Project Negotiations

  • 02 March, 2021

If you are like me, your college experience included little (if any) preparation for the wide range of communication types that are common in the practice of architecture. Among the most challenging types of communication are negotiations. As an architect, you are negotiating nearly every day with clients, contractors, consultants, and jurisdictions (to name just a few). Reaching a mutually agreeable position with someone through the course of an architectural project can be difficult, but below are some tips to help you navigate the process.

Know that negotiating is not for everybody:

· Reflect on your own communications style and preferences.
· Try to measure your confidence level.
· Do you find negotiating difficult?
It may be better to defer to another team member to negotiate certain things that may come-up on projects, and there is nothing wrong with that.
· Knowing your own strengths as well as being aware of your challenges will help you make the right decision to negotiate or to delegate the negotiation.

Do your research:

· How much do you know and understand about the issue to be negotiated?
· Is there a history of something similar previously occurring in your firm?
· Is there a known history with the other party (client, contractor, consultant, jurisdictional official, etc.)?
· Conduct a review of the issue against the industry standard of care as needed.
· Conduct web research on the issue if appropriate.

Get to know the people involved and what motivates them:

· Does your firm (or do you) have a history with the person on the other side of the issue being negotiated?
· What position does the person representing the opposite side of the negotiations with you have within their respective company?
· What authority do they have?
· Try to estimate their motivation to negotiate a certain outcome. Are they an owner just trying to get something “made right”? Are they trying save themselves money? Are they the owner, or owner’s rep?

Project Negotiations

Understand your leverage position:

Leverage in negotiations is the power that one side has to influence the other side to move closer to their negotiation position.

Examples of leverage: The client wants you to make a change in the design of a project that clearly falls outside the current scope of work, but they also have a serious deadline for completing the project (such as a critical move-in date). You could leverage the position that you won’t begin making the requested change until they process a modification to the contract. In this case, you may be leveraging them to process and approve additional fees associated with making the requested changes.

Understand the other party’s leverage position:

Here is an example working the other way, where the other party has (and is likely to use) leverage against you. The design team has proceeded with work on a project beyond the latest client approval at schematic design (i.e., you and the team are now well into the construction document phase of the project). The client hasn’t paid your invoices past the schematic design phase and has now put the project on hold. The client’s leverage is that the team has worked ahead of the schedule/approvals and the firm hasn’t been paid. The client may (and likely will) want to negotiate away some or all the design development fee earned/billed. Leverage advantage is clearly with the client in this case.

There certainly are more aspects to the negotiations process but starting by considering the above tips will help you develop (or refine) your own approach.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 10:10 AM

Why Smart People Fail the ARE?

  • 23 February, 2021

In my opinion, passing or failing the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) can happen to just about anybody. While the actual exam questions are intended to measure a candidate’s achievement through education and experience, how a “smart” a person performs on the exam is a completely different matter. To me, intelligence (being “smart”) is very broad and reflects more on a person’s ability to navigate the context of their environment through rational thoughts and actions.

The bottom line here is that yes, it is surely possible that smart people fail the ARE, and there could be several things tripping them up. In this blog, I will offer my perspective.

First, the ARE is part of a process that (when passed) leads to architectural licensure. Further, licensure itself has often been described as the demonstrating the minimum competency required to practice architecture. So, the content of the exam is concentrated on touching the aspects of the practice of architecture that are a sort of “baseline minimums”, or “core” aspects of the profession. This can be a little tricky to prepare for when you consider how broad the practice of architecture really is. To get a sense of what makes-up this baseline, I suggest reviewing AIA documents (contracts, instruments of service, etc.), reading through your State’s statutes regarding practice, and interviewing people who have recently took and passed the ARE. This might provide you with some idea of the boundary that makes up the core elements of practice and give you specific targets for concentrated study prior to taking the exam.

Why Smart People Fail the ARE?

Another thing to keep in mind is that the exam is timed. One might be very well prepared and very smart, but when you take the exam, you are working against the clock, and sometimes that can trip you up. As previously mentioned, with the idea that the ARE is focused on this minimum core baseline, you could give these areas most of your effort in terms of preparation. That may help you when the time is flying by during the exam. One tip I learned many years ago about timed exams is to first skim-read all the questions in the exam. Then note the ones that feel the most difficult and do them last. This will help you establish a pace and prevent you from investing too much time on a few questions and putting you far behind as you race through the remainder of the exam.

The last bit of advice I’ll share is about trying to avoid “over-thinking” things while taking the exam. As a personal example of this, I will share that I once was given a question in an oral exam to obtain reciprocity to practice architecture in another State. At that point in my career, I had a good decade of experience as a licensed architect, but I got tripped-up on a question by over-thinking it. The question was situational based and went something like: “You are an architect on a job site and you observe that the interior walls are being painted a color that the owner/client has told you he or she is wanting to change. What do you do?”. When I provided my response, it was very broad with statements made to accommodate many possible variables to the situation. I was over-thinking it. All the examiners were looking for was: “Inform the Owner/Client of my observation, but do not attempt to direct the contractor to stop work”. Again, this reflects consistency with the idea that the exams focus on issues that are core to the practice, and generally are not overly complex.

Hopefully my perspective will be of some use to you as you prepare for the ARE. Good luck!

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:30 AM

What Architectural Firms Look For?

  • 16 February, 2021

Over the years, I have been asked what characteristics architectural firms look for in new hires. In my experience, the answer to this question centers around three specific areas:

1. Fit with the firm brand (or culture). This one is very important. Firms have a distinctive (or unique) culture and identity that reflects who they are and how they go about the practice of architecture. Many variables factor into this including the type of work they do, the clients they serve, where the firm is located, the way the firm is structured, and how the firm operates. As an example, if engagement and collaboration are important parts of a firm’s culture, the people that they look to hire will be evaluated through this lens. Firms want to find new hires that will fit their existing culture, and help it grow positively. Sometimes this may mean that individual talent may not always be the top new hire evaluation criterion. Instead, how a new hire candidate can demonstrate an alignment with a firm’s identity becomes a key differentiator.

What Architectural Firms Look For

2. Depth of potential is another important criterion that firms look at when considering a new hire. It might not always be about the most talented “right now”, but instead the potential for developing the most talent over time. This will depend on several factors. On the firm side of this, do they have a strong professional development focus? Do they have a strong culture of mentoring? How clear are the pathways to advancement? Does the firm consciously look to eliminate barriers to career development and eventual promotion? Do they do so in a way that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion?

On the candidate side, do they demonstrate ambition? Are they highly organized and focused on ongoing learning and growth? Is becoming a registered architect part of the vision they have established for their career? How wide are a candidate’s interests? Often, too narrow of a focus can seem limiting, and even come-off as setting a boundary for potential. Candidates that can demonstrate a willingness to embrace a wider range of career development options, and the needed flexibility that goes with it might have good chance of succeeding at convincing the interviewers that they are loaded with potential.

3. The other important characteristic that firms look for centers around energy (drive, passion, and commitment). It’s one thing to obtain a great education and be poised to begin the process of developing your career in architecture. But is that enough? Firms want to see energy. Why? Because the profession is a complex one, full of challenges and a wide range of opportunities. Careers develop at different paces for people, but when a firm is looking to hire, they want to see that the person they are interviewing has the energy, drive, and passion to see them through the many climbs ahead. There will be difficulties navigating internship and registration. There will be unhappy clients, consultants, contractors, and coworkers. There will be projects that you invest a lot of yourself into only to have it go on hold, or worse. There will be errors and omissions in construction documents, and costly mistakes on projects under construction. But all of these can be managed and navigated more easily with energy, drive, and passion. These also help accelerate advancement and development in a career. Years in practice is only a partial measure of experience. It has been my observation that those with the energy, drive and passion get much more out of each year in the profession, which helps shorten the time between promotions.

In the end, firms look for people to add to their team that not only bring talent, but that also fit their culture, have a large upside potential, and who have the energy to thrive in the profession.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:12 AM

Studying for the ARE

  • 09 February, 2021

Studying for the ARE can be a bit daunting to consider. With the practice of architecture being so broad, where do you begin? In this blog, I offer some advice that has helped me over the years. While I took the ARE back in 1982, many of the things I did back then, and continue to do today for annual license renewals (in multiple States) and continuing education have been effective.

My first bit of advice is to look over the entire ARE in a general way. Learn about the individual sections and what each is comprised of. From this, establish an outline “schedule” for yourself. Identify a month to target to set each section of the exam and create a study plan for each section. Give yourself enough time to assemble the appropriate study materials, time to study, and enough time to test yourself with some quizzes. Treat this like any living project schedule and update it as things happen but post it somewhere where you see it to remind you of your goals.

Studying for the ARE

Next, do a deep dive into each ARE section to explore more thoroughly what material is covered. Then, begin to search for study materials. I have found that using a variety of resources for study materials can help you get a more comprehensive understanding of the content. Specifically, I started with my textbooks from college, especially for the topics of structural engineering and environmental control systems (MEP). Next, I suggest looking online at resources available with concentrated study materials for purchase. I recommend using the materials that are specific to each ARE section as a baseline study guide but augment it with a look back at the college textbooks as appropriate. For example, the study guides might cover the basics of calculating bending moments in beams, but a look back at your textbooks from college might have a bit more detail to help refresh your memory of basic problem-solving techniques. Another example might be how to perform simple calculations for rainwater runoff from a roof to help size a gutter or drain, but your college textbooks will likely have more detail, which can help you build the depth you will need to succeed to pass the exam.

My last bit of advice is to take advantage of the quizzes and “mock exams” that are often part of the ARE study materials available for purchase. When I was studying, I would not move on to another subject until I was consistently hitting 90% or higher on the quizzes. I also used the quizzes to help me develop my own version of “Cliff Notes” for each exam section. After successfully completing all quizzes for a given ARE section, I went back over the quizzes and extracted a condensed summary that I could review in the days before sitting for the exam. This process worked well for me, and I have repeated it many times for other professional certifications.

In summary, my advice above is to get organized, pace yourself, and dive-in hard. I tried to tell myself that it was like exercise and that it would make me a better architect no matter how I performed on the exam. With that attitude, I discovered that I enjoyed the study process, which made it a lot easier to invest my time.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:52 AM

Who Is the Client?

  • 02 February, 2021

Knowing who your client might seem like an easy question to answer. However, a lot of the time, the “client” is a group of people with varying roles and differing amounts of input and authority. In my experience, often the problems encountered on a project (i.e., general communications conflicts, non-payment, and even termination) can be linked to mis-understanding the make-up of the client, and perhaps looking for too much from the wrong person on the client side related to approvals and decisions. As an example, you might think you have a design decision or budget approval from the client, but you later learn that someone else on the client side (with more authority) has weighed-in and reversed the decision or nullified the approval. Meanwhile, you may have progressed with the project and now find yourself in a spot where you have completed work that will need to be revised.

Spending the time to research and diagram the full organizational structure of the client team will help you determine the complexity involved and navigate obtaining decisions and approvals successfully. To help you get started, following are broad categories of client types (private and public) as well as some common characteristics:

who is the client?

Private Clients:

  1. Large to Very Large Clients: This type of client often commissions projects that will be owner developed and occupied. These clients often have very large organizational structures with the ultimate leaders (such as top executives and Board of Directors) being far removed from the day-to-day activities. For the most part, VPs lead these projects from the client side with the company leaders setting larger “big picture directives”. Most project decisions and approvals are made at the VP level, but the leadership will want to be informed.
  2. Medium-Large Clients: These clients operate similarly to the Large companies above, but the executive leadership level (i.e., President and Board of Directors) will likely want to be kept informed regarding the progress of the project and occasionally engage in key decisions and approvals. Smaller day-to-day decisions and approvals mostly occur at the VP’s and PM level.
  3. Small Clients: These clients may only have a single building/facility, and a very “hands-on” leadership team. Even though they often have a “facilities manager” assigned as the client lead, the company owners will likely be involved directly in decision making.

Public Clients:

  1. Large urban jurisdictions with a Mayor and City Council that can (and often do) get involved even though the day-to-day coordination with the architect has been assigned to a PM or Facilities Director. In general, elected officials may be highly inconsistent in their decision making and support for the project, which can add a layer of additional complication.
  2. Medium-sized jurisdiction: These are smaller cities and towns where the majority of the decisions are left to the heads of the primary user group (i.e., a Police Chief in the example of a new police station project), but politically charged decisions, especially related to funding will need a City Council (and/or City Manager) approval, which can make things a little complex to navigate.
  3. Small jurisdiction: These are perhaps the least complicated of the public clients with a small team and hands-on leadership that make obtaining approvals and decisions less cumbersome.

The above are just some of the structures you may encounter with a project. But what they illustrate is that there are many shapes and sizes of clients with sometimes multiple parts with multiple agendas. Getting to know your client, specifically who is involved in decision making and why will be critical for project success.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:30 AM

Tell My Story

  • 12 January, 2021

Everyone has their own timeline for taking the AREs and, let me tell you, mine was LONG! When I started logging hours, NCARB’s program was IDP (Intern Development Program) - the precursor to the current AXP (Architectural Experience Program). With AXP, you can start earning hours quickly but that was not the case for IDP. For the later rendition of IDP, one had to be well into their accredited program to start counting hours towards sitting for the exams.

