Fruit of our labor

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As I studied fine arts in college, it was always rewarding to invest hours upon hours on an assignment and have something tangible and sometimes beautiful to show for it - something concrete that you could touch and hold and observe. The materiality of the sculptural piece, photograph or drawing was very satisfying. As the deadline of graduate school approached, the reward of tangible results was one of the primary reasons that architecture started to become an attractive option.

Architecture can be a frustrating occupation, as any occupation can be. Sometimes your ideas get shot down, contracts and communication take up days of unprofitable work, your "precious" details get value engineered out, or you fail to design something correctly. But, one of the most rewarding aspects of being an architect is when the building (or at least details of it) that you conceived actually come to life and appear before you. There is something you can look at and touch to show how hard and effective you have worked over the past months and, sometimes, years.

Over the last year, I have traveled to Orangeburg, SC on a weekly basis to help manage the construction of a world-class surgery center that we had the privilege of designing. Every week, more progress is observed with greater anticipation towards the final product. Every week, I get almost giddy as I drive up to the site noticing a completed masonry wall or storefront installation or sidewalk added. All this is something that someone trusted us to design in the most cost effective and beautiful way that we could imagine. As the building nears completion, it is quite humbling to see everything come together in one beautiful building. A building comprised of spaces that will help improve the lives of the employees that will spend 1/3 of their waking life in there as well as the patients that will encounter life altering surgeries there. As I walked around the building last Wednesday, it became all at once an emotional, humbling, exciting, and fulfilling moment. Architecture does have it's rewarding moments.

  

Architect's & Fees

What is the best way to spend my money?

What is the best way to spend my money?

Most people have the opinion that Architects are too expensive and unnecessary and therefore not needed (unless they are required for city/county approval of course).  Architects in many cases are treated as a necessary evil at worst and a tolerable professional at best.  Sure there are some cheaper ways to do buildings than to hire architects and trust their guidance and direction, but what do you sacrifice with that savings?  My question is can you afford to NOT have an architect?

Time and again, I see people choose either the least expensive "architect" or none at all and end up in a really difficult situation: over budget, poorly designed spaces, relationship difficulties, etc.  I recognize my own biases, but I do believe that you get what you pay for in the architectural service of your building/home.  I continue to see proof of this over and over again.  If you are concerned that you can not afford the fees that an architect would charge you, perhaps your building is too large or nice for your budget?  Anytime you hire someone and pay them a lot of your hard-earned money you are taking a gamble or making an investment (depending on how you perceive it).  We, as Architects, understand this and have the experience and training to give maximum value to your product.  (Well, most of us do.)  In order to get the best service, we recommend getting some client references, visiting a couple of projects, and doing some interviews.  We all put this much effort into house and car shopping, so don't settle for less when it comes to architectural services.  Once this is done, I hope that our firm will always stand out as professional and exceptional at what we do.  We will treat you fairly, value your money as if our own, help you maintain budgets, and do our best to give you a beautifully designed space.  Do yourself a favor and cut down on the size of your building a little (if you need to), hire an architect, and put yourself in a position to make your investment profitable....and let us know if we fail to deliver in any way.

Value Engineering

Architects are known for having big egos.  Nothing quite humbles an architect more than getting his favorite piece of the design removed because "it exceeds the budget".  Unless you are a internationally renowned architect that breaks most every budget given, architects experience this humbling moment many times.  Value engineering is a phrase/concept that is scary and (sometimes) maddening to hear, but it is such a very important part of being a successful architect.  That is, if we define success as creating places that improve communities and making spaces that are beautiful to inhabit.  We, at Key Architecture, want projects to happen.  We want to see buildings built and clients satisfied.  It is our job to put the individual pieces of budget, time, program, beauty & relationships together to make a successful puzzle.  Giving up our ego to make our client's building fit in their budget is a necessity.  We must think of our clients as better than us if we want to successfully serve them and have them recommend us or return to us.  I hope that our firm will be marked with this kind of service.

