Life in General

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.



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



Design On,






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.

The New Year always brings with it resolutions, goals, renewed passions, reflections, and resumes… lots of resumes inquiring about employment. I try to respond to every inquiry I can- sorry to those I haven’t. This year has been no different. However, lately the resumes I’ve been receiving have a reoccurring ‘theme,’ one which is quite disturbing. Inquiries such as this:

“I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m just looking to gain experience, I’m willing to work for no compensation”


 “My employment proposal would consist of me actually working in your office without being paid. I know that sounds crazy, but I think your firm and I could benefit greatly.”

Yes, it is crazy. No, neither I nor you will benefit. Unless you’re independently wealthy or all your bills are allowed to be paid via Monopoly money… wait… no. Under no circumstances should you work for no payment (pro bono work is a different post). The message you’re sending is that you don’t value your skills/experience and that they’re of no value to someone else. If you have no value, you’re of no benefit to me. If you’re just looking to gain experience by not being paid, you’re on the path to a bad experience. You may as well state “I want you to teach me for free so some other firm can benefit.” You’ll leave as soon as a firm offers to pay you. Benefit to me, I don’t think so.

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There is no benefit to me. If I’m not paying you what obligations do you have to me for valuing your work? What incentive do I have to teach you anything, I’m not investing in you or your skill set. You have no obligations to me. If you’re not compensated for work you do, what does that say about how you value yourself? Why would you ever work for free? What’s in it for you? An employer who allows you to work for no compensation is not invested in you, they’re using you. I don’t see any benefit for you. I don’t care how much experience you think you’ll gain, don’t do it. Do you really want experience from an employer who doesn’t value you? The answer is no. You want a firm that is willing to invest in you. When you invest a return is expected, a return with interest- interest in you.

It’s still a tough economy for the AEC profession, however, if you can’t find employment use your time to enhance your marketability. Learn new software, brush up on current building codes, enhance your knowledge of software you already know, etc. Follow firms you like via social media- join in the conversations, express interest in their work, and ask questions. If you’ve been out of work, what have you been doing and figure out how to take those experiences and market them as a valuable asset. Have you started a blog, learned a new skill, have a new hobby, etc. Market your skills and experiences as valuable, and to their fullest extent. Because honestly, the inquiry’s I receive about working for free don’t get considered by me. You don’t value yourself so what value should I have for you, harsh, but it’s true. Get out there and sell yourself, and by sell I mean you expect to be paid to play.


Design On,

** No, I’m not hiring… but hope to soon.

A few weeks ago I dropped blinds off for repair. The ‘ladders’- strings that operate the blinds- had broken on one side and needed to be re-strung. It would have been cheaper to buy new blinds than repair. However, the blinds have a bit of age, are for a French door (odd size), and needed to match adjacent blinds. I thought about repairing them myself, but I didn’t want to deal with the aggravation. So I fired up the old interweb machine and searched for a blind repair company- not as easy to find as one would think, there aren’t many.


*Note to self, apply to be on Shark Tank with a blind repair company… I’m seeking $327.00 for 21% equity- “Yes, that’s correct I value the company at $1,557.14” Mark Cuban would be all up in that biz!

I found a window treatment shop within a few miles of my house. I removed the blinds and went to the shop. I spoke with the owner/salesperson/repair person, after she inspected the blinds she told me they’d be repaired and ready tomorrow- it was Monday. “I’ll call tomorrow morning to inform you when
they’re done and what time to pick them up.” I thought great, that was easy.

Tuesday came and went and I had forgotten about the blinds. Wednesday came. Wednesday afternoon came. Late Wednesday afternoon came. Nothing, no phone call. I called early evening and I’m informed that she was extremely busy and didn’t get to them. “I’ll do it first thing Thursday morning.” I thought, no big deal, things happen.

Thursday afternoon I call, nope didn’t get to it. First thing Friday morning, for sure they’ll be done. Friday afternoon I call, goes straight to voicemail, I leave a message. Late Friday afternoon I get a call, I’m told the blinds are done; I can pick them up anytime… really any time, how about this past Tuesday.

