10 Common Remodeling Mistakes (and Why You Need an Architect)

home improvementHow many people are guilty of bestowing themselves professionals of something they have watched extensively on television? I know I am – I watch Food Network all the time and tell people I am a Master Chef (obviously I am not even close to that). With so many television shows about home remodeling and renovation, there are scary amounts of people out there that think they can handle the daunting task on their own. Hey, I am not saying you can’t do it yourself! But, just in case, here are 10 of the biggest remodeling mistakes, with some helpful tips provided by David Baughman, Project Manager at BCK Custom Builders in Tucson, Ariz. (Read original article here).

 

Ignoring Safety Procedures: It is easy to ignore safety procedures when you are in the comfort of your own home, but it is really important to protect yourself. Wear safety goggles, don’t stand on the tops of ladders, and turn off the main breaker when fixing electrical problems – especially in situations where you are working alone.

“The biggest rule of thumb for any remodeling project is to make sure the job site is safe,” said Baughman. “Sounds obvious, but there are countless avoidable injuries from electrical lines being cut, because the breakers weren’t all shut off, or from structures falling in an unforeseen direction or area.”

Avoid injury by leaving some aspects of the work to professionals. An architect has a plethora of great contractors, plumbers and electricians in their address book. Take advantage of their endless connections.

 

Using Cheap Materials: Ever heard the popular expression “You get what you pay for”? Well, it’s popular for a reason: it’s true, especially in the realm of renovation. There are so many tools and materials out there, it is hard to even know where to begin. If you are doing a renovation on your own, do your research. Go online and read reviews for different products.

If the thought of doing research makes you cringe, hire an architect. They already have an extensive knowledge on great products, and might even get good deals on certain items for being a frequent customer.

 

Blowing Your Budget: It is important to create a budget before beginning a renovation project. You definitely do not want to run out of money midway through and get stuck with a half-done kitchen or bathroom. Estimate all costs, even small things like nails and screws – then add more money on top.

“Have 30% more money than the budget begins with and start off with a wish list and a ‘must-have’ list,” advised Baughman.

Architects can work within your budget. They can come up with the most cost effective way to create the look you want. They can track down the perfect contractor for you – all while you don’t lift a finger.

 

Going Sledgehammer Crazy: Isn’t it scary how the people on T.V. make everything look so easy? They make it seem like every renovation begins with the swing of a sledgehammer. This is not the best idea.

“Swinging away with sledge hammers, as seen on TV, is not always the best method for demolition,” warned Baughman. “Identify bearing points (columns, posts, and even some walls) before removing unwanted walls.”

When you hire an Architect, they can usually get copies of the original construction drawing of your home from the local Building Department. They are able to figure out which walls can come down, and which walls can’t (because they are load baring). An architect can create a floor plan for you to see before the sledgehammer comes out. Instead of thinking that your design will probably look good, an architect can show you what it will look like.

 

Inaccurate Measurements: I hate math. And there is nothing more frustrating then realizing you measured something incorrectly, and therefor have to start over. Keep in mind the popular phrase “Measure twice, cut once.” Even being a half an inch off the mark is enough to derail the best-laid plans.

Architects have to take several intense math courses before earning their degree. They are equipped with the necessary skills to make sure the job is done correctly, the first time.

 

Avoiding Contractors: Even if you’ve seen every episode of a remodeling shows on HGTV, that doesn’t make you an expert. There are plenty of real experts out there that will do all of the dirty work for you. Projects like installing a roof, hanging drywall, and rewiring electrical are very critical to the value of your home. That’s a lot of pressure!

I know that finding a reliable and trustworthy contractor can be a nerve-wracking thing to do – that’s why you should hire an architect. They will once again pull out their handy-dandy notebook of great contacts and connect you with the perfect person to do the job. As Baughman puts it in the article, “Be the bearer of money for remodeling, not the bearer of expertise.”

