THE BLURRING OF THE ONCE-SACRED LINE BETWEEN DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Author: Walter Scarborough, Durability & Design, http://www.durabilityanddesign.com - Contributed by Chris Nelson
My comments here and in the future should be taken as the experiences and critical thinking of one architect’s journey through the profession. I want the profession to continue to be noble and make a contribution to our culture; however, I am troubled by the path the profession seems to be taking. So I offer the following for consideration.
Maybe I am naïve, but it seems that there was a time in which the line between architecture and construction was very clear. I could very well be romanticizing about an architectural past that began long before my time but that I entered a mere 35 years ago. Then again, I could be thinking what I want to think and believing what I want to believe. My perception is that the rich heritage of the practice of architecture, at least up until 20 years or so ago, we architects held the trust of an owner, designed architecture as opposed to buildings, produced the information necessary for it to become a reality, and then administered its construction with knowledge, skill, and command of the process.
I know this because my portal into the profession, architecture school, emphasized design above all else and that architects were in control. I was led to believe that the world would get out of my way as I designed my way to fame and fortune, and that my design contributions would change peoples’ lives and make the world a better place. Thus ended my architectural educational experience.
When I entered the practice of architecture, I discovered that design was only a very small part of the professional effort to produce architecture in spite of an underlying belief that design still ruled and was above all else. Only those who were exceptional designers, or owned the business, were the keepers of the creativity and aesthetics, while a very large proportion of those with architecture degrees and licenses populated the remainder of the “architectural design process” that is necessary to manage and produce the creations of the designer - the legions of those that “draw.”
By the beginning of my second decade, I was firmly entrenched in the technical side of architecture and I began to build a substantial body of architectural knowledge. I was drinking water from a fire hose and fell in love with learning. I soaked up every drop of technical information I could about building architecture and as the decade progressed I began to see that there was another side to architecture…a vast technical side. I realized technical wizardry was essential to transforming a creative design into an actual building.
But while there were many of us immersed in the technical details of architecture that seemed endless, the idea of design rules still prevailed and technical capability was only as good as the economy. I became disillusioned with the prospect that I was only a cog in the machine and that technical was the underbelly of the profession and consequentially expendable.
My third decade began with me reaching a pinnacle in my architectural career as the director of specifications for one of the largest architectural firms in the world. By this point, I also learned I was an anomaly among my colleagues—I possessed a considerable amount of technical knowledge about buildings. I had reached the position of being one of the go-to architects that could answer any technical question. In spite of the “design rules” mantra, I started realizing that the mantra was only sacred to the architectural profession and was not shared by owners, contractors and society, who wanted architecture to not only exist, but to perform, to function, to endure according to their expectations.
I am several years into my fourth decade and am no longer naïve or disillusioned. I understand now. Having participated in the publication of several books, written articles, given presentations, found my public voice, and have become an elder in the profession, I believe I have earned the right to proclaim my beliefs about a profession that I dearly love. I became a victim of the economy and my technical wizardry was no longer needed at one place. I have embarked on a new adventure of being an independent technical wizard. But I now have the freedom to speak my mind without endangering my servitude to others.
While the architectural profession continues to worship at the altar of design, it is my belief that only architects belong to that religion and the remainder of the world wants buildings to house their activities, and that those who want new or renovated buildings are going around a profession that has not adapted to the changes that are happening. While there are exceptions, my comments about the architectural profession are generalizations. There are still some architects that believe there are two inextricably linked realms of architecture: aesthetic design and technical design.
Architects do not hold the confidence of owners as they once did, technical skills are diminishing, control of the process has been given away, a leadership is not being realized, and, most disturbing of all, society is leaving the architectural profession in the proverbial dust of history.
Society does not subscribe to the “design rules” theology. It is the view of this almost-old curmudgeon that the project-delivery process, once holding a vast potential for architects, is being commanded by an endless variety of consultants. Also, contractors have discovered that with time and money they can absorb the design firms. While the architectural profession continues to believe we are in control of the destiny of the built environment and its influence on culture, the reality is that architects are the only ones who share in that belief.
It is also my belief that, by the year 2025, the architectural profession will be compartmentalized as exterior designers and will make very little contribution to the project-delivery process. There is a deafening silence within the profession about what is really happening and where it is going. Yet design still rules, in the view of those who would deny the reality of this evolution of the profession.
We can agree to disagree, or not. Many may not agree with the observations voiced here. Indeed, it would be a surprise and, yes, even a disappointment if we don’t hear views that challenge, contradict or at least call into question what we have to say. Of course, we also won’t object if you happen to agree with our views, or can add further insights or illumination on the issues we will look to explore.
CALIF. MARINE BASE AIMS TO GO NET-ZERO
The Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif., has reduced energy use from fossil fuels to 48% of its consumption, surpassing the Department of Defense’s goal of 50% by 2020. “We are attacking energy conservation from every aspect,” said Randy Monohan, the station’s utilities and energy manager. “We are using solar-power generation, [reclaimed] water and the power from the landfill. We have pinpointed the locations of massive energy consumption and have gone through to fix each problem individually.”
Various projects have been implemented such as the energy purchase of the Miramar Landfill, which will generate more than three megawatt-hours of energy, the construction of several hundred solar panels aboard the air station and use of a diesel generator which will create energy efficiency and has begun working toward the creation of a micro-grid energy system.
This system will allow MCAS Miramar to operate as a “911” base in case of an emergency or power outage in the local area, separate from the San Diego General Electric power grid.
Charles Peterson, one of Westcon’s original founding, is returning to the group. Owner of the firm, Malott & Peterson located in Berkeley, Mr. Peterson has been providing litigation support services since 1986. He is a C39 Roofing contractor and an active member of state, regional and national roofing contractor trade organizations. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Associated Roofing Contractors of the Bay Area.
Malott & Peterson provides analytic and diagnostic information to clients on roofing specifications, problems and failures. They prepare detailed cost-estimates and written reports and conduct on-site inspections for litigation participants as well as giving depositions and providing expert witness testimony in court trials, arbitrations and mediations.
For over twenty years Mr. Peterson has provided the roofing industry with expert services for both defense and plaintiff counsel, insurance companies and property owners.
John Parker is a new associate member from Robert L. Brown Construction, Inc., a family-owned, general contracting firm. R.L. Brown Construction specializes in residential and commercial reconstruction, new commercial and residential construction, additions and expansions, general building maintenance, and construction litigation support. They have served as general contractor, consultant, construction manager, and designer for projects as small as tenant improvements to large buildings and office complexes.
They develop projects and handle negotiations with investors, attorneys, and architects and assist with meeting federal guidelines, building codes, cost management solutions, and eco-friendly building practices. They also perform systems analysis and technological integration services.
If you attend the dinner meeting, you must wear your name tag with your dinner choice. Please do not ask the server to change your meal choice. The number of meals are called in to the caterer and he buys and prepares food according to those numbers. If you change your choice, you take someone elses dinner! If you have a problem with a meal, please see Rikki. THANK YOU!