The Way Out is the Way Through

Happy architects are all alike; every unhappy architect is unhappy in his own way.

–          with apologies to Leo Tolstoy and Anna Karenina

Architects complain that contractors and owners are positioned to benefit from utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) but that architects are not.

It is clear that owners and contractors benefit from BIM and IPD. That there are fewer RFIs because the technology detects clashes before they occur in the field alone should be reason enough to convince owners and contractors that it is to their benefit to work collaboratively in BIM. But there is more – cost estimating done in advance, value engineering on the fly – the list of benefits seems to get longer every day. So who wins?

The owner wins. And to a lesser extent the contractor wins as well.

What about the architect?

No so much.

Architects complain that they have to do a lot more work up front, often hourly at-cost – and do work that they normally would do later in the process, and get generously compensated for.

So what are architects in it for? What do architects hope to gain by going down the BIM and IPD path?

Who benefits?

We were warned at the outset that none of us would get rich (nor become Frank Lloyd Wright.)

We went into architecture originally to be professionals – and somewhere along the way we were wooed by the prospect of making money. Yes, we need to survive and not be victimized, take-on needless responsibility and risk without opportunity for reward or recompense.

But the truth is if we work hard and do a good job it will be recognized – perhaps not on this project but the next.

We are motivated to do a good job – not by extrinsic rewards but rather by the promise of rewards more intrinsic.

But then the money’s doled out and we cry foul: the contractor and owner see all the benefit.

First we must realize that this is not true. We always did more work than we were compensated for. Today, with BIM, LEED and IPD, is no exception.

To empower ourselves – right now, at this moment in time – we need to do the work, earlier in the process, upfront, and yes maybe more of it than we’d like.

What’s the value proposition? We ask, despite the fact that if we were honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that the words – “value proposition” – weren’t even in our vocabulary a few years ago.

The value – and benefit – will come. It will come when

1. We first value ourselves and our own contribution and our own people. If you don’t value yourself and your people how can you expect others to?

2. Do the hard necessary work. Communicate with the contractor – what is needed for their model to be worthy, useful? Talk to your attorney and insurer – identify where they are willing to give a bit – and take it.

3. Be the ultimate professional you are capable of being. Be fun to work with – yes, fun. Be someone others want to work with. They will come to you again as much for the experience as for the sheer joy you create in others.

4. Identify the things you can leverage – your permitting ability, your political connections or clout, your experience and insights.

So for now, you may not get rich like the contractor or like the owner, but…do it anyway.

“80 percent of success is just showing up” — Woody Allen

Do it anyway? That’s right.

But what’s in it for us architects?

1. You’ll stay in the game.

2. You’ll be the first others think of when things pick up.

3. You’ll gain valuable experience working with BIM and related technologies and the collaborative work processes enabled by them.

4. Perhaps most of all, you’ll be perceived as being easy to work with.

So in the meantime – no matter the answer – do it anyway.

While the answer is being worked out – you’ll be at the game, at the show. It will go a long way to prove yourself a team player. And that in itself, in this economy, in these crazy times, is something, not nothing.

That you’re in it for more than obvious financial gain will become apparent to all and appreciated by a few.

For now, for the time being, do it anyway.

Balky Architects

But they won’t praise us.

Do it anyway

The extra effort won’t be appreciated.

Do it anyway

It’ll just give us additional exposure we don’t need.

Do it anyway

It’s not our responsibility.

Do it anyway

They say they’ll just use another firm if we balk.

Do it anyway

They say we won’t get any more money because we should have been doing this all along.

Do it anyway

The Way Out for Architects is the Way Through

As much as you might like to, you just can’t avoid it. You can’t resist it. No, you can’t sit this dance out. You have to go through with it. You have to play to win. And if you play nicely, with a good attitude and a positive mindset from the outset – all the better.

The way out is the way through. There is no other way.

Not around. Not under. Not by standing still until 9you hope) it goes away.

There are no workarounds for architects in the Game of BIM, LEED and IPD.

You have to show to play. And you have to play to win.

Being obstinate won’t work. Blocking, playing hard to get, holding back, balking, withdrawing, thwarting, resisting or retreating – none of this behavior will work. There is only one thing that will work right now, today.

Give Unconditional Architecture

Author Kent M. Keith was a Harvard student in the 60s when he first wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments,” a manifesto about doing good in a crazy, ungrateful world. These commandments have been quoted by the Boy Scouts of America and discovered in Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta. They’ve taken on a life of their own and are the basis of his repackaged and expanded book Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World available for a penny, .01 cent, here.

