To demand or not to demand? The tankless (and endless) hot water debate

Sep 30, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

Tankless water heaters have been a hot topic with our clients.  There was one instance recently when a plumber recommended a conventional water heater due to earthquake concerns (the plumber, located in California, said that the water tank also acts as a reserve for emergency water in case of a natural disaster), but most of the time, everyone agrees that tankless is the newest and most stylish way to go.

We have been explaining the pros and cons of tankless hot water units to our clients, but I came across this article that neatly summarizes what we've been talking about.

One other consideration we like to add when we talk about tankless is time of use.  In general, a conventional water heater is ideal for households where hot water is being used on and off all day, since the stored hot water in the tank gives you access to it instantly.  If the house is usually vacant for most of the day, it makes less sense to keep a 50-gallon tank of water warm while no one is using it.  So with houses (or areas of houses) with limited time of use, we usually recommend a tankless unit.

Some people have noted that tankless hot water heaters take a long time to deliver hot water to the faucet, and I have found this to be true from my own tankless unit at home.  There's a debate on whether it's worth going to tankless when you are still wasting water while you wait for the hot water to arrive (i.e., what you are saving in gas usage for heating, you are still wasting in water usage).   I believe that you just need to change the way you think about water, to adapt to a tankless system.  Here are some things I have implemented:

- keep a bin or basin near the sink so that you collect the cold water while you wait for hot water to arrive.  Use the cold water to water plants, or boil pasta.

- fill the bath tub by starting with the hot water only.  You will get cold water while you wait for hot water, then the hot water will warm the cold water that you've already saved.  Then adjust the water temperature with more cold water, if needed.

- purchase appliances that have their own hot water heater.  This is more and more common in appliances that require hot water, such as dishwashers and clothes washers.  This eliminates the need to run the tap while waiting for hot water to arrive to your appliance (which used to be true for older dishwashers).

When the contractor finished installing my tankless hot water heater, he turned to me and said "welcome to the world of endless hot water".  Which is true - the one big advantage to the tankless units is that the hot water is heated on-demand, and never ends.  My friends at eco-guides remarked that this is sometimes a blessing and a curse, since some people now want to take longer showers.  You can't win this debate.  I think it just depends on where your priorities lie, and what makes the most sense for your household.

Topics: Materials

One Room at a Time

Aug 7, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

We've been looking forward to telling you about our new service, One Room at a Time, but it's been a super busy summer (which is a good thing!) and so, here's a summary of what we want you to know.

One Room at a Time is a turn-key, fast-track, design-build service where we transform a room (or two) for instant gratification.  We have teamed up with a great builder to provide a one stop shop for you to get your project done quickly and easily.  The response has been great, especially since we establish a hard cap on the budget, and then work backwards from there; we're only doing as much as you can afford, not a penny more.

kitchen - before

kitchen - before

You know what I'm talking about - that bonus room you've wanted, the kitchen that needs a facelift, an unfinished basement or attic with so much potential.  And you keep hoping that you'll have time next weekend to work on it, right?  Maybe you think the project is too small or the budget too tight for a builder, much less an architect?

kitchen - after

kitchen - after

Well, let me tell you a little bit about our approach.  My lifelong motto for practicing architecture has been to make the world a beautiful place, one room at a time.  I feel it is my responsibility as an architect to ensure that everyone has access to good design expertise.  Small decisions (what paint color?  Which window manufacturer?  Where to go to buy a light fixture?) add up to define the quality of your space.  We've been shopping around, accumulating a resource library, drawing details, refining room layouts for our entire design career, so that we can help you with those decisions.  In order to make our services more user-friendly, and make the whole process easier to approach, we decided to package our services with a dedicated contractor.  You establish the budget, and we help you streamline design and construction, every step of the way.  The projects are small enough that we can go from our first design meeting to move-in ready in a few weeks.  We meet, we draw, we build, and PRESTO!  You are done!

bathroom - before

bathroom - before

The recession may have put your bigger dreams on hold, but that just means you need a little sanctuary in your house - a room you love - now more than ever, to escape the gloomy economy, and the colder months ahead.  Your quality of life could greatly improve by having one beautiful room in your house for you and your family, a place where you can (finally!) entertain your friends and be yourself.

bathroom - after

bathroom - after

It only sounds like a sales pitch because I am not very eloquent at telling you how much I believe in spreading good design.  Good architecture is for everyone.  And we want you to have it, one room at a time.

Topics: Projects

We are Recycle at Work Certified!

Jul 30, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

RAW_Award_July_09 Our Portland office is now Recycle at Work Certified.  The City has a program where it encourages businesses to take steps towards better recycling, and then recognizes businesses with this certification.  Here are the steps: Step 1: Identify your champion. That just means there should be an assigned recycling advocate for the office.  For our office, that would be me. Step 2: Recycle all paper bottles and cans. This sounds easy, but the tricky part is to have EVERYONE in your office do it. Step 3: Make recycling easy. Having recycling bins right next to garbage cans will motivate everyone to ask "can I recycle this?" before throwing it in the trash.  Clear signage is also important. Step 4: Train your team. Education is a big part of abundant and proper recycling.  Everyone in the office should know what can and can't be recycled. Step 5: Throw away less. Use less stuff.  Use reusable stuff. The program has made it easy for business to follow the right steps, and get help when they need it.  You should get certified, too!

