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If you have a choice you will quit your architecture job, don't ya?

155
ARKISUCKS

It seems to be more and more obvious that the most majority of younger generation architecture designers/architects plan to change their careers to anything else but architecture - 

Depression, long hours, work-life Balance, extremely long path working towards the top, repetitive works, bully clients/bosses... We have heard enough of those. To me, the real trouble behind has little to do with the things above, but it is a very obvious salary and career advancement issue. 

We studied our ass off for 4+3 years at those top universities, ivies, working at those "star-architect" firms for many years, but our "decent architectural salary" is not even close to 50% of those fresh grads went to random schools/community colleges and just started working at those tech companies. The bar to go to FANG is so low, but their salary is so high... FYI, an entry-level engineer who likely just graduated from college would make $189,000 in total compensation at Google. (I think 90% of ending career architects can't get their number close to that)...

Why our payment is shitty and little? Why our payment is so inconsistent with our education comparing other professions? Who should we blame? The AIA, the universities - education system, the inevitable societal revolution, or ourselves?

If you are not too old, please pick up anything else and switch your career --- before it's too late.

Sincerely,

Arkisucks

 
Jun 8, 21 8:02 pm
b3tadine[sutures]

At the risk of stating the obvious;

Typical home prices in Mountainview, CA

$189k is shit.

"Grass is greener"

Jun 8, 21 8:37 pm  · 
1  · 
ARKISUCKS

You made a great point b3tadine[sutures] . Unfortunately, this is where the vast majority of my classmates (including those "ivies folks" - gsd, gsapp, ysoa, princeton) work - https://www.zillow.com/tribeca-manhattan-new-york-ny/ (not saying everyone at tribeca, but in the similar neighborhood - you get the idea) and we are not making much difference comparing to folks working in Alaska

Jun 8, 21 9:05 pm  · 
 · 
b3tadine[sutures]

Yes, however, NYC/Tri-State is not Northern California. I've worked in NYC and commuted there from Central Jersey. If I were to work in NYC again, I'd easily live across the river, and take the ferry from NJ. NYC/Tri-state has things that CA can't match, first is mass transit, and zero need for a car.

Jun 8, 21 9:14 pm  · 
 · 
b3tadine[sutures]

This place in Brooklyn, is the shit!

Jun 8, 21 9:25 pm  · 
 · 
zonker

I worked on the design of 6 housing projects in Mountain View - don't blame me, I'm just a Revit "wall pusher" hell, I can't even afford to rent a closet in the studio units. These are for all the Google crowd so they won't have to sleep in the camper units I see over by Bjarke's Googleplex.

Jun 8, 21 11:30 pm  · 
3  · 
UncleLuke

Hi Arkisucks, This is the response I also put on the other forum two days ago. My suggestion is be realistic and follow your intuition. I'm 45 and the temptation of working for the 'higher call' as what we were taught in school is no more than a lame ponzi scheme devised by the old guards to develop bunch of cheap and blind labors to work in their firms. Money can't solve everything but with no money you can't solve pretty much anything, this will ring louder and louder as you proceed with your age in Architecture. The only way you can step out of this rat race is if you elevate yourself into development or investment quadrant (ie: be the client yourself). Elevating yourself to this quadrant will require a total change of mindset and injection of new knowledge where you need to perceive tax, inflation and debt as your ally as opposed to obstacles in your pursuit of wealth and the only two areas where you can utilize tax, debt and inflation to your advantage are in Real Estate and Stock Market. In Real Estate, one of the most overlooked skill that an Architect has is his/ her skill to get a land entitled. Do you know that you can simply triple or even quadruple the value of an empty land simply by get it entitled ? The second skill an architect need will on how to do proforma analysis, the third skill will be on how to attract partners for development (funding partners, syndication partners, operation partners), this can be a RE broker, your rich uncle, somebody with money but no vision, builder, etc. This will be more achievable if you already have the land tied up in your name so you can leverage this as you insert yourself into a partnership. The second area is Stock market investment. You will never get rich in stock market without understanding the rule of compounding. contributing $19K per year into your company's 401(K) won't liberate you from rat race by the time you're 45. Instead of 1 to 1 leverage, you need to learn a 10 to 1 leverage and this only can be achieved through learning skills in derivative trading (ie: options, futures). try to learn the basic concept of covered calls and cash secured puts trading and learn on how to hedge and grow your money 25% ~ 35% consistently year over year in both retirement and cash account, a $30K account with 25% annual compounded gain will multiply to $280K in ten years. Learn the basic concept of stock option (Call option & Put option) and use it conservatively (Covered calls and Cash Secured Put trading) and you won't regret it. The third area will the integration of your expertise in Real Estate development and Stock Investment. This is the area where you'll enjoy a lifelong financial freedom and give the proverbial middle finger to your past life in Architecture.

Jun 17, 21 9:59 am  · 
 · 
flatroof

I've seen wages at grocery stores and fast food places match the pay of arch grads with 2-5 years experience. Some with benefits and 4 weeks off! And grocery store managers can make more than architects! The choice is clear...clean up on aisle 5, don't design aisle 5.

People say we shouldn't compare ourselves with doctor and lawyers, but we're backsliding into MickeyDs worker territory w/o the free Big Macs. 

Jun 8, 21 8:52 pm  · 
5  · 
Non Sequitur

it’s your fault for believing you were/are special. 

Jun 8, 21 10:41 pm  · 
3  ·  6
RJ87

You'd think eventually people would catch on that going to work in one of the most expensive cities in the world for big firms known for churning through recent grads at low wages while often times never pursuing licensure is not the path to a strong financial footing. But we've yet to get there and probably never will.

There are plenty of jobs in affordable areas that have standard business hours paying middle income wages. If someone wants more than that, they need to start a firm & not rely on someone to paying them more than the market deems necessary.

Jun 9, 21 9:55 am  · 
2  · 
square.

or, recognize that if you want to live in an amazing place like nyc (like i do), because you value your free time more than your working time (also, like i do), find a decent firm that treats you with respect and pays you enough to support that lifestyle (like i did).

to be clear, it wasn't easy, and took a lot of time, but at the end of the day i found a route through the profession that doesn't require abuse by pathetic celebrity wannabes, and has actually given me a pretty strong financial footing. it is possible- there's more than the two binaries of "abuse in expensive cities" and "less interesting affordable areas outside of those cities."

Jun 9, 21 10:07 am  · 
3  · 
RJ87

Exactly, remove the "big firms known for churning through recent grads at low wages" from the equation. It's possible to live in big cities, but when the all too common mix of ingredients I listed comes together you can't realistically expect a different outcome.

I didn't mean to make it sound like it was "live in the city & be poor" or " live outside the city & be well off". It's not black & white, but it just seems like an awful lot of folks make some pretty poor financial / lifestyle decisions & then wonder where it all went wrong.



Jun 9, 21 10:25 am  · 
1  · 
ARKISUCKS

Square, would you mind sharing more about the alternative path that brought you financial freedom?

Jun 9, 21 11:35 am  · 
2  · 
flatroof

Even removing the starchitect/low pay firms, 9/10 architects still probably better off leaving NYC just for QOL improvement. I like NYC but not while paying NYC rent forever.

Jun 9, 21 11:46 am  · 
 · 
square.

depends on your definition of quality of life- this in incredibly subjective. personally, my quality of life is much higher in brooklyn than in any suburb or smaller city (i've lived in several), which is why i didn't go anywhere during the pandemic; i knew i would be miserable anywhere else.

ark, in terms of financial feasibility, i worked at one of those starchitect places for about a year and was miserable, but then bounced around several offices until i landed somewhere that hit the sweet spot in terms of design, hours, and pay. i've also picked up some teaching gigs and other things on the side, all of which has gotten me to a point where i can pretty easily pay rent, student loans (done within the next 5 years), and save for long term things, aka financial satisfaction. will i be buying anything in nyc? doubtful, but that's a choice i'm fine with.

long story short, this all takes YEARS in somewhere like nyc because of the cost of things and complexity of navigating a city this big, but it's been super worth it for me.

