Coastal Perspectives With Architect Michael McKinley

“All attention is directed to the shoreline now – people will continue to build right on the ocean no matter what happens. But that’s where our clients are. The terrain has changed – it’s a whole new world out there.” – Michael McKinley, Michael McKinley and Associates, LLC

When designing coastal projects, today’s architects must navigate a complex and changing landscape of codes and regulations, minimizing risk and managing their clients’ expectations for coastal living along the way. We caught up with Stonington, Connecticut Architect Michael McKinley, who specializes in designing exceptional coastal homes in New England communities, to learn more about how he achieves success for his coastal clients.

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  • What are the three most important things to look at when you begin a coastal project?

First, we look at the regulatory issues including FEMA regulations and local codes and ordinances. If these are not addressed, the rest doesn’t matter. Then, we view the property from the water, thinking about the home’s image from all angles. It’s interesting that the client often considers the water side to be the “front,” but in reality, coastal homes have two “fronts,” one of which is the water side. A lot of the images we put forth are from the land, but some of the most impressive are from the water – and you never see that from a car. That character of the water side is important. And finally, we consider the materials that go into a project, in terms of the weather conditions that a coastal location may face.

  • Talk to us about “working from the outside in” as you describe it on your website.

It’s about the way that the coastal residence gracefully transitions from outside to inside. The more gradual and eventful that transition is, the richer the architecture is. We draw our floor plan with the entire site in mind, working with critical exterior features including trees, landscapes and views, and then transitioning to the inside, with all season rooms and porches offering a “skirt” to the main structure.

  • What do you consider about windows and doors as they relate to interior design? Does this become complex when paired with performance requirements?

Yes, the relationship between interior design and exterior performance requires a lot of thought. Part of the reason it is complex is the industry-wide condition where Design Pressure ratings restrict product size choice.

Aesthetically, the double hung window is the window of choice for most of our clients. Sometimes, that means Casement and Awning windows are ruled out even though they offer a better Design Pressure rating than a double hung, and would be the best window style from strictly a performance perspective.

Additionally, it takes some effort to design a 6,000-square foot house just using double hung windows – but the orchestration of light and elements of the windows is the level of work that people pay us for. We want to develop musicality and scale windows to the exterior and to the interior. It’s easy to pick the windows and put them in – but harder to achieve the discipline and sense of balance on the interior that we look for in our projects.

We usually draw using Marvin window sizes, and then we readjust when we work with our local retailer. We often have a conversation where we go back and get feedback on what was drawn, and then get the recommendation on what should be done to meet the performance needs of the house within the product offerings.

  • What window and door trend are you seeing most for your coastal clients?

Right now Lift and Slide doors are the rage for my clients. We are using these in most of our coastal projects, not necessarily opening up directly to the outside, but opening onto porches or all season rooms. It’s a way to embrace indoor-outdoor living, even in a relatively modest house.

  • What is the greatest challenge when designing in these environments?

This comes back to the regulatory codes.  For example, Stonington, CT and Rhode Island have recognized coastal residential land as a natural resource (even though it is not state-owned).  These areas have imposed some stiff height limits on buildings so that there aren’t four-story buildings disturbing the imagery of the coastline and slope to water, respecting people who live inland. We run into some rigorous height limits – in Stonington, it’s 24’, which is a short two-story home. When you are talking about larger homes, this has led to a different way of thinking.

There are some communities that are less regulated in the height of the ridge and thus you can build four stories up. Then you get into this sort of vertical aesthetic and it’s a different conversation. The changing scale of the house means that some of your other expectations must change. There are all sorts of local extremes to deal  with.

  • What are some of the methods you employ in your design in order to minimize risk to the home (such as reinforcement for storms, etc)?

When it comes to risk management, a considerable number of precautions are mandated – and these standards grow and change every day.  In the face of these regulations and coastal realities, sometimes we need to counsel our clients that although we can build something, we may need to modify the plans to minimize the risk and to reduce the potential for workmanship or materials failure. For example, adding flashing and “mini-roofs” over windows is a great way to minimize risk.  And most doors are so protected now that we can focus more on the aesthetics.

  • How do you manage expectations when working with clients in complex coastal environments?

