Great Expectations… and the AIA Colorado Conference

We are on the last leg of summer this week, even though it still feels like the height of summer with some of these temperatures. We are also closing in on one of the most anticipated AIA Colorado events of the year — the Practice + Design Conference in Keystone, CO. Whether you have been going for years or contemplating going for the first time, we are hoping our next few blog posts will convince you that it is an event that cannot be missed!

This week we are featuring Ken Andrews, AIA from Arch11, Inc. K_Andrews_Headshot

Great Expectations … and the AIA Colorado Conference

Like so many architects, I continually find the end of the year approaching and I need to complete my continuing education requirements to maintain my license and standing with the AIA. I had never been to the AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference until a few years ago, but I had received very positive feedback from the community.

It was the perfect opportunity to complete a year’s worth of continuing education in just three (3) days. At the time this was ideal, my practice (Arch11, Inc.) was very busy while teaching graduate students at the University. I don’t recall having great expectations going into the conference beyond obtaining my credits, but my opinion drastically changed after attending.

The Practice + Design Conference has been an invigorating break in my very busy routine for several years since. Not only is it a fantastic way to obtain credits, but in the process a spectacular way to intensely focus on design and our profession. Through sharing of ideas as a community with thought leaders from around the world, I always leave the conference invigorated.

The past several conferences have been very impressive; the caliber of speakers and the relevancy of conference themes with regard to the issues the profession face today have been invaluable in fostering greater design conversations in AIA Chapters, our design community, in my practice and teaching. It is now an event that I look forward to every year.

Ken Andrews, AIA

Arch11, Inc.

Arch11_303_1 Arch11_303_2

Fear Not – California Decision Against Design Professional Less Than Hype

Beacon Residential Community

Blogs serving the legal industry, design professionals, and insurers have been a-buzz since July 3, 2014 with news from the California Supreme Court.  A number of headlines sensationalize the holding in Beacon Residential Community Assn. v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – but what impact does it truly have on the construction industry and architect liability in particular?

In Beacon, a homeowners association on behalf of its members sued a condominium developer and various other parties including two defendant architectural firms alleging the homes were unsafe and uninhabitable for significant portions of the year.[1]  The question presented to the California Supreme Court was essentially whether an architectural firm who makes recommendations but not final decisions on construction owes a duty of care to future homeowners with whom it has no contractual relationship.  The Court concluded: yes, it may.

A number of posts have made worst-case scenario predictions for the future of design professional liability based on the Beacon holding.  However, it is important to note that Beacon involved a demurrer at the trial court level meaning that on appeal the Supreme Court was accepting the facts presented in plaintiff’s complaint as true.  The Court was not examining defenses pled by the architect firms, proven facts of the case, the parties’ discovery, nor did the Court offer an opinion as to whether the defendant architectural firms in fact had liability.  Rather, the opinion focused on whether contractual privity was necessary for the HOA to pursue claims against the architects.  The court held that the design contract was not the sole source of the architects’ duty and the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.

A number of posts interpreting Beacon appear to have a chicken-little type quality.  In my opinion, Beacon does not deserve the hype.  At least in Colorado, prime designers have long owed an independent duty of care to homeowners/future users and have faced liability under the Colorado Construction Defect Action Reform Act for defective residential design even where they do not make ultimate construction decisions.  Moreover, the California Supreme Court’s opinion does nothing to diminish defenses otherwise available to design professionals such as apportionment of liability and defenses based upon failure to follow the design.  (My next blog post will address exactly that – liability and defenses for claims involving improper specifications or failure to follow design).

While Beacon may continue to make headlines this summer, it should be business as usual for design professionals.  Design professionals should remain vigilant about documenting changes to the plans made by the owner, value engineering recommendations, and input during the Construction Administration phase of the project but Beacon does not signal the beginning of the end.

[1] As it relates to the architects, plaintiffs alleged the window selection and ventilation design made the units unbearably hot during the summer months.

QuillenContributed by Casey A. Quillen, Esq.

The Job Transition – A Love Story

Not too many years ago, it was fairly common to meet someone that had been at their first job after college for thirty years and never considered leaving. These days, many people will switch jobs about as often as they switch allegiances to their local coffee shop. It very well could be that it stemmed from necessity due to the recent recession, but it is also just as likely that it has become a bit of a generational anomaly. For the sake of argument, we’ll go with the latter.

Recently, I went through a job switch. I left an office where I had been at for over a year to go to another firm here in Denver. When it came down to it, I felt like it was just time for a change of pace, I saw an opportunity, and I went for it. My wife is in the midst of her final two weeks at her current office before moving to a new firm in downtown Denver and is moving on for very similar reasons. In fact, it wouldn’t be a ridiculous stretch of the imagination to estimate that, of those 55 (or so) people that were in our graduating class from the University of Arizona in 2012, those that are still with their first post-graduate architectural job are in the vast minority.

