KMA is overseeing design, permitting, and construction for this residential expansion in Boston. The owners are expanding the first floor with a new Master suite and access to art studio space in the basement, allowing them to retire in their home and community. Here are some scenes from the construction site; stay tuned for more project updates.
Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. KMA is committed to ensuring our staff and their families are safe and healthy—both physically and emotionally.
On June 16, 2020 KMA began implementing a partial office re-opening with prudent precautions. Our office is located in Newton, Massachusetts and we continue to follow the guidelines set by state and local authorities, with continuous input from our staff.
KMA continues to perform building evaluations and construction audits here in Massachusetts, and outside of the state on a case-by-case basis. Where travel is not possible due to Covid-19 concerns, we have collaborated with local clients and partners to develop thorough and efficient methods of conducting virtual audits from our home base here in MA. The team at KMA is available and are committed to ensuring workflows proceed promptly during these unusual times.
E-mail remains the best manner to reach KMA’s team. For general inquiries, send an email to [email protected] and it will be immediately forwarded to the appropriate team member for a prompt response.
We will let our clients and partners know of any changes due to disruptions of Covid-19.
Let’s get through this together, one day at a time.
KMA is pleased to announce the promotions of Lisa Pilorz to Associate Principal and J Garofalo to Associate. Even in these unprecedented times, KMA staff are working and thriving – collaborating with clients, supporting colleagues, and expanding & refining our expertise. We are grateful to Lisa and J for their continued dedication to our firm and its work.
Lisa Pilorz, Assoc. AIA, Leed AP BD+C ASSOCIATE PRINCIPAL
Since joining KMA in 2010, Lisa’s expertise as an accessibility compliance consultant to local and state governments, public and private institutions, architects, and developers has benefited countless KMA clients and colleagues. In recent years, she has turned her careful attention to KMA’s diverse portfolio of multifamily housing clients throughout the US. In her new role as Associate Principal, Lisa will have primary responsibility for leading KMA’s work in this market sector, balancing the in-person and on-site expertise that her clients have come to value with increased responsibility for business development, project management, and staff mentorship.
A 2020 graduate of the Master of Architecture program at the Boston Architectural College, J’s interest in accessibility and Universal Design predates their arrival in 2017 at KMA. In the years since, they have worked as a trusted project manager on numerous high-profile university projects at Boston College, Northeastern University, Washington & Lee University, Wellesley College, and other institutions of higher education throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic. In their role as Associate, J will continue to work with clients in higher education but will also focus increasingly on K-12 education – in particular, specializing in Massachusetts projects that require variances with the Architectural Access Board.
KMA traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in May 2018 to improve its understanding of the country’s accessibility efforts and meet with several NGOs and stakeholders who have been involved in the efforts. At the time of the visit, Haiti was in the process of passing its first-ever accessibility regulations. The Christian Blind Mission (CBM) took the country’s social context into consideration in their development of a user-friendly technical guide, Guide Pratique D’Accessibilité, that included not only technical diagrams but also colorful illustrations to highlight key points in the new regulations. KMA was honored to participate as the principal drafter of technical diagrams in this pioneering moment.
Three new universal design experts join KMA in Newton, MA to enhance its residential design and consulting capabilities—including single-family homes, multi-family houses, and multiple-unit residential buildings—as well as increase capacity to design creative public spaces (and public art projects) that are universally accessible. KMA welcomes the following people who joined our team during 2019’s fourth quarter!
Mark Armstrong, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C SENIOR ARCHITECT
With a proven track record of success in residential design, Mark’s expertise and aesthetic is a valuable addition to KMA’s advanced capabilities of universal design of single-family, multi-family, and multiple-unit housing. Previously he had his own award-winning architect firm, The Office of Mark Armstrong, and prior to that was senior architect for ADD Inc. Mark graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and he earned his Master of Architecture degree from Yale School of Architecture.