 

Declining A Home Inspection: When buying a home to renovate, you should always get a home inspection from a professional. There are numerous reasons, but Baughman provides an especially compelling one.

“The other rule of thumb vital for surviving a modification of any building — do not trust the builder who came before you,” he cautioned.  “Just because a building exists does not mean it is sound and will be capable of sustaining any modification.”

Once the remodel is complete, it is wise to bring the inspector back for another look around.

 

Not Getting the Right Permits: This is a very important part of a home renovation. It may seem silly, but if your nosey neighbors report your construction, you could be asked to tear all of your hard work down, and start over with the proper permits. Not to mention that if an accident happens, your homeowner insurance won’t cover it without proof of a valid permit.

An architect can take this mundane task out of your hands. They are up-to-date on all of the permitting codes and criteria, so you don’t have to worry about all of that. Plus, they do this often and will probably have a faster turn around compared to an average Joe first timer.

 

Focusing on Aesthetics Only: When doing a home renovation, most homeowners have one thing on their mind – resale value. Baughman writes, “Upgrading the kitchen cabinets and installing a new tub in every bathroom is going to increase the value of the house, but if you don’t pay special attention to the things that really matter, like structural damage, electrical wires, and busted pipes, your investment could end up in the toilet.”

While of course architects are going to want the final result to look good, they also focus on the things that most homeowners would overlook.

 

Not Going Green: Everyone knows that the most popular trend in home improvement is “going green” – being environmentally friendly in as many ways as possible. When remodeling your home, take that movement into consideration. It isn’t hard going green these days, as resources and projects are available in all price ranges and can even be found in a local home improvement store. And the best part is that you can reap the benefits in the form of lower utility bills, a healthier, cleaner environment, and lower insurance premiums.

Going green may seem easy, but as soon as you realize the many different options you have, you may become overwhelmed. An experienced architect will be able to provide you with a list of their most recommended “green” products. All you have to do is decide which one you like best!

 

So please, put the hammer down and call an architect.

LinkedIn – The Business Savvy Social Media Platform

linkedin_logoAs a 26-year-old recent college graduate, I am fairly new to the “professional world.” For the past few years, I have finally begun dipping my toes into the corporate ocean. With that being said, it is hard for me to grasp the fact that LinkedIn is considered the social network of choice for working professionals. I created my LinkedIn profile towards the end of my college career, for the sole purpose of being an online, public resume. The only time I ever log in to my account is when I need to add new information, like a new job or skill. Now I am in charge of creating a content marketing strategy for a small Architecture Firm, and a colleague of the owner highly recommends daily use of LinkedIn to develop professional relationships and promote the company. I am very familiar with the use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for a business, but LinkedIn… not so much. So, naturally, I head to Google and search “What are the benefits of using LinkedIn for my company?” to get some answers.

An article titled “Five Benefits of Using LinkedIn to Grow Your Business and Your Career,” by Brian Hughes caught my eye (mainly because it was the shortest list, giving a mere 5 benefits, compared to the other articles boasting 7 or 10 benefits. If I’ve learned one thing about marketing it’s this: keep it as short as possible!). As my third week working for an architect comes to an end, I am realizing that my main role is to create a buzz for the company online. So with that in mind, what benefits will LinkedIn provide me in that role?

The first benefit is B2B (business-to-business) Networking. Many businesses have LinkedIn pages, which makes connecting with them quick and easy. You can search for vendors, suppliers, manufacturers and even competitors through LinkedIn. Hughes writes, “Rather than combing through a phone book and comparison shopping for days or even weeks before choosing a vendor, you can send a couple InMails and be done in just a few hours. In addition, seeing the vendors online presence gives a more complete picture of a company than just speaking to someone on the phone might.” Having trust worthy sub-consultants is a very important aspect of the AEC industry. If you are a new firm, just starting up in a new city, LinkedIn is a great tool to help you find and communicate with potential sub-consultants. It is also a great tool for checking out what your competitors are up too.

