Friday, 14 March 2008


I got a lot of lot of congratulations. It started right after the official ceremony when people queued up to congratulate . The professors, of course, did not have to wait and were the first ones.

One of the nicest presents I got was from our CEO Dick Ringeling. He gave me a plastic model tot assemble, glue and paint in the right colors was even included!

I even got some cards from abroad. The nicest ones are shown here. The one on the left side is from the States and the other one is from Germany.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


This weblog has been in the “sleeping mode” for almost a year. The reason for that is that I have been very busy completing my PhD. On the 11th of February I had my exam. In Holland a graduation is a rather traditional ceremony, but as I can now say from my own experience: It is great fun ! The event start with a so called “lekenpraatje”. In this 10 minute presentation you try to explain to the invited people the essence of you research. I had about a 100 guests and from their reaction I understand they got the point.

Then the formal part starts with the 8 professors coming in, leaded by the “pedel”, that’s the lady with the staff. For a hour they asked questions about the research. After that they went to a separate room and they returned after about 20 minutes. I was invited to stand in front of the chairman and he read an official statement that I had passed the exam.
After that Mick Eekhout, my professor, gave me the official document (it’s in the red tube) .

Finally, the professors with the pedel in front, left the room. On the stairs the official photo was made and that was the end of the formal part of the day.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Mock-ups at the Philips High Tech Campus

I one of our project at the High Tech Campus in Holland we made an extensive use of mock-ups. The Philips High Tech Campus is situated near Eindhoven in the south of Holland. It is a campus like setting of several laboratories were companies and knowledge institutes combine their knowledge, experience and research facilities to develop generic technology.

We designed several building and one of them is the so called WDX building. One of the most difficult aspect was the fa├žade of the laboratories. For these laboratories there were almost contradictory requirements. Daylight should be able to enter as much as possible but direct sunlight was not allowed. Because of the experiments taking place the maximum allowable temperature variation was 0.5 degrees Celsius. The requirements for the offices were only slightly different.

A facade system was developed were large sunscreen panels automatically cover the windows in case of direct sunlight. Because of the requirements we decided to build two mock-ups. These mock-ups were quite large and heavy and did cost around $ 18,000. For the client experimenting and testing are an integral part of product development so he readily agreed to build the mock ups.

From these mock-ups we learned a lot. Some elements were modified in the mock-up itself while other elements, like the shape of the louvers of the sunscreen panels and the glass panels were modified and tested in additional models. The contractor wanted to be sure that all the requirement were met so he build a prototype that was attached to the actual building frame.
After the completion of the building it was calculated that the cost of the two mock-ups was less than 0.5 % op the total building costs. Correcting the mistakes that would have occurred in case the mock-ups would not have been build would be somewhere between 5 and 10 % of the building costs. So concerning mock-ups our conclusion was:

It pays to build mock-ups !

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Non-Quantitive Diagrams

In my thesis I developed so called ‘Non-Quantative Diagrams’. Non Quantative diagrams do not use specific data (hence the term ‘Non-Quantative’), but show time related developments that can contribute first of all to a better understanding of the current situation and of future developments. This better understanding can be used in the tactical (short term) and strategical (long term) management.

One of the aspect we encountered in our retail projects was how to reduce the costs and at the same time to improve the quality by innovating. Due to the learning process we were able to work more efficiently and as a result to reduce the costs. Instead of enlarging our profit margin we used the cost reduction to improve the quality.

With a non-quantitive diagram we were able to illustrate possible developements to ourselves but also to the client. The diagram below shows the quality, revenue and cost versus time in the retail project that we are involved in.

In the beginning of the project,due to a learning process and improved efficiency, the costs are reduced. Given a constant revenue this leads to a growing profit margin. At a certain moment (t=1) the profit growth is used to innovate and improve the quality by initiating innovations. Off course not all innovations are in the end successful. As a matter of fact most of them are not. The way we worked we in our retail project we could afford that in certain cases we do not to succeed and therefore we felt confident to take risks in developing new products and services. This process repeats itself in a number of cycles. At the end of each cycle the quality is improved.

Concepts like Six Sigma usually focus on reducing the costs of existing projects and do not use these cost reductions to initiate innovations in new projects. They tend to kill potential innovations by taking les risks

According to an article in Business week Six Sigma almost killed the innovation at 3M. The way we worked in our retail project shows that cost reducing and improving the efficiency do not have to contradict innovation: on the contrary !

Friday, 15 June 2007

Woven Architecture

In a recent lecture by prof. Adriaan Beukers (Delft University, Faculty of Aerospace) he touched upon the subject of the empty weight versus the payload. For a number of transport vehicles he calculated the so called ‘system efficiency’ that is the empty weight divided by the payload:

Buses 2.5
Cars 3-8
Subsonic Aircraft 4
Supersonic Aircraft 12
Intercity trains 10
Global orbit 66
Lunar orbit 500

How do buildings fit into this ? The average Dutch house has a weight of around 50.000 kg’s. The average house has 3 occupants (let’s say 220 kg) and the weight of all the combined furniture is around 2000 kg. This gives a “system efficiency” of 22.5. Disappointing you might say!

Let’s go back to aerospace and gliders in particular. The Discus 2b, see picture below, has an empty weight of 245 kg. The glider can carry one person (90 kg) and 190 liter water (190 kg). The water by the way is used to improve the performance when gliding between the thermals. This give a total payload of 380 kg and a system efficiency of 0.64. Not bad compared to other forms of transportation and certainly not bad compared to the Dutch house.

But is everything is not lost for architecture: during our holidays some of us use a building that has a much better system efficiency: the tent. An average tent for 4 persons has an weight of around 12 kg. Four people with their luggage have a weight of 350 kg. This give a system efficiency of around 0.04. Even better than the glider.

And the glider and the tent do have something in common: woven fabric. The glider is largely made of glass, carbon and kevlar fibers and the tent of plastic fibers. Maybe this can lead us to a future development in housing: buildings that are woven of fibers:

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Architects and Research

Although architects are involved in research every day, the research is mostly project driven and result orientated, within a limited timeframe. There seems to be no tendency towards the creation of a written or documented body of knowledge concerning learning processes.

Project independent research could lead to a body of knowledge, not only for the architect doing the research, but also for other architects , this way raising the professional level of the architectural profession as a whole. Project independent research can, as we know from out experience, be time consuming and therefore “budget consuming”. Therefore, only the very large architectural offices can afford it. Maybe it is the duty of these large offices to engage in what can be called architectural research.

In our office some architects did a research on the so called “Encroachment Zones”. This is the small public space between the road and the houses. This project generated a lot of knowledge for ourselves but also, as the enthusiastic reactions showed, for other architects and people involved in planning and construction. Below you can see the cover of the book that was the result of the research. Currently the book is printed just in Dutch, but in the near future it will probably be published in English as well.

My own PhD research can also be considered as an architectural research. There is a continuous interaction between the (architectural) Practice and the (architectural) Theory. The scheme below shows the research structure of my PhD thesis:

The research can be divided into two parts. There is an inductive research with an information flow from Practice towards Theory and a deductive part with a flow from Theory towards Practice. In both parts an extensive use is made of case studies. The research is cyclical in its approach in that there is a constant interaction between the inductive and deductive parts of the research. The case studies from the practice lead to a theoretical framework, and this theoretical framework is then tested in practice through a number of other case studies. In the inductive part of the research case studies in architecture as well as in aerospace are extensively used to get to a better understanding of the four stages of the Cyclical Iterative Design Process