Project Innovation in Many Forms

There are many ways to innovate, especially when it comes to architecture and project management. New technologies can help you design better, be more efficient, and be competitive. And while new tools are full of promise, new processes and methodologies can be just as effective in improving your workflow and your business.

Taking a look at how others innovate is inspiring. That’s why our next DESIGNrealized Education Series is so exciting. We’ve got industry experts on board to share new technologies (Onuma and BIMscore) as well as ideas for improving how to manage projects.

Topics include:

So please join us starting February 24, for this great education series. You can earn up to 7 AIA LUs.

Are We Wasting Our Water?

Living FutureIn the last couple of years California has experienced one of the worst droughts in history. As a Central California native and Northern California resident, I don’t remember ever wondering if we have enough water to survive. Until now.

The lack of water is causing an abundance of sinkholes, especially in the Central Valley, where farmers are desperate to keep their crops alive and the world fed. Water rationing is now mandatory for residents of many communities and fines are stiff if you aren’t making an effort to conserve water.

Yet, we are wasting a lot of water. The infrastructure that water flows through is breaking down. Last week two mains that deliver water to our house broke. And while water was not flowing into our house an abundance of water was flowing down our street for hours as crews were working to fix the problem. Due to our aging pipelines and the challenge in maintaining them, this is a common occurrence.

So when Susan Rainier, one of our recent speakers talked about Water as one of the imperatives of the Living Building Challenge, I listened. “Water is one of the most sacred things we have,” said Susan. “In practices of the past we have not treated water as the important element that it is for us. We are very wasteful with water and we don’t have to be.”

With the Living Building Challenge the goal is net positive water. To actually work with and use the water that lands on your site. While net zero is a common thought in relation to energy, it doesn’t seem as common of an idea when it comes to water.

Susan highlighted the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, as project that has done an amazing job at using the water it has on site. The Center is a wastewater filtration facility that is designed to use treated water for garden irrigation. Its greywater recovery system and building are used as teaching tools for an educational program on the ecological impact of its campus. The Center even offers yoga classes to demonstrate the positive effect and beauty of its site.

Water is just one of the imperatives highlighted by Susan during her presentation on Understanding the Living Building Challenge. The other elements of the challenge include Place, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. To learn about the other imperatives and how you can accept the challenge, visit

For additional insights on water as it relates to our future Susan recommended “Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever” by Maude Barlow.

Susan Rainer, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Living Future Accredited LFA, and Architect, is Principal of Eagle Global Consult and an ambassador for the Living Future Institute.


Architects as Leaders

I had the privilege of working with Pete DeLisle, PhD, on today’s webinar on Leadership and Professional Practice for Architects. He discussed his philosophy on leadership and provided some great insights into what it takes to be an effective leader.1-DELISLEIMAGE

While his discussion was relevant to leadership as a whole, he honed in on how leadership and architecture often go hand in hand. According to Pete, “the architects, in fact, have an increasingly responsible part to play in how we articulate not only the built environment but how we embrace the idea of people living together in a very positive and hospitable way.”

Much of his understanding of architects as leaders comes from the work he has done with the AIA Dallas Emerging Leaders Program over the past several years. He had such an impact on the organization he was named Honorary AIA in 2014. For a snapshot into his expertise and views on leadership, check out this interview in the AIA Dallas Springboard.

Pete was also a contributor to the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th Edition. If you’d like to learn more about leadership from Pete, leave us a comment or let us know. We’d be happy to get you connected.


Six Ways to Improve Website Engagement

Many sole practitioners and owners of small architecture firms will be familiar with Enoch Sears, architect and founder of The Business of Architecture. He presented an informative and engaging webinar Tuesday on Digital Tools to Put Your Marketing on Autopilot.

One of my favorite parts was when he talked about what makes a good website. “Websites have turned into interactive platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn,” says Enoch. “They are more about community than about what you go there to look at. The beauty is that the more your website resembles one of these platforms, the more you will be able to use it as a business development tool to create trust and relationships; to attract qualified prospects and to get the best clients to contact you.”

Enoch Sears, Architect, The Business of Architecture Founder

Enoch Sears, Architect, The Business of Architecture Founder

To create an interactive website that tells your story and engages prospects and customers alike, Enoch shared the following tips and showed examples of each of them.

