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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1297
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 07:59 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

Playing “Let’s Pretend”, of course, is really ignoring the facts [or not knowing them] or substituting your view of things despite reality [although you are fully aware]. It’s a sham, suitable and understandable only for youngsters who make their own world. But our world is quite different. Some people have a pretend mindset that they are the best; the prettiest; the strongest; the most ingenious;, the fastest;, the doer of the perfect crime [even billionaires do this]; the smartest…………etc. Sorry! Pretend is not going to get you there.

Today far too many architects are playing ”Let’s Pretend”. You immediately recognize them when you see a bunch of architectural hind-ends up in the air [heads beneath the sand]

It wasn’t always like this! In times past, but still within a reasonable career, architects were the Captains of the teams. Usually first hired, back then, the architect was allowed to create the design team, by hiring appropriate consultants as deemed necessary. Mainly, the consultants were those used most often-- even to exclusivity—so there was a level of confidence immediately installed in the team and its ability.

Some projects were complex as well as extensive, but today's projects seem to be overly complex. This appears to be a function of several things-- client needs, client indecision, new and complex technology, increased security, excessive scrutiny, unreasonable time frames, often inadequate budgets, etc. Now that is not to say that these items are insurmountable, but to overcome them takes ingenuity-- and often added time and money. Truly a Catch-22 by definition.

But, over the years, architects have gotten to the place where they are continually made to play defense! In lieu of team leadership, they quite often are reduced to necessary evils, or perceived as idealistic dreamers. Many see them as inadequate of creating budget abiding design concepts, reasonable accurate estimates, proper constructability in the work, and contract documents that are correct, reasonable, informative and enforceable. They are made to defend what they do, in good faith, as their service to their client.

Owners particularly dismayed by the problems with estimates and schedules have moved to other delivery systems. Here the owner can come by almost absolute control to a level that satisfies them-- highly accurate estimates; can-do schedules; and single-point responsibility. The tendency all too often is to regard architects as necessary to a point, but baggage afterward-- they can create decent solutions, but just can’t seem to “pull them off”.

In the traditional delivery systems, the architect is “odd-man out” since the second construction contract [Owner-Contractor] has been elevated to primary position. The Contractor can easily gain the owner’s ear, make good estimates based on documented unit prices, knows construction methods and materials better than anyone else, and can run rough-shod [push and shove sub-contracts, and material orders, etc] to meet schedules-- adding work force, working overtime, etc. The architect does not have the same variety of “ammunition” available and has only a small supply in a few of these areas; they can and do work overtime. So the architect plays defense-- and practices to prevent things from happening! This leads to caution, conservatism, mild-manner actions, high ethics and professionalism, but not the semblances of “offense”-- the “let’s-go-get-‘em” drive.

After decades of challenges, reduction of status, replacement by other professions, architects of more recent times have taken to more aggressive tactics. They have become even better at what they do best and have improved their other ancillary skills. But the ground that was lost in the past-- i.e., the close, confident, “agency” relationship with owners has not been fully repaired. Too often still, the contractors persist in a doom-sayer profile, "dissing" the design professionals, and whispering conflicting information in owner ears.

To play better “offense”, architects, in particular, need to establish better understanding and fully open discussions and communications with owners, up-front and early on. This is NOT an effort at combative competition with the contractor but rather setting distinct limits on who does what, and what the owner can expect from each party. There needs to be a reinforcement that teams play BOTH defense and offense, and in so doing, with equal vigor, common intent, mutual support and complete confidence in each other, projects can be better produced.

Oh, by the way, this includes recognizing that architectural education is a mess and in dire need of betterment—and soon. BIM is fine, but not the cure-all and has diluted and diverted the thinking of far too many practitioners. BUT despite what it contains, it DOES NOT generate or select construction information, or adaptations. The need remains to get necessary information and knowledge into the students.

Let’s quite pretending we are an elite group of talented and well trained professionals, when in reality we have a hollow [of knowledge] that needs filling. Shamefully, that is all basic, fundamental and requisite information for quality construction the owner desires-- and pays for!

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