Jun 9, 21 1:08 pm  · 
1  · 
lower.case.yao

Blame capitalism and the whole idea of worth tied to monetary profit. Architects aren’t worth much to real estate.

Jun 9, 21 10:03 am  · 
6  · 
JLC-1

sorry for your loss

Jun 9, 21 11:16 am  · 
 · 
tduds

I can't tell if my experience is the exception or if the experience of people who always post these threads is the exception, but I can never quite relate. It's possible to be an architect and live a balanced & happy life, I just don't know how typical it is. 

Jun 9, 21 12:08 pm  · 
2  · 
RJ87

My general thought with any forum has been that people who are content don't go online & write a post about how content they are. The vocal minority of any internet medium make it seem like they are the majority. I could be wrong, it's just always been my view.

That's why the first advice I give to people regarding the ARE's is to ignore everyone on NCARB's website talking about failing time after time discussing doom & gloom.

Jun 9, 21 1:50 pm  · 
3  · 

See my posts RJ87. 

 I'm content with my pay and work life balance. Sure I worked hard in school and continue to do so. However I rarely do OT and have a good life balance. I think this is for three reasons. One - I'm good at what I do. Two - I require the firm I work at to maintain an office culture that promotes work life balance.  The third reason is that I choose not to work in a major metropolitan area or in large firms (over 25 people).   

Jun 9, 21 2:04 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

Agreed, I think we've discussed in the past about how we both think it's unsustainable / silly to work those 50-60 hour weeks everyone talks about. My comment was mostly just to highlight the fact that as a general rule of thumb you're likely to see more people venting online as an outlet than you are saying "everything is fine thanks!" outside of general info threads like "Money Central", etc.

Jun 9, 21 3:19 pm  · 
 · 

Ah! Kind of like you really only see the bad reviews of products and business. I do think that the way some firms treat young professionals is horrible. This is especially so on the major metropolitan areas. I feel very lucky that I never ran into that.

Jun 9, 21 4:59 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

How many regular users are there on this forum? It's a forum used globally but by a relatively small number of people compared to all in the profession in the U.S. alone let alone Canada, UK, and most other common countries where people on this forum comes from. There is no way the few on this forum that also makes the most posts and comments. In general, over half the posts on threads like this are from a pool of less than two or three dozen individuals, every day. During a week, over half the posts of threads in these topics are generally from the same 50 or so (give or take) regular users on this forum.

Jun 9, 21 6:22 pm  · 
 · 
BabbleBeautiful

I'm one of those content people who doesn't go online and write about how content I am.

Jun 10, 21 8:57 pm  · 
 · 

I keep hearing of this long hours and no work life balance issues from young professionals.  I've been blessed and never had to deal with this as a young professional.  Later on in my career I have encountered a couple of owners who lived to work and expected me to do so as well.  I had to 'put my foot down' in both cases.  In one instance I left the firm.  In the other they changed their office culture.  

In the long term your work as an architect doesn't matter more than your life.  Realistically none of us will design award winning buildings that will be revered for generations.  This doesn't mean you don't take pride in your designs and do the best you can for your clients.  It just means that living a balanced life is more important than your career.  

In the end the buildings you've designed really don't matter.  Most of them won't last 50 years.  It's how you've lived your life and the relationships that you've created that will matter at the end of your life.  

Jun 9, 21 12:16 pm  · 
5  · 
flatroof

Hearing it from young professionals because the salaries have pretty much remained stagnant while COL has gone up a lot just in the past 5-10 years. When you will never be able to pay loans (as in the loan thread) and as house prices skyrocket in most major metros with offers 100k+ over asking price and waiving inspections, plus being at home for a year, people are questioning is it worth it. It's very much a coastal issue, but then again most firms on the coasts.

Jun 9, 21 12:25 pm  · 
2  · 
Non Sequitur

^ those are not problems that can be solved by architecture.

Jun 9, 21 12:26 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

I have encountered a couple of owners who lived to work and expected me to do so as well.  I had to 'put my foot down' in both cases.

I had one job early in my career that occasionally demanded long hours, but the owner was very much "in the trenches" with us, which made it seem less exploitative and more team-work. He had a policy that if we were still in the office at 6pm he'd buy us dinner. Good dude. Again maybe I've just been lucky and/or privileged in my choices (and to be able to have choices).

Jun 9, 21 12:29 pm  · 
3  · 
square.

if those are problems that can't be solved by architecture, should young debt-burdened designers opt out then? i get the snark, but at some point this is going to be a problem that the profession has to attempt to tackle.

i see similarities w/ the fertility rate "crisis" that is caused by many of the same, systemic issues. it's why i have a hard time emphasizing individual choice, people simply advocating for themselves, being more realistic about expectations etc as effective ways to address these things that keep coming up. they can certainly help some individuals, but at some point we have to reckon with the fact that education costs too much (in the us), housing/col is too expensive (increasingly everywhere), and salaries too low.

Jun 9, 21 1:03 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

^also why I have a hard time emphasizing with those that say salaries are “too low”. This is not some cushy gov job with indefinite funds. Salaries are fine in my area for what the average M.Arch grad brings.

Jun 9, 21 1:14 pm  · 
 · 

Communism has it's benefits ...

Jun 9, 21 1:32 pm  · 
4  · 
tduds

Both extremes are shit.

Jun 9, 21 1:35 pm  · 
1  · 
newguy

"This is not some cushy gov job with indefinite funds"

This is not the defense of the free market you seem to think it is. If a "cushy gov job" can provide a better quality of life with better pay than a job found in the free market, then it stands to reason that the "efficiencies" found in the free market only service owners of capital at the expense of the labor pool.

Jun 9, 21 1:46 pm  · 
4  · 
square.

if people, working as professionals, are struggling more and more to pay off college debt, afford rent, and save for, let alone buy, a home, or attain any other parts of a middle class life, then yeah, there's a problem.

i get your perspective ns, but your area doesn't necessarily represent broader reality- i'm addressing the similar complaints that pop up on this website over and over from young designers.

this also reminds me of all the talk regarding a "worker shortage" that is "hurting businesses"- maybe this mindset is from decades of neoliberal framing that workers exists for bosses, whereas a different reality is starting emerge, one where workers are refusing to engage in something like (bad) restaurant work that has long hours, shitty conditions, and low pay (which businesses are finally being forced to confront). sound familiar?

Jun 9, 21 2:12 pm  · 
5  · 
newguy

^ "The land fell into fewer hands, the number of the dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at repression. The money was spent for arms, for gas to protect the great holdings, and spies were sent to catch the murmuring of revolt so that it might be stamped out. The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on."

Jun 9, 21 2:18 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

So where will all the money come from to prop up fees in order to appease the disgruntled professionals? People make the choice to spend a bazillion on school and some make the choice to work low wage and long hours. Some make the same choice in both situation.

Jun 9, 21 2:24 pm  · 
 ·  2
newguy

"So where will all the money come from to prop up fees in order to appease the disgruntled professionals?"

From the clients. If they don't want to pay, then they don't get their building.

Jun 9, 21 2:27 pm  · 
2  · 
square.

i know a few billionaires who have loads of extra cash sitting around.


like i said, i understand the arguments for personal agency- i've shared how that has benefited me, but i also consider myself lucky.

viewing everything through the lens of "personal choice" is short-sighted imo, and lets the people who pull the strings (like clients) off the hook way too easily.

