Tag Archives: NCARB software

On reminders and my (revised) BS Study Guide

As I write this I have just over an hour and a half until the deadline to call Prometic and reschedule passes. I don’t plan to, but as each exam arrives, I find the occasion curious. Signing up for each division is gut wrenching, but the nausea goes away after a day or two. As the examination draws near the appreciation slowly begins to rebuild, but there’s comfort in the fact that it is still “x” number of days away. Until the Appointment Reminder email shows up in the inbox. Uhoh, what’s that feeling in the pit of my stomach?

“Hey, just wanted to let you know that dooms day is almost here…want to get out of it? Call this number.”

Two weeks ago I would have called. A week ago I would have called. Today? I’m not calling. I’m feeling….okay. Not 100% but ok.

*cue the Rocky montage music*

*cue the Rocky montage music*

It’s amazing how that one quick note makes you stop and reconsider everything you think you know, and worry about how much you don’t. The “No biggie” or “No way!” moment. The moment to assess if you’re not only prepared academically, but also emotionally for the task at hand. After a discouraging Monday which ended in a tear stained and failed Kaplan practice exam things are looking a little better. (Sleep helped. When in doubt, sleep…I often forget this.) A little more progress was made Tuesday, and today I woke up feeling like I have the confidence to give it a shot. I want to sit for Building Systems.  Maybe I won’t pass again, I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the content, but at this point I’ll feel worse if I *don’t* take it.

I finished the updates to my study guide late on Sunday, (here’s a copy as a PDF) and think it covers just about everything I could get my hands on.  As always, hope it’s useful to someone else too…and apologies in advance for the misspellings and typos, I’ve already caught a few.

The goal this week has been distilling the most critical information and trying to digest as much as I can.  Like the last attempt, I’m feeling pretty confident about the overall concepts for each content area, but am still not where I’d like to be with the details.  That being said, I feel like I already know more than I did last time, so that bit of optimism is keeping me going as I shuffle through all of my notes.  I knocked out a 90% on the NCARB practice problems, but (as previously mentioned) bombed the Kaplan Q&A. I guess I’d rather fail now then on Saturday, and my plan for tonight is to go through the explanations and understand why I got things wrong.  (It really helped me prepare for SS, so why not try it again?)  I’m feeling better about working with the equation reference sheet that NCARB provides and I’m confident about the vignette.  I still need to spend some time looking at diagrams in MEEB and/or Architectural Graphic Standards, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself doing so.  At this point it makes the most sense to focus on the details, and memorizing the the little things like ADA dimensional requirements, typical decibel levels for spaces, and types of conduit to use in different applications.  I also want to get a handle on a few mechanical systems (looking at you VAV and Constant Volume), general acoustics, and Illuminance vs. Luminace concepts that are still a little fuzzy.  Can I pull all of that off by Friday night?  I’m not sure, but I’m going to try my hardest.

For me, the exam doesn’t start when I sit down at the workstation, but when I pass the deadline to call and reschedule. There’s no turning back at that point. Do not pass go, do not recollect your 210 dollars (if only), head straight to Prometric and wait for your turn. As I pass that moment today I recognize that I’m entering into my exam mode. I’m nervous (very nervous), but at the same time my mind feels like it’s 100% turned to the content and comprehension that seemed difficult a few weeks ago is almost effortless now. I guess I’m lucky in that regard.  At this point there’s little more to say then it’s time to aim high in hope and work.

Well, maybe I’ll say one more thing. As I was browsing information about refrigeration cycles, I ran across this educational film from 1944.  No joke, it’s one of the best resources on the topic I’ve seen due to it’s concise explanation and simple diagrams.  It’s also one of my favorites, as the thought alone of a bunch of early-Mad-Men-esque guys sitting around in suits smoking and drinking scotch as one says “Hey Bill, we otta get that picture on refrigeration off to the fellas down at the DOE.” makes me furiously happy.

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on electricty and keeping the faith

So far, my strategy for re-studying has been to start with with the basics and work my way, slowly, through more advanced concepts.  Looking back over my notes (it’s really nice to have a study guide to start with, by the way) and my posts here revealed that I glossed over a lot of information during my first attempt.  I still don’t think that I missed anything, but I do recall moments in the exam when I quietly kicked myself for not getting into the level of detail that I should have. I’ll be damned if that’s the case again.

