As-Builts: Conduits and J-Boxes

As-Builts: Conduits and J-Boxes

Field measuring doesn’t involve blades of grass.  In the architectural universe, field measuring is a process of recording existing conditions of a building.  A “field” is a piece of property on planet Earth with precise coordinates.  An architect loves to say “Yeah, I was out on the Field today!”  If you own a piece of property and there is an existing building located on it, an architect will have to measure the building before any new or existing building addition can be designed.  The existing fixed objects within the property or “field” have to be accurately located and recorded.

After measuring an existing building, we record the findings in drawings such as site and floor plans and elevations; these drawings are referred to as As-Builts.

Field Measurements

We record the findings and draft the work from the “Field” investigations.

We bring a drafted floor plan to Field Measuring so there is a point of reference.  If the building owner doesn’t have As-Builts which is mostly the case, we use Google maps to trace at least a rough outline of the existing buildings before we head out to the “Field” with our tape measures and laser gadgets.  Also, if you have a set of drawings of your existing building it is not called a set of blue prints.  That would be like saying your flip phone is your social media feed. A blue print is just a stone age way to make copies by holding large blue paper in a powerful blinding light and the nasty chemical smell that makes the lines white and the background blue. We all make copies with black laser on white paper now.

Move Objects along the Wall

A good architect never assumes an existing condition will be handled during construction.

Start measuring at one corner and work clockwise direction so you don’t miss anything. It is important to document every outlet, data, fire alarm, fire extinguisher, and thermostat. If there is furniture or objects in the way of seeing that important thermostat, move it!   If we spot a switch that we are not familiar with we ask the building owner, realtor, or contractor what it is. Some may say that this is too thorough but I disagree. It is much cheaper to document all the detail in the beginning.

Conduits and J-Boxes

Working drawings to obtain a building permit are created from As-Builts.

A base drawing is created with new enhancements to the space. The photo above shows the furred out walls to continue to the underside of the roof deck.  The base drawing in AutoCad is shared with Structural, Mechanical, Plumbing, and Electrical Consultants.  Each of those engineers will perform a Field Measurement of the space as well. In this project it was directed by the electrical engineer to remove all the existing conduit and start over with new conduit and J-Boxes. I don’t feel it was a waste of my time to have located all the initial locations of which would be ripped out. I learned the space. After I field measure the space I feel as  though I own it. When I return each time it is easier to engage with the construction reviews.

Working Drawings

The drawing above is an elevation of the final working drawings. Every existing and new outlet, duct, structural member has a keynote with an action for the contractor to make.

It feels great to think of ahead so there are less questions in the “Field” during construction.

Tenant Improvement in an existing space is more complicated than just building brand new because there are things to be demolished and things to remain. You can’t just draw a keynote that says move this electrical panel. You  must have a plan, you must think it through and work as closely as possible with your engineers.

Harmonious Machine for Living

Harmonious Machine for Living

On a rainy and gray morning in March of 2023 Jeffrey, Jan, and I embarked on a road trip to Lincoln, Massachusetts to see the Gropius House.  Driving through the dense New England forest, the roads became winding and time slowed.  Approaching the shining wet gravel driveway cut between bright green grass I didn’t see the house  at first, but a compact modern black and white auto garage reinvented as a museum check point.

Gropius House Lincoln, Massachusetts

The house perched proudly like the unending line of stacked black stones along the roadside that we had seen on the drive.  Jan Shepherd my aunt and former Arts Editor of the Boston Globe mentioned that the early New England pioneers hauled stones to the edge of the road while clearing their homesteads. This Gropius House may not have blended with its Colonial estate neighbors but the details within and without reminded me of the hard work and dedication of early pioneers.

The house perched proudly like the unending

line of stacked black stones along

the roadside that we had seen on the drive.

It seems the Walter and Ise Gropius never compromised. If they had to put in a switch plate, they were not going to settle for plastic that yellows with age; they opted for polished chrome.   It is impressive that they worked together on every detail of the house.  The spirit of coming up with building methods on the fly and sticking to an aesthetic that is different from the rest is bold and refreshing.

Chrome Switch Plates behind Book Shelf

Imagine the neighbors walking their dogs viewing the black steel spiral staircase on the front black and white facade for the first glance.   We spent most of the tour inside the house since it was steadily raining.  I liked the office space that Walter and Ise shared.  The working space had a harmonious quality to it with dark casework contrasted against lightness of the large window and delicate white drape. The collectibles gave the space visual curiosity.  I don’t know much about the Bauhaus school but I can tell that the students must have been guided in many creative outlets.  The do-it-yourself style is found here regarding the early 1920s Bauhaus Band,

In addition to kettledrums, side drums, cymbals and

cowbells, the percussion section included a

homemade pedal machine for the large side drum,

also with which an infernal din could be produced.


