The Tech Savvy Architect

As technology continues to develop and improve, it begins to change how we work and interact in our everyday lives. From home, to the workplace, little apps can help turn a time consuming process into a blip in our day, letting us move forward to the next tick on the list within minutes. The link below shares some tools and apps architects can use to help speed the design process, allowing collaboration and drafting in the digital format from step one. How much longer will it be until the pen and paper becomes obsolete?


The Top 75 Online Tools for Architects

Texas Independence Day

In honor of Texas Independence Day, our Receptionist, Thao, has written a short blurb highlighting some facts about Texas and how today became a holiday.


Texas Independence Day

While some of us are not native Texans, we sure did get here as fast as we could and if you attended grade school in Texas, you will know that we take pride in our history since has become its own subject. For myself, I remember taking the course in 7th grade.

Quick history:

In 1836, on this day, March 2nd, 59 delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico, to become the Republic of Texas. The revolution leading to Texas’s secession from Mexico began in 1835 at the Battle of the Gonzales. Those standing at the Alamo never even knew we had declared independence. It wasn’t until December 29, 1845 when Texas was admitted to the union as a constituent state, and we are the only state with legal status to secede from the United States. 

Fun Tid-Bits of info:

You can also celebrate Sam Houston Day today, the birthday of a man that headed the victory of the battle of San Jacinto.

With spring knocking for tomorrow, fields of bluebonnets (the state flower) are beginning to bloom. You will see many Texans and visitors pulled to the side to get the perfect bluebonnet picture to share with friends and family.

A few places to visit honoring the various people and battles that helped gain Texas’s independence are the Casa Navarro in San Antonio, Texas as well as the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte, Texas. If you are in San Antonio, don’t forget to visit the Alamo along with the Casa Navarro!



Bautex Guest Article

Building Green and a Welcome to 2017

Hi all, as we work to develop our website and share with you some exciting changes happening here at Venture Four, keep an eye out for our weekly Facebook posts and the occasional article blog right here! Today’s guest is from Bautex, a Texas based Insulated Concrete Form company that visited us at the office in November last year. We are excited to learn more about working with their products in our designs. Author, Richard Rossi, covers some of the basics of “Building Green” below.

Building Green: Innovations in Wall Construction for Commercial Buildings
In a depressed economy, builders need to construct affordable and highly efficient commercial buildings that meet the demands of the marketplace which is increasingly interested in green design. So it behooves any builder, green-minded or not, to build with a keen eye to energy conservation. And green design for bigger buildings begins with an up-to-date, energy efficient wall system.

Less wood, more layers make a building green
Energy-efficient building design is constantly evolving, and the possible innovations are seemingly infinite. One principle of green shell building is consistent across all green philosophies, though. That principle is less wood. Traditional stick build construction, which mostly uses a combination of hardwood and plywood for the frame and some fiberglass insulation as an afterthought, is never going to compete successfully with newer, more innovative shell construction. While several diligent remodelers have demonstrated that it is possible to bring an old building up to net zero energy costs, such projects often cost the building owner considerable effort to maintain.
The wave of the future in green commercial design is thicker walls, little or no wood, and a combination of efficient materials. One of the most promising wall systems for green designers and builders is the structural insulated panel (SIP) which combines the building’s frame, insulation, and finish into one, easy-to-erect prefabricated exterior product. They are made mostly of high-performance rigid foam insulation, designed in layers and covered on both sides with a thin veneer, often strand board. SIPs are extremely efficient. And the higher cost of materials is offset by savings on labor because these wall systems are quick and easy to install. It should also be noted that rigid foam insulation been vastly improved since the days when it was something of a fire hazard. Today’s rigid foam materials have an in-built fire retardant and are much better at withstanding fire than traditional wood frame houses.

Insulated concrete block
One of the most exciting innovations in commercial building technology is the insulated concrete block (ICB). It begins with the traditional concrete block, also called a concrete masonry unit. But, where the concrete block popular in the 1960s leaked heat and air like a sieve, the insulated concrete block of 2017 adds layers of high-performance foam insulation. Developers of the insulated concrete block promise that it results in a building which is “net zero ready.” With the addition of solar panels, ductless heat and air, energy star appliances, LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs or neon tubes, new building owners have a structure for which they might never pay a power bill. Add a rainwater harvest system or a well, and they might not even have a water bill.
Advantages of the ICB are so numerous, it is destined to become a favorite of builders everywhere, green or not. It is both extremely fire retardant and storm resistant at the same time. In future, ICBs are likely to be a top building material of choice in regions that are at high risk for earthquakes and hurricanes.
The ICB is a win-win for both building owners and the masons who build them. The blocks are relatively light weight, weighing in at an average of 33 pounds. Bautex Systems, a Texas company, developed an ICB with a foam center for great ease of installation. Masons can handle these blocks (from the top) with one hand, making them fast and easy to stack. Masons, who are often paid on the basis of performance, make good money while working at a comfortable, sustainable pace. The advantages to the building owner are speed and cost of construction. A thermally super efficient building with ICBs can be erected with these blocks for the same cost as a traditional structure.
Builders using ICBs can also realize savings on the building’s interior and exterior finishes. While the blocks are compatible with traditional plank or board finishes and drywall, they can also be exposed both inside and out without loss of energy efficiency. To offset negative aesthetic reactions, Bautex Systems and several other manufacturers are offering builders choices in color. ICBs can also be rather easily blended with other building materials, such as red brick, to achieve a look which is both traditional and trendy. One ICB design to some extent resembles a layer cake. Viewed from the top, it features five layers of alternating concrete and high-performance foam insulation inserts.
Green Design: Everybody’s business
It has never been easier, more practical, or more affordable to build a green commercial building. New and efficient wall designs like structural insulated panels and insulated concrete blocks make building green faster and more logical for contractors and owners alike. It is now imperative that builders become knowledgeable and experienced in energy efficiency.

