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The Lean Builder: Fixing Architecture I

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The Lean Builder: Fixing Architecture I

January 24, 2012

In my blog two weeks ago, I launched into a tirade about how so many residential architects are not doing their job. Each week, I link this blog back to the LeanBuilding Group on www.linkedin.com. Many members posted responses with good points on how to remedy the problem. Here are some excerpts from them. I thought I’d let them do the talking this week. (Note: if you are not a member, go to www.linkedin.com and search “Lean Building.” The group will come up, and join! There are some excellent discussions going on.)

JH • Scott, I agree with you regarding floor plans. Architects and plan designers should be required to complete internships working for a builder and some select trades before getting their license or degrees. Emphasis should be on performing the actual work and interacting with at least the following trades: Framing, exterior trims, sheetrock install and interior trim. True understanding of the challenges each trade encounters in the field will translate into more builder and trade friendly plans and increased value to the buyer.

EL • I agree that architects need to be better cross trained in the building industry....When I got out of interior architectural design school at Kansas in the 80's and started working for HNTB Architects as a designer i was a bit embarrassed...keep in mind I grew up in a family real estate business rehabbing houses for my father so had a pretty good idea of how things went together, but high-rise office buildings were a bit different and I even lacked some of the nuts and bolts construction experience. I left HNTB and started framing houses in phoenix during the 90's and got a crash course in construction 101!...this has helped me tremendously in pin pointing construction defects and poor planning problems on paper.

BE • (This) is a serious problem that Architects and Designers need to address. It is unfortunate, whether through ignorance or just lack of care, most just don't contemplate the sometimes disastrous effect substandard drawings can have on a project. As you know most of these folks are very talented in the art of marketing and that is all their immediate audience really cares about. However, I believe it is incumbent upon the contractors and builders to make educated decisions when they purchase these services. The problem is that a significant portion of contractors are not educated enough to understand the value of a high quality set of construction documents, or, how to discern whether or not the entity they've hired has the skill set to produce a high quality, value optimized, set of construction documents. It can be a real challenge to educate the ignorant.... I believe, if you're going to do something for a living, then you DAMN well better be the best you can possibly be at it. In other words, strive for excellence.

MD • I agree that the typical quality of residential architectural plans is very poor. But I think you have underpraised your version of "working on" it. Don't hide the beautiful and powerful light under a basket. Your "working on" it gets my "Amen & Alleluia!" The problem with residential architectural plans has existed since the evolution of the "production" builder. Your solution has been available as well. Why has it never really taken hold? What is the sense in crying, "I'm a victim" and pointing the finger at architects as the perpetrators year after year? Is it that difficult to decide not to be the "victim"? Or are people afraid of the cost of your version of "working on" the plans? Doesn't it really make the most sense for the Builders to take charge of their own designs and all that such a choice should entail? The Builder is in a better position than the architect to understand costs, production impact and marketing issues for each design. I see enormous opportunity for Homebuilders who choose to increase their focus on a complete design process and once again applaud your group for providing the dollars and cents to validate such a choice.

PH • Generalization 1: All builders & architects think their plans are better than most.

Generalization 2: Not all can be 'better than most'. Therefore, half are wrong.

Generalization 3: A full-time Purchasing agent barely keeps up with local cost.

Generalization 4: The bar is low; 'better than most' still has errors & omissions.

Conclusion A: VERY few Architects know  cost (& engineering), but most get better when made aware of issues.

Conclusion B: Awareness leads to improvement. If attending NAHB-IBS in Orlando, a good starting or continuing point is "Design Lean for Huge Profits" (Wed Feb 8, 10:00 - 11:30a, W307 C-D).

Conclusion C: Awareness is increasing, so the bar is rising.

That’s it for this week. I Hope you found that interesting. Again, we invite you to join the discussion with the LeanBuilding Group on www.linkedin.com


written by

Scott Sedam


Scott Sedam, president of TrueNorth Development (www.truen.com), spends most of his time working in the trenches with builders, suppliers and trade contractors. His Lean Builder blog appears weekly at HousingZone.com. He welcomes your feedback at scott@truen.com.

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