Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Rosario Mannino @RSMannino

Rosario Mannino was born and raised in New Jersey.  He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Florida Atlantic University and a Professional Certificate from New York University in Construction Project Management. Eight years after graduating from FAU, Mannino founded the Architect-Led Design-Build company RS|MANNINO Architecture + Construction.  RS|MANNINO builds on our diverse professional and construction backgrounds to provide a balanced and thoughtful approach to our clients’ projects. Together with our trusted network of professionals, trade and supplier resources, we bring the expertise and hands-on experience in architecture, design, engineering, construction trades, and project management necessary to make every project we take on a success. They approach everything we do with a commitment to an integrated design and construction process.  For more information visit them online FacebookTwitter; LinkedInWebsite

ILMA INTERVIEW

When did you first become interested in Architect-Led Design-Build?

I knew I wanted to be an architect from a very young age.  Growing up around construction, I was so intrigued by the entire process.  I loved being on the job site watching the architectural plans unfold into a beautiful home or building.  I always thought I had to decide on which path to pursue: architecture vs. construction/office vs. jobsite.  I had been exploring the idea of both disciplines from a very young age, and it grew into a focused research project for me by the time I reached high school.  I don’t think there was ever this “ah ha” moment.  It was a passion that I had from the start.

Can you describe the process of ALDB?

As the Architect, we contract with the owner both to design and to construct a building, and we procure the construction services by contracting directly with the various construction trades.

Can you walk us through a typical project?

In ALDB, we start our projects very similarly to a traditional method.  We start with a budget and scope.  If the budget and scope are approved, we start to design.  Once we complete our schematic design, we provide an updated preliminary estimate.  Once we confirm we are within budget, we continue to refine the design and the cost estimates.  We want our clients to be informed and included throughout the entire process.   This factor creates a trusting relationship between our firm and our clients.  With our method, the clients only need to communicate with us.  There are less parties involved making communication much more efficient.

How are the fees structured?

Depends on the complexity and size of the project; some are hourly design fees with the Construction documents set at a fixed fee which is determined after Schematic Design.  Most of our projects are defined well enough that we can provide a professional fee plus reimbursable expenses.  Our Construction Management fee is a fixed fee which also includes a pre-construction management fee.  Occasionally we will perform Construction as a fixed price.

What are some of the risks and rewards of ALDB?

If a problem arises, there is only one place to point the finger.  In the traditional design-bid-build method, miscommunication between Architect and Contractor can cause unnecessary tension.  With ALDB, the entire process is much more cohesive creating a team-like environment. The clients also feel a sense of comfort when only having to communicate with one entity.

What are the three greatest challenges with ALDB process?

Higher Insurance premiums – This is one of the main reasons why we separate our business entities, having separate insurance for both entities and separate contracts for the client.

Most Architecture firms can take on smaller projects if the work load is slowing down, and most builders have very small overhead to compensate for the slower times. With ALDB, you need to have separate staff for both Architecture and Construction; it’s a bigger machine to feed.

Training new staff is much more of an investment because overall, they are becoming much more knowledgeable about our whole profession. There is even more training involved because new staff must learn both Architecture and Construction. It is extremely gratifying to educate Architects to think in a different way.

What are the three greatest advantages of ALDB?

One of the best advantages of being an ALDB firm is that we get to work directly with the craftsmen themselves to discuss how we can make improvements to the project; it is a learning experience for both of us. We appreciate this close relationship, and I am certain our craftsmen enjoy working in close contact with the designer. The designer and the craftsman work directly together.

As the Architect, we take on a role that allows better control of project budgets, schedules, and overall project quality, including the quality of design.

It’s so much fun. I think it’s so much fun because we are truly going back to being Master builders. As Architects we love to problem solve; that’s what we do all day long, but now it’s even more in depth and more dynamic.

Do you see ALDB as a way for Architects to take back “control” of the design and construction process?

For certain markets, yes.  I have had the pleasure of working on projects with unlimited design budgets, having total control of the project as the Architecture firm.  In reality, not every client is going to have an unlimited budget.  The client relationship in ALDB is far greater than in a traditional design-bid-build method.  We have found our clients to be so much more appreciate of our talents on our design-build projects vs. our design only jobs.  Some of our design jobs have a 2-3 month duration, followed by phone calls and quick site meetings.  In design-build, we have a much closer relationship with our clients; most of them feel like family before the project is over!

Why do you think that most Architects, Clients and Contractors shy away from ALDB?

For Architects, it is not necessarily something they ever thought about because they weren’t introduced to it.  We are trained in (most) schools to be Starchitects with grand budgets.  After school and our internship is completed, most architects find the niche they are most comfortable in.  I cannot say that ALDB is easy nor is it for everyone to pursue.  There is a more executive and dynamic role; there is a much more entrepreneurial mode to ALDB as opposed to running a boutique design firm.  You can be a one-person design firm, but to do design-build you need to build a solid team.  The daily tasks of designing, managing the office, managing the sites, and keeping finances in order is not for everyone, nor can one person do it all.  It requires a great team, and we are fortunate to have that.

I have not yet met a client who shied away from ALDB. However, we do work on design only jobs.  This usually happens when the client already has a relationship with a contractor.  We are agreeable to this because we can only build so much, and we want our clients to be comfortable with who they are working with.

