By John Reddick
When I was 10 years old, I would walk to my neighborhood elementary school with my older sisters and younger brother. Each morning we would wave to our Uncle Martin as he slowly and carefully drove to work in the opposite direction. Later, on most days, long after returning home from school, our homework complete, the dinner dishes washed and dried, and exhausted followi
ng an hour or two of play in the back yard, we would inevitably gather on our front porch and watch the cars drive by as the sun descended at the end of a long day. It was only then that we would see Uncle Martin slowly and carefully driving home from work often 12 hours after we had seen him earlier in the day.
I remember thinking to myself – where does he work? What does he do all day?
Years later, after Uncle Martin had passed away, I learned that he was a senior draftsman for a local well known Architectural Firm. This year I mark my 25th Anniversary working at that same firm, doing the same basic tasks, I hope with the same commitment and diligence.
According to a few sources there are approximately 100,000 architects in the United States. Some are world famous. Most, like me, live in relative obscurity. The majority of architects practicing today work long hours attempting to solve their client’s problems with a sincere respect for schedule and budget. Gathering, formatting, and communicating information is a large part of the day.
Drawing and sketching, for most architects, is the enjoyable part, but with the integration of computer systems, like most professions today, the old stereotype of an architect sitting at a drafting table manipulating a triangle, compass, and parallel rule, are long gone. Despite the loss of those classic tools architecture has remained, at its heart, a craft that requires above all time and diligence. Architecture is known as an “old man’s profession” because it takes so long to master. The basic concepts may form in one’s mind at a young age, are nurtured and formalized in school, but are not truly understood until practiced for many years and have experienced many battles.
I am a strong believer in process. If an effective process can be put in place and everyone on the team (owner, architect, engineer, consultant, reviewer, and contractor) do their part, errors and omissions will be minimized and time and money will be saved. A tried and true process is routinely followed in most successful businesses.
My experience has shown that a project has the best chance of success if the goals and aspirations are clearly established even before the design process begins. There are tremendous advantages to be gained by sitting down early in an attempt to identify the real issues before a budget or schedule is established, a drawing is made, or a hammer drives the first nail. If you want to get the most out of your architect and construction team find a tablet and write down:
- Your goals and aspirations.
- Your limitations (time, place, money, appearance).
- Your ideas on how to achieve those goals and aspirations.
This becomes the strategic plan. To save time and money the strategic plan must be clear and consistent. The next step is to work hard not to be in a hurry, cut corners, or change your mind. Allow the design process to work to your advantage. If the strategic plan changes, once the design process begins, the change will cost both time and money.
To manage an efficient construction project, one that achieves the goals and aspirations, remains on schedule and within budget, the decision-making group needs to be careful, and take the time to consider the appropriate issues when the least amount of dollars and time are at risk. The old adage, “Haste makes waste” was true years ago and is still true even in the fast-paced world we live in today.
If my Uncle Martin were here, I’m sure he would agree.
John Reddick is a registered architect at Stantec. John walks to work each day at the Butler, Pennsylvania Office and can be reached at [email protected]