Archive for the 'AIA' Category

Speak to Them in a Language That They Will Better Understand

Residential Architect magazine sent me an email today introducing a new video series, Value of Residential Architecture. Each video will feature an architect discussing his/her thoughts on why residential architecture is important and where residential architecture is headed in the future. If you subscribe to Residential Architect, you may have received the link in your inbox as well.

The description included with the email is as follows:

Residential Architect magazine introduces a new video series that explores the importance of residential design and the value architects bring to the housing industry. Throughout the year, we’ll talk with residential architects who are passionate about their profession, so please join us for the entire series and find out how the spaces we occupy in our everyday lives shape us as human beings and as a society.

I was excited. I thought this would be a great tool. I could send it to clients to help them better understand residential architects and the importance of working with an architect. I thought with the title, Value of Residential Architecture, it would be geared toward everyday people, showing them that architects are not only for the elite few, but for all. That EVERY house should be “architecture”. That when architects are involved, families are strengthened, lives improve, people are healthier and, in fact, happier.

The first video features acclaimed architect, Will Bruder, AIA.

Although I am in agreement with much, if not all, of what Mr. Bruder says, I will not be sharing this video with any of my clients. I do not fault Mr. Bruder or the publisher, but once again we are faced with an architect proclaiming the virtue of architecture and the beauty of proportioned space.  It is a video produced for consumption by architects and Mr. Bruder speaks in a language that only architects will understand. We love to speak about architecture in such poetic terms, but unfortunately it reinforces the notion that architecture is for the elite and that architects are only for people who seek art and poetry.

I understand the passion Mr. Bruder has for architecture. I feel it too. I understand the language in which he speaks… but most of my clients will not.

A recent discussion at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group has been about how the American Institute of Architects may better assist small firms. We are discussing the importance of communicating with the general public and educating them about the role of the architect. I understand that this video is not intended for the general public, or to educate them about the role of residential architects. It is what it is; a celebration of architecture for the viewing pleasure of other architects. It is though, a perfect example of what we are up against when attempting to shift the paradigm of the people.

Mr. Bruder designs beautiful houses; most certainly worthy of the term “poetic”, but if we are to ever position the residential architect as “important” and “necessary” in the eyes of the general public, we better speak to them in a language that they will better understand.


How can we educate the general public about the importance of the residential architect? Do we celebrate the “art” and “poetry” of architecture too much? Do publications reinforce the false image that architects are only for the elite? What are your thoughts? I’d like to know.


Surviving in an Economic Downturn

The AIA has created the Navigating the Economy Web site, bringing you the latest resources–podcasts, articles, financial tips, best practices, and economic reports–to help you and your firm through these tough times.

A link from the site will send you to this article from

Mark Vitner, a senior economist with first Union Corporation has been quoted as calling the belief that small businesses fare poorly in economic slowdowns, “a common misconception” that is not true. He believes that solidly run small businesses actually hold their own during downturns. While we all like to believe our businesses fit the definition of “solidly run”, let’s take a look at what are some commonly cited best practices for all businesses to be following during a time of economic downturn.

Revisit Your Business Plan

The number one recommendation, across the board, is to reexamine your business plan. Your business plan should be the working base for your company. Have you strayed from it in any way? Does it need revision in light of new information? Should you be considering whole new directions that are not included in it? Sit down and read it from the perspective of someone about to invest in your business – and make any revisions that seem appropriate. You may even identify additional information you need to know in order to make decisions about the future of the company.

Seek Supporters and Advisors

If ever there is a time to network, this is it. Many companies set up advisory boards that include a wide spectrum of professional expertise that they can draw on for advice. Such board members often are attorneys, certified public accountants, civic club leaders, owners or managers of businesses similar to yours or whom you do business with, and retired executives. The latest jargon for these types of boards is “Power Circles.” An apt name because the members should be power connections for you – knowledgeable about the environment in which you do business and able to connect you with the information you need to make good decisions. The purpose of the board is to offer you objectivity. They should be people you can be truthful with and who will keep your disclosures confidential. Most groups like this discuss specific business problems you have, using the meeting to brainstorm possible solutions.

If you don’t belong to civic and professional organizations, do it. Here are groups of people facing similar challenges to you. Their joint expertise and resources can be a powerful support mechanism when times are tough.

Make Customer Satisfaction Your Priority

Your customers are your lifeblood in any economic climate. In a downturn they are what keep you in business. Treat them very well. Spend time listening to your clients to hear what they like and do not like about the services you offer. Change those that you can. Take time to be innovative in meeting your customer needs. Perhaps taking the time to computerize customer information would allow you to more easily access their particular preferences and respond quickly to their needs. Perhaps taking time to call special clients to discuss how you could serve them better would be productive. Maybe an extra telephone line would speed the service time. Do whatever you need to do to keep your current customers loyal and to position yourself to win new customers.

Read more.

AIA Soloso

About Soloso:

The AIA beta launched Soloso in May 2007 as a centralized knowledge and content acquisition experience. The site is more than a series of linked Web pages it is a research tool that, over time, will become a premiere resource for information about architecture and the profession. Soloso will house member content, AIA contributed content, and third party content. All of the content is accessible through three search mediums, the ThinkMap, the scroll tape, and the typical search box method. Soloso was created as a platform for member interaction currently members interface with Soloso by contributing their own content in the form of articles, projects and/or images as well as reviews, profile pages, and feedback.

Here’s a search for Business Planning for the Entrepreneur Architects out there.

In its Beta stage, Soloso is a very interesting concept. It will be interesting to see if it succeeds with the notoriously slow to adopt American architect.

CRAN Symposium Focuses on Business Planning

From AIA National:

Full Spectrum Practice: AIA CRAN Symposium
October 19–21, 2007
Hotel Allegro
Conference Information
Online Registration
Registration Form (PDF)

The AIA Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN) is hosting a national one-day symposium, titled Full Spectrum Practice, at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago. The symposium will focus on the essential techniques of business planning and marketing for custom residential design firms. To better illustrate the principles at hand, presenters will focus on business growth opportunities in sustainable design and digital home technology. Please click here for complete information.

Big Firms or Small, Everyone Should be Online

This past Wednesday evening, the AIAWMH Practice Management Committee discussed websites and their relevance to architects. As I have posted before and have been preaching for years, I think being online is critical to business success. My belief is that if you’re not online, you don’t exist.

I presented my ideas to the committee, visited my firm’s website and showed them some of the other work I’ve done on the web. Then we surfed a bit and checked out many examples of architects’ sites throughout the country.

Big firms and small. Commercial and residential firms. It was very interesting to see the broad range in design and presentation of the sites we viewed.

Today, Seth Godin posted his idea for local businesses who want to be online, but may not want to dedicated the time and money for a professional website. It may not be for everyone, but for the small local firm it may be the answer to business success.

When I launched our firm’s website back in 1999, there were few architects online. We started Fivecat Studio with no clients and no cash. A few friends commissioned us to design small residential, retail and restaurant projects. We photographed them, launched and the rest is history.

From those early projects to this day, the majority of our leads have been generated by our website. It is the main element of our marketing strategy.

Since experiencing our success, I have been on a crusade to convince my peers of the importance of being online.

Unless you’re not interested in new clients, it is essential that you are online. The first place people go to research anything is the Internet. If your firm is not listed on Google and Yahoo, you don’t exist.

This month, Entrepreneur magazine online lists the top-10 trademarks of stellar websites. I urge you to read the article, but here’s the list:

  1. Descriptive tag lines
  2. Excellent content
  3. Edited text
  4. Simple design
  5. Using text hyperlinks
  6. Consistent layout
  7. Sticking with what works
  8. A focus on search
  9. Guided search
  10. Designing for users

Whether you’re online or not, this article will give you the basics for getting results.

Are you online? Is your website a successful part of your marketing strategy? Not online? Tell us why. Share your thoughts and ideas by clicking the “comments” link above.

Why the Web?

At the last few meetings of the AIA Westchester / Mid-Hudson Practice Management Committeee, we discussed websites and how they could benefit our practices. I just wanted to share some of the work I’ve done online for my firm, Fivecat Studio. I thought it might be helpful for your own practice.

We built our first website in 1999. It has gone through a few redesigns since then, but it has always been intended to simply educate our potential clients. It answers some basic questions and presents a selection of our work. It’s bascially a preview to our client interview. We developed the site and maintain it all in house. That way we can easily update and revise it as needed. Our next step is to add more photos to each project. People love photos!

Living Well in Westchester

This was my first blog, launched at the beginning of this year. It’s all about residential architecture and design in Westchester County…and beyond. The readers of this blog are people interested in residential architecture; basically, we’re talking to the general public here. Readers can subscribe to this blog here.

Entrepreneur Architect

I launched this blog in February. My passion is business, so I decided to launch a blog about business success and the practice of architecture. My audience here is intended to be you; architects and other design professionals interested in business success. Readers can subscribe to this blog here.

Residential Architecture and Design Lens at Squidoo

A Squidoo lens is one person’s view on a topic that matters to her. It’s an easy-to-build, single web page that can point to blogs, favorite links, RSS feeds, Flickr photos, Google maps, eBay auctions, CafePress designs, Amazon books or music, and more. Then, when someone is looking for recommended information, fast, your lens gets him started and sends him off in the right direction. It’s a place for searchers to start, not finish. I created this lens to be a clearinghouse for anything and everything that has to do with residential architecture. I send clients to my lens regularly to reference specific links.

Ira Grandberg asked if I would present my ideas on the web to the committee. I would be happy to share what I have learned over the years and answer questions anyone might have. Let me know your thoughts on the web, by clicking the “comments” link at the top of this page. I would love to start an online conversation about this topic.

AIA Westchester / Mid-Hudson Expo 2007

For all design professionals in the metropolitan NYC area, this thursday is AIA Westchester / Mid-Hudson Design and Technology Expo 2007 at Rye Town Hilton in Rye, New York.

Looking for continuing education credits? I have inside information that there are still seats available for a few of the seminars.

Download the registration form here.

 See you there!