The blinds weren’t as important as it sounds. In fact, I could’ve done without the blinds for a few weeks- although my neighbors may disagree. However, I was given a commitment that wasn’t followed through with.

It’s a simple trait, and one to strive for in both your personal and professional life- do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. It conveys commitment and trust- traits I want to be known for, both personally and professionally. In addition, I want to interact with people who feel and do the same, you should as well.


Design On,

** The initial title of this post was The Blind Side, but Sandra wasn’t having that… So then I changed it to Blind Melon, however, that seemed a disservice to Mr. Hoon.

1976… 0630 hours… Outpost Sidecut… Christmas morning………

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I’m the first up, my three brothers are still asleep. I make my way to the Dutch-door that guards the descent. Creeping down the stairs, my hand has a tight grasp on the hand hewn oak railing. I must hold firmly and lightly jump-skip the next tread, it’s the one that creaks. Kneeling down to peer below the ceiling I see the glowing fire of orange, blue, red, yellow, and the suffering wood, crackling and popping is a comforting sound- someone beat me to it and is already up. I stay frozen in my spot, fighting the heat of the fireplace as it radiates across the room and through my body.

I make my way down to the first floor. Directly ahead of me is a step down to the entry foyer and in sight is the bathroom door- thankfully it’s ajar and I can see via the mirror reflection down the hall that my father’s room door is still shut. I make a U-turn and enter the living room. I look down into the kitchen, lights off. I turn left and look through the glass doors to the dining room, still set from the night before for dinner today. Glancing up and to the right, I confirm no one else is wake upstairs yet. Looking back to the left is the tree, freshly cut a week prior from the woods. Suddenly a faint rustle is heard, I quickly dash across the living room and into the kitchen. The reddish colored linoleum floor in the kitchen is cold on the feet, I dive under the table. Ten minutes pass, it must have been the cat. Getting up from the floor I look out the bank of windows spanning the rear of the house in the breakfast area. I look out across the back yard towards the horse barn and my father’s woodshop… Yes! The field is pure white, it snowed last night!

Making my way back to the living room to investigate what’s under the tree, another noise! This time I crawl behind the chair that is in the alcove to the left of the fireplace. The mantle clock is ticking as if it’s a bomb about to detonate and it seems to be synced to the beating of my chest. I’ve got good cover, behind the chair and above me low shelf’s displaying my dad’s stein collection… I’m one with the darkness. I peak under the chair and I see it, the box that’s about the right size, can it be? I see my name on it and I’m hoping it’s… I begin making my way to the box under the tree.

Half way between the chair and the tree I hear my dad getting up, not good. We were to stay in bed until he was up. Not enough  time to make it up the stairs without being spotted, I know what needs to happen next. I run and jump down the step into the foyer. The door to my dad’s room is to the left and starting to open. Maintaining momentum I continue straight into the bathroom, where my dad is headed… I keep going because the door on the other end of the bathroom opens into a small office, taking a left I run into the playroom, my dad’s now shutting the door to the bathroom. I take another left and run towards the entry to the playroom, hang a left, a right, jump up one step and I’m now on the stairs back up to my bedroom, whew made it! Just as I turn into my bedroom, I see my dad in the middle of the room with a big grin on his face asking me why I’m making so much noise creeping around the house, busted on Christmas morning!


My childhood home holds great memories for me. At the time I was unaware of the gift our home gave- it served as a frame of reference for our daily life which in turn became our memories. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve lived in the house, but my memories are fresh because I have the house as a reference that enhances my memories recollection- textures, sights, sounds, smells, all contained within a house, a home… architecture.


