Archive

Architecture

move

 

Architect’s by nature like to change things, we like to call them revisions. After a few years (I know, they haven’t forced us to leave the internet yet, wow!) it was time to update our professional web site cogitatedesign– seemed like the ideal time to integrate the blog and web site to reside at one domain. The location of Architect’s Trace has moved to here –> Architect’s Trace  Over the next few months I’ll be editing/revising posts from this blog site and posting to the new forum… as well as posting new content.

If you’ve been following Architect’s Trace, thanks and please be sure to note/subscribe to the blogs new address. If you’re new to Architect’s Trace, welcome and I hope you find it of value.

—> New domain for Architect’s Trace <—

 

 

Design on,

 

New house/domain welcoming gifts accepted 😉

A lot of other professions use the term ‘Architect,’ for many its sacrilegious. I have mixed opinions on the ‘titles issue’ as there are more pressing matters facing the profession. However, this is a great way to lighten the mood. In a prior post, In the Game , I offered up some suggestions for us architects to join in and play the game. I’m going to keep pilfering other professions titles and terminology and stay in the game… as the kids say, “Don’t hate the playa, hate da game!” They still say that, right… right? Thanks to Ron Lincoln for playing along and providing the additional titles.

 

 

2015-01-27_blog_image_the name game mba

 

 

2015-01-27_blog_image_the name game md

 

 

2015-01-27_blog_image_the name game dds

 

Have any to add? Post them in the comments section; if I get enough I’ll make up some more graphics.

 

 

Design On,

 

 

 

Keith Palma, NCARB, LEED AP, MD, DDS, MBA

 


photos from photostream on FLICKR and have been used under the creative commons license, in order erik ERXON , Herry Lawford, and  Matthew Burpee


General graphic layout inspired by Jody Brown at Coffee With an Architect.

Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp to the electronic version of chipboard. In a previous post I covered the basics of SketchUp, you can read that here Sketchup 101.

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 vine

Since that post, I’ve had numerous requests to provide more info on using SketchUp. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to go over a few of the basics in a bit more detail. I know some may be saying, “What the heck, this is basic info who needs a post on this?” There are plenty of resources/manuals available for SketchUp, however, I believe my perspective affords insight into real world implementation as an architect (whoa, settle down, those were big words). Keep in mind, there are people learning the software for the first time every day, so if I can make it a bit easier for them than I’ve done my part helping the world visualize in the third dimension!

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 h

With any luck I’ll continually add to my SketchUp resource and hope that others can benefit from it. Note that this post is based upon Trimble SketchUp version 8.0.16846 and may differ slightly from the most current version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

With that I bring you SketchUp 102, Groups and Components! When modeling in SketchUp, make use of Groups and Components, they will become your friend. Go back and read that sentence again. SketchUp is inefficient if Groups/Components are not used, especially when trying to select entities. So what is a Group vs. a Component:

Group: a combination of several objects together into one ‘piece.’  For example you can create a window that is comprised of a frame and a piece of glass. You can than make a group out of the two ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

Component: a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well- however, there is the option to make any one, or several of the components ‘unique’ such that their editing does not alter the other copies- perhaps a future post on that topic. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

Creating/Editing:

1. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen. You’ll also have the option of naming the Group/Component.

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 abc

2. Groups and Components can be edited by double clicking them. If you have Groups/Components nested within each other, you’ll have to double click the appropriate amount of times to get to the Group/Component you wish to edit.

 

Window Assembly Example:

Window 1:   I’ve created a window frame and sheet of glass, each of which is composed of separate faces and planes. Notice when you try and select it only one line or plane is highlighted (keep in mind you could hold the shift key to make more than one selection, however that’s not the point of this example).

Window 2:   The window frame and sheet of glass have each been made into separate Components. Notice when you try and select it the entire frame/glass is highlighted.

Window 3:   The window frame and sheet of glass have been composed into a single unit and a Component created out of the two pieces. Notice when you try and select it the entire assembly is highlighted. Materials have also been applied to each of the window assembly Components.

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 a

 

Group Example: Edit a Group and all copies of that Group remain as they were.

The window Group (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Group has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Group:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 d

I’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window Group on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that only that window Group is updated, none of the Group copies update:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 e

Component Example: Edit a Component and all copies of that component update, regardless of flipping the copy about the horizontal/vertical axis, or mirroring the copy. Keep in mind, any copy of a Component can be edited and all copies of it will update.