Jun 9, 21 2:29 pm  · 
4  · 
ARKISUCKS

Well said square, well said. ​"if people, working as professionals, are struggling more and more to pay off college debt, afford rent, and save for, let alone buy, a home, or attain any other parts of a middle class life, then yeah, there's a problem.​"​

Jun 9, 21 2:30 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

Jeff Bezos is doing a pretty good Lex Luthor impression and literally catapulting himself into space....(presumably so he can annihilate superman?).. We should just strap Elon Musk and all the other annoyingly eccentric billionaires with him.

Jun 9, 21 2:34 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

What I'm seeing is that you're talking about different things. Not unrelated, but you're not looking at two sides of the same coin. What Non is wading into, intentionally or not, is that this is a multifaceted thing. The problems square is talking about are system-wide, and also exist within architecture. But other problems exist within architecture specifically , and those are the ones Non is referring to. For better or worse (..worse), architecture has since it's inception been a trade mostly for and by the privileged. That's only begun to change in any recognizable way in the past 20-30 years, and I think what we're seeing is a sort of ripple effect of that. It's hard to unravel this without acknowledging a combination of so many factors: capital investment trends, college tuition increases, housing cost increases, salary stagnation, credential-ization & specialization, changing demographics (social and economic) among people entering the field, technology + automation... I could go on. It's complex and I can barely wrap my head around it, much less put it into few enough words to work as a comment instead of a book.

Jun 9, 21 2:37 pm  · 
2  · 
Non Sequitur

So now clients have unlimited funds and will just be happy to give up more $ for the same product? Way too simplistic and ignores too much. Increasing fees across the board to pay fresh grad tech bro money will not work either. The only solution is not to take out a mortgage for a middle of the road degree and don’t buy into the fantasy that an arch degree = value. Because it does not, by itself. What am I missing?

Jun 9, 21 2:39 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

"What am I missing?"

Organized labor movements

Jun 9, 21 2:43 pm  · 
4  · 
square.

the attitude that "i am content, so young designers entering the profession in entirely different conditions and circumstances should shut up and be content" is also too simplistic.

Jun 9, 21 2:46 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

Not that dead horse again.

Jun 9, 21 2:46 pm  · 
 · 
square.

labor organizing is far from a dead horse.. it's actually picking up a lot of steam in other professions:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/business/media/new-yorker-union-anna-wintour.html

Jun 9, 21 2:47 pm  · 
 · 
lower.case.yao

In the US, there’s that pesky thing called the Sherman Antitrust Act and the supreme court proceedings of 1972 and 1990 against the AIA. Suffice
it to say, we lost.

Jun 9, 21 2:51 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

I'm generally a very pro union person but I do have serious worries that the leverage a unionized architecture labor force might have over architecture ownership outweighs the leverage that architecture ownership has over clients. Not to say we *shouldn't* organize, I just have concerns about unintended effects of that organization. I imagine Non has similar concerns. I also wonder if more of an ESOP model might be more appropriate for our profession.

Jun 9, 21 2:53 pm  · 
4  · 
square.

correct me if i'm wrong- but wasn't that in relation to the aia setting fee standards? i believe anyone can still organize a union..

agreed tduds, unionization is complicated in arch, which is why i'm more in favor of individual firms being owned cooperatively.

Jun 9, 21 2:54 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

Cheers SSTduds. We've already had this discussion before. Probably more than once.

Jun 9, 21 2:55 pm  · 
1  · 
ARKISUCKS

lower.case.yao, seems like you found the ultimate answer:
http://averyreview.com/issues/...

Jun 9, 21 2:56 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

This is a really interesting discussion to me & I hope it can stay respectful.

Jun 9, 21 2:58 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

Tduds, employee stock is a neat idea. A large local craft brewery in my area is known for having only owners, not employees. I could see this as an interesting model and it would certainly teach fresh grads the real value of their time. Anyways, my office has something similar but it's only for management inner-circle. We'll see if C19 had any impact on my share of 2020 profits... (spoiler, don't think so). 

 My main quip about unionizing (outside of the eventual corruption and complacency that comes with) is that we're already marginalized and easily replaceable in most circumstances. Sure, glossy high-profile projects might care, but for the average arch practice, clients don't really need us unless (like our fellow P.eng or lawyers) we offer value to the client they can't get elsewhere. Magic wand solutions don't help unless there is substance behind it. 

"Pay us more so we can afford the interest on our glorified general arts degrees" is not a good war chant.

Jun 9, 21 3:08 pm  · 
1  · 
square.

i like the craft brew model as well- in my mind production staff are making the main product (drawings) and should have some ownership stake in the business.

i think where i differ is primarily blaming individuals for choosing to pursue expensive higher ed.. the reasons for it are often complex, and it shouldn't even be possible in the first place, since it acts as a compulsory force to compete with others in the golden age of meritocracy..

but again, the coop model in my mind could go a long way to address the original gripes of this post since every employee would have real stake, aka a real reason to be invested and care.

Jun 9, 21 3:17 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

"Pay us more so we can afford the interest on our glorified general arts degrees" is not a good war chant. "

This is some real, "We're short-sfaffed today because NobODy WaNts to wOrk AnYMOrE" energy.

Low wage waitstaff have a better understanding of class conflict than architects.

Jun 9, 21 3:29 pm  · 
2  · 
RJ87

The issue with unions is also that architecture has a wide range of business models within it. Big firms, small firms, specialty firms, etc. The idea of a union negotiating contracts on my behalf is terrifying to me. While it might bring the collective rate up, it would likely drag down firms with higher billing multipliers. No thanks.

There would also have to be a line in the sand somewhere about who to represent. Is it a union for Architects? Or some larger organization meant to include "Designers" & Draftsmen. Organizations like the AIA & Archinect aren't sure, I doubt a union would be different.

Jun 9, 21 3:29 pm  · 
1  · 
square.

representation would be anyone who isn't management. but the point about multiple sizes is a good one, which is why unionization would work best at a large firm like som.

Jun 9, 21 4:01 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

" Anyways, my office has something similar but it's only for management inner-circle." 

I've definitely mentioned this elsewhere but my current firm is employee owned. Every licensed architect is a shareholder, and there are other qualification thresholds for non-architectural staff. Shares increase up the hierarchy. I'd estimate 70-75% of our office are shareholders. I think it helps frame the incentives for labor where we all share the dividends, not just management. I'm pretty sure at this point most firms have some form of discretionary profit share, but I think it's a huge benefit to have it more codified (and more rationally distributed).

Jun 9, 21 4:15 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

Employee ownership is the model of "Socialism" I support.

Jun 9, 21 4:16 pm  · 
1  · 
RJ87

(In response to Square) So you're talking about an industrial union. I think it would only work for larger firms. There would end up being Union Houses & Non Union Houses. But the big firms are only 6% of total firms. The other 94% would have to decide whether it's worth it to employ union workers when they have to become union shops (hire non union but make them join later) or closed shops (only hire union workers). Seems like a pain.

Jun 9, 21 4:20 pm  · 
 · 
ARKISUCKS

@tduds Gensler?

Jun 9, 21 5:23 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

Nope. Is Gensler employee owned?

Jun 9, 21 5:49 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

Gensler sounds like a decent place to work but it's way too big for me. I like to be on a first name basis with the person who signs my paychecks.

Jun 9, 21 7:05 pm  · 
1  · 
midlander

Tduds, look up a recent "business of architecture" podcast interview with the ceo of DLR for a detailed discussion of ESOP businesses if you're interested. tbh i don't like the idea of it for myself.

Jun 9, 21 8:15 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

I'll definitely check that out. Thanks!

Jun 10, 21 11:36 am  · 
1  · 
b3tadine[sutures]

The architect union that many speak of is too narrow cast. Architecture Lobby has broadened the approach, and now includes ALL architecture workers. That is the boldest move I've seen to date.

Jun 10, 21 7:47 pm  · 
 · 
square.

^ explain more? what do you mean be all?

Jun 11, 21 8:51 am  · 
 · 
square.

tbh i've seen a lot of talk from the lobby on this front, but very little action. in my mind if anyone is serious about unionization, rather than trying to make one from scratch, you would try to take on the work with an existing union.

