Good design makes better lives, but good design is hard work.
It comes out of a deliberate, comprehensive and iterative process, starting well before any project is identified and continuing long after any building is completed. We've found three characteristics of a successful process: collaboration, communication and creative engagement.
True collaboration happens in an atmosphere of open exchange, where new ideas are welcome and are thoroughly, thoughtfully considered.
Effective communication means not only asking questions but listening to answers. Active and reflective listening nurtures critical thinking.
Creative engagement makes clients an essential part of the process, integral with the design team. Engaged clients become satisfied clients.
The result is not only a responsive project where user needs are satisfied, but a project that exceeds everyone's expectations.
It is hard work, but it's worth the effort.
Successful planning accurately identifies the problem, relating long-term mission to practical needs. We look for the gap between mission and reality, and then help people find the common ground they already share. We structure the process to foster open discussions where the best solutions unfold.
First, we collect information. In addition to in-person interviews, we document physical attributes - conditions both natural and man-made, regulatory and self-imposed, economic and demographic.
Next, we evaluate what we've heard to identify a clear set of principles that will guide the project, incorporating everything from restrictions and constraints on the property to lists of specific user needs.
Then, we develop options, considering all scales, from overall site organization and building arrangement to detailed responses that meet specific requirements.
Finally, we set priorities and make decisions. Once all options are on the table, we lead client discussions to determine the options most critical to supporting their mission.
By our nature, architects are abstract thinkers. We comfortably work in concepts and constructs, envisioning how the world around us could be, but isn't. And we're good at it.
But, good design requires both rational as well as intuitive responses. We try to speak plainly, rather than using theoretical vocabulary. Ideas are only useful when we communicate them clearly to each other.
While invention and creativity are integral parts of our practice, we are not interested in theoretical games with no practical purpose. Effective designers understand the nature of construction, how materials go together, and the effect on users.
The best design solutions evolve over time out of an active exchange between architect and clients who are fully integrated into the project team.
Together, we develop realistic options that consider the way people use individual spaces as well as bigger moves that reinforce the urban fabric and strengthen neighborhood character.
We prepare construction documents for all projects we design. Our job is to clearly describe the client's design so that the builders know what to build. It sounds simple, but rarely is.
Electronic technology has changed the way we prepare documents, but buildings are still built from drawings and specs. Documents must show the complex, multifaceted and custom project requirements and are more than a routine assembly of off-the-shelf products or a generic technical specification.
Each component of the project design is specified and detailed to fit within the overall construction assembly, including structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and other specialty systems. Each project and each set of documents is a unique, one-of-a-kind creation.
These documents are required for everything from permit application to bidding and construction to post-occupancy maintenance. We use a variety of computer technologies to support the documentation process, including CAD and BIM. Our most useful contribution, though, is our understanding and experience.
The public review and approval process cannot be taken for granted. Regulatory phrases like "use as a matter of right" may sound like ready permission, but they aren't.
In addition to a multitude of building and zoning codes that regulate projects, there are also any number of sector plans, neighborhood covenants and administrative requirements.
We engage government review agencies early in the process to identify applicable codes and regulations, to work-through gray areas, and to seek interpretations needed for a smooth review process.
We also understand the public review and entitlement approval process. Regulatory authorities expect clients to listen to local voices and to submit projects consistent with them.
At the appropriate time during each project, we also encourage clients to work with local community members to understand their concerns and request their support. Projects with a community-wide consensus are approved more easily than others.
We also administer construction for all projects we design, providing continuity from design through construction.
There are many ways to get projects built, from traditional methods such as Design/Bid/Build, Design/Build, and Turn-key, to the newest method, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).
What is the real difference? All methods recognize three roles - client, designer and builder, and they're all more alike than they initially appear. The bottom line is that everyone must genuinely want to work together.
So how do you choose the right method? By allowing everyone to do what they do best. The methods are virtually interchangeable, but having used almost all methods before, we believe it is more important to match the delivery method with the character, temperament and personality of each client.
We've even served as construction managers on projects too small or too specialized for contractors. We do what it takes to get projects built.
Coordinated projects completed on-time and on-budget do not happen automatically. As a matter of quality assurance, we actively manage projects to achieve all three.
We coordinate during design, not during construction. All team members cross-check and coordinate their own work with the work of other team members. In addition, we conduct an independent review using professionals not regularly assigned to the project.
We keep projects on-time by establishing an overall project schedule and tracking it for the entire project, phase by phase, start to finish. We breakdown each task, milestone, and submission to coincide with the overall schedule.
We take budgets seriously. To avoid surprises, we budget all anticipated project costs - building and site costs as well as other project expenses and professional fees. We keep projects on-budget by monitoring estimated costs from the outset through construction.
We don’t just hope for the best. We make it happen.