The window Component (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Component has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Component:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 bI’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window component on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that all copies of the window component update automatically, even the window that was flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 c

 

While this window is a simple example of Groups/Components, it’s evident that this is a powerful feature for modeling in SketchUp. For example, I’ve worked on numerous Multi-Family projects and my method is to create the individual units off to one side and then assemble the building from the units, which are Components. This makes it much easier to work on, units are able to be flipped and mirrored as need be and I only need to create one of each unit type:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 f

Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using Groups/Components while modeling with SketchUp. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with Groups/Components- i.e. you can nest Groups/Components within each other, you can make Groups/Component unique, etc. However, you’ll also realize how efficient using Groups/Components will make your modeling. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for using Groups/Components in SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use Groups/Components SketchUp.

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_collage

 

Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

My goal at the beginning of 2014 was to gain more exposure for Architect’s Trace and reduce time spent on social media. Seems like a contradictory goal, but I know it can be done… I just took it to an extreme the second half of 2014. There were 23 new posts and 72 images uploaded on Architect’s Trace in 2014. In 2013 there were 41 new posts and 145 images uploaded. While the posts/ images are down for 2014, I attribute that to those being so awesome that I had to re-post them in 2014 as well as more quality posts!

I no longer look at myself as The Poster, I consider myself a blogger now. However, I’m still not sure what that means. Do I offer T-Shirts? Do I ‘sell’ something? Do I create a podcast? I’m not sure. A major benefit of writing this blog is the dialogue with peers and friendships that have come about as such. I’ve even done some consulting work with those ‘met’ online. However, it’s the dialogue fostered and conversations had that are far more valuable to me than the actual post that sparked such. I use this blog as a creative outlet for myself and to educate as to what it is we architect’s do and how we do it- hopefully for 2015 I will continue such.

2015-01-05_blog image_2014 year in review

The friendly stats helper interns (yes you’re still an intern no matter what AIA/ NCARB say and that’s okay… deal with it) at WordPress prepared a 2014 annual report for Architect’s Trace blog. I’ll admit that I don’t pay much attention to the stats of my blog, but it’s clear that I’ve out-performed last year’s.

An excerpt from the interns report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I think they could pack twice as many people into the opera house if Frank Gehry did a spoken word performance comprised of “98%… modern architecture… shit” and flipped off the audience over and over. The number of performances could then be cut to 6 to equal the number of my 2014 blog viewers. I’m good with Architect’s Trace headlining the Sydney Opera house…however, I’d like to go on prior to Frank pissing everyone off… wait, what… okay I got off on a tangent there. Compared to the 30,000 views in 2013, that’s a 200% increase- I’m proud of that number!

 

sydney

Click the link to learn more about the Sydney Opera House

A few more intern provided facts about Architect’s Trace:

Busiest Day was January 16th with 2,975 views. The most popular post that day was SketchUp 101 Wait, 2,975 views? That’s about 10% of my total views for the year, not sure how that happened but I’ll take it! While awesome, it boggles me and I need to figure out how to re-create and maintain such viewership… perhaps I should consider more ‘how to’ SketchUp posts.

Visitors came from 162 different countries, up 31 countries from 2013, BOOM! This was the year I cracked into Papua New Guinea, Iceland heard me last year and I’ve got 4 followers from there as well! Most visitors came from The United States. India and the U.K. were not far behind… must’ve been all the business cards I ‘lost’ while travelling in London last year. I’ve always wanted to visit Italy, seems I have 611 people I can ask lodging from, someone’s got to yes.

Top 5 Posts of 2014 were 1) SketchUp 101 2) Dear Architects, I am sick of your shit 3) ArchitecTypes- what kind of architect are you? part 1 of 4 4) What an Architect Does 5) Design Process 103- Design Development. There were some good posts in 2014 and the most read posts discussed how and what we architects do. These posts have been read by both potential clients and fellow architects. I’d like to think that I’m educating others on the architecture profession and not just taking up bandwidth.

1280px-Gehry_House_-_Image01Click the link to learn more about Frank Gehry

I don’t ask anything from my readers, however, for 2015 I’d ask that if you don’t already write a blog, write one. Write about your passions, your personal life, anything that interests you. The people you’ll engage with and discussions that follow will far outweigh any fears you may have about writing a blog. Don’t wait start a blog, in the words of Dr. Seuss:

“You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…”

I’d like to specifically thank Lee Calisti, author of think | architect, Marica McKeel, author of The Architect’s Notebook, and Mark LePage of Entrepreneur Architect, they were my top referring sites for 2014, thank you! If you’re not already following Lee, Marica, and Mark you should be, they each have great blogs! In fact, I re-blog many of Lee’s posts, he’s smarter than me and can explain things much clearer than I. Architect’s Trace was also found by people searching for ‘B-Vent,’ I’m not sure what to think of that so that’s all I’ll say.

My main goal of this blog is to trace my experiences as an architect- how it a/effects me, my design ideologies, the built environ, and all I encounter. Hopefully, others along a similar path, or those just curious about architects/architecture, can benefit from my trace(s). Along the way this blog as become more than me being an architect and architecture. It’s been a vehicle to ‘meet’ others and be part of a larger conversation. It’s been about my trial and tribulations as the best dad ever, trying to be the best husband ever, and well, just being part of the human race. Judging those goals I consider my blog a success!

So what now, a grand re-vamp to the blog? I don’t think so, I’m happy with the blog as it currently stands. Sure, I’d like more exposure and I’ll work on that. This year will be a challenge, I want to gain exposure of Architect’s Trace at the same time I want to reduce time spent on social media- [Dis]Connect. Perhaps a follow up post to clarify my intentions. A new web site is in the works for my firm and how I’ll integrate this blog into the site is yet unknown but a task that will be accomplished.

Of course like all architects, I’d like more work in 2015, but I’d also like to just be happy and content with where I am and how I got here. To my readers, thanks for being part of the journey and if you’re not already following Architect’s Trace, I hope that you do and become part of this Trace, cheers and here’s to a great 2015 and this thing we call Architecture, I mean LIFE!

Design On,

 

2013-11-13_blog_image_cricket a

I don’t get to draw all day. I’m not a cartoon maker. Honestly, I’m getting tired of hearing clients and architects say “Isn’t that great, you/ I get to draw all day and get paid!” I know it’s typically stated flippantly, but we, or at least myself, need to really think about that. That’s not what we do and it’s part of the perception problem that the public has with what we architects do. “Don’t you architects just do some drawings?” No, no we don’t. Now before you get up on your soap box and start calling me out, I admit… I’ve been guilty of stating the same thing. However, I’m making a conscious effort to not say that anymore, it marginalizes what we do. Part of our role as architects is educating the public what it is we really do… we fall short on doing so, I know I do.

We architects get excited about meeting new clients and voicing our thoughts on the design problem and the solutions we have. We prepare awesome drawings that represent the vision for the project, with any luck the client loves them… and… pause…that right there is part of the problem. The problem is quite simple; it’s the ‘awesome drawings’ the client sees. Even worse, if we’ve been good at the design solution, the resultant drawings look effortless and as if that was the only solution. While awesome drawings are… well, awesome, they can also be a detriment. We need to do a better job at explaining the architect’s value to our clients lies well beyond the drawings created… and that we don’t just draw all day.

 

photo

An architect’s value is lost on the client if they only see the drawings and aren’t fully vetted as to the process/experience that ‘created’ the drawings. It’s the drawings backed by such that instills value. Yes architects draw. However, drawing is part of a larger process of architecture. A process backed with experience and expertise. The process involves problem solving, addressing your needs/wishes/budget/schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient structure. Architects help you design/discover a structure that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. The value of an architect’s services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into a cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to you. This in turn enhances the value we bring to a project. Drawings play a supporting role in the overall process.

Drawings themselves do not bring value to architecture. It’s the due diligence, experience, role of the architect in the design/construction process, and the thought(s) that created the drawings that bring value. Many people seem to be under the impression that drawings are cheap, and they’re right. Drawings themselves are cheap. However, it’s the thought and expertise that ‘back’ drawings created by an architect that’s going to cost. You can have cheap drawings; you’re just not going to get them from me or any other architect who has your best interests in mind. As a client, you need to look past the architect’s drawings and be cognizant of the process that created the drawings. The drawings themselves are cheap, heck I’ll even pay* for the paper myself. What you’re paying for is the architect’s expertise that created those drawings.