As an eager, budding architecture professional, I started working for a large, international firm right after my first year of architecture school. I had that lined up before I even started architecture school! I worked for this firm throughout my undergraduate years during summer and winter breaks. In my final year of architecture school, disaster struck the nation - 9/11. I attended school in central New York with family in New York City, so it hit particularly close to home. It also hit the building industry and finding employment as a new graduate was difficult. I moved home to Minneapolis where the economy was not as resilient and worked for a financial firm in order to make ends meet. I knew I wanted to go back to architecture and back East, so I applied to graduate programs. About a year after earning my B.Arch degree, I was back in New York to earn my M.Arch. During this time, I found employment and worked during school, accumulating more hours for my IDP.

Tell my story

The next fifteen years included academic positions right out of graduate school while concurrently working for firms across New York City, designing projects of all types and complexities both domestically and internationally. There were also a series of recessions, financial, and personal hardships. I had more than enough hours to sit for the exams but what I lacked was time and, oftentimes, funding.

I attempted the process and took my first exam in 2009. Fail. I was frustrated. I did not have the dedication and I was lost on content. In the meantime, though, I saw my friends get licensed and start their own firms. I felt that, even though I had the experience, I did not have that credential. I wanted that.

I moved an hour outside of NYC, but I still taught and worked in the city which killed my time even more. It was not until 2017 that I tried again in earnest - when I moved to California for a teaching position which afforded me more time. Although I continued to work on projects in New York, I had a minimal commute and the time pressure was less. I was still anxious, though, as I felt I did not have a good grasp on exam content - there was just so much! I took two exams and failed.

This is when I turned to online coaching. Having a schedule, a track, and defined content helped immensely. Although it still took a couple years, I passed all exams and can proudly call myself an Architect - after over a decade of the exam process.

Take it from me - persistence is key and licensure is attainable. It’s not out of reach. It just may take a while!

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:44 AM

Preferred Exam Division Order

  • 05 January, 2021

There are six exam divisions in the current format of the ARE (Architect Registration Exam): Practice Management, Project Management, Programming and Analysis, Project Planning and Design, Project Development and Documentation, and Construction and Evaluation.

There is a logical sequence in this order as it follows the path from getting licensed to developing a professional practice to planning and developing a building commission for construction and then, subsequently, completing and closing out the building project.

The exam divisions are always presented in this specific order in NCARB’s material and timeline tracking progress for completion. However, when taking the ARE, it is not necessary to take the division exams in the order in which they are listed. In fact, the division exams can be taken in any order. This sparks the question: what is the best order for taking all divisions of the ARE exam?

This is a major topic that garners a lot of opinion and attention from exam candidates on discussion boards and the like. The discussion boards serve as a great tool for exam candidates to share information and there are many testing strategies being passed around.

One common suggestion is to take the division exams with the highest pass rate first. Another is to take the ‘big ones’- Project Planning and Design and Project Development and Documentation - early and get them out of the way. Everyone has their process and success stories which vary from one individual to the next. Of course, I have my own opinion as well.

Preferred Exam Division Order

Personally, I think it is important not to forget the division sequence. Even though the division exams can be taken in any order, in my experience, I recognized why the divisions were developed in the order listed. Each division builds upon the last and content from one division exam may show up in subsequent division exams. In my opinion, the order does, for the most part, matter.

For this, I have two recommendations for the best order to take the division exams. The first recommendation is to take the division exams in the order that they are listed per NCARB - with one exception. I took Construction and Evaluation before Project Planning and Design and Project Development and Documentation. Construction and Evaluation has the highest pass rate and a close association with other divisions. Plus, there was the added bonus of not having to take another exam after I had completed the two hardest and longest division exams. Mentally, that was huge!

Many people fail a division exam on the first attempt. There is a waiting period before that division exam can be retaken but keep going! My second recommendation is not to wait to retake the failed division exam before moving on but to move on and go back to it later - do not lose progress or lose time (especially with a rolling clock!). Keep taking the division exams and reschedule failed exams as soon as you are able to take them again.

Again, this is what worked best for me. I started the process with some bumps but, once I followed this plan, I became comfortable with the process and earned my license.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:14 AM

Which exam to take first?

  • 08 December, 2020

When preparing to take the ARE® 5.0, one question that an exam candidate is sure to ponder is: which exam should I take first? Honestly, a case could be made for each section of the ARE to be a good section to begin with. There are many variables including the focus of the architectural program at college, practical worked experience, and the fit with an individual’s strengths and interests. That being said, here is the case to consider taking the Project Planning & Design (PPD) section of the ARE first.

The PPD section of the ARE focuses on the preliminary design of sites and buildings. Candidates should be able to demonstrate skills in the development of code complaint and environmentally responsive design concepts. Most NAAB Accredited architectural programs in universities across the U.S. have a strong focus on design, and as such, students give this aspect of architectural practice the most attention by far while in school.

So, in theory, early in an exam candidate’s career, the PPD section of the ARE would be the section where they are likely to have the most experience. The other 5 sections of the ARE require a bit of balance between studies in college and actual hands-on work experience.

What exam to take first

Another reason to start with the PPD section of the ARE is that likely, at least for the first several years of a career in architecture, actual design experience (in a firm) is going to be the least available to candidates. Certainly not in all cases, but most firms place design responsibilities in the hands of very experienced staff and will rarely provide an opportunity for someone early in their career to be responsible for the design of a project. Most architectural interns begin their careers in the production phases of a project and grow from there. If you consider the phases of an architectural project, starting with Schematic Design, then Design Development, Construction Documents, Bidding, and Contract Administration, most interns begin the experience in a firm by contributing in the production of construction documents. As the years pass by, they gain more experience in the adjacent phases of a project. Often the phases at each end of a project (Schematic Design and Construction Administration) are the last areas for an intern to gain experience while working in a firm. Yes, there are exceptions to this, but overall, an intern’s practical experience (working in a firm) is first grounded in production.

So again, why is the PPD section is a good section of the ARE to begin the exam process? If you start the exams soon after graduating and qualifying, the PPD section of the ARE is likely the one section that dominated your experience in college and should provide you with the best opportunity to start the exam process with success.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:06 AM

ARE® 5.0 Demo and Testing Strategies

  • 25 August, 2020

By Maggie Kirk, Associate AIA

To best perform on the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) and all six of its divisions, it is imperative to be familiar with the exam format. The last thing an exam candidate should do is to show up on test day without any experience with practice exams. I found that, for me, half of the battle was learning the format of the exam. A great aspect of the exam is that it is consistent across all divisions. It follows the same format which promotes familiarization. Once that format became more familiar, I found myself becoming confident enough to test out strategies.

The majority of the ARE 5.0 consists of discrete items and case studies. Because the exam is timed, many test-takers suggest completing the case studies first. The case studies involve looking at resources that may take some time. Completing the case studies first allows for getting the most time-consuming part out of the way.

I found my strategy was to do a once-through until I got to the case studies, meaning that I would go through and answer the discrete items as I could within a certain time frame (around 20-30 seconds max). The exam offers the option to mark questions for review. If I answered a question but was not sure, I would mark for review to note that I was not fully certain in my answer. This was especially the case when I would read through a question quickly. One of the things I have learned from the exam is not to read too quickly—you will surely miss something! If a question has a lot to read, I suggest leaving it until a future pass. The exam will allow you to review the questions and go back to answer any that you skipped. It’s not over until you say it is, or until the time runs out.

Also, consider that the exam does not start until you hit start. The appointment time is padded and if you check in to the testing center quickly, you have time before you start the exam. I usually take a little bit of time before starting the exam to breathe deep and calm my nerves. You will be given paper and a pencil at the testing center so, before you begin, you can use that to download anything that is in your mind such as concepts, terminology, etc.

You are given a 15-minute break at your discretion to take at any time during the exam. Use it! I was in the habit of plowing through the exam, not taking a break until I realized I should take a break to relax my mind (typically after I have looked through the exam once). I would step outside, get some fresh air, and clear my thoughts so I could start again fresh.

Remember, what works for you is what works for you—but practice! Practice exams are great for familiarizing yourself with content and for testing strategies!

EduMind offers exam prep for all six divisions of the ARE 5.0. Click here to learn more about our comprehensive review courses and select the format that best suits your needs.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:51 AM

How to Get Motivated After Failing the ARE® 5.0

  • 21 August, 2020

By Maggie Kirk, Associate AIA

There are a few certainties in life: death, taxes, and failing a division of the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). Okay, some people have passed all the divisions on the first try (not me), but if you look at the passing rates—hovering around 50 percent, with one division in the 60s and another at 70 percent—the odds are against you. A fail is frustrating. An already long journey has become longer. It’s a sinking feeling, but don’t give up.

Get Motivated after Failing ARE 5.0 Exam

One of the best sayings that I heard from taking the ARE 5.0 was that you don’t fail, you just don’t pass. Many will admit that if they had to take an exam again after a pass, they may very well fail. It can go either way. The goal is not to let it derail your progress.

When you fail an exam, or even after you take an exam regardless of pass/fail, take a day or two off from studying. Go out to dinner and reconnect with the world. Blow off some steam so you are ready to get back in the ring. Give your brain a rest. I suggest (before going to dinner) downloading what you can remember from the exam to a document.

For me, that served as a study guide for the next time around. The plus side of taking the exam once is that you have a better idea of the content on the exam. The second time around may be more familiar. The download allows you to go back and review concepts that may have been weak points. A suggestion would be to compare your download to your Score Report, which is issued shortly after you have taken the exam, regardless if you pass or fail. The report indicates competencies and demonstrates areas of weakness.

It is important to keep going. Yes, a fail is demotivating, but it is best to get back into the groove and continue with the exams because the next ones could be passes. Don’t let one, or even many fails dictate forward progression. You are not alone in the process. I suggest that if you ever feel you are, turn to the ARE 5.0 Community on the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) website. The positive spirit, encouragement, engagement, and camaraderie reinforce that you are part of a professional community where every member is valuable and seeking success.

Whether or not you fail, I think that motivation is needed throughout the process—and maybe more so when there is a fail. My motivation was that I wanted to understand more about the profession of architecture. I found myself connecting to the content on the basis that it was making me a better professional. I didn’t need a pass or a fail to see that transformation in the exam-taking process.

So, remember that no matter what, don’t give up on the process because then you are giving up on your growth toward becoming a licensed architect. You got this.

EduMind offers exam prep for all six divisions of the ARE 5.0. Click here to learn more about our comprehensive review courses and select the format that best suits your needs.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:52 AM

How to Read an ARE® 5.0 Score Report

  • 18 August, 2020

By Maggie Kirk, Associate AIA

When taking the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), the candidate has the option to view their provisional score at the conclusion of the exam. The provisional score allows the candidate to see whether or not they have passed the exam, pending further approval. Viewing the provisional score is an option, not a requirement, so one can skip that step if desired. If the candidate chooses not to review the provisional score, they will get their pass/fail and a Score Report within a short period of time.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) tests minimum competency and the cut score is between 57 and 68 percent, depending upon the exam. NCARB does not issue an actual test score. Instead, they simply note a pass or fail. The Score Report is the only way to assess how the candidate performed on the exam. However, there are very few specifics.

At the top of the Score Report, you will find the division taken, whether it is a pass or a fail, and the expiration date of the exam. If you pass the division, the Score Report lists the candidate’s progress with the exam process and results, the division statement, and the concepts of that particular division. The Score Report for a failed exam looks a little different.

After failing a division, the Score Report notes performance levels in addition to the information on the pass report above. The role of the performance levels is to give the candidate an assessment of competency for the divisions from level one to level four. Levels three and four do not qualify for a passing competency, while levels one and two qualify. Where one’s score falls into a particular level, it is indicated by a filled circle. If within levels one and two, the circle will be blue. If three or four, the circle will be grey.

Input on a failed section is provided with the division statements above the performance. It gives the description of the division sections and the content covered. If the candidate failed that section, they could reference the division statement to see the content of that section and focus more of their studying on failed sections.

Should the candidate not agree with the score, they have the option to pay a fee and have their exam validated. The charge is $100, and an NCARB staff architect will review all questions and performance. There is a limited amount of time to request this verification. Should the feedback from NCARB not be accurate pending the review, NCARB will refund the exam and verification fee and the score report will be adjusted.

An exam review is another option for the candidate. In this case, the jurisdiction for the exam will review the exam. Questions missed will be issued but their answers will not. It is up to the local jurisdiction to challenge and it also involves a fee.

EduMind offers exam prep for all six divisions of the ARE 5.0. Click here to learn more about our comprehensive review courses and select the format that best suits your needs.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:26 AM

The Best Time to Take the ARE® 5.0

  • 14 August, 2020

By Maggie Kirk, Associate AIA

The process of becoming an architect is not an easy one. According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), after 5.6 years of education, data shows that it takes about 4.6 years to satisfy the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) requirements needed to sit for the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®).

At that time, the average age of a candidate is around 33 years old. In addition to that, it takes an average of 2.2 years to complete all six divisions of the exam. One of the most common concerns I hear about the exams is that life is well underway when a candidate becomes eligible to sit for them. In addition to work obligations (the hours and demands of the profession), a candidate often has a busy personal life as well, typically with a young family. This can get discouraging when faced with the task of completing the exams and becoming a licensed architect. The question is: When is the best time to take the exams given the time needed to study, and the time needed to take—and potentially retake—the exams? My answer: There is none.

Now, my answer is not meant to be discouraging but it is meant to demonstrate that there is no magic date or year in that definition of time. Consider my response setting an expectation. There is no missed boat because there just is no right time to take the exams and everyone’s situations and constraints are different. And that is OK. What works for one may often not work for all.

