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Progress on the Elementary School

SchoolIt has officially been one year since a local design firm decided to make an investment in our local community by providing free architectural designs and services for an addition to the local elementary school. For those of you who haven’t been reading this blog for that long, I’ll fill you in in this post.

 

Early last year, our local school district wanted to expand some of their after-school reading programs but lacked the budget to do so. Some of their plans included an expanded wing of the school to act as a digital and physical library where students could go to read and be instructed in after-school reading programs. The building would also function as a community education center that would help individuals with writing for job applications and resume building. Many jobs today require detailed letters or professional resumes that many people don’t have the resources to access or create.

 

With community services and programs like this, people can learn how to properly write cover letters. They will be able to learn the difference between principal and principle so that they don’t make these simple mistakes in their own resumes. This will greatly increase their chances of employment.

 

But as much as these services were needed in our community, the budget was just not there for them. A local design firm approached the school and offered to provide complimentary architectural designs and work on the project if the funds could be raised for the building’s construction.

 

This set off a wave of citizen action and community fundraising efforts. The local paper picked up on the action of the firm and printed a full-page cover story on their efforts to support the local school district. Citizen groups and grassroots organizations starting fundraising to see the community center built. Everything from bake sales to telephone banks, this was an incredible community effort.

 

It was so successful that by August of that year all of the necessary funds were collected. This coincided directly with the start of the new school year, so they had a ground-breaking ceremony on the first day of school where the new site will be located. Now, this project is quite a big project and its projected completion date isn’t for another year and a half, but isn’t that incredible? In less than 8 month, the project was able to be completely funded!

 

So, this month the entire town celebrates this great effort that was community driven and completely voluntary. Once it is completed, the community will be better off as a whole, both intellectually and economically. Helping those with writing problems and offering them instruction by explaining Capital Vs. Capitol will allow them to get better paying jobs. A lot of good things can be accomplished when you have a giving heart and the support of your local community. In this case, a company decided that this would be a great community investment for our town and a great way to give back for the many years of local support we as a community have given them.

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Lessons about Guitar Architecture

online guitar serial number lessonsGuitar construction is interesting because it combines all different aspects of architecture. The structural aspects of a Stratocaster or Telecaster are pretty simple. Basically, it’s a solid block of wood that is routed out to accept a few pickups, electronics, and a neck. The bridge is then bolted onto the guitar body. This has been the standard electric guitar construction ever since the beginning of the 1950s. You can check the fender Stratocaster number lookup guide going all the way back to 1949. It will show you the same thing.

Acoustic guitar are much different however. Since the body of the instrument is hollow, it needs much different support in order to maintain its integrity. Much like the architecture of a bridge, the inside of an acoustic guitar has struts that support the weight and pressure of the guitar strings.

The interesting thing about these instruments is unlike bridges; they have to balance the weight of the instrument and the ability to resonate. This only makes sense because the body has to vibrate freely in order to truly produce sound just like a rubber band. If you stop it from vibrating, the rubber band will stop producing sound.

The struts on the inside of the body work the same way. If there are too many supports inside, the top and back of the guitar will no longer be able to vibrate freely thus deadening the sound. Conversely, if the supports and struts are not heavy and secure enough the tension from the strings will slowly pull the guitar top away from the back and sides and the body will implode on itself.

Being an architect, this concept of balance is intriguing to me. I can apply this theory to my designs for my clients. There needs to be a structural element with all designs, but the structure can’t get in the way of seeing or hearing the beauty of the design. I like this theory. And, that’s not to say that the structure must always be hidden. You can easily see the braces in an acoustic guitar, so you should be able to see a little bit of structural elements in a properly designed space.

There are so many great things you can take away from the guitar construction. It’s amazing. I’d encourage anyone to pick up a guitar and look at the nuances of its design. Many you can even want to start playing and find some guitar lessons for beginners online. Who knows.

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Getting Your First Client

Getting Your First Client

 

One of my favorite architecture professors always recounted during class about how hard it was for him to land his first client. He spoke on how many interviews and requests that he would get that eventually fell through only to lose the bid to another competitor. He said one of the worst feelings he had was when he would draw up plans for buildings that would go on never being built; he said that this felt like such a waste.

 

I always thought my professor what somewhat embellishing his stories as he recounted them to his classes. Surely it could not have been that difficult could it? But his experience was something that I would fully understand until I started studying more architectural firms business plans almost five years after taking his class in advanced architectural studies.

 

The year was 2002, and I began studying business plans of architecture firms. I was an eager young business graduate, ready to help out any who was struggling to start their own business, but I was completely unprepared for the uphill battle I was going to face from many of these architects.

 

You see, at first many architects think that clients will just going to call up their phones and ask them to design their buildings. Boy, was this far from what actually happens. After you learn this, you will know that you need to meet with these people, get to know them and what they needed, and explain to them why the services you offer are so much better than everyone else’s. As you can see, this might be more work that you had previously thought.