Jun 11, 21 11:29 am  · 
 · 

How many professional members does TAL currently have? How many student/intern members?

Jun 11, 21 2:47 pm  · 
 · 
ARKISUCKS

@Non Sequitur @newguy

"So where will all the money come from to prop up fees in order to appease the disgruntled professionals?"

Comparing to the total investment per real estate, the current fee structure for design firms is nothing. We are paying 20%+ tips for yellow cabs, 15%+ tips for every meal, but how much % we are charging for project fees?

Jun 9, 21 2:37 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

That’s not how it works but you’re free to set up your own shop and set your own fee structure.

Jun 9, 21 2:45 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

Architecture is far over supplied. Architecture is not where people should be going to college studying at this time.... they should be studying in the emerging occupations. People should be going to college to study degrees in majors that are in demand for new emerging and growing occupations not those that had been far over supplied. Oregon has too many licensed architects and probably most of the states in the U.S. where supply of licensed architects far outpaced the population growth (in states where there has been growth such as between 1970 and 2021.... compared to 1919 (or other starting dates of architectural licensing in a given state) to the year 1970.


Jun 9, 21 7:27 pm  · 
1  · 
reminiscences82

Few cents:

Advancement: Unfortunately this profession is way behind others in terms of ensuring meritocracy and horizontal firm structure in actual day-to-day work, compensation distribution, roles and responsibility. 

- not enough firms provide opportunities/know how to train good project managers/principals: strategic thinking, presenting, how to interact with various collaborators/AHJ's/clients to have best outcomes for your firm, convincing clients that you are worth the higher fee. Usually this is done by one or two people(or a board filled with similar kinds of skillsets/experience) even in larger firms who never open themselves up to involving others. Most of the opportunities in getting better contracts from clients, better projects, communicating what we do are in this avenue.

It is in dire need of younger professionals/fresher ideas to create more jobs (not necessarily with design skills but more on project management/business chops). It is stuck in a perennial cycle of an over-supplied market thanks to this leading to ever declining wages. There is a very mistaken notion about "experience" in Architecture. Problem solving ability(figuring out the assembly of the hardest details, knowing building systems on an engineering level, knowing construction sequencing  smart way to collaborate with an engineer, asking the right questions to the right people at the right time etc)  isn't as valued as it should be. Tech & finance usually focus more on this(&  the industry  greatly benefits from it). Unfortunately in our profession, its filled with pretty mediocre mid-career professionals (not all by any means - not trying to make a blanket statement) who were either one-trick ponies or inherently never that good of a problem-solver holding all the cards(project assignment, emails, communication) and keeping the profession stagnant/in decline. I keep seeing this across firms where they will always have someone else to blame (contractor, younger staff, AHJ's) for being bad at CA/CD, maintaining good financials, consistently getting good paying clients etc.

- being a good designer, brilliant with detailing, graphics etc is kind of a dead end role. Usually it is the selling of those ideas, saying the right things, leveraging as much as you can that leads to the higher salaries for everyone in it. As long as the supply issue isn't fixed by creating more jobs, firms will always compete by undercutting on fee and exploiting staff to make up for it. 

Just because the older older generations had a certain experience that took 20 years to master, it doesn't mean the younger generations who have a lot more technological, communication tools to leverage to get to an equivalent skill level in a shorter period of time shouldn't have that opportunity. The faster people realize this, the better it will make the profession for everyone with fewer disillusioned people where we wouldn't need to defend it by being snarky (you weren't good enough to tough it out etc,  in my days.....) or with euphemisms (for the glory/happiness of design) and have actual logic in salary/value/positive work culture to make the profession enticing. 

Jun 9, 21 3:42 pm  · 
4  · 

It's a mistake to think that having more technological and communication tools to leverage will get someone to get to an equivalent skill level in a shorter period of time, and I would argue that the opposite is true. Architecture requires decades of experience in the field, not behind a computer screen.

Jun 9, 21 6:03 pm  · 
4  ·  3
mightyaa

Agreed: Inception to Occupation is something like 4 years. Add another 2 years before issues develop in the building. So 6 years; That really means if you’ve got 4-10 years’ experience, you can probably count on one hand the number of projects you’ve been involved with to even judge whether your design was a success or figure out where you made the mistakes no matter how much of a technology boost you have. Your ‘product’ is not the drawing set which is about the only place technology helps. Btw; it didn’t help with our fees because architects used that technology to lower the fees and overhead. Seriously, been around a long time and fees are about half what they were in the 80’s and you are expected to produce more now as well as more complex systems are being utilized.

Jun 9, 21 6:56 pm  · 
1  · 
reminiscences82

Technology isn't just using the latest software around. Its:

Jun 9, 21 7:03 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

- database/checklists: knowing the 50 things to look for in a consultant set so you take 1 hr not 1 day to redline it or worse argue about it for weeks in CA. All the lessons learnt from all project types should be readily available to each and every team in firm (structural, civil, mech, av, lighting, acoustic etc for each phase - concept, SD, 50% DD, 33.333% CD or however that firm phases projects). Firms are so bad at organizing this data - all the cool knowledge that one team games from completing a project is either lost (because someone leaves the firm) or buried in a project file or server somewhere. So much time is spent re-inventing the wheel.

Jun 9, 21 7:16 pm  · 
3  · 
reminiscences82

- CA support for each phase: knowing what to look for before a slab pour for example (recessed thresholds, rails etc, embedded structural steel plates, conduits, radiant heating pipe, refrigerant, plumbing lines etc). More than 30 jobs I've done CA for in the last 25 years - for so many different firms. Its the same mistakes repeated all over again because architectural firms don't know how to organize the huge amounts of data/lessons learnt they have

Jun 9, 21 7:19 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

Architecture isn't rocket science. It shouldn't take 20 years to learn these things, quickly do 20 design iterations to figure out the best one. It doesn't take 20 years to train a qualified hedge fund manager or doctor or tech professional. Knowledge is shared in a very inequitable, poor and selectively discriminatory way in the profession and is hidden by the veil of euphemisms like "experience, it's the way the market it is" etc.

Jun 9, 21 7:22 pm  · 
2  · 
ARKISUCKS

^

^

This is exactly why our profession sucks and all the talented younger generations are escaping this industry asap. So many obsolete old idiots have their last-century mindset, believing this low-tech/pathetic profession needs decades of experience/training before you can do a real project or in charge. 

Oh yeah, I am sure designing stupid generic buildings is absolutely way more sophisticated and significant compared to what Sergey Brin did when he was 25 (created Google), what Elon Musk did when he was 32 (launched the 1st SpaceX rockets).

Jun 9, 21 8:37 pm  · 
 · 

Talented younger generations ... because you can model something on a computer. That's not talent or architecture - it's data processing.

Have you ever built anything? Have you ever built anything that youmhave designed? Have you ever gone back to a project years later to see how it has performed?

Jun 9, 21 9:29 pm  · 
3  ·  2
ARKISUCKS

^ Thanks! I take that as a HUGE compliment! Data processing sounds way much cooler, way much more respectful and intelligent than architecture. 

 To answer your three questions: Yes, Yes, Yes. Including one in Chelsea, one in the mid-east, and quite a few in China.

Jun 10, 21 4:19 am  · 
 · 
square.

"It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet have lightened the day’s toil of any human being."

if you think technology will solve your problems without either a) creating new problems to solve or b) increasing your productivity to the point that your new found "free" time will just be filled with more work, you're missing a lot of history.

