Author Archives: Sean Meehan

About Sean Meehan

Principal at the ADMG Companies an architecture and construction firm in Orange County, CA. Nature Boy, gator Fan, Science Nerd, Runner.

Notable Architecture of Orange County

Lovell House

Sean Meehan, LEED AP

While Los Angeles boasts a bevy of architectural landmarks, Orange County’s prominent buildings are far fewer in number.  LA features the works of prominent masters of the past and present such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, Richard Meier and Frank Gehry, but the suburbia of Orange County has given rise to few memorable buildings.  In a sea of generic Italianate quasi-villas, I will lead you on a brief virtual tour of a few of the OC’s notable exceptions.

Lovell Beach House, Rudolph Schindler, Newport Beach

On the National Register of Historic Places and dating all the way back to 1926, the Lovell Beach House was designed by Rudolph M. Schindler for Dr. Philip Lovell, a health and fitness advocate.  Schindler came to the US from Austria, and ended up in Chicago where he became an embattled employee of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Eventually he came to Los Angeles to work on some of Wright’s local projects, and the Lovell Beach House was one of his first commissions on his own, and historically considered one of his most important.  This thing is still standing, though looking a bit beat up, as it celebrates its 85th birthday.

This poorly-translated page has some excellent historical photos and drawings:  WikiArquitectura

Segerstrom Concert Hall, Cesar Pelli, Costa Mesa

Designed by Cesar Pelli to accompany his nearby stainless steel Plaza Tower office building, the Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is Orange County’s answer to the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in LA.  I was fortunate enough to live and work in the area as this project was under construction, and the glass façade is truly a spectacle, especially at night.  30,000 sf of curved, laminated glass encloses the main lobby and circulation areas.  The project went $40 million dollars over budget and endured a lengthy legal battle as a result.  Troubles aside, this is a good looking building.  If you have a chance to visit, be sure to check out the enormous COR-TEN steel sculpture by Richard Serra in the nearby plaza.

A few high-res photos of the Concert Hall may be found here:  South Coast Metro Galleries

Portabello Estate, Brion Jeannette, Corona del Mar

This project garnered national press a few years ago as one of the most expensive homes in the U.S.  While it was probably something of a publicity stunt to list this house for $75 million dollars, it is a stunning yet corny (see the underground mall) example of Orange County excess.  It recently sold for $34.1 million – a real bargain.

There is a great gallery of pictures for the ‘Portabello Estate’ here: Portabello Estate


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Forecast 2011

Sean Meehan, LEED AP

Another year has passed, and many in the construction industry are still waiting for that elusive ‘recovery’ to kick in.  Statistically speaking, 2010 was disappointing in the overall sense, but there were also some highlights that may foreshadow a better outlook for 2011.  Let’s take a look at the data and forecasts that are out there for present activity, as well as for the future.

The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is an economic indicator that tracks architecture billings and new project inquiries on a month-to-month basis.  A cross-section of A/E firms is polled to gather billing data, and this data is then adjusted for historical seasonal variation using the Census Bureau X-12 software.  Currently, the November ABI shows an overall national strengthening in billings, but the West region continues to lag behind other parts of the country, and commercial/industrial construction has dipped slightly from the previous three months, which had reflected modest growth.  Read more about the current ABI here:  November Architectural Billings Index

McGraw-Hill Construction, the construction industry division of the publishing giant, issues a construction index that reflects new construction valuations.  Their November report reflects an overall decline, but with some strengthening in residential construction.  The data in this report is not encouraging, but there is typically a lag that occurs between architectural billings and construction activity and in their discussion of this month’s index, they describe an up-and-down pattern for construction at the moment.  See more details on the current construction index here:   November Construction Index

McGraw-Hill also releases an annual forecast for the construction industry, and while 2011 is predicted to reflect a slow recovery, their 2010 forecast was quite a bit off, and these kinds of far-reaching predictions should be taken with a grain of salt.  The Wall Street Journal analyzes the predictions of the 2011 Construction Forecast here:  McGraw-Hill 2011 Construction Outlook

Statistics and predictions are one thing, but at ADMG we have seen and heard of first hand growth which looks promising.  We know some architects that are doing very well with design work, and we hear that some local firms are re-hiring employees laid off earlier in the recession.  Overall activity still seems low in California (with the exception of healthcare and K-12), but there is a sense that things have bottomed out and that we may experience a slow but steady growth in the future.    We are optimistic, we are setting our goals appropriately, and we will be wishing all of our friends and associates a fantastic 2011!


