Tag Archives: ss

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…

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Shock and Awe

I got home from work last night and a white envelope was sitting on the desk.   Probably just a bill … wait…what’s that? NCARB?  ALREADY?  It’s only been a week and a half since my exam.  This couldn’t be good…or maybe it was….I ripped into it, holding my breath like always.

PASS!!  (A wine bottle was opened almost instantly.)

I’m honestly blown away, I didn’t expect to see that result.  Now that I’ve celebrated/calmed down a little bit,  I’ve been thinking about why it went my way.   Aside from studying until I was blue in the face, I think that having a solid conceptual understanding of structures truly saved me.  Reading about lateral, seismic, and wind forces from multiple sources (eg: FEMA, Buildings at Risk, Kaplan, misc study guides) was crucial to my success.  While I wish I would have spent more time on equations and practice problems, I understand (and agree) with other examinees suggestion that knowing what the equations and their components mean is almost more important than how to solve them.

When I told Nate the good news  he said “told you!”, which turned out to be the same sentiment from others as well.   Apparently you all have more faith in me than I do.  Thanks for that, and for all the kind words of support and encouragement during the process.  I know I couldn’t do this without you.

So, 4 down…3 to go.   Words cannot express how good it feels to be over the half way point.  Now let’s just hope that this successful streak continues.


Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Structural Systems Exam Review

…and deep breath out.

Boy am I glad to have that one over with (at least for now).  It’s like a uniform load of 3,000 kips/inch has been lifted off my shoulders…and I’m not even going to begin to try and find the reactions for that.  Overall I think the exam went OK.  I’m not sure  that I passed, and I can’t be certain I failed.  At this point all I can do is wait it out.

I arrived at Prometric at 8.30, and as I walked away from my car I heard a familiar voice behind me.

“Jenny!  I know why you’re here!”

It was Kyle, a classmate from grad school that I haven’t seen in quite some time.  He was there for Site Planning and, while I didn’t tell him, would have traded him exams in a heartbeat.  We chatted and checked in, and before I could even begin to recite equations to myself, I was called in to get started.  After the usual pleasantries from the familiar friendly ladies I found myself in the middle of room at a station I’ve now deemed my favorite.  Perfect temperature, low foot traffic, nice light… and the best part? I figured out that the chairs adjust!  Days of sitting on my knees and shifting every 5 minutes are over…oh happy day!

During the mandatory introduction tutorial on how to use a mouse/keyboard/etc I jotted down all of the equations and guidelines I could remember. I wondered if this would be the exam that I used all of the scratch paper they provided.  I got close, but still had a few blank pages at the end.

I didn’t run across my first challenging question until about 10 problems in, which is a good sign I hope.  After that, it was downhill for a while with plenty of math problems (maybe 20 or so) and the usual tricky wording that NCARB throws our way. I didn’t come across any content that I neglected to study, however I found that my struggles were on topics that I didn’t study enough. That, to me, was more frustrating than had I not known it at all.  Reading IBC Chapter 16 was a good move, as was FEMA and Buildings at Risk for the conceptual questions.  My school notes on trusses and beams were helpful, too.  I can say, in hindsight, that studying the Kaplan Q&A was probably the best thing I did.  It truly helped me think about structural concepts more pointedly.  I wish I would have dedicated more time to it.

Admittedly I had a slight freak out about 1.5 hours in…not quite to the point of silent tears, but close.  “Oh God,” I thought “I don’t know how to do any of this!!”  After I calmed down and knocked out a few more problems that I felt more confident about, I was done with entire set.  Cue the first small sigh of relief.  I had made it through all of the question in just over two hours, which gave me nearly an hour and a half to review. I marked about 50% of the problems on my first go around (typical for yours truly) included any that I hesitated on.  I diligently worked through those, giving the calculations the best attempt I could.  When time was up I had about 10 still checked, predominately WTF questions that I simply guessed on.

Took my mandatory break in the lobby and read the same study tip articles posted on the bulletin boards that were there at my last exam.  12 minutes and a fruit snack later I was back at my station getting ready to draw.