  1. Don’t just tell them, show them. To help prospects and customers understand that architecture is a valuable process worth spending your money on, DeForest Architects educates visitors about the process of designing a great project.
  2. Write articles. Share your design philosophy and educate your audience about things that matter to them through a blog. AV Architects + Builders does a nice job of doing just that.
  3. Use video. Today videos can be created right off your smart phone and easily uploaded to YouTube. Dylan Chappell Architects uses short videos as an easy and engaging education tool.
  4. Feature case studies. Show your work and why you are proud of it. Cannon Design does a nice job of highlighting their work with images and simple text.
  5. Go Behind the Scenes. Make your company and your staff human by sharing a bit about who and what makes your firm tick. HOKLife shows their casual side by letting their people talk about themselves and their passions.
  6. Use Testimonials. Happy clients can have more influence than anything you say. JHD Architects highlights positive customer experiences.

These are just a few ways to create engagement and make your website work for you. For more insights from Enoch Sears, check out his recent post on Dear Architect, Your Website Sucks.

What Does Your Brand Stand For?

I just finished listening to Martha Spelman discuss Branding and Marketing 101. As she was Branding_Spelmangiving a simple, clear overview of the steps required to build a brand, my mind was spinning. Not because she told me a lot I didn’t already know. After all my background is in marketing. But because she reminded me that while a brand may evolve it must ultimately stand for something meaningful in order to own a place in the minds of your audience.

What does your brand stand for?

If you are in the position to create or renovate your brand, check out a few insights from Martha herself:

> Business Branding: Imitate or Innovate?

> Branding Strategy Success: X Marks the Spot

> Brands ‘n Roses: The Memorable Brand Experience

Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based branding and marketing expert. She is the author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog.

What’s Next for Your Practice?

All I can say is WOW! If you’ve ever had your own practice or been part of a small firm, I’m sure that you would relate to the story told by Larry Paschall, VP at HPD Architecture, during last week’s webinar on Surviving the Recession: A Case Study of “What’s Next?”.

He eloquently discussed how the economy and the loss of a key client turned his new firm upside down in 2008. But what was most uplifting was how he and his partners made “What’s Next?” their motto for moving forward.

While many of their business and visibility strategies may be more familiar today, they felt risky a few years ago. Here are a few of my personal insights:

  • Someone Has to Be Bold and Brave: One of the partners, Laura Davis, was the catalyst for changing the firms mindset on marketing and self-promotion. She dove into unfamiliar territory and gave the others no choice but to follow.
  • Promoting Your Architecture Firm is Ethical: There are appropriate methods for architecture firms to promote themselves without being unprofessional.
  • Find Your Own Motto: We all need something to help us grow both personally and professionally. So why not find a motto like “What’s Next?” that will motivate you to get out of your own comfort zone and thrive.TheArchHappyHour

Oh, and here are a couple of things they’ve done to build their reputation and their business:

  • The Architecture Happy Hour – This concept was created as a way to meet other industry professionals and to create a referral network. Tactics include a monthly meetup, a podcast and a twitter account.
  • HPD Architecture Online Visibility – To establish themselves as experts in their field, they created the HPD blog and a Facebook page where they share information relevant to their prospects and clients.

What I like most about how HPD Architecture handled their unexpected dilemma is that they put themselves out there in a big way. Hopefully, it will motivate you to do the same.

Is Your Architecture Practice Thriving?

Is our business thriving? How can we take it to the next level? Am I savvy enough with all the new marketing tools out there? SERIES2HEADER-2014Are we focusing on the right things? As a small business owner these are the questions I ask myself everyday.

That’s why I’m so excited about our next DESIGNrealized continuing education series: Building a Successful Architecture Practice. While we aren’t an architecture firm per se, we work with architects, designers and contractors everyday. And how better to understand our customers than to learn about what they lose sleep over and how they (and we) can grow business and thrive.

You see I’m kind of a “how-to” junkie when it comes to business building techniques, tools and practices. I like to keep abreast of what’s new and contemplate how we might improve.

So how better to fuel my fix than to listen to Larry Paschall with HPD Architecture talk about how they started a practice as the economy took a dive and quickly had to be creative in how to survive and prosper. Or Enoch Sears from The Business of Architecture discuss how to put my marketing on autopilot (have you seen his video interviews/podcasts?). These are just a couple of the great speakers in our line up.

