03 July 2013


Breakaway walls are allowed both by the International Residential Code and by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) rules. However, there are certain identified "disconnects" between what is allowed by law and what may result in higher insurance premiums. The use of breakaway walls in a V zone is one of these disconnects.

In accordance with the NFIP Flood Insurance Manual, insurance companies may charge higher premiums for an "elevated building with obstruction." The Flood Insurance Manual contains the following guidelines. (Note: The italicized text below is from the Manual. The most recent (May 1, 2013) Manual may be accessed at FEMA Manual.)

1. Elevated Building Without Obstruction
The area below the lowest elevated floor is open, with no obstruction, to allow the flow of floodwaters. Insect screening is permissible. Wooden or plastic lattice, slates, or shutters are also permissible if at least 40 percent of their area is open. Lattice can be no thicker than 1/2 inch; slats or shutters can be no thicker than 1 inch. In addition, buildings are considered without obstruction if the area below the lowest elevated floor is enclosed by a combination of 1 solid breakaway wall or garage door, and the other sides of the enclosure are insect screening, or wooden or plastic lattice, slats, or shutters. Machinery or equipment below the lowest elevated floor must be at or above the BFE. Use the rates from Table 3E. For unnumbered Zone V, use the Submit-for-Rate procedures.

2. Elevated Building With Obstruction
Buildings are rated "With Obstruction" if any of the following conditions are met:
a. The area below the lowest elevated floor is enclosed fully by solid breakaway walls.
b. The area below the lowest elevated floor is enclosed by a combination of 2 or more solid breakaway walls, the remaining sides constructed of insect screening, or wooden or plastic lattice, slats, or shutters.
c. Machinery or equipment below the lowest elevated floor is also below the BFE. Use the rates from Table 3F provided that the enclosure is less than 300 square feet with solid breakaway walls, or any machinery or equipment is below the BFE. For unnumbered Zone V, use Submit-for-Rate procedures.

Homeowners are permitted to enclose areas below the BFE with breakaway walls. However, they should be informed that this will result in higher insurance premiums. Under the Flood Insurance Manual, enclosed space of 300 square feet or more will be counted as the building's lowest floor even if it is enclosed with breakaway walls and is restricted to use for building access, parking or storage in accordance with the rules. "Without obstruction" in accordance with the above guidelines results in the best rates. How much higher will the rate be with obstructions? Most of the flood insurance rates in the V zone are shown as "submit for rate" which means that the information is submitted to the insurance company and the company determines the policy premium.

Submitted by: Robert M. Longo, AIA  Ref: DCA

01 July 2013

Hope That New Flood Maps Will Help To Boost Design and Construction Business In New Jersey

Homeowners battered by Hurricane Sandy got some relief recently, when the federal government issued revised, scaled-back flood maps and elevation requirements. For architects and builders working on those homes, it means many long-stalled rebuilding projects may soon pick up.

The new maps shrink the so-called V zones in Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic counties — there areas where homes are most prone to flooding — moving many dwellings to the lower-risk A zones. That likely means simpler, cheaper rebuilding projects and lower insurance premiums, not to mention owners' increased willingness to move ahead after the months of uncertainty that followed the October storm.

Meanwhile, some local governments have addressed another issue in Sandy's aftermath. Towns like Point Pleasant and Manasquan have loosened zoning restrictions for residential heights, allowing homeowners to comply with the federal guidelines without conflict.

In the coming weeks, towns will work with FEMA to determine how to apply the guidelines to current building codes. Because the maps were only released very recently, town officials were still analyzing local data and could not specifically comment on how it may be applied. Changes could include elevating homes in a number of ways, breakaway walls that would fall away against the force of waves, deep pilings to better anchor a buildings being pushed by the force of rushing water and flood vents to allow water to pass through the foundation of shore front property.

Submitted by: Robert F. Barranger, AIA Ref: FEMA

09 June 2013

World's Tallest Building, 'Sky City', To Break Ground "Fast"

A Chinese construction company is setting out to build the world’s tallest building, in Changsha, China. And it says it can finish it in one-tenth of the time it took to build the current record holder. Broad Sustainable Construction, a company known for building high-rise buildings in record-breaking time, said it will break ground in June '13 on the project, which will stand at 838 meters, or 2,749 feet, when completed. The building is slated to make an incredibly speedy progress, finishing construction in seven months. Construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s current tallest building, took approximately six years to complete. The building will be called “Sky City” and will exceed the Burj Khalifa by roughly 10 meters (30 feet). While the Burj Khalifa is in a popular Middle East tourist destination, the biggest city in the United Arab Emirates and a worldwide aviation hub, the new Sky City will be erected in the middle of a field in Changsha, the capital of the province of Hunan -- a city of 7 million, to be sure, but located in the middle of China, with the closest international metropolis being Hong Kong, 600 km (400 miles) to the south. 

