Developing is tough!

As they say, if it was easy, everyone would do it.  Our goal, as a firm, is to ultimately develop our own projects.  There are many reasons for this decision, but recently, we bought a property and began the process of developing it.  We created pro-formas, designed it, negotiated leases, worked with the city for permitting and the contractor on pricing.  As the title describes, it is extremely difficult.  Mentally, physically and financially.  However, there is an inherent advantage for architects to evolve into developers.  Our ability to constantly design during the entire process puts us ahead of other developers.  It saves money and/or helps to resolve the financial pro-forma, in real time.  There’s no need to call your architect and then wait for their response.  We can do it on the fly which is invaluable.  The only thing they don’t tell before you begin your venture is … developing is tough!

Be choosy …

Maybe it’s age.  Maybe it’s experience.  Maybe it’s even personality.  I take on projects:

  1. I like.
  2. With good clients.
  3. That pay well and on time.
  4. That make me smile when I’m working on them.
  5. That don’t keep me up at night miserable and stressed out over them.

Life is too short and growing your business with a clear focus and selectivity in your projects and clients keeps your mind creative and your business streamlined.  It is sometimes hard to say no to a potential project, but when you find yourself saying yes to the right ones, it all falls into place.  And most importantly, the quality of work increases which then increases the quantity of work.  Be choosy … it works as a business model.

Concierge Architect

Counting hours is the worst.  Architects do it.  Attorneys do it.  Accountants do it.  It requires a tremendous amount of effort and places the client and consultant in a precarious position wondering about how many hours have been spent.

Fixed fees are better, but they are typically based on completion of work and billing is based on a percent of completion.  Retainers are often given, but if the project is delayed or just doesn’t happen, the retainer doesn’t matter much.  I’ve had to give back retainers because the project didn’t get off of the ground.  That’s not fun.

Instead, we have created a new format.  I call it the “concierge architect.”  Based on a defined scope and understanding the value of a long term contract, we provide that scope and more, within reason, for a pre-determined monthly retainer and a minimum one year contract.  This provides cash flow for both parties, ours in and theirs out, removes any question of hours spent and gives the client an opportunity to get more than just the projects discussed.  We are available “on call” in a way and our clients love it.

Sunlight Creates Art

What is it about sunlight hitting buildings. After a few trips recently, and more photos of buildings than my family, I noticed a distinct difference between the photos of buildings taken in diffused light and photos of buildings taken at certain moments of the day, when the light hits parts of the structure to create this incredible play of shapes, textures, materials and oddly enough … art. Photography is tough, and I’m not a photographer, but when traveling and snapping shots of your favorite architectural masterpieces, look for that moment when the building is more than just a building and becomes a piece of artwork.…ch…changes….

In the world of construction, architecture and design, the word “change” has always been equated with another word, “order.” Change orders have always scared people and been directly related to additional costs. Whether a result of the architect or designer unilaterally making the change or the impression that the contractor was using it as an opportunity to charge the owner more money, it was never a positive word or term.

However, over time, I’ve come to realize that there are actually two other forms of, or use of, the word … “change.” There’s good change and there’s bad change.

Good change, which happens often, occurs when something does not go as expected, like an existing condition or an owner’s late night idea. Ultimately, a change is made in order to make the situation better or the detail work. This type of change, 99% of the time, has positive success and is better than the original idea or design.

The second change is negative. This type of change occurs due to lack of care or a deliberate choice to continue to make design modifications, layout revisions or construction decisions. The owner simply makes changes because they can, without regard for other consultants or team members and has little or no respect for the process of design or construction. Ultimately, these types of changes cost time, effort, and money with less than successful results and negatively impacting the final product.

Embrace change, at least the good kind. Other than that, move on and stop making changes.

The good news about the recession

The good news about the recession was that it weeded out the unnecessary draftsman, the incapable designer, and the architect that ultimately left the business. It, if nothing else, slowed down projects enough that, at least on the surface, kept good architecture alive and well.

However, now, we are starting to see bad design rear its ugly head again. Builders and designers (or non-designers), contractors and architects (or non-architects) are designing projects with little respect for context, the environment or in some cases, just simply color.

Let’s not forget what the last seven years taught us: that being conscientious and reserved in our approach to building and development and even design is not only appropriate for the project proforma, but also for the project’s aesthetic success.

We are falling into the same abyss

We are falling into the same abyss this industry fell into in 2009 and 2010. Laborers are taking on jobs out of fear. Architects aren’t saying “no” and instead are agreeing to any project that comes across their desk. Developers are building too many of what they think is necessary and not what is necessary.

Step back, please … Remember that saying no and focusing on doing a good job rather than increasing productivity and earnings ultimately … increases productivity and earnings. Quality is king and, in the end, doing a good job for the right price on schedule is remembered years from now. Taking the money now and running without quality gets forgotten and ends up looking for another career.

A Reflective Nature

In the Jewish religion, it is the New Year.  Based on the Gregorian calendar, the year starts over around this time, providing Jews (and anyone else for that matter) to reflect over the last year or even one’s entire life, and to think about that past, but also look to the future.

It has been almost two years since I wrote my last blog post, so here we are, starting new.  Architecture, by nature, is repetitive, cyclical, even sometimes dictated. Rarely does an architect have the opportunity to design something totally fresh and new. Rather, architects are reflective. We reinvent forms and styles and proportion, already given to us by history or nature into new ideas, reflecting our concepts, our design or our aesthetic desires.

Look around, and notice the reflective nature of buildings, not literally, but notice how the built environment reflects on forms or shapes or materials, often created within the architectural designs surrounding us.

~Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP

Restaurant Design in Vacation Areas

When designing a restaurant in areas where tourists vacation, consider the following ideas:

  • Tourists like to buy stuff. Design retail for display between 2’-5’ above the floor.
  • Tourists are typically families, so flexibility for large parties and the ability to put multiple tables together is important.
  • When booths are back to back, extend the back a little higher to keep those rambunctious kids from bothering the adjacent table.
  • Maintenance-free washable fabric is a must.
  • Locals like familiarity, especially when they are surrounded by tourists. Use local materials and if a renovation, relate the design back to its original in a new, fresher way.
  • Maximize the location, which is exactly why both tourists and locals visit. If on the beach, make sure the water is always visible when dining. On a mountain, use lots of glass.

There’s nothing like eating in a great restaurant with great food in a great location. What makes it truly special is a great interior and atmosphere.

~Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP

Sandbar Restaurant, Anna Maria, FL – A Schimberg Group renovation

Top 10 must-haves for a remodeled grocery store

  1. A good refrigeration engineer with grocery store experience
  2. A good MEP engineer with grocery store experience
  3. As-builts of the existing conditions
  4. A good concrete saw with expensive diamond blades
  5. Preparation for lighting replacement throughout
  6. A good stainless steel vendor for hiding those things you just can’t fix
  7. A contractor that understands how to work during open hours and/or after hours
  8. A good equipment buyer to make sure new cases or fixtures are delivered on time
  9. A creative architect
  10. Patient customers

~Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP