Archive for the 'Construction' Category

The 8th A.R.E. Division: Practical Construction Experience

I come from a family of auto mechanics and contractors, so repair and construction are in my blood.

Before I was registered as a New York State architect, I worked as a carpenter and mason during summers and school breaks. As a child, I would hear my carpenter uncle speak negatively about architects and I wanted to know why, first hand. (…and boy, did I?)

One of the topics often debated over at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group is whether practical construction experience should be required for professional registration. The current Architect Registration Examination (A.R.E.) consists of seven divisions, which include multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and check-all-that-apply questions as well as graphic vignettes.

Not one hour of practical construction experience is required.

The lessons I learned swinging that hammer each summer are utilized every time I step onto a job site. Reading architectural drawings as a tradesman and executing each detail as documented, reinforced the importance of clear concise construction documents. As a member of a construction crew, I heard the unfiltered criticisms of architects thrown by disgruntled carpenters. I learned quickly how architects could build stronger relationships with the people responsible for bringing their designs to life.

Today when I visit a job site to review progress or meet to resolve an unforeseen condition, I come to the discussion with a very different point of view than if I had forgone these experiences as a young aspiring professional. My relationship with the people building my projects are based on mutual respect and understanding, and my projects are built better in return.

Practical construction experience should be the eighth division of the A.R.E. Jobsite relationships would be stronger and buildings built better.

What say you? Should practical construction experience be required for the registration of today’s architect?

photo credit: justinbaeder via photopin cc

BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice

For a long time in my office, BIM was something out there that wasn’t acted upon. We sat on nineteen seats of Revit for nearly two years, stored away in a closet unused – shelfware. Waiting for the right opportunity. Becoming obsolete. Doing no one any good. Taking up valuable storage space. Not earning its keep. And with each month unused, the software weighed on us: waiting for the right time, the right project, the right client, the right phase, the right people to put on the project, the right people to train…

Sound familiar?

Moving away from CAD to BIM (Building Information Modeling) software takes courage. It takes great leaps of faith that BIM will actually help your firm be more efficient. More accurate. More profitable.

If you are one of the many architects ready to take the leap to BIM adoption, but are not quite sure how or when to do it, Randy Deutsch, AIA, LEED AP has written a book for you.

Despite its technical sounding title, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice is much more about people and your firm’s culture than it is about the software. He leaves the business implications, technical requirements, tips and tricks to other authors and discusses, in great depth, how BIM will directly affect your firm… in both good and, possibly, bad ways.

The book is loaded case studies and conversations with leaders in the profession. As an Entrepreneur Architect constantly experimenting with the idea of taking back control and responsibility of the complete design and construction process, the sections dedicated to how BIM and Integrated Design may usher in the return of the Master Builder were especially interesting to me.

Whether you are fully BIM-friendly or waiting for your expensive shelfware to load itself, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice should be added to your reading list.

Architects Can Learn Much from Other Industries

What can we learn from other industries to make the traditional architectural and construction processes better?

Hospitals are filled with checklists and other systems to make sure that every step of a procedure is done correctly. NASCAR racing teams also use checklists and directives from multiple layers of team members, each with their own specialty. Toyota uses their Product Development System, also known as Lean Manufacturing, to make every subsequent product better than the last.

At Fivecat Studio, we are developing a Project Manual, filled with checklists, that will make every design process more efficient and will assure that every project is well built.

What are you doing to be more efficient? What systems are you implementing to be sure your clients are happy? Are you learning from other industries?

Please share…

The Process of Architecture?

At Fivecat Studio, our process of delivering architectural services includes a very highly developed set of construction documents. Every possible decision is made. Every product is specified. Every fixture is scheduled, ready for purchasing.

Our intent is to obtain very competitive bids from general contractors, minimize change orders and reduce construction time by eliminating delays caused by slow or incomplete decisions. Most of the time, this focus on detail pays off in an appreciative client and a healthy relationship with the construction team.

Sometimes though, when the well developed design and thoughtful decisions are second-guessed, changes are made during construction. A tight construction schedule does not allow for a fully developed and scoped out process of decision making. Sometimes this leads to a “snow ball effect” of interrelated elements requiring modification. The desired time or money saved by the change is, many times, counteracted by the additional time and money required to handle the unexpected consequences of the innocent (or not so innocent) change.

So, here is my question to you, the Entrepreneur Architect. What does your process look like?

Do you prepare detailed, highly developed drawing sets for construction? Or, are you a member of the camp that believes the preparation of a basic set of “guideline” drawings are better, with the details and design decisions determined during construction, in the field?

Which process makes for happier clients? Which process makes for a most efficient construction schedule? Which process is most profitable for the architect?

Please share. I would love to read your thoughts…

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Jonathan Segal, A Documentary Film

Created for the Mix 9 architecture show on exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla, a documentary by Breadtruck Films about architect/developer Jonathan Segal FAIA and a new way to build sustainable cities.

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Architect As Construction Manager

From AIA Soloso:

Small firms and their clients can benefit from offering construction management services. Architects develop a new revenue source, make decisions more quickly during construction, and may potentially mitigate risks in the long run. Clients have a single point of contact throughout the project and potentially reduce delays, project completion time, and nontangible costs such as those associated with change orders.

Download the article here.

(Adobe Acrobat Reader is required)

Icon Custom Masonry


Annmarie’s brother James moved from New York to Charlotte, NC about a decade ago. Since then he has built his company from a dump truck and some labor to one of the top custom masonry contracting companies south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

This month’s Southern Accents magazine features the Homestead Preserve in Hot Springs, Virginia. Icon Custom Masonry is responsible for all the stone veneer, all the chimneys, all the flat work (pavers, patios, etc.) and all the fireplaces found at the showhouse featured.

Be sure to check out iPIX Virtual Tour.

James is a perfect example of what one can do with dedication, persistence and lots and lots of hard work. I truly respect what he has done with his business and look forward to seeing where he goes from here.

Building Wright

Apple.com has a profile of Thomas A. Heinz, AIA, the architect commissioned to reverse-engineer and complete a Frank Lloyd Wright house being built on Petra Island at Lake Mahopac, New York.

The article is mainly focused on Heinz’s use of Archicad and Apple computers. It describes the process he used to develop the design and communicate his ideas to the crew executing the construction.

Don’t miss the trailer for the documentary, Building Wright, in the sidebar. It gives you a glimse of the controversy brewing over the construction of this house. Is it an authentic Frank Lloyd Wright house, or an educated interpretation by Heinz?


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