Walter and Ise Gropius Work Space

As Jani, Jeffrey, and I walked through Gropius House, I felt a harmony of building elements, textures, and color like a music score. The infernal din or diabolic sound that was homemade from the pedal machine in the early days of the Bauhaus Band could be heard in the Bauhaus Pink wall against a black and white striped pirate like screen on the upper deck.  The black and white screen can be seen in the left corner of the photo below.

Bauhaus Pink Accent Wall Upper Deck

The Bauhaus Pink accent wall makes the green pines in the opening of the roof deck more vibrant and the tree makes the pale pink wall glow.  This composition though private from the street view was and still is pretty diabolical for Lincoln, Massachusetts.  Walter and Ise understood the power of complementary color and restraint.

Dolomite Pseudomorph After Calcite

We three had visited the Harvard Mineralogical & Geological Museum before the Gropius House in Lincoln.  Looking back at the rock and mineral photos from the trip there is a display case that has a similar color palette to the photo above of the roof deck at Gropius House.  The pink Dolomite Pseudomorph from Namibia is in harmony with the other green, black and brown Pseudomorphs.  I think Walter Gropius would have definitely put this pink rock on his desk.  Just think of the time when Le Corbusier was a house guest, the docent did state that Le Corbusier slept in the spare bedroom on the second floor! I know, it’s too much to take in.


Jeannine Fiedler & Peter Feierabend, BAUHAUS (1999 Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH), page 145.

Architectural Acoustics

Architectural Acoustics

Have you ever been out to eat and find it impossible to hear what the friends at your table are saying?  You are hearing a phone conversation from a co-worker in the next cubicle over? It may be from lack of attention to sound absorption in the early design phases of the building project.

Sound Pressure Waves

Sound is a Rapid Fluctuation of Air Pressure

Sound is a sense that we perceive with our ears but we cannot see it. It’s easy to look in a rear view mirror and see the car behind us. With sound you can’t see sound so it is forgettable. A co-worker’s banter is a series of pressure pulses moving outward from their mouth. The vibrations are transmitted through the air and building materials.  We don’t work in a perfect world so the building materials that architects specify must be considered carefully.

Reflection, Absorption, and Transmission

Reflection, Absorption, and Transmission =  Sound Wave Crash

Interior architectural spaces have countless surfaces that sound can reflect off of like walls, exposed steel structure, hard concrete floors, doors, windows, and furniture.  In order to have a quieter space, walls and ceiling need to absorb incoming sound at all angles.  It all depends on the absorptive quality of each element within the space.

Sound Masking

Keep Sound From Passing from One Work Station to Another

Design priorities for architectural interior space:

  1. Acoustical work station partitions with a solid core, fabric surface, and an STC of at least 25.
  2. Ceilings must be designed to capture noise from almost any angle.
  3. Absorptive panels for wall surfaces.
  4. Carpeted floors for a quieter work environment.



Hotel Adams Phoenix

Hotel Adams Phoenix

Hotel Adams used to stand proudly on Adams Street and (Centre Avenue) Central Avenue in the middle of an emerging downtown Phoenix, Arizona. In 1910 Hotel Adams was a tinderbox for flames and burnt to the ground. Over time there has always been a hotel there. I have been fascinated with Hotel Adams ever since I first saw the black and white photos at the Hayden Library before internet.  I recently sketched over a google image of Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel to show you just how Hotel Adams looks along Central Avenue.

Adams Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona Historic Snapshot

Imagine Adams Hotel

The Hotel Adams 3 story repeated flat arch facade created a beacon for the stagecoach to follow. The County Courthouse and Hotel Adams were most likely the tallest structures in the late 1800s.

Adams Hotel looking North on Centre Avenue

Desert Dust Eviction, A Non-Stop Job

The west and south facades had deep set shaded overhangs which is appropriate for the harsh sun.  During the long days of summer I walked along Adams street and imagined Hotel Adams in full swing.  I could here raucous laughter coming from the dark saloon. Desert dust eviction must have been non-stop job.  Imagine being a guest with your room on the third floor. You would have an unobstructed view of South Mountain.  The Arizona sunsets!

Lobby Hotel Adams 1894-1910

Lobby Hotel Adams 1894-1910

The postcard photo above shows a dark but well appointed Lobby of Hotel Adams. In the late 1800’s sealant probably wasn’t perfected as it is today. Perhaps kangaroo rats nibbled crumbs in the pantry, rattle snakes coiled in dark corners, and roadrunners slept in alcoves.  It must have brought so much business to downtown Phoenix. The interior must have smelled of dust, wood, chewing tobacco, chili peppers, and citrus.