I prepared for the vignette by reading dwg’s step by step instructions and practicing about 5-10 times.  The exam was just as straightforward… cue the second small sigh of relief.  It was the same difficulty level as the practice problem, and I was happy with my solution after about 15 minutes of work.   I reread the program (always reread the program!!) and made a few tweaks to my column and beam locations.  With 20 minutes left on the clock I decided there was nothing else I could possible do or review, and clicked finish.  Phew.  All done.

If you ever come visit Portland, eat/drink/be merry here. (You don’t even have to take an exam first!)

After the exam Nate and I met up in Central Eastside Industrial District, a rough and gritty neighborhood full of working warehouses, hidden gems, and local favorites (see:  Burnside skatepark, City Liquidators, and OMSI) We wandered around there for a bit and then ran up to Hawthorne Avenue to check out our usual go-to shops.  Did a little window shopping for mid century modern furniture, and wondered if it would be appropriate to put any of it in the craftsman style houses we’ve been eying in the neighborhood.  It truly was the nicest way to wind down the day.

The Post Prometric Pint was an Epic Hop Syndrome poured by the guys at Produce Row Cafe.  Light and hoppy, it’s a perfect summer beverage. I’ll definitely  be back for another.  I also tried potato skins for the first time (crazy, I know.) and seriously considered changing the the name of my post exam ritual to the Post Prometric Pint plus Potatoes.  They were that good.

Overall I’m at peace with how the day went.  Whatever my results turn out to be, I know that I tried, and given the breadth of material there was to study, did as best I could.  If I have to take it again I’m at least grateful to know what to focus my efforts on next time.  For the next few weeks I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and trying to get my  mind off the process.  It shouldn’t be too hard…I’m pretty excited to let it go!   That being said, while the exam was scary, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I had feared.

Now to go convince Nate that we need more potato skins and mid century European credenzas in our life.   I fear he’s created a monster.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

the exam day she’s been dreading

For years now I’ve kept this little picture on my desk…75% for a laugh and 25% for days like today.

Not gonna lie, I’m scared.  But I’m also excited to give this exam a shot and (even more so) to get it over with.  At this point I’ve officially done all I can, beside looking over equations in the parking lot before I walk in to Prometric.   The worst that can happen is that I take it again in January, and really, that’s not so bad (it’s always good to have something lined up for the post holidays slump anyway, right?)

I spent the last few nights rereading notes and going over practice problems in the Kaplan Q&A.  I didn’t get through the whole book as I had hoped. I did a set of 150 problems on Wednesday night and ended up getting most of them wrong (hello panic attack, followed by anger). So I spent Thursday night going through all of my incorrect answers and correcting my mistakes.  I think it helped.  Last night I reviewed my notes, read IBC Chapter 16 again, did a few more practice problems, and memorized equations like crazy. I know I broke the cardinal rule of taking time off before the exam to calm down and relax, but I didn’t feel like I could this time around.  Hopefully that doesn’t bite me in ass today.

My mind is still feeling a bit jumbled, but I bet part of that is due to nerves.  I’m ready to give it my all and hopefully knock this one out of the park.  I’ve a had tons of support from family and friends, and lots of well wishes as I prepared…including some from you, thank you!…I guess to be honest, I’d hate to let everyone down.   With that in mind, the best thing to do is stay optimistic that I won’t!

Alright*deep breath* Let’s go get this over with, shall we?

Tagged , , , , , , ,

on shoveling barkdust (and my SS Study Guide)

forget failing an exam, *this* is my nightmare

Over the past few days I’ve found myself in a panic induced routine fueled by stumptown and pandora.  As I explained to Mom, a teacher with a bit of a greenthumb, studying for this exam is like shoveling bark dust.  You start with a mound of material, and with each scoop you take, the pile gives way and more falls in front of you.  No matter how much scooping you do it feels like you’re getting nowhere. There’s always something to be picked up until, all of a sudden, it’s totally gone.

Last night, or this morning around 12.30 I should say, my pile had vanished.