I’ll be capturing some of the things I learn in this blog so I hope you’ll follow us (see sidebar at left) and stay tuned. Or better yet, save $10 when you order the series (use promo code Thrive during checkout) and hear what our speakers have to say first hand.

Are You Relevant?

“The best thing about evidence based design is it makes us relevant again,” said Angela Mazzi, AIA, ACHA, EDAC, Healthcare Planner, GBBN Architects. “It gets us the conversation away from budget and schedule to what do you really need this building to do for you.”

Evidence Based Design Value Proposition

Evidence Based Design Value Proposition

During her presentation this week on Design vs the User, Mazzi made an excellent case for the value evidence based design brings to a building project. She shared the idea that by approaching design in a more thoughtful, research-based manner you can help an owner gain more from a building. You can impact how users experience the building, create increased satisfaction from users and owners, and have an effect on the bottom line in unexpected ways.

But how do you use research when a client may not be willing to pay for it? According to Mazzi you change the sources you usually go to to support your design ideas. Instead of reaching for Architectural Digest, you look to academic journals. Some of her favorites are sociology or psychology journals. She’s also a big fan of Google Scholar.

Where do you go to support your design ideas? Share your ideas with us.

Some of Doug Wittnebel’s Favorite Design Apps

I just finished watching a dynamic presentation on new technologies that benefit design by Doug Wittnebel, RA, AIA, LEED AP, Principal/Design Director, and Paul Choi, Associate, from Gensler. It is truly amazing how technology is changing how we work and how we think.

Gensler Wall Drawings

Gensler is at the forefront of design technology.

Gensler is at the forefront of creating virtual experiences for their clients. In fact, they even have Experience Designers in their firm. And clients have now come to expect that they will be able to feel the space of a design via some form of virtual reality before the project is even close to being built.

To create this experience Gensler uses a wide variety of technologies … everything from more traditional products like Rhino and Artlantis to QR Codes and iPad Apps. Which brings me to sharing some of the Apps Doug Wittnebel talked about. He uses around 18 Apps on a regular basis and the following ones to create interactive wall drawing sketches.

  •  Brushes – this is a painting app with an accelerated open-GL painting engine that makes painting smooth and responsive.
  • ProCreate® – a powerful and intuitive digital illustration App. Includes pencils, inks, and brushes with advanced layering feature.
  • Adobe® Ideas – provides the ability to draw free form vector illustrations. Includes a huge canvas, customizable brushes, and pressure sensitive stylus support.

Wittnebel gave some sound advice to maintain creativity in today’s ever changing world of technology: “Keep your curiosity up. Everyday something new is being introduced.”

Aligning BIM with Your Design Process

One of the challenges facing architects today is changing their thought process on design as they begin to embrace the BIM process. On the positive side BIM allows architects to focus more on design. However, the process itself is more linear, which can be a difficult task for the more creative mind of an architect.

BIM changes the way we design.

BIM changes the way we design.

“The BIM approach tends to be more linear and less iterative than the looping method that we’re familiar with as architects,” says Michael Robbins, Architect & Principal, Studio Robbins Cortina. “As we jump further into BIM, we need to negotiate how we address this change in process to blend our creativity with a more sequential approach.”

During his recent presentation on How BIM Changes the Conventional Design Process, Robbins discussed the varying ways the design approach differs during a BIM project.

  • Schematic designs are more comprehensive and complete
  • More detail is worked out during the design process which takes more time early on
  • A lot of information goes into the virtual model
  • Interior architecture is moved forward and completed during the detailed design phase
  • The entire model may not be accessible at all times so that sub-contractors can do detailed modeling early on.

As such, Robbins provided some tips for changing the process and your mindset:

  • It’s important to allocate additional resources for the early phases of the project
  • Spending the time to get each design phase done fully and correctly will maximize the productivity of the BIM process
  • Make sure to understand the complex nature and detail that’s associated with a virtual model before beginning
  • Use the right tool for the job at hand – it is not necessary to create everything from the BIM technology.

If you’d like to hear more from Robbins, check out his upcoming course on BIM Project Management for Architects, starting April 4.