Jun 10, 21 9:12 am  · 
 · 
mightyaa

Umm... your ideas of "technology" being essentially checklist stuff; That is not 'tech' . Would you like to borrow my '91 UBC code checklist; its a dry-erase..? I absolutely agree having a clear organization to find this stuff is critical. Most firms have that stuff. And the big issue isn't those details and checklists, it is that the monkey choosing it actually knows why you'd use that over this and when you need to modify it. Sending an intern out in the field with a checklist looking for embeds, when they do not know how to tell if they are being installed properly is dumb; fine just to help them to remember to look, but CA is about knowing whether it is being installed properly, not just that it exists.

Jun 10, 21 10:05 am  · 
1  · 
mightyaa

So... Mentoring is a big part so someone can clearly teach you instead of hoping you find something reliable on the internet. You also need a lot of exposure to different things and tasks. IMHO a major issue in our industry is the firms are lead and run by people with zero formal business, management, or marketing training as well as a lot of laws that these kinds of firms MUST be run by a licensed professional.

Jun 10, 21 10:06 am  · 
3  · 
reminiscences82

Totally agreed on both counts - active mentoring (knowing someone's current skill level and actively finding opportunities to make them/& yourself better to take them to the next level) as well as make sure those diverse opportunities are available - easier said than done when you also have to run an efficient business...

Jun 10, 21 10:23 am  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

On the checklist part - the notion being its more of an inventory management tool on an iPad you take to site for instance. Some firms/contractors already do where all your set is hyperlinked through Bluebeam so you can click on callouts to go to it rather than flipping pages. The idea is simply to add more functionality to it to say - if you tap on the checklist item for embedded steel plates - it highlights all the location in the set and filters out all the structural/Arch notes relevant to it to review on site along with all the idiosyncratic things to look for you that might have gone wrong in previous projects - maybe videos of correct installation with proper drypack, levelling, location verification etc. Its always helpful to have the 50 things to know at the drop of a hat because you have to move on so quickly in the profession where next week you might be coming in to review framing installation with its entire set of quirks. Do you still need a person who has done this 50 times along with the younger professional - absolutely. It does help for them to have homework/all references to help them learn faster - more opportunities to pick this up faster than the previous generation did.

Jun 10, 21 10:31 am  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

Not trying to say at all this is the right solution or know any answers. Just like always, 1 out of 20 smart sounding ideas is actually good and worth pursuing. Just hoping that we all work together on generating ideas and solutions that make it better constantly better, especially when we all know there are huge problems in the profession in making sure the best talents and minds stay in it....

Jun 10, 21 10:49 am  · 
 · 
rcz1001

mightyaa, good point but then, the minimum required experience aside from architecture school before licensure would need to be 15 years full-time years. Then that would certainly set a minimum age a person can become licensed as an architect to something like 35 to 40 years of age.

Jun 10, 21 1:58 pm  · 
 · 
mightyaa

Semi-true; no one would do it though. But if you notice, most those that actually stamp are going to be older. Also, most state licenses have this little clause that to perform that kind of work you stamped, you have to be able to show adequate knowledge and experience with similar buildings... just sort of a legal framework to say just because you have a license doesn't mean you are ok to design 'that kind' of structure if you don't know what you are doing.

Jun 10, 21 2:30 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

It's a legal framework that if we determined that you were incompetent in designing a project because through investigation we found that you lacked prior experience and knowledge designing similar buildings then he can issue you a disciplinary action (be it a fine, suspension of license, revocation of license as a few examples) against you.

Jun 10, 21 3:44 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

You are right that making the minimum requirements being as high would be unpopular but then isn't the point of licensing establishing minimum qualifications and a person would need competency in a number of projects. It is likely you wouldn't be working on one project over that time frame, you would be working on at least 2-4 projects a year (if you are working on each project comprehensively throughout each stage) and then you got maybe 5 to 10 years of projects that over the course of would have had been designed and built and the roughly 4-6 years or so timeframe that you would have had time to determine if it was a success, failure, or any lessons to have learned from. This can mean you might have 20 or so projects under your belt by that time. Of course, it may be more or less depending on your experiences in the 15 year time frame that I had given as a baseline. In my opinion, a license as a registered architect requiring that level would protect the public and also there maybe less licensed architects which can address another tangential problem of over supply of licensed architects over time. We don't really need that many licensed architects. That's another issue or topic matter, of course.

Jun 10, 21 3:55 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

Did some similar analysis for NCARB while volunteering a few years ago, Medicine is a profession in the US which gets really high wages thanks to controlling supply through licensing. A physician on an average earns way in the US than anywhere in Europe because of residency caps.

Jun 10, 21 4:05 pm  · 
1  · 
reminiscences82

A doctor inherently carries way more risk (immediate life/death in many situations) than a licensed architect (with safety nets like AHJ's plan-check, multiple parties that have a stab to get it right - engineers, consultants, contractors etc). Also NCARB can't legally restrict licensing for purely wage reasons hidden by veil of 'protecting public safety' - plain illegal (also it doesn't do advocacy which is AIA's job). There's talk of introducing special licenses for expertise in specific project types and that the concept of a generalized licensed architect is fairly dated.

The only real way to increase wages is to create more market opportunities, make production and execution more efficient so that you get paid more for putting the same no. of hours. But it always runs into push-back from folks being adamant on it taking 'x no. of years' to be proficient.

Jun 10, 21 4:11 pm  · 
1  · 

I've NEVER encountered anyone who is requiring a certain number of years experience to be considered proficient in areas of architecture. Proficiency is shown by your work and the time it takes for you do it. Hell, I know architects with 20 plus years experience that aren't considered proficient in areas of practice.

Jun 10, 21 5:38 pm  · 
1  · 
mightyaa

The proficiency won't increase wages. Firms tend to use those gains to underbid competitors. Hence in the 80's and early 90's typical fees were 12-15%... now they are 5-7% in a lot of cases even though the tools we use speed things up considerably. And on top of that, you have to give them renders, more details and pages, tons more RFI type paper, etc. Being proficient is not the key unless you convince the rest of our industry to not underbid and stop telling everyone else 'it is easy to blah blah with this software'.

Jun 10, 21 6:01 pm  · 
1  · 
mightyaa

I will agree on limiting architects... Way back (just 40 years ago) there was a profession called "draftsman" and you had tons of them in a firm. CAD killed that. Now interns and young architects sit in those seats... and every one of them sort of expects to move out of the bullpen... so you need a constant stream of new grads to fill those seats (which the college is happy to churn out) and corporations are happy to use their influence to ensure it isn't too hard to get that degree. Wayback, a draftsman meant a white collar job for someone without a expensive degree; it meant it wasn't abnormal to have production people with 10+ years of experience who knew more than their modern equivalent as far as detailing and production... I'd even argue because expensive college degrees aren't often possible for disadvantaged groups, our profession became less inclusive.

Jun 10, 21 6:09 pm  · 
4  · 
rcz1001

Actually, we still have that profession called 'draftsmen' or drafters. The difference is they use computers and software called AutoCAD and even BIM tools like Revit. You go to community colleges and can get a degree/certificate in that just like in the older days... it was hand drafting. The thing is, these people works on technical submissions preparing technical drawings and specifications under the supervision of the designer/architect.

Someone getting a 2-year associates degree will likely have more time learning the tools to prepare technical drawings and learning drafting standards and preparing details and so forth. Of course, over the course of the next 5 years, they would be learning and specializing in this area on details and so forth.... even having a library of CAD blocks put together for efficiency and making modifications to them as needed and then having new variants in their CAD block library when they maybe reused. The idea behind it is reusable CAD blocks like reusable code. 


Jun 10, 21 6:41 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

The problem is architect offices hiring practices keeps placing having an architectural degree as a mandatory requirement. 40 years ago, architects didn't make so much mandatory requiring of a bachelors degree in architecture. When states discontinue experience based path to licensure, the firms in those states stop hiring people without degrees in lockstep with the licensing requirement.

Jun 10, 21 6:49 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

Drafters still exist but the proportion is extremely skewed. A lot of the work currently being done by young architects could be done by drafters. Very few firms have a substantial production-only staff.