Tom Ciesielski, AIA SENIOR ASSOCIATE
In the multi-family housing sector, Tom brings extensive experience with specialized design services and deep knowledge of ADA and FHA compliance. Prior to joining KMA, he served as principal of T.U. Ciesielski Architects in Chicago, and was senior staff architect for the International Code Council which provides the highest quality codes, standards, products, and services that create safe buildings and communities. Tom graduated from University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in architecture and continues his studies in civil engineering there.
Andru Ihli DESIGNER / ACCESS PLANNER
With interests in aging-in-place, deaf space design, and ADA accessibility—and a passion for low/no carbon footprint sustainable design—Andru adds to KMA’s technical capacity, including his extensive experience with Revit. Previously Andru was a designer and drafter for MWA, Inc. Architecture-Engineering in California and Salmon RV Barn. After serving in the US Marine Corps he earned his Bachelor of Environmental Design, Architecture at the University of Colorado Boulder which included studying at the internationally-acclaimed Glasgow School of Art.
Dormitory projects must follow both state and federal accessibility regulations. These regulations often overlap, and the most stringent requirements must be met. Below is a summary of the three major jurisdictions for dormitory projects:
2010 ADA Standards: Dormitories are considered a form of transient lodging under the 2010 ADA Standards. Therefore, all common use spaces and a prescribed number of units must be mobility accessible (ADA-224.2). There must be mobility accessible units with roll-in showers and other units with either transfer showers or tubs. Additionally, a prescribed number of units must provide accessible communication features. Both mobility and communication accessible units are required to be distributed amongst the various classes of units in the facility.
Design and Construction Requirements of the FHA:Dormitories are considered a form of multifamily housing and therefore dormitory units and common use spaces must comply with one of the 10 HUD recognized safe harbors. If a dormitory building contains an elevator, all units are considered covered units. Generally, the most significant impact of the FHA requirements will be to unit layouts with private kitchens/bathrooms.
State/City Building Codes: States/cities classify dormitory facilities differently. Typically, local building codes treat dormitories as transient lodging facilities. However, KMA is aware of some states/cities that treat dormitories as R-2 dwellings. Many states/cities also have additional requirements for dormitory units that go above and beyond the 2010 ADA Standards and/or the Design and Construction Requirements of the FHA. For example, in Massachusetts dormitories are considered transient lodging and must provide more units with communication features than required by the 2010 ADA Standards.
KMA strongly recommends a detailed accessibility scoping analysis at the start of a dormitory project.
KMA principal, Josh Safdie, will present with Ken Dobyns, KOMPAN North America; Dawn Oates, The Play Brigade; and Cheri Ruane, Weston & Sampson at this year’s Boston Society of Landscape Architects’ conference. Join them for an insightful discussion on “Designing for Inclusive Play” on May 22nd at Northeastern University. Session and ticket information is available on the BSLA website.
Assisted Listening Systems (ALS) are required to be provided in assembly areas per both the ADA and 521 CMR. These devices range in capability and technology but ultimately provide the same service to persons who are hard of hearing. There are four (4) types of systems that are typically used – Radio Frequency (RF), Infrared (IR), Induction Loop, and, in more recent years, Wi-Fi.
The terminology required to understand ALS can be overwhelming. To more readily grasp these requirements, basic definitions are provided below.
Receiver – a device typically worn around the neck that amplifies sound from a speaker
Telecoil or T-Coil – a wireless receiver built-in to some hearing aids; amplifies sound from facilities utilizing Induction Loop technology
Hearing Aid – a personal device worn either in the ear or behind the ear that amplifies sound; can have a “T” switch to toggle the T-Coil on/off.
Radio Frequency (RF) Transmitter – utilizes radio channels to transfer sound to a receiver
Infrared (IR) Transmitter – utilizes infrared technology to transfer sound to a receiver
Induction Loop – a sound system installed in facilities through a loop of wire that creates an electromagnetic field that communicates with “T” switch compatible hearing aids and receivers
Wi-FiTransmitter – a wireless access point communicates with an individual’s smartphone app to amplify sound
The ADA requires a minimum number of receivers based on the total number of seating with an additional set of receivers that are hearing-aid compatible (see Figure 1). In the state of Massachusetts, the requirements are more stringent. MAAB §14.5 requires the minimum number of receivers provided to be 4% of the total number of seats, but no less than two (2) receivers . To compare, an assembly area with a total of 2001 seats requires 70 receivers under the ADA versus 80 under MAAB.
