FAQs + Resources

SLA resources

View SLA’s library of virtual reality walkthroughs on our YouTube Channel.

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View SLA’s 3D panoramas – used for client presentations


What types and sizes of projects does Smith LaRock design?

SLA’s wheelhouse project type is our Control Building expertise. We integrate key Human Factors into the architectural design to help ensure each user of the building operates in a facility designed specifically to help them remain alert and vigilant throughout their shift, creating better safety for all while optimizing productivity, and situational awareness and minimizing absenteeism.

The control facilities designed by SLA offer a healthy environment within which to work, unlike the darkened ‘control caves’ of the past.

We also design other plant facilities our clients require like QC/Compliance and Analytical Laboratories, Maintenance/Warehouse facilities, Emergency buildings like Firehalls and Medical Services structures, Entry Security structures, and Production Office buildings: whatever facility our clients or industrial sites may require – we are here to help.

What is Smith LaRock Architecture’s history? How did the firm begin working in the specialized Process Control niche?

Smith LaRock Architecture PC commenced operations in 2002 when Owner/Principal Architect Michael Smith bought a small design company and kept the previous owner’s name on the firm while he changed the firm’s focus from Residential/Commercial /Light Industrial design work to the process control industry’s Facility Design needs.

Smith’s background as Managing Partner in another firm in the control center niche, combined with his relationships with industry clients, gave him the opportunity to participate in control center design projects back in the 1990’s, adding five years of design experience to SLA’s skills working in this unique niche.

Since our inception, we have worked for nearly all the major Fortune 50 Energy companies.

Why should we work with Smith LaRock Architecture for Control Center design?

For many reasons – both technical and practical.

In Control Center design work, SLA maintains close ties to key industry human factors specialists who help define the control systems interactions key to operational efforts – that ‘human-machine interface’ (HMI).

We design the control room around the operator’s console, methodically layering on the needs of the control center to ensure proper collaboration and situational awareness is achieved within the control room and outward into the control suite.

We embed key human factors into our designs to enable better operator vigilance and performance, including:

  • proper lighting and lighting control systems design
  • acoustic control – both active sound systems and passive absorption
  • HVAC design/distribution
  • materials and finishes coordination
  • design of redundant systems
  • blast design expertise and experiences

When designing laboratories, production buildings/offices and maintenance buildings, our experience delivering facilities within the plant secure area has grown out of the confidence our clients have in us and their needs for other technical facilities.

Whether designing small entry gatehouse projects, large control centers, or complex endeavors like the design of a control building to be panelized and built on land, lifted to a barge and transported over water and placed on a wharf, we show creativity and expertise in everything we do.

Does SLA follow any prescriptive standards in the design of a control building?

Yes.  We begin our control building designs based on ISO 11064, and our experience designing these types of facilities over the past twenty plus years.

Our efforts to make these centers work better have enabled us to:

  • develop ceiling designs that illuminate a room but conceal the lighting for lower maintenance and lower building height
  • design acoustic solutions that allow the use of radios, music devices while listening for DCS/SCADA alarms as is typical, but not disrupt he other operators in the room
  • create centers that are healthier and stress-reducing, and more pleasant to work in through our knowledge of key human factors, physiology, and integrated design
Does SLA design commercial buildings?

Yes.  Industrial plant facilities are essentially commercial buildings set into an industrial setting, and therefore may require some enhancements to make them more robust to protect the occupants.

Many of our projects are outside the over-pressure risk areas, and are designed to meet typical commercial building standards and prescriptive codes in force in a particular location.

We need a blast resistant building - can SLA design one for us?

Absolutely. Based on your risk assessment and basic design criteria developed by your blast-risk consultant, we can embed the blast design into any type of building you need: control building, lab, maintenance facility/warehouse, office/production building.

SLA will work closely with your team to help ensure your new facility meets your needs and offers your people the safety and protection specified in your blast risk assessment.

What design disciplines do I need to provide and what does SLA bring to my project?

Smith LaRock Architecture is an early adopter of BIM technology: we work entirely in REVIT™ 3D Building Information Modeling software (BIM), so we insist our consulting engineers also have that skill set.