Jun 10, 21 7:06 pm  · 
2  · 

Tying this to the union question raised in the other reply thread above, I often wonder if we had a unionized profession if it would separate tasks for architects and drafters creating more opportunities for those with two-year technical training or certification in drafting rather than making people with 5+ year professional degrees do that work. Current drafters are way over educated for knowledge that they don't really even need to use in that role, and undereducated for the knowledge they should be using.

Jun 10, 21 7:10 pm  · 
2  · 
reminiscences82

Here's a rough math on 'proficiency'. Lets say firm X gets a new non-public museum project for a hard cost of 16m$ and bid an overall fee of 1.6m $ (only concept + SD + CD + permitting, no CA for fasttrack duration of 1 year)  60% fee goes to Architects: 720,000$ 40% to the consultants( structural, MEP, acoustics, lighting etc): 288,000$ I would say roughly a custom-detailed project like this these days would involve around 180-200 sheets (around 80 Architectural). Usually this would be assigned to 5-6 people (Principal + PM + PA + Designer/Drafters) with varying levels of FTE's. Though, it's way more efficient and leads to much tighter sets if you only have 2-3 people involved - works much better if those 2-3 people know how to ask the right questions & don't unnecessarily produce busy work (all projects that I have been involved with that won AIA awards were with fewer people teams). This sort of setup usually has the "upper-quartile" salaries you see on AIA comp. surveys. A 720k$ fee can easily support a (480k salary + other overheads + profits) even with a multiplier of 1.5. The firms who have 5-6 people running such a project type have the median-lower quartile salaries.  Its beneficial for profitability to have younger staff with less no. years of experience but proficient through opportunities and exposure. I would say a person with 3 years on their resume who has spent each of those 1 years through the ringer doing projects through all phases of that project type (except maybe CA) is pretty proficient in that building type - especially the top 5% brightest crop out which the profession bleeds out a few due to making them tag doors for 1 year for no apparent reason. We need more proficient professionals at a younger age - not BIM modelers, fancy graphics one trick ponies but actual professionals who can competently do exciting design and deliver completed projects. The more quality we add to the profession at an early age- the easier time we would have in not losing projects to contractor design-builds/people who do projects for 2-3% fee. Not sure about using old labels like - 'drafters', 'emerging professionals', 'interns' etc - doesn't quite work in the direction work culture is moving in across professions. A lot to do.... - better education system (de-glorifying one-person starchitects, actually teaching useful stuff so that not everything real needs to be learnt after school), providing opportunities and reducing hindrances to the best & brightest etc. Unionizing would help on the undercutting fee part but their other rotten apples to throw out along with unionization to really start addressing the issue. 

Jun 10, 21 8:22 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

^Your math is off. 10% fee is very generous... as is your assumption that proficiency is achieved after only one year.

Jun 10, 21 8:34 pm  · 
1  · 
reminiscences82

1.2m off 1.6m$ is 7.5% - that's fairly reasonable. Non-public commercial/institutional projects go up to 12% in California. Custom residential in 15-18% fee range is common too.

You still have senior principal(20-30 years) -0.25FTE, PM (5-10 years) -0.5FTE, designer(1-3 years) - 1 FTE on the project. Thats all I need on a project if that younger professional is ambitious/open/good to learning taking everything on. I have found that to be more successful than having two 5 yr experience levels who have been mediorcre/pigeon holed in previous roles. Earns more money, gives more opportunity to the younger staff, gets more stuff done....

Jun 10, 21 10:29 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

If a client is playing less than that - its a red flag anyways to not take that project on as it will bleed money, they will expect unrealistic target/goals and make it a nightmare anyways...... That should be 16m$ in the earlier post...

Jun 10, 21 10:38 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

The problem is we are hiring designers to be drafters. Designers and Drafters are two different kinds of role. Honestly, designers should also be adequately trained in drafting but also be adequately trained to design. This is because when you are on your own as a designer, you will need to do your own drafting work in addition to the designing work. Architecture school prepares people to be designers without adequate training in drafting. 

Honestly, we should have a different kind of educational system where if you are going to be a Designer, you get your education in drafting and some general ed.... then you go further and get 4 years of study in design with some additional components to general education, and then the final two years where you bring the whole skill set together. That would be 8-YEARS of educational training where the general education (like writing, math, etc.) is spread over the 8 years. 

Yes, the designing part isn't just artistic but also technical designing. 

In the case of the Designer education..... the drafting could be after the designing portion but before the final two years portion. While a person only planning to be a drafter takes just the Drafting portion. The content of the curriculum for drafting being basically the same but does not require necessarily learning to be a designer. I know.... it's all a loose concept.

This is all separate from work experience training.

Jun 10, 21 11:31 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

I agree with the point where a lot of stuff should not have to be trained in the office if the education system is actually doing its job of training people for the occupations that the subject major of the degree program is intended for. Education system is suppose to prepare students for the work force because unless they are going to hire all their graduates.... the degree is kind of worthless if it doesn't serve to prepare students for the workforce that requires that education.... or we completely discontinue the degree requirement and go entirely back to architect(mentor/supervisor)/apprenticeship model.

Jun 10, 21 11:45 pm  · 
1  ·  1
newguy

"Education system is suppose to prepare students for the work force"

No, this isn't true. A secondary education is supposed to teach students how to think, which largely means teaching courses (broadly speaking) in the humanities and other fields that encourage critical thought. The idea that a secondary education is supposed to simply be a training ground for industry is a perversely American and capitalistic assumption.

Think about it. Why should future workers take on massive loans so that they can have the skills necessary to work in any industry that refuses to train the.  If an industry needs workers with specific skill sets to do the work, then they should be expected to pick up the tab for teaching those skills (because they are the ones who benefit).  Instead we shift that burden on to the workforce and then saddle them with debt so that we can prolong their drudgery in the form of working years so that they can pay off the debt they took on just to get the job in the field that doesn't pay them enough.  It's ridiculous

Jun 11, 21 1:12 pm  · 
2  · 
square.

exactly new guy. it wasn't so long ago that american companies were expected to provide job training, fully funding it and ensuring it was adequate for the necessities of the work. but here we are having a conversation about "ignorant" students who stupidly took on debt and then are blamed for having too high of expectations of the profession that essentially throws them off the diving board and hopes for the best, except in this metaphor the water is polluted, the pool has unnecessary "smart" gadgetry, and they have weights (student loan debt) tied to their ankles, all while past generations keep telling them it was quite easily to learn how to swim..

ok took that metaphor too far. but again, much of this conversation is trapped in the neoliberalism that started in the 70s/80s, but you don't need to look to far to see when things were very different for workers.

Jun 11, 21 1:27 pm  · 
 · 
newguy

turns out if you tell people that "There Is No Alternative" enough times, they eventually stop questioning it

Jun 11, 21 1:44 pm  · 
2  · 
reminiscences82

thats the sad - part and the easy way out. the smarter way to do it would be involving more younger professionals, constantly putting pressure to make the system better for everyone, innovating in business/marketing not just design. You have to keep people inspired and excited through genuine hard work to make the profession better. Instead of telling younger folk to "suck it up, leave, thats the way it is, no alternative" - work with them to come with ways and be persistent to make it better for everyone.

Jun 11, 21 2:59 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

I would argue the "decades" part of it. You definitely need to have a vast knowledge of a variety of things from a very big picture level (what to say, what not to say, leverage games on CO's etc) to a very detailed level (intimately knowing the set, construction - framing, hardware, utilities). Many parts are  rabbit hole/art in itself -  specs, hardware, BIM coordinating a slab plan, steel shops, door shops etc). 

You need the right opportunities and be exposed to the right type of projects with active mentors who know what they are doing. A good mentor would put you in position so that you know everything they know ASAP so you can add value right away. Unfortunately this isn't true for 80% of the people in the profession who are quite frankly are at a very embarrassing skill level - will blame CO's on consultants (because they don't know how load paths, mechanical, electrical systems work - because most schools don't teach them), don't know how to cater presentations to the right audience.

