Tag Archives: Schematic Design

…and SD makes 5!

It’s funny how involuntary reactions work with exam results.  Every time I see an NCARB envelope my stomach drops to my diaphragm (oh no!) and then jumps up to my esophagus (oh boy!) and I hold my breath as I tear open the envelope.  My hands shake, ever so lightly, as I peek at the header of the NCARB letter still tucked inside.    Somehow this all occurs in a matter of seconds that feel like hours and is done without any conscious thought on my part.  I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar too.

And then an honest to goodness smile as I see the word PASS.

I’m pretty dang happy and a bit relieved, like always.  While I had a good feeling that the exam went well, it’s really nice to officially have another confirmed pass to my name.  With five down, this is truly the first moment when I’ve felt that the end is near.  There’s still plenty (and from what I’ve read on the forum that means a ton) of information to get thought on BDCS and BS  but I’m ready to buckle down and focus.   I’ve realized that  my goal of knocking out the last two exams in the next four months means that both must be a PASS so I’m not wasting any time waiting around for six months to retake either of them.

But for now…let’s party, like we have before and will no doubt do again.  While the examination process is getting a bit tiring, here’s hoping that celebration never does.

party cat by the very funny nedroid (click for the whole series, which surprisingly sums up the ARE process quite nicely)

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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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it’s good to be back

I will always be a total sucker for this place. Love.

Ok, so I’m back to AREndurance land a bit later than I expected, but that’s how life (and vacation) goes. We had an awesome time down in Los Angeles… I got to see some fantastic architecture, visit almost every attraction you can name, and go down to Disneyland/California Adventure for the second time in my life.  While I’m still a big kid at heart when it comes to the happiest place on earth, I caught my designer eyes picking up things I never noticed (or cared about) before…did you know “It’s A Small World” has a lay-in 2×4 ceiling (not to mention seems to take waaaay longer to ride when you’re an adult!)? It’s true.   We got home late Sunday night thanks to delays in San Francisco due to fog, but it turns out the terminal I was spending my afternoon in has gotten some press on it’s innovative design, and is home to the only accredited museum in an airport.  Sweet.

So now that my bags are unpacked, I’m rested from my travels, and have 4th of July festivities taken care of, I’m back to studying… however not quite kicked into high gear.  I’m assuming that phase should be starting tonight or tomorrow, seeing that my exam is in 10 days.  Hooboy.   I’ve muddled through the interior layout and read up on the building layout so far, as well as looked at many examples on areforum.  I think the next step is to start adhering to the time constraints as I work through the given example and the alternatives.  Hopefully in the next day or two I’ll be able to post an attempt here and on the forum for review.  Once I have a decent grip on the process I’ll be able to put a step-by-step guide together.  I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty nice not having to compile a 50+ page study guide  for this exam….but maybe that’s just Vacation Jenny talking.

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Ain’t no rest for the wicked

In lieu of taking some time off now, I decided to go ahead and schedule my next exam, Schematic Design, for Sunday, July 15. There’s a Timbers match the night before against the LA Galaxy, so my goal is to be done by then so I can go enjoy it.  It’s probably a long shot, but I’m hoping that we’ll have a hell of a shut out against them like we did last year.  A girl can dream, right?  Also, since we’re on the subject of the mighty PTFC, the new Adidas commercial with Darlington Nagbe and the Timbers Army featured is pretty cool (I can almost feel the green smoke in my lungs watching it).

Anyway, my options were to take the exam on the 15th, or wait until after my sister Amanda’s, Nate’s, and my birthdays (aka: 2 weeks of party time).  That would push it back to mid/late August. It seems kind of silly to wait that long, and to be honest, I’d rather have another test under my belt before I get a year older.  27 is, after all, the goal age to have my license.  Time is ticking!  From what I’ve gathered on the forum and from conversations with others, it’s definitely reasonable to knock this one out in a couple of weeks.  That’s probably a good thing, seeing that I have just over four weeks to prepare and I’ll be in Los Angeles for one of them!

I downloaded the software/exam guide from NCARB and will spend today familiarizing myself with it.  I’m pretty excited to have a break from compiling a huge study guide, but I’ll still put together a step-by-step process like I do for all of the vignettes.   I know it’ll take some work, and plenty of practice, but I have a good feeling about this exam already.  It’s kind of nice.

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