2013-10-03_blog_image_cartoon 7

No, I don’t get to draw all day everyday, my typical day looks more like this- Drawing Baths and Architecture. Yes I do get to draw, but my drawings are more than graphic representations. They are a wealth of knowledge and are backed by a solid thought process. Architects offer a service in which drawings are a tool to reach a conclusion… a conclusion that ultimately brings value to your project. Drawings are a product; architects provide a service, a valuable service!

 

Design On,

* Offer only applies when my services are rendered for the project, cannot be combined with any other offers unless Neutra comes back to life and wants to collaborate.

2014-06-11_blog_image_solo 101_ people

Lee Calisti had a great post on his blog think | architect about the negatives of being a sole practitioner. You can read his post here- 10 challenges to working solo. He asked for others thoughts on the matter and I needed a post topic accepted. If you read my post the other day I also listed my +10 for being a sole practitioner- Solo Architecture Practice +10

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner- not the least of which is having someone else write my blog! However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. For example, you need to become well versed in delivering bad news to a client, you can read PMt No. 2- Who’s Bad! for some tips. Another must is to align yourself with good GC’s, you can read my thoughts about that- GOODgc BADgc. Well before I link to every post I’ve ever written **spoiler alert, numerous links below** here are my  -10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2013-05-20_blog_image_disconnect r

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

2013-05-20_blog_image_disconnect k

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

2013-03-18_1363571389

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

There are solutions to each of these… well maybe not #5 or #8 unless you’re open to committing petty crimes. Like anything, as long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. I’ll admit, it’s tough working on your own and its not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!

Are you a sole practitioner, if so, what do you miss out on from being such?

 

Design On,

** One other negative is that I always know what my end of year bonus is… it’s another year of doing this, wait… that’s a positive!

2014-06-09_blog_image_solo 10+_ solo man

Lee Calisti had a great post on his blog think | architect about the positives of being a sole practitioner. You can read his post here- 10 good things about working solo. He asked for others thoughts on the matter and I needed a post topic accepted. There’ll also be a follow up to the ‘negatives’- come on, you saw that coming.

Like Lee, I’m a sole practitioner. It wasn’t by any great desire I had, it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and BOOM! Legal entity to practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

2013-04-02_blog_image_PMT 2 conc

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

2013-10-03_blog_image_cartoon 2

+6. I can sleep go for a run or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control (however loosely) of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

2013-04-16_blog_image_bicycle business ride

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend her swim meets, dance recitals, volunteer at school, etc.

 

Are you a sole practitioner, if so, what are your reasons?

 

Design On,

** One thing I didn’t mention is that my boss is sometimes a bit over demanding about ‘billable time,’ he just doesn’t get this whole blog thing. And remember kids, much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative.

 

2014-05-20_blog_image_the break up part 1

After 14 years or so the AIA and I have broken up… seems I’ve put on a few extra pounds and the AIA has… well… they’ve gotten to be high maintenance. The magic is gone. No matter what I do it’s not enough. We’ll always have… hmm… not sure what we’ll always have. We did have some good times though, didn’t we? Perhaps we can rekindle our relationship in the future (I left a turtleneck in their closet ** air thumbs up! **). For now though, and for the sake of the design, we have parted. A follow-up post in the future will cover more specifics. For now I give you some revised lyrics from the Counting Crows Mr. Jones (VH1 Storytellers version):

1 qoute

 

 

So you wanna be an AIA Member,

Well listen now to what I say,

Just get a bank account,

And take some time, and learn how to pay,

Just learn how to pay.

 

Well I was down at the New AIA Headquarters,

Just staring at this yellow painted gable,

Mr. AIA strikes up a conversation,

With the black haired flamenco drafter,

You know, she dances while his father pays the dues,

She’s suddenly beautiful,

And we all want something beautiful,

And I wish I was beautiful la la la.

 

I’ll call-up Mies- come on,

Show me some of them contemporary designs,

And pass me a contract Mr. AIA,

Believe in me, come on,

Help me believe in AIA,

‘Cause I wanna be someone who believes.