Topics: Press

Tokyo Heat

Jul 21, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

June and July are the rainy months in Japan.  The heavy humidity and stagnant heat are downright oppressive. Combine that with sweaty people in crowded places and you have Tokyo.

I just got back from spending three weeks there, seeing family and drinking cold beverages.  That's one thing that really made an impression during this trip: the cultural desire for food and drinks to be cold, or just to seem colder, than the weather outside.  During the rainy season, and all throughout summer, Japanese cuisine is focused on cooling.  Cold noodles, ice cold beer.  Fragrant herbs, spices, and vinegars are used in abundance, because it's believed that it clears your senses and makes you feel cooler.

udon lunch set with ice cold beer
udon lunch set with ice cold beer

Ice cream is sold absolutely everywhere, with a large, 3D soft-service ice cream sign outside the stores.  Nico (our two year old) fully took advantage of this visual reminder to consume as many ice cream cones as possible.

mmm ice cream
mmm ice cream
mmm more ice cream
mmm more ice cream
Topics: Food, Life

Hi Sam!

Apr 27, 2009 by Lynn Fisher

Lynn Fisher in our San Francisco office has been on maternity leave, and is returning to work on 5/4/09. We wanted to share photos of little Sam since he's part of the hoa family!

sam 5 weeks

Samuel Paul Bogart was born January 29, 2009 at 9:33pm.  7lb 14oz.  20 3/4" long.

sam and tess

Here is Sam with Tess, who turned 2 in March.  Can you believe how big and mobile they get in just 2 years?

fisher bogart family

The whole family in Sea Ranch.  How they managed to get a smiling toddler to sit still, and a gurgling baby to look toward the camera, is beyond me.

We've missed Lynn at work and look forward to having her back.  Congratulations, Lynn!

Topics: Life

breathe in…

Apr 27, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

I've been getting into meditation lately, and the core of our focus is on breathing.  Breathing alcohol takes it to a whole new level.... and calling it Alcoholic Architecture elevates it to the realm of design and experience.


Topics: Food, Inspiration

Portland office photos

Apr 24, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

After the newsletter went out on 4/22/09, from which we got a great wave of responses, we also had many requests to share what our office looks like.  All photos were taken by our lovely office mate, Kristin Beadle of Beadle Design.


This is our entry alcove, right inside the glass entry.  Our architectural resource and sample library lines the red shelving on casters, designed by our very own Zack Gillum.  All of our custom casework (which includes our desks and wall-hung shelves made of apple ply) was fabricated by MADE in Portland, who does beautiful work locally and nationally.



entry display shelf

To the right of the resource library, we have translucent white shelving by Cubitec.  We have a few pieces and magazines living in some of the cubbies right now, and hope to fill it up with more toys and objects that strike our fancy.




Here you see the built-in wood desks lining the left side of the office.  The right side of the office consists of the entry alcove, the conference table, and a future lounge area by the glass garage door.  The three spaces are softly defined by the red boxes with our library in them.  Finding furniture for the lounge is taking us longer than we had expected - we're looking and waiting for just the right pieces - a sofa that's long enough to lie on, two side chairs, and an coffee table that doubles as an extra meeting surface. A few table and floor lamps will also help make that area feel warm and cozy, like a little vacation spot from the office.



office center

In the background you see the office "hub", which is a raised tabletop (user-friendly counter-height design) with a print/mail area on one side, and a little kitchenette on the other.  When we have Friday cocktails with friends, this is where we inevitably end up standing around and talking - it's the hearth of our office.

So there you have it.  If you want to see more, you'll just have to come over.



Topics: Inspiration

A study in contrasts – Vader House on Archinect

Feb 20, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa


Beautiful in so many ways. Check out:

- the sunken pool in the courtyard

- the way the new, light structure meets the old, heavy one

- contrast between light and dark, color and no color, plain and detailed

- the tubular kitchen hood (hoods are usually ugly, so this is refreshing)


Our office is currently designing a modern tansu-like storage area under a stair for a client in California, and I see that Andrew Maynard has a similar treatment under his scissor stair.

Topics: Inspiration

Bird’s Nest – The Movie

Feb 20, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa


Herzog and De Meuron make a por... I mean a movie.  It's playing on 3/8/09 at the Whitsell Auditorium in Portland.  For more information, you can find it here.

Topics: Inspiration, Life

Portland bridges

Dec 29, 2008 by Hiromi Ogawa

Every Portland bridge is unique and beautiful in their own way.  The Morrison Bridge, which is located near our office, is a metal grate draw bridge and is transparent when vertical.  You can see the sky through the bridge: a lightness that defies this heavy structure, connecting two sides of the riverbank.

Morrison Bridge

Topics: Inspiration