We’re Still Hiring!

SetWidth360-Hiring-2013 (1)Among all of the bad news of layoffs in the energy industry….we bring good news! K&W is looking for detail oriented landscape architects that are drawn to the construction aspect of LA. If you love to see landscape design get built the way it was intended, you pay close attention to the details, and like to get out in the field – this is the job for you! Come work with Kudela & Weinheimer as a Construction Administrator, show us what you’ve got.

Mid-Level LA Construction Admin

Psychology of Social Spaces

Author - Danielle Bilot

Author: Danielle Bilot

Landscape Architecture is often perceived as a discipline that chooses plants, lays out sidewalks, and designs pools that gather immense amount of children at your home on your days off. In reality, we are much more than that. We are many disciplines all rolled into one: Horticulture, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Urban Planning, Soil Science, and many others. But the most important discipline that we employ is most often overlooked: Psychology. Beautiful designs do not just happen. They apply the proper use of lines, colors and textures to provide contextual clues to the brain that innately prompt people into performing certain movements to guide them through a space.

One of my focuses in graduate school at the University of Oregon was Understanding the Psychology of Social Spaces. Each time I have to design a space here at K&W, I program spaces according to the desired level of covert and overt socialization and the amount of movement that supports the primary function, depending on if it is a transition or gathering area. Then I use a combination of design guidelines that intuitively cue people into using the space appropriately. For example, when I design transition zones, I do not use many vertical lines because those imply a focus, to stop and look at. Instead, I use more horizontal lines that are easy for the eye to follow and simultaneously encourage movement. I use trees that have more horizontal branching habits, such as pines, white oaks, and some maples, but not a willow or a cypress. I use fences that have horizontal planks instead of vertical ones. I use pavement materials that are long and linear, not short and facing opposite the flow of traffic. Even the simplest details should reflect the use of an area. When choosing colors for splash pad equipment, I use color combinations that are opposite on the color wheel for the stationary objects that are vertical. It implies a focus point, especially with the water falling down around it. For elements like the loops that children are supposed to run through, I choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These imply movement, or transition.  All of these principles create a cohesive, psychologically functional social space.

These are only a few of the design principles that designers can apply to make spaces more comfortable and easy to use. Too often we forget that “the pretty” can and should be functional and fit into the appropriate context of the overall site program. If you would like more information on design tactics like these, I would recommend looking at the book A Pattern Language. The University of Oregon campus is designed according to those principles in the book and has been commended for proper use of wayfinding methods, placement and size of green spaces, and retaining important connections to major buildings on site.

Click on the pictures below to show direct examples of the landscape design tactics talked about above.

Ms. Bilot, our “Bee Lady” as we affectionately like to call her – you’ll find out why soon enough if you stay tuned to the blog, has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from University of Wisconsin and a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Oregon. Ms. Bilot was acknowledged in GROW – Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences for the positive effects of the Neu-Life Park built in Milwalukee. Having multiple awards under her belt, she is a talented landscape designer. Danielle has a passion for alternative methods of transportation (she rides her bike to work daily…IN HOUSTON) and organic, hormone free, non-gmo foods. She is, to say the least, our resident hippie.

City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Bond Improvements

Author Audrey Rocha

-Author Audrey Rocha

Due to a bond program that was approved in 2007, the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department has made substantial improvements over the last few years in their park system. The residents, my family included, have reaped many benefits from the enhancements. There are a wide variety of options available. My son loves the variety of playgrounds, I enjoy the different trail types and locations, and there are several dog parks for all the dog lovers.

Knowing how much I use & enjoy getting out and visiting the city parks, I am especially excited that K&W’s San Antonio office was recently selected to perform design services on park improvements for two parks. In 2012, the citizens approved another bond, which included $87.15 million for park improvements on 42 parks. K&W was selected to work on New Territories & Oscar Perez Parks. These parks are located on the northwest side of San Antonio. They are each going to get $350,000 worth of trail improvements, which K&W will have the benefit of designing.

Working at K&W, we do many open spaces and parks, but most are for private developers. We’re excited about the opportunity to serve in the public sector. The design work hasn’t started yet, but I will definitely be bringing my family to enjoy these parks when they’re complete and will be excited to post another blog entry showing the finished improvements.

Kudela & Weinheimer’s San Antonio office was established in 2006. The office has five employees and works on a diverse array of projects. Some notable San Antonio projects include The Broadway Condominiums and 1221 Broadway Lofts at River North. 