Partnering Architects

At this month’s meeting of the AIA Westchester / Mid-Huson Practice Management Committe we were discussing the subject of partnering (two architects working with a joint venture agreement).

Among many interesting comments, the question of legal agreements was raised and I wondered if the AIA offered a document for architects looking to partner. As assumed, they do. C801™-1993, Joint Venture Agreement for Professional Services can be used for just such an arrangement.

“C801™-1993 is intended to be used by two or more parties to provide for their mutual rights and obligations in forming a joint venture. It is intended that the joint venture, once established, will enter into an agreement with the owner to provide professional services. The parties may be all architects, all engineers, a combination of architects and engineers, or another combination of professionals. The document provides a choice between two methods of joint venture operation. The “Division of Compensation” method assumes that services provided and the compensation received will be divided among the parties in the proportions agreed to at the outset of the project. Each party’s profitability is then dependent on individual performance of pre-assigned tasks and is not directly tied to that of the other parties. The “Division of Profit and Loss” method is based on each party performing work and billing the joint venture at cost plus a nominal amount for overhead. The ultimate profit or loss of the joint venture is divided between or among the parties at completion of the project, based on their respective interests.” (

In addition to C801, the AIA also offers C105™-2005 Standard Form of Agreement Between Architect and Consulting Architect; a document for architects wanting to hire another architect to perform as a consultant.

“C105 is a standard form of agreement between the architect and another architect that provides services as a consultant. C105 assumes and references a preexisting owner-architect agreement known as the Prime Agreement. B141™–1997, B141™CMa–1992, B151™–1997, and B163™–1993 are the documents most frequently used to establish the Prime Agreement. C105 does not describe a fixed scope of services for the consulting architect but instead provides a location in the agreement for inserting a description of those services. This document may be used with a variety of compensation methods, including multiple of direct personnel expense and stipulated sum.” (

To view synopses of all Contract Documents offered by the AIA, click here.

To purchase AIA Contract Documents, click here.

Have you partnered? Have you hired another architect to perform as a consultant? Share your thoughts, ideas and opinions by clicking the “comments” link above.

AIA Launches New Marketing Campaign

I received an e-mail today from Phil Simon, AIA National Managing Director, Marketing and Promotion about the new national marketing campaign. Here’s what he wrote:

Dear AIA Colleague:

The 2007 national advertising campaign began last week with the first of more than 430 commercial radio network spots that will air until the end of June. A trade magazine ad campaign to build on the radio ads is also underway in six distinct market sectors where architects offer their services. To learn more about the 2007 radio and magazine advertising effort, please visit the members-only side of and click on the Advertising Campaign section.

Additionally, I am pleased to announce the launch of a new web site—How Design Works —that extends the radio and magazine advertising messages to the Internet. Developed with guidance from the 2006 Advocacy Committee of the national AIA Board of Directors to test the effectiveness of the Internet as a communications platform, this new online component of our effort to educate the public about the experience and process of working with an AIA member and the value of good design is ready for all to see. I encourage you to browse and share the site widely with your colleagues, clients, prospects, friends, and family.

The objective of How Design Works is to show how AIA architects are approachable, are good listeners, and that they welcome and respect the input of their clients. The site uses videos case studies to show the interplay and the experience. How Design Works shows satisfied clients and their AIA architect describing in their own words how they worked together from start to successful finish.

As the person moves from curiosity and delves deeper into the site, we begin to introduce terms architects use to describe their services. We also provide links to user-friendly decision-making tools, such as “Questions to Ask Your Architect” and “You and Your Architect” as well as a link to the AIA Architect Finder service.

Visitors can also share the site with others via an e-mail link or provide feedback directly to the AIA. This will allow us to hear directly from those who interact with the site. Plans for announcing How Design Works to the national news media are finalized. Already, we have begun optimizing the site for easy indexing by the major search engines and will begin paid online promotion of the site in March. Please know that we will capture a rich pool of data to measure the effectiveness of the site which will be used to help determine if other video case histories will be added.

The first two projects being showcased are:

Single-Family Residential Sector
Project: The Woods Residence: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Architect: Sarah Nettleton, AIA
Firm: Sarah Nettleton Architects
Note: Sarah is an AIA/Taunton Press joint imprint author. This residence will be featured in Sarah’s forthcoming book The Simple Home.

K-12 Education Sector
Project: University Charter High School, New Jersey City University. Jersey City, New Jersey
Architects: Michael Shatken, AIA, LEED-AP, Merilee Meacock, AIA, LEED-AP
Firm: KSS Architects, Princeton, New Jersey
Note: This project earned a Merit Award in the 2005/2006 AIA Committee on Architecture for Education Design Awards.

A broadband Internet connection is required to fully experience the site. So turn up your speakers and click on . And please remember to forward the link to a colleague, friend, client or prospect or use the Share this Site button.

We are confident that How Design Works actively engages those interested in learning more about good design and working with an AIA architect. It provides the tools and resources that can help them better understand that good design makes a difference.

Please reply to this email if I can answer any questions.


Phil Simon
Managing Director, Marketing and Promotion
(202) 626-7463

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