The second benefit is B2C (business-to-customer) Networking. Every company needs customers to stay in business, and in order to keep those customers, you want to build your brand and engage your audience with interesting and educational content. “By keeping active and posting often on the site, you can build your brand bit by bit, increasing likability and gradually building the trust of your potential customer base through timely, relevant, and interesting posts,” Hughes explains. On top of creating customer relationships, having a LinkedIn profile is also a great place to promote new products or services. Our firm can post photos of completed renovation projects, or post articles from the local newspaper that announce us as being on a new committee. It is important that I interact with our customers and keep them coming back for more.

hand shakeThe third benefit is Lead Generation. Your LinkedIn profile is a way of expressing what you do to the world, and naturally you hope that others are impressed. Hughes writes, “A direct result of continuing to build a more coherent and focused brand is the generation of new leads that will come about organically as people find you on LinkedIn and like what they see.” The more relevant and interesting content that you post, the more chances you have a generating new leads. I can post a recently completed project on our LinkedIn page and a potential customer might see that post and contact us with questions.

The fourth benefit is Staffing. If you are constantly updating your LinkedIn profile and creating interesting and exciting content, not only will customers take notice, but it may even attract applications to start rolling in. “Since LinkedIn is the social network of choice for business networking and career advancement, top tier talent is likely to come your way based on the quality of your profile alone.” Take full advantage of that by keeping an updated list of open positions attached to your company page, or create a post describing the position you are looking to fill.

The final benefit provided is Customer Satisfaction. LinkedIn provides a fantastic way to interact with your customers via surveys, messaging and comments. Use this avenue frequently – it shows the customers that you care! They appreciate feeling like their voice has been heard. It is also possible for customers to “endorse” some of your skills!

Although LinkedIn is still widely assumed to be a website for job hunters or recruiters, it’s popularity in the business world is increasing every day. It is another free and beneficial resource to help companies find new customers, new staff and build relationships with other businesses. Looks like I will be adding LinkedIn to my content marketing strategy from now on…

If you are also new to using LinkedIn as a social network for your business, here are some of the tips that a colleague gave me:

  • Do not create a company page – a personal profile will better showcase your company and skills
  • Create support statements in past jobs (show the client how past work experience will benefit them in your current position)
  • Use keywords that clients would search in a search engine
  • Change/update your profile at least once a month
  • Use bullet points so people do not have to read long paragraphs
  • Join up to (50) groups available on the site
  • Add personal touches that will help people connect with you

How I Can Bring More Business to Our Firm

telephone - CopyAs I start to understand the way things are done at my new workplace, I can’t help but want to jump in head first and start helping in as many ways as possible. I do not know how to use “Vector-works”, our CAD program (yet), but I do have the social media pages set up and am constantly posting engaging content and I am already caught up on all the filling. So what else can I do to help around the office? I found an article on Archdaily.com by Sabrina Wirth titled “9 Ways to Find More Business for Your Architecture Firm,” which has given me another good starting point as a “newb” (new person) to this industry.

I noticed that my boss is almost always working on drawings, RFIs and CCCRs. He is the only architect in the office, and has a substantial amount of projects that he is working on. Those things are important when running a successful architecture firm, but they are not the only influential part of the business. The article states that “the most effective business development strategies involve more time spent on proactive relationship-building (before the project is made public), and less time on responding to RFPs and RFQs, which are available to anyone.” That is where I can help! The article gives 9 helpful strategies to help us define a good business development approach that will ultimately win us more clients and projects. Here they are:

  1. “Identify the ideal project, and the work backwards – What are the ideal projects for your firm? Who are the people who can lead you to them? Do some research into their social environments and find ways to meet them there. The best projects or partnerships occur through direct commissions via a personal contact. Make the personal connection by networking in the same places that your ideal client spends time in. If you haven’t already, start thinking of everyone in your rolodex as a potential client, collaborator, or lead to new information; it may just be that the person who may lead you to the next job is someone you already know.
  2. Export your design as portable, and shareable, objects – Several companies design books that showcase their projects. Rather than make the book simply a portfolio, make the book a design object itself. Your design philosophy should be manifested in any tangible object (books, business cards, etc) your company produces, so that whenever you meet a potential client, you can offer them a small sample of what makes your firm so great. Follow up with well-designed emails, and be sure that your website is clear and easy to understand. The worst is for a client to be turned off by a slow or complicated website.
  3. Follow up – Always make sure to have business cards on hand, and after you receive a handful of business cards at networking events, be sure to enter them into your email list and stay in contact through periodic, personal emails. If you want to send out occasional updates with a mass mailing service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, be sure to ask if they’d like to be included in the mailing list.
  4. Turn your firm into a brand – Become an expert in a specific area of design. Determine the expertise available in the office, and the kind of projects your firm would like to be known for. Perhaps it’s environmental or urban design, master plans, residential, cultural, or civic. There needs to be something that potential clients can associate with your firm’s name. If you want to be more of a generalist, and be known for creative solutions and high quality design, then make “process” and “philosophy” your brand. To be able to successfully promote and market your firm, you have to be able to provide something that’s unique to only your firm that you can use to brand yourself.
  5. Create brand ambassadors at your company – Create a company culture that reflects your firm as approachable and fun to work with. Make sure there is fluid communication within the office so that when architects are traveling, they are comfortable discussing information about the firm, spreading the company’s vision, and creating new business contacts.
  6. Organize an open lecture series at your firm – Organize an open lecture series at your firm where you can invite anyone to your office and provide an opportunity to introduce your firm to a new audience. Better yet, make the lectures have nothing to do with architecture, but about something your firm believes in. This will make your firm more approachable and will also show a different facet to the practice.
  7. Book as many speaking opportunities as possible – You never know who is in the audience, and it’s a great way of reaching multitudes of people at the same time. At a school, you may find that you’ve attracted more students who want to work for you, but you may also catch the attention of a developer who is teaching a class at that school who may want to speak with you about a potential opportunity.
  8. Grow your online presence – More so than booking lectures, it’s one of the best ways to reach large audiences and catch the attention of many potential clients around the world at the same time. Think about maintaining a blog on your website to publish frequent updates and also use Instagram and Twitter to boost your online presence. Instagram especially is quick and visual, so architects can “seduce” clients with beautiful images that relate to their design aesthetic without having to spend so much time; the ROI (Return on Investment) on that is better than on any other platform, because it reaches so many people without much effort. With Twitter, you can retweet articles about your firm, drive people to your blog, or post updates and images as well.
  9. Network with colleagues – Other firms and industry professionals are great resources for staying on top of trends and new developments. Rather than considering other firms as competition, consider them as potential partners on future projects; the combined, complementary expertise from each firm can only help to strengthen a business proposal. Additionally, keeping good relations with other firms may also lead to information about new projects that you might not have known about before.”

Like in any profession, networking and keeping relationships is an integral part of success. Social Media has made this task increasingly easier. Word of mouth is a great way to get your name out there, and if you make a positive impact on a person (either face-to-face or via social media), they are going to remember that and talk about it to their friends. I can help this firm by continuing to make an impact via social media and this blog. If I engage with our audience, it will drive more and more people to our pages, and hopefully all the clicks will turn into clients!

Bachelor of Design – Getting a Degree in Architecture

architecture_student_memeAfter some Googling, I have come to the understanding that Architecture Majors do not sleep, at all – according to the various memes anyway. Okay, maybe meme’s are meant to be a little exaggerated, but there has to be some truth behind them in order for them to be funny. So what do these sleepless nights consist of while studying architecture? I choose the University of Florida curriculum as an example because that is where my boss received his degree. Sorry, Mom & Dad (my parents are Florida State University graduates and still die-hard Seminole fans).