For contractors, there is a sense of losing the market.  Good builders and contractors should not be concerned.  They may choose to adapt, but to be honest I do not think this will be some sweeping trend in the AEC industry.

What are some of the tools you use (from AIA, NCARB, Insurance Company, Other Professional Organizations) to help you manage your firm’s performance and reduce risk?

I have read a lot of literature on ALDB; the AIA has a few great articles as well as a book on ALDB.  There is an organization specifically for design-build called Design Build Institute of America (DBIA).  This organization is geared more toward government and large-scale projects.  There are also a few attorneys who have published articles on ALDB that have been very helpful.

My research has lead me to separate my design and construction contracts, but each project is unique.  I treat each project differently.  I cannot really say I have a set method because our scale of work differs so greatly, spanning a large spectrum.  On one end, we have worked on small kitchen renovations, and on the other end we have done new construction on vacant lots.

What is the percentage of ALDB your firm is currently working on – what are the major differences between traditional project delivery vs ALDB projects?

Being recently engaged in a few large multi-family developments, we’ve found that we are providing more than the basic services on those scale projects.  This is due to our experience.  Developers are taking advantage of our management and construction background.  Our role is much more than just producing design documents.   I would say we are about 60% design only and 40% ALDB projects.

Is there anything you would like to see to make the ALDB even better for future projects?

I hope to see more architecture schools incorporating some type of design-build programs.  If Architects played a larger role, communities would greatly benefit.  It would be nice if ALDB gained more popularity so that clients can learn to appreciate Architects playing a larger role.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

 

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Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with @Collier1960 Collier Ward

Collier Ward is a registered Architect, an aspiring novel and short story writer, an acknowledged construction industry influencer, and a follower of Jesus, who thrives on communication and community.

“One of my long-term career goals is to see more books, movies, and television shows about architects and architecture. For years I have said “Architecture Holds a Thousand Stories” and it remains an untapped source for dramatic content. If you are in charge of story development in the entertainment industry I would be glad to discuss the comedy and drama embedded in my profession. If you have interest in any of these subjects, I’d be pleased to connect with you.” -Collier Ward

Connect with Collier Ward on LinkedIn or  Twitter.

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?

As a child, I’m not even sure how old I was, I saw my older brother drawing a floor plan. I didn’t understand the series of rectangles and asked him what it was. He informed me that it was our house. To me, a house was depicted by the archetypal image of a simple box with a door, a sloped roof, and a chimney with a swirl of smoke. I told him it was an awful drawing. He explained that it was what we’d see from above if we took the roof off and looked in from above. Then I saw it! The bedrooms, the kitchen, the carport were just as they should be. Although I considered art teacher, artist, cartoonist, and ad man as possible careers, this childhood revelation of architecture proved to be my origin story.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

Other than a few financial struggles and loan debts (which don’t even compare to today’s students’) my schooling and internship were fairly typical. From the first day I walked on campus (Auburn University, 1979) to the day I became registered in North Carolina was just under a decade.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?

As an intern, I worked on the College of Architecture building at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The design architect was Gwathmey Siegel (I worked for the local firm that produced the Construction Documents.) I had the pleasure of detailing the three monumental stairs in the main gallery, based on concepts by Charles Gwathmy. Since then I’ve worked with many Architects who climbed those stairs and pulled all-nighters in those studios.

How does your family support what you do?

My wife and I were married in my third year of school. If there were awards for architects’ spouses Celese would have several by now. She has supported, humored, and encouraged me to this day.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?

As a student, I had two architects (one past, one current) that inspired and influenced me most; both for their writings as well as their designs. I think it’s interesting that both Alvar Aalto and Robert Venturi practiced with their wives.

What is your favorite modern (contemporary) project? Why?

Having grown up in St. Louis, MO, the Gateway Arch (as much sculpture as a building) has always been a favorite landmark for me. It was a source of pride – we took visitors up when they came to town. It was also a link to my fascination with Finnish architecture.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

Our profession has transformed very little over the past three decades. Groups within the profession push for change (improved education, environmental sustainability, employment diversity, etc,) but to the rank and file architect (and the clients we serve) I’m not sure much has changed. Nevertheless, I have hope for future.

What does Architecture mean to you?

“True Architecture exists only where man stands in the center, his comedy and tragedy both,” said Alvar Aalto. When all is said and done, architecture is the stage upon which we live the stories of our lives.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?

This is my favorite question. I will always be an architect, but I hope to reach more people with my other passion – writing. For years I have said, “Architecture holds a thousand stories.” Our profession is a closed book to most people. I believe well-written stories will reveal to the population at large what Architects can do. Every other profession has its TV shows, books, and movies; why not Architecture?

What is your dream project?

Per my previous answer, I would like to be the story consultant for a movie or TV series that accurately portrays what architects do – and can do – for our society. I want a wide audience to know the joy and drama that is embedded in every work of architecture.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?