Best Time to take ARE 5.0

So, before hands are thrown into the air and frustration ensues, let me offer this bit of advice. Understand that while there is no best time in terms of date or year, it takes dedication. The best ‘time’ is time well-spent. I recommend setting aside 2-3 hours per day to study, and sometimes more. It is not a sprint, but a marathon and should be a consistent practice. Any small breaks in studying could lead to bigger breaks and then studying can become sporadic. These study sessions should not only be reserved for reviewing the content of the division—third-party study material, recommended readings, flashcards, and practice exams—but should be a time of dedicated concentration. Distracted learning makes it difficult for the material to sink in.

The best “time” is the time when your family and friends can support your journey. Often, the exam journey is not a solo expedition but involves the support of others. If the situation cannot lend that support, maybe it is not the best time to start. However, once started, the best “time” is completing the exams within the five years of the rolling clock so that exams aren’t at risk of expiring.

So, while there is no magic formula, understand that it takes the journey of ourselves and those closest to us. When everyone's on board, then that is the best time.

EduMind offers exam prep for all six divisions of the ARE 5.0. Click here to learn more about our comprehensive review courses and select the format that best suits your needs.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:31 AM

Best Way to Reinforce ARE® 5.0 Study Material

  • 11 August, 2020

By Maggie Kirk, Associate AIA

Studying for the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) is a daunting task. When embarking on the journey, the hardest part is figuring out where to start. The value of an exam preparation course is that it gives organization to the vast amount of content these exams cover. On top of that, reputable prep courses are developed by those who are experienced in the profession and with the ARE 5.0.

However, third-party materials should not be the only part of the process. Studying is reinforced through multiple other resources including readings, resources, flashcards, practice exams, videos, and more. It is necessary to access other resources when studying for these exams.

The ARE® 5.0 Handbook provides a list of resources and references to study for each division of the exam. What is often daunting about the list is that, combined, the resources are thousands of pages and thousands of dollars. Researching which select resources are recommended for the exam can start to whittle down the list. Many of these recommendations come from the ARE® 5.0 Community from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) website is a valuable resource in regard to model contracts and model documents. Free samples are provided that help familiarize the exam candidate with the contracts most common to the architectural profession, as well as understanding roles and responsibilities of the parties involved in a project and within the matrix of various contracts.

Flashcards are another valuable resource in reinforcing and understanding concepts and terminology. The terminology in the building industry is specific and meaningful, and flashcards help provide the terms and processes referenced within the industry and on the exam. Flashcards can be sourced through various resources including apps. However, the exam candidate should also make their own flashcards. Creating custom flashcards is a great way to keep track of various terminologies and concepts to reinforce the content of the exams from readings, resources, and other sources to tailor your study.

Last but certainly not least, the ARE® 5.0 Community is what I consider a “go-to” when studying for the ARE 5.0. Accessed through the NCARB website, the community space is divided into topics: those related to specific exam divisions and otherwise. Within the community, you will find an eager and excited bunch of professionals and moderators, helping each other with content, giving moral support, and just being all-around cheerleaders. I highly recommend it as a resource to find best practices, exam tips and tricks, suggested resources, and content clarification from those who are in the process or who have completed their exam journey. It reinforces that this journey is not one to be taken alone, but that the exam candidate is part of a much larger community.

No matter the path of that journey, there is more than meets the eye. Casting a wide net of resources and materials will support a universal understanding of topics and a better understanding of exam content.

EduMind offers exam prep for all six divisions of the ARE 5.0. Click here to learn more about our comprehensive review courses and select the format that best suits your needs.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:42 AM

What to Do When You Fail a Section of the ARE® 5.0 Exam?

  • 31 July, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA, NCARB

As the old saying goes, “Embrace discomfort, because it is an opportunity to grow.” This perspective is something that I have carried with me as I have progressed through my career in architecture. Let’s face it, failure is just about guaranteed in the architectural profession. Whether it is failing a section of the ARE® exam, a design idea that the client didn’t accept, or a proposal for new work that was rejected, failure will become part of any career in architecture.

What can you do with failure? Isn’t failure, to some degree, a diagnosis that you weren’t quite ready? After processing the emotions that come with any form of failure, the thing that I fall back on time and time again is to embrace it as an opportunity to get stronger, better, and more advanced. Looking at it another way, how can you grow if you already know everything? Failure, if embraced, can be an opportunity to grow! Make the most of it.

If you find yourself in the position of failing a section of the ARE, your self-confidence can certainly take a hit. I once heard a college football coach say following a loss the previous week: “We don’t want to let them continue to beat us all season.” The coach wasn’t referring to playing the same team each week. Instead, he was talking about not letting that one loss creep into the heads of the players to the extent that they lost the motivation needed for taking on their next opponent. The same thing applies to the ARE. To some extent, you need to shake off the disappointment and move forward.

My advice for what to do when you fail a section of the ARE has a few aspects to it. First, if you can recall specific areas where you know you struggled during the exam, jot them down as targets for re-study. Then, hit the books with a vengeance. Push yourself hard. Make a new goal to not only pass, but to get a high score. Challenge yourself to master the material. This will not only result in improving your chances for the next exam attempt, but it will also help you get stronger as a professional.

Next, look at your failing score. How close were you from a passing score? If you were close, it’s an indication that you weren’t that far off, and perhaps only a modest amount of additional preparation is required before you make another attempt. If you had a low score, it could be an indication of a couple of issues related to an understanding of content or comfort with the exam format itself. In my experience, it usually is a combination of both. Again, the best remedy that I have found is a relentless effort to master the content. Nothing is more effective for navigating the “land mines” the exam writers embed into the exam format than a high level of content knowledge. In addition, mastering content builds the confidence you will need when you make your next attempt.

What to do when you fail ARE5.0 Exam

Lastly, I recommend that you share your experience with peers and highly trained architects. There are often a few benefits to this: One is that talking about failing will help you get past the disappointment; Another is that you may learn from others about their experiences with the exam, and perhaps those insights will help you focus your re-study efforts.

Failure isn’t initially something that feels satisfying. But, with enough work and effort, it certainly can be.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:59 AM

Project Development and Documentation (PDD): Roof Design and Details

  • 21 July, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA, NCARB

Based on my observations of hundreds of architectural staff working on literally thousands of projects over the decades, I think it’s safe to say that of all the components of a building envelop, the roof is perhaps one of the “less popular” design elements to develop. The plans and elevations normally take the top spot in the interest category among the team, at least initially. After all, if the project has a “flat roof,” especially with a parapet, it’s not normally visible from adjacent grade. If it is a simple sloped roof, it is something that often fades away from street view at an angle, and not likely to draw much attention.

These factors are among several that contribute to the delay of developing the roof design until a bit later in the project, which can cause problems down the line. As an example, I recall one municipal building project that had a simple shed roof over the entry, forming a sort of canopy. Because this portion of the roof was visible from the interior of the building, as the entry lobby was open to the second-floor level and had windows overlooking the front of the building, the designer wanted to use a standing seam metal roof for a clean appearance.

The details were developed late in the project, and the project went out to bid. In the construction phase, the roofing subcontractor noted that the roof was “too flat” to comply with the warranty of the standing metal roof that was detailed and specified. With all the framing in place, the alternative was to use a standing seam membrane system that would look similar in appearance. The kicker was that it cost the client an additional $10,000! Since public projects have very tight—if not fixed—construction budgets, this situation resulted in much grief all around.

In the situation above, had the designer done their homework early enough in schematic design, they could have used the originally specified standing seam metal roof if they adjusted the roof pitch just slightly. Having been in practice for well over 40 years, I have seen many roof issues that could have been resolved with the proper attention given to it early in design.

In another example, I know of a flat-roof distribution center project that used perimeter roof scuppers, leader boxes, and downspouts to provide the proper roof drainage. This is actually a very common approach with industrial buildings, especially in wet climates. However, in this case, the roof design was developed a bit late in the project, and the downspout locations became a difficult challenge. Among the elements to coordinate for the positioning roof scuppers were rooftop equipment and overhead door locations along the building elevation.

This became so difficult that the team decided to reduce the number of scuppers and downspouts required by instead opting to provide the needed capacity by upsizing fewer drainage components. That approach worked out well until the required bend in the upsized downspouts (now 10-inches in diameter instead of the standard 6- or 8-inch diameter) to coordinate with structural footings and connect with the lateral storm line created a condition where portions up to 6-feet in pipe length were exposed above-finished grade! It turns out that the “standard detail” for downspout bends at footing locations was developed for pipe sizes of 8-inches or fewer.

This all could have been avoided had the roof drainage been thought about earlier in the project, and mechanical equipment, overhead doors, and footings could have all been coordinated to work with the number of 8-inch downspouts needed to provide the proper drainage.

These are just two reminders of how important it is to consider the roof design early in the project. While a roof may not be the most exciting of architectural features, it is one that requires attention early on.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:13 AM

Determining Appropriate Documentation: Code Requirements

  • 07 July, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA, NCARB

One of the most common misunderstandings about building codes is that the requirements are always “black and white” and very clear to follow. That is simply not true.

Let’s start with the perception that code is set, fixed, and 100 percent clear. While there are certainly some elements of the code that are clear and direct, there often is much room for interpretation. This makes sense if one considers that it would be nearly impossible to develop codes to govern each condition encountered in an architectural project. Instead, the code normally addresses the biggest issues, often those impacting or influencing the health, safety, and welfare of the site/building users.

Sometimes, the design team finds itself in the position of not knowing exactly how to comply with code. Here is an example that I encountered a few years back: My project was a municipal government office building that included a strong, public-facing entry which was required to be part of the accessible path to the building. This meant (among other things) that wheelchair access needed to be provided from the front directly to the building entry. The grades were a bit challenging, but a switchback layout provided the needed compliance for maximum ramp slope and landings.

One modest “bend” in the ramp was required to navigate around stormwater and landscape features close to the building entry. The bend was very slight, something close to a 15-degree pivot at a landing. The accessibility code for this project noted that 90-degree turns in ramps required a full 60 inches of clear wheelchair turning diameter. A very clear diagram was provided in the code to facilitate compliance. However, the design team considered the ramp pivot for our design as very minor, and not requiring the full 60-inch clearance at the landing. The thought process was that, while it made sense to have the 60-inch clearance for a wheelchair to safely navigate a hard 90-degree turn, the ramp as designed had only a 15-degree bend and would not require any special maneuver by someone in a wheelchair. As a result, the ramp was designed and submitted for permit review without the 60-inch clearance at the landing.

When we received our plan check comments during building permit review, the issue was raised by the building official. He felt that a 60-inch-diameter turning clearance was required at the landing because the ramp had a bend. He agreed that the code didn’t address ramp landing width requirements beyond those that included 90-degree bends, but our ramp had “a bend,” so his interpretation was that we needed to provide the 60-inch turning clearance at the landing.

OK, game over! The local building official stated his case and we needed to comply, right? Not exactly. The design team then submitted the issue for a state-level building code interpretation, and the state building official determined that our ramp, as designed, met the intent of the code. We presented our findings to the local building official and he accepted them.

In the end, the design team did devise a simple tweak to one side of the ramp to create a slight “V” at the landing. This provided the 60-inch clearance anyway, while not compromising the design objectives. As I eluded to before, the building code is often “gray” as opposed to “black and white,” leaving many issues up for interpretation as a project is designed.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:13 AM

ARE Prep: Using Cognitive Skills to Improve Learning

  • 30 June, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA, NCARB

In architecture, as well as just about any profession, there is a great deal of information to process, understand, and retain. The range varies from highly technical processes to subjective theories, to common-sense communications. With so many different forms of knowledge to process, understand, and retain, it becomes challenging to just rely on simple memorization.

Over the course of my career, I have developed cognitive skills to help me develop understanding and to retain and communicate the knowledge that I have gained. Specifically, these skills are based on making connections between things I encounter in the profession and everyday life. I have found if I do that, I can improve my ability to retain knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, recall that knowledge when I need it.

As a physical example, let’s take the rather technical concept of resolving for reactions at supports of beams that are carrying a known load. This involves the calculations needed to sum moments (the force multiplied by the distance from a point). When I was first presented with this information in architectural school, it was a bit challenging to understand. What exactly are moments, and how do they relate to rotation of the beams at the supports? To help me lock-in to this, I experimented with a long stick with a weight suspended by a string. I was able to draw the load close to my hand (the support) and slide it further out to the end of the stick (away from the support). Doing this, I could see how different it felt in both positions. With the weight close to my hand, I could easily support it. The further the weight was moved toward the end of the stick, the more the load increased and was causing the support (my hand) to resist the force of the stick to rotate. With this simple physical example, I could better understand the concepts of resolving for moment loads on beams. That has stuck with me for the past 45 years, so I can tell you it works.

Now let’s consider more of a “mental” example, specifically using analogies to make connections. My firm is a multi-disciplined practice with architects, interior designers, planners, landscape designers, and both structural and civil engineers. A few years back, we made a concerted effort to have each discipline manage their scope independently. The idea was to create a higher sense of ownership of the work being produced by each discipline. To a degree, this worked, but there were also some unintended consequences that resulted. After a while, we noticed that gaps were forming in work jointly produced by two or more disciplines. Basically, each discipline was drawing a boundary around what they were to do, and where the next discipline had to pick it up.

