champagne wishes and caviar dreams

“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” – loved this show!

Robert Swinburne, someone who I like to think is one of “those architects” doing the kind of work I am clawing my way towards with ever ounce of strength in my being – simple, honest and quality work – in a recent blog post about the length of time spent on design, concluded with this statement that struck a huge cord with me:

“…the majority of my clients came to me because they had limited budgets and lofty goals and needed someone to help them through the decision making process to get the best possible end result given the limited amount of money available.”

This statement is so amazingly powerful in it’s simplicity and offers a paramount reason to hire a architect to help create your project – whether that project is a marvel of modern design ready to grace the cover of every design magazine on the planet or a modest kitchen/bath remodel that will never be seen by anyone outside the client’s own family, the client will always have much loftier goals than their wallet can handle. By putting some of your budget towards hiring a qualified designer, someone who will search tirelessly to create a finished product as close to those goals as possible while keeping your wallet intact, is money more than well spent. It’s much like shopping around for a new car. You don’t just head out to the nearest car lot, wave your hand around and say “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”, nor do you choose one based on color, tire size or the availability of heated seats (though, lets be honest, a toasty rump is quite nice). You choose a new car, which is a substantial investment of money, based on performance, value, longevity, and most importantly based on the opinions and reviews of experts who specialize in the ins and outs of the automobile industry.

Remodeling your bathroom, or renovating your master suite, or adding a new kitchen or guest house is no different. You want quality, efficiency, longevity and a reasonable return on investment for your money. Joe Blow contractor from the Yellow Pages….probably not the guy you want to talk to first. Don’t get me wrong, I have known a number of incredibly talented contractors and carpenters. But design is still not going to be the strongest item in their wheelhouse. Architects and designers on the other hand are the industry professionals who specialize in the ins and outs of the design and building industry that you want to consult with before investing in your existing and/or new home. It will save you time, heartache, money and time. Did I mention time and money will be saved? Not to mention the headaches you won’t suffer by having a architect on the job site making sure everything is going according to your plan.

From top to bottom the level of service and attention your project will get by an architect from design through to construction is going to be worth far more than the monetary investment that is our fee. Don’t believe me? Ask around. Ask an architect. As their clients. Ask me. 🙂




“a quick cad drawing”

this is why you hire qualified people to draw, detail and oversee construction.

I’m going to go off on a little rant for a moment. Please stay with me. I have officially had it with hearing the phrase/question “you can do that real quick in cad, right?” From potential clients, employers, consultants and contractors alike, this gets under my skin like the plague and just festers and rots inside until it finally comes boiling out of my eyes and ears like a rancid explosion of bile.

First, NO, I can not do it “real quick” in autocad. Why? Because autocad is a tool, a specialized tool used by professionals trained in architecture/engineering in order to properly detail a building that PEOPLE will occupy. If I do it “real quick” more than likely something will get screwed up and people could die. Ok, probably not but still… So in order to properly draft and detail said building I need to research building codes and look at the site and the existing conditions, the surroundings, neighborhood, zoning codes, etc. I need to look at what the most appropriate materials will be for the project and how does that get detailed in a wall section or elevation.

Second, if it was so friggin easy and “quick” don’t you think everyone would be able to do it thus making me obsolete? Again, I’m a professional using a set of tools in order to create a set of documents that a contractor will use to build your home/office/taco stand/whatever. Do you want it “real quick” or do you want it done right by someone who is paying attention to the details required to ensure that you and your family/community are safe?

If you want it “real quick” there are 10,000,000 people in foreign countries all over the world who will happily take your money and give you something slightly resembling a drawing that one day someone MIGHT be able to decipher into additional documents so that you can get a permit.

If you want it done right and constructed in a manner that is safe, secure and will last beyond the life of your ownership, hire me or one of the thousands of trained architects and designers who will take your ideas and your dreams and make them reality. Just be willing to pay for it. All this good stuff ain’t free and it ain’t cheap neither.

minimalism, architecture and value

If you don’t follow Josh and Ryan at The Minimalists, you should. Because I do. And they’re awesome.

After finding this blog and learning about these two groovy cats about a year ago, I’ve followed them ever since and have endeavored to live a minimalist lifestyle as much as is possible with a wife and two kids (hint: I like to spoil my family). And a recent post about money has me thinking not for the first time about minimalism and it’s broad implications for architecture, specifically in the area of cost versus value as it applies to materials, construction and services.

As architects we’ve all been in this situation: a client comes to you with a project, you submit your proposal for services confident that you’re as lean, mean and competitive as possible, and the client – without batting so much as an eyelash – haggles and argues for you to reduce your fee. No fun.

Similarly, if you’ve been in the construction industry for more than a day you’ve been involved in this situation: the client sends out the job to contractors for bid, the bids come in and again without batting so much as an eyelash immediately takes the lowest bid offer (and secretly wonders why it’s so high).

In both of these scenarios the client has focused solely on money with no regard to project quality, or experience/expertise of the architect and contractor, or any other factor besides cost. And we all know what typically happens in these situations: when the architect has to reduce their fee to a level that does not allow them to devote adequate time to the project (time = money), then mistakes get made, details don’t get coordinated and issues have to be resolved in the field resulting in additional service charges to the client. Then, the contractor, who’s low-ball fee did not properly account for all of the scope requirements in the drawings and specifications, goes to build the project and submits change order after change order for items that were not in his bid (which the client agreed to) and suddenly the project is over budget, over schedule, and now alternates are recommended and the VE process begins, which invariably leads to a substandard project at completion and a client looking at you, the architect, for answers as to why this all happened.


