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I'm not sure it you're being serious or tongue-in-cheek. I suppose colored concrete is occasionally used on the cheap. But there is still one brick manufacturer in the Puget Sound--of the many that once existed--in Newcastle. I took a tour of it a couple of years ago. Fascinating. All colors, sizes and shapes of REAL brick still being produced, and shipped to all points.
Not for long:

http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/morning_call/2012/08/mutual-materials-newcastle-brick.html
 

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My understanding is the day of the bricklayer are long over in much of the US. Any new brick you see is a manufactured product called a "masonry veneer". They're thinner than bricks (1/2 size, I think), come in big sheets that are easy to assemble on site, and have many other benefits. That's also why they're usually so sharp and clean (though you can get them molded from real brick buildings, if you're into fake authenticity).

That said, real masonry is alive and well anywhere labor is cheap. I saw men hand-laying bricks for a subway system in China, and visited a brick "factory" in Indonesia which consisted of hand-forming bricks in a rice field, sun-drying them, stacking them, burying them, and lighting a wood fire. All this and only a fraction of the bricks are usable (they're stacked and priced by quality and color).
 

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Still big in India as well. And not just for veneer or appearance, but structural!
And that could also be part of the reason we hear about the high death tolls in some nations from earthquakes in regions that build in this manner.

But I digress (but I'm in fine company).
 

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This is welcome news.





From todays DJC

http://www.djc.com/news/re/12048179.html

December 14, 2012

DPD to debut new website in March

By LYNN PORTER
Journal Staff Reporter

In March the Seattle Department of Planning and Development will launch a revamped version of its website that it said will be easier to navigate, search and read and will work on mobile phones or tablets.

The website at www.seattle.gov/dpd/ will have short overviews of common city planning initiatives — such as the South Lake Union planning project — and of how to get permits.

“We want to have some very quick reads on things like deck permits or tenant alterations in a small business space,” said Alan Justad, head of community engagement for DPD. “We want to make that first step into a project or permit process simple and easy to understand.”

The website will also have a map users can search for data about zoning, permits and other details of properties in the city and information about planned development projects.

Also, users will no longer have to search through information about older planning projects to get to details of current ones, as the department has created an archive of the older material on the website.

DPD said the site will be written in “plain language” rather than the passive sentences with hidden verbs, made-up nouns and long official sounding words that are common in government.

For instance, instead of “Applicants will be notified by ASC staff at the time of their appointment their permit submittal requirements” users will read “We tell you at your appointment what materials you should submit to get a permit.”

DPD said it is the first City of Seattle department to adopt plain language. Anthro-tech, a plain language trainer based in Olympia, taught the department.

In the revamp, DPD had people familiar with the site and those that weren't test it.

It found that people in the test group were not using the site's toolbars. “They would look at the text in the middle and if it didn't immediately grab them, they would use the search box,” said Justad.

Also, it discovered that a search for a project might pull up an article from DPD's newsletter rather than the more appropriate DPD land use information bulletin. It has addressed that by cleaning up the search function, said Justad.

Overall, he said, the department sought to make the site more functional and user-friendly. “Like the rest of the world our website evolved,” he said.
 

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Good news. I love the plain language initiative but I'm surprised it takes a consultant. (some consulting - sure but this should not be that hard!)

I hope some project plans are accessible on the site not just Design Review Board packets. It would be a big enhancement. DPD has been scanning submitted plans for years so I hope at least new project plans are available on-line but I understand designers don't want their work on-line but I can go downtown today and look at them. Maybe at least the coversheets which include lots of DPD details.
 

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Why? They have at least two major efforts (defining a new writing style, redoing the website) requiring specific expertise, and they don't have excess people sitting around. Even if the staff wasn't so tight, that sort of thing often involves consultants.
 

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I just don't consider this kind of writing to be that hard especially when the text already exists (the intent) and it's a matter of refining it. Difference of opinion.

Edit: I agree web site remodeling almost requires a consultant and that's a good chance to refine language used but if I were at the city I wouldn't point out that the consultant helped with basic, clear English. (and I wouldn't claim my English is the best :) )
 

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I wish software companies like Microsoft would hire consultants to write clearer help pages, and anticipate additional questions, because they sure didn't have people like me in mind. That's a good example where there's plenty of expertise in house and the language is relatively clear, but they still do badly.
 

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Cool, so you'll be able to browse a map to find permit applications for specific lots?
Next, we need Notice of Proposed Land Use Action reform! Here in Berkeley, the signs have an actual rendering and describe the proposed project in plain English.
 

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By coincidence I recently sent the following to DPD regarding the DR page:

Here are four suggestions that could save an enormous amount of time for users of the design review program site:

1. A map on the search page. There's no clue where "Downtown" separates from "West" etc.

2. An indication when the search comes up empty. Currently it just does nothing.

3. Preset dates in the search function to save some typing. Maybe default to the past year and give the option to include additional years beyond that, while still letting people target a certain date range.

4. On the "project reviews upcoming" page, it would help to leave everything up for a week or two after the date has passed.
 

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5. Map showing the outline of the proposed building rather than address marker (since all map programs screw them up occasionally).
 

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Yeah - the Design Review pages need the help mentioned above. I've looked for projects that I know have info but have had a hard time finding it.

The Landmarks Board needs to get their info online in a way that parallels the DR process since it takes the place of DR where applicable. It's not acceptable to have to beg for a packet at a public meeting that is hard for many citizens to attend when the info should be online.
 
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