This was resulting in increases in errors and omissions in our work, and that was impacting our financial performance. As the lead principal in our company, I had to examine what was going on and try to explain it to others in a way that we all could understand and retain. The analogy that I came up with was “silo-ing.” The classic silo used in agriculture was the mental picture that I needed not only for my understanding of the problems, but for the entire company. I used my example of silos to represent each discipline and the spacing of the silos represented the gaps in our collective work. The analogy caught on and soon each discipline was making efforts to eliminate silo-ing.

These physical and mental pictures are examples of cognitive concepts that have helped me make the connections that I need to learn, retain, and communicate the vast array of information that exists in the architectural profession.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:22 AM

Design Development Phase, Achieving Design Continuity

  • 19 June, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA

This is the third article in a series on “A Day in the Life of an Architect,” this time focused on the design development phase and how to improve design continuity. To some, if not many, the design development phase of an architectural project might be a bit of a “lost phase.”

These days, there seems to be a rather accelerated project progression from schematic design to construction documents without taking the time to improve design continuity or to determine what elements of a project need further development.

Like many processes with the advent of technology, some traditional practices are fading away while being regarded as unnecessary. With the many software options used today in architectural practice, design concepts can almost automatically be converted into something that nearly represents a completed set of construction document details. This phenomenon has contributed to the diminishment (if not elimination) of the design development phase.

One might ask, “So, is that a bad thing?” To get at that answer, I will attempt to describe the traditional approach to the design development phase, and some of the positive impacts that would result when it was a thriving phase of an architectural project.

First, as practiced in the past, the design development phase was more of a design phase than a “document phase.” The project designer could set the big idea for the project with minimal plans and sketches and turn it over to the team to develop the design. For those developing the design, it was a very rewarding experience because there was a great deal of design challenge remaining in this phase. As an example, often in the schematic design phase the designer would establish only a singular view of the building—normally the “front”—that left at least three other sides to examine and refine to achieve continuity of the design throughout the building exterior. The challenge was to resolve potential conflicts by providing continuity of the design concept on each side of the building as windows, brick coursing, reveals, canopies, doors, etc., were explored.

For those of us that experienced this traditional approach to design development, it was exciting to be participating in the design process at such a significant level. Normally, the same team members that developed the design would stay with the project through the construction document phase and even through construction. I can tell you that this traditional approach created a strong sense of participation and ownership in the design among the team members. That sense of ownership also contributed to fewer errors and omissions in the construction documents. This shared sense of ownership of design is something that is fading out with the more-technically advanced methods of practice used today.

Another benefit of a more traditional approach to design development was in the discovery of what needed to be drawn and why it was needed for the construction documents. One of the first steps in the traditional design development phase was to quickly cut hand drawn sections in larger scale drawings (plans and elevations) and identify areas requiring further refinement. The key was to cut a section at every changed condition in the plan or elevation. This was not an exhaustive effort, often just a single line section providing a reasonable outline or profile of the building at this location. Doing this allowed the design team to quickly see where they could standardize many details and eliminate other unnecessary drawings. This yielded two primary benefits: One was that the details developed were stronger, more consistent, and gave the contractor clear direction. This helped reduce questions during bidding and construction. The second benefit was that this approach allowed the design team to eliminate unnecessary drawings that could overly complicate the bidding and construction process.

All of this isn’t to say that today’s approach to design development doesn’t have its benefits, but wouldn’t it be great if we could recapture some of what has been lost from the past?

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:19 AM

Schematic Design Phase, Getting to Closure

  • 16 June, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA

Obtaining an education in architecture is certainly a broad and challenging experience. As students, we are immersed in all things related to architecture. We learn about art and architectural history, we study design and engineering, and we are enlightened by many courses intended to develop our capacity to be creative. While all of this may provide a great foundation to build a career in architecture, if you are like me, you’ll discover that there is so much more to learn as you practice in the profession.

That brings me around to this second article in a series on “A Day in the Life of an Architect,” this time focused on the Schematic Design Phase and how you reach closure with a client. In my experience, one of the biggest barriers to project profitability often occurs in the Schematic Design Phase, and that is an inability to reach closure or obtain well-informed approvals by the client.

Schematic Design Phase

It turns out that it is not just about the strength of a specific design concept, and it isn’t necessarily just about how innovative the solution may be. Over my 41 years in this profession, I have found that having some abilities to persuade and sell are just as critical as any architectural-specific skill set. Selling design includes being persuasive in presenting to the client, team members, and other stakeholders in such a way as to achieve understanding and approval of design before proceeding with future phases of a project.

Now, don’t get me wrong, clients need to have their programs and design criteria addressed. They also need to have construction cost and schedule aspects resolved. Even if all of that is provided, the client might still be unsure if they are “sold.”

Over the years, I have observed that not reaching closure with the client in the design phase can lead to project delays, a higher probability for committing errors, and the need to re-work design solutions in more advanced phases of the project, all of which can be very costly for the architect. Sometimes, not reaching closure with the client in a timely manner can result in a tremendous financial hit to the project, and a firm overall.

So, how do you reach closure with a client beyond providing sound design solutions? In my experience, there are two critical elements to closure: confidence and engagement.

Let’s start with confidence. From a client’s perspective, the design process (and the practice of architecture) can be bit mysterious and unknown. As such, clients often lean heavily on the experience of an architect to provide them with advice and a clear direction. It’s only natural then to expect that the client needs to sense that the architect is conveying a great deal of confidence in the solutions they are presenting. How an architect talks about the process and how persuasive they are in presenting become critical. The best way to build confidence in presenting is to practice, and practice often. There are people all around who could role play as a client in practice sessions. They include co-workers, other design team members, and even other clients that are not directly engaged in the project. During presentation rehearsals, the “mock clients” can ask questions and provide feedback. Doing this regularly should result in increased confidence, and improve reaching closure.

The second aspect to gaining closure is creating a high level of client engagement during schematic design. The client needs to feel that they were brought along at each step in the process. If the architect gets too far ahead of the client, they could be presenting solutions that leave the client wondering about the exploration of other options (even if the architect has already considered and discarded them). This could result in doubt developing in the client’s mind—and worse—the client may not share their doubt with the architect until much later in the project. Obtaining closure and approvals will improve if the architect engages the client and paces them through the design process. Doing so will avoid gaps that can often occur when an architect is too far in front of the client.

Remember, you will learn a lot of things as you practice architecture and sharpening your communication skills will be one of the most important among them.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:09 AM

General Area of Professional Practice (ARE): Pre-Design

  • 12 June, 2020

Topic: Day in the life of an Architect - During the Programming Phase

Recently, I was asked to consider what a typical day is like for an architect. As I thought about this, I quickly concluded that really, no two days are the same. It is constantly changing. This constant change has made for a very interesting and challenging career for me personally, and I have to say, that the time seems to fly by when each day brings new problems, analysis, and solutions.

As I thought more about how to describe a typical day for an architect, I decided that perhaps the best way to proceed is to progress through the different phases of a project. So, this first view of “a day in the life of an architect” is through the lens of the Programming Phase (or Pre-Design).

First, what is programming as it relates to the practice of architecture? Early-on in my career, I learned to think of architectural programming as the phase when an architectural problem gets defined. After all, it is very difficult (and extremely inefficient) to try to problem solve without knowing as much as you can about the problem itself. Too often, architects rush to design solutions for problems that are not fully explored, and the result is that the problem gets exposed in “slow-roll” fashion throughout the project, resulting in a great deal of back and forth and redesign. I’m sure that this phenomenon is at least partly why architects struggle to be consistently profitable in their businesses.

Through my experiences, I’d say that a day in the life of an architect during the Programming Phase is always very interesting. It’s when the architect works with the client team to define the project in broad terms. Often, this begins with developing a solid understanding of the big picture goals for the project. As an example, in a recent fire station project (which was a full replacement of an existing fire station), the high-level goal was to get a new station funded. Without funding, there would be no project. To get funding, voters had to approve and pass a bond measure, which means they had to support the project so much that they were willing to vote to increase their own property taxes. That challenge required a unique strategy to programming, one that engaged the community from the beginning, so that there would be an opportunity to develop a strong sense of buy-in for the project.

This programming process began by sitting down with the client and mapping-out how and when to engage the community, then develop a project schedule so that each touch point was identified and coordinated with our overall programming efforts. We then evaluated the current fire station for overall status of conditions, noting how it stacked-up against today’s essential facility standards, and developing opinions on life expectancy of various building and system components. We also developed a cost estimate to remodel the current fire station and complete with seismic and other essential facility upgrades to bring it up to current standards.

At this point, we held our first meeting with the community to share our findings, including our estimate of costs to remodel the current station. We held an “open house” at the fire station and invited the community in for a presentation. We began by sharing our findings, and then conducted tours through the station so that people (voters) could get the best understanding possible regarding the need to either upgrade the current facility or replace it altogether.

Next, we worked with a diverse team of Fire District staff to develop typical program criteria including identifying space needs, adjacencies, and high-level site criteria for a full replacement fire station. Armed with this, we could develop very preliminary “block” site and building plans. We then held our second public forum at the existing fire station and invited in the community once again. At this meeting, we presented our preliminary block plans (pre-design plans) and engaged the audience in a discussion about aesthetics for public buildings in their community. This was not a detailed discussion, but enough to provide an opportunity for the community voices to be heard.

Day in the life of an Architect

Based on the feedback we received in the second community meeting, we then developed conceptual level plans and renderings for a new fire station and produced a full project cost estimate. This was all presented at a third public meeting, and by then, we could see from responses we were receiving that support for replacing the current fire station with a new one was growing strong.

A few months later, the project was on the local ballot, and the bond measure for the design and construction of a new fire station was passed with an 80% approval rating!

Now, back to that idea of a “day in the life of an architect”. If you consider that every project has it’s own unique properties including the type of project, who will use the project when it is completed, and how it will be funded (among many other variables), it is safe to say that no two days are quite alike, and all are very interesting indeed!

Posted by EduMind Inc - 09:01 AM

ARE Prep: Additional Sources/Resources for Study Materials

  • 02 June, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA, NCARB

Being an architectural intern can be stressful. Having graduated from a much more structured learning environment (college) means that a shift to a more “self-directed” education is needed to prepare for the ARE exam. One question you might have: “What are the resources for study materials?”

Certainly, there are many study guides and lectures/webinars for purchase online, and most are well done and very effective. Some companies have been producing written materials since the ‘70s, and they do a good job of assembling the basic information needed to get ready to take the architectural exam. But in my experience, those resources aren’t quite enough by themselves. Below are some ideas of additional resources and tips to help you further navigate self-directed study.

First, if you are like me, you probably saved some of your old college textbooks. Perhaps not on all subjects, but those that addressed more technical content. In my case, I kept all my structural engineering materials from college. These ranged from the text for statics class, to lecture notebooks, and the timber, concrete, and steel manuals. I even saved examples of homework and tests/quizzes that were more complex and addressed resolving truss reactions, wind problems, calculating bending and shear forces in beams, and solving for deflection in complex monolithic concrete design.

I also saved much of my texts and class materials from the environmental control systems (ECS) course. This covered a great deal about a range of subjects such as rainwater harvesting, passive solar design, natural ventilation, and daylighting strategies to name just a few. If you didn’t retain these materials from college, I’d recommend contacting your old college professors and asking them what version of the texts they are using now and see if you can obtain a copy to study.

Other sources that may be helpful include materials readily available at the office. Most architectural firms have standards, policies, and procedures that are well documented and vetted by years of experience. These resources are also likely to be based on industry standards, which are very likely to be encountered in the ARE.

Another great resource for architectural practice in general is the AIA’s Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th edition. This handbook covers just about all aspects of architectural practice and in a way that is easy to absorb and understand. Topics include narratives addressing all phases of architectural services, office/business operations, and documents of service (including contracts). Again, in my experience, information provided in the handbook has appeared in the ARE in some form or another, making it “must read” on my list of recommended ARE preparation materials.

Lastly, I have one non-conventional resource to recommend, which I used myself some 40 years ago. I recommend that you find and connect with architects inside and/or outside the office who have recently taken and passed the ARE. Interview them, ask them questions about the exam. Ask them about their experience with what worked well, and what didn’t work for them. When I was preparing for the ARE, I probably had eight to 10 individuals that I would pepper with questions about preparing for the ARE. I was careful not to exhaust any one individual resource, hence the large number of architects that I had in my resource pool. Often, I could frame my questions about the ARE around projects that I was working on in the office. I found that this was an effective way for me to get—and retain—information.

ARE Prep Materials

The key to finding the appropriate materials to study for the ARE is to diversify and get creative. It is surprising how much information is right in front of us and available for use. Good luck!

EduMind offers comprehensive exam review courses covering all six divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)® 5.0. Learn more about our classes and study materials on our website.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:14 AM

Determining Structural Systems

  • 22 May, 2020

By Richard J. Mitchell, AIA

One of the most fundamental architectural design processes is to decide on the most appropriate structural system for a project. There are several factors involved and, let’s face it, it’s not always a clear-cut decision.

In fact, sometimes considerations compete with others making the weighing of priorities even more important. Is “first cost” the most important consideration for the project? How about life-cycle costs? Can those two be at odds with each other? The answer is often yes. Now about sustainability? Would a material’s recycled content outweigh the other considerations like durability or aesthetics? Certainly, there is a lot to process in the early stages of architectural design, and there almost always is a bit of give and take (compromise).

In my career, the prominent factors in determining the most appropriate structural system include:

  1. The building code: Fire-resistive, non-combustible, heavy timber, ordinary/composite system construction, etc.
  2. Costs: Both first costs and life-cycle costs
  3. Fit with the architectural concept and design criteria
  4. Sustainability: Material content, resource extraction, contribution to carbon footprint, and thermal performance, etc.
This is not the complete list of considerations, but simply a very general summary of the ones that I have experienced the most often.