Design On,

** yes, that really is the house I grew up in, it had a few more additions on it prior to my living there  

A few weeks ago I posted Crickets; it addressed my frustration with potential clients being unresponsive. However, I just can’t let it rest. As an architect I’m always looking to solve the problem at hand and make my client’s responsibilities as easy and efficient as possible. As such, I’ve created a [un]Response Form that can be left with potential clients to review and choose their response. I’ll even go so far as to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the [un]Response Form. Hopefully, this will elicit a few more responses. I present the latest in my library of forms:




Download a PDF for your own use ->[un]Response Form


Design On,

** the form is provided free of charge, and you assume all liability and comical consequences- however, at any point in the future I can decide to charge $79.99 for a one time use of the form… enjoy! 

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Yesterday I was informed of two of things:

1. A residential renovation/addition project I interviewed for was not going to be- the potential client selected another firm.

2. The Schematic Design of a new custom residential house will stay just that, schematic design- the clients will possibly build in the future.

Not the information an architect wants to receive. However, before you start feeling sorry for me and sending pies, mountain dew, and skittles to cheer me up, know this- I’m okay with the news. My clients and potential clients informed me of their decision. While I’m not excited about it, they had the decency to inform me of such. I respect the fact that these clients/ potential clients trusted me and were comfortable having open honest communication. However, that’s not always the case.

As an architect I am constantly marketing and providing information in hopes of securing clients. Several times a week I receive emails like these:


We stumbled across your site on the Internet and hope to speak with you in detail about our farmhouse renovation project. My contact is 123-456-7891 and my husband, ‘Male Potential Client’, can be reached at 123-456-9876.


Thank you,

‘Female Potential Client’

Sent from my iPad”

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 “I sent you a quick note via Houzz earlier today and we are interested in talking to you about our project.

I am looking for an architect to design a ‘garage’ attached or adjacent to our house. This garage will have some features of a ‘man cave’ including an area devoted to a ‘gumball arcade’. We would like to invite you to come to our property and look at the possibilities and discuss your ideas and fees for creating a drawing for us. Home is farmhouse style on 14 acres.  

 ‘Male & Female Potential Client’

Cell:  123-456-1234”


I respond to such inquires with a few questions to get the conversation started. I forward a Residential Design Guidebook that I have developed over the years- it’s a 20 page book outlining the process of working with an architect and the phases involved. I provide project cut sheets that are in sync with the client’s vision for the project. I research property tax records, applicable codes, and zoning requirements. In total this accounts for about 1-2 hours of my time, I consider it due diligence and it affords me the ability to talk realistically about the potential project. I keep the dialogue going via email and/or phone. If all goes well I meet the client, discuss the project, propose a fee/agreement, client is agreeable and we have a new client and new project… * air high fives and pistol gestures* whoo hoo! Sometimes clients say no. For a good read on when clients say no, see Lee Calisti’s post on think | architect when they say no.  However, my issue is when there is no response. What causes a potential client to be unresponsive? Nothing, nada, zip, the sound of chirping at dusk. Calls stop being returned, emails unanswered, no response.

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As a potential client, typically you initiate the conversation and request some sort of information. I am more than happy to respond and provide you with information to help you make an informed decision, but please let me know your decision. I don’t spend an enormous amount of time during the initial conversations or creating the information I provide. However, I do spend enough time that warrants a response. As an architect I deal with bad news regularly, it’s part of the profession and I can handle it. No news, well that just drives me crazy!

Is this just me venting due to losing some projects this week? Possibly. However, I’ve thought about this frequently, it’s an issue of common decency. When you are provided with information the least you can do is respond, even if it’s a no, just say “thanks, but I’m not interested.” I respected you by offering a bit of my time and expertise, afford me the same. Inform me, good or bad, such that I can focus my energies accordingly. As a potential client, you should know that it’s okay to say “no” to an architect- we don’t like it, but we can accept it and move on… on second thought, just say yes to your architect, it’ll make things easier for both of us!


Design On,

** cricket photo from Paul Albertella’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)  

A lot of other professions use the term ‘Architect,’ for many it’s blasphemy. Me, I’m going to start pilfering other professions titles and terminology and get in the game… as the kids say, “Don’t hate the playa, hate da game!” They still say that, right… right?

















