Archive for the 'Architecture' Category


Architecture: A foolish dream?

I’ve had quite the discourse with a new coworker on the subject of Architecture in the past few weeks. You see, we were contracted to a company that has laid off more than 60% of it’s Architecture workforce. Two more people exited left this week and it got us talking about licensing, pay, graduate degrees, and transferring education and experience from international sources. Like me, this colleague got his Architecture education and some of his experience outside the United States.

Now someone was just talking about one of the people who left to practice Architecture, and I could not help but overhear his comments. (He was quite loud and it didn’t help that he was standing less than 10 feet away fom me). The gentleman griped that he advised the young lady who left to not pursue architecture as it was a foolish dream. This big box firm has been doing little more than outlying construction contracts for more than 3 years, and all their architects and interior designers had been drafted to perform tasks far outside the architecture field. After this young architect took the time and effort to get licensed, stayed with the firm doing non-arch tasks until getting laid off, and now getting full-time architecture employment, her efforts are being labelled as a foolish dream. While the recession has (in my opinion) reverted the way American architects do business to the days of the Master Builder, I don’t believe or agree that the desire and pursuit of Architecture practice is no more than a foolish dream. Allowing the bitterness of disappointment in the industry, wages, licensing process, and our lobbyists to poison our outlook AND our actions does no more than pour gunky sand in a gaping wound. The speaker had indeed been burned by the profession, and it was evident in his speech(with examples of course) that he felt betrayed. It is important for people to still recognize that life is similar to a cyclic rollercoaster. It’s not always up, or down, slow, or fast.


Facilitating FCA’s

I couldn’t think of a catchy title for what could be a very boring blog, so please pardon the intentional pun. Smile


My current project has been one conducting Facility Condition Assessments for various city buildings all over Houston. It has been very interesting to see the environment where City employees do their work. I have seen a few good places, and a lot of bad. It has been very disheartening to see some of the cramped, broken down, and plain unacceptable conditions our Law Enforcement and other COH personnel have to endure in the course of serving, protecting, and rescuing the people of Houston. The City is well aware of this. So: The City wants to know the state of all of it’s facilities – Parks, Libraries, Police Stations, Fire Stations and needs a Facility Conditions Assessment in order to obtain this information. The definitions below will give a little more insight as to what is involved in an FCA.

Wikipedia defines Facility Condition Assessments as:

…an industry term that describes the process of a qualified group of trained industry professionals performing an analysis of the condition of a group of facilities that may vary in terms of age, design, construction methods, and materials.

The industry professionals are typically engineers of various disciplines and skilled-trade technicians, but architects are sometimes used as well.

This analysis can be done by walk-through inspection, mathematical modeling (see Mathematical Model), or a combination of both. But the most accurate way of determining the condition requires walk-through to collect baseline data.

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) provides a more robust definition, as can be seen from the following:

Facility Condition Assessment (FCA)/Audit
The structured development [of] a profile of existing facilities conditions, typically placed in an electronic database format, and populated with detailed facility condition inspection information. A detailed facility condition assessment (FCA’s) typically involve an assessment team of three professionals (architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer), and depend up robust, scalable methodologies to assure accurate and consistent information. … The FCA identifies existing deficient conditions (requirements), in logical grouping and priorities, and also, associated recommended corrections and corrective costs. Costs are generally based upon industry standard cost databases (e.g., Building News, Craftsman Book Company, Richardson General Construction Estimating Standards, RSMeans).

The framework for what we’ve been doing is easily detailed in the following flowchart:

FCA flowchart


*Disclaimer: This flowchart is not the be-all and end-all for conducting FCA’s. Use at your own risk and provide a link to this page and credit the owner – me.

So far, I’m learning a LOT about what happens when buildings come together(the interaction of disciplines such as Architectural, MEP, Fire protection, Structural), how buildings age, designing for now and the future, and how Facilities Management ties in (or should tie in) to a facility from it’s conception. Expect more blogs on this as I journey through the learning process. Hopefully, you’ll learn something too.



The idea never dies

Despite my long foray into the engineering facet of buildings (6 years), my architectural ideas just haven’t died. Seemingly out of the blue, I get these bursts of ideas. Some of them I’ve written down (drawn, researched and investigated), and others I’ve ignored for a variety of reasons. While some people might think it is impossible to be both an architect and an engineer, deep inside me I know that it is not impossible. Heck, I even have precedents: Michelangelo, John Augustus Roebling (he didn’t practice architecture),Santiago Calatrava, Cecil Balmond, Dr. Ken Yeang, Michael Fletcher, and more.

I would love to pick the brains of the men and women (I would appreciate any leads on women who are trained and/or operating in the fields discussed here) that have forayed into this facet of the AEC industry and have managed to operate in the AE intersection of the Venn diagram below:

                     AEC venn diagram

For the many people who have this passion for buildings, space, and how people exist and interact in/with space, the idea never dies. If we have to follow a non-traditional route to achieve it, so be it! I would rather pave a non-traditional path than look down a road of regret to a graveyard of ideas. So, as much as this is a blog for information exchange, I am using this particular post to motivate myself; and say, YES! Go for it! Despite the uncertainty of the job market, and the questioning frowns at my resume when my degrees are noticed, I CAN do it!