At this point I think I’ve done as much studying as I can.  My head is full of random information and my study guide (yes, it’s posted, hang on…) is as good as it’s going to get.  I’m feeling like I have a good understanding of the concepts, but at this point everything is still jumbled around in my mind.  The next few days/nights will be dedicated to the Kaplan Q & A book and review.  It’s my hope that I will finally be able to tighten my grasp on the material as well as memorize the equations that I’ll need to use later.

So, here’s my structures study guide.  It’s 63 pages of fun-filled general/lateral/seismic/wind structural goodness.  While I probably should have included notes on how to solve beams, columns, and trusses, I found using my school notes to be helpful enough as I studied.  Fortunately there are so many resources available via Kaplan and on the arefourm FTP site that it would probably would have been overkill to include anyway.  Like always, I can’t guarantee that my guide covers everything we’ll need to know for the exam, but sharing it is the least I can do to say thanks for all the support and resources they’ve sent my way.  If I find any mistakes as I review with it I’ll update this link and mention it in a new post.

I kicked back at lunch today and finished re-reading FEMA 454 chapters 4/5/8/9, not necessarily for fun, but more as a review for what I’ve already studied.  Strangely enough, it was much more enjoyable this time around.  I guess that happens when you have a snack in your hand and not a highlighter.  Next up is Buildings at Risk – Flooding.  I didn’t get a chance to study that, but from what I gather on the forum, it’s good to know.

I’m sitting on thesis reviews tomorrow night at my grad school alma mater University of Oregon-Portland. Fun fact: crits are way more enjoyable when you’re the one in the chair making comments.  If you ever get a chance to participate in one, I’d highly recommend it.  I’ve fortunately been able to sit in on a few over the past few years and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me miss school.  Studio one of my most cherished memories and experiences.  That being said, it’s amazing what a few years of profesional growth will do to you.  While I still admire the creativity, passion, and innovation of my peers, I find myself appreciating the attention to structure and tectonics just as much.  I suppose that means engineering is becoming as important to me as art.  Perhaps I really am becoming a true architect.

While I still intend to push hard the next few days, I feel like I’m doing so with a calm confidence.  I’ve come to peace with the fact that structures is a difficult subject for me to grasp and it probably always will be.  All I can do at this point is give the exam my best effort and know that I’ve tried my damnedest. That’s really not a bad position to be in, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed, just in case.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

You can take the intern away from the exam, but you can’t take the exam away from the intern.

Over the long weekend, Nate and I avoided the crappier-than-normal Memorial Day weather by seeing The Avengers.  While I’m by no means a Marvel aficionado, I do know that anything Joss Wheadon touches is bound to be awesome.  As many have said before, the film did not disappoint, and it got me thinking about a few things, too.  I wonder what big name architect would have had the  honor of designing Stark Tower? (My money is on SOM…who else could pull of super high-tech meets mid-century modern swank?)  And also, holy crap they damaged a hell of a lot of Manhattan in less than 3 hours.

Wonder how complex your structural system needs to be to resist the force of the hammer of Thor?

Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking about the latter.  The Hollywood Reporter put out an article on just how severe the damage would have been had the events actually occurred.  Something to the tune of 160 BILLION dollars.  That’s the cost of 9/11, Katrina, and the latest tsunami in Japan combined…and then some.  While we can feel fortunate that a disaster of such magnitude has never happened, the story serves as a reminder of the amount of analysis that must be done to return the built environment to its previous state.   From the article:

“The extensive damage to Grand Central Terminal could prove highly disruptive, depending on the subsurface damage to the subway system,” KAC notes. “Although such damage is unlikely, as the 9/11 events showed, collapsing buildings can cause significant damage to subsurface infrastructure such as gas, communications and electrical systems. Detailed site surveys will be required to assess the state of the subterranean infrastructure.” [1]

As an intern studying for the Structures exam, I sat there wide eyed as complexes imploded and buildings were torn apart.  I caught myself wondering things like “What kind of redundancy does structure like that have?!” and “How can that tower still support a load after the Hulk smashed in one end and out the other?!”

Not that I said any of this out loud… it was more like “oh ho ho daaaaaamn!”

