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Professional Practice Hack: Be an Architect, NOT an Intellect for Hire



That’s right. You are an architect, not an engineer or a contractor. So, don’t do their job for them. Simple as that. At the end of the day, you are not an engineer or a contractor (though you may have natural talents in these areas). Due to our experience and abilities in these areas, over the past few years we found ourselves, with increasing frequency, playing engineer and playing contractor. And sometimes we do this simultaneously. Given this increased workload, considerable time outside of our duties as an architecture firm was consumed. EA should have long separated ourselves from these realms and let people succeed or fail instead of trying to carry them. It has been said that leadership is “pulling those who don’t want to move to a position where they ought to be.” However, do not do this for others and to the detriment of your primary responsibilities. Focus solely on your job, and that should be to produce amazing designs.

Candidly, we’ve had to shoulder the intellectual and organizational burden of engineering and construction management in the past and our designs have always suffered as result. If the contractor isn’t producing Meeting Minutes, RFIs, a Schedule of Values, and a Critical Path, that is not your problem. Such a lackluster efforts should lead to their immediate termination by the client. If the engineer isn’t incorporating complete information into their own drawing submissions, don’t do it for them, despite the risk to the project. If your consultant engineer keeps making mistakes, and you find yourself having to coordinate your life away to gain basic levels of accurate representation and review, fire them. DO NOT do their job to fill in a performance void.

At the end of the day, after a long and involved process, you want the finished result to be a resounding success. No one cares that you may have saved the project behind the scenes by wearing many hats. People (including the client) judge what architects do with what is seen and experienced. The construction and design process will be forgotten, and your design will persist. Some, may stand the test of time. Frank Lloyd Wright once said “a physician may bury his mistakes, but an architect can only plant a vine.” Make sure you don’t have to plant any vines because you assumed the responsibilities of others. To reiterate, this may require you to establish boundaries and let people fail on their own. The good news is that your client will benefit from this “design is the priority at all costs” attitude toward doing your job at your highest level, and it may force the shedding of some dead weight in the project team. This may be painful initially, but always proves worthwhile in the long run.

This is part of our Stewardship Series where we give insight into our industry for aspiring professionals and business owners alike.

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