Last week I worked through an overall assessment of where I stand.  My biggest concerns are really getting a handle on mechanical, electrical, lighting, and acoustical systems.  I’m feeling alright with passive, fire, and pluming, and I’m not quite sure where I need to improve on conveyance and security.  Addressing those will be the goal of this weekend.  I should probably also dust off the vignette and give that a go, too.

transformers_3_dark_of_the_moon

no, not these.

This week  I’ve spent the better part of the evenings tying to wrap my head around the basics of electricity.  I was doing alright until I got to transformers, and then all came to a standstill as I stared at single and three phase configuration diagrams.  I read, I sketched, I googled, I YouTubed, everything was either too vague or ridiculously complex to help me figure it out. Yet after banging my head against the desk a couple of times something must of rattled right, because I could comprehend just how Wye and Delta connections work.  That, or walking away for a milkshake was the break I needed for it all to sink in (unnecessary calories included).  My next goal is to address different voltage and amperage types, their characteristics, and common values for residential and commercial applications.  Like transformers, I’m assuming it’s not that difficult once I’m really in the right mindset.   The challenge is getting there.

The studying process for a retake is surprisingly different than the first time around, and I’m I starting to notice that perhaps I’ve gotten myself overly worked up for BS 2.0.  For the first attempt I tried to learn as much as I could, with the mindset that a well rounded approach to learning the content would be the best strategy. With a retake I’ve found myself almost pessimistically believing that what I knew before wasn’t good enough.  I’ve noticed that I’m obsessing over studying and making sure I understand every little detail before moving on to the next topic.  That’s a big red flag. If I keep up with this frenzied attack I’ll stress out or burn out long before exam day on the 25th.  Quite frankly I think I already am.  Stepping back and looking at the big picture, and then zooming in on the most critical details is really the best approach.  It worked 6 out of 7 times, so perhaps it’s time to take a little of the advice I tend to dole out. Keep the faith and keep plugging away.  It’ll all make sense eventually.

I mean it’s a multiple choice exam…it’s not like we’re preparing to fight the Decepticons.

 

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on Form, Force, and Structure (and cloud-based vignettes)

form image

don’t you love when a models also double as a necklace?

Here’s a cool little article that was brought to my attention over the weekend (thanks again Niharika!) on the historical relationship between form, force, and structure.  From the text:

“Following is a very brief review of the work of a number of designers of the early to mid-20th century, all of whom sought expression in new materials and the opportunities to create structural forms.   Much of their work has come to symbolize ‘structural art’, as defined by David P Billington…”

Otherwise said, this might be worth a quick read as you brush up on your history.  If you’re studying for the SS exam, add this to your list and give yourself a break from calculating lateral forces.

In ARE4 vignette news, NCARB is currently beta testing cloud based vignette software until March 18th.  So rejoice if you have 64 bit Windows or a Mac without bootcamp/parallells, your days of practicing vignettes on your desired computer are finally here.   Hit the link to sign up for the trail through your NCARB record.  I haven’t set this up myself, and I’m not sure how plugging in the alternatives on areforum will work, but I’m already pretty excited at the thought of not have to run bootcamp on my mac.  It’s been a first world problem, I know…

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BS Exam Review

Well, that was something.

I’ve been putting off writing my exam review primarily for the reason that every time I think about it I get sick to my stomach. Yeah…it wasn’t my best ARE experience. (Tell me again why I didn’t save SD for last?)

Now that I’ve had time to get some rest I think I’m able to assess how I did a little better. Overall, I think it was an incredibly challenging and detail focused exam. I felt that all of the overarching concepts I covered per the exam guide and Kaplan served me well in understand what the questions were asking, as well as narrowing the options down to a few good choices, but ultimately I struggled with confidently deciding on an answer. I found myself making a lot of educated guesses, and it’s my most gut-wrenching hope that they were right.

Prometric was fairly quiet on Sunday morning and it seemed like everyone who was testing had been there before…except for the middle aged guy next to me. I have no idea what exam he was taking or what resources he got to use, but it sounded like he was flipping through a phone book rapid fire looking for answers. His heavy sighs indicated that he wasn’t finding them. I kind of felt bad for him.