My argument isn't that technology somehow provides shortcut/is a magic wand to the the skill level needed to be a top-level professional. It's coming from a place that the profession as a should be ensuring that next generation is smarter, better and more efficient than the previous one and every piece of wisdom, lessons learnt are being transferred. Mentee's have to be better than mentors....

The profession would be in a whole lot better place if younger professionals (especially the top-tier ones who always. have/always will respect meritocracy & diligence) were best placed to succeed. 

Jun 9, 21 6:21 pm  · 
 · 
zonker

80% of us?, Most likely. Many of us get pigeonholed. if you are good at Revit or Sketchup in the SD through DD phase. Photoshop in Entitlements, CA., it's hard to get assigned to "growth" opportunities in other phases. Consequently, acquiring the necessary architecture skills becomes a piecemeal effort. IDP takes years longer than it should. 10 years experience is only 3-5 years of net experience. Firm management expects growth and "you should be a Job Captain, Project architect or PM by now" As time goes on, it's harder to get these growth opportunities to become a full fledged architect - many just "settle" in whatever role they can get and call it a career.

Jun 9, 21 6:40 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

It definitely feels like banging your head against the wall sometimes trying to get opportunities to learn something. It also comes with stress of not knowing what exactly you're doing the first time around. But the only way to learn is by doing most of the time, so I keep finding walls to headbutt.

Jun 10, 21 9:51 am  · 
3  · 
rcz1001

"1.2m off 1.6m$ is 7.5% - that's fairly reasonable. Non-public commercial/institutional projects go up to 12% in California. Custom residential in 15-18% fee range is common too." 

I'm not sure how you got the 1.2m off 1.6m equally 7.5%. It looks like 75%. 120K off of 1.6M or 1.2m off of 16M would be 7.5%. Just saying. When you say custom residential in the range of 15-18%, I would say that would be some really high end stuff or something along the lines of what you would charge for historic restoration and related projects where there is more research involved than actually designing and you are preparing HSRs, as-is drawings for existing conditions, and then making drawings for renovation work which may include additions or possibly another structure on-site like accessory dwellings which may be something done concurrently. However, when you are designing homes for end-user clients (not just developers of tracts or developer-builders), your client may or may not have the deep financial resources in which case, you are likely to be on a much more constrained budget and charging 15-18% would almost certainly be a pipedream because they aren't going to pay that kind of money for drawings when you are competing with pre-drawn (stock) house plans and bottom feeders that charges next to nothing. If you are a licensed architect, you might get some leverage because of the license but if the project doesn't require a license, the client is more likely to find someone cheaper. If you are going to make a living and sustaining a business, you are going to have to price yourself in the price level your local market area where you do business will be willing to pay otherwise, you don't get clients. It may be untenable to do work in that market sector or project types if the market price ceiling is too low. I have been through situations where things had simply been that bad.

Jun 11, 21 3:05 am  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

Apologies - errors typing on the phone/writing quickly. Also the comments don't allow paragraphs making this harder. This was meant to say 16m$ project w/ 7.5% overall fee of 1.2m$. 60% of that fee being architectural or 720k$.

Jun 11, 21 12:55 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

I have mostly done custom residential in LA, southern california/Bay area - 15- 17% is pretty standard with clients who want what they want with no real budget limitations unless something is astronomically expensive. That fee wouldn't work for a normal project for sure - for every cool custom residential project there is the hard work of doing sheds, trellises, restrooms and what not to have enough work - those have abysmal fees. But the more you do the 15-17% range work and build reputation over the years, the easier its to get those. Out of 10, you will probably loose 5 for being too high on fee but you have to sort of accept that to make sure you are taking care of your employees(not over working them with bad clients in therms of finances). Don't believe in undercutting - it means the clients are not trusting your work enough or personal friendships/connections are not being made while doing the projects. That also means staying out of certain project types, certain public projects....

Jun 11, 21 1:02 pm  · 
 · 
reminiscences82

Here's the ranges I see: Commercial (new): 9-10% market average (6-8%) to undercut, Institutional (new) : 8-10% (5-7% to undercut), Public: 6-10%(totally depends on the public agency RFP/RFQ), Custom residential (12- 18%). Also usually try to have CA as hourly rather than fixed fee. If CA is fixed fee than try to negotiate at least 25% of overall fee (back it up with previous RFI no's, submittals to review, field visits, OAC etc). Obviously this is different in every state - no clue what it's like in Canada. Principal rates (175 - 250$/hr, PM: 150 - 200 $/hr, Designer/PA/Architect - 135 - 165$/hr) for fee projections

Jun 11, 21 2:51 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

I'm just up in Oregon and do residential and light commercial design work in Oregon and in Washington (I'm geographically located where that makes sense). Non Sequitur is in Canada and at least one other person that I noticed that is somewhat of a regular on the forum.

Jun 12, 21 6:15 am  · 
 · 
randomised

I’m currently working on a top secret avant-garde art project with a team of incredibly talented artists, if I could do this for the coming years I’d be a happy  man...unfortunately it is just temporary.


The last couple of weeks I don’t have any stress, I cycle to work 40km (back and forth in total)  and feel very fit, work is in a nondescript warehouse on the rural outskirts of Amsterdam. I work with my hands, paint, use power tools, and sweat as a result of my work not because of the temperature. We have fun together and listen to the weirdest music echoing through the space and I took charge of the coffee machine so no complaints on that front either...I haven’t touched my computer since or sat behind a desk except for the occasional emailing.
I’d never return to architecture if I didn’t have to

Jun 10, 21 6:01 am  · 
8  · 
flatroof

I'm gonna blow your mind: You don't have to.

Jun 10, 21 7:41 am  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

Tell me more about this coffee machine project.

Jun 10, 21 7:51 am  · 
5  · 

Sounds perfect!

Jun 10, 21 9:28 am  · 
1  · 

I loved doing set construction and design for theater. It was great to build things that you've designed. Unfortunately the pay was horrible and the work inconsistent.

Jun 10, 21 10:08 am  · 
2  · 
tduds

Set design is something I'd love to get into later in life, as more of a semi-retirement hobby. I've done a few restaurant projects and they always feel more like set design than architecture (in a positive way).

Jun 10, 21 11:40 am  · 
1  · 

One of my favorite projects was Azzurro - a small restaurant on the upper East Side for two brothers from Italy. They had no money so I did it for no fee and got to eat there free for a year.

Which worked for me because I had no money either. After dinner I'd walk to my apartment on 4th street because I didn't have $2 for the subway. I can still taste the penne ao pomodoro and fresh napoleon.

Jun 10, 21 12:09 pm  · 
5  ·  1

tduds - it's really hard to get into. Most set designers are the scene shop directors and part of the construction crew. Doing only set design is exceedingly rare and everything seems to be a gig / competition type situation.

Jun 10, 21 12:19 pm  · 
2  · 
tduds

I worked at a small firm in Boston about a decade ago. It was residential focused but we did a lot of restaurants, I think mostly because the owner loved to get free lunches. Lots of holiday / birthday / business outings at spots where we were generously comped food & drink. It's a good gig if you can get it!

Jun 10, 21 12:19 pm  · 
1  · 
randomised

thanks for the positive feedback and the anecdotes, unfortunately can't tell more about the project as I signed an NDA...


Jun 11, 21 3:45 am  · 
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Secrete Danish spy architecture stuff :)

Jun 14, 21 10:51 am  · 
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midlander

to answer the question: if i had the choice i would quit my architecture job. and then i'd open my own architecture studio.


i guess i do have that choice. i'm just procrastinating about making the decision.