What Was Dining Like?

Imagine a worn traveler arriving by Phaeton at the Hotel Adams. Think about how much work it would have been to keep food cold for all the guests! Was the food and service outstanding for its time or was it more like Mark Twain’s passage in Roughing It; “There was only one cruet left, and that was a stopperless, flyspecked, broken-necked thing, with two inches of vinegar in it, and a dozen preserved flies with their heels up and looking sorry they had invested there.”

Birds Eye View Phoenix 1885

Phoenix Before Hotel Adams

I drew a trace paper sketch over the top of C.J. Dyer’s sketch drawn in 1885.  This gives us a good idea of what Phoenix looked like before the original Hotel Adams. The town ends at the Salt River Valley Canal or Van Buren Street and Jackson and 7th Avenue and 7th Street. Central Avenue was called Centre Avenue. The streets running north and south were called Papago, Cortez, and Montezuma; now they are numbered like 4th Street or 4th Avenue.  The buildings surrounding the cross streets of Adams and Centre Avenue were churches, schools, banks, ice house, swimming bath, mercantile, and housing. The first buildings were small, Richard J. Hinton of Handbook to Arizona 1877 describes the Phoenix architecture as “…buildings as one story high, generally having a wide porch or veranda surrounding them lying directly in the path of the approaching Southern Pacific Railroad.  The site of the future Hotel Adams is the pink highlighted block. It had a few single story buildings.  In 1885, you could walk 3 blocks north to take a swim in the Phoenix Swimming Bath next to the Canal or walk 1 block south to shop along Washington Street.  The block just east of the pink highlighted block is a long row house. Maybe some lodging took place there before Hotel Adams. One thing I do know for certain is riding along Centre Avenue with Cottonwood trees along each side must have been amazing in 1885!

AT&T Office Lobby Renovation [2017]

AT&T Office Lobby Renovation [2017]

AT&T Office Lobby Renovation [2017] in Tempe, Arizona was a project that Serbin Studio helped design a high security entry and customer experience.  Customers are the Data Center tenants, they do not work in the building but check in periodically. The customer experience needed to be re-designed.

Conference Room Too Dark and Tight

Conference Room Before Renovation

Existing conference room was cramped, outdated and lacking latest technologies.

Two existing rooms were combined to make one large conference. The client wanted something artful,  An accent wall was designed with an etched texture and LED color changing perimeter.  A suspended light fixture helped lighten the mood.  New carpet, ceiling tiles, furniture, and finishes were selected by Serbin Studio.

Check-In Lacked Visibility at Entry

Customer Lounge and Security Before Renovation

The dark corner was home to vending machines and elevator. This area was to become the Customer Lounge.  Visiting Data Center customers needed a space to have a quick bite to eat and lounge.

The new Customer Lounge was designed with new cabinets finished in plastic laminate. The flooring for the Lounge was vinyl. Two new windows were installed to let in natural light. Mixed furniture layout was designed with both high and low seating.

The existing elevator and vending machines remained in place. Frosted glass floor to ceiling wall was designed to screen the vending machines from the Lobby.  Terrazzo tile replaced ceramic tile for the entire Lobby.

Lobby Vestibule Experience Was Outdated

Entry Reception Before Renovation

The existing entry and restrooms were outdated.

The entry and reception security desk was completely reconfigured.  The restrooms were renovated with ADA standards, new plumbing fixtures, and finishes. A new accent wall was designed for the Lobby to create color and texture. The end result was an entry sequence that made sense and provided modern control systems for ease of security.



726 Monroe Building [2020]

726 Monroe Building [2020]

726 Monroe Building [2020] was a project designed by Serbin Studio. Architectural design started in 2020 and building construction completed in 2023.   The building is situated along Monroe Avenue in downtown Buckeye, Arizona. The surrounding neighbors are places like Izzy’s Auto Shop, Argento’s Pizza, Pasta, & Wings and Millstone Cafe.

726 Monroe Building – Construction Complete 2022

726 Building had many uses, one of them was a dance studio.  Next door there used to be a tiny building that had groceries.  The Parker and Associates hand painted sign was the last vestige of that bygone era.

Parker & Associates Real Estate – 2015

The 726 Building is important for two reasons: 1) It’s one of the first stand alone buildings by Serbin Studio. 2) It created much needed office suites for small businesses in downtown Buckeye, Arizona.

726 Monroe Building – Before Construction 2020

726 Monroe Building Facade – Before Construction 2020

726 Monroe Building – Interior Construction – 2022