To better understand the decision process, here are a couple of examples of very different projects with widely different drivers for selecting the appropriate structural system:

Recently, I worked on a fire station project in a rural community of about 25,000 residents just a few miles outside of Seattle. Most of the buildings in the community were of a variety of materials, but wood is the most predominant. This community also had a general appreciation for what they called “the Northwest style,” which is a term given to buildings with sloped roof forms and a fair amount of exposed wood structure. These drivers were generally compatible with several other considerations including lower first costs, sustainability (locally and sustainably resourced), and code requirements as the building footprint, overall size, and occupancy would allow for wood construction.

However, there were also other factors at odds with the considerations mentioned above such as life cycle costs and durability. These were in conflict as wood buildings can deteriorate faster over time than those of other materials and can require greater levels of maintenance. In this case, the Fire District established their priorities and opted for a wood structure with the acknowledgement that they may have a greater level of maintenance (or even a shorter lifespan for the building).

Another project with a very different focus was a high-tech, clean technology building that prioritized flexibility over all else. The client for this project often retools their manufacturing floor to adapt to changes in technology and to meet market demands for their products. In this case, the materials under consideration were mainly steel or concrete. Ultimately, concrete was preferred for its mass and resistance to vibration, but which concrete structural system (of the many possibilities) to use? It turns out that this client needed to have a floor slab that allowed for the flexibility to make penetrations over most of the floor area from underneath without diminishing the capacity of the slab. Very quickly, the choice narrowed to a two-way waffle slab to satisfy the criteria for penetrations. With the waffle slab system, the client could visibly see where they could make penetrations (from the floor below) without compromising the capacity of the slab. Penetrations could occur in the pan areas as the steel reinforcing was primarily located in the two-way beams and at the column capitals.

This decision to use a two-way waffle slab was not driven by costs or code requirements. In fact, the waffle slab was one of the most expensive first cost options available. But for this client, the flexibility meant everything, and totally outweighed any of the differences in cost.

With all the many factors to consider when determining the appropriate structural system, for the architect, it becomes a process of exploration of options balanced against the priorities of the project. The key is to navigate the design team and client to achieving the highest priorities first and establish a willingness to accept compromise.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:09 AM

ARE® 5.0 Tips and Tricks: Time Is of the Essence

  • 12 May, 2020

My best advice related to taking the ARE 5.0 is to do it as soon as possible following graduation from architecture school. Too often, intern architects put off taking the ARE, only to later find themselves so short on time or unfamiliar with the material that it becomes an even greater challenge.

When I graduated from college in 1981, there was a culture in architectural internship that has long since faded. That culture included being anointed as part of an internship class. Since internship lasted three years on average, you were part of an internship class immediately upon graduation from college. I was part of the internship class of 1984 (the sum of 1981 plus a three-year internship). The culture included an expectation that you took the ARE for the first time somewhere within those first three years. Ideally, you would be successful and become an architect at the end of year 3. That was me—architect by 1984. That was nothing special nor exceptional—I was just doing what everyone else was doing and what was expected. Honestly, if you were out of school and not licensed by year 5, others in the profession would begin to wonder if something was wrong. It was real.

My point of telling you all of this is really two points:

1. Today, there is no architectural internship culture like the one I experienced (for many reasons, not the least of which include changes in the exam itself). Interns often get around to getting licensed (if they do at all) by their mid-thirties.

2. The second point is that when interns do begin to study and take the ARE, they now have a steep re-learning curve. They will need to regain the knowledge they likely had as they graduated from college but that has faded with the passing of time.

ARE 5.0 Tips and Tricks

The exam may have changed formats over the years, but the information that an architect must know has not. The exam will cover the essential areas of engineering that we all studied in college. I took four full years of structural engineering classes. I had classes in basic statics and materials and designing with wood, steel, and monolithic concrete. I learned to size beams, columns, footings, trusses, shear walls—you name it. We checked for bending moments, shear, deflection, and bearing for just about all the basic approaches to structural engineering. In addition, I took courses in long-span structures and composite systems. Guess what? All of this was on the ARE but none of it was covered in my experience as an intern.

How about mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering (MEP) systems? In college, I took a year-long course in environmental control systems (ECS). We learned to design passive cooling, heating, ventilating, and daylighting systems. We also learned to design active energy systems as well as rain collection and harvesting. Again, all these topics appeared on the ARE, but none were enhanced by my internship experience. This was not a unique situation. Truthfully, if I were to estimate the percentage of material on the ARE that was linked to my experience as an intern, it might be 10% to 15%. That means that a minimum of 85% of the content of the ARE consisted of topics I learned only in college.

The bottom line is to take the exam as soon as possible upon graduation from college, and I bet you will be so glad you did. You’ll avoid having to re-learn things like how to calculate bending stresses and shear in beams when you are ten plus years out of college and perhaps seriously time challenged by life.

There is a definite correlation between the length of time between graduation from architectural school and the ability to successfully pass the ARE. So why leave it to chance? I know, many are burned out at the end of college, tired of studying and taking exams. But didn’t you go to college to become an architect? Isn’t becoming registered as an architect still the goal? If it is for you, please take my advice. Don’t put it off—it only gets tougher with time.

Regardless of when you decide to take the exam, we can help! EduMind’s ARE® 5.0 exam review courses cover all six divisions of the exam so you can get ready with confidence. Click here for more information.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:38 AM

ARE® 5.0 Tips and Tricks: Approach to Study

  • 28 April, 2020

In preparing to take the ARE, the first thing I did was make a high-level study plan. I organized it around the six divisions of the ARE and the content each would address. I then gathered all my own resources that I still had from college, including textbooks, manuals, notebooks, old exams, graded homework assignments, and pretty much anything that I thought could help me. I assessed what I had and what I would need to cover all the content in the exam itself, and I researched where to purchase exam prep materials. Fortunately, there were (and still are) several providers of exam prep materials, including books organized into chapters with quizzes and a full mock exam at the end.

I then set aside a period (usually a month) to focus entirely on just one division of the exam. I read all the materials that I had on the subject, using a highlighter to identify stronger points and concepts presented in the materials and underlining what I considered key points. After each chapter of study, I took the quiz. My rule of thumb was, if I scored 80% or higher, I would move on to the next chapter. If I scored less than 80%, I re-read the materials and tried again. When I finished reading a study guide as well as all the content that I had from college related to the subject, I would take the full mock exam at the end of the study guide. Again, if I scored 80% or higher, I would consider myself done (for now). If not, I would re-read sections and re-take the mock exam a few days later with fresh eyes.

I basically repeated this approach for each division until I had made it through all the study materials. I then went back through each study guide and the materials that I had from college, and re-read all the highlighted sections, paying even more attention to the things that I had underlined. As I was doing this, I started a handwritten notebook summarizing all the content that I thought represented the most important concepts, formulas, ideas, and so on. I made one of these notebooks for each division of the ARE. Then a few days before taking a given division of the exam, I would only re-read my notebooks. I did not go back and review the study guides or the large college textbooks. I really wanted to have the strongest concepts and points related to each topic in the forefront of my mind as I was about to take the exam.

This approach worked well for me. I passed all of my exams with scores in the 90s. I took the studying very seriously. I did not get paid time off from work to take the exams, and I had to pay for the exam and my study materials myself. So, with my money on the line, I wanted to give each exam all that I had to avoid further expense, both in time and money.

ARE® 5.0 Tips and Tricks

In the end, this all worked well for me for several reasons. First, it was an organized approach that broke things down into manageable pieces (areas of study). I never felt overwhelmed because I was taking things one step at a time. Another reason my approach worked was because I forced myself to identify the key concepts and most important aspects related to each section of the exam. I was conservative for sure, and probably over-highlighted my study guides, but in the end, it worked!

I hope this will be helpful to you as you prepare to take the ARE. Just as a career in architecture is complicated and demanding but can be highly rewarding, the same can be said for preparing for the ARE.

When you feel ready to take the exam, we can help! EduMind’s ARE 5.0 exam review courses cover all six divisions of the exam so you can prepare with confidence. Click here for more information.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:56 AM

Project Management: Projects on Hold During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • 21 April, 2020

During these uncertain times, it is important to make sure that you clearly communicate with your clients. This is especially true when the client puts a project on hold. There are several assumptions the client could be making when they put a project on hold, and it can be critical to your firm’s operations that the client has all the facts.

This is especially true when it comes to accounts receivable. The client may be assuming that since the project was put on hold, they won’t be seeing any invoices until the project restarts. That is most likely an incorrect assumption, and something you’ll want to proactively correct. Most firms issue invoices every 30 days and allow the client another 30 days to pay without accruing interest for late payment. This means that at the time a client puts a project on hold, they could be just about to get one of two invoices. This compounds if the client is on a longer payment cycle such as 60 days. The best approach to take is at the time the client puts the project on hold, coordinate with your accounting team, and make sure to inform the client of how many invoices they can expect, (and provide an approximate amount). Taking this step will eliminate any confusion about invoices during the project hold.

In addition, it is a good practice to inform your client that there will be additional efforts involved in properly putting the project on hold for a while. The original scope of the project likely assumed a progressive flow to developing the design and construction documents, and stopping the project suddenly was not anticipated. You should encourage the client to consider that it will take some effort to wrap up elements of the project that are in midstream and to close it down in a way that facilitates a smoother project restart. These efforts and the related fees are normally outside the scope of work identified in the contract, and the architect is entitled to be compensated for them. Having this discussion at the time the project is put on hold will have better results for all involved.

Projects on Hold During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Another subject to discuss with the client is what to expect at project restart. Architectural projects are very complex, and it’s not practical to expect that a project can be simply activated without some challenges. For one, there is the issue of staff availability. Can you get the same staff on your team that you had when the project was put on hold? Will you have to bring new team members up to speed? What about the project schedule? When states relax the stay-at-home orders and people begin to return to work, will there be new conditions in the workplace that present challenges to staffing your project? You might not know the answers to these questions now, but it’s best to have an open dialog with the client as the project is being put on hold to addresses the possible challenges to project restart, most of which will likely impact the schedule.

In the end, best practices related to project management require a strong emphasis on clear communication with your client, especially in these uncertain times. Doing so could greatly improve your firm’s ability to resume normal operations and to thrive in the future.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:50 AM

Programming and Analysis: Building Setbacks

  • 14 April, 2020

Long ago, buildings were constructed with the excitement of technology—meaning buildings could be as tall as technology allowed. The Equitable Building in New York City is one of the most famous examples of this. A large, bulky building, it seemed like a giant fortress (at almost 600 feet tall) but there were no regulations governing setbacks at the time.

The Equitable Building is a behemoth, constructed in 1915. A new building code for New York City would be issued in 1916, changing the form of buildings for centuries to come. This new era of building code ushered in the advent of the wedding cake building—a style of building to be the new vernacular of the New York City skyline.

The wedding cake building style was not a commentary on aesthetic deliciousness but was, rather, a commentary on the necessity of buildings to take on that form due to the new code. Although any proponent of the building code will emphatically deny that it dictates the aesthetics of buildings, the wedding cake shape is a result of important function and developing urban living.

Programming and Analysis - Building Setbacks

Wall Street serves as an infamous example for the case of sunlight being accessible to all. It is often said that due to the wall-like nature of Wall Street in lower Manhattan (pre-wedding cake), the sun and other resources were blocked out from the street level, creating a cavernous experience and potentially unhealthy conditions.

The turn of the century also brought concerns with the increasing height of buildings and the potential for fire. In 1904, the city of Baltimore suffered a devastating fire during which more than 1,500 buildings were completely leveled, and more approximately 1,000 more were severely damaged. The property loss from this disaster was an estimated $100 million. Consequently, building codes were adopted stressing fireproof construction. The wedding cake building style refers to the typology of building that resulted from this new code. These buildings got their name because they are stepped to acknowledge the setbacks required to allow light down to the street level and to accommodate separation between buildings to make them safer as they rose higher.

The separation between buildings is an important component in the high-rise building. The setbacks allow for distance should a fire break out in one building. That distance impedes the spread of fire while disabling or slowing it from spreading from one building to the next. This is particularly important, as the resources for firefighting were not as advanced as they are now.

Slowing or stopping the spread of fire is not the only task of building setbacks. As noted above, they also provide access to light and fresh air at street level and afford some privacy—especially as distance grows between tiers—creating easier access for building maintenance.

Although setbacks still exist with the modern building code, access to light and air, as well as safety are rights that should be afforded every community member of a municipality and are recognized as imperative in promoting healthy, urban living.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:31 AM

Project Management: Client Reduction of Scope

  • 07 April, 2020

A client comes to an architect with a project. During the process, the client agrees to the design and budget and signs a contract with the contractor for a stipulated sum. While under construction, the client says they are unable to afford the project and reduces scope. What is the team supposed to do?

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a gray area and a very tricky situation. At the time of construction, the contract between the owner and contractor is based on a stipulated sum—that which is set by the cost of work issued via the schedule of values. That is the basis for their contract and, if the architect’s fees are a percentage of cost of construction, that serves as the basis for the architect’s fees as well.

It is the right of the contractor to request that the owner provides proof that they can financially support the cost of the project; however, that often does not happen on smaller projects.

There are instances when the client, after the contract is signed, says they want to reduce scope—not only to lower construction costs but often to avoid architect’s fees as well. I wish this was the exception in the industry, but I have seen it time and time again. What to do?