 

Mr. AIA and me,

Tell each other fairy tales,

We stare at the beautiful architecture,

“She’s looking at you, no no, she’s looking at me,”

Standing in this permit office,

Coming through in stereo,

When everybody loves modernism,

You should never be lonely.

 

I wanna paint myself an outfit,

I wanna paint myself in black and charcoal and grey and dark grey,

All the beautiful colors are very, very meaningful,

Yeah, you know black it’s my favorite color,

I just, wear it everyday,

But if I knew Corbu,

I would buy myself a dark grey mock turtleneck and pay.

 

Mr. AIA and me,

Look into the future,

We stare at all the beautiful Architecture,

“She’s looking at you, I don’t think so, she’s looking at me,”

Presenting to this Planning Commision,

I bought myself this black suit and tie,

Man, when everybody loves me,

I hope I’ll never get lonely.

 

I wanna be a lion, I know, I know-

Everybody wants to pass as cats,

We all wanna be big, big, big, big, big starchitects,

Yeah but then we get second thoughts about that,

So believe in me, man, I don’t believe in anything,

And I wanna be someone to believe,

You should not believe in post modernism.

 

Mr. AIA and me,

Stumbling through the city grid,

We stare at all the beautiful Architecture,

She’s perfect for you, there’s got to be someone for me,

I wanna be Richard Neutra,

Mr. AIA wishes he was someone just a little more, you know flexible,

Man, when everybody loves you and dues are so high,

Sometimes, that’s just about as fucked up as you can be,

 

Can’t you hear me ’cause I’m screaming

But I did not pay my dues this year,

Oh, don’t wake me ’cause I was dreaming

And I make you worth it again today.

 

Mr. AIA and me, we don’t see each other much… anymore.

2 qoute


 

 

Design On,

** The acoustic version will be awesome!  

2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 1Within the architecture profession, design competitions have a love hate relationship. Many architects either love them or hate them. Me, I don’t cut it so black and white, I prefer an off gray stance. I don’t enter many design competitions, perhaps a future post as to why. However, when I do, I look at them from my own ** insert pun ** perspective and I win every competition I enter.

Every.

Single.

One.

How? Simple, I enter them with a specific challenge for myself to achieve. I don’t care about ‘winning’ in terms of Charlie Sheen, or the competitions definition of winning. Sure, it’d be great to win and receive the accolades from peers, or a quart of tiger’s blood, but I’m in it for more than that. I win by using competitions as exercises to further my knowledge of the architecture profession and/or add new design tools to my arsenal. There are two, and only two criteria to meet if you want to guarantee a win- and in reality one of them is optional.

The two critical tips to win every competition you enter:

1. There needs to be an entry fee. It’ll force upon you responsibility and commitment. If you’re anything like me, you expect to get something out of the monies you pay- I’m looking right at you AIA, sorry, that’s another post.

2. You need to commit to learning a new technique, trying new software, testing a new concept, investigating a new material or new usage of a typical material, etc. the key here is ‘new’ as the only way to win is doing something new.

You can win without meeting tip number 1. However, your winnings will be greater if you do. Keep in mind, there is no way to win if you don’t adhere to tip number 2

2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 3One of my most recent projects was the design of a new residential house. The clients are great and it’s been a fun project. The design was done via SketchUp and the design package was presented via renders right out of SketchUp. The graphic results for the schematic proposal were good. At the schematic stage, I try not to get caught up in materials and color selections- I want clients to focus on form, massing, and layout. I’ve used SketchUp for several years, the renders are good but a bit cartoonish. If you’d like to learn the basics of using SketchUp, check out my post SketchUp 101. I’ve tried a few other rendering plug-ins with Sketchup in the past, while the results were better than the standard Sketchup, they were cumbersome to achieve. I knew there were better Sketchup plug-ins. Time to go win a design competition.

My local chapter of the AIA was having their annual design awards competition, a perfect one to enter. As previously mentioned, there was an entry fee and the new software I was going to learn was Maxwell Render. I wanted to learn a new software to enhance the Sketchup renders. In addition, I was looking for a technique to better render grass, and Maxwell fit the bill on both counts. The free version of Maxwell is a plug-in that runs within Sketchup. While you’re limited to certain functions and output resolutions, it greatly enhances renderings of your Sketchup models. I chose Maxwell because Evan Troxel raves about it and if he does, trust me it’s got to be good. So Maxwell it was. I won’t go into specifics about the usage of Maxwell, perhaps a future post, but honestly you’re better off checking out Evan’s get Method site.