Eagle Ford Shale: Housing Boom

You might ask, “What the heck does Landscape Architecture have to do with the Eagle Ford Shale?”

From the drilling that has recently begun in the Eagle Ford, a 400 mile long shale formation, an “economic boom” has emerged.  It has been touted as “Texas’ Single Largest Economic Development in history,” stated by The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas in Texas. The boom has created approximately 29,700 jobs in 2011 and will create thousands more within the upcoming year.

With these new job creations, many small and rural towns are starting to have shortages in housing, hotels and retail. In response, developers are beginning to construct temporary housing, semi-permanent housing and multifamily developments for employees of the Eagle Ford Shale.  An interesting article about the Eagle Ford Shale Economic impact can be read here.

Currently the San Antonio Kudela & Weinheimer landscape architecture team is working on various projects for Koontz McCombs directly related to the Eagle Ford Shale economic boom.

  1. Sendero Ranch, a 23 acre site in Pearsall, Texas, has space for approximately 100 semi-permanent homes along with highway frontage property for future hotels.  Developed by Koontz McCombs, the site offers wooded lots and on site amenities such as laundry facilities and outdoor gathering areas so that residents can enjoy their families and newly made neighbors and friends.
  2. Sendero Ranch in Dilley, Texas, yeah yeah, I know same name – I thought that was weird too. This site is notably larger at 130 acres, 30 acres being slated for semi-permanent housing, 9 acres being slated for tract homes, and other acreage being slated for industrial and commercial use.   This site also offers on site amenities such as laundry facilities and outdoor gathering areas.
  3. Multifamily development is also growing in Midland/Odessa, Texas.  Brownstone Apartments, located on a 13 acre site, will have 268 units, an outdoor cabana and entertainment area, and some great recreation amenities.  This is one of three active projects in the area.

Some other interesting articles about the economic boom caused by the Eagle Ford Shale fracking.
The Chron
The San Antonio Business Journal

The San Antonio office of Kudela & Weinheimer has been in operation since 2006, 5 years. The office has five employees at the moment but continues to grow and take on interesting and challenging landscape projects and are always looking for talented landscape architects. Matthew Moczygemba is the Principal-in-Charge of the San Antonio office and has successfully led his landscape architecture team on projects such as the Broadway Luxury Condominiums and 1221 Broadway Lofts, UT Health Science Center South Texas Research Facility and federal projects such as Fort Sam METC and IMCOM. 

Designing a Splash Pad

The Auburn Trails splash pad has a backdrop beautiful trees.

A Splash Pad can also be known as a splash park, water park, spray park or spray ground. However, if you ask a kid, they would probably call it a FUN PARK! With zero-depth water, splash pads are considered safe and eliminate the need for lifeguards because there is practically no risk of drowning. The parks can include ground nozzles, rainbows (semicircular pipe showers), mushroom and flower showers, dump buckets, movable nozzles for squirting and little rotating creatures that squirt water, usually in bright colors, the options are endless! You can spot splash pads at public parks, hotels and resorts, planned housing communities, daycare centers and even at the Houston Zoo.

As safety has become paramount in today’s world, especially for children, private communities have added splash pads, in addition to pools, as amenities offered to the families living in those communities. As well, some public parks have offered splash pads in addition or in place of public pools. Some local Houston public splash parks are at Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and Terry Hershey Park area, these parks are always busy with local area families, so having a splash pad in your “backyard” so-to-speak is a great perk of some master planned communities.

When Kudela & Weinheimer designs the landscape for a splash pad several factors go into the concept:  safety, end users, client budget, maintenance and aesthetics. Kudela & Weinheimer usually specifies Vortex equipment, because of their high quality and great reputation. The Vortex equipment can withstand a high level of commercial use and has a “SmartFlow “ adaption to reduce the environmental impact of water usage of splash pads designed with their equipment.

The landscape architecture recipe for splash pads includes tried and true design, as well as a dash of common sense. Here are the main factors the Kudela & Weinheimer team takes into consideration when designing a splash pad:

Surface Material:  Must be nonporous to prevent bacteria and buildup, must also be slip resistant, and have a good grip for running children. Brushed concrete surfaces can be made more interesting by stamping, etching and coloring and are a low-cost choice that has excellent traction and minimal maintenance. Other surfaces might be a rubber safety surface such as Pebble-Flex® which is specifically designed for splash pads and outdoor play surfaces.