It seems that, even though the sample size is small, this is fairly normal. Within this spirit of transition normality, the whole process can be broken down into three distinct time periods of emotions that everyone goes through:

  1. The Awkward Breakup Period – Quitting is never easy. Being fired is worse (or so I am told). Having that conversation and then walking back out to your desk without having a horrible outburst of emotions is nearly impossible. But, getting through it quickly and professionally is the best way to go about it and the sooner you can face it, the better it is for all parties.
  2. The Lame Duck Period – So you have given your two week’s notice, now what? Wrap up any projects you were working on and/or transition them to other people? Now what should you do for the next six days you are supposed to be here? Answer: try to make yourself as busy and useful as possible. Keeping a good face with the firm you’re leaving is essential. In our industry, everyone knows everyone and you never know which bridges you may need to cross again. On that note, some people will be very warm with you, want you to succeed, and will be sad to see you go. Others will be upset with you and feel like you left them out to dry. Others may be happy to see you go. Regardless, you don’t want to make any situations worse, so put on a good face, show up, do the work, and be on your way.
  3. The First Day of School – The nerves and anticipation will show up anywhere from a few days before your first day to a few minutes before you walk through the front door. Regardless, they will be there in some fashion. Everyone faces this sort of situation in different ways. The most important thing to take from this nervousness though is that your new office wants you there; otherwise they would not have hired you. They are also going out on a limb for you so it is beyond crucial to show that you are a hard worker and willing to pull more than your fair share of weight. Once you get through the first day, it only gets easier.

This all being said, I’m sure we have all heard from different people that leaving a firm after only a year, especially if that is your first office after graduating, is seen as “disloyal” and something that is frowned upon. While I can understand this point of view, it seems to me that exposing yourself to a variety of professional environments and creative processes will only strengthen our base as emerging professionals.

Job transitions are inevitable. Whether they come about freely or are forced upon us, they are bound to happen. They should not be feared, but rather seen as an opportunity. The more perspectives and methodologies that we can be exposed to, the better we will be able to conduct ourselves and adapt to situations as professionals. With every office that we pass through, we take that knowledge with us to the next place. One of the most important aspects that an office can provide to a young professional is the opportunity for growth. It is important to not only have the opportunity for growth within the confines of that office, but also growing as a professional in general and as a contributor to the built environment. During a job transition, we must also embrace the opportunity for self reflection and acknowledge what we could have done personally to have made our previous jobs better and what we hope to gain from our new positions. As long as we constantly strive for the kind of expanded knowledge and professional development that brought us here in the first place, we will help to create a strong and well rounded next generation of architects.

NCARB’s up to something.

Just when you thought the dust had settled from IDP 2.0 and ARE 4.0….

Just when you had fleshed out your IDP excel spreadsheet…

Just when your office had finally collected all the updated study resources…

NCARB goes and starts changing things.

Sure they are kinks in the system now, but why change? We know intricacies and the red tape to avoid, so why change the system and cause complete chaos!?!

NCARB’s reply? To stay relevant to where the profession is and where it is going. -Fair enough.

Hi! My name is Meg Kullerd Hohnholt and I am AIA Colorado’s former IDP Coordinator. I say former because earlier this month NCARB gave my volunteer position a new title – Architect Licensing Advisor. Fancy, I know!

Yes, NCARB is changing things and after hearing about them at the IDP Coordinator’s conference earlier this month, I am both concerned and excited. Concerned for the process of shifting mindsets to these new changes. Excited to help this process begin.

So let’s do this…

Modified Six Month Rule (Lost Hours – Found!)

You can now get credit for experience hours completed beyond six months! This is great news, especially for emerging professionals in Colorado. Why you ask? Because as of January this year, Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) will only accept experience through the NCARB’s IDP program.

More Frequent ARE Retakes (Oops, I did it again.)

NCARB will now allow candidates who have failed a division to retake the division as soon as 60 days after the previous attempt, up to three times in a running year for any one division. We went from 6 months down to 60 days for a retake. This is awesome news for those who have found the momentum for taking the ARE exams because they can not worry as much that a failed test will push back the entire process for half a year.

ARE 5.0 (Did you say fewer tests?)

Hold on to your smartphone, because here’s the BIG news. Yes, ARE 5.0 is coming and its format will completely change how candidates approach the exam. So remember the ARE 3.0 to 4.0 switch and how most the study materials still aligned to the exam sections and vignettes really didn’t change? This won’t be like that.

First of all, the vignettes are gone. The Dorf book that I told to you beg, borrow or steal for your only hope in passing the vignettes, it can now be used as a coloring book.