First and foremost, this is considered a breach of contract, as it should be. The client has not only committed to a contractual cost via the bidding and negotiation phase but has committed to a scope of work. Contracts aside, an architect has set aside time and could be missing out on potential work due to the commitment to this project. Should a project not live up to its promise (or contractual duties), the risk reaches further into the architecture firm, allocating additional resources (money) to cover work being performed, etc. The AIA contracts provide verbiage concerning the termination of the contract, but that is just that—the contract termination, which the client can do for no apparent reason.

Project Management - Client Reduction of Scope

If the client does not terminate the contract, they are obligated to adhere to the agreed-upon conditions. They essentially have two options: to stay the course and fulfill their contractual duties, or to terminate the contract. In terminating the contract, they may very well end up with an unfinished project and increased costs due to restarting the work after it has been stopped. It may be in their best interest, then, to continue with the project and stay on track. The unfortunate part of contracts is that the architect and contractor can only terminate the contract if the client does not pay within due notice. They are not allowed recourse in this situation, whereas the client can terminate the work at any time for any reason.

Should this happen, it is best to educate the client on the issues that arise from reducing scope and fees, as they may be unaware as to how it affects an architect’s business.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:40 AM

Project Management: Instruments of Service

  • 31 March, 2020

A client comes to an architect asking for his drawings, models, and everything else that he has created to design a building. The client’s justification is that they paid for those materials, so they should rightfully be theirs.

The materials used to create the design and development of a building project are not owned outright by the client. This is a common misconception because those materials are classified as instruments of service. What is necessary in understanding the concept of instruments of service is what the architect provides—and that is a service. Although architects design buildings, they do not provide the product of the building but rather the service of designing the building. The instruments of service are a part of providing that service, not a product.

Per the agreements and contracts between the architect and the owner, the owner is given the right to use the instruments of service for their project at a certain location within a certain timeframe. There are instances when the contracts may be amended to be able to use these instruments of service as derivative works—commonly for developments—but that necessitates an agreed-upon change to the formal contract through negotiation.

The risk the architect runs in surrendering the instruments of service could be personal or professional. It could be personal if the architect is not being compensated for the derivative works should the client build multiple versions of the design. The professional liability is presented when the derivative works are built—built to substandard conditions (especially if the architect is not involved), does not follow the regulations of the local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction), and is not designed for specific considerations like a building designed within an area of high earthquake activity. These reasons could have serious consequences for the architect.

Federal copyright law covers not only the instruments of service but also the building itself from being copied. This verbiage is also included in the contract between owner and contractor to ensure that the contractor is also aware of this provision.

That is not to say that the instruments of service are not released. As noted above, often for development projects where repetition is necessary as part of the business model, instruments of service are issued for replicating a model project. For the architect, however, this type of situation should be compensated fairly and should be addressed within the contracts. This situation should necessitate the acknowledgment of this repetition and legally, how to cover this instance in regard to the responsibility of the architect.

Transfer agreements are also issued to outline the responsibilities of the owner and the architect in the event of transfer.

In all, it is imperative that the architect understands what constitutes an instrument of service and its role in regard to the services the architect provides. It is not a right of ownership by the client but can be an opportunity for developing a project further with the client without assuming liability.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:34 AM

Project Management: Value Engineering

  • 24 March, 2020

A building project has undergone a substantial design process; however, when it comes to the bidding and negotiation phase, it is discovered that the project is grossly over budget. Uh oh. First of all, contractually, it is the architect’s responsibility to keep track of costs with each phase. During schematic design, these costs may be square footage or unit costs, which are very general. Design development adds more detail and costs may be associated with the quantity of square feet for specific materials or assembly costs—the cost of a certain assembly per linear foot.

The bidding and negotiating phase is when a prospective contractor assigns actual costs to compile the cost of work. This is the most accurate cost for the work; however, the architect should always track costs throughout the process.

So, the costs come in grossly over budget. What to do? It is the responsibility of the architect to be mindful of budget. The architect can solicit the owner for additional funding, or else they turn to value engineering. Value engineering often has a negative connotation because it is commonly associated with replacing a material or system with an often-inferior material or system due to cost. However, that is not how value engineering should be perceived.

Value engineering is a concept in which, by definition, a substitution occurs embodying a relationship to the value of function and cost. Although part of the equation with value engineering is to provide a substitution at a lower cost, that cost cannot and should not compromise the function of the material or system to be substituted.

A poor model of value engineering would be the example of replacing a wall system in an acoustically sensitive area. Should a particular wall assembly be replaced with one that is substantially less expensive but does not manage acoustics as well as the original proposed assembly, the assembly sacrifices functionality, which can greatly affect the use of the space. This is not conducive to the original intent and can require extra, future costs to remedy the inefficiency.

A good model of value engineering would seek solutions to balance cost, value, and function. Value is somewhat hard to define as it contains varying objectives but, most often, it connects cost and function. For example, the value, which could attach an extra cost, is necessary due to the function it provides for that extra cost. In that case, it may not be best to value engineer that assembly out of the project. An element that may not have such a weight on function and be more aesthetic is a good place to start with value engineering. Costly marble may be substituted with a less costly engineered stone.

Whatever the change, the process necessitates that the contractor provides substitutions for approval by the architect. The contractor cannot perform the value engineering as it is the responsibility of the architect to confirm—and subsequently approve—the appropriateness of the substitution, which should be value based, not strictly based on cost.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:21 AM

Practice Management: Direct vs. Consequential Damages

  • 20 March, 2020

Per AIA contracts , there is a lot of verbiage regarding damages. Often, all parties agree to the waiver of claims due to damages in the AIA contract A201, the general conditions of the contract for construction.

The waiver of claims means that all parties bound together by this contract agree to hold the other parties harmless should damages be claimed. This is done for many reasons, but let’s first look at the matter of definition.

First, what is a claim and what makes it direct or consequential? A claim is a formal request to a surety (an insurance company) to be compensated for damages. A direct damage is one that can be directly connected to damage. A common example is that of a roof that has caved in. This would assume that the roof was newly constructed and has failed due to the incompetence of the design. A claim for direct damages would request that the roof be rebuilt if it is found that there was negligence in the design of the roof. Consequential damage is damage that is a theoretical or disconnected effect due to the failure of the roof. An example of consequential damage would be the loss of rent due to the roof failure and the loss of rent to come due to its repair. The cost of rent is not directly connected to the roof damage and is, therefore, consequential—a result of the consequence. It should be noted that contract breaches could be considered consequential damages but, in court, the definition is wide and varied, and often consequential damages are limited to those defined as a result of a loss or consequence.

As noted, in the AIA’s A201 contract, these are waived among parties. One reason could be that, with consequential damages, especially, they could be ill defined and could lead to contentious relationships within the contract. However, the contract should anticipate the worst and set up for the best—the best way to deal with unknowns and with contingencies to cover costs should something happen that leads to delays and added costs, etc. Building projects carry risks, and those risks should be managed by all parties. A contract based on rosy situations that does not anticipate issues can be problematic.

However, a main reason for waiving claims for damages is due to business. A construction company or an architecture firm often does not have the assets of wealthy clients or development companies. Bringing claims such as these could bankrupt construction companies and architecture firms. At the very least, the damages could far exceed the profit for the particular project. It is for this reason that many companies will not work with an owner who suggests striking that waiver from the contract.

Practice Management

How to deal with these situations? Coming up with alternative methodologies for covering such issues, other than a striking of the waiver, is what is best in these situations. However, this is often covered by professional liability insurance. No matter what, changes to the contract need to be reviewed by lawyers experienced in the construction process so that everyone is mutually covered in these agreements.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 03:28 AM

Project Development and Documentation: Refrigeration Cycles

  • 17 March, 2020

Refrigeration cycles are used in many mechanical systems and can be somewhat difficult to understand at first. There are four main components to the refrigeration cycle: compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator. A refrigerant flows within the lines (pipes) of the system and enters through those components. To start at a point (since it is a cycle), the vapor leaves the low-pressure side of the evaporator to the high-pressure side via the compressor. The compressor compresses the refrigerant, making the vapor the hottest at that point. After the vapor leaves the compressor, it enters the condenser where the condenser rejects the heat and the vapor turns into liquid state. The liquid then travels to the expansion valve/thermal expansion valve where it enters the low-pressure side of the system and through the expansion valve to turn back to liquid state. It then travels through the evaporator, where heat is absorbed and continues in the loop to the compressor. There is a phase change between liquid and gas with the mediating substance.

Why a refrigeration cycle? For one, it creates a closed loop system that supplies both heating and cooling—potentially. It is most common in smaller systems like a through-wall air-conditioning unit. The compression and expansion of the refrigerant (which is designed to do this efficiently) work to create cooling by removing the heat from the system. That is an important concept in cooling systems. Cooling is created by removing the heat from the system, not by adding actual cooling, which is a common misconception. The refrigeration cycle removes the heat from the interior to the exterior (this works the same in refrigerators). Pressure is employed to create this system—when the pressure compresses, heat is created. When pressure is released and the agent is expanded, cooling occurs. This all happens within the coils of the system. Fans are employed to run air over the coils and expel cool or warm air, depending on the cycle. Often, units with a refrigerant cycle work in one direction, supplying heating or cooling. However, there are reversible systems that supply both heating and cooling by reversing the loop.

Refrigeration Cycles

The medium within the coils—the refrigerant—is an engineered substance in which the properties of the substance meet operating pressures. Traditionally, these substances have been considered toxic or harmful for the environment as well as contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. Because of this, refrigerants are assigned classifications and ratings of OPD (Ozone Depletion Potential) and (GWP) Global Warming Potential.

In regard to the larger system/unit, a COP (or coefficient of performance) is determined, which is a measure of efficiency for the mechanical unit. The COP is measured by the amount of heat removed as a ratio to the amount of work needed to do so; however, the COP differs between the heating and cooling cycles. Often, the COP or other energy-efficient measurement (SEER) is requested by AHJs to prove the efficiency of mechanical equipment.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:24 AM

Project Management: Billing and Fees

  • 13 March, 2020

It is often said that billing and fees for architectural services are nothing short of an art form. It is a balance between the work to be performed, fair compensation, and the satisfaction of the client. Whatever the outcome, the fees set by the architecture firm should be measured against recordkeeping but also must acknowledge that an architecture firm is also a business and needs to be viable as such.

That viability includes maintaining a profit with every job. No matter the fee structure—hourly, percentage of construction cost, and so on—there should be an added profit calculated into the fee. If you look at a fee schedule, there is a billable rate that is much higher than what actually appears on a paycheck. For example, a project manager may earn an annual salary of $83,200, which equates to an hourly wage of $40/hour. However, the fee schedule for the firm may charge the client $120/hour for their services. Why? Should they feel cheated that they are not getting full compensation for work?

Businesses should charge more for the hourly services of their employees—in fact, an architecture firm on average charges about three times as much. Doing so ensures that the business can pay its bills and then some. Concepts like the break-even rate and overhead rate, as well as an additional percentage for profit, all play into setting the fees for a firm.

Before these fees can be calculated, the expenses of the firm must be determined. These are the indirect expenses—expenses that cannot be billed directly to a job/client—and include utilities, software, rent, insurance, etc. These numbers determine many things for a firm. Are there too many expenses? Are the indirect expenses benefitting the firm? These are matters of everyday business. On top of that, overhead rate is a factor to give the break-even rate. However, that does not account for profit. A typical business—and an architecture firm should be no different—aims for a 20% profit. This is also added to the hourly rate to ensure that the firm is making a profit off of every hour of wage.

Project Management - Billing and Fees

Profit is not a bad thing, and I have known many architects who sell themselves short thinking that they are being greedy trying to make a 20% profit or any profit! But it’s business. Profit is needed to keep a firm alive, and that is actually for the benefit of the client. If a firm cannot stay viable, that may actually affect the client because if a firm folds and closes due to mismanaged finances, it could have very bad effects for the client, the job, and everyone involved (which I have also seen). It is with this mindset that projects should have a healthy financial base to maintain the growth of the firm and to ensure the success of a project.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:53 AM

Programming and Analysis: Net, Usable, Rentable Areas and Efficiencies

  • 10 March, 2020

When designing buildings, architects are often employed by clients who are concerned about the efficiency of space. Building efficiencies look at the ratio of net assignable space to gross area for the overall building, usable versus gross for the base efficiency, and even how large a building should be (gross square feet) in relation to the net assignable square footage versus the percentage of efficiency. What these all compare, in different ways, is the relationship of usable space to unusable or unassignable space.

Net area or net assignable space is the usable space subtracting secondary circulation. In an office, for example, this may be the area of the actual office space versus building corridors. Usable area is the net assignable area plus the secondary circulation, and the rentable area is the usable area, area for services and circulation, and excludes elevator shafts and stairs.

The reason for determining efficiencies has many benefits to the client. For example, a client may want to develop a building to rent to others (in the case of an office building). In that case, if their goal is to make the most rent from this office building, they may ask the architect to design with the least amount of circulation, which can affect the floorplate configuration for the building and its core.

A corporate office building tends to have the least efficiency and a warehouse the most. Why is that? There must be circulation and means of egress by code. If the calculation for the overall efficiency is net assignable square feet divided by the gross area, and the net assignable square feet is about half of the gross, a building with a gross square footage of 50,000 square feet would have an efficiency of 50% (overall efficiency = 25,000 ft2/50,000 ft2). Alternately, a warehouse is essentially all circulation and all net assignable square feet simultaneously. A 50,000-ft2 warehouse (using the same calculation) would produce almost 100% efficiency (or close to, it since net square footage does not account for the area of the exterior facade).