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Holiday Design and Construction How-Tos

During the holiday season, while the real world processes of design and construction frequently slow to a crawl, you can still get your architecture fix by scaling down operations and moving to alternate building materials.  Check out the following links for some useful DIY tips to build holiday cheer away from the office.

Are you sustainability-minded?  Looking to reduce/reuse/recycle some of your old Kenny G CD’s?  No worries, make a holiday wreath out of them:

Perhaps you have a sweet tooth and have always wanted to design your own home.  Simply construct the holiday classic – how to build a gingerbread house:

Or maybe you are the extreme outdoors type…build yourself a survival shelter out of nothing but frozen precipitation.  How to make an igloo (there is snow up on Mount Baldy):

ADMG would like to extend our wishes to all for a happy and healthy holiday season!


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Building Information Modeling: Back to the Future

Sean Meehan, LEED AP

In 2007, McGraw-Hill proposed that 2008 would be the year that BIM (building information modeling) would reach a ‘tipping point’ where it became the primary methodology for completing construction projects.  Three years later in 2010, their survey-based statistics show increased usage, but the ‘tipping point’ still does not appear to have been reached.  Roughly half of their survey respondents (made up of an industry cross-section of architects, engineers, owners and contractors) use BIM in some capacity, but very few use it exclusively on all projects.  Traditional 2D CAD software is still the primary methodology out there.  So why are we all stuck in the past?

The likely answer to this question is the recession.  While it has provided some of the downtime needed to allow BIM training to occur, the lean fees and scarce workload out there have had the opposite effect, forcing many organizations to stick with their current software and curtail expenditures like BIM training in favor of paying the rent and keeping the lights on.

The reasons to make a full switch to BIM are compelling though.  Most BIM users report a substantial ROI based on efficiency and productivity once they have adjusted to the software.  New marketing opportunities and expanding services go hand-in-hand with adopting building information modeling.  Another strong motivation is created by the risk of being left behind, as industry leaders like SOM and HOK have been effectively BIM-only for years now.  It is without a doubt the future of the design and construction industry.  The many benefits of BIM are nicely explained in this PDF slideshow:

ADMG is in the process of on-going training and certification with AutoDesk’s version of BIM, Revit.  We will begin incorporating Revit as our project design and documentation software on selected projects in 2011.  Time to put the plutonium in the flux capacitor, McFly!


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2011…A ‘Green’ Time Bomb?

Sean Meehan, LEED AP

While fall may not feel like it is in the unseasonably warm air, the days continue to pass on the calendar and in just about three months we will ring in 2011.  While we are all hoping for a prosperous new year and continued revitalization in our industry, there is change looming on the horizon…the 2010 California Building Codes.

The new 2010 Codes take effect on January 1, 2011.  While the building and fire codes will change based on the International Code Council’s 2009 model code, the big news here is the California Green Building Standards Code, now commonly referred to as CALGreen.   CALGreen is the nation’s first ‘green’ building code, mandating prescribed sustainability measures for most new construction projects (including initial tenant improvements) that are permitted in the state, beginning on January 1st.  Are these new requirements going to blow up in the face of the design and construction industry?

At first glance, CALGreen looks a lot like LEED.  There are requirements related to planning, energy efficiency, water consumption, sustainable materials, construction waste, and air quality.  There are additional optional tiers above the mandatory measures, very similar to LEED’s optional silver, gold, etc.  However, municipalities have the option of adopting the more restrictive tiers as mandatory, and likely will do so in the future as California pursues its long-term energy and emissions goals.

There has been some criticism of CALGreen, but it does represent a clear step forward by incorporating sustainability into the Code itself.  Despite the popularity of the LEED system created by the USGB C, there are a number of other third party green building certification programs and guidelines out there, and some Cities and government agencies have even adopted their own green building standards.  This has created a somewhat confusing landscape to navigate.  A statewide code levels the playing field for all of the parties involved – designers, builders, owners, and municipalities.

While the CALGreen standards do differ from LEED in some ways, the additional costs will be similar.  Required calculations and documentation will increase design costs, while construction waste management, environmentally-friendly materials, and high-efficiency equipment will impact construction costs.  Another potential cost to the developer will be the additional time and effort required during plan review to ensure that the new requirements are properly addressed on the construction documents.

There will certainly be some growing pains in the new year, but ADMG is actively preparing for the CALGreen requirements and will be able to offer our clients a smooth transition as possible.  Think of us as your personal green bomb squad!

The Building Standards Commission has published a relatively concise PDF guide to the nonresidential requirements of the new CALGreen Code.  Check it out here.


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