A Silly Solution

DesignIntelligence has published a new article by Scott Simpson, FAIA. “What Have We Learned?” is well-written and lays out some of the problems in the profession of architecture right now. http://www.di.net/articles/what-have-we-learned/

The article mentions that most owners find architects’ construction documents inadequate.

I just posted the following comment on the article. It’s not showing up yet. It might soon, it might never. I feel strongly about this, so I am sharing it here.

The article states that “…92 percent of owners do not believe that architects’ construction documents are suitable for the purpose intended.”

How can attempts “to prove that ‘good design is good business'” possibly solve this problem? Will SOMEONE ELSE fulfill the task of producing adequate construction documents while architects busy themselves with “becoming conversant” in “good business” and making up new “value propositions” to offer to potential clients?

Adequate information with which to construct buildings will still be necessary, whether it’s in digital form or on paper. Someone needs to produce this information. For hundreds of years, architects have been the people doing this. This is what architects are licensed to do. It still needs to be done. 

Encouraging architects in different directions, without addressing how this need for adequate construction documents is to be fulfilled, is silly.

Bad behavior in toddlers is best addressed by redirection (“Don’t pull the flowers off the bush; here’s a ball instead!”) Redirection is NOT the appropriate remedy for inadequate performance of NECESSARY duties.

Architects ought to be producing good construction documents. I believe that this is our primary obligation under the terms of our licensure. If we don’t, who will?

The Construction Specifications Institute can help. Have you seen the new CSI logo? The new tagline is “Building Knowledge. Improving Project Delivery.” Good construction documents are achievable, but you can’t produce them unless you understand building technology and the principles of construction documentation. If you want to start building your own knowledge about how to produce good construction documents, check out CSI. http://www.csinet.org

New directions for architects may be necessary. But basic obligations of architects are not being fulfilled. We must master the basics before we can move in new directions.

7 thoughts on “A Silly Solution

  1. As usual, Liz, you’ve focused on the crux of the issue. I just posted the following comment on the article.

    The article just skimmed over how to address, let alone solve, owners’ dissatisfaction with the quality of the contract documents produced by their architects.

    BIM may indeed allow architects to explore more design alternatives more quickly, aid in multi-disciplinary coordination, analyze space conflicts, etc. But BIM is not a panacea. And if (some) architects are “hampered by a lack of expertise (or interest) in basic business and economic issues”, I contend many architects also are hampered by a lack of expertise in knowledge of construction materials and methods–and that this is being exacerbated by the boomers’ retirement. More than producing a talent squeeze, this will be a knowledge drain, and it will not magically be solved by reliance on BIM.

  2. Liz, bang on as usual! Knowledge is the key to success!

    @David, a lot of the issues being experienced with BIM closely follow the issues from almost 23 years ago (when I first graduated) with AutoCAD and the early versions of architectural packages for it such as Softdesk’s AutoArchitect (which was later aquired by Autodesk and evolved into Architectural Desktop). I see the BIM users in the firm I am with struggle with the same “basics” we did years ago. And of course the fact the a lot of the BIM “gurus” are young and inexperienced Emerging Professionals with limited Product and construction knowledge is further exacerbating the situation.

    The sharing of knowledge and mentorship from experienced specifiers, contract administrators, project architects and job captains is paramount to improving the future landscape of the industry!

    And I totally agree with Liz, who better to help educate members of our profession than CSI? (or CSC in Canada where I am) Both organizations boast membership by leaders in our industry from all facets of it!

    Carpe Diem should be the motto of all of us…SEIZE THE DAY!

  3. Referring to CSI and the new logo is fine, but isn’t what is really needed is a program specifically headed at meeting the problem of lack of technical knowledge. Isn’t this what the proposed CSI Building Technology Education Program is about? Since you are on that task team Liz, how is that program coming along?

  4. I have noticed deficiencies in documentation in my spec practice as well. It is all well and good to concentrate on mastering the software, but software is of no use, if the input is flawed. If the upcoming generation of the profession is interested in the software, but the basic architectural knowledge is just too hard, or takes too much time or (fill in the blank), then we are in deep trouble. Some of us just won’t last much longer! All of the efforts of CSI will be for naught if our target audience is uninterested.

    • As you wrote, the software is of no use if the input is flawed.

      The software is also useless if the output is inadequate! All the input can be correct, and the model can work perfectly in the computer, but if printed or 2-dimensional digital construction documents are required, and the software and its operator cannot output adequate documents to build from, it’s useless!

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