On second thought, one of these may not work so well. Have any to add? Put them in the comments section below. If I get enough I’ll make up some more graphics!


Design On,




Keith Palma, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, JD, IT Specialist, PHD, CPA, Sc. D.


All photos are from Matthew Burpee’s photostream on FLICKR and have been used under the creative commons license.

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

Henry Ford is credited with saying “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.” I think Henry was wrong, I mean really ‘bunk?’ That’s a harsh word. I accept my own challenge and shall disprove Henry by providing images from Architectvral Graphic Standards, Third Edition, published 1946. These images clearly show history is indeed not bunk:


“Trust me; the trunk needs to be this high to stuff the remainder of the torso in.”



Proper clearances required to wave your arms up in the air like you just don’t care.



Vertical dimension required for a bar crawl. Also applies to dropping to knees with chest pains



“One permit please… seriously Mr. Plan Reviewer? You have no idea what the intent of the code is, do you?” This diagram is a good example of how if you piss off the plan reviewer he/she will stand up…and then walk away.



Sadly, the Macarena has been around much longer than anyone cares to admit.



Diagram indicating the rigidity of an Enginneer



Diagram indicating the initial client-architect meeting. White outline portrays clients retraction after architect discusses that he wants to actually be compensated. (client on L architect on R).



Excellent diagram of the Architect-AIA relationship.


See what I did there with the title? Pretty clever. Okay, maybe Henry was right.


Design On,

** Bar crawl graphic assumes an average male of average height with average beer tastes.

Holy cow! It’s been over a month since my last new post. I have caught myself in the midst of another self-imposed social media disconnect. As a sole-proprietor it’s tough trying to balance work, family life, continuing education, marketing, social media, etc. Social media is typically the first thing to go when my work and/or life get busy. I don’t know how some of my colleagues continually post new content and be active on social media on a daily basis. Not me, I can’t do it. Let me re-phrase, I don’t want to do it.

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I often find myself disconnecting from the daily use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Houzz, LinkedIn, etc. The disconnect typically lasts for a week… or two… or a month. It’s usually initiated by work, vacation, family, etc. I’ll admit that the first few days are tough. I wonder:

“What’s ‘this guy’ up to?”
“What’s ‘that guy’ up to?”
“Am I trending on Twitter?”
“Has Twitter forgotten about me?”
“What does it mean to trend on Twitter?”
“Does this post make me look fat?”
“If I ask my followers for $1.00 I can continue my AIA membership… that’s what Kickstarter does.”
“I wonder what architecture is doing today?”
“Will I miss the coolest cat picture ever?”
“I do have a lot of the ‘answers’ to architecture… should I share them?”
“Maybe I’ll start hand-penning blog entries and mailing them to my followers, that would get me trending for sure!”
“Should I post cat pictures?”
“Will my blog dry up and blow away without weekly posts?”
“Will the interweb catch-on to me and demand money back for my waste of bandwidth?”

As days pass, stress dissipates- no trying to keep up, no capturing the perfect photo or pen the perfect tweet, post, status update, etc. Things turn out okay and I survive. Well in reality I thrive. I reconnect with what it’s like to live in the moment and actually interact, face-to-face, with real people. I don’t question our modern means of communication and social media, I think it’s a great tool and has truly made the WORLD more accessible for many. I just question our modern ‘need’ to be connected 24/7. I often wonder if I would be more active on social media if I worked for someone else or when my firm grows and I have ‘people.’ I don’t think I would. Maybe I would. No… I doubt I would. Do yourself a favor and take a social media break. Even if only for a day, trust me the interweb will still be here when you get back and things will be fine.

Why a month since my last post? Here’s a few things I’ve been up to:

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Bath Sketch

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There’s always talk of a life-work balance and how best to obtain. The older I get the more I realize I don’t want a life-work balance- I want my life to outweigh all other that I do. My family and personal relationships are far more important to me and I want the scale to tip in their favor. I am an architect, but architecture is not my life. My family is my life. Although, yesterday my daughter said “Dad, can you design a modern house for us to live in, I’d like maple floors and lots of glass.” So maybe only slightly off-balance.

