A La Carte Drafting – more grumpy architect mutterances

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Bob Borson in his blog “Life of an Architect” touched on the Red Flags subject recently which put me in a grumpy architect mood. I would like to elaborate on his list of red flags. Beware clients who want a very limited set of drawings.

I am often approached by potential clients wanting incomplete plans. They usually want just basic floor plans and elevations and if they know what a section is they probably want that too. Just enough for a permit. I am hereby taking the stance that I will not accept these types of projects. Let it be known and henceforth and all that sort of thing. It is true that I have been talked into doing these limited service projects in the past. I just spent some time in my files looking over past projects of all sorts and remembering past rants, usually endured by my wife.
Let me elaborate on why I won’t do a half-assed job now.
1. They cost me money. Inevitably, the contractor will call me and ask for clarification on details or framing which results in my doing the drawings anyway and not getting paid for doing them, or spending way too much time on the phone or email dealing with issues that should have been in the construction documents in the first place. Or worse, the project gets built with my name on it as the architect and it ends up ugly and poorly detailed. Which leads to point number…
2. I have to be very careful what my name gets associated with. This is a small town and one poorly designed, underdesigned, poorly sited or poorly detailed building can really hurt a reputation. In this business reputation is very important. I was less careful with this in my early years and had the attitude: “whatever – it’s their project” but the result of this is that there are a number of projects that are just plain ugly and my name gets mentioned in association with them. Ouch!
3. It is part of my job to ensure that the whole process goes smoothly and providing incomplete services would be counter to this.
4. There are Liability issues with providing incomplete services which frighten me as well although I have been lucky in that I have never experienced them directly. Perhaps I should have a lawyer write up a special contract that would protect me by scaring off any potential clients who fall into this camp.

In the past most of these projects have morphed into full services as the client begins to understand just what it is that I do. Most people seem to think architects are overpaid drafters but I, for one, actually do very little drafting. Systems are in place to minimize the actual drafting for a project as a percentage of the whole. Figuring out what to draft takes a whole lot more time and effort than the actual drafting. If I am unable to communicate this up front, that is a red flag for me and I will have to consider carefully whether I will take on the project.

4 Comments

  1. I forgot to add that most people will come to me with photos of million dollar, highly “architected” homes and just want “something like this” just drafted up

  2. Robert, great post and I appreciate your honest and candor. I somewhat addressed this too a while back at http://wp.me/p1gGBj-be. Stick with your guns brother!

  3. Good post. Just remember what Tom Scully of Sandler Sales Training has emblazoned in big black letters on all four sides of the column that sits smack dab in the middle of his training room: “NO IS OK”.

  4. Brian, Saying no is something that you learn to do over a period of time as well as how to say no which I am not so good at yet. Perhaps it is worth me writing an essay, posting it on the blog and then re-reading it whenever the situation arises so that I can say no gracefully.

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