I used the full two hours for multiple choice. It took me about an hour and ten minutes to get through the 95 questions, and I marked about 3/4 of them (including anything i even slightly hesitated on) to review on my second time around. By the 45 minute mark I was cycling through depressed, panicked, and aggressive emotions, thinking “ohhh why didn’t I study that…crap! shit! crap! crap!….damnit Jenny, calm down and focus.” I finally calmed down about 10 minutes later. On my second round through I was able to think through many of the marked questions and settle on answers that I thought were best. When I didn’t know, I went with my gut. At the end I had about 5 or 6 WTF/no clue questions marked, which is pretty consistent with what I’ve found on other exams.

The leftover Halloween Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup I had during my break tasted extra bittersweet.

The vignette was on par with the NCARB example and I didn’t find it much more difficult than the practice problem. I worked through a few alternative vignettes the day before and they helped with designing around different floor plan layouts, but I don’t think I would have been in too much trouble if I had skipped them. I spent about 40 minutes laying out my solution and reviewed for 15 more. My biggest concern was if my supply and return ducts were spaced far enough from each other. I think they were alright.

Post Prometric Pint #7 – bring on the BBQ

It was kind of surreal exiting out of the exam…could this really be it? Would I ever see these Prometric ladies again? Would I ever hear the low whirr of the white noise generator in the corner of the room? I guess only time will tell.

After the exam and a brief venting to Mom, Nate suggested that I could probably use some serious comfort food (he was right). We met up at Russell Street BBQ, one of the best little spots in Portland to grab a drink and a bite. I arrived first and had the Post Prometric Pint in front of me before he even walked in the door! It was a czech pilsner from Southern Oregon Brewing called Na Zdravi and it was absolutely perfect as far as cold, crisp beers go. I’ve got to see if I can find it in bottles to share. After lunch we ran around to a few of our favorite antique shops in the city and scoffed at all of the Christmas decorations out already. Poor decorative turkeys and pilgrims, they don’t even stand a chance.

So I guess my exam is what it is and I know there’s nothing I can do now but wait for my results. Once I find out my fate I can decide what the next step will be. I’ve already promised Nate that if I fail I won’t spend the next six months studying…I think that would probably kill both of us. At this point I’m at least finding some comfort in the fact that I know I still have a good six months of IDP hours to get through, so even if I do fail, it’s not the only thing holding me up from my license. Still, a little (ok a big) part of me wants to be able to say that I’ve passed all seven exams in one shot. I’m trying to stay humble and not get my hopes up, but you can be darn sure I’m also keeping my fingers crossed pretty tight when no one is looking.

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And Last but not Least, a BS Study Guide

Mitch Hedberg on conveyance systems (RIP)

Well it’s late…or early now I guess… and it’s been a helluva long week, but I finally feel like I’ve gotten a grip on all this building systems stuff, there’s certainly a ton of it (would that convert to 12,000 BTUs, too?).  I’m so glad that I scheduled my test for Sunday, I honestly don’t know how I’d be ready if I didn’t have one more day for review.  I suppose I’d be up a sanitary waste line without a clean out.

Here’s my Building Systems Study Guide for your use if you’re interested.  Hard to believe that this is the last one!  It’s as thorough as I could make it, although nowhere near as in depth as MEEB.  I kind of feel like by the time I got to specialties, communications, and conveying systems I wasn’t getting as in depth on the  information as I had for HVAC, Lighting, etc.  I’m hoping that’s okay.  Given the types of questions that I’m seeing come up on the NCARB exam guide and the Kaplan chapter quizzes it seems like the emphasis is on the major systems.

I posted an attempt at the vignette over at arefourm and got some helpful feedback on a few little things to fix and work on.   While I was there, I checked out a few posts by other forum members and it looks like I might be in good shape.  All of my practice runs have gone fairly smoothly and I’m finishing with plenty of time to review.   The biggest challenge I have is making sure I’m not over lighting spaces.  I tend to add more fixtures than I probably need.

At this point my biggest concern is feeling more confident with the details.  I seem to have the big concepts down, but am getting stuck on all of the little facts like ADA clearance dimensions keeping all the types of light bulbs straight.  The rest of my time here will be spend reading and rereading, going through the Kaplan Q&A questions, and trying a few more of the vignette alternates.    Also, I’m pretty excited to get more than 3-1/2 hours of sleep at some point.  With daylight savings time ending this weekend at least I know I’m guaranteed 4-1/2.  Jackpot.

