ONE Alternative Practice

By Charles Shifflett, Associate AIA, LEED AP BD&C, PMP

I was asked to write this blog entry due to the non-traditional path that I am following with regards to an architecturally related career. It’s somewhat of a follow-up to the recent alternative practices in Denver article posted on the 14th of March. I believe that the critical thinking and design skills learned as part of an architecture degree program prepare you for a wide variety of opportunities, some related to architecture and some far from the traditional design fields. I know of people with architecture degrees that are covering a wide range of careers, from starting a professional model making company to working as owner representatives or energy consultants, the possibilities are vast.

In general though, it seems that alternative practices, or following nontraditional paths, just means someone with an educational background in architecture that is not following the standard path of finding an intern position at an architecture firm and working through the normal IDP and ARE process to licensure.

The path that I have chosen is certainly directly related to architecture but is also not what most architects would consider traditional. I graduated in 2011 with master degrees in both architecture and urban design. I discovered through the educational process that residential architecture captured my interest the most, particularly single family housing or duplexes. With that in mind I decided to pursue my own design/build residential business straight out of the box. A license is not required for this type of work and I’ve chosen to not pursue licensure, however, for my first project I partnered with a licensed architect to avoid any major bumps in the road. This was an effective approach and worked very well, I think, for both of us. I also partnered with a general contractor that happens to be an architect. I hope to continue that arrangement until I manage to complete the process for a general contractor license. That license is necessary for my business model concept as a General Contractor is required to pull the building permits. I performed all of the general contractor functions, but under the name of the company of the individual that I partnered with.

I recently completed my first house, and although there were many challenges, it all worked out well and I learned and experienced a ton. I’m very pleased with the process and the result and hope to continue this business model in the future. I don’t plan to take on more than one house at a time, allowing me to give my complete focus to that single project and keep the operations of the business as simple and clean as possible. I don’t know for sure where this will all lead, but for now, it’s providing me an interesting, fun and challenging opportunity that provides me with a great deal of freedom.

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