it’s granted, and I took it – @letsblogoff

These days, what DON’T we take for granted? We EXPECT so much out of life it’s a wonder that a third world war HASN’T broken out yet. As technology continues to push forward at breakneck speeds, we continue to take more and more things for granted. Electricity, microwaves, TV dinners, the Culligan Man, the internet, WiFi, Starbucks, those little chocolates on our pillow…the list just goes on and on.

And this is increasingly true in architecture and practice. With the widespread advent of digital architecture, clients, and even more than a few bosses, take for granted the time, concentration, talent and expertise it takes to produce a work of architecture…or even just a constructable one. And this time, this effort, translates to billable hours that are the first thing to be widely scrutinized and bargained for with clients and bosses.

One of my favorite little nuggets that always gets thrown out by both sides is “well, that should take you just a few minutes in AutoCad right?” It’s as if, with the advent of AutoCad, everyone now thinks that Architects and designers suddenly have all this free time. Architecture is now an instantaneous endeavor requiring no skill or thought or TIME. This, by far, is the one thing that is constantly taken for granted and is only getting worse with the push towards BIM software like Revit and Archicad. These new “pioneer” softwares are being hailed as the holy grail of architecture. They are the master key, the secret handshake, the special sauce that just makes architecture WORK….well, like any tool, it’s only as good as the person using it. And the person using it is still human. We can not alter the fabric of time, defy the laws of physics, nor can we be God (much as we think we can most days).

While new and sophisticated tools tend to make our jobs easier, they also come with their own brand of headaches. Take BIM for example. BIM is wonderful. It has allowed for nearly seamless Integrated Project Delivery, something that was almost unheard of 10 years ago. And it’s wonderful; we’re cutting down on mistakes before we get to the field, we’re coordinating more efficiently with consultants on the various building systems, BUT (there’s always a but) it also adds work and adds complexity to a project which is going to add time and additional expertise which is an added benefit to the client and will cost more money. But yet we continue to charge and get paid LESS for our services…..that ain’t cool.

All of these things are taken for granted under the simple and small assumption that time, and therefore billable hours, has decreased thus the fee should decrease. This is all caused because multiple people throughout the process are taking things for granted. The sophistication of the software, the talents and skills of the intern, the management from the project manager, the design skills of the principle and his/her ability to convey intent to the project managers and interns and the clients desire to spend as little money as possible on a project of increasing complexity and creativity.

If, instead, everyone involved could present themselves and their work product in an apples and oranges kind of way, do we think that less would be taken for granted, that less abuse would be dished out for us to take simply to retain a paying client? I think this bleeds into the larger issue of Architects more successfully selling themselves and the value of their services and sticking to that value. What do you think?

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12 thoughts on “it’s granted, and I took it – @letsblogoff

  1. I take everything for granted EXCEPT those little chocolates on the hotel pillows. That’s because I can’t afford those hotels being an architect. However, you make a great point and it’s well stated. There is no “draw for me” button on my computer. It takes the same amount of time if not more to draw something the first time in the computer than by hand. However, the magic comes later once it is in there. BIM is making it worse for people like me because it wants too specific information too early in the process. The newer generations of architects do not have the same frame of reference, so they’ll do just fine as long as they continue to ‘design’ and lot let every building look like it was designed in BIM as many these days do. As for fees, they should be higher because there are more things to know and coordinate today and people want it faster and faster. Thus increasing risk. Now, I must be off to Starbucks. My double espresso latte with half decaf/half skim foam with a shot of vanilla isn’t going to make itself yet. Is there a button for that?

  2. haha! Thanks, Lee. Great comments. I agree 100%. Accept about the espresso latte. I’ll take my coffee plain with a dash of cream and sugar. None of that over complicated “oh my god aren’t I awesome for ordering the most complicated coffee on the planet” thing. ๐Ÿ˜›

      • I don’t know, Lee. You typed out that order like a pro. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My wife used to be a Barista, so I’ve heard some doozies.

  3. That can be an even more slippery slope when you’re trying to cover, and many times justify, the costs of design AND construction…I don’t pity you that kind of headache. Thanks for the comments and the follow. Looking forward to your posts! Cheers.

  4. I quite agree with you, Jeremiah! Mainly when you state that “a tool itโ€™s only as good as the person using it”. Clients tend to think that with the right software, anyone becomes a genius! I think that sometimes we are all slaves obeying to our gadgets! BTW, did you notice that many of this week’s LetsBlogOff posts relate to technology issues? (well mine does!)
    Keep on the good writing and editing your excelent publication.

    Henrique Barros-Gomes

  5. Well, personally, I have always believed you get what you pay for. If I’m hiring an architect, I want someone who’s going to come to the table with lots of innovative ideas. I know enough about it to know that even a house addition requires certain things if it is to work correctly. If you don’t know what you’re doing in that regard, you hire someone who does, but that’s general contractor work. Architecture is something else altogether, and what most interests me about it, as I say, is the quality of ideas. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to produce a drawing/drawings/tons of revised drawings. The fact that they can sometimes be done faster with certain technology just means that the monkey work got done faster. What drives it is the ideas and those come from… who the hell knows, really? But that’s what you pay for, and the better the ideas from a certain individual, the more you expect to pay. Or should.

    • Joseph, I agree with Lee – very well put. It’s nice to hear that from someone not an architect. Clients like you are what we hope for – patient and seeking quality product for a fair price. It’s far more rare than it should be. Thanks for stopping by and offering your input. Cheers.

      • Jeremiah, great post! Something people forget is even if the technology shaves a bit of time out of the process (and you’re right, it doesn’t always), the technology requires a tremendous investment of money and time and brainpower!
        Joseph, right on – there is a certain base level of expectation in any field, but its the creativity – and customer service – that make it great.
        Cheers,
        Wendy @ DLA

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