Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Strings, No Ramps, No Kidding

Two of the requirements for Kindergarten admittance were to be potty-trained and to be able to tie one's own shoes. I passed the former but had trouble with the latter.

I tried learning my mother's way of shoe tying, but devised my own, which while producing the identical knot, still had the inherent knotty problem: No matter who he/she the knotter be, shoelaces loosen. Mom overcame this by teaching me to tie the loops themselves together after creating them.

This is known today as a "work-around", a way to achieve your goal without solving the underlying problem.

Question: Why do we continue to hold shoes on our feet with string? String is for kites.
Answer: Tradition. Ever see wingtips with zippers?

Maybe SOME shoes or boots require laces due to the high stress placed on them due to athletics or hiking or physical labor. But probably not.

Solution: Knot-free elastic or zippers or Velcro or slip-ons.

Now that I'm an architect and have been designing new houses and remodeling others for 31 years, I've observed problems within houses and the "work-arounds" developed to deal with them, accessibility for the handicapped being one example.

Anyone with a house with a basement and an attached garage knows that there are typically two steps up from the garage slab to the house floor level. It's about a 15" difference in height.

Question: Why is a 15" slab-to-floor height difference the industry standard ?

Answer: In a garage, wood floor framing "likes" to be separated from the slab so it won't soak up gasoline, oil, or salty water from dripping cars in winter. Outside, it "likes" to be at least 12" above grade to protect it from splashing rain. This VERTICAL separation creates a problem if you want to be barrier-free.

Solution for existing house: A 15' long parking-space-killing ramp must be built (1' of ramp per 1" of rise) in the garage plus a 5' landing at the door. 20' feet of "stuff" to build, and often it's more if the ramp has to have a switchback.

Solution for new house: Instead of separating the slab from the wood framing VERTICALLY, separate it HORIZONTALLY. ISOLATE it from the water source. Pour the slab 2" below house floor height, and slope it up flush with the house door threshold. Slope the main garage slab gently down towards the garage door (no floor drains) to direct heavier-than-air gasoline fumes outdoors. Isolate the slab from the wood floor framing with a waterproof membrane such as Grace Ice and Water Shield, then cover the membrane with aluminum flashing. Raise masonry on the remaining garage walls to allow a similar isolation of the slab from the wood wall framing.

Now a wheelchair can roll right in. Your inlaw, you and your newly broken leg, as well as the guy that delivers your new refrigerator will appreciate it. And really, why climb even TWO stairs with your groceries if you don't have to?

Walk straight into your house wearing penny loafers !

Let LaFrance Architects design away these and other problems.

No strings, no ramps, no kidding!

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