Figure 1. ALS requirements from ADA §219.3 
I attended a seminar offered by Acentech, an acoustical consulting firm based in Cambridge, MA, where the presenters explained the each of the ALS systems in detail. There are several pros and cons to consider for each system type, ranging from cost to interference. The table below gives a side-by-side comparison for each system:
17 channels available
Easy portable or fixed installation
Lowest installation cost
Large coverage area indoors or outdoors
Excellent sound quality
T-Coil hearing aid compatible
Transmission not private
Possible radio interference
Limited to 8 simultaneous channels
Listeners need a receiver
Some receiver management needed
Secure transmission within confined room
Excellent sound quality
Not as susceptible to interference
Multiple rooms with no interference
No license requirement
T-Coil hearing aid compatible
4 channels can be used
IR emitters cannot be concealed
Emitters need to be placed properly for optimum coverage
More emitters needed for larger areas
Most IRs have issues with direct sunlight
Listeners need a receiver and be in line of sight with emitter
Some receiver management needed
T-Coil hearing aids do not need receiver
Management of receivers minimized
No license required
Hearing aid tuned to compensate for specific hearing loss
Transmission not private
Single channel only
Not all potential users have T-coil hearing aids
Installation and repairs can be difficult and costly
Susceptible to interference from other electrical equipment
Works off existing Wi-Fi systems
Free phone app
No device management
Dependent on end user to bring device or download the app
Latency of old vs. new phone models
Figure 2. Data taken from Acentech presentation 
One of the most interesting takeaways from the ALS seminar was that the baby boomers seemingly do not associate themselves with the ADA. In other words, it seemed as if they didn’t correlate their hearing impairments as a disability but rather a natural cycle of aging. To be fair, hearing loss is common in the aging community, however, it was intriguing to witness this disconnect. Many in the audience joked at the irony of requiring so many hearing devices in a space where no one uses them. Another common joke was that Americans tend to hide their flaws/disabilities from the rest of the world. Take eyewear for example – the impairment of vision has become a symbol of fashion or presumed intelligence. Hearing aids, however, haven’t achieved that cachet just yet. They are widely associated with the elderly, regardless of the multitudes of children and young people who use them as well.
KMA recently finished a project installing a 3-stop vertical platform lift in a split-level ranch style home in Wellesley MA. The lift was necessary as one member of the family has MS. The “before” photo shows that homeowner had been using multiple stair chairs to get between the different levels of the house.
The project’s goal was to sensitively insert the lift into the existing house without interfering with the view of the woods or view from the formal sitting room. We were able to locate the shaft for the lift in the middle of the house so that the lowest level is at the garage, the next level is on the first floor at the living room, and the last stop is on the second floor near the bedrooms.
KMA worked closely with D.M. Power Construction and Garaventa Lift to figure out how to use a non-standard door at the living room level that better matched the other doors in the house. This way, in the most formal room of the house, the lift door blends in with the existing style of the room. The doors at the garage level and on the second floor are the standard Garaventa Lift doors. All the doors are on automatic openers.
On the second floor, the space for the lift came out of an extra bedroom. The space that was left was converted into an office and three large windows were added to take advantage of the view.
The upgrade from stair chairs to a platform lift is enormous, it gives the homeowner greater independence, saves time and allows her to freely move around all the rooms in her house, out the garage door, and into the neighborhood.
Lift vs. Elevator:
We often get asked which is better, a lift or an elevator. There are pros and cons to both. In Massachusetts, the maximum level change allowed for a lift is 12 vertical feet. This means that a lift can really only take a person between two floors of a house. Luckily, in this case, because the house is a split level, the lift can get to all three levels. Another issue with lifts that came up in this project is that when operating a lift, the button must be held down continuously the entire time the lift is in motion. If the rider releases the button, the lift will pause where it is, even if it is between landings. The best part about lifts is the price, they are significantly more affordable than elevators.