As cliché as it sounds, hard work is essential. But not hard work and long hours for the sake of fulfilling a stereotype; hard work toward a personal goal. I quote Daniel Burnham; “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work…”

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

 


Creating High Performance Buildings through Integrative Design Process

The “High Performance by Integrative Design” film by RMI includes examples of how design teams collaborate in new ways to integrate high-performance design elements, such as daylighting, energy efficiency and renewable energy, for optimal performance. Viewers experience charrette discussions and see the design process unfold on projects such as the Empire State Building retrofit, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Phipps Conservancy in Pittsburgh, the Desert Living Center in Las Vegas, Willow School in New Jersey and Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Typical Design & Construction Process

Conventional planning, design, building, and operations processes often fail to recognize that buildings are part of larger, complex systems. As a result, solving for one problem may create other problems elsewhere in the system.1

Integrative Design & Construction Process

Collaboration leads to innovation

An integrated design process (IDP) involves a holistic approach to high performance building design and construction. It relies upon every member of the project team sharing a vision of sustainability, and working collaboratively to implement sustainability goals. This process enables the team to optimize systems, reduce operating and maintenance costs and minimize the need for incremental capital. IDP has been shown to produce more significant results than investing in capital equipment upgrades at later stages.2


As discussed in a previous post, the integrated process requires more time and collaboration during the early conceptual and design phases than conventional practices. Time must be spent building the team, setting goals, and doing analysis before any decisions are made or implemented. This upfront investment of time, however, reduces the time it takes to produce construction documents. Because the goals have been thoroughly explored and woven throughout the process, projects can be executed more thoughtfully, take advantage of building system synergies, and better meet the needs of their occupants or communities, and ultimately save money, too.3


Considerations and Advantages of an Integrative Design Process:

  • ID&CP processes and strategies can be implemented to varying degrees depending upon the complexity of a project and an owner’s project goals.
  • A project team must be carefully assembled very early on in the process to ensure success.
  • All key participants must subscribe to the collaborative effort of establishment clear goals.
  • All project stakeholders must be involved and remain involved in the project, and must communicate openly and frequently.
  • Key participants must employ appropriate technology to foster collaborative design and construction.

Similar to the Construction Management at Risk approach to project delivery, the owner can benefit from the following IPD advantages:

  • Owner receives early cost estimating input, sometimes as early as conceptual design.
  • The owner can take advantage of special services such as:
    • Feasibility studies
    • Value engineering
    • Life cycle costs
    • Identification of long-lead items and their pre-purchase
  • Significant time can be saved because the design effort is emphasized and completed earlier in the process, and because construction can begin before the design is fully complete.
  • Architectural and engineering fees can be reduced by the early involvement of the specialty contractors.
  • Construction costs are minimized by incorporating constructability reviews into the process, and by the designers incorporating materials, methods, and systems that the team knows are more cost effective.
  • Operating costs can be reduced by providing opportunities to greatly affect long-term energy and resource use through design.
  • Capital costs can be reduced, thanks to clearer and better coordinated construction documents, which should minimize the incidence of change orders that impact both cost and time.
  • Misunderstanding between the parties is minimized when the IPD Team works together during the planning stages of the project.
  • The owner’s risk is minimized as the IPD Team approach tends to focus on early identification of potential conflicts and issues through the utilization of modeling tools. This early identification results in timely problem solving and resolution of issues through the use of models, as opposed to problem solving in the field and constructed environments.


We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Jeff Venezia, AIA of @DIGroupArch

Who is Jeff Venezia, AIA?

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia and has practiced in New Brunswick since 1981. He is presently a Principal Owner and President ofDIGroupArchitecture, a 32 person firm specializing in K-12 Education, Higher Ed, Senior Living and Healthcare. He heads the design and marketing efforts of the firm as well as the Academic Studio which includes K-12 and Higher Ed.

About the Firm

DIGroupArchitecture is a process-centric architecture and design firm. We work tirelessly with our clients to understand their priorities, evaluate the physical and budgetary constraints, and communicate potential options. As a result we create distinctive design solutions that help our clients achieve their vision, with unwavering attention to detail at every scale.

It is our unbiased approach to scale that helps us evolve in the changing climate of contemporary architecture. As many of our clients’ priorities have shifted away from ground-up architecture to renovations and adaptive reuse, our interiors studio has flourished and our graphic design studio has developed a diverse portfolio of projects in environmental graphics, signage and wayfinding, and brand identity.

80% of our business comes from repeat clients.They appreciate our “whatever it takes” approach and principal involvement at every level of every project. Our goal is to make every client a “legacy” client doing project after project and improving the experience of those who occupy the facilities we have created together as partners.

         Memorial Elementary School

         Phillipsburg High School

         Remsen Ave. Firehouse

         Jonathan Dayton High School Media Center

 

Click to Follow the DIGroup: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was about 12 years old.  I loved model building, drawing and construction and just knew from that time on what I wanted to be.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

I think the biggest challenge has always been living up to the level of trust your clients place on you to deliver a project that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?  

Most clients are memorable in their own way.  Since a lot of our work is for repeat clients we get to know them extremely well over time, both professionally and personally.  The best highlights of any of our projects is the reaction of the end users as to how we’ve improved the quality of their everyday lives.  That occurs most often in our Healthcare, K-12, Senior Living and Community Rooms projects.  One of our top highlights was having our Memorial Elementary School in East Brunswick receive the 2013 AIA New Jersey Honor Award for Excellence in Design, the first NJ public school to be recognized with that award (see photos above).

How do Architects measure success?     

We measure success by how a project meets the goals established in the very beginning, especially with regard to program, design, budget and schedule.

Good design does not have to cost more – it requires patience and commitment to doing it right.