Finally, before I close, just wanted to send my words of support to all of you who are reading on the east coast.  I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are all safe and sound.  It’s been absolutely gut wrenching to watch what everyone is going through and I wish there was more we could do out here to help.   Here’s hoping that everyone will come out of this a lot stronger than they were before.   Best wishes for a speedy return to normalcy or better to you all.

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A Final Push to Study and the BDCS Study Guide

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you for your reading pleasure “Overkill”.

Alright, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I honestly wasn’t expecting to cover this much material while preparing for this exam. But once I started reading Fundamentals of Building Construction, (and trying a few practice exams to gauge what I comfortably knew) I realized that like PPP it was probably better to study more than less. It worked for me in the past…why not do it again, right? So as promised here is my Building Design and Construction Systems Study Guide. At 105 pages, I’m thinking of upgrading it to tome status. It covers just about everything in FBC, on areforum’s FTP site, and a slew of websites I ran across in the process. While it took a ton of time, I’m glad that I went through everything as thoroughly as possible and I hope that it will be worth it come Saturday. Hopefully you might get some use out of it as well.

Now the trick is just remembering everything.

oh to sell traditional materials in the modern age

I’m going to spend the next few nights reviewing as much as I can. I’m still a little unsure about fire ratings and construction types, as well as roof construction. Materials as a whole I’m pretty good on. Going through the guide a couple times a night and working through the Kaplan Q&A book should help tremendously in the final push. I also finally have some time to work on the alternate vignettes which I heard are very useful. I was able to post my roof design vignette on arefoum before it crashed and only messed up an elevation marker. It was a dumb mistake, but I’m glad that was the only one I made. I’m feeling comfortable with the accessible ramp, but want to practice a few more configurations just so I don’t get too cozy with the NCARB example. The stair has been the most difficult for me to wrap my head around. Conceptually it makes sense, but there’s something about actually drawing it that makes me freeze. But like the new Ben Folds Five song Do It Anyway suggests: “If you’re paralyzed by a voice in your head, It’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead. Go on and do it anyway”. If only the Fraggles were here to help out.

I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling a little bit of relief for the first time in weeks. I’m actually looking forward to a few more nights of working hard and getting some rest before the big day. I know I’ve covered everything, now it’s just a matter of convincing myself that I’m ready.

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SD Exam Review

“You’ve done these before, right?” the Prometric lady asked as she checked me in on Sunday.

“Yeah…once or five times”  I replied with a small laugh.  No wonder this process is starting to feel routine, it seems like every few weekends I’m back in East Portland settling in for the day.  I even caught myself thinking “sweet, my parking spot is here” as I drove into the lot.   That’s a whole new level of Prometric intimacy that I wasn’t expecting.

I’m having a hard time putting into words how I feel about this exam.  It went okay, there was nothing spectacular, no major WTFs, and it was absolutely on par with what I expected.  I suppose that’s a nice change from the freak outs of exams past. Overall I’m satisfied with how I did.  My solutions at least appeared to be decent and I finished both with time to spare.   Like always, I think I did alright, but when it comes to NCARB you can never be too sure.

I arrived at Prometric about 25 minutes before my exam time, signed in, chatted with the girl in the chair next to me about the breadth of exams people were there to take, and relaxed.  As this is the only ARE division where last minute note cramming is impossible, it was nice to have a moment to clear my head.  After getting checked in  I found myself at the same station where I took CDS as well as the LEED exam.  Here’s hoping my success rate at that spot continues.

The Interior Layout was first and I found it to be a tad more difficult than the NCARB example, but not nearly as hard as some of the forum alternatives. (I’m looking at you, scheme-with-multiple-tables-for-four).  I finished my design in just about 35 minutes and used the rest of the time to check, double check, and triple check my solution.  On the last round of verification I noticed that one of the dimensions of my clear floor area in front of a door was two inches short and, when drawn correctly, would overlap a piece of furniture by an inch or so.  Probably not a fatal mistake, but it just goes to show that even if a solution looks good it never hurts to take a minute and check the pesky details.