Jun 11, 21 2:05 am  · 
3  · 
rcz1001

Is it working alone an issue? I know some people may be hesitant because of that. It isn't necessarily the issue of not being able to do a project alone but the lack of fellow project team members that you may be accustom to working with, bouncing ideas off of and so forth. Starting your own practice can be lonely. If you have individuals that are willing to join your studio either as employees or as partners in the firm/studio.... sure.

Jun 11, 21 3:09 am  · 
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midlander

1. get work 2. get paid 3. hire people

Jun 11, 21 3:24 am  · 
2  · 

I don't want to start my own firm because I don't want to have to find projects. Not to mention the stress and hours required to run a successful firm doesn't appeal to me.

Also I'd suck at it.  :)

Jun 11, 21 10:06 am  · 
3  · 
RJ87

Particularly in the early days, I do think people underestimate the amount of time spent finding work. Eventually it builds to a critical mass where work "walks in the door", but that takes time. Ideally you wouldn't branch out until you have an idea of where your projects would come from.

Jun 11, 21 11:06 am  · 
 · 

In 18 years of practice with both successful and not successful firms I can say with confidence that work never 'walks into the door'. There is a lot of time spent building relationships and doing proposals. Several firms I've worked with have had a good amount of repeat clients but that's because of all the up front work we did to get them initially.

Jun 11, 21 11:11 am  · 
2  · 
RJ87

By "walks in the door" I mean that you don't have to go looking for it. Because of past relationships & successful projects there is a steady stream of potential work that just shows up asking for proposals. Both from repeat clients & referrals. Our office spends 0% of the day looking for new work & we don't advertise. At that point it just comes down to whether we price ourselves to be competitive / get the job.

Like I said it's not something that just happens, it takes work & time. But there's a critical mass where you're approached for proposals & not out there on the trail hunting. We're also fortunate with the clients we've had.

Jun 11, 21 11:29 am  · 
1  · 
RJ87

I'd also add that it depends on the industry you're dealing with.

Jun 11, 21 11:34 am  · 
 · 

As you said, it's very dependent on the industry (projects) you're going after. Anything with state or federal funding typically requires an RFP. Education, Government, Civil, ect are typically in this group. Healthcare and commercial at a certain scale will normally require an RFP to appease it's board members. Oviously a good past relationships really helps in the interview process. 

MOB, retail, small commercial, residential seem to be the type of projects that come us via repeat clients and referrals.  

Overall I'd say about 65% of our work comes from repeat clients and referrals.  Because of the types of projects we design we'll never stop doing proposals.  

Jun 11, 21 5:58 pm  · 
1  · 
tintt

It took time but I turn down projects every week, sometimes more than one a week. Work does walk in the door.

Jun 11, 21 6:42 pm  · 
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rcz1001

RJ and Chad, you are both right. It does kind of depend somewhat where you are and of course like what was already mentioned.... project types. In some locations, it may be easier for work to just "walk in the door" but that may not always be quite the same everywhere. Sometimes, you have to do more work to get work. It does kind of depend on population density, culture, etc. as some factors (but not necessarily all).


Jun 12, 21 6:06 am  · 
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midlander

i have a friend who early in her career received a high-profile commission for a museum project and built a small firm around that - the project was built, looks excellent, won awards and media coverage. but 10 years on now the thing she told me was the biggest lesson was finding out it didn't automatically lead to more work - she's still got to put a majority of her time into building visibility and connecting to potential clients.

Jun 12, 21 11:42 am  · 
 · 
rcz1001

In other businesses, "brand awareness" would be things you must look at and would to extent apply to architects because you need to become a name recognized by prospective customers (or clients if you wish to use that term).When newspapers and other local news and related mediums are talking about your firm, noting projects your firm is doing, etc. - the more recognized you would be and will play a role in whether or not 'work walks through the door". If it's more positive than negative, then you'll likely see more work coming but you need recognition. It needs not be be "local" news or mediums. It can be other mediums that maybe associated with a project type. However, local will likely be what brings your regular bread and butter. What is local isn't really being defined here, either.

Jun 12, 21 1:42 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

As a principal of a firm, at least a third of your time is going to be your effort in procuring work for the firm. This is why firm principals don't usually do designing/production work in established firms because they are too busy to be spending that much time designing. In small start-up firms, you're likely going to be putting at least 60 hours a week. It takes a BIG commitment to launch a business that it IS your life where you spend about every waking moment to it. Those seeking work-life balance and only a 40 hour work week..... well..... starting a business is not for you.... at least at this time. What is also even scary about it.... there is no guarantee of success. It's a big gamble that can be soul crushing if it isn't a success. Why do I say at least 60 hours a week. When you procure a client, you're going to be working on that client's project but you are also going to have to be working on procuring the next project. If you have partners in the start-up, it would help through divvying up the workload.

Jun 12, 21 1:51 pm  · 
2  · 
RJ87

Yeah, the idea of doing government / municipal work doesn't appeal to me. There's so much red tape that goes into RFP's, Bidding, City Hearings, public scrutiny, press, etc. I get why they have regulations to make it "fair" for everyone, but it's a different business model. I agree if you did those types of projects you'd spend a good amount procuring them / doing contests, etc. As a general rule of thumb our office refuses to do design competitions without compensation.

Jun 14, 21 5:37 pm  · 
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rcz1001

RJ87, there is still a bit of work of procuring projects even when it is not one of those RFPs/bidding, etc. process. Even getting residential projects requires means of procuring working which may be work that may not seem like it is part of procuring work like doing a community presentation.... it is still part of procuring work because it is work towards marketing yourself in even an indirect way by being noticed.... becoming a recognized name in the community, etc. You're building recognition to the clientele market that you are trying to connect with. If you want to do historic preservations then doing stuff including presentations about historic preservation will help you become recognized as a local 'expert' on the subject. It can be even for sustainable design. These are ways of getting work. It takes time. Those presentations are going to consume time to prepare, not just doing the presentation.

Jun 14, 21 6:17 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

Some people do blogs and I would see them along the same vein..... and purpose. It's not really about posting a bunch of blogs but that the blog posts are of quality that communicates and teaches the public at large... not just mere professional colleagues because the public at large and the clientele you may seek may not have the same set of vocabulary and if they don't understand what you are sayings, you might as well be talking to them in a foreign language.

Jun 14, 21 6:22 pm  · 
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archiwutm8

I don't have teeth in this debate however the idea that you think the bar to enter a FAANG company is so low is absolutely fucking hilarious.


Source: my partner.

Jun 13, 21 7:29 pm  · 
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Somenumbersix

I switched to software engineering for exactly same reasons and never regretted it. Still love architecture but as a career it is a nightmare. 

Jun 14, 21 4:48 pm  · 
 · 

You couldn't hack it as a software architect?

Jun 14, 21 5:50 pm  · 
6  · 
rcz1001

software engineer vs software architect..... well it is kind of interchangeable in that the titles are not consistently used.... unfortunately. However, I see the work of software architect title to be more holistic of the overall software design versus specific parts much like architect vs engineers in relation to the designing of a building. That is how I see the title and also others in or have been in that field. In the course of my background includes work in that field. I see a concept parallel. I am not speaking on behalf of "Somenumbersix". I'm speaking for myself.

Jun 14, 21 6:10 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

PS: Miles, your comment did make me laugh for its snark value.

Jun 15, 21 1:13 am  · 
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randomised

Didn’t know you had an architecture job Rick...

Jun 15, 21 2:40 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

"software architecture" that is..... well.... I am not always concerned about the title use when I'm pretty much performing all roles of a software development process including the software design/architecture, the software engineering, and the software programming and associated roles relating to taking the software development from concepts and general specification to complete software product and software system. That's like being the developer, architect, engineer and builder. In which case, you don't give a shit about the title because its all the above.

Jun 15, 21 4:23 pm  · 
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randomised

So that’s a ‘no’ then...clear

Jun 17, 21 4:45 pm  · 
1  · 

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