 

Now I’m don’t remember the exact number of interviews and prospects people usually have before they realized this, but it’s usually around seven. Now seven doesn’t sound like a huge number, but when you consider the amount of work you will put into each of these prospects, the number seems a lot higher. For each of these prospects, you can spend on average a month and a half worth of work, only to be turned down in the end. Think about that; that is almost 11 months worth of no customers and contracts. You will quickly see exactly what my professor meant about his struggle to land his first client.

 

Then something will go off like a light bulb in your head. You just started this firm and you are already trying to land gigantic projects that are well out of your league. If you start with some smaller renovation projects, not only will you be much more likely to land some of them but you will also be able to establish a name for myself in the area.

 

Well, that is exactly what many architects end up doing. They stop looking for high-dollar skyscraper projects and started looking for smaller floor-wide renovations of existing office buildings. Within three months most architects are usually able to land their first client  this way, and it’s a great feeling to land your first client.

 

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A Shift in Strategy

A Shift in Strategy

 

As I said in my last post, many architects have an extremely tough first year once they get into the private market. They can spend months investing time and company resources into projects that never produced a single dollar for their bottom line and the year ended up only producing one major client for their firm.

 

Your first year starting your own firm doesn’t need to be a waste, however. If you employ the proper strategies from the beginning you can save yourself time and money in the long run..

 

As they say, hindsight is 20-20. This is especially true of most architects because they have no idea why they expect to land such large contracts right off the bat. What makes your firm so special that you think you could land big-name clients designing skyscrapers in a city like Chicago? Even though your designs may be superior to those of your competitors, oftentimes, politics played a big role in who got the bids. Did you know someone at the place awarding the contract? Did you know someone who could expedite the permitting process?

 

Well, usually fresh architects have not made any of these networking connections and aren’t able to offer them as “benefits” to their awesome designs, so you need to develop a new strategy that would bring in some short-term cash to your firm because the bottom line is you need customers for your business.

 

Not having any customers for an entire year is not exactly a great selling point for an up-start architectural firm. You need to get a network of clients who could vouch for your great architectural work as well as bring in some revenue for the company. What many firms decided to do is refocus the nature of the clientele that they were searching for.

 

They start to focus on small office-wide renovations. For example, many first contract bids are to small companies that are expanding onto the floor above them in their current office building. Since they are doubling their total office space, they might want to redesign the floor space that many of the executives are relocating to in the floor above their current one. This isn’t a giant skyscraper, but it’s a great starting project.

 

In it, you can design foyers, hallways, conference rooms, and many other items you typically find in modern day office buildings. This change in strategy can bring you numerous clients and really helped you develop a name for yourself. Usually people only wish they started it sooner. You won’t immediately break into the mainstream downtown architecture world, but you’ll finally realize that you don’t need to quite yet. You’re still a young and budding architect with plenty of time to make my mark on the cityscape.

 

So my advice to any architects coming out of college, don’t think that you absolutely must design a skyscraper right away. You have plenty of time and very few architects’ first project is something as major as a downtown skyscraper.

 

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New Project Development in Parking Garage

New Project Development in Parking Garage

 

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A new project has recently developed in my hometown of a company coming in and building a new state of the art underground parking garage. This is great news because underground parking garages are all the rage in big cities across America right now.

 

I chatted with some of the builders of it and they said that the parking garage will be ten full stories below the ground and will park approximately 1,500 cars when it is fully completed. The company that is looking to build it has recently expanded their central offices and need the parking spaces for their employees. They currently have two large parking lots where employees park, but the company has an incredibly green vision in their decision to build this underground parking garage.

 

As you can imagine, an underground parking garage is many many times more expensive than pouring some concrete on a flat surface for a parking lot. But the company already has two full size parking lots and they were getting sick of all of the asphalt space that they had around the building. They wanted to create more green space for their employees during the lunch breaks and to create a better overall atmosphere throughout the company. So what they are proposing to do is build the underground parking garage underneath one of the existing parking lots and turn the other lot into a green space.

 

Their estimates project that this will eliminate asphalt space by up to 65 percent. The company also plans to plant over 300 trees in the new green space, which will be both scenic and great for the environment. This company is a great example of a forward looking company that is willing to spend a little bit more money now for a great return in the future, and thankfully we are able to be a part of the project.

 

Now underground parking garages are some serious pieces of architecture, even though they rarely get appreciated for how intricate they are. They require thousands of pound of reinforced concreted, all of which needs to be designed properly to ensure the safety of the cars parking inside. The garage also needs to be built with the potential of 1,500 cars being parked inside, plus people and luggage. This is something that is essential to the construction of the building. It is not enough to make the structure stand up on its own, it also need to support everything that we are going to be putting inside.

 

All of that said, people have been building underground garages for years and they will be breaking ground next week. The project is set to take 19 months, but may take a bit longer, as they are still waiting on the company for final approval for a number of the elements in the garage’s construction. This is a pretty standard time for a job like this. Anything that is underground naturally takes longer from the permitting process to other government regulations.

 

I can’t wait to watch this project unfold. As a private citizen, I love seeing new building projects happen in my community.