Programming and Analysis

Efficiencies can serve as a very useful tool in determining if enough space is being allocated within a building for certain programs. They can also turn the design discussion to consider space planning as well as determining the choice of mechanical system (a central system versus split/local systems or a hydronic versus air-system), structural system, envelope system, and anything that could greatly affect space. It is also important to consider that just because these are termed efficiencies, that does not always equate to better. It may actually be in the best interest of a company to have less office space and more health-based space. A healthier space (such as yoga rooms, or room for a ping-pong table) can create a more efficient staff. A company may opt for less employees but a higher level of production with such amenities. These efficiency equations cannot account for the qualitative experience of space, however, and should be used solely as a quantitative tool.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 08:06 AM

Programming and Analysis: How to Size a Building

  • 06 March, 2020

With the construction of increasingly taller buildings, how does one determine how large a building can be? That comes down to the codes. There is not one but many codes to reference for the design and construction of a building. For sizing a building, there are a few main codes to reference— zoning code, the IBC building code, and local codes/deeds that may include provisions for easements and the like.

Easements determine if there are any utilities or other services for the public or special site conditions that necessitate the dedication of a portion of private land for its function. These often restrict blocking, removing, or building on certain areas.

Zoning codes are municipal codes that determine the density and character of cities—usually more urban areas. Zoning codes spell out the ability to build on a lot including the floor area ratio (FAR) and building height limitations. FAR determines how much a site can be built upon, which can start to determine the number of stories, etc. For example, in an R-1 residential zone, there may be a FAR of 0.5. R-1 zones are low-density, typically detached single-family homes. A FAR of 0.5 indicates that the building can only occupy 0.5 or 50% of the lot square footage. So, if there is a lot of 2,400 square feet, the allowed floor area of the building is 1,200 square feet. Zoning also indicates how much of the lot can be developed, including the width of front, rear, and side yards, etc. The FAR is different from the footprint of the building. If the footprint of the building is restricted to 600 square feet (as an extreme example, but it makes the math easy) and the building is allowed 1,200 square feet, does that mean I have to give up 600 square feet? No. It means that the building can be two stories (or more) with a total of 1,200 square feet for the building. What counts toward FAR is defined in the definitions of the zoning code, since spaces like mechanical rooms are typically not counted toward the FAR.

How to Size a Building

However, there are often height limitations. Those are included in the zoning code along with restrictions due to the sky-exposure plane, height of street walls to maintain, occupancy classification, types of construction, building frontage, the requirement of sprinklers, parking requirements, etc.

The IBC building code also includes provisions for height and area limitations due to the type of construction, occupancy, and sprinklers.

These two codes work hand in hand to define the buildable area for a structure and should be referenced at the beginning of the process. The most stringent code is the one that takes precedence and codes—especially zoning codes—change. It is very common practice for areas of a municipality to be rezoned, allowing for different occupancies/mixed-use program, and constructing taller buildings. Designing a building is a network of information and knowing how the zoning code interfaces with the building code and vice versa is the strongest start to the process.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:12 AM

Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency, Part 3

  • 03 March, 2020

I write this blog post as a personal reflection about the additional effects of terrain and how they can affect building construction and planning. Although this post is not directly connected to climate and energy efficiency per se, it demonstrates the necessity of understanding how the concepts of wind flow, temperature, and terrain can affect building design and development in both a positive and a negative way.

I saw firsthand the devastating effects of fire in the community of Paradise, California a couple of months after the infamous wildfire left the town in a charred entanglement of destruction. I was not there for my own personal gain but to offer an academic discourse to propose rebuilding the community through the proposals of my design students. More importantly, I was there to offer solidarity and hope for rebuilding. From what I saw, and through the stories I heard from the survivors, it was incredible that so few lives were lost.

I am not a stranger to the aftermath of natural disasters, having also witnessed the destruction of communities due to hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. However, nothing could have prepared me for the destruction at Paradise.

The question that was continually asked by the community was how to make communities safer, especially in areas prone to wildfire. As this is my profession, I could not help but have that in the back of my mind and I pose it to you, the reader because I have yet to find that answer.

To understand rebuilding is to understand the source of destruction. Much like the illustration of the previous blog post of wind, air temperature, and terrain, the same can be applied with natural disasters like wildfire.

Air rises when heated. As air is heated in a valley (via sun or fire), it flows through the valley with increased speed, constricted by valley walls (the Venturi effect) and rises up and over the valley walls. Paradise is situated at the top of multiple valleys, and the fire was exacerbated by the strong winds blowing through those valleys, causing it to spread at great speed.

Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency

This is not to gloss over the great complexities of this particular disaster—there are a multitude. The first two parts of this post examine the role of the environment in building design and siting for energy efficiency. However, architects are also charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. In that light, it is imperative to understand the potential negative effects of building siting with these factors, especially in regard to microclimates. The ARE® exam will almost certainly not get into these complexities but rather will focus primarily on strategies for energy efficiency. However, in practice, it is important to have a universal understanding of these strategies and to weigh the pluses and minuses in order to balance energy efficiency, design, and the duty of the architect to the public—especially in areas prone to disaster.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:39 AM

Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency, Part 2

  • 28 February, 2020

Part 1 of Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency examined the role of building siting and passive strategies according to the major climatic regions. As a recap, those four major climatic regions are: cold, temperate, hot-arid and hot-humid.

We covered the orientation in plan regarding sun exposure and internal heat gains for the benefit (or detriment) of the building. In addition to location in plan on the site, the vertical orientation of a building—especially on a hill—is also as important.

Air moves with temperature and terrain. Different terrains channel the wind in varying paths. These—along with the climate regions—create microclimates, which are essentially the climates of the immediate site based on a very local set of conditions. Besides the terrain channeling or dispersing/moving wind in unique ways, we must also recognize how temperature affects air movement.

Hot air rises because it is less dense than cold air. During the day, air moves over land and through valleys and rises as the sun warms it. Because of this, air moves uphill in valleys throughout the day. As that air cools during the evening and night, the direction reverses as the land cools. This is due to the loss of heat in the air resulting in the air flowing down the valley walls and settling in the valley floor, only to start the process again once when the sun comes up.

Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency

The temperature changes in the air and land can create different effects throughout the day and in different seasons. For example, in a cold climatic region, buildings placed on the tops of hills (especially within narrow valleys) should be avoided, especially without a windbreak. This is because of the cold winds to which the building would be exposed in those locations. Assuming conventional construction (not air-tight or similar), cold air can infiltrate a building and introduce cold air into a warm interior, making it inefficient to heat the building on the interior (cold climates need higher internal heat gains as they are heat dominated). Additionally, buildings should not be located at the bottom of a hill, where cold air can pool in valleys, etc. for the same reasons.

Buildings in hot-humid climates are often lifted off the ground to promote air movement around and through them for natural ventilation and to keep them away from the humid ground covered in vegetation.

Buildings in hot-arid climates benefit from being located at the bottom of a hill/valley because of the pooling of cooler air and the potential of shadows from the valley walls that may block harsh sun.

Often, when siting buildings for construction, the solar path takes the dominant priority. However, siting in regard to the environment, is complex. Sun and shading are two factors. Wind movement and terrain profile are equally as important in considering the factors that can affect a building’s performance.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:30 AM

Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency, Part 1

  • 25 February, 2020

Mechanical systems consume a lot of energy in buildings—approximately 35% of a building’s total energy use. While HVAC equipment is becoming more efficient, the main strategies that can reduce building energy consumption start at building planning and siting.

There are four major categories for climatic regions: hot-arid, cold, temperate, and hot-humid. Each of these regions offers a unique set of climate conditions when designing a building. Regarding the design of mechanical systems, these regions determine if the building needs more heating, more cooling, more or less humidification, or a balanced system. Not understanding this and designing a building without considering its integration with the climate could potentially create an environment that is inefficient and more taxing on the environment and resources.

Designing an efficient building begins with the building site. One of the first steps that the designer should consider is the climatic region of the project, as it can affect the building form depending on the particular region.

In cold regions, the concern for building design is the loss of heat as well as infiltration through the building envelope. Building form should be compact to minimize the surface area and should be oriented to allow for the maximum exposure to solar radiation.

Temperate regions favor a building that is elongated in the east-west axis allowing for maximum solar exposure in the cooler season while employing shading devices to keep out the hot summer sun. This introduces the natural heat of the sun during the times of the year when it is needed and keeping it out when it is not needed—designed using the solar angles of the sun determined by the solar path. The building orientation for this region minimizes exposure on the east and west facades, which are harder to control with shading, and gains are far greater in summer months.

Building Orientation and Energy Efficiency

Hot-arid regions suffer from exposure to hot air and harsh sun. In these climates, the building should be well-shaded (not only through shading devices but vegetation, if possible). Inner courtyards are an effective design feature that may employ water features to promote evaporative cooling as the wind travels over them creating cooler air that enters adjacent building spaces. As an aside, what I find particularly interesting about this methodology is that it can be found back in ancient times. Windcatchers were prominent in desert regions, and this passive strategy is still relevant today.

Lastly, there are hot and humid regions. For these regions, like temperate regions, buildings are elongated in the east-west axis reducing the east and west facade exposure. Shading devices are used to reduce solar heat gain. Additionally, the incorporation of inner courtyards promotes the movement of air through spaces providing cooling through evaporation and making the hot air more comfortable with air movement. A schematic of this orientation is given in the above figure.

While there are other passive strategies that can also reduce the need for mechanical systems, these focus on integrating the building with the climate for determining site strategies. Part 2 on this topic covers the location of a building vertically regarding climatic regions.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:02 AM

Thermal Comfort

  • 21 February, 2020

What makes the human body thermally comfortable? It’s not just temperature alone. A common misconception is that thermal comfort—the state in which the mind is comfortable with the thermal environment—is strictly due to air temperature. However, our bodies are complex organisms and as such, it takes a lot more to make us comfortable or uncomfortable.

In addition to air temperature—that is just one puzzle piece—factors such as relative humidity, activity, mean radiant temperature, and air motion all play into comfort. Air temperature is the temperature of the air measured as the dry-bulb temperature—the temperature of the air without humidity or moisture. Relative humidity accounts for the moisture, or humidity, in the air. The mean radiant temperature measures the temperature radiating off of surfaces. Then there is the movement of air. Oftentimes, the weather seems a lot cooler due to increased wind speeds (wind chill) on a cool or cold day (or vice versa). In addition to the above factors is our individual bodies’ metabolism, which may make some people feel warmer or cooler than others.

Because everyone is different and has their own thresholds of thermal comfort, it is nearly impossible to assign a thermal comfort level to all people. A classic example is air conditioning within an office environment. When it is turned on, some people may still be too warm, others may be just right, and others may resort to wearing a sweater (another factor considered for thermal comfort)!

In fact, the standards for setting thermal comfort only account for most of the occupants of a particular space. ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) sets the thermal comfort standards for office spaces and other programs. This is outlined in the ASHRAE 55 standard, which is based on the predicted mean vote (PMV) and predicted percentage of dissatisfied (PPD)—a method devised from a percentage of people who are thermally dissatisfied. From this, the thermal comfort of a space is essentially geared toward about 80% of the population of a certain space. The range of thermal comfort in temperature is about 68° to 72°F but can be shifted due to the other factors noted above.

With thermal comfort, however, physical comfort is not the only consideration in the design of spaces and integration of building systems, such as mechanical systems. The body’s thermal comfort can play a substantial role in the physical and mental well-being of a person, especially in promoting a healthy indoor environment and experience. A hot or stuffy indoor environment due to poor air circulation or high humidity can have adverse effects, making the indoor air quality poor and subsequently affecting the performance of those occupying that space. It is because of this that many healthy building standards promote a high-quality indoor environment. Thermal comfort and a person’s well-being are intertwined and, therefore, involves a lot more than simply air temperature.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 01:00 PM

IIC vs STC

  • 18 February, 2020

When it comes to sound, there are multiple ways to determine the movement of noise through assemblies. Sound travels in many different ways and as waves. Different ratings depend on the medium through which the sound waves travel. The emphasis tends to be placed on STC (sound transmission class) ratings, but others are just as important—or maybe more applicable—depending on the situation. This post will focus on the difference between IIC and STC—both very common ways to measure the transmission of sound through assemblies but approaching the source of sound differently.

The STC rating is concerned with the travel of sound or noise (sound above a certain threshold for which it is considered unwanted) through the air. The STC measures how well an assembly of materials absorbs the transmission of airborne sound/noise. Assemblies not only include interior partition walls, ceilings/floors, and exterior walls, but also include windows, doors, and so on.

However, sound waves do not just travel through the air, but are also transmitted through waves moving through materials. In this case, it may be more appropriate to focus on the IIC (impact insulation class) rating, which is more concerned with the travel of sound through materials and measures how well an assembly blocks impact noise. The IIC rating—although applied to assemblies—is more appropriate for floor/ceiling assemblies because that is where the impact noise will most likely occur.