Placement of Equipment:  Most of the time spray pads/parks are set up in zones depending on children’s ages.  Usually divided into 3 zones – toddler play, medium action and high action play zones, the right design can entertain children from 1 year of age to over 10 years of age, and some of you adults out there too, as long as you have a plastic mug with a margarita.

Safety:  The splash pad areas drain off immediately, making them “zero-depth” and eliminates standing water and risk of drowning! These parks accommodate the young children who haven’t learned how to swim just yet. Although some very shallow depth pools also integrate water cannons, mushroom showers and dumping buckets. Other criteria to consider for safety are slope grade, drainage, trip hazards, water flow rates and large diameter stainless steel components to discourage climbing.

Budget:  Developers have budgets, of course! When designing a splash pad / spray park / water park, Kudela & Weinheimer considers the overall site which will contain the splash pad and the developer’s specific requirements for water usage (see below). Splash pads start out with a ‘baseline’ cost of the underground system that you cannot see. However, there are several ways our firm can design splash pads to stay in budget; designing  in phases so that the splash pad can be made bigger and better as more funds become available, determining the size and number of components and design for minimal maintenance. Kudela & Weinheimer will never sacrifice the quality of the equipment or materials, which might end up in increased maintenance and repair costs!

Water Administration:  There are a few popular ways to use and/or reuse water on these structures. 1. Potable water that drains to a waste system and uses fresh water each time. This reduces any risks that may be associated with unclean water. This is not usually a good option for large spray parks or parks looking to maximize water conservation.  2. Re-circulating systems are similar to treatment systems used in pool facilities. Water is drained to a holding tank, filtered and chemically treated through one of the following procedures: chlorine, chlorine plus ultraviolet [UV] light, CO2).  A lot of thought goes into the planning of water consumption, to help conserve resources. 3. Controllers and Activation systems: Most splash pads use controllers for activation of the water jets. Of course there can be timing activators and activators used by the children where they push a button to get the water going.

Taking all of the above criteria into consideration, Kudela & Weinheimer can creatively design a splash pad that is fun for all ages but attainable for the developer’s budget and site requirements.

For developers the really different aspect to splash pads is that by Texas code they are not required to be fenced – although we usually fence them to prevent vandalism -and can be separated from the pool area for access all year if the weather is nice (Houston happens to have many nice days outside of pool season)! That brings up another point, splash pads can usually be maintained by the same company that maintains pools and needs about the same level of attention.

And that’s how landscape architecture for splash pads is done!

Kudela & Weinheimer has recently designed and finished construction administration for the new Fairfield Community splash pad with adjacent dog park and recreation center (construction drawings came from the San Antonio office); Lakes of Savannah splash pad; Oak Crest splash pad; and Auburn Trails splash pad and Eagle Springs recreation center and splash pad, which hasn’t been built yet. Visit our website to see more parks and community design.

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It’s Off to Work They Go

At Kudela & Weinheimer we really treasure the level of service we are able to give our clients. Our firm has enough staff power to handle large, complex projects yet we are small enough to provide a high level of personal service. We promise that we always put the “A” -Team on every project, and we do! With a lean, mean, well-oiled office machine -of currently 18 employees – we are expanding our office personnel – soon to be 23- to keep deadlines on time and make sure clients continue to receive extraordinary customer service! With a Texas size welcome, we have 4 new people coming to the Houston office, well actually 3, but if you count Nick Weinheimer (seasoned intern extraordinaire, and Mr. Weinheimer’s son), we’ve got 4.

We are very excited about all of our new employees but Michael Averitt is a special addition and will be joining our conceptual design studio. He will work under the direction of Thad Kudela, doing schematic design, we are looking forward to seeing his innovative ideas. Mr. Averitt comes to us from SWA, where he was based in Shanghai, PRC. With a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas and a Master Degree of Landscape Architecture also from The University of Texas at Austin, he has a well-rounded education and life experience to compliment that. His work experience has included “hands on” nursery experience, as well as working at famed Peter Walker and Partners (PWP Landscape Architecture) in Berkeley, California. Just for reference, PWP designed the National 9/11 Memorial and is currently working on redesigning the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Mting “Miki” Fan has a Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Although Ms. Fan is young, she is a bilingual, bright and talented student with a knock out portfolio that includes being a finalist for design of the Mercer Butterfly Garden. She researched, designed and presented her submission to the board of the Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Harris County. We are looking forward to mentoring her and expanding her skills within our fast paced office.