The website states that “a student’s creativity and individuality are rewarded in the School of Architecture’s studio-based learning experience. Students benefit from the close student-to-teacher ratios and a true interdisciplinary learning environment.” What is studio-based learning, you ask? Great question. “The studio sequence progressively and thoroughly explores various formal, conceptual, and technical considerations and how they interrelate in the creation of space. The ideas and experience that students gain in design studio are reinforced and amplified by support courses in history, theory, structural tectonics, building technology, and construction materials and methods.” The studio-based learning environment sounds like the perfect place for a creative mind to thrive: learn-by-doing, not learn-by-watching. Students must complete both the 5-year Bachelor degree and the 1-2 year Master degree in order to be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) and to acquire jobs in a private practice.

Here is the Recommended Semester Plan, as presented by the University of Florida:

Semester 1
Architectural Design 1
Architectural History 1
(Composition, Math, Science)

Semester 2
Architectural Design 2
Architectural History 2
(Elective, Science)

Semester 3
Introduction to Digital Architecture
Theory of Architecture 1
Architectural Design 3
Precalculus: Algebra & Trigonometry

Semester 4
Architectural Design 4
Materials & Methods of Construction 1
Physics 1
(Science)

Now here is the kicker – at this university, at the end of the fourth semester, “students will be selected to continue according to a competitive ranking of all applicants overall GPA, architectural GPA and faculty evaluation of design quality in the annual pin-up exhibits.” Talk about stressful! I cannot even imagine that situation. No wonder I studied journalism…

Semester 5
Architectural Design 5
Introduction to Architectural Structures
Architectural History 3
(Composition)

Semester 6
Advanced Topics in Digital Architecture
Architectural Design 6
Environmental Technology 1
(Humanities)

Semester 7
Architectural Theory 2
Architectural Design 7
Environmental Technology 2
(Elective)

Semester 8
Building Information Modeling
Materials & Methods of Construction 2
Architectural Design 8
(Elective)

Graduate School:

Fall Semester
Advanced Studio 1
Structures Wood Steel Concrete
(Elective)

Spring Semester
Advanced Studio 2
Research Methods
Environmental Technology Option
(Elective)

Fall Semester
Advanced Studio 3
Master’s Research Project / Thesis Prep
History/Theory Option
(Elective)

Spring Semester
Thesis or Master’s Research Project
Professional Practice
(Elective)

Holy guacamole… that’s one heck-of-a schedule! I have even more respect for my boss now, after reading that. I mean, I always knew Architecture combined creativity and physics and mathematics, but I guess to see it all laid out like that and compare it to MY college schedule… wow! All of a sudden those meme’s dedicated to architecture students make complete sense! Seriously, Google “Architecture Student Meme’s” – they are too funny. So if anyone reading this has the dream of being an architect… be prepared for more than 4 years of college, a LOT of hard work, and a good dose of competition.

10 Unglamorous Things Architects Do (Apparently)

architectI arrived at my desk this morning to find a printed article neatly placed over my keyboard, titled “10 Unglamorous Things Architects Do” by John Gresko. In order to better understand what it is like to work for an architect, it would help you (the reader) to understand what architects do all day. And, quite honestly, although I have been here for 3 weeks, I still have a lot to learn about architects too!

The first few lines set the tone of the article – “An acquaintance recently asked me about the kinds of things I did on a day-to-day basis at work, anticipating a response loaded with enviable activities. She was wrong.” He explains that every once in a while the profession comes with prestige – ground breaking ceremonies, topping-out parties and award ceremonies – but most of the time, it is very unglamorous and full of the following activities:

  1. Pick Up Red Marks – As a Journalism major, I know the importance of the red pen (editing is a MUST in that field). Well, the red pen is here to haunt me again while working for an architect. Red Marks, or Redlines, are the words used in an architectural office to reference the red ink that is typically used to mark up corrections that need to be made on architectural drawings. Architects are obligated to make the changes marked in red. Gresko suggests crossing them out in green when completed. He calls this process “laborious, sometimes educational, sometimes life saving, and sometimes downright insulting.” Although the task may be daunting, it is a necessary process for any creative medium because, well, mistakes are expensive.
  2. Redesign – “I created this masterpiece without any redesigns,” said NO architect EVER. A key part of being in a creative field is enhancing your work over and over and over again. Redesign would preferably happen in the Design Development Phase. Gresko writes “if you’re lucky, you get to refine the design the day before you go out to bid. If you’re even luckier, you get to redesign during construction. If you’re the luckiest, you get to redesign after construction.” I have noticed that some of our current projects have already gone through redesign phases. It just makes sense to get the design perfect on paper before bringing it to life.
  3. Specify Door Hardware & Create Door and Frame Schedules – This is definitely the most specific thing that Gresko lists. “No offense to the many talented professional door and hardware specialists in the world (especially the one helping me right now on my project), but this is one task to me that is not glamorous. More thought than people know goes into creating a functioning door. As a layperson navigating through a building, it’s hard to notice the nuances. Doors have to meet codes in regards to fire ratings, accessibility, be within manufacturer’s third-party labeling constraints, be easy to swing, be durable, and sometimes they actually get to look nice too.” I never really thought about the design and engineering that goes into a door, until I tried putting a cat door attachment on my sliding glass door. Kudos to you, “door people.” Also, I never realized the nearly endless possibilities of door design until I created a Pinterest for the firm. We have a board dedicated just to doors – and it is my favorite board!
  4. Convert File Types – Seems easy enough, right? Well yeah it is easy, but seriously unglamorous. Gresko writes “We get requests all the time for different file types, sometimes within our own company. I don’t think people realize how time consuming and depressingly mundane it is. If you want to assert your authority over someone and make it really sting, delegate this task to them. You’ll have that person updating their resume that night.” Most of the files created and saved on my desktop are Photoshop files (for marketing materials). I am an InDesign person, so I basically had to teach myself how to use Photoshop. It indeed was time consuming and extremely frustrating. But once I got it down, I had a weird sense of pride. Go me!
  5. Answer RFIs – RFI stands for Request For Information. These documents are used during the Construction Phase by the Contractor or CM to ask the architect questions and seek interpretations of the contract documents. RFIs are needed for reasons such as: substitution/construction modification, construction deficiency, and clarification or additional information. Gresko explains that the unglamorous part about RFIs is the fact that they have a time limit, and can sometimes come unannounced. “These are sometimes necessary questions and sometimes used as collateral in an unspoken cold war of paperwork… and definitely not glamorous.”
  6. Review Submittals – “Buildings are constructed from submittals,” Gresko writes. “They are intended to demonstrate the contractors understanding of the design intent. They can number in the thousands, are time-sensitive, and carry lots of risk. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to review them accurately and quickly. Nerve wrecking, yes. Glamorous, not so much.” A submittal is a shop drawing, schedule, catalog cut, sample, or report required by the contract documents for the contractor to furnish, review, and approve and for the design team to review. Basically the most important documents in architecture.
  7. Do Our Time Sheets – Pretty self-explanatory. Gresko takes it a bit further: “There are all sorts of unbillable tasks architects have to go through: time sheets, expense reports…” We keep track of our hours at our firm on a time sheet that gets printed out twice a month. It’s kind of nice – I don’t have to worry about forgetting to clock in or out.
  8. Manage Logs – If I have learned one thing in my three weeks of working for an architect, it is that there is a LOT of paperwork – and they keep everything filed! Gresko writes, “There are logs for all kinds of things: open design issues, open code issues, open coordination issues, internal and external QAQC logs, change request logs, RFIs, submittals, construction deficiencies, and NFL weekly confidence pools. This is about as much fun as attending pre-meetings.” Most creative types have a hard time being organized, but I think architects are (and have to be) the exception to that rule.
  9. Make Punch Lists – “It’s fun to be on site during construction. But it’s really fun to walk around the project and create a list of everything that every tradesman has done wrong… not. When you finish your list, it becomes a log. Double whammy. When you find someone’s work to be deficient, make sure to keep your hard hat on.” Gresko hit the nail on the head with that somewhat sarcastic description!
  10. Create Renderings – Architectural Rendering is the art of creating two-dimensional images or animations showing the attributes of a proposed architectural design. “Renderings look great,” Gresko says. “But getting to that final image is kind of like watching sausages get made. First, grind together input from way too many sources, take a guess at way too many things, and stay up late waiting for some server to unfreeze in some unknown location. Great renderings almost always come at a cost of lost sleep, added doses of junk calories, and lost opportunities to pick up precious red marks.” This is something I hope I can learn more about. I am currently getting a Graphic Design degree, and while not really the same as an Architecture degree, they have similarities!