Grow the business, develop a transition of ownership strategy, continue to focus on improving our architectural, interior and graphic capabilities.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?  

Unquestionably Alvar Aalto.  I love the way his buildings embrace the landscape and often look to him for inspiration.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?  

My favorite historic building would be the Pantheon in Rome.  Favorite contemporary – the Kimball Art Museum in Texas by Louis Kahn.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

We need to reverse the trend of being considered by the public as a commodity.  We need to educate the public and our clients on the value added in what we provide in the services we perform.  We are not copy or toilet paper. 

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?      

The greatest influence on my design work was my 3rd year architecture professor who demanded only the highest quality work from me and forced me out of my comfort zone to continually strive to learn from every project, to grow and become better as an architect.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?   

Airport – I love the idea of doing something at that scale.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?    

A National Geographic photographer.

 What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?     

Always be true to yourself, treat people fairly and conduct yourself with the highest level of integrity.  Your word should be your bond.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?  

Challenges:  the economy, dealing with diversity in the work place and the ever-increasing reliance on technology.  As mentioned above, the competition and lowering of fees continue on a downward spiral.

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?  

Don’t just adapt to change – embrace it.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?     

Take risks and have the commitment to see them through.  Be a good listener.  Show a concern and appreciation for your employees.  Be proactive in solving problems.  Never let anything fester.  Once the attorneys get involved no one is happy with the outcome.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Matthew B. Jarmel, AIA, MBA of @JarmelKizel

Mr. Jarmel is an Architect, Real Estate Developer, Renewable Energy Enthusiast, Entrepreneur and Owner of Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers Inc.

He received a Bachelors of Architecture from NJIT in 1990 and an MBA from Rutgers University in 1994. He can be found online at the following social media sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

About the Firm

Since the firm’s founding in 1975, Jarmel Kizel has worked its way from the inside out; originally concentrating on the interior design of corporate offices and since has grown into a full-service Architectural, Engineering, and Interior Design firm that provides a single point of accountability for all aspects of design services. The firm’s size and abilities enable it to handle a broad spectrum of projects while allowing the principals to put their seal on every one. With in-house Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection Engineering, clients can look to Jarmel Kizel to have all aspects of their projects designed and managed by one firm.

Today the firm provides a unique service platform that provides a single point of accountability for architectural and engineering services formatted to assist clients with managing their project’s design needs from site design and land entitlements to building design through construction oversight.

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

I knew when I was in Junior High School that I wanted to become an architect.  I grew up in the industry in that my father is a commercial interior designer, he actually founded our firm in 1975, and I was exposed to design and construction at a very early age.  My dad totally remodeled our home and he had my brother Richard, who is a civil engineer and partner in our firm, and myself helping and working with tools. 

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?  

The architectural and engineering industry can be very rewarding.  There is tremendous emotional fulfillment to see your ideas first take shape on paper and then through construction.  I take great pride driving by a building our firm has designed and saying we did that.  Despite the rewards the business of architecture can be very difficult.  Our industry is first hit by a recession, hardest hit and usually the last to recover.   One of the greatest challenges of working in the profession is learning how to batten down the hatches and weather the economic storms when they come. 

Any memorable clients or project highlights?  

I have many projects I am proud of many clients that I respect and that have become good friends and even partners over the years.  Some of the more notable projects I have worked on include designing the Bear Stearns Campus in Whippany, NJ.  This project was developed over years and ultimately included approximately 700,000 sf of office and data center space in five buildings, two of which we designed and the rest we designed major renovations to.  Unfortunately Bear Stearns does not exist anymore but the campus is still there.  We also were fortunate to design the first major redevelopment project in Plainfield, NJ where we designed four buildings for the Union County Improvement Authority that included a 100,000 sf office building, two retail buildings totaling 40,000 sf and a parking structure.   This project acted as a catalyst for new development in the city.   Over the last several years the firm has been very active in NYC designing many mixed use large scale projects, we have a 17 story building under construction in Queens right now.   One of my most memorable clients is The Learning Experience.   The Learning Experience is a national and soon to be international brand of child development centers.  We designed their first center 16 years ago and have since completed over 200 projects throughout the country for them.  Because of the volume of projects we have completed for them, about 70 in NJ alone, I gained tremendous experience in land entitlements and have become an expert in land entitlement strategy.

How does your family support what you do?    

The creative process can be very time consuming, running a business and being creative magnifies the time required to be an architect.  Some days I leave the house at 7 and if I have a hearing don’t get home until midnight.   Other times I am hopping on an airplane and away overnight.   My family is supportive in that they understand the taxing requirements of the job.   With that said everything I do is for my family.  So I make sure my wife and children get the attention they need from me and we plan as much quality time as possible.

How do Architects measure success?     

Some might say you measure the success of an architect by the quality and aesthetic of the buildings he or she designs, or by how much wealth and fame they have obtained.  To me a successful architect you have to be a strong leader, a strong communicator and be able to balance the aesthetic and technical issues of a building’s design all while understanding the functional and economical goals of your client.  The architect that can achieve this can become successful.  Ultimately success is measured by obtaining the respect of your peers, clients and even contractors in the industry.  

What matters most to you in design?      

Achieving my clients goals of function and budget while creating a building that is safe and attractive.   

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?  