Restoring People

The Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties just recently had their ground breaking for a world-class Dialysis Access Institute.  It will serve to heal and restore the people all over the county, state and nation.  What a privilege it is to be part of a facility that is so directly connected to improving people's lives from all walks of life.

My hope in this, is that our architecture, the spaces that we have designed, will assist in making the physical spaces where the healing happens an enjoyable environment for staff and patients.  Maybe our daylight-filled waiting room can bring hope and encouragement to those patients that may be anxiously awaiting surgery.  Maybe our flying cantilevered canopies can give passers-by and patients a moment to pause and enjoy a small wonder of architecture and engineering accomplishments.  Maybe our clear interior layout can give systematic improvements to the complicated functions of a surgery center.  Maybe the materials and paint colors in the building can help ease and heal the mind.  In these ways, we can help echo in the built environment what is happening in the human environment: hope, creativity, accomplishment, healing, etc.

Our hope at Key Architecture is that we can add to the physical, mental and spiritual flourishing that needs to happen in a sometimes broken and painful world.  I know that this world class facility will do these things successfully and we feel honored to be a contributor to it.  Although It does make our job challenging, the fulfillment in seeing it come together is what inspires us.

3D Laser Scanning

There is a new technology that is starting to make it's way into the architectural marketplace.  3D Laser Scanning has the potential to become a staple in the diet of the renovation process for architects & owners.  Scanned data provides an EXACT 3D model of the existing building in less time and potentially less cost than by traditional measuring ways.  

As an architect, I have had the experience of field measuring dozens of buildings.  I have yet to meet someone who actually likes the traditional way of creating as-built drawings.  The process typically involves gathering paper, pencil, flashlight, building key, permission to enter property, tape measure, another person (to hold the other end of the tape measure), etc.  It would not be such a bad experience if you only had to do this once, but it inevitably turns in to somewhere between 3 to 6 trips.  As one that has been doing this for over a decade now, nothing would make me happier than not having to go through this process multiple times per project in order to get those 2 or 3 dimensions I missed last time out or trying to figure out which wall is not orthogonal because my drawing doesn't match up with my dimensions.

It seems as if 3D Laser Scanning might be the solution to this waste of time and money.  The scan is created quickly (1 day) and then translated into a format that is familiar to me (CAD and/or REVIT) over the next week.  Because it is perfectly accurate, I can finally trust the as-built drawings/model that I have to work with.  Not only do I get to visit the site empty-handed (except for the camera phone in my pocket), it also allows me to visit the site whenever I want to.  The technology has progressed so much in the last few years, that this is finally a cheaper solution in many existing building applications.

Because of the quality and bottom line, I expect this technology to become a staple among existing building renovations over the next decade.  As the cost continues to come down, people will be more likely to introduce their practice to a new technology.  I suggest everyone look in to it now, as it will save you dozens of wasted hours (in the field and at your desk) and could potentially save you thousands of dollars per project.

Building Codes and Historical Tax Incentives

We are in the process of trying to help catalyze the revitalization of downtown Florence.  There are many beautiful (century old) historical buildings there that need a little TLC.  In order for a project (like Hotel Florence) to be properly funded, the use of historical tax credits are often necessary.  I applaud the government for rewarding this type of development.  It is a noble use of tax payer money that is helping revive many cities throughout our country.

The problem lies in marrying the requirements for historical tax credits with the current building codes.  The former is a restriction to keep things as they are.  The latter is a mandate to update the building in a modern way.  One could imagine the problems that this would create for designers.  The respective entities do not converse with one other and only care to enforce their responsibilities.  So what do we do when the historical building has an open historical staircase that runs the height of the building?

Do we leave it open?  Code will not allow us because we are using the floors for different uses.

Do we tear it out or enclose it for fire-rating?  Historical judges frown upon it.

Do we abandon it?  That seems to make zero sense as we lose the historical feel of the building as well as valuable lease-able area.

So how do find a happy medium for issues such as this?  Can we not get the code inspector and historical tax judge in the same room and design a solution together?  Is that feasible and will it even be productive?  I obviously don't have the answer, but these kind of problems are killing projects and thwarting the very purposes of the historical tax incentives.