While all of these tasks are deemed “unglamorous” by the author, I still find them fascinating, nonetheless. I like structure and organization. I love making lists. I think I have always been destined to be unglamorous, in some sort of way.

My First Customer Consultation & Learning the Project Approach

handsLast week I got to tag along for an initial customer consult. My boss explained that these are new clients that recently purchased a home and wanted to renovate, so we needed to go check it out and get a feeling of what the clients want. We drove to the clients new home in Tierra Verde in the late afternoon, the sun high in the sky. Nervous excitement nestled into my stomach. I kept opening and closing my pen. When I get nervous I talk a lot, and apparently it can be distracting because we missed our exit. I took a deep breath and looked out the window at the water as we crossed a bridge into Tierra Verde. Boats floated along lazily, some with fishing poles poking out their backsides. The houses out there were so beautiful. Bright pinks, greens and oranges mixed with more subdued beiges and light yellows – the neighborhood was vibrant with color!

About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to a 3-story house, painted a teal and gray color. I noticed a small stained glass window near the top, which added a charming character to the otherwise plain home. It was a very large house – with loads of potential! My nerves began fading, thanks to curiosity and excitement. The clients welcomed us inside, offering us refreshments and apologizing for the mess. They had just moved in the day before! Larry quickly got to business and we began the tour of the house. I followed close by, like a lost puppy, scribbling down everything the homeowner said on my notepad. After about 30 minutes, we settled down in the kitchen and a large round table to discuss their plans more. This initial consult meeting taught me a lot about how Larry runs his firm.

After the initial consultation meeting, the next step is a Program Meeting. This is where we establish a written program analyzing all aspects of the project during discussions with the client prior to starting the design. We told the clients in Tierra Verde to create a prioritized list of what they want renovated and we would start there. Larry explained that this document can evolve during the course of a project. Another part of the Programming Phase requires the team to analyze and determine if the scope of work requested by the client can be reasonably achieved within their established budget. If the scope of work and budget are not compatible we suggest that the client raises the budget, ways of reducing cost, or the use of additive alternatives.

The next step is to collect or create Measured Drawings. We will gather existing drawings for all renovations completed on the particular project since it was originally constructed (in the case of this house, any original drawings dating back to 1984!). Based on the site analysis, we will depict the current actual conditions of the site, in a CAD format, and use them as base drawings at the start of the design effort.

And now for the fun step – the Schematic Design Phase. Typically the first two options provide a focused scope of work without the need for multiple directions or options. During this Design Development Phase, the architectural portions of the project are refined and the structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are designed by the architects and sub-consultants. Outline specifications and the development of a keynote system on the drawings give the client’s and construction manager a clear understanding of the project scope as preliminary pricing proceedings.

Next up is the Construction Drawings Phase. These documents are highly detailed and clearly delineated drawings provided by our firm, and are specifically tailored to each project we do. During this process, we will thoroughly review all consultant documents to avoid potential conflicts and omissions.

