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Old October 31st, 2007, 12:21 PM
Emerson00
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Architects, a rant...

Also known as Liars, Tigers, and Buses, oh my.



So I have a small solo engineering and surveying business. I’ve been getting busier lately and recently took on a couple jobs from a small architecture firm (two young guys my age).



There’s a small shitty auto parts store in a rural town (also the county seat) that’s in dire need of cleaning up and updating. It is truly blight on the town – whole town knows it. I’ve not worked in this town before, but the architects live there and presented themselves as familiar with the Town.



Architects tell me a few more important things before hiring me…

1) they did a site sketch that the town’s happy with, but it needs a PE stamp.

2) The Town doesn’t care what they build, as the Town is just happy the site will be cleaned up finally.

3) They can and intend to pave the entire site, from property line to property line, because the Town says they can.

4) They need to submit a “Simple Site Plan” to a certain town employee (zoning admin) who will most likely rubber stamp the plan and issue permits.

5) They want to add 4 service bays in addition to the 1 existing.

6) They can park in the alley (a right of way they did not tell me about) because they do and are allowed to.

7) They want no curb, only painted parking lines.

8) They had a local surveyor do a “survey” and gave me a CAD file of it.



So I take on the job for a fair price considering the lax submission requirements, and agree to provide them with a site plan that works as well as possible. I coerce them into scaling back to 3 new bays, paving only what’s necessary, using curb, and meeting very nearly all of the Town zoning requirements while meeting the parking requirements, too.



The “survey” is a joke, it excludes the right of way, adjacent buildings, and all utilities – including a major utility pole that crosses the site! This causes several changes to the design. The existing parking is entirely illegal, meaning they currently have 2, yes, two, legal parking spaces, but none of these are shown.



I provide them with a site plan – a pretty damn good one blowing away the requirements for a Simple Site Plan. Everyone’s happy, even the owner, who was initially upset about losing his 4th new bay. The archs are thrilled and think it’s a slam dunk. They insist on submitting the plan to the Town for review.



They screwed up the submission and got us in front of the planning commission. Those folks spent an hour tearing us (mostly me) a new one because Not one single instruction or piece of information I was given turned out to be true. Not ONE. (LIARS)



Now they’re trying to throw me under the bus. To the Town Manager, Zoning Administrator, planning commission, the property owner, and the reviewing engineering company. I was made, at the meeting, to look like a completely incompetent fool because every time I’d suggest we were told “this was acceptable,” or “that was acceptable”, or “this was sufficient,” I got code section and verse about what was wrong.



I met with the archs today again to give them the final response letter… before leaving they tell me the area they work in is frustrating because of people like the owner… because people like the owner start out the conversation about the project with “we don’t want to spend a lot on engineering.” They’re suggesting that I was hired because I was cheap -I was only “cheap” because it was such a simple submission requirement. They’re suggesting I screwed this up because of my submission… The price has now multiplied by a factor of 8 for the new plan and the additional plans required. They’re under contract.



So they fired up the bus and tried to throw me under it. (BUSES)



Except, Tomorrow we all meet with the owner, the Town Mgr, the Zoning Admin, and the reviewing engineering firm. I’ll be there with the revised plan and a no BS rule about how we got to where we are. I’ve arranged to discuss “a few other things” with the Town Manager and Zoning Admin after the meeting. If the bastards leave the bus keys at home, I’ll just ask a few basic questions about future submission requirements and such… if the bastards try again to put it on me, I’m going to make sure the Town and owner, at least, know what really happened. (tigers?)

Thank you for listening.
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  #2  
Old October 31st, 2007, 12:38 PM
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Damn! I feel your pain.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 01:25 PM
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Rule #1 - in writing
Rule #2 - young architechs know nothing
Rule #3 - start all comments to governmental agencies; "The architectural firm of ...., with whom you have been meeting, have outlined the requirements..."
Rule #4 - in writing

Now, sorry to say, but shame on you. Do you really know of any governmental agency that allow deviation from code so simply? If it ain't in writing and in triplicate and signed, it does not exist.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 01:36 PM
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I say copy and paste the above rant into the cad document somewhere and send it to the city!

