the architecture of constructing a practice

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    well, well, well. look at what's about to blow up the "gig" economy...

    Gregory Walker
    Sep 12, '19 5:37 PM EST

    a mere 5 years on from my last post on contract employment, the recent rumblings out of my native state this past week should have every architecture firm re-examining their h.r. practices pronto. 

    to wit: the new law in california (AB-5 for those who track these things by their bill name) in part codifies a 3 part test first defined by massachusetts to determine if someone is truly an "employee" of a particular company. they are:

    an independent contractor must be free from the control of the hiring entity

    an independent contractor must perform work outside the normal scope of the hiring entity 

    an independent contractor must be an independent established practitioner of the trade performed. 

    the california law carves out exceptions for a host of professions, including architects and engineers. however, these exceptions are not permanent and certainly may not show up in other states' laws (oregon and washington state have already had legislators step forward to announce their intent to introduce similar bills in their respective legislative bodies). 

    what does this mean to the average architecture firm? without the exception, would anyone doing the normal work in an office be able to be classified as an 'independent contractor'? seems very doubtful, at least based on my experience. most would fail the first test - if the firm is telling you how to do the redlines, you aren't free from their control. 

    food for thought on the heels of yet another labor day here in the u.s....


    • b3tadine[sutures]

      Nice! Thanks Greg!

      Sep 12, 19 8:31 pm

      Thanks for reading!

      The governor hasn’t signed the bill yet because he is “negotiating” with special interests. Architecture firms have already been exempted. Uber is claiming that they are exempt. 

      In related news practically the entire leadership of the UAW has been been indicted for corruption yet the UAW continues “negotiating” as autoworkers contracts expire.

      Sep 15, 19 9:58 am

      Contractors in my state cannot hire independent contractors because it essentially amounts to aiding and abetting contracting without a license.  This law makes it very difficult to operate as a contracting business.  Many end up subcontracting work to other licensed firms if one particular job requires extra labor than the firm is staffed with.  Small firms then become less competitive with regards to prices.  Its a very stupid law. 

      Sep 20, 19 4:03 pm

      My first article on this subject laments some of the same issues. What we don't have in the US is a good, solid short term employee set of rules. We're a small firm as well and you'd love to be able to hire people for a couple of months but then you think about benefits and the hit to unemployment insurance (maybe) if you let them go and... we typically try to figure it out without hiring or we hire long term.

      Happy Anarchy

       "gig" economy - an intelligent way to get really smart people to work for less and no benefits.  

      an independent contractor must be free from the control of the hiring entity

      Sep 20, 19 10:51 pm

      Which is tricky, no? In some senses it's really easy to apply looking at a young, relatively inexperienced staff person. But if you were to hire someone with 20-30 years experience and say 'write our specs for this job', that's easy for them to do outside our control. What the phrase doesn't mean is we don't have any say over the content - of course we would. We can tell them to change passages, add a section, whatever. But what we can't do is force them to come into the office to do the work, nor control their hours, etc.

      Happy Anarchy

      yes sir, it's like free grazing chicken for better tasting meat.

      gig noun 1: a pronged spear for catching fish. 2: an arrangement
      of hooks to be drawn through a school of fish in order to hook their

      Sep 23, 19 1:09 pm

      I wouldn't be in the work force if it weren't for contract employment. Not everyone has time to go sit in an office for a set 40 hours a week not to mention the commute and time getting ready to go in. As a contract employee, I can have 5 jobs and prioritize the best ones, leaving the weak ones by the side of the road, a continuous upgrade. I can get paid two or three times a week instead of once a month. I can get rewarded for working hard and efficiently instead of playing office politics and schmoozing and advancing because I looking like I should (because I don't). It was a gateway to starting my own firm which would have been too big of a leap from an office job. Clients like a young woman architect, they think it's a breath of fresh air. When someone says yeah make these changes and have it to us tomorrow forcing an office worker to perform unpaid overtime, I can say tomorrow isn't going to work, I'll have it next week and not disrupt my schedule and charge properly or negotiate a premium for expedited work. I can work while taking care of other responsibilities like pick kids up and take them to activities instead of being tied to a chair where ass time is required. It isn't the 50's where your mommy irons your shirt for you so you can sit at a desk and look sharp "working".

      Oct 20, 19 9:09 am

      I've introduced the contract work model to several of my female architect friends and all are incredibly satisfied with it and as far as I know, we all run circles around the typical office worker. What gets blown up is the fact that work getting done is the goal, not the appearance of getting work done which is what fuels offices.

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Central to the blog is a long running interest in how we construct practices that enable and promote the kind of work we are all most interested in. From how firms are run, structured, and constructed, the main focus will be on exploring, expanding and demystifying how firms operate. I’ll be interviewing different practices – from startups to nationally recognized firms, bringing to print at least one a month. Our focus will be connecting Archinect readers with the business of practice.

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