Here are some of the images created- the original SketchUp image is followed  with the Maxwell Render below. Keep in mind these were created from one SketchUp model with minor tweaking in Maxwell. The people, trees, and sky were done in Photoshop:

2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 2

 

So there you go, my latest win at a design competition. I won by learning a new software and technique. I was extremely happy with the results and haven’t even begun experimenting with Maxwell materials… maybe I’ll save that for my next winning entry. If you care to forgo an entry fee, be sure to check out Bob Borson’s Life of an Architect annual Playhouse Design Competition, its for a great cause.

So go out there and win yourself a design competition, you’ll be happy you did!

 

 

Design On,

** Seriously… you’ll win… do it!

Thinking about starting your own firm or going out on your own as a sole practioner? If so, there are some basics you should be reminded of when starting your firm. Keep in mind, this is not an all-encompassing post and you should consult legal advice as you feel necessary. I’ve worked in the architecture profession for over 20 years, the past 14 years as a licensed architect and the past 5 years as running my own architecture firm.  I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things over the years that are worth sharing. Below is a business outline that I feel is crucial to starting your own firm. I’ll be honest, I haven’t followed it to the letter. I won’t say which I haven’t, but I can say I regret not having done some…vague enough… don’t you do the same.

Strategic Planning

Establish your Vision, Mission, and Values. Going through a strategic planning process will help you in defining your goals, as well as provide the framework to create a specific business plan to achieve them. It will also help you establish and build your unique ‘Brand’ and guide your day-to-day decision making. A situations arise, or goals change, refer to your strategic plan for guidance and/or to revise as needed. Your strategic plan is fluid and it should be revised as needed, at least once a year minimum. The basics your plan should contain are the following:

    1. Vision: How do you see your firm in 2, 3, or 5 years?
      1. How much revenue and profit would you like or need to be successful?
      2. Do you plan on having employees, if so how many?
      3. What project types will you serve? Geographic location(s) you will serve?
      4. What services will you offer? Will they be direct or subcontracted? (architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, graphic design, civil, MEP, or structural engineering…)
    2. Mission: What is your key purpose?
      1. Why do you want to do this work?
      2. What do you want to be known for? (unique design solutions, traditional architecture, contemporary architecture, great service, technical abilities, LEED solutions…)
      3. What makes you and your firm unique?
      4. Try and develop a benefit statement or slogan for your Key Purpose.
    3. Values: What are your core principles regarding design and business?

2014-03-11_blog_image_firm advice a

I don’t think your strategic plan should be shared with your clients or posted on your web site. The purpose of the plan is to guide you, not as ‘fluff’ to market or a sales attempt.  That doesn’t mean write it and just forget about it. To be purposeful your plan needs to be simple and employed as framework for you to reference and guide you as to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Bob Borson has some great advice in his Mission Statements post. We all want to be the best and offer the best services, we don’t need to tell clients that… but we do need a plan as to how we’re going to achieve.

Legal Entity

Most business entities can be set up rather easily and with little to no assistance. However, it’s best to consult with an attorney to discuss what type of business structure will fit your needs the best. If you’re not comfortable doing so, a business attorney can also assist you in setting up the legal entity. There are several legal corporation structures, for example:

    1. Sole Proprietorship- personal exposure for all liabilities
    2. Partnership- personal exposure and possible control issues
    3. S Corporation- insulation from many liabilities, tax burden passes through to individual owners
    4. C Corporation- insulation from many liabilities, subject to corporate taxes, flexible
    5. Limited Liability Corporation or Professional Limited Liability Corporation- simple but has limitations

It’s best to consult an attorney and review these, as well as other, options available to you. Meeting with an attorney for an hour is worth the cost and can save you a lot of hassle in the future.

Licensure

Make sure you are licensed in every state (or jurisdiction) that you are providing services. Many states require local licensure just to offer to provide architectural services. Be sure to review the specific requirements for each state prior to offering or providing services for clients or projects. Some states will also require your corporation be registered with the local Architecture Board and have a separate corporate seal and number than your personal architecture seal. Create a method for Continuing Education requirements and tracking for yourself and any other professional architects in your firm.