Our firm has developed strong skills in real estate development which include land entitlements and real estate economics.   Many times we set the strategy for how to present a project to planning and zoning boards, explain the process to our clients and even their attorneys, advise on PILOT and other incentives, building valuation and assist in making introduction to equity investors and lenders.   These skills make us stand out from our competitors but not necessarily obtain higher fees.  Our goal for the next 2 to 5 years is to expand our Real Estate Advisory services to create additional revenue as a “Fee Developer” and on our own development account.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?     

I respect the design styles of many current and historic architects.  I am a big fan of the Chicago School and of those architects Louis Sullivan is probably my favorite.  I like this style for the buildings of the time were the first commercial buildings and first to break away from using ancient detailing by employing and emphasizing technology in design.

Do you have a coach or mentor?

I do not have a specific coach or mentor but I like to bounce ideas off of my team, clients and friends.  

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?  

My favorite historic building is the Roman Pantheon.  It was built around 113 AD and has the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever made which has a giant hole in the center that allows the sun and the moon to shine in along with the rain.  It still stands 2000 years later.  The Romans were great builders, they invented concrete, experimented with reinforcing concrete with brass chains and even developed zoning rules and regulations.   As far as contemporary buildings there are so many that I love.   I lean towards high rise sky scrapers

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

Although new technologies are implemented in the profession and we go through these stages where we preach design build vs a separation between design and construction professionals the industry has not changed much in my career.  I find it interesting that Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” which was written in the 40’s and takes place in the 20’s and uses the architectural industry as a back story to promoting her political views speaks to many of the same type of players and issues in the industry today.  There are developers, contractors, politicians and architects.  There are residential, public and commercial buildings and she even tackles issues such as affordable housing.  All the same issues we deal with today.   I do not see major changes in the business of the profession.  Although I do see major technical influences which will affect the way we design and build buildings.  There is a robot that lays brick now.  I think as the world gets smaller through technology building codes and licensing laws will become more standardized.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?

The use of BIM is becoming the most prevalent tool used in the design of buildings.  It allows architects and engineers to work in 3 dimensions, quickly and efficiently to improve coordination and actually see the building take shape on the screen.  Despite my comment about the brick laying robot above most construction is still done with heavy machinery and by hand.  However, technology has taken over the management of projects from creating schedules, to tracking financing and creating a database of information.  

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?      

This answer may seem odd to most architects but my great influence in design arrives from an understanding of real estate economics tied to a building’s function and economics.   When a student at NJIT I took an elective in real estate development.  It was taught by a gentleman who ran the development arm of a now defunct savings and loan so we will allow him to remain nameless.  However, he was very influential in that he said he hated architects and found them to be a necessary evil in the process because the law forced them on him to use.  Obviously, this got most of the students in the class upset but I wanted to know why he felt that way.  He thought that architects only cared about what the building looked like and had no understanding or really care for what it might cost to build, what’s its function was to be or how it generated revenue for its owners.  He introduced me to the business side of why clients build in the first place.  This motivated me to go on and obtain an MBA with a concentration in real estate development and urban land use after architectural school.  I feel that the business education in conjunction with my architectural education make me a stronger architect and have been the most influential on my design.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?     

I have been fortunate to work on almost any type of commercial project.  I would like to be exposed to more hospitality projects.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?   

I hope to mentor the next generation of architects in a way that they can understand the business goals of the client and why they are building so that they can better respond to the client’s needs I also want to mentor them to be strong leaders and great communicators.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?

I would advise them to not only pursue their dream of designing buildings but to learn about the profession as a whole, to learn about the process of becoming an architect and career choices in the industry.  When I was in school no one told me how to become a licensed architect I had to figure it out on my own.

What does Architecture mean to you?     

It is my profession, it is my life!

What is your design process?     

First understand the client’s program goals and budget, then study the site and zoning constraints, roll up my sleeves and dive in.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?     

A civil engineer and or real estate developer.

What is your dream project?     

A really tall building in a major city that becomes a landmark for years to come.  If I can be a partner in its ownership even better.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?     

Respect and care about the people you are leading, be kind but stern.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?     

All challenges revolve around people.  First finding qualified people, there is a tremendous shortage of qualified architects and engineers, second finding people that can see the big picture first before the crawl into the details and finally finding people that can communicate effectively.   As far as trends see my answer to where I see the industry going above

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?      

I am optimistic that we are at the beginning of a sustainable economic growth period.  This will provide many of us with significant projects to choose from and an even more challenging labor shortage.  An executive leader will need to be able to recruit talent and keep them motivated to stay.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?     

I do not know if I am any smarter today at 50 then I was when I got out of school in my early 20’s what I have gained is life experience.  The most important lesson is that people will surprise you. Some will impress you, some will disappoint you, some will be loyal and others not.  I have seen some crazy things happen some good and some bad.   Just when I think I have seen everything someone surprises me. 

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?      

Learn your trade, be good at and then learn to be a good communication and leader and business person.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Daniel D’Agostino, AIA of Plan Architecture

Who is Daniel D’Agostino, AIA?

Dan D’Agostino is an architect with over 15 years of experience as an architectural designer and project manager.  