From an environment perspective, their vision and expectations really have to be managed when it comes to product, design and site.

On the coast, people are buying into a complex, highly regulated environment – but they don’t read FEMA regulations every day. So helping clients to develop realistic expectations is probably the most important issue when working on coastal projects.

  • As part of doing business on the coast, you offer a service called “Coastal Property Analysis”. Tell us more about this.

We developed this service that attempts to answer questions about how the proposed site will influence the build and design process.  It’s basically a careful examination of the feasibility of the site.

There are big questions that we can answer with this analysis – and to do that, we pull in resources from the locality and site engineering as needed. It’s not expensive, but it’s well worth the effort. With a designer’s approach to the site, we ask technical questions and put it in a report, providing value to the end-user. We talk about realistic options, cost, time for approval – and we subsequently build the buyer’s confidence in the purchase.  Even when our analysis tells us that the site will not be feasible, we find that the prospective homeowners are very grateful to have the information.

  • How do local codes affect your work?

It is always necessary for us to look at local codes. We have state building codes, and we have locality-specific FEMA regulations. However, the municipality itself can require even more, and they often do. It’s important when working in different communities to find out what is specifically required. Window protection is a good example. In coastal Connecticut, we have two communities next to each other. One requires impact windows and the one next door does not – it allows other forms of wind protection.

So when you consider the huge market in renovations out there on the coast, a careful understanding of and adherence to local codes is essential.

  • Are there supplemental services you look for from vendors?

We’ve had our best luck working with our local retailer, because as distributors of a variety of products, the retailer has a service that covers windows, framing, roofs, walls and waterproofing. We can have one meeting and get an idea about all of that. It’s a one-point process with them – over the last few years it has developed quite nicely. It is difficult for us to develop relationships with multiple different types of vendors.

  • What can a window and door retailer provide to help you with the coastal project process?

Support in specifying. A good window and door representative is part of the design process. When we get into complicated Lift and Slide door specifications, we’re not as familiar with that and we don’t want to find out later that there was a better way to do it.  We need the shop drawings and the ability to refine the specs. That’s huge – otherwise you’ll end up with just an “average” window and door project.

Throughout the summer, other coastal building professionals will share their thoughts and experiences with us.  In the meantime, if you have questions about a coastal project, contact the Hastings team. Email support@awhastings.com or call your Hastings Sales Representative.

Michael McKinleyMichael McKinley is Principal Architect for Michael McKinley and Associates in the seaside village of Stonington, CT.  Registered and licensed in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Florida, Michael specializes in residential design that is sensitive to the coastline.

Coastal Perspectives with Keenan Burns, Hastings Executive VP and COO

Summer is just around the corner, which means coastal communities throughout New England are coming to life as part-time residents prepare their homes for the season and year-round residents take on warm weather building projects. This market activity provides window and door sales opportunities for retailers, so it’s a good time to talk about Coastal Solutions from Hastings and Marvin.

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Because projects in these areas often involve some level of complexity related to issues such as changing codes and weather patterns, or design trends that call for large expanses of glass, Hastings recognizes that we can help our retailers take advantage of the opportunity in these markets. This approach to coastal opportunities is unique in the marketplace. We are not simply offering a portfolio of high quality products, we are offering decades of problem-solving experience, customer service and technical support along with it.

As part of our partnership, the resources of our inside and outside teams are available to our retail network throughout the coastal design and build process. Our collective knowledge and experience is available to retailers and their trade customers at every point of a project. We approach these opportunities collaboratively with a commitment to providing our own brand of excellent customer service. Our goal is to help meet the demands of complex coastal projects and encourage maximum performance of Marvin and Integrity windows and doors on the coast for the long term.

There are many ways that Hastings can work with you on complex coastal window and door projects, including:

  • Pre and post sale site visits
  • Project needs assessments
  • Verification of local code compliance
  • Design Performance recommendations
  • Consultations to integrate aesthetic intent with product performance
  • Real-time telephone installation guidance or on-site training

I’m excited not only about the great opportunities that are out there in coastal markets, but also about the role that Marvin and Hastings can play to help bring your projects to fruition. I encourage you to connect with our team early on in the process so that we can help achieve the best possible results for your upcoming coastal projects.

