Contributed by Eric Hardenbrook
After reading last week's post, 'Where Did the Good Drawings Go?', I wanted to comment. I tried to formulate a way to squeeze all the things I wanted to say into that little comment box while remaining coherent. It just didn't work, there was simply too much to say. Rather than piling on or picking specific pieces to react to, I need to go in an additional direction that dovetails with what that article had to say.
Architecture schools need to adapt or die. An alternate path to obtaining a license for technical architecture should be created and contain mandatory time at a construction site as a graduation requirement. If you have a problem with your foot, you don't go see a cardiologist. The medical profession figured it out, architecture should too. Why do I have to see a designer if my needs are technical when it comes to my building? There should be room for both.
The question of the drawings is what I found particularly vexing. I was delighted that we at least are not blaming the software at this point. A carpenter shouldn't blame the hammer if the cabinets are crooked. What are you looking at when you say 'drawings' these days? Are you holding one sheet of paper? A roll of drawings? An iPad or a smart device or a laptop? Did you get the whole set of drawings or just the parts that were deemed to pertain to what you're working on, without regard to where those references come from? Better, do you have a screen in the job trailer with a junior member of the team 'driving' you around a three-dimensional view of the project? Where did that model come from? Who made the decisions on all the parts that model was created from? In short ~ when you say 'drawings', what are your expectations?
That brings us to the expertise part. When you – or anyone really – are signing a deal, what are you agreeing to? Yes, there's all that so-called standard language at the front end of the spec, but is the AIA E203 or G201 included in the contract documents? Have you discussed any of what is in those with your team? And not just your own office, but any consultants you might be working with? When those items are part of the mix, you are saddling the team with very specific technology requirements along with 'just making drawings'.
Having a clear understanding of what you're signing up to deliver sounds like common sense, but is too often pushed aside with thoughts like, “we've built buildings for years, this can't be that hard...” or “we just need to get this work, then we'll figure out the technical bits...”. These thought processes are the root of a great many of these so-called poor drawings. The expectation in many offices is that we've done this with vanilla CAD for years, we'll cut the fee and hand the grunt work to a junior drafter.
This way of thinking must stop. The team tasked with creating project documentation requires a level of knowledge and skill that is vastly different from what it has been in the past. This includes numerous fields of study that are specifically NOT architecture. On any given day / project, I am required, at a minimum, to have a working (expert) or at least functional knowledge of no fewer than 15 separate computer programs to create the various parts of project presentations. That does not include video or audio production if we're trying to create one of those cool ten-second videos of our model to show clients or use in an interview. That's just the programs. That doesn't include the actual architecture parts. You know, little things like ADA, IBC, NFPA, rebar, flashing, expansion joints... you get the idea.
Members of any construction team, from the lead designer all the way to the team in the job trailer, need to have a clear expectation and understanding of what is behind what they are asking for. IF you are part of the boots on the ground, communicate what you need. Be specific about what you need to see in the drawings that you're not seeing. What are you asking for? If you're part of the design / production team, demand time to get out of the chair and into the field. Gain as much knowledge as you can from the people that put these things together.
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