Dear Mr/Mrs. Architect,
We greatly appreciate and admire your work, and we understand that you, like us and everyone else on the team is under pressure to perform. As our team leader, we look to you for guidance and direction, but there are a few things that would make our work on the team a bit easier and more efficient. Over the years, we have found the following items to be most problematic. If you could please consider these items as it pertains to your work, it would be much appreciated:
When sending background or drawing updates, please cloud the revised area(s) or provide a description of what or where you made changes. We have spent untold hours trying to figure out where (if any) changes have been made. And as powerful as our software is and as efficient our methods of file comparison have gotten, it still takes up too much of our time that could be dedicated to the actual design of the project in lieu of what basically equates to an Easter Egg hunt.
We do not always require a new background or section or elevation each time you make a change, getting four or five background updates a day is very frustrating and inefficient. On the other hand do not wait until the afternoon before a job goes out and send us all the changes you made this week to include in our final drawings. The balance of this obviously requires good judgment, which tends to come with experience.
Note that much of our work, whether it be mechanical, electrical, plumbing or fire protection is much like yours, is installed in a 3D world, i.e. it is affected by sections, and elevations, both interior and exterior, roof plans and details – not just in floor plans and reflected ceiling plans. Please send us at least PDFs of your latest drawings when sending us drawing updates. If you are not sure what to send, just ask. Sometimes we just need your latest to start our coordination efforts – not the final product. If your MEP consultant says a floor plan is all they need to do their work – you may want to look for another consultant. It may surprise you , but when I have asked for sections and elevations for coordination, I have actually had some architects ask why we needed them? Really?
During the course of a project It is very common to have an architect/owner require multiple review sets for owner review and or approval – but it is rare that we get a copy ourselves unless we specifically ask. PDFs are cheap – send us a copy and make it a standard. And if a consultant says that they do not need a copy, see above.
Speaking of plans, why do we not get a copy of the final plans when the job is completed? In the old days of paper it was common for every team member discipline to get a big fat hard copy of the plans for our use and for many it was the first time we saw many aspects of the building. In today’s electronic world, sending a complete set of PDFs should be a no-brainer and standard procedure.
We like you balance schedules daily and greatly appreciate it when you ask us about our schedule and when we can fit a project in or sometimes explain that it a particular project has a tight schedule and what it is. Telling us that every schedule (as ridiculously short as it is) is critical and that we will lose the project if we cannot meet it, shows that you either have no negotiating skills with the clients or you really do not understand what we do.
When you do set a schedule, please be thorough and clear about it and try to stick to it – if you cannot , be understanding that we based our schedule on your original dates. i.e. When you say we have two weeks to do a project and our only submission is the final product, it is not very fair to come to us one week in and say please send us a progress set for tomorrow for pricing. Really?
We often time do preliminary design work that never hits the computer systems until we have the latest plans that we can possibly get from you – because we know you are working directly with the owner and other consultants, and these discussions will often require changes . Much of our work depends on yours and the changes you make to the floor plans, ceiling plans and in some cases interior furniture layouts all of which will affect each of our trades a little differently, but they do affect us. Once we feel that your plans are pretty solid, then we jump on it and get it done – we really like to do it once whenever possible. So accurate schedules are important.
Oh, and those last minute background changes, especially those that come after we just hung up with the courier or FEDEX/UPS that you say are very minor – to you maybe, because you have not plotted yet, but to us they are not. We have to update our background (see DWGs below), make the change, (which is not always moving something two feet to the right) print it, check it, plot however many sets of the new version and re-collate it in to the other sets, reschedule the courier or FEDEX/UPS pickups if possible or worst case now drive it to the drop off location. We understand this happens occasionally, but lets try to keep it to a minimum.
As well put together as your drawings are, (sometimes) we do not just drop your new or updated drawing in our project directory, reload the xref and keep working. We typically have different priorities as to what is to stand out in our drawings, what is to fade and what is to not show at all, so we need to do some cleanup. This cleanup varies greatly by the quality of your drawings and can take anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour. Every time you send an update it is rinse and repeat. Poorly put together drawings can eat our lunch on time and fees – and is another reason why we often do not update backgrounds right away, but wait for a few before we go through the process.
I am not sure if it is the economy (as I keep hearing) or the general change in behaviors that everything has to be done “right now”, like design work is no different than “Fast Food”. We know it takes time to do your work and then it takes additional time to do ours, and it seems the pushing is coming from the owners, but it seems like we are doing schematics, DDs and CDs all at the same time. This week the job is split systems, tank type toilets and fluorescent lighting and next week it is package units flush valves and LED – but the job is due next Friday! Where is the planning and what do you mean no additional fees? We were almost done!
Obviously not all architects can be categorized by the above issues, we have all worked with the good and bad architects and architectural project managers of the world, but when we get the bad ones it really sucks. A lot of time I bet you would be willing to make changes to how you do things if only someone told you. Well, that’s kind of what this letter is about. I know in some cases it is a couple years late and for some of us it is very timely, but we are just letting you know these are a few things you could do to make our work a bit easier. You could always ask us too, those that are not shy would love to let you know what things might make the relationship a bit easier on us all.
If you feel you may do some of the above and are willing to make some changes, thank you. We, as your consultants will respect and appreciate your efforts very much.
This is not meant to pick on Architects, as you have an equally hard job to do. I personally have been fortunate to spend time on both sides of the fence of Architect/Consultant over many years in this industry and have seen issues and quirks from both perspectives. Many of the issues I have seen and heard about can be handled with better communication and team work, and some well, we can just keep praying.
As a follow up, I plan to do a series of letters which come from different perspectives of the various team members. Future letters will be directed to: Dear contractor, Dear Engineer and Dear Owner. If you have some input for these, please drop my an email or comment.
All of the pages and posts written by me on this blog are of my own personal opinion and in no way represent the opinions of any association, organization, affiliation or past/present employer. The voices in my head are mine and mine alone.
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