Mr. D’Agostino has extensive experience working on projects of varying scales.  His portfolio of work ranges from new and renovations to single-family dwellings  to high-rise mixed-use buildings in dense urban areas.  Mr. D’Agostino’s work has been recognized for achievement on multiple levels.  Winning an AIA Gold Medal for a mixed-use structure designed for Lower Manhattan, recurring appearances on NBC’s George to the Rescue and achieving the coveted “Best Of” award on Houzz.

Daniel received his Bachelor of Architecture Degree from the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT where he continues to serve as a visiting critic.  He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Little Falls Planning and Zoning Board and Little Falls Economic Development Committee.  He is a licensed Architect practicing in Northern New Jersey.  In his free time he enjoys being the best father and husband he can be, golfing and playing music.

About Daniel’s firm:

planarchitecturellc is a full-service design firm which specializes in producing innovative client-driven program-based architectural design and budget appropriate problem solving. 

Founded by Daniel D’Agostino, AIA, planarchitecture’s mission is to arrive at client and site specific architectural solutions to unique client demands.  The firm produces work for public, commercial and residential clients. 

You can find Daniel Online by clicking on the following links:

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

I found drawing to be a great pastime as a kid.  I also enjoyed building with my father.  Inspired by curiosity, I always wanted to find ways to make things better.  Design happens to be a way of making things better.  Architecture seemed like a natural fit for me. 

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?     

Becoming an architect in general is a challenging process.  While I’m patient with people, I’m not always so patient when it comes to progress.  I like to see things getting done, movement and motion.  Five years of schooling, 3 years of internship, 7 months of licensing, in the middle of a recession was challenging.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?  

Each project has a stand out moment.  The best moments occur when we are a part of the building process and able to walk a project with a client and discuss additional opportunities.   

How does your family support what you do?   

I am lucky to have a very supportive family.  Architecture is a big part of our lives.  We just had the amazing opportunity to design and build our own home so design is very much a part of our daily conversation.  Prior to that, we would travel to see buildings, stop on a walk to discuss a building material.  Dining experiences are typically accompanied by a short analysis of how things might have been better.

How do Architects measure success?     

I think Architects are an odd bunch if I may say so myself.   As such, it’s hard to generalize.  For me, if I’m happy – I am successful.  Some of the things that make me happy related to the profession are having the time to do something creative or inventive.  Having a staff meeting where everything gels.  Client meetings that end in laughter, hugs and an optimistic plan for advancing a project.  Discussion with a contractor where we walk away saying – this is going to be amazing!

What matters most to you in design?      

Function, daylight and views.  Each of our projects start and end with how the plan works, how we experience daylight and what we see both internally and externally along a view corridor.

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?  

I enjoy single family design and construction.  Over the last two or three years, we have designed a number of medium density residential developments.  I discovered that we were able to bring a neat little twist to this market that isn’t commonly found in these developments.  Our attention to detail and space making is needed in these larger projects.  I hope that in 5 years, we are doing a lot more of this.   

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?     

It’s a toss up – Frank Lloyd Wright or Louis Kahn

As an architect, saying you like FLW is like saying you like the Beatles.  I mean, the Beatles are mainstream, have a ton of hits, and reinvented themselves multiple times over the years.  FLW did the same thing.  His work is accessible and always delivers.  If you dig deep and learn about why his buildings look the way they do (sustainability, economics, desire to build cheaply, wartime rationing, etc.) they are amazing.  

Louis Kahn, on the other hand, not so mainstream and certainly not so accessible.  His buildings manage to be incredibly complex yet simple.  Having traveled the world looking at architecture, the Salk Institute was my greatest experience.  When you walk that plaza, it’s an actual experience.    

Do you have a coach or mentor?     

Not really.  I’m a pretty good listener and observer.  If you keep your antennas up, you are going to learn a lot.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?  

The Pantheon in Rome is my favorite historic work.  It is structurally significant.  The sun is used as a light fixture in the building charting messages.  It’s all encompassing.  The Salk Institute is my favorite contemporary project due to its connection to site.  A strong axis of symmetry and orientation with the horizon.  It’s breathtaking.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?  

I see the profession going more toward design-build.  There’s a lot of waste in the profession.  It’s impossible to get every single detail included in a set of plans if you are trying to adhere to an architectural budget and short timeline.  In New Jersey, the cost of land and taxes are so high, there is hardly ever an opportunity to draw every single detail and review it with your client.  The industry has therefore come to accept (through demanding) a set of plans for base building, and finer elements being decided by the builder.  As this process has evolved, we have come to see many features lost because original design intent isn’t considered.  It will also help to minimize the number of projects that come in “over budget”.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?  

I think modular still has a chance.  When I was leaving college, modular was the new thing because it was faster and cheaper.  Over time, it turned out, modular wasn’t exactly faster, or cheaper.  We should pay attention to modular building with an emphasis on trying to work aesthetic into it.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?      

Walt Disney.  We need to make sure our buildings work functionally but we also want to be entertained while being part of an experience.  Disney was great at this.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?    

I’d like to do a New York City high rise on the West Side.  Growing up in Hudson County, New Jersey, the New York skyline was a big part of my childhood.  I drive down a street and see projects I designed going up or completed and you feel a sense of pride and permanence.  I’d like to have that feeling looking at the skyline.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?   

Our office consists of 10 people, 9 of which are designers.  I constantly put forward that our job is to help our clients and serve them.  Listen to them and find the best way to deliver that which they are requesting.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?  