Wishing you a strong building season,

Keenan Burns, Executive VP and COO

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An Annual Hastings Family Tradition

It hardly seems possible, but a week has passed since our Annual Meeting on May 9th. We’re already back into the rhythm of our daily routines and schedules and the afterglow of the meeting has started to fade. But, wait! Not so fast! I want to take a moment to remind everyone about why it is that we have our Annual Meeting.

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Hastings President Dusty Hoyt (foreground) and Treasurer Jodyt Hoyt lead the company’s 2013 Annual Meeting.

Our Annual Meeting is a unique occasion where our entire organization comes together to visit with our peers in a relaxed atmosphere. Many businesses have company-wide meetings, but they are often focused on business plans or strategy. We touch on these things during our meeting, but we see our Annual Meeting more as an opportunity to step back for a moment and reflect on who we are as a company.

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A number of years ago, we identified character traits that we believe define us as a company: Pride, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Family and Continuous Improvement. There may be other traits that can be used to describe us, but these seemed to best summarize what our organization aspires to. The Annual Meeting is a celebration of these traits:

PridePride. Nothing produces a stronger sense of pride than to see our entire organization congregating together and realizing how much talent and experience we have, representing such a broad range of disciplines.

FamilyFamily. When you ask a member of the Hastings community to name our five Cultural Attributes, invariably they begin with Family. It’s not only evident in the chemistry we enjoy but also in the way that we support each other, not just in a business sense but in a personal sense. Our Annual Meeting is the personification of this attribute.

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EnthusiasmEnthusiasm. During the meeting, we like to have fun. I’m proud that our President has the humility to step up on stage dressed as a silly character. It may not seem business-like but if we don’t occasionally loosen up, we risk losing our perspective. We want to nurture enthusiasm because it’s amazing how much more gets accomplished with it.

IntegrityIntegrity. Our success is a result of our determination to take a long view, always strive to do the right thing and avoid the temptation of a quick fix. Maintaining our integrity has been a key component of our longevity. Our ability to adapt by providing valued resources for our customers and supplier speaks volumes about the integrity of this company.

Cont_ImpContinuous Improvement. This attribute was the topic of focus for this year’s meeting and summarized in our company’s vision statement: Make it easy to buy Marvin products. One of the reasons that we settled on this vision is that it’s unobtainable! We can never make it easy enough! Continuous improvement is the essence of our vision.

During the Annual Meeting, we celebrate our positive qualities but we have to remain aware of the fact that our company probably has some negative traits, too. Everyone does. But if we are realistic and face up to them, trusting our core attributes of continuous improvement, enthusiasm, integrity, pride and family, our company can look forward to a strong and vital future.

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The Hastings Family – May 9, 2013

A lot of effort goes into preparing our Annual Meeting and we hope that everyone had an enjoyable and fulfilling meeting experience. We look ahead to next year, embracing this year’s focus on continuous improvement, with the hope that our next meeting will be even better and more meaningful than ever.

-Jody Hoyt, Treasurer

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Coastal Perspectives With Hastings Sales Rep Vin Andrews

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The New England coastline offers unforgettable views and a relaxed lifestyle that draws people to live there, resulting in construction opportunities. However, sometimes these projects are complex, requiring special consideration of the project site and coastal environment. The good news is, with the right product mix and careful evaluation, the coastal market offers huge potential for retailers and their customers. Recently, we caught up with Vin Andrews, Hastings’ Retail Business Development Manager in Rhode Island, for a closer look at some key points to consider when working on coastal projects.

Q – When it comes to coastal building, which are more stringent – building codes or insurance company requirements?

A – Building codes are meant to establish minimum standards for a structure. In certain areas, insurance company requirements supersede codes, exceeding local specifications.  For example, in Wind-borne Debris Regions, the building code allows for the use of impact glazing, shutters or 7/16” plywood panels for storm reinforcement. In the same area, in order to qualify for coverage, an insurance company may require a homeowner to use a 5/8” pressure treated plywood panel instead.