During the break as I reread the bulletin board postings I heard a faint “woohoo!” from the other side of the room.  The girl who I had talked to before was grinning with her pass letter, and asked me how mine went.  “Fine,” I said, “…but I still have four hours to go.”   She blinked. “Really? Wow.”   Yeah,  my sentiments exactly.

After the break I checked back into my desk in the now majorly empty testing room.  The Building Layout portion was definitely more tricky than the NCARB example.  I was so grateful to have done the alternative vignettes the day before…working through those helped me quickly come up with solutions to a few otherwise strange things in the actual exam.   The program chart on scratch paper is a lifesaver, and I spent a good half hour filling it out and checking it over.  The layout was straight forward, and the only thing I found myself worrying about was if a few of my rooms were too rectangular in terms of their length/width proportion.  Given the overall layout of the building I ultimately decided to stick with them, rather than try and create terrible L-shaped rooms.   Knowing my luck that would have only made them worse.

Overall with taking my time on the chart, initial layout, verification with the program, and adding detail and adjusting as required, the whole process took just under three hours.  For my final step I flipped between the actual program on the screen and my solution…it sounded like I was sending morse code via spacebar.  With an hour left I called it good enough, and checked out.

After the exam I ran  a few errands (hello new favorite art supply shop) and then headed over to my aunt and uncle’s place for a toddler-rific birthday party for my second cousin.   Anything with a Cars and Spiderman theme is pretty cool in my book…even cooler when it involves ice cream.

this stuff practically comes out of home faucets in pdx

Of course I couldn’t neglect my favorite exam tradition, so my sister Amanda graciously and awesomely showed up with beer… I kicked back with the Post Prometric Pint, a Bridgeport IPA, and didn’t even bother with a glass.   It’s kind of a go-to beer around these parts.  Everyone knows it, you can get it basically anywhere, and it’s pretty decent on tap or via bottle.

I’m already anxiously awaiting my results, but I know that I prepared well and submitted pretty darn good solutions.  When I began this examination process I was worried that I’d never figure out and finish the vignettes in the time allotted, but with plenty of practice I was able to get over that quickly.   I’m glad to have this exam attempted, and I’m looking forward to enjoying summer for a few weeks before I gear up for the final two divisions.

 

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another last push and another study guide

By exam number five you’d think the pre-exam freak outs might not be quite as bad as they were before.  They’re really not.  That being said, while I’m nervous for Sunday, I’ve realized that this is the first exam where I’ve felt genuinely confident walking in.  Nerves aside, that’s a pretty good feeling to have two days before showtime.

at least I’m not in as bad of shape as this guy.

This morning I got the appointment reminder from NCARB which included the standard rescheduling policy as usual.  You know the one…you must reschedule your exam by noon eastern (that’s 9AM to us west coasters) three business days before your appointment.  Given that I always take my exams on the weekend, I usually get the reschedule reminder after the deadline has passed. Nice, huh?  It kind of makes me chuckle and think welp…it’s too late to turn back now.

The past few evenings I’ve been focusing heavily on the Interior Layout, and think I’ve got that one in the bag.  I’ve worked through almost all of the alternates, as well as tried the original NCARB example again.  I’ve managed to get my time down to about 35 minutes, which is just about perfect.  I’ll do a few more timed trials tomorrow, but otherwise think I’ll dedicate the rest of my time to perfecting my Building Layout skills.  I still am not quite happy with how near my “near” rooms are, so hopefully practicing a few alternatives will help.  I tend to make a lot of progress in the final push…at least I have for all the exams to date.

Instead of working on the vignettes tonight, I finally put together my study guide as a way to review the notes and strategies that I’ve compiled so far.  While there are other guides that are probably more helpful graphically, I created a step by step written process for each exam.  Here’s the Schematic Design Study Guide PDF for you to use too, if you’d like.

