Sunday, October 7, 2012

The story of the truck that got stuck…

(and three unrelated North-point incidents)

My husband’s old Teachers College building got into the news a couple of days ago.
The 140-year-old building was badly damaged in the Christchurch earth-quakes and is likely to be pulled down.
The former institution is made up of 31 individual apartments, though his fond memories of learning (from the 1970s) are tempered by the cold designed into the building.

The design came from the North Hemisphere, for a South Hemisphere location, making the corridors with their sunny aspect much more enjoyable than the classrooms.

The old buildings to the north of Cranmer Square were pretty; they used to be known as the Normal School and the Teachers College. Yet in their education period, being inside was less lovely. A corridor on the east side meant two lines of stone blocked the sun from reaching the classrooms till after everyone had taken their days’ worth of cold hard facts. However, the residential makeover would have brought people into sunny rooms at the end of a day’s work and this is the loss being lamented.

Now, you might think that omissions like these from a couple of centuries ago are no longer happening.
By chance, I had been staring at a North Point on a drawing today when the thought came, that something was wrong with it. –

A very pretty graphics (attached), yet wrong for the location somewhere in the Gulf.
The symbol would be appropriate for places south of the equator.

It shows the sun rising in the east and taking a northern track across the sky, before setting in the west. The sun is on the meridian at midday, north of the EW line.
Pondering this little product of a likely ‘copy-and-paste’ exercise I thought it would be interesting to see if the other ‘North points’ within the same project exposed any further anomalies.

I mean, the siting of the place is something everyone should get right?

Oh, there was a little beauty waiting to be discovered.
Architectural and structural plans for the building, each showing the same type
(this time unadorned) North point.
Ecept, they were rotated by 180 degrees from each other.

(attached picture; another reference I checked: the set-out grids matched)
Not that anyone will get overly worried about the competency of the consultants we are employing  on this project (as the main contractor).

We will not be splitting hairs with them on minor issues, like the direction North has on the project.
Or to rephrase this, the spatial orientation the building will have.
We have much bigger fish to fry! If the sun does not rise at the side you expect it, only the sun can be blamed for that.
Why is it so hard to get the basics right in this industry?

To bookend the first story coming from New Zealand, here is the one about the truck:

A couple of days ago a disqualified truck driver caused the closure of the Paekakariki Hill Road (a bit north from Wellington, NZ) after his truck got wedged under a pine tree.
GPS instructions directed the driver onto the road, which police said was unsuitable for the 20-metre-long truck.
If you’ve ever driven on that road, you’d be surprised that someone would actually attempt to get a large truck up the hill, still we often take electronic gadgets as correct even when what they say makes no sense.

How does this last story relate to the first three?
Very loosely, really, all hinting somehow to ‘blind leading the blind’ phenomena and relevant to navigational issues.
And professional services...
and competent AEC design consultants.

Check your North Points!