The challenge is to help clients understand first the value in architectural services. The principles of minimalism being applied can perhaps put this into perspective. A good deal of clients want the pretty pictures in the magazines, all crammed together into one house. If we simply did as we were told this would make for one very strange house indeed. But that’s not our job. Our job is to interpret – to take the clients wants, dreams, and desires and create an individual structure that has function, beauty and value. Helping a client make the connection between each dollar spent and the ultimate value of that dollar is an important step towards a very successful project.

So how do we do that? What secret formula do we use in educating our clients to see not only the value in our own services but also the value in a experienced and knowledgeable contractor? There really isn’t one answer. Each client is different. Each client brings their own preconceptions, perceptions and prejudices to the table. The only real trick is to listen, to offer guidance and advice, and deliver it in a way that your client will understand and make the connection of cost versus value. The way you do that is by understanding this principle yourself.

the bummer of BIM

I may have mentioned this before, but some of you know I’ve been working on taking my practice into the 21st Century and the wonderful world of BIM. It should also come as no surprise to many of you that I am not a huge fan of Autodesk, having been a Autocad user for the last 13+ years I’ve seen many ups and downs…mostly downs. But now that BIM is taking the world by storm I figure it’s time to at least get up to the curve, if not completely ahead of it.

In this quest to find the best BIM platform for my practice I’ve spent way more hours scouring the internet for web articles and comparison reviews than I care to admit to. The three giants of the BIM world, in my opinion are Revit, Archicad, and Vectorworks. The overwhelming consensus that I’ve found seems to be that there is no “right answer” when it comes to BIM software, but rather it comes down to several factors.

1. the types of projects you create – i.e. large commercial and institutional projects or single family residences or renovations and tenant improvements or government work, etc.

2. the size of your practice – i.e. 1-2 people versus multiple teams across multiple disciplines working in conjunction.

3. how you practice – do you plan to work 100% BIM or keep a large portion of your detailing and production work in 2D

While any software comes with its limitations and benefits, what I’m finding is that the majority of the big names out there are relatively uniform. Personally, from what I’ve gathered in my reading and my very limited experience, Archicad is the choice over Revit for those more interested in design and production in 3D. Revit, from what I can gather, can be rather clunky and is geared more towards larger projects that are more heavily engineered than designed (this is a gross generalization based solely on the opinions of others). This has really always been true of Autodesk, even with ADT, now Autocad Architecture – it’s more “BIM Production” rather than “BIM Design”. I’m sure my bias is showing *blushes*, but to me Archicad seems a more sexy design tool as well as a production powerhouse. Not to mention with new IFC exporting protocols you can share across almost any platform you want to. So, the idea of not being able to collaborate with other BIM platforms or other disciplines is out the window for any of the above mentioned platforms.

in-progress screen shot of a bungalow I’m designing in Archicad 14

At the end of the day the only real bummer of BIM is that it’s taken so long to be popular in the industry. When Graphisoft came out with their first release of Archicad nearly 30 years ago, it should have been the beginning of a new frontier for architectural design and production. Instead it was pushed out in favor of Autocad which was nothing more than fancy hand drafting on a computer.

So, lesson learned. BIM is here. It’s here to stay and if you think that it’s not for you or not for your practice…well, either you don’t plan on practicing much longer or….yeah, I got nothin else.

BIM. It’s what’s for dinner. Or something. 😉

manic monday – mondays

The obvious question here – what is so special about Monday’s? Most people hate Monday. They think it is the most dreaded day of the week. I’m sure somewhere there is even a bill floating through Congress that would erase Monday from the work week altogether and is just waiting for bi-partisan support…but then Tuesday would be the new Monday and we’d be back to where we started…that ain’t no good.

So, why Monday? Why “manic monday”? What’s the dilio? I’m going to tell you. A couple of months ago, my buddy Scott Crawford posted “TGIM” on his FB/Twitter feed, and of course I had to find out what the hullabaloo was all about. I had just assumed that he had some exciting task or event ahead and was excited about it. As it turns out there was more to the story. What, or rather Who, he had stumbled on to is Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker and writer who says “when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, then you will be successful”. I heard him say that and immediately thought to myself “holy crap!”…seriously, those words flashed through my mind’s eye in bright neon flashing letters with the Star Wars opening soundtrack rattling in my ears. Really.

My next thought was “that. is. awesome!”. So, taking that statement and coupling it with TGIM you start to understand – Monday’s are no longer the enemy. Monday’s are now my best friend. Why? Because Monday is a beginning, it’s a hope, a chance to start something great. Monday marks the beginning of a week that I get to spend doing the one thing in life that I love – practice architecture, write about architecture, build architecture, kiss architecture….wait, I mean….uh…never mind.

Anyway, it was around the first of the year that I first saw this post and video and it occurred to me that by changing my mind set and by adding a small habit to my Monday (i.e. manic monday blog posts) I had the perfect excuse to start off each week right – with a great attitude and expectation for the rest of the week ahead. How would your week change if you looked at Monday’s differently?