29 May 2013

Thinking Big: Four Visions of a New Penn Station

The Municipal Art Society of NYC asked four design firms to "Draw BIG" and  Reimagine the ideal Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden.

The proposals by Diller Scofidio & RenfroSHoP ArchitectsSkidmore, Owings & Merrill and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture were introduced on May 29th. All plans expect the new station to include high-speed rail.
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
H3 HARDY COLLABORATION ARCHITECTURE Moves the entire complex to the West Side waterfront at 34th Street, creates an elevated bike and pedestrian promenade and turns Pier 76 into a new 16-acre park. 
Diller Scofidio & Renfro
DILLER SCOFIDIO & RENFRO Moves Madison Square Garden across Eighth Avenue next to the James A. Farley Post Office building; Penn Station becomes a multilevel public space with amenities like a spa and a theater. 
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
SKIDMORE, OWINGS & MERRILL Moves Madison Square Garden off site and expands the station to four city blocks from two. Above ground: green space four times the size of Bryant Park; housing twice the size of Tudor City; more offices than Rockefeller Center; and more cultural spaces than Lincoln Center. 
SHoP ARCHITECTS Expands the existing site with a lightweight concrete structure that is meant to evoke the old Penn Station and seeks to make the station a social meeting spot. 

When’s the last time you heard someone say... Let’s meet for a drink at Penn Station? People say that about Grand Central all the time.
Submitted by: Michael G. Soriano, AIA Ref: NYT

21 May 2013

"Stigma Stompers”

May is mental health awareness month and Cornerstone is getting involved! Receptionist for the firm, Angelina Baker, organized a team for the annual 5k NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mercer County walk. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need. NAMI is the foundation for hundreds of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and volunteer leaders who work in local communities across the country to raise awareness and provide essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs. Angelina’s team, “The Stigma Stompers” raised a total of $945 and had 12 people join her in walking to promote mental health awareness. Mercer County had over 850 people who proudly gathered to walk. Together, the Mercer county teams raised over S110,000. Mental Illness affects 1 in 4 or nearly 60 million Americans each year. Cornerstone offers endless support to anyone diagnosed with a mental illness and caretakers in the mental health care system.

Submitted by: Angelina Baker Ref: NAMI

10 May 2013

One World Trade Center - One Proud Day for America!

Cheers erupted as the spire topped One World Trade Center on Friday morning May 10, 2013. A crane lifted the last of a 408-foot tall spire on top of the "Freedom Tower", a capstone to an emotional 12-year effort to replace the twin towers destroyed by terrorists. The 18-piece silver spire tops out the tower at a symbolic 1,776 feet, a nod to the year America signed the Declaration of Independence. The new building is just north of the original towers, now the hallowed ground known as Ground Zero. "This really is a symbolic moment because this building really represents the resiliency of this country,” said Port Authority Vice Chair Scott Rechler. “These people, the thousands of men and women who have worked here tirelessly, really as a tribute for the people that perished on 9/11 right on this site". The pinnacle was built with the city’s streets in mind. Its tip holds a beacon with 288 50-watt LED lights that will allow it be seen up to 50 miles away on a clear day. Once operational, the spire will serve as a world-class broadcast antenna. It also makes the building the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

Submitted by: Michael G. Soriano, AIA Ref: NBC

03 May 2013


Businesses Can Now Apply for Sandy Recovery Grants of up to $50,000. Beginning on Wednesday May 1st, businesses can apply for Superstorm Sandy recovery grants of up to $50,000 at the website of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). Small businesses and nonprofits struck by the storm are eligible for the grants that can be used toward working capital or new construction.

Grant Program Overview: 
  • Small businesses and non-profits may apply for grants and forgivable loans of up to $50,000. Businesses with multiple locations in New Jersey may receive more than one grant, totaling no more than $250,000. 
  • The entity must be considered a "small business" as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and have more than $25,000 but less than $5 million in gross operating revenues. 
  • Applicants must show each location sustained at least $5,000 in damages. 
  • Grants are eligible for working capital (operating expenses), inventory, equipment, machinery, fixtures, furnishings and construction. 
  • Priority will be given to applicants located in the nine most impacted counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union. 
  • Grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. 
The $260 million Stronger New Jersey Business Grant Program is one of the initiatives approved by the NJEDA. It also approved $25 million to fund a tourism marketing campaign to assist Superstorm Sandy-impacted communities and promote the state's tourism assets; and $12 million for securing a firm to operate the grant program under the supervision of the Office of Recovery.