“I trace the cord back to the wall
No wonder it was never plugged in at all”– De Longe, Tom/Hoppus, Mark


Design On,

** Disconnect and go do something else… seriously, go do it! The interweb will still be here.

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Last summer, my than 8 year old daughter, had outgrown her first bike and it was time for a ‘real’ bike. We purchased her a new bike- no training wheels, no wicker basket, no white tires, and lever handbrakes. My wife and I attempted to teach her how to ride.

A brief sidebar- my wife and I are both avid cyclists. The misses a roadie myself a mountain biker. The Tour de France is a big deal in our house; our schedules revolve around the races. My wife races sprint tri’s, marathons, bike races, etc. In addition to my mountain biking I also dirt bike- basically ‘activity’ is part of our lives and being on two-wheels is a big part of the activities.

Every weekend we were at the neighborhood field holding on to her or the bike and running behind, beside, in front, wherever. She was easily distracted by squirrels, friends, copperhead snake (okay I’ll give her that one), birds, etc. She wasn’t getting it or just wasn’t interested; I believe it was a lack of interest. I tried sweetening the pot by informing her once she was riding proficiently I’d be able to send her to home depot, the beer ice cream shop to get me stuff. She was having none of it. Summer came and went. The bike sat in the garage. Life moved on, months passed.

Yesterday, after finishing up some yard and house work, I was sitting outside relaxing while my daughter was riding her scooter up and down the sidewalk. My wife came home after a bike ride, showered, and joined us outside on the beautiful North Carolina spring day. My daughter than decided she’s had enough of the scooter and puts it away. She walks over to her bike, kicks up the stand and holds the bike with one hand as it leans away from her. She visually looks over the bike from front to back and back to front again. She swings her leg over and sits down. A squeeze of the front and rear brake and she’s assured of something. This was all of about one minute. My wife and I are watching but not saying a word. My daughter then looks over at us and says “I’m going to teach myself to ride a bike.”

The next fifteen minutes were spent with her figuring out her balance by ‘riding’ from one end of the garage to the other. Then it was down the grass for the next five minutes. After that she was riding up the sidewalk to the stop sign and back. Thirty minutes in, she rides up the drive way and states “Come on dad, get your bike so I can beat you around the circle!” Lap one around the circle wasn’t even close, she beat me. Lap two, she beat me and my wife. Lap three, she went undefeated. My wife and I are extremely proud and amazed that within thirty minutes she taught herself to ride the bike- it was one of those parent moments that make you realize what’s really important. We pried her off the bike, ate dinner, read some books, and soon she was fast asleep for the night.

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Later in the evening I started thinking about the day’s event. I firmly believe that last summer my wife and I provided the framework to our daughter as to how to ride a bike. Even though she wasn’t interested at the time, she was listening. I believe business sometimes follows a similar path. Over the past few years I’ve talked to whoever would listen about what I do as an architect and what value I bring to a project. Work was slow to non-existent. However, I knew I had done the right things to pursue projects. At the end of 2012 I was mentally exhausted.

January 2013 started and I shifted focus to other things that had been put to the side or blatantly ignored- yeah, yeah, I know… with any luck I’ll finally re-do the web site this year! However, before I knew it I had two substantial projects with executed agreements- a significant residential renovation/addition and a new custom single family home. In addition, I’ve talked to four potential clients about residential projects and another about a tenant up-fit. I firmly believe this has come about because I laid the framework and just finally stepped back to let things happen. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not advocating a complete hands off approach to business. However, much like life, I’m starting to realize that even in business, sometimes one need not try so hard and trust that things will work out. For that epiphany, I have my daughter and her business with the bicycle to thank.

2013-04-16_blog_image_bicycle business hot rod(prior to falling asleep, she informed me this will be her next bike… she has taste and style)

Cheers + happy cycling!


Design On,

** Turn your device off and go ride a bike… seriously, do it!