moving away from, but humor us for a minute), that means that our nation alone spends 1% of the entire world’s energy just to be able to see clearly during the day.

According to Lutron, controlling overall lighting levels through tuning and trimming – i.e., adjusting the maximum lighting output of each light fixture and bulb, as well as adjusting fixture output based on its location in a building (e.g., proximity to a window) – can reduce lighting energy use by up to 25%. Trimming can also extend the life of each bulb – all light sources suffer from lumen reduction over time, so light levels tuned and trimmed lower initially can be raised over time without the perception of light loss. Adding occupancy sensors and individual controls can decrease lighting energy usage even further.

Understandably, most clients need to know how this affects the bottom line. While installing trimmers, tuners, occupancy sensors, and individual controls will lead to energy cost savings over time, we understand that the start-up costs for the equipment can appear daunting. Consider, however, the secondary benefits: studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute (a non-profit dedicated to market-based sustainability solutions) show that profits from increasing employee productivity simply by providing individual lighting control can pay off the expense of installing those control systems in less than a year (source). In addition, every 3 watts in lighting energy-use savings decreases a building’s heating load enough to result in a 1 watt HVAC energy-use saving.

These statistics are by no means exhaustive, and as technology improves, so will the associated energy savings. Passive day-lighting and shading strategies can already significantly decrease building energy use, so imagine what else can be achieved with just a little extra commitment to installing active-sustainable features.

Have you had success in decreasing your energy costs through active (and passive) sustainability strategies?  Have you specifically had success through tuning, trimming, and lighting control? Please let us know in the comments – we look forward to hearing from you.

In Progress: OVMC Day Care Center

Construction of OVMC Day Care Center is nearly complete!

Before PUB, the general contractor, buttons everything up, we want to share a couple photos of the work in progress.

A view from the south shows the Epicore decking prior to the Reynobond cladding application.

An articulated concrete block wall greets visitors approaching from the parking area.  Landscaping and lighting have also since been installed in the planter to the right.

We’ll update you with more photos once construction is finished.  For now, you can click here to read more about the project.  Stay tuned…

Hello Again…!

Welcome to the redesigned HH Fremer Architects website!

HHFA is excited to launch our website update, and excited to update you about what we currently have on the boards.  We’ll be using this journal to show you what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how it’s progressing.

But we don’t want this website to only be about us.  Architecture extends well beyond the architect, and even the best photographs cannot tell the full story of every project, every client, and every design challenge.

We want this website to be about all of us – the design community, and the greater communities that designers serve.  Thus, we’ll also be using this journal to tell you about what inspires us in hopes that we can inspire you.  More than that, we want this journal to be yours as well – a collective sketchbook, if you will.  We want to hear what you think, see what you aspire towards, and know how design can and should affect your lives.

Send us your questions, leave us your comments, and let us know what topics you’d like to explore with us.  Let's step into tomorrow together.