The grant program is part of the state's $1.8 billion plan to spend federal Community Development Block Grant disaster assistance funds. The plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the EDA approved the first initiatives of that program.

Submitted by: Michael G. Soriano, AIA Ref: NJEDA

26 April 2013

Work on the Boards - Robertet Fragrances

Cornerstone Architectural Group has just completed the design work for Robertet Fragrances' new US Headquarters in Mount Olive, New Jersey. Work in the 117,000 square foot building includes the complete renovation of nearly 50,000 square feet of office and laboratory space, as well as upgrades to the warehouse and production areas. Robertet will consolidate two existing New Jersey locations into this recently acquired property in Mount Olive's International Trade Zone.

Robertet and Cornerstone's business partnership spans more than 20 years and includes over 20 completed projects in eight different locations. The Robertet Group, headquartered in Grasse France, has three businesses: natural raw materials, perfume compositions and food flavorings. Robertet serves customers in 50 countries from its global network of production, R&D and design centers, spanning more than 11 countries.

Patrick J. Fucci, Associate AIA is the Project Manager and Robert M. Longo, AIA is the Partner in charge of the project. 
Robertet Lobby
Rendering of Robertet Fragrances' Main Lobby

Submitted by: Robert M. Longo, AIA  Ref: RF&F

21 April 2013

The Garden State’s Most Iconic Architects

In honor of National Architecture Week 2013 (April 7-13) a week-long celebration of architects and architecture, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects created a list of 10 of New Jersey’s most iconic architects. The list includes architects representing a range of architecture styles & philosophies; contemporary & historic figures; men & women; North & South. In some way they all are connected to the Garden State, whether they were born or practiced in New Jersey.

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us - Winston Churchill

AIA-NJ Nominates Michael Graves to New Jersey Hall of Fame

Richard Meire





peter eisenman

Bill Short Head Shot Photo

Freedom Tower architect David Childs att

FredWesleyWentworth Photo

Submitted by: Michael G. Soriano, AIA Ref: AIA/NJ

12 April 2013

Hugs from Home

A “Hug from Home” is a gift tube personalized to say “Thank You” to our military who are overseas, and to let them know they are loved and supported during their deployment. The compact care packages contain everything from the necessary; toothbrushes, bug spray and deodorant, to the fun; magazines, cigars and puzzles. Cornerstone is proud to have participated for the past 3 years with Morristown, NJ based Office Furniture Partnership. OFP has organized this special program in support of service men and women serving abroad for more than 5 consecutive years have distributed more than 12,000 “Hugs”! In many cases, soldiers rely on friends and family to send care packages, but sometimes it's the gifts from strangers, organizations and communities that have the biggest impact on morale. Other companies, families and individuals interested in participating in the next “Hugs from Home” can contact Bob Rigby at bobr@officefurniturepartnership.com  or call him at (973) 867-3403. Thank you for the support of this campaign and our troops!

Submitted by: Michael G. Soriano, AIA Ref: OFP

05 April 2013

What It Means To Be An Architect

The AIA Manifesto. It's more than three letters after your name...

Submitted by: Robert F. Barranger, AIA Ref: AIA

29 March 2013

New Jersey Formally Adopts Federal Advisory Flood Elevation Maps for Rebuilding After Sandy

New Jersey has now formally adopted controversial flood elevation standards, even though state and federal officials admit the regulations will likely change when final maps are released later this year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s, (FEMA), advisory elevations, which the state accepted through an emergency rule earlier this year as the standard for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, lay out how high residents in flood zones must raise their homes in order to maintain affordable flood insurance premiums. Despite protests from many storm victims who call the maps flawed, the state Department of Environmental Protection filed papers on Monday to make that emergency order a permanent measure.

Submitted by: Robert F. Barranger, AIA Ref: NJSL

24 March 2013

Ward's Castle; First Reinforced Concrete Structure in the US

I made an unexpected stop in Rye, NY today and I was lucky to stumble upon the William E. Ward House. The building is located on a large lot in a residential neighborhood on the border of New York and Connecticut.

Constructed from 1873-1875, the house was the first structure in the United States built entirely of reinforced concrete. Mr Ward, a mechanical engineer, collaborated with architect Robert Mook, to create this imposing 17 room mansion. The building is constructed entirely of Portland cement based concrete reinforced with iron beams and rods. Only the doors, window frames and trim are of wood.

A combination of Gothic Revival and French Second Empire styles, the building features a four-story octagonal tower that expresses rather than conceals the concrete. The mansion was jokingly known as "Ward's Folly" by neighbors until its durability and character caused it to be re-dubbed "Ward's Castle."