Depending on a variety of factors—but most likely which assembly (such as the wall, floor, or ceiling) is being rated and for which program—the employment of one rating over another may be better suited for measuring the impact of noise in a space and the design of assemblies. For example, in a dense, urban area, while there is a lot of noise traveling between walls, there may be more concern for the sound that is traveling through floors and ceilings within a building. In this case, it may be more appropriate to review IIC because that noise not only comes from side to side but also from above and below as well. In the case of offices, the clicking of high heels (always a common example when discussing sound) travels through structural members and flooring (typically wood in older construction), which may affect the space more so than airborne sounds. In this case, it would be more appropriate to be concerned with the IIC since it focuses on the sound transferred via materials through floors and ceilings. Conversely, STC may be more appropriate in isolating spaces from each other due to program—such as a wall between a quiet office and adjoining loud conference room, when the noise will most likely travel through the air.

Not all sound is created equal, and when addressing acoustics, knowing the source is just as important as the rating because the sound comes from all over. Recognizing that and applying the ratings appropriately will allow for more successful strategies in alleviating the transfer of noise.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 01:00 PM

Gross Versus Net Square Feet with Code

  • 14 February, 2020

There are some instances when gross and net square footage are calculated. Gross square footage generally refers to all of the square feet, whereas the net square footage accounts for some subtractions. An example for this could pertain to cost estimating, where gross square feet would include the interior floor space as well as interior and exterior walls. It would account for “all” of it, with the exception of open courts within a building, walls that extend outside of the footprint of the building/roof overhang at ground level, and so on.

With net square footage, there is typically an accounting of some loss. Again, considering cost estimating, net square footage accounts for floor space but does not account for exterior walls and other elements such as corridors, toilets, mechanical rooms.

With gross square footage and how it pertains to code... Well, this is where it gets a little tricky because it does not follow that typical definition and tends to trip up a lot of people in application.

For measuring gross square feet per the code—and, again, this pertains to this particular instance— the gross square footage does not include the exterior walls. The gross square footage regarding code is measured to the interior face of the exterior walls.

Don’t believe it? Let’s reference it.

The International Building Code (IBC) gives definitions to certain terminology that can be found in Chapter 2—the chapter designated for definitions. If a term is not found in this chapter, it is assumed that the definition of that term is consistent with practice and the industry and is well understood making further and/or specific definition unnecessary. The terminology for these definitions is italicized throughout the code indicating that there is a specific meaning for each italicized term. Per the definition in Chapter 2 of the IBC, the gross floor area is listed as “Floor Area, Gross”. This definition states that the gross floor area, per code, is, “The floor area within the inside perimeter of the exterior walls of the building…”

This is tricky, but again, it’s a matter of definition and can be especially tricky compared with all the ways to measure space. What is important to know is that this definition differs and that the code defines it in a way that it does not include the exterior walls. So, when determining occupancy, for example, the code allots a certain area for certain occupancies. Some are measured in net square feet and others in gross square feet. For the latter, that measurement would be the gross square feet; the entirety—excluding vent shafts and courts but including corridors, closets, ramps, stairways, and so on—to the interior perimeter of the exterior walls. It may not be consistent in the way that it is measured with other instances and with other tasks, but concerning code, gross square feet is to the interior of the exterior walls.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 01:30 PM

Project Management: Change Orders

  • 11 February, 2020

One of the most frustrating parts of a construction project can be change orders. They have given a building project a bad reputation but oftentimes, they are inevitable. Things change. This can be due to field conditions and uncovering something unexpected, or it can be due to a design change per to a client or the architect. Rather than not accept any changes whatsoever (which is, more often than not, unrealistic), changes are accounted for and built into the process. In architects’ contracts, contingencies are often included to cover design changes should they arise. Contingencies may also be included in construction contracts to cover construction costs associated with changes. In documentation, changes are handled using three different methods to formally change the contract for construction/contract documents:

1.An architect’s supplemental instruction (ASI)
2.(Formal) change orders
3.Construction change directive

Any change will have a connection to cost, schedule, and scope.

If there is no change in cost, schedule, or scope, then an ASI is issued (AIA document G710-2017 or a version thereof). It is only to be used for minor changes and oftentimes serves to provide clarification.

If there is a change in cost, schedule, or scope, a change can be handled in two ways: through a formal change order or a construction change directive. Despite being treated as two separate entities, they are essentially two different ways of getting to the same place—authorizing a change through a formal change order. To clarify that point, the end goal is to have the change approved and work performed and compensated. A formal change order (AIA document G701-2017) is straightforward. It lists the change in scope and the time and/or costs associated with the change. It is an agreement between the owner, architect, and contractor that is signed by all parties. When it has been signed, the work is done and compensated to cover the extra costs (and may be covered by the contingencies added to contracts).

However, sometimes this process does not run so smoothly. Sometimes a contractor may issue a change order for approval, but the owner does not agree with the cost or time. Any disagreement could delay the project further. The contractor could be liable for any change in schedule or projection completion could be delayed. This is the role of the construction change directive (G714-2017), which directs the changes to be made while the terms (cost and time) are being hammered out. This is an efficient way of performing the work and keeping the project on schedule, even in a time of conflict and discord. It is recommended that the construction change directive, when approved, is superseded by a formal change order, which is why they are two ways of getting to the ultimate goal: an approved change order.

These documents not only track the changes in the work (possibly with an accompanying log) but are the three ways to formally change the contract for construction.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 01:00 PM

Programming and Analysis: Owner’s Responsibilities/Surveys

  • 07 February, 2020

The roles of the parties involved in a construction project are of critical importance. Clear responsibilities contribute to a process that runs more smoothly, promotes better communication, and hopefully makes the process less contentious. The roles of the owner, architect, and contractor are outlined in the AIA contracts. In general, the architect is responsible for the design intent, the contractor for the work and construction site, and the owner for the site.

The owner’s responsibilities to the site include possessing the information necessary to understand site conditions. This includes (but may not be exclusive to) geotechnical reports and surveys. The reason why the owner is responsible for the site is essentially tied to risk. The Owner, in regard to the existing site conditions, is the party to whom it is most appropriate to assign that risk.

There is not one but multiple surveys to consider. The most common surveys are metes and bounds, plat of survey, and American Land Title Association (ALTA) surveys.

Metes and bounds surveys measure off of benchmarks. Between the benchmarks are distances/ dimensions and angles noted from the cardinal points. What benchmarks are chosen depends on the site. Common benchmarks include trees, water features, rock piles, etc.

A plat of survey, also called a plat survey or boundary survey, is a much more accurate survey and serves in an official capacity. Plats of the survey are connected to property deeds and are compared against the deed when created. For instance, iron bars are installed at different corners to set up points of reference. What I find interesting about these (and ALTA) surveys is that because they are used in an official capacity, the procedures and requirements are outlined in standards of practice issued by the responsible jurisdiction and/or organization. These standards include the size and type of iron bar to use, the depth to which they are to be installed, soil conditions for installation, and so on. These plats of the survey are performed by a licensed, professional land surveyor and require a seal and signature on the survey.

An ALTA survey is much more detailed than a plat of survey and is recommended particularly for commercial properties where risk is higher. Due to a higher level of detail, they are also more expensive but offer more protection in case of disputes. ALTA surveys follow standards per ALTA and American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM).

The types of surveys needed for a project depend on the project type, location, if it is on vacant land or in a dense urban area, insurance requirements, acquisition, etc. Although it is the responsibility of the owner to provide the survey, the architect absolutely must know about the different types and the level of detail, as they often make recommendations. Often, the owner will ask the architect to order the survey, but that should be discouraged because in doing so, the architect assumes the risk that should be allocated to the owner and could be held liable.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 06:00 PM

AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

  • 04 February, 2020

A membership in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in any capacity brings with it an expectation for the highest standards in competency, professionalism, and integrity. The AIA lays out what is expected of its members through the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (“the Code of Ethics”). It is important for both candidates taking the Architectural Registration Examination (ARE) and those with an AIA professional affiliation to understand this Code of Ethics because noncompliance can lead to disciplinary action. To understand compliance, the Code of Ethics must be understood. You can access this code for free on the AIA’s website (aia.org).

Code of Ethics

The AIA’s Code of Ethics begins with a preamble which, among other information, includes descriptions of its three tiers. I am not going to elaborate on the rest of the information beyond the three tiers, with a little explanation, but what is interesting is the history of the AIA and antitrust. Due to this, they cannot control setting service fees, etc. I think it is a fascinating part of the AIA’s history and recommend learning about it to any candidate or AIA member.

The AIA’s Code of Ethics is separated into three tiers:

1.Canons
2.Ethical standards
3.Rules of conduct

There are six canons, which essentially note the larger topic with a bit of an explanation. They are listed in order of precedence. Beyond the general obligations, the obligations are to the public, client, profession, colleagues, and the environment. This means that the obligations to the public are listed first after general obligations, and that is the first order of obligation according to this Code of Ethics. It may seem odd that the public is considered before a paying client, but the AIA member is obliged to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public first and foremost. Often, in doing so, you are protecting the client as well, but the first order of responsibility is to the public.

The ethical standards, or goals, follow the canons. They list the goals in short and then follow up with a short expectation of the member.

The rules of conduct are what make the AIA Code of Ethics enforceable. To underscore that point, they are in bright red in the Code of Ethics—you can’t miss them. The rules of conduct (“Rule(s)”) note what is expected of the member. Sometimes a Rule includes a commentary, which is not always included, nor is it considered a tier. The commentary elaborates on a Rule giving more specificity/clarification to a point/term.

Knowing and understanding the Code of Ethics is essential, in my opinion, not only in preparing for the ARE but in understanding what could be disciplined by the AIA.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:00 PM

ARE Practice and Business Content

  • 16 January, 2020

When taking the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE), I often wondered why it included content that I felt was more relevant to business and out of place on an exam for licensing architects.

Over time, it became clear to me that it all goes back to the architect’s duty to the health, safety, and welfare of the public through licensure.

The health of a business is crucial in any instance, but it is even more important to keep an architectural business healthy. Not to negate the work of other businesses and the importance of what they do, but an architect takes on some pretty hefty work. Architects shoulder a heavy responsibility, which is not always immediately apparent in schooling and training, and one that should not be taken lightly. The best explanation I have heard was by comparing architecture with medicine. The backstory was the question of why architects have to go through such rigorous schooling, training, licensure, and exams that are comparable with those of medical professionals. The response was that while a doctor is responsible for one person at a time, architects are responsible for potentially thousands of people at a time!

When an architect designs a building and/or supervises its construction, it must be secure for the health, safety, and welfare of the public, which is why it is imperative to have the necessary knowledge for licensure. Think of it this way: if an architectural firm goes belly-up in the middle of a job (which, unfortunately, is not uncommon), what happens? There could be restructuring and/or the owner may have to hire another firm to finish the work, which could lead to delays, changes in relationships, degradation of a site due to weather conditions and exposure, etc. Maybe the client does not have the funding for a new contract due to inflation or added costs of starting up work again (which could take years to solve), which could lead to choosing sub-par materials, sub-par contractors/subcontractors, and so on. During the interstitial time, codes could change, causing the proposed building to no longer be up to code. The job site could potentially be abandoned during this period and could have unauthorized occupants using the unfinished space. This might expose them to potentially dangerous conditions, or they might create dangerous conditions on that unfinished site, posing a threat to the larger public.

ARE Practice and Business Content

This is all purely conjecture, of course, and much more complicated than what is suggested here. But hopefully it illustrates the importance of the business content of the exams and why every licensed architect should have the tools to build and maintain a successful business—not just for themselves but for their duty to the public.

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:18 AM

Practice Management: Top-Down and Bottom-Up Budgets

  • 14 January, 2020

Budgeting and contracts are nothing short of an artform when applying them to the practice of architecture. They are always trying to hit a moving target—you never know what the outcome will be.

With budgets, the moving target is the work needed to perform the services and allocating them in order to make a profit. In the following example, we are looking at the budgets for an architectural firm’s services.

Top-Down Budget

Referencing the example above, top-down budgets start with the estimated cost of construction and the allocation of the architect’s fee from a percentage of estimated construction costs (note that this assumes that the architect’s contract is based on a percentage of construction costs for their service fee). That gross fee then subtracts the consultant’s fees (per the B101-2017 contract, the architect’s services includes consultants: structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers) in order to produce a net service revenue. The net service revenue is the monies that should be allocated for the architect’s services. However, the direct expense budget and the contingency budget should also be considered. Direct expenses are billable to a specific project and should be set aside as there are always direct expenses for a project. Contingencies cover any expenses should there be design changes. Top-down budgets set aside a direct expense budget and a contingency budget to cover unexpected expenses as a safeguard, so they don’t come out of the service revenue—the monies needed for the actual services of the contract to be performed. If they are not used, they are considered profit. Those expense budgets subtracted from the net service revenue results in the project labor budget, which is then broken down per phase and service percentages (e.g., 5% may go to bidding and negotiation because that is the typical percentage breakdown of that service phase).

With bottom-up budgeting, services are broken out by how long the architect thinks it will take to perform the service per phase multiplied by an average service fee. A bottom-up budget is much more organic and relies on experience to be able to allocate the time per service.

What is important to remember is that, again, this is trying to hit a moving target. How do you know which method is right when, compared side by side, they can have a huge difference? What’s important is to recognize that difference in going through the exercise. It should be common practice to work with both budgets side by side and if differences are way off, more time may need to be added/ subtracted per phase (bottom-up) or a different percentage may be allocated (top-down). The point is to see if the budgets meet in the middle and how. However, it is also important to review this along with other business expenses to ensure that compensation is not only fair but attributes to the health of the business practice in other areas (covering benefits, payroll, overhead, etc.).

Posted by EduMind Inc - 07:04 AM