My brother is an architect, I respect him, he is my brother, but when he starts talking shop it is like he has a meglomanical evil twin that comes out. Architects want to control society through building design.

And I don't give a damn what that thing is called, it is part of the bannister that's all I need to know.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 01:38 PM
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Do you often get screwed? You've laid out a couple big hose-jobs to us here at the board (the truck and this). Perhaps you should sit on a yoga mat and repeat the phrase "trust, but verify"...
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Old October 31st, 2007, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC
Do you often get screwed? You've laid out a couple big hose-jobs to us here at the board (the truck and this). Perhaps you should sit on a yoga mat and repeat the phrase "trust, but verify"...
Damn, Jim... you could put a finer point on it if you would at least try...

Yes, I do. And, yes, sadly often. And yes, even sadder, because I try to trust the first time around.

I was raised with the mantra, "hate everyone, trust no one." I actually tried to forget that because it sucks... Funny thing is, I decided this morning, that's going to be my [unspoken] mantra from now on. Me first, too.

The architects will be on a short leash tomorrow, and I'll make damn sure the people that matter know that I was left out to be the fall guy. They're not that bright, so I'll manage the conversations. And my second meeting tomorrow is with a guy on the fence about hiring their firm. He's asked me what I think; I've been on the fence, but tomorrow he wants to make a decision. They needed the job, but I'm not sure they're going to get it. I'll see if I can't use the referral to get in with another arch firm.

And the people who hosed me on the Rover are being dealt with (while I figure out how to buy a GD viscous coupling).

Ah, well... life was easier when I practised the old mantra. Conscience be damned, I guess.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 02:30 PM
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I do everything via email. If I have a phone call, I send a follow up email with a summary.

Document everying. Also, independently verify everything anyone tells you on which you are relying.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC
Do you often get screwed? You've laid out a couple big hose-jobs to us here at the board (the truck and this). Perhaps you should sit on a yoga mat and repeat the phrase "trust, but verify"...
Emerson, I was thinking the exact same thing as Jim, I just didn't want to hurt your feelings.

If this was an idealistic society, I'd love to trust everyone. Unfortunatley we don't live in that type of world. When it comes to money and your livelihood, you definitely want to make sure you handle yourself in a professional manner which includes getting everything in writing. This does not show mistrust, it shows good business. When it's on paper and signed it keeps both parties honest.

I'd say hating everyone and trusting no one is a bit on the extreme...but if you can atleast play relatively close to that side of the field, you will be in better shape.

On that note, I have a Golden Bridge for sale....just kidding!
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Old October 31st, 2007, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themaxx
I have a Golden Bridge for sale....just kidding!
Is it adjacent to your beachfront property in TN?
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Old October 31st, 2007, 03:16 PM
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Really? I'm a little more interested in waterfront - especially if it's in the mountains... oh, you said beachfront: that's even better! What more can you tell me about it? :D
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Old October 31st, 2007, 03:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stmpede
Is it adjacent to your beachfront property in TN?
Yes, that's the one! hehe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emerson00
Really? I'm a little more interested in waterfront - especially if it's in the mountains... oh, you said beachfront: that's even better! What more can you tell me about it? :D
It's good you take things in stride.

If it's at all possible, meet with the Architects before hand, see if you can record the conversation without there knowledge. Stuff like that wouldn't be admisable in court, but hey this isn't court and it sounds like your rep is in question.

Good luck tomorrow!
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Old October 31st, 2007, 03:37 PM
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I don't think I'll record it... if anything the meeting beforehand will be "leave the bus keys at your office, or I'm firing up the Abrams and throwing you under it." Or should that be "fire up the Rust Bucket Range Rover..."? See how useful the Land Rover will be in the end!?


I also am growing more and more doubtful that they'll get that job they're trying to get. I think Mr. Wealthy Waterfront Homeowner is going to get in with a better local firm.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emerson00
Damn, Jim... you could put a finer point on it if you would at least try...
I can put one of these on it if makes you feel better =>

Seriously, there's no reason to feel bad, I would much rather live in a world inhabited by stand-up guys, but even with people's character taken out of the equation, folks just don't communicate that well.