I started working as a Sophomore in High School at an architecture firm.  I would recommend it.  It gives you an opportunity through college to understand “how” you might use what you are learning.  I would recommend college students get involved in outreach.  Get involved in your local community and start planting seeds for future networking opportunities.  Can you join the planning board? Is there a historical society you can join? 

For Graduates, it’s going to sound funny but go work at a restaurant as a server.  You are going to learn how to interact with people, understand how a person asks for something they need either verbally or with body language.  You’ll learn how people feel comfortable by studying where they ask to sit, the way they face, how they talk to one another.  You’ll learn about working in a tight space in the Kitchen and the importance of efficiency and flow. 

I was lucky – I learned how to speak Spanish working a restaurant while working with the Kitchen staff.  This has proven to be invaluable as the two predominate languages spoken on a job site are Spanish and English.  I am able to converse in both languages.  While sad, it’s worth noting that when I graduated from college, I made more money as a weekend waiter than I did as a full time draftsman.  It helps to have money.

What does Architecture mean to you?     

Simple, a place to be comfortably protected from natural elements.

What is your design process?     

My design process starts with the site.  From there, I sit with my clients and I start designing with them.  I’m not the type that comes to my single family residential clients with plans for how they should live.  With my larger development work, we analyze the site to maximize efficiency and density.

 If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?     

I couldn’t imagine myself being anything else.

What is your dream project?     

I’d love to work on a stage set.  Loose some of the parameters of gravity, building code, weather resistance to create an environment.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?     

Surround yourself with great people in all aspects of your life and consistently invest in yourself.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?     

As a business leader, I find staffing challenging because we are a service industry – not just design and construction so personnel is the most important.  You can get anyone that meet’s your qualifications.  You can also get anyone with a good personality.  Getting them both isn’t always the easiest.  When you do you, do everything you can to keep them.  Balancing the administrative elements of the business while maintaining your service qualities is a challenge.  I was only able to find success here after hiring administrative personnel.  When I started the business five years ago at 29, fresh out of a recession, no portfolio of work and competing against other architects more than double my age was a challenge.  We’ve now developed an impressive resume to support my interview process, however being the “young” architect seems to rear its head.  I try to convince people, it’s not the number of years you’ve been doing it, rather the number of years you’ve been doing it right.  The trend now is the integration of internet design.

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years? 

Develop patience and resilience which has no regard for timeline.  Patience, as I stated earlier, wasn’t one of my virtues.  Everything takes time.  Resilience is important because the highs are way up there and the lows – we don’t talk about them.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?     

As the world of business continues to morph, our industry has stayed the same in principal.  We have to be flexible in how we deliver information.  A BIM model isn’t always the answer, sometimes a sketch to be texted out in 20 minutes is more important.  We also have to remember, architecture is a business.  The more successful firms know this.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?           

Surround yourself with great people.  It starts with family and follows through staff, clients, contractors.  Work as hard as possible.  While it’s important to get your sleep and rest, you still have to write that extra email or do that extra sketch.  Go that extra mile, especially when it may not be needed or no one may be watching.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tim Witzig of @PKSBArchitects

This week we have a great interview with Tim Witzig.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tim this year and we had a lengthy conversation.  I think you will be impressed with his take on the world of architecture and design.

About Tim Witzig

Tim Witzig, AIA, Principal at PKSB Architects, is known for his breadth of understanding.  He has played an instrumental role in the success of PKSB for almost two decades.

Mr. Witzig has overseen teams for numerous projects. His experience includes, public and private schools, religious spaces, residential interiors, personalized homes, commercial interiors and a history of projects with civic importance. He served as a designer and Project Manager for the interior renovations of the AIA award-winning Franklin, Mansfield and Shoreham Hotels in New York City.

He was responsible for directing fabrication for guest area upgrades, interior elements and furnishings for all three hotels. Mr. Witzig has also participated in the design and construction administration of the Physics Building Addition and Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Research Building at the University of Virginia, refurbishments for the Joseph E. Seagram Company in New York, and customized hotel resort interiors for the Walt Disney World Company. Prior to joining PKSB in 1990, Mr. Witzig was a designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with a team developing the first designs for Worldwide Plaza at Columbus Circle. His participation in designing and managing projects with various scales, local code requirements, and unique technical requirements has brought Mr. Witzig a broad understanding of the challenges our client’s face in realizing a project.

About the Firm

PKSB Architects was established in 1964 by Giovanni Pasanella. Celebrating over 50 years in practice, PKSB is recognized as an award-winning full-service firm with a long history of completing projects of every scale and scope. Our practice areas include academic, preservation, institutional, residential, hospitality, public housing, infrastructure, public art, civic memorials, and houses of worship. PKSB’s efforts have been recognized with numerous design awards, including the prestigious P/A Award and AIA honors on the local, state and national levels.

While PKSB’s practice has evolved since its first years as Pasanella + Klein Stolzman + Berg, a commitment to architecture that blends artistry, craft, and pragmatism has always defined its work. The firm has a modernist foundation, but does not rely on a set “PKSB style.” Rather, the needs of the client come first, and PKSB’s strength lies in its ability to create solutions that respond to the unique aspects of each client, program, and location.