I suppose this means that the concepts I’ve been studying are starting to stick.  If I can apply them to blockbusters, then I should be able to apply them to exam questions next weekend.  And who knows, perhaps all this  NCARB training will lead to a highly covert career at SHIELD in their R+D department.

[1]  Bet you never thought you’d read about structural analysis in a Hollywood entertainment mag.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

I was wrong and I just can’t live without you

The most gorgeous thing I have seen all week.


I am so happy to see arefourm alive and kicking…in part because now I can get “Baby Come Back” out of my head.  Also, because I’ve come to appreciate how much I rely on it.  Studying is a lonely process, and I really do enjoy the comradery amongst peers.

Looks like you can blog over there now, too.  I’m not sure how I’ll run with that yet, to be honest. I like the idea, but I’m feeling pretty cozy here on wordpress.  Perhaps I’ll put up my post exam thoughts or arefourm specific posts there.  While it’s good to have redundancy in a structural system, that’s really not the case with blogs. Keep it simple, right?

Speaking of structures, I’ve been making some progress the past few nights. I finished the Kaplan guide and tried the first 125 problems in the Q&A book.  It took about three hours to get through them all (had a few distractions around the house) so with some practice and focus, I should be able to get that time cut down to two hours. I think it is wise to start doing sets of problems using exam constraints.  It gets me thinking about equations and concepts quicker, and remembering to move on when I catch myself spending too much time on a problem.

I haven’t tallied my score from my first attempt yet, but by the looks of all the red marks indicating wrong answers I’d say I’m still facing an uphill battle.  Still, I’d rather learn from my mistakes now!  I was pleased to see that many of the questions I went with my gut on and marked turned out to be correct.  Today I saw a  post over on arefourm on the errors in the Q&A book, and member AugDog shared the errata they got from Kaplan correcting some of the problems.  Here it is as a PDF in case it disappears over there for some reason.

hope he doesn’t get tension headaches, har har!

The concepts, in general, are making sense.  As I work through the practice problems I’m beginning to see areas that I need to go back and spend more time on.  In addition to rereading material,  I need to dedicate time to memorizing key equations.   I’ll be spending a lot of time waiting in line for the Timbers match vs. Vancouver on Saturday, so that might be a good opportunity to crank through flashcards.

I don’t know if I will be able to get my study guide done by the end of the weekend, although I am still planning on taking a good stab at it.  Personally I need to get over the thought of sitting at my computer typing away in pages for hours…I think that is what is stimulating my procrastination the most.   Perhaps starting with something I’m interested in like architects and building history will get me on a roll.  Reading about great minds like Brunelleschi, Bucky Fuller, and Calatrava, is enough to inspire anyone.

So I guess we’ll see how it goes.  One thing is for sure though, now that arefourm is back it’s only a matter of time before “Reunited” gets stuck in my head.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

keep on keepin on

You would think with arefoum being down I would get more work done.  All that time spent reading post-exam thoughts, and reviewing vignettes, and generally lurking on PPP/SPD/CDS forums  (“I passed and so can you!” comments are fun) would go to working on my structures notes.   Yes, you would think that… and you would be wrong.

“Hmmm…I wonder if it’s working now?”  *refresh*  “Nope.”
*10 minutes later*
“Hmm… how about now?”  

I’ve spent a good chunk of time wondering when, or if, the forum will come back.  As of this posting it still hasn’t, but it’s my naive hope that it will spring back to life sometime during the work week.  And if it doesn’t, well, then I suppose we’ll all get through it.   Between Kaplan, ArchiFlash, old textbooks, and Google,  I think I’m in pretty good shape for materials, and in my last post a few people had some awesome workarounds.  Regarding thread posts, JD said:  “Google-search a question (for example: are forum CDs vignette overlap dimensions), within the google results page, click on google’s chache. Access to the google cache varies per browser, but this will display most of the thread, minus images.”

AREweanArchitectyet (another awesome ARE blog you should read, btw) found an old backup of the FTP files from ARE3.1 days.  Contracts are out of date, and the old 3.1 exam structure is used, but it’s still useful to have!   Here’s the link for your use!  I’m seriously relieved to have heard about this one…I really do rely on the FTP info when I’m getting started on an exam.

you can go ahead and guess which half of my weekend was more exciting.