Aside from these code requirements, there are other methods of protection that are often used on homes including motorized shutter systems and coated fabric panels, which are meant to reduce damage to windows and doors from flying debris during storms. In my experience, these products are much easier to use and store on-site than plywood panels. I recommend the use of these types of solutions as a supplement to Marvin’s products when used on the coast.

– What role does design pressure play in a coastal construction project?  And what are some other project considerations? 

–  Today’s changing weather patterns are forcing code changes in our coastal regions. Now more than ever you need to choose window and doors based on a more comprehensive criteria that includes performance.  I once had someone say to me before a presentation, “Don’t bring up Design Pressure, it’s too complicated and you’ll lose the audience.” The truth is, understanding Design Pressure, why you need it, and how to calculate it is critical to every project located in coastal areas or Wind-borne Debris Regions. Because choosing products that meet the correct performance rating in your area is the key to maximum performance of the building.

 Also, careful consideration should go into the topography and exposure of a project. Elevation changes could influence product performance needs and should be factored into window and door selection.  For example, the performance needs of a house on a bluff overlooking the ocean are greater because it could experience a higher wind velocity due to where it is sited on the building lot, especially during storms.  Many coastal project plans require the keen eye of an engineer to make calculations that ensure code compliance and site considerations. 

Q – Are there any special steps that should be taken when it comes time to install windows in a coastal project?  

A – Well, a house in a high wind or impact zone definitely require alternative installation methods.  These methods may include using screws through the jamb and/or structural installation brackets. To ensure ideal installation, proper flashing and consideration of structural mulling assemblies are also important. 

Q. Do you have anything else you would like to share? 

A –  Yes. The bottom line is that you should always take the time to do the research and weigh the factors that impact a successful coastal construction project.  Ask lots of questions. The end result is a happy homeowner and potential future business opportunity. That’s always worth it.

At Hastings, we have a team of knowledgeable professionals who have collaborated on coastal projects for decades. Your sales representative and inside sales and support team are accessible throughout project planning. Consult with us early in the process so that we can work together to make recommendations that result in buildings that perform to their maximum potential on the coast.

Throughout the summer, other coastal building professionals will share their thoughts and experiences with us.  In the meantime, if you have questions about a coastal project, contact the Hastings team. Email support@awhastings.com or call your Hastings Sales Representative.

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Vin Andrews is Hastings Retail Business Development Manager for the state of Rhode Island and parts of Southeastern Massachusetts. He has over two decades of experience recommending windows and doors for coastal environments including commercial, institutional, residential and historic projects.  

“Did you remember to ask for the sale?”

This spring I spent a fair amount of time traveling our territory helping to promote all of the most recent additions to the Integrity product offerings and listening to feedback.

On one such recent trip I had the chance to speak with a seasoned salesperson with one of our retail partners, and after we spoke about the recent line additions and his personal wish list he shared a quick story about a recent experience he had.

While working in the store one day a customer came in and immediately approached another salesperson. When that salesperson asked about the reason for visiting them, the answer was one I am willing to bet is not often heard,  “I am interested in seeing and getting information on Ultrex windows.” I questioned the person telling me the story to make sure I heard him correctly and said did you mean Integrity Windows?  He assured me the customer asked specifically for Ultrex by name.

It just so happened that the salesperson she first approached was not comfortable enough about the product to go any further and introduced her to the salesperson who was telling me this story.  He took over from there and in short order showed the customer several displays and answered some questions about options. At this point the customer produced a specific window type and size that they wished to have priced out now that they had decided on their specifications. The salesperson quickly used Marvin’s Order Management System to provide the price for this unit and just as the customer was readying themselves to leave he said:

“You know, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you what you were doing for a project and if there are other windows or materials involved?

The customer proceeded to produce an entire list of windows and doors for a new home they were building locally. The salesperson asked to quote the entire list and while they waited produced an estimate on the spot. The customer looked at the total, asked about their terms and proceeded to pull out their checkbook and pay for the order in full. Start to finish this whole process took place in less than 30 minutes.

I know what you are thinking as I was thinking the same thing. Yes, this really did happen – but it could just as easily not have happened had this salesperson not “asked for the order.” Do you ask for the order when given the chance?

~Ben Brockett
Integrity Brand Manager

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