We have structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and site civil engineers, cost estimating, and human factors specialists available for our projects, and we are all registered professionally to work in the states where our projects are constructed.

In some cases, our clients have local civil engineering companies familiar with their sites and choose to involve them. That’s fine with us – we can design the structure needed and coordinate with our client’s other specialists to help get that building designed and constructed on time and on budget.

In what locations is Smith LaRock Architecture registered professionally to provide architectural design services?

Smith LaRock owner Michael Smith is currently registered in 20 U.S. States and Alberta, Canada, and the company is established with the State or Province as required by their respective Secretaries of State.

Mike also has NCARB (USA) and CACB (Canada) certification which enables him to acquire licenses in other locations in the U.S. or Canada via reciprocity very quickly, so we can go where we need to in support of our clients’ needs.

Is SLA familiar with API Recommended Practices for these types of sites?

Yes. API’s RP-752 provides guidance for managing the risk from explosions, fires, and toxic material releases to on-site personnel located in new and existing buildings intended for occupancy.

RP-752 was developed for use at refineries, petrochemical and chemical operations, natural gas liquids extraction plants, natural gas liquefaction plants, and other onshore facilities covered by the OSHA Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, 29 CFR 1910.119.

RP-752 deals with buildings, and RP-753 deals with modular/portable buildings such as Blast Resistant Modular Shelters (BRMs).

Does SLA design using Blast-Resistant Modules (BRM) as the building shell structure?

Yes. SLA helps clients crate their necessary facility space using these modules – we have several examples of these types of solutions that we can share with clients.


I need to get a Human Factors assessment done (ergonomics review ) - can SLA help with that?

Yes. SLA has relationships with several of the process control industry’s leading professionals and either bring them onto our team or introduce them to you and have them work directly for you.


Does SLA subscribe to any industry safety database programs?

Yes. SLA has a membership with ISN. ISN is the provider of a powerful online contractor management database (ISNetworld), which is designed to meet internal and governmental record keeping and compliance requirements.

ISN collects health and safety, procurement, quality and regulatory information of its member companies, and shares that information with the major energy companies who subscribe to their database of information.

Is SLA insured?

Absolutely. SLA carries Professional Liability Insurance, Commercial General Liability, Workmen’s Compensation Insurance, and Automobile Insurance, and we have an Umbrella Policy to expand our insurance when needed.

Why can’t - or shouldn’t - I use a local architect to design a building for an industrial plant?

Plant facilities are different from typical commercial buildings in the way they are designed and constructed. Safety is paramount in these locations, and knowledge of the key requirements of these specialized facilities is also mandatory.

With SLA’s level of experience, our clients know we speak their language and do not need to be educated by their already-busy project engineers.

We have the safety credentials needed to be contracted (if we are not already covered by a Master Agreement). We are there to take a load OFF of the PE, not add to it!

Understanding and applying the specialized human factors concepts, engineering guidelines and specifications (EGS) that designing and detailing a blast-resistant building requires, or how a safe-haven design must work, or even the basics of communicating how Blast Damage Level specifications are applied is very important to the successful design project.

Like they say, we fix $7 Haircuts.


How does SLA charge for its services?

We have provide design services under many formats:

  • Reimbursable (time and materials)
  • Reimbursable to an Estimated NTE Topset
  • Lump Sum Plus Expenses and
  • combinations of these approaches

For example, when we do not know much about a client’s needs, or scope is relatively fluid, a time and materials approach is best. In some cases, entire projects are done under the time and materials approach.

Once we have a concept developed and the client is ready to move forward, we may suggest a lump sum approach, so the risk of scope creep is shared. If we are asked to do something not in the agreed-upon scope we will alert the client and request a modification to perform the extra service.

Lump Sum Services are generally tighter fees to propose, while time and materials fees generally have a higher contract value since we need to have some room to provide services that neither client nor architect can predict.

We like to start out under time and materials, then move to a lump sum approach so we can help our clients toe the line on costs.



Can Smith LaRock Architecture help us understand the costs of developing these types of plant facilities?

Yes. SLA services include a cost estimator to develop the options of probable cost that are needed to help secure AFEs .


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