Insurance

There is a lot to cover when it comes to insurance… there’s Professional Liability Insurance, Errors and Omissions, General Liability Insurance, Property/Casualty, Workers Compensation, etc. Certain clients and projects will mandate what type and amounts of insurance you should carry. It’s best to find a reputable insurance broker and discuss your options with them.

Professional Relationships

Make sure to develop and maintain key relationships to assist you and your firm, i.e. banker, lawyer, finance and tax accountants, insurance brokers, vendors, engineering consultants, code officials, architects…

Startup Capital

Many firms start out as Sole Proprietors working out of their home and ‘bootstrapping’ it with little to no startup capital. Modative’s post, How to Start an Architecture Firm – Introduction, is a good read for how to start a firm via bootstrapping. However, if your goal is to start out a little ‘bigger,’ there’s more to consider. New firms rarely begin collecting revenue on day one, you should secure a source of funds required to cover your operating expenses in the time period between opening and receiving regular revenue to cover operating costs. Collection periods can vary significantly be sure your contract states your collection period. If you plan on starting ‘bigger,’ typically three to six months of operating expenses are needed prior to starting. Operating capital can come from many sources; personal funds, outside investors, personal credit, bank loan, SBA loan, etc.

    1. Establish your operating budget to determine your cash need
      1. Rent
      2. Space/building improvements
      3. Furniture
      4. Computer hardware
      5. Computer software
      6. Utilities, phone, internet, insurance, salaries, travel, etc.
      7. Marketing
      8. etc., etc., etc…..

Developing your Business

How are you going to market your services? How are you going to sell your services? How will you follow up with potential clients? Where will you ‘find’ clients? These all need to be answered if you want a chance at succeeding. Most architects starting out need to use work done while employed at a prior firm to market themselves. When doing so, be sure you have the firms consent, credit them as appropriate, and be honest with your particular responsibilities on that particular project. You’ll also need to continually develop your business and maintain the following:

    1. Marketing materials
    2. Identify potential clients and projects
    3. Website creation and maintenance
    4. Social media strategies (blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, etc.)

Handshake

Production Management

How are you going to execute your work? Numerous means/methods are required to complete a project, typically one individual does not possess all these skills. This is a positive to a partnership- one partner has a particular skill set that the other does not, together they complement each other’s skills. You’ll ned to develop a method for:

    1. Design
    2. Construction documenting
    3. Project management
    4. Construction administration
    5. Computer systems maintenance
    6. Printing
    7. Contract Management
    8. Fee proposals

Business Management

How are you going to deal with financial and accounting matters? Unless you’re on your own, its best to engage the services of a bookkeeper/tax accountant. They can provide you valuable advice on the financials of your firm as well as strategies to grow.

    1. Invoicing
    2. Financial statements
    3. Taxes
    4. Payroll and withholding

Fees and Services

How are you going to determine fees for your services? You should not be competing on the basis of price alone. However, one advantage of start-up/sole proprietor is that you will typically have a low overhead compared to larger established firms. However, position your firm relative to the competition such that you have a unique characteristic or advantage to sway clients to engage your services, it should not be because your fees are the lowest. If you compete on the basis of fees you’ll end up in bidding wars which will result in lower profit margins, which will ruin your firm quickly as you’ll always be trying to ‘make it up’ on the next project. When establishing your fees you need to know your actual Costs for delivering the services (salaries, overhead, etc.), your Selling point, or Price that will allow you to make a profit without compromising your services… read that last part again… “profit without compromising your services.” You should always strive for that.

Ready?

Based on the above information you should feel a bit more confident starting a firm with a plan in place. Keep in mind, it’s a loose plan that will evolve and change as the firm does, but it’s a plan none the less. Further great advice can be found on the Entrepreneur Architect web site by Mark LePage. site Above all it should be fun running/ owning your own firm. It’s hard work, sometimes frustrating work. You’ll rise and fall but you get credit for both, which is exciting! If you’re not having fun you should re-consider if running/owning your own firm is really what you wish to do.

I’ll close with one last key piece of advice, learn to know when you don’t know and ask for advice. So what tips/ advice do you have for starting and running your own firm, post them up in the comments below!

 

Design Business On,

** I’ll say it again, learn to know when you don’t know and ask for advice.