Work has been crazy busy the last few weeks, so between that and late nights studying I’m pretty wiped.  I think the best thing I can do at this point is get plenty of rest tonight and tomorrow, and give myself a bit of time to work though the Building Layout.  Tomorrow night the Timbers take on the LA Galaxy, and while I’d love to be there for it, think it would be wiser to stay home to wrap up studying and get a good night sleep.   Things have been blowing up with the team lately, amazing wins at home and embarrassing losses on the road.  This week they relieved Coach Spencer of his duties, and like many fans  I’m not surprised, but I am saddened.  I sincerely wish him the all the best.  While most of my professional role models are designers, he’s been a shining example of how one can perform a high stress job with honesty, integrity, and a bit of humor.  He really is true class and I look forward to following the rest of his career.

So on that note, here’s to the final push for SD.  With a few final tweaks and a bit of luck, I should have a pretty good shot on Sunday.

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hmmm..that was almost easy…

I’m trying really hard to stay humble about this…because I know if I start getting too sure of myself then it will bite me in ass and I’ll fail… but I think I realize why others have said this is the cake-walk exam.

It’s pretty easy.  Not ARCH101 easy of course, but let’s just say it feels like a treat after preparing for Structural Systems.

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This is my second complete and timed attempt at the building layout.  I posted my first attempt over at the forum and got some really helpful feedback.  This time it took me about 1-1/2 hours to do, and I’m comfortable with that.   The forms that I’m coming up with are pretty simple and I’ve heard that square rooms with double loaded corridors are the best way to go.  That being said, I’d like to try some configurations with corridors that turn corners and result in building layouts that are a bit more square.  I think I finally have a handle on the doors and existing, and I learned that you do need a door into and out of  your stair on the first floor, even if it’s adjacent to a lobby space with an exterior door.   I’m still struggling with the concept of near (perhaps I should brush up on some classic Sesame Street) and how best to locate multiple rooms that need to be close, but not adjacent.  According to the feedback I got on the forum, that means they should be at most 10-20% of the corridor distance apart.   In the case of the example above  on the second floor the Small Meeting Room (SM), Large Meeting Room (LM), and Secretary Office (SO) should all be near to one another…in each attempt I can get two, but never all three.  Guess that’s something to work on!

As others have said, the program chart that Dorf first introduced was incredibly useful, and I’ve been using a slightly modified version to help me work through the layouts.  Here it is as a PDF.  The “fill in the blank” items at the bottom are key program components that I found got lost in the table.  They can run, but they can’t hide!

Now that I’ve worked through each of the vignettes a couple of times, I think my biggest weakness is the Interior Layout.  I can get a decent solution, but it’s down to the wire every time.  With a bit of practice I hope to be able to increase my efficiency by a fifteen minutes or so.  On exam day I’d like to make sure I can take a breath and review my solution, not be laying something out as the timer ticks down to zero, as much fun as that way on Site Planning + Design…not.  Tonight I’m breaking out the alternatives and aiming to get through one building layout and at least two interior layouts.

Tomorrow is my grandma’s 94th birthday, so there’s a big family dinner and celebration (as there should be!) so there won’t be much time to dedicate to working.   Here’s hoping tonight will go smoothly so I can enjoy the festivities.   If the past week has been any indication, it should be fine.  I just keep telling myself that solving tricky layouts is waaaay better than calculating the forces in truss members.

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have an interior layout, won’t you?

Last night I sat down and went through alkikat’s compiled study guides (check them out, they’re great!), reread the NCARB exam guide, and read the SD chapter by Dorf. It was a good way to kick things off, and I think I have an idea of how I might start organizing my own guide this weekend.

That’s a lot of empty space in the middle…yikes

Here’s my first timed attempt at the Interior Layout, which took about 55 minutes to do.  Ultimately I’d like to get my time down to 30 minutes. I think with a bit of practice and creating a routine that shouldn’t be difficult.   To me, it looks like everything is working out pretty decently.  That being said, there’s a ton of wasted space in the middle of the suite (I don’t like that at all), my 5′ turning radius in the conference room overlaps the door (but I think it can move down),  and I’ve since learned that the executive desk in Mr. Jones’ office could have a 3′ clear dimension from the table, not the chair, provided there was enough space to get between the desk and the armchair.

Also, speaking of Jones’, I have no idea why, but every time I work on that room I get Me & Mrs. Jones stuck in my head.  My brain apparently likes to inflict not necessarily cruel, but definitely unusual punishment when I’m studying.   Here’s hoping there isn’t an office for Mr. Roboto on the actual exam.

Building Layout is tonight…let the Dorf charting begin!

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