10 Jan 2016

New Year — New Underwear

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New year, new underwear.

This year i bought new underwear. I know what you’re thinking “too much information” and “why do we care that an architect bought new underwear?”. A select few of you may even wonder what kind of underwear but this isn’t that kind of blog.

So, why would i tell you, “i bought new underwear“? Because all things are relative and whatever I say next will sound spectacular after the announcement “i bought new underwear” After all, it takes something simple and benign to truly understand something complex and important.

Metaphorically speaking, a change of underwear signifies a fresh start to replace something old, worn or stinky. In my business world, the something in need of improvement is my service contract. I won’t bore readers with specifics but i added or modified contract clauses to clarify communication, establish an equitable fee structure and refine construction observation service.


I always say people can be a good anything as long as they are organized and communicate effectively. That’s easier said than done because if all people communicated effectively we wouldn’t need contracts. Contracts are an organization and communication tool, but we need it most when something goes wrong so I clarified communication type and communication situation to manage expectations.

I use:

  • Verbal communication to confirm meetings, explain procedure and clarify instructions
  • Written communication for revisions, scope adjustments, specifications/selections, cost inquiries and complaints
  • Visual communication for details, documents and amendments
  • All types when I need to emphasize an important topic

Fee Structure:

Architects are notorious for charging too little and working too much. That’s a benefit clients rarely acknowledge but every month it’s obvious which projects lose money and perhaps more importantly, why they lose money. Projects don’t lose money because architects don’t charge enough. Projects lose money because we don’t charge appropriately so I modified payment methods for flexibility and accountability.

  • I develop service budgets to offer greater scope flexibility and replaced the fixed fee proposal with a time and materials budget.
  • I procured a time tracker app to comprehensively track, report and annotate invoice billing quickly

Observation Service:

More clients request observation service every year. More exposure to construction methods enhances an architect’s knowledge but challenges the client and contractor’s perceived value of the architect. Clients expect the architect to make everything great and contractors expect architects to memorize every detail. Poorly executed construction increases everyone’s liability so I balance enforcement with proactive insight.

  • I added a checklist tool to share with contractors to alert them about critical trade coordination elements
  • I emphasize following the documents to owners and contractors and answer questions with references to contract/documents
  • I produce amendments to the full electronic set and 8-1/2 x 11 Architect’s Supplemental Instruction (ASI) for easier subcontractor distribution. I post them to the shared cloud folder and the contractor distributes hard copies to the electronically-challenged subs
  • I prescribe and adhere to a payment application timeline so owner, contractor and lender know the exact procedure and follow it every time

Communication, fee and observation topics are minor contract adjustments to a faithfully smooth architecture operation. After seven years of sustained growth, my business, and more specifically the service contract, doesn’t require a major overhaul, but a cure for complacency is to always seek a better fit. It’s like my new underwear doesn’t change the way I walk, but it makes me feel fresher.

Architalks Credits

This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.

The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession

Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “New Year, New ______” topic.

image credits:

  • your architect, his underwear
Architalks Entries

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
New Year, New Community on Business of Architecture

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
New Year, New CAD

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
New Year, New Adventures

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
new race new year new start

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
New Year. New Budget.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
New Year, New Goals

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
New Year, New Business

Nicholas Renard – dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
New Year, A New Hope

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
New Year, New Gear

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
New Year, New Casita

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
New Year, New Underwear

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
New Year, New Era

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“new year, new _____”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
New Year, New Plan

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
New Year, New Adventures

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
New Year, New Life!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
New Year, New Home

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
New Year, New·ly Adult Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Little Premature

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
new year, new [engagement]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
New Year, New Business

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
New Year, New Perspective

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
The New New

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
New Year New Reality

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
New Year New Desk

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
New Year, New Appreciation

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
New Year, New Goals

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
New Year New Office

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
New Year, More Change

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
New Year, New Office Space

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
New Year, New Reflection

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
New Year, New Direction

About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 32 years experience in design, construction observation and life.