I cranked through a good chunk of Kaplan over the weekend.  I didn’t meet my goal of finishing it, however.  I have two more chapters to get through: Wind, and Notable Buildings & Engineers.  If I can tear myself away from Antiques Roadshow (guilty pleasure) or, God forbid, actually get it done before its on, then I will still be in good shape at the end of tonight.  I’m excited to start working through the Kaplan Q&A book, words I never thought I would type, but my next priority will be finishing my study guide.   Now that I have a basic understanding of everything I think/hope the guide will go together much faster.  That being said, it’s still going to take some serious time, coffee, and ice cream.  I hear Ben & Jerry’s is a good study aid.

So far the exam content is all making sense.  I’m not sure how many of the random equations that Kaplan mentions (eg: calculating shear in a notched beam) I will have, or choose, to memorize, but my general feeling right now is that if it’s explained in the book, I should damn well know how to do it on the exam.  I took the quizzes at the end of each chapter and scored a 70% or better pretty consistently. Recalling and solving equations is still giving me some trouble, but  I seem to remember that being an issue in school as well.   At least I know where my weaknesses are.

My goal is to finish my study guide by the end of the holiday weekend. I don’t know if that’s insane or not.   I do know, however, that it’s probably sad that I’m excited to have next Monday off from work because it will give me 8 more hours of “good” brain time (I study/work better in the mornings/afternoons than in the evenings).   It’s going to be a busy week for extra curricular activities.  The Timbers take on Valencia FC in a friendly on Wednesday evening and we have our first Cascadia Cup match against Vancouver on Saturday.  After finally getting a win yesterday versus Chicago,  I’m psyched for both.   And speaking of psyched, Nate has a gallery show opening on June 1 for a photography project he’s been working on, and I get to help him out on that a bit as he prepares.

Given all this neat stuff going on, I need to buckle down and work hard in the moments I have free.  It’s certainly doable with a bit of willpower.  I think step number one will be blocking areforum so I don’t keep refreshing the page again and again…. *click* Nope.  Still nothing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

You don’t realize what you miss until it’s gone, or at least 403 forbidden

Well it looks like things are still a little quiet over at areforum. Word on the tweets is that members across the country haven’t been able to access the site all day, so if you can’t either, know that you’re not alone!

While May 18 might not be remembered as the day areforum crashed, in my neck of the woods it was still a bit of a somber day. Today was the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s. The disaster was five years before my time, but the images from the media, stories from family members, and bits of ash we *still* find when doing major landscape/site work in town, all serve as a chilling reminder of what nature is capable of doing. As I study seismic forces, with the mountain in plain view from my neighborhood, I can’t help but reflect of how far the design and approach of keeping people safe has evolved in the past 32 years alone. Even though we have more to study because of it, knowing how buildings protect should be a goal we all strive to reach.

Tagged , , , , ,

the current state of my (other) desktop

learn all of this? no big deal…right?

Well the Timbers didn’t win (another 0-0 draw) and now haven’t scored a goal in, oh, 427 minutes.  That’s over 4 matches.  Damn.  On the plus side, Houston’s Stadium was gorgeous, we got a point on the road, and no one got kicked in the face.  Sometime you have to remind yourself to always look on the bright side of life.

The same rings true for studying.  I’m now four chapters through Kaplan, and I think I’ve made it over the nasty calculations hurdle.  I’m able to work through equations and problems fairly efficiently,  but my understanding of what all the components mean is still weak.  I don’t know what I need to memorize what resources will be available,  so I want to review the NCARB supplied list before I go too much further.   The less I have to store in my brain, the better.

I’ve got to admit it’s a little strange sitting at a desk with books.  I don’t think I’ve done this since…well since I took structures in college.  While I’m enjoying  the reprieve from typing in a pages document, I feel like I’m ultimately going to have to take all of the information I’m highlighting and jotting down and put it into my notes later.  I hope I’m not wasting time.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,