“Since its founding in 1964, PKSB has distinguished itself as an innovative practice whose projects combine artistry, craft and pragmatism. A spirit of collaboration and a willingness to explore have been the hallmarks of the firm since its inception.”

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

High School age. Seemed to encompass all my interests when I listed them. Before those years I wanted to be a Disney Imagineer.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?  

Math. Undergraduate math, calculus, trig were such failures. Cost of school, lived in a marginal neighborhood in St. Louis to keep my living costs low for a couple of undergraduate years. During grad school working during breaks, working in the library for a little cash in my pocket when I should have been in studio probably. The library that I worked in up at Columbia was the library devoted to library sciences…only… could not have been more boring.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?    

Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945. She made me laugh… not right away. You got the joke on the way home in the re-telling. She wanted a beautiful new modern sculptural stair in her NY apartment renovation. I did not get to design the stair but I watched the process and helped do the drawings for the shell of the apartment. I learned a lot working with her, and helping make presentations and seeing how all talented  people involved worked.

How does your family support what you do?   

They listen to my ranting. Patiently.

How do Architects measure success?  

I think, gladly, that measure is made on very large field. I think if one helps, no matter how small, to make a piece of the world a more beautiful or usable place with our buildings, cities, infrastructure… one is a success. If you enjoy it as well? Huge success.

What matters most to you in design? 

Constructability, utility, timelessness, passing on inspiration to the users in some way.

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years? 

Focus and allow others to run with the balls.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why? 

I do not really have a favorite, but if pressed on just the Architect part and not the human being part, then Frank Lloyd Wright. He achieved a very warm and approachable transcendence with his own style. If you look up Architect in the dictionary, it would not be wrong to see his picture there I think.

Do you have a coach or mentor? 

A few. The founders of the Architecture firm I am a part of now, Henry Stolzman, and Wayne Berg would go day-by-day explaining the practice and business of Architecture. My current business partner Sherida Paulsen brings reality to my day dreams. Going way back to school days there was William B. Bricken and Leslie Laskey. The latter should me how you could live like a designer and get interested in everything.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why? 

That’s so hard there are so many on both ends. Villa Malaparte in Capri. and almost anything Louis Kahn did, Yale British Art, currently I keep looking at Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and their Kim & Tritton Residence Hall. Over and over I stare at that simple building. 2 story residential dorm building with no stairs or elevators inside. Genius.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?  

I think it’s very exciting, and I think Architects or folks who know a thing or two about making buildings will be in high demand. I think the firms will get larger and folks within the firms will be specialized a bit more. I think Architecture as a defined terms will blur and blend into other things we use.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries? 

The 3D modeling and Building Information Modeling and ability to bring that up zoom in to look at all of the “guts” anytime and anywhere,, well it is already happening now and it should just get better and more fun. I would like to see a dose of A.I. in some of the mundane and complex tasks we do, like crosschecking current rules, zoning, codes, that come into play. I would like a computer programmer take a crack at developing a “ArchAI” program that will compile a basic building envelope and create a set of drawings just off say 10 basic inputs or dimensions you give it.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design? 

Failure.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet? 

I would love to work on a large community center or cultural icon like the 92Y (92nd Street Y)

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?  

You sit with them see what they are doing and ask questions? If there is something good there, progress or talent in a particular direction you help develop that and point them to something that they might find helpful or interesting based on the direction they are already heading in. You might point them in a direction where they might get un-stuck (if they share their sticking point). Then they come back and ask again.  Then the mentoring kind of begins.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates? 

Just keep swimming. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be afraid to fail.

What does Architecture mean to you? 

Every time I get mad at it and curse it for being hard, or impossible it comes back, I see a beautiful building and I just think it’s great and there are so many talented people to watch and buildings to visit. I guess it’s just ingrained in there and I hope I can enjoy it as long as possible.

What is your design process? 

That is a hard question. It really depends. But Testing and Tossing is such a big part. I used to say do not draw more in the first half of the day that you cannot erase in the second half. Of course we don’t have to spend time erasing anymore, so we have more time for flipping stuff on its head and seeing what can be gained. One tries to list, develop or articulate the restraints, constraints and guiderails first so you can get to the design phase. Then the Testing and Tossing begins. I still believe in the old fashioned pin-up in a room and let the criticism flow.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be? 

The animation thing I guess. It’s never too late to go to Hollywood. Yes it is I think.

What is your dream project?  

The Museum of the Tour de France. It must have views and a fantastic café. And banks of Zwifting set-up’s with a huge High Def screens floating in front of real glazed views.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader? 

Help others succeed and then encourage and praise, daily if you can. Sit right across or next to someone at their desk for bit, avoid constant big meetings. Smaller ones. You do the leg work the big meeting might have made easier.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry? 

Technology costs, Marketing. Managing cash flow. I see a trend in larger firms as an umbrella with smaller brands below     

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years? 

Listen, stay positive, learn how people do what they do.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?  

Younger people are very creative in the way they work and use software. I think it’s important to “give in” and “give up” the ways one might have done something in the past. Even if those ways worked well before. Be willing to re-prioritize what you thought was important in how projects are realized and mananged.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?   

Keep a sense of humor, laugh and value irony along the way. Take some time to enjoy the journey and not just the finish line. Realize everyone one else is trying to do the same thing, and help whenever you can. Each client is a chance to learn something new.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Gift Ideas from ILMA