What architects need most to do is to do the right thing.

Architects need to do good, right now, in a crazy, ungrateful world.

The Architect’s Paradoxical Commandments

1. People you work with and for are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered.

Serve them anyway.

2. If you do good, contractors will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

4. The good you did yesterday will be resented today and forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you appear weak and vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest architects with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest clients with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be shelved or even destroyed overnight.

Design and build anyway.

9. The public and users really need help but may attack you if you try to help them.

Help them anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

– with apologies to Kent M. Keith

Until there is a clear advantage for architects – Do It Anyway

I was talking with a colleague the other day – she has been looking for work for some time and said that the basic attitude out there in the job-hunt warzone is:

“No BIM, no LEED, no interview”

Imagine a sign on the office door that reads:

No BIM

No LEED

No interview

You may not have a shirt on your back – and your shoes may be in ill-repair – but you can have these. BIM , LEED and IPD – or BIM and Integrated Design, for short.

You know the sign that reads: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service?”

BIM is the shirt on our backs.

LEED and IPD each of our shoes.

We’re not too far off from being turned away from RFQs and RFPs and, yes, from interviews:

No BIM

No LEED

No interview

There are a lot of reasons to learn BIM. And a lot of reasons to study and take the LEED exam.

Not fall behind, to remain competitive, to stay sharp, to help our clients achieve their goals,to help make the world a better place for all (need I continue?)

I have in my time been accused of being an architect. And, by association, idealistic.

I suggested the other day to a colleague in my network that there was a dollar amount above which was unnecessary for me to make to be satisfied, fulfilled and happy. And that person called me an idealistic architect.

And in doing so he was being redundant. Idealistic defined here as foolhardy, unrealistic and lacking any business sense.

And architect?

Doesn’t pay what I’m worth? I don’t care – I do it anyway.

There are lots of reasons NOT to do these things

No time

No money

No motivation

Helpless

Pointless

Too many people out there competing for the same positions

There are no jobs…

All excuses

No time?

Do it anyway

No money?

Do it anyway

No motivation?

Do it anyway (the most important writing advice I have ever been given? 3 words: Butt in seat)

Feel helpless? You are not your feelings. The feeling will pass.

Do it anyway

What’s the point?

Do it anyway

Too many people out there competing for the same positions.

Do it anyway

There are no jobs!

Do it anyway

You get the point…Do it anyway

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3 Comments

Filed under BIM, BIM employment, BIM jobs, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, Uncategorized

3 responses to “The Way Out is the Way Through

  1. There absolutely are financial benefits to the architect.

    1. IPD makes it impossible to lose money on an unsuccessful job. Worst case scenerio finds you losing your PROFIT, but you always get paid direct costs (which include overhead). There are many architects who actually have lost money on jobs.

    2. With owner intimately involved in daily decisions and contractor equally at risk for uncoordinated documents, there will be much less pressure to send the project to permit before it’s finished. Architects burn up a lot of their fee fixing uncoordinated docs during construction, which is unprofitable.

    3. Most contracts require the architect to do Value Engineering for free if the design busts the budget at the end of each phase. It almost always does, at which time we give away our time for free because we didn’t have adequate cost information all along. This would be eliminated through IPD.

  2. Chris Hubbard

    I agree with your comments except for the fact that architects are REQUIRED to do more work for less money with BIM and IPD. We are actually experiencing less work for the same bee by using BIM. Yes there is a learning curve and some lost productivity with the adoption. But using a true BIM process with or without IPD should produce more and better results for the same amount of effort with the CAD process.
    We would spend hours checking notes for consistancy. No more
    We would spend hours tagging walls and checking that they matched the wall sheet and hope no one got some great idea to renumber.
    Same with rooms, doors and many other mundane tasks that the software and process has taken off our plate.
    This allows for more design time QC (of the design not the documents) and time for energy analysis code analysis and other items that help us do our job better faster and cheaper. (Well not cheaper, but certainly not more expensive)

    We are now working on projects with 1-3 people that before took 3-5 people. Huge savings there and it allows a small firm to bid and complete large projects.

    Dont pander to the whiney architects who don’t understand this process. They will cease to exist in a few years and those of us who understand and embrace new process and technology will have all of their work to complete.

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