Richard Rossi
Architectural Sales Representative
Bautex Systems

Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

Fire Sprinkler Inspection & Servicing

This week we were visited by Ryan Kiefer, Texas Residential Manager of Western States Fire Protection Co., and Fire Marshal District Chief Michael Lacey of the Westlake Fire Department.

Chief Lacey filled us in on the latest information relating to Residential Fire Sprinkler codes for City of Austin, Westlake and Rollingwood.

Ryan updated our knowledge on Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems in custom residential design, additions and remodels. His information on design, location and cost was invaluable. Plus, he brought lunch!

Thanks to both gentlemen for taking the time to help us stay up to date on Residential Fire Sprinkler systems, flow tests and city requirements!

Venture Four Architects, Inc.

New this week

My sneak-peak this week is the Electra Project. Electra is still under construction, but these preliminary photos will give you a hint of how beautiful this contemporary project is!

Custom designed for the sloping lot, it takes wonderful advantage of the orientation to capture beautiful views of Lake Travis!

Electra view


The ceiling of the main deck soars into the sky, captured at the last minute by steel columns.


Rich wood soffits and ceiling keep this house feeling warm and modern!


Watch for more photos in the coming weeks as this project gets wrapped up!

Follow this link for more before, during and after photos of this custom design!

More updates coming soon!

Building, Buying or Upgrading, What’s right for me?

When searching for the perfect home for you and your family, there are many decisions to make. Should I build a home? Should I buy a move-in ready home? What if I can’t find what I want? How do I get started?

Start first with your architect.

Building or Buying a New Home
Let’s look at purchasing a new home, which is designed specifically for your family’s wants and needs. Hiring an architect first can make the rest of the processes such as finding a lot, designing a home, and choosing a builder much easier for your busy family.
Choosing a lot can be challenging. The role of your Realtor is important. The Realtor assists in finding the right neighborhood or area of town for you. Teaming the architect with the Realtor at this phase will allow both to work together in helping you decide which lot is best for the style of home you want and your budget. For example, a family who desires a sprawling one-story home may choose a level lot with less trees where the new home might be situated. Of course, the locations of trees and the slope of the lot are important considerations for the architect, but there many more. Some other considerations are views, orientation of house on the lot, driveway locations, solar orientations, and prevailing wind information. Considering the style of the home you want is very important in the early stages too. Your architect can help you blend the style of home into an existing neighborhood or advise on what styles are prevalent in newly developed areas. Your architect will also be knowledgeable about subdivision restrictions and requirements of county or city restrictions, which will ultimately effect the budget.

Your architect can evaluate all of this information with you during the home design process thus helping you maximize the potential of your lot and avoid expensive mistakes. If you are green design savvy, or even if you just want to be green design savvy, your architect can help you incorporate green building techniques, building materials, and methods into your budget. Building an environmentally conscious home does not have to be a budget buster, especially if considered and evaluated early in the process. Planning green building features early allows the architect to consult with mechanical designers during the design phase for input on the most cost effective and environmentally friendly way to heat and cool your home.

Buying an Existing Home
Another option for buying a new home is buying a home that is new to you! Finding the perfect home on the perfect lot is not always easy. When you find the perfect lot with the perfect view or acreage with a pre-built home, your architect helps you make decisions easily about upgrading or updating the existing home. Sometimes, the best choice may be to remove an existing structure and rebuild. Having the expertise of a professional architect to offer guidance before closing can help ease the stress of the decisions that you will face.

Upgrade Your Home
Lastly, what about simply staying put? What if you really enjoy everything about where you live, but the kitchen is too small, or you need an extra bedroom? Your architect can help. Sometimes, it’s not the space, but how the space is used that needs updating. Your architect has space planning skills to help you envision changes: opening a wall, redirecting a stairway, or even adding space to create a second floor. These changes to your existing home can re-purpose your home so that you can stay in the home you love!

Consider everything. Moving or upgrading is a big decision. Start the process with an experienced architect — a professional knowledgeable about all of the aspects of designing your new home or remodeling an existing one. Hire your architect early in the process. The more knowledge your architect has about you, your wants, needs, and budget, the easier the process will be overall. You can have your dream home whether it’s a new home or changing your existing home – home is where your heart is.

Autumn: Architectural Re-Charge

Fall is a wonderful time of year for fun, festivals and excitement for the upcoming holidays. Here in Central Texas, the cooler temperatures make it the perfect time of year to enjoy being out and about.

Fall is an especially fun time of year for those of us who design homes. During the fall, many of Austin’s biggest home shows and architectural tours are in full swing, giving us the opportunity to discover  new construction details, interior finishes or an innovative building material.

One of my favorites, the annual AIA Homes Tour,  is coming up on October 25th and 26th. This tour provides us with the opportunity to see and touch the latest in residential architecture from our peers.
The Historic Hyde Park Homes Tour on November 9th is also a favorite. With bungalows and cottages from the 1930‘s and 1940’s , as well as beautiful Victorian style homes, this historic neighborhood is an important part of the fabric of Austin’s residential architectural history.

Along with exploring the works of our peers, it’s also the perfect time to explore some of our own work again and see how the houses Venture Four Architects has designed have become homes for our clients.

The opportunity to experience new and innovative, historic, preserved and everything in between during this time of year is all we need to reinvigorate and recharge our architectural spirits!

Happy autumn!

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