I cant tell you how many times I've left a meeting thinking one thing only to have it become obvious that the other party didnt take away the same thing. Issues of scheduling, urgency, critical information, and intent are often lost on people who aren't necessarily trying to screw you, so when they are trying, hell, its hard to keep up, much less come out on top.

My life revolves around keeping track of such things, and Ron is right - the solution is merely one of technique. Document everything, get everything in writing, and keep everything organized. My father lost several businesses trying to believe in people's inherent goodness while never keeping enough records and information to cover his ass. Ultimately, its easy to feel like a martyr, but it does nothing to change the fact that being screwed is usually a senseless and avoidable tragedy. I think its possible to have your cake and eat it too - by taking the extra steps to hold everyone else accountable, you get to both take the moral high ground and simultaneously avoid the vast majority of screw-jobs heading your way.

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Old October 31st, 2007, 04:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC
I can put one of these on it if makes you feel better =>
...
I cant tell you how many times I've left a meeting thinking one thing only to have it become obvious that the other party didnt take away the same thing. Issues of scheduling, urgency, critical information, and intent are often lost on people who aren't necessarily trying to screw you, so when they are trying, hell, its hard to keep up, much less come out on top....
I wish it were miscommunication. They represented familiarity with the jurisdiction, and the above long list of things as being fact. Even in the initial meetings and design concepts I argued constantly with them to bring things up on level. I kept hearing "we don't have to landscape it, so we don't want to. Client's not going to accept that, remove it." Then "let's just submit it and let them tell us no, then it's their fault." I kept telling them they're supposed to be professionals now - it's not their job to suck ass and beg for a thank you: it's their job, now, as newly licensed bastards, to tell the client the truth, and what they can and can't do. There was no miscommunication, where i accepted their insistance that things were of no importance, or already approved as they wanted, I got hosed.

Ah, well. I had to take the abuse at the planning meeting, and took it with burning red ears and a forced polite smile. It was another lesson learned the hard way. Today I gave them an invoice for 60% more than initially proposed. They whinced and said "OK."

Tomorrow I'll set things straight.

Oh, my old friend and neighbor is long time best friends with the client's "daddy."
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Old October 31st, 2007, 05:35 PM
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Here's an anology to my business:

If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers
Dear Mr. Architect:

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't have nearly enough insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you make.

Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpet.

However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has. I advise you to run up and look at my neighbor's house he constructed last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case..
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Old October 31st, 2007, 08:50 PM
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Emerson,

I am sorry that you got in the position that you did. I really am.

HOWEVER, part of being a professional, and acting as a professional, is not to 'bad mouth' an entire profession. Especially a profession that you have to deal with, in order for your surveying business to survive.

Not all archictects are the same. Not all engineering/ survey firms are the same. Not all Land Rover Mechanics are the same. Etc.

I am an excellent Architect. I know a couple of excellent architects on this very D-90 chat forem. To put down the entire field of architecture is offensive.

Flagg
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Old October 31st, 2007, 08:58 PM
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Easy flagg... wasn't mean as a knock at the industry. It was about 2 architects I knew. Re-read my posts about finding the other client a better firm... I didn't make any generalizations at all.

You're in Columbia, MD, no? We could have referred work either way, but you ought not suggest i'm unprofessional because you failed to read my posts accurately. That irrational defensiveness would not be professional.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 09:20 PM
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Emerson,

Ok.......glad you were not trying to take down the whole architecture profession.........

It is just that to title a thread on this page: "Architects - a Rant", and then have the first line be: "Also known as LIARS" is a harsh start for an architect to read.

I am very proud of what I do. However, just like in any profession - there are good ones, and some bad ones too..........

Last thing I want to do is start an argument over nothing......

Flagg
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Old October 31st, 2007, 09:23 PM
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I know good and bad of both archs and engrs and surveyors (though I've had the best luck for honesty with land surveyors).

It was a piss-poor attempt at a spoof on lions, tigers, and bears... liars, tigers, and buses (as in getting thrown under the bus...).

No worries. We should catch up - I get clients occasionally looking for arch. Ever work near Annapolis?
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Old October 31st, 2007, 11:03 PM
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Emerson,

HA! Funny if we both end up working with each other! 15 years working in Annapolis. I am sending you a PM......

Flagg
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