Danielle Bilot is joining us from Oregon, and will work as an intern for six months. Ms. Bilot has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from University of Wisconsin and is currently working on a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Oregon. Ms. Bilot was acknowledged in GROW – Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences for the positive effects of the Neu-Life Park built in Milwalukee. Having multiple awards under her belt, she is a talented landscape designer and we’re happy she is coming to spend 6 months with us in Houston, starting in the summer. Hopefully the winter will win her over and she’ll actually want to come back.

Nick Weinheimer has grown up around landscape architecture, from being a wee-tyke hanging out at the office with dad during the after-hours, to learning the ropes of CADD working as an intern during the summers. Mr. Weinheimer is following in his dad’s footsteps by going to school at Texas A&M University in College Station to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. He’s currently a Junior, becoming a senior in the fall and has been working summers at Kudela & Weinheimer for 6 years.

The San Antonio office is adding one employee.
Kenzie Porter is a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. Ms. Porter has hands on field experience and landscape design in-office experience. She has also had the opportunity to study abroad in Bonn, Germany. The San Antonio office of Kudela & Weinheimer is excited to have her joining the team, and is looking forward to teaching her the way it’s really done, Moczygemba style! Watch out, Kenzie, he’s a slave driver.

Kudela & Weinheimer scours the US, and apparently China, looking for highly qualified talent with extraordinary portfolios. We are insistent about only hiring the best for our team. A big “welcome aboard” to our new guys and gals!

Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio: Military’s Medical Headquarters

Fort Sam Houston is known as the “Home of Army Medicine” and as of 2011 is the largest and most important military medical training facility in the world. Kudela & Weinheimer’s San Antonio office has had the opportunity provide landscape architecture for two projects at Fort Sam, IMCOM and METC.

IMCOM is the acronym for Installation Management Command. According to Wikipedia, this arm of the United States Army “supports the war fighting mission by providing standardized, effective & efficient services, facilities and infrastructure to Soldiers, Civilians and Families for an Army and Nation engaged in persistent conflict.” The group is made up of: The former Installation Management Agency (IMA); the former Community and Family Support Center, currently known as Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; and the former Army Environmental Center. The purpose for the newly organized IMCOM was simply to “focus on installation management and enhance the well-being of Soldiers, Families and Civilians,” according to Wikipedia.

The METC is short for Medical Educational & Training Campus, it offers over 60 academic programs in various medical specialties to US enlisted military students. The METC is an integrated campus under a single university-style administration, it has affiliations with several academic bachelors and masters degree programs with universities such as Baylor University, University of Texas Health Science Centers at Houston and San Antonio, and University of Nebraska. The Army Medical Department and School trains more than 25,000 students annually. All military medical training has been consolidated at Fort Sam Houston as a result of the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission). Fort Sam Houston is The Military’s Medical Headquarters, and the METC covers more than 2,000,000 square feet of the Fort Sam Houston campus.

Kudela & Weinheimer has a broad variety of projects our portfolio and we are honored to have had the opportunity to give our military personnel an enjoyable outdoor built environment. Through HJD Capital Electric, Inc and Allen Nutt Architect, K&W handled 5 phases of street and parking lot additions for the IMCOM campus. We designed planting and landscape according to the Army Corp of Engineers Guideline Standards and maintained a budget of $100,000 for the entire project with a $30,000 landscape budget.

The METC Integration Plan proposed troop walks, lighting, and landscaping to unify all the separate components of the METC campus and integrate it into a cohesive campus. We completed a planting design that helped serve that purpose. We selected the plant palette according to the constraints of the project. Most notably, plants had to provide interest all year, but also be drought tolerant and able to survive the San Antonio climate without continuous irrigation (environmentally friendly and sustainable). For the design, we placed trees and planting beds at major points of interest along the walks, using the palette to create interesting repetitions that integrated the campus. The scope included proposing planting along 3,800 Linear Feet of walkway, with a $50,000 landscaping budget.

The METC is estimated to bring $15 billion  per year to San Antonio and is reported to have already brought $621 million to the San Antonio economy.

Want to see other Kudela & Weinheimer projects? Click here

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