Next comes the Bidding Phase, typically with a minimum of 3 potential contractors. We attend pre-bid meetings and inspections of the site with all bidders/sub-contractors that are assigned to very specific dates and times. Contractors do not want to be late for these meetings because their bids must be submitted prior to the assigned date/time. Otherwise they might get locked out. At this stage we encourage questions from the contractors. If required, written addendums are distributed to all bidders prior to the Fixed Fee Contract submittals (or sometimes refereed to as GMP submittals, in the Commercial setting).

Once the building/renovation begins, we enter Construction Administration Phase. During this time, we avoid construction delays with timely performance and answers to any questions the client(s) might have. We encourage routine meetings with the client and contractor to keep the lines of communication open and construction moving at a constant pace, until the renovation is complete.

Over an hour had passed while sitting at the kitchen table discussing the inner workings of our firm. I felt a little dizzy from the large amount of information I had just absorbed, but it was nice to get a quick overview of what I will be doing at my new job. The clients looked a little dizzy themselves, but Larry reassured them that we will take things at their pace. He told them that, for now, all they had to worry about was creating that prioritized list for our Program Meeting. She asked if she could make Pinterest Boards that depicted what she was looking for – and I blurted out “That’s a great idea!”. Larry agreed – any visual aid they provide us will only help us achieve their desired look.

Before we left Tierra Verde, Larry drove around and pointed out all of the houses that he designed that had been built. There were 4 total. Each one was more grandiose than the last. I couldn’t believe I was working for such an accomplished person! We headed back to St. Petersburg in silence, taking in the beautiful city that we live in.

What is Architecture – A Quick Research Post

Frank Lloyd Wright - Fallingwater House

Frank Lloyd Wright – Falling Water House

My background is in Journalism and Graphic Design. I have been hired mainly to help with marketing and general office work. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t take pride in my work – in this case, for an Architect. As I wrap up my first week as an Executive Assistant at an Architecture firm, I thought it would be beneficial to do some research and give myself a quick “Architecture 101” crash course.

So, what is architecture? Well according to the dictionary:

[ahr-ki-tek-cher] (Noun)

  1. The profession of designing buildings, open areas, communities, and other artificial constructions and environments, usually with some regard to aesthetic effect.
  2. The character or style of building.
  3. The action or process of building; construction.
  4. The result or product of architectural work, as a building.
  5. Buildings collectively.
  6. A fundamental underlying design of computer hardware, software, or both.
  7. The structure of anything: the architecture of a novel.

Okay, great. But architecture is more than just a definition. After a week in the field, I can already understand that architecture is a form of art and something that is very historic. Cities and Empires are remembered and essentially defined by the way they built their structures. Just look at the Romans. Some of their buildings are still partially intact, 2000 years later! For example, The Pantheon was built in about 120 AD and is still in continuous use as a place of worship today! Mind-boggling! And let’s not forget the most remarkable example of the Roman genius that is the Pantheon – it’s roof, a large dome. In an extra touch of “hey, look at us,” the center of the dome is open to the sky. Possibly the world’s first skylight, perhaps? Oh and did I mention that the Romans invented concrete? Where would architecture even be today without concrete?

Let me reiterate – I have never studied architecture. However, as a fan of design in general, I do know of one American architect – Frank Lloyd Wright. He is most famous for Fallingwater, an amazing residential project he built in the 1930s. It has even been called the best all-time work of American architecture. I love this quote of his that I found:

“What is architecture anyway? Is it the vast collection of the various buildings, which have been built to please the varying taste of the various lords of mankind? I think not…

No, I know that architecture is life; or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived. So architecture I know to be a Great Spirit….

Architecture is that great living creative spirit which from generation to generation, from age to age, proceeds, persists, and creates, according to the nature of man, and his circumstances as they change. That is really architecture.”

Music has always spoken to me more than anything else on the planet. I imagine that if I were an architect, looking at a building would feel the same as when I listen to a song that I love. There are many aspects that come into play in architecture – some that scare me (cough-math-cough). But I am very excited to absorb as much information as possible! My first week working for an Architect has been very interesting. You can check on me weekly and read my blog to find out how I am doing. Catch ya later!