The castle was later bought by "Beetle Bailey" cartoonist Mort Walker, and it was home to the Museum of Cartoon Art from 1976 to 1992. The building is currently a private residence.

I was caught without my SLR so these camera phone pictures will have to do.

22 March 2013

Cornerstone Architectural Group Recognized by AIA NJ

The New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA NJ) recently recognized Cornerstone Architectural Group for 25 years of service to the profession. Cornerstone celebrated 25 years in business in December of 2012. The award was presented to the firms' principals; Robert F. Barranger, AIA, Robert M. Longo, AIA and Michael G. Soriano, AIA at AIA New Jersey's black tie gala, by 2013 AIA NJ President, Jack Purvis, AIA and AIA NJ Service Awards Chair, Michael Hanrahan, AIA. 
Pictured from left to right; Jack Purvis, AIA, Michael G. Soriano, AIA, 
Robert M. Longo, AIA, Robert F. Barranger, AIA and Michael Hanrahan, AIA

Submitted by: Michael G. Soriano, AIA Ref: AIA/NJ

19 March 2013

First Stonehenge, Now Carhenge

Jim Reinders, an experimental artist with a history of using curious media, became so enthralled by the beauty of the famous Stonehenge in England that he had to recreate it. However, Reinders, instead of using stone, decided to embrace a more modern, Americanized approach. Shortly after his father died in 1982, Reinder came up with the idea to build “Carhenge”.

Five years later during a family reunion, with the help of some thirty family members, Reinder used thirty-eight automobiles to mirror the position of the rocks that construct Stonehenge. All the automobiles, which include a handful of cars, a pick-up truck, an ambulance, and a 1962 Cadillac as the heel stone, accurately and proportionately depict the real life structure.

Completing the sculpture just in time for the Summer Solstice, the family celebrated their achievements. The local residents of Alliance, Nebraska were initially disturbed by the presence of Carhenge, believing it to be an eyesore, but over time have grown to accept and love the structure that put their town on the map.

Submitted by: Robert F. Barranger, AIA Ref: DM

07 March 2013

Planners Favor Waiver of Height Restriction for Storm-Damaged Homes

Toms River, NJ Planning Board members have given their approval to an ordinance amendment that will waive the maximum height restriction for homes impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Relaxing that rule for those affected will allow them to raise their homes above 35 feet to satisfy FEMA flood guidelines while bypassing a trip before Toms River's Zoning Board, so long as no other alterations are proposed. With all of the troubles many residents face as they try to rebuild after Sandy's devastation, the relaxing of the height requirement for them is meant to make the recovery process go more smoothly, since they won't have to appear in front of the Zoning Board for a variance. Most of the affected homes likely will require an increase of 4 to 5 feet to meet FEMA guidelines. Raising of homes will not affect disabled residents who require a ramp to access their structure as they are exempt from setback requirements. The challenge will be that they will need landings, and that will make the ramps much longer.

Submitted by: Donna M. Miller, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP Ref: TRP

25 February 2013

D.C. Plans for Sustainable Future with Building, Waste & Job Initiatives

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will release a sustainability plan that calls for tightening up the District’s Green Building Act, modernizing all public housing and public schools, expanding Brownfield redevelopment incentives, introducing a “pay-as-you-throw” pricing structure for waste collection and creating a government-backed loan fund to support new business. The plan, dubbed “Sustainable D.C.”, follows up the Earth Day 2012 release of the Sustainable D.C. Vision, itself a follow-up to Gray’s July 2011 announcement that D.C. should be the “healthiest, greenest and most livable city in the United States.” Drafted over the course of about 20 months, the plan takes the broad goals found in the vision document — in the areas of jobs, development, health and wellness, equity and diversity, nature, climate, food and transportation — and puts 143 specific initiatives behind them.

25 January 2013

Marco T. Migliaro, AIA Earns NJ Architect License

Cornerstone Architectural Group's Marco T. Migliaro, AIA has successfully completed the rigorous Architectural Registration Examination administered by the New Jersey State Board of Architects. As a newly Registered Architect in the State of New Jersey, Marco now assumes all the professional responsibilities of a licensed design professional. Marco was named an Associate of Cornerstone Architectural Group, South Plainfield, NJ in 2012, in recognition of his many contributions in the management of significant design projects. Marco lives in South Plainfield wife his wife and their two dogs.
New Jersey State Board of Architects President, Michael Soriano (left) congratulates newly licensed Architect Marco T. Migliaro, AIA (right) at the State Board meeting held on January 10, 2013 in Newark, NJ.