Second, they’ve added new question types to the test. You’ll still have your ol’ reliables of “Single Select Multiple Choice”, “Check All That Apply”, and “Quantitative Fill in the Blank”, but now you’ll have prepare for “Hot Spot” (pick a point on a drawing to identify the___) and “Drag and Place” (place the following object(s) on a drawing).

Third big change is there will be Case Studies in the tests. These will be written scenarios with context and resource documents that you’ll be tested on.

But wait!…There’s more..

The final big change is that there will be only six tests in ARE 5.0.

NCARB knows exam transition will be challenging so they sweetened the deal. For those who select to transition from ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0, there is a way to only take five tests to pass the ARE. So should you start planning your transition between the test versions now? Not unless you want to hold off your licensure (and your career) another two years.

ARE 5.0 won’t be launched until late 2016, and ARE 4.0 is going to continue for another 18 months after that (June 2018)! For those starting to test and for those contemplating on when they will start their ARE endeavor, now is the time to dive in while the study materials and the support community (those who’ve recently taken ARE 4.0) is there for you!

More Changes are Coming!

These are just this fall’s the hot topics. Stay tuned because it has been proposed that   IDP will get an overhaul too.

Don’t Listen… Engage.

cartoon_chocolate cheese

I was walking downtown a few years ago to grab some lunch, and what appeared to be a somewhat mentally incapacitated man dressed in rags ran up to me and yelled, “Why can’t I have chocolate cheese if you can have chocolate milk?” Much to his surprise, I responded:

Me: “Hmm.. that sounds amazing!”
The man gets a huge toothless grin on his face,
Man: “See, I know what I’m talking about!”
Me: “Well, if you ever find any chocolate cheese, you let me know and we’ll try it. My treat.”
Man: “You all-right, girl…. You all-right.”

If I had just walked by, listening but not engaging a conversation with this person, I would have never had the new lifelong mission of finding the perfect chocolate cheese. This act of actually passing words back and forth is hugely important in the field of architecture, and while we likely all agree with that, it’s often forgotten.

(Raise your hand if…) As a young intern I would be asked to go to meetings to listen and take notes, but I don’t think I ever felt like I was learning much by sitting quietly just writing down what was said. This isn’t how most of our “creative brains” learn. After a few months I became more confident in the office, and I would still get asked to “come and takes notes at the meeting”, but I found myself asking questions about the project while note taking which not only helped me relate to the client’s needs, but also helped me remember why they needed bookshelves that were exactly 28” high and a conference room that held 14 chairs. The added benefit that I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was also getting to know the clients on a more personal level which led them to start trusting me even at the start of my career. This trust from the clients developed into trust from my employer, who let me be involved and even manage the bigger, and what I thought would be the more enjoyable, projects – all from simply asking small questions and engaging the client.

Having my own firm now, I of course have to engage with clients on a daily basis if I want to maintain any type of reputation with them, but for me that’s one of the best parts of being an Architect. However, it’s something I’m seeing in many firms that isn’t being taught, or even worse, discouraged. I’m not sure why an owner or manager of the firm wouldn’t want to show that they have bright, energetic, curious people working for them who are genuinely interested in what the client has to say. But I’ve been to a number of meetings where the younger intern is expected to sit quietly and listen, and then have the client ask why they are even brought to the meeting in the first place. This is not a mentoring or learning situation and doesn’t gain trust from anyone. Young architect/intern community, if your boss isn’t giving you opportunities, then you need to take charge, speak up and engage yourself with the client, consultant, and others around you. If you are told not to speak during a meeting, you’re likely not in an environment that’s going to advance your career and it’s time to have a candid talk with your employer and/or look for a firm that actually supports incoming architects. For the rest of us, please don’t tell your interns to just listen and take notes!

And as Citizen Architects, we need to focus not only on clients, but also the community. I have attended a number of community meetings for people affected by the forest fires these past couple of years. Engaging with the people of the community who attended these meetings has made my understanding and appreciation for what they need help with far greater and allowed me to focus my energies into designs that work for them. And it’s ok to talk with people who are outside your comfort zone – they are likely the ones to have some of the biggest impacts on your day, if not years to come. There was a “traveling lady” (this is what she called herself) who was hanging out in Colorado Springs for two weeks or “until someone told her to leave”. She had a cheap disposable camera and said she was taking pictures of all the people she met on her journey. We would walk our dog past her camp nearly every evening and say hello, and on one evening she took my husband’s picture with our dog. Three days later she came running over with a photograph with a big smile on her face excited to see us. She had this set made as doubles just so she could give us a copy of the photo she took. It’s one of my very favorite pictures of my husband.

Don’t just listen to people around you, engage them. You’ll be a better Architect and a better person for it!

Christy Riggs, AIA, LEED Green Associate |  308 LLC