Archinect
anchor

Internship at an envelope contractor

robhaw

I was wondering if anyone on here has experience or would recommend working for a envelope contractor in junior level in order to gain technical experience before moving back to the architect side. 

I have the opportunity to intern at a well established envelope contractor who among other projects, has involvement at some high end projects (starchitect quality buildings). The service they provide ranges from design to delivery on site and everything in between. 

Personally, I am very much attracted to the technical aspects of facade design and I understand that technical knowledge on this aspects is very well sought among architects. On the other hand, I am not sure whether interning there for 1 year would expose me to as much experience as to really benefit my architectural development. Ideally, I would like to pick up detailing of various facade systems. Worst case scenario, the internship could be reduced to repetitively delivering of shop drawing packages. 

Finally, I am wondering if it is perhaps too early to go full throttle into envelope design before having matured as an architect and having seen projects throughout all phases. 

Any input from experienced forum members would be much appreciated. 


 
Feb 16, 22 7:59 pm
whistler

Envelope / Energy modelling / Architectural assemblies is a huge interface in project development  / design development and costing.  Having a better than average knowledge in that realm would be huge benefit and a great basis for earning a decent role in any firm.

Feb 18, 22 4:50 pm  · 
6  · 
proto

If it's interesting to you, do it. It sounds like a good opportunity. There are lots of ways to be an architect. Don't feel like you are missing out on the more conventionally understood ways of architecting. You will likely see it all, just through the lens of high performance facades. Good luck!

Now that we got that licked, on to the envelope puns...!

Feb 18, 22 6:48 pm  · 
3  · 

I'm a big fan of this response.

Feb 18, 22 7:35 pm  · 
1  · 
proto

that blows

Feb 18, 22 7:45 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

I don't feel these responses are really pushing the humor envelope.

Mar 1, 22 8:04 pm  · 
 · 

From someone who decided to take a chance at specializing early in my career, I say go for it. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was the right move, or if I'd like it, but it's served me very well so far. I don't think it's held me back at all, and probably propelled me further than I would have been able to otherwise.

Feb 18, 22 7:37 pm  · 
1  · 
monosierra

There's a of lot technological advances in the building envelope industry, from new software to materials. The building envelope is often the location of most "design" and innovation. The ecosystem contains a wide variety of businesses, from facade consultants like Heintges and Front to high end fabricators/contractors such as Island. You can also into specialty manufacturers.

Feb 18, 22 8:09 pm  · 
1  · 
robhaw

Thank you everyone for your responses. 


I do see myself a lot of potential in this internship, from the perspective of acquiring technical knowledge that can be useful for the full length of my career. The case is that I want to eventually develop into a architect - technical expert role, however I am curious as to the following: 


If an architect specialises as much as to become a technical expert, doesn't it make more sense to work on the consultant side altogether, rather than in a traditional architect role? In your opinion, what advantages / drawbacks are there in each of the cases? 

Feb 22, 22 2:41 pm  · 
 · 

Depends on your goals I think. I've contemplated becoming a consultant rather than working for a firm and have tried to work through the pros and cons as I see them. For me the biggest advantage as a consultant would probably be more money and more autonomy to work on the projects I'd want to work on. 

However, that comes at a cost of not having as much influence overall. I see the consultants that do what I do and it seems like they are along for the ride and simply filling in the blanks when asked to. They basically have to do what the architects ask them with little opportunity for input. As an employee rather than a consultant, I have the ability (and really a directive from my firm) to help set the direction on projects. If I disagree with the way the PA is setting something up, I have the opportunity to suggest something different instead of just shake my head and go along with it to get my paycheck. 

I can also push to elevate the overall level of technical acumen in the office, preventing problems from happening in the first place, rather than always being on the outside wishing architects on the inside knew better and then reacting to the problems that are easily preventable if they'd known.

Feb 22, 22 4:17 pm  · 
1  · 
monosierra

I think it is less common for a young architect to specialize in facade design exclusively at an architectural firm - even if it is one that prides itself on facades, such as Morphosis. More likely, you will also be working on other parts of the building while developing skills in digital fabrication and modeling during the time that you do work on facades. Perhaps very large companies such as Aecom have specialized facade positions but I think those are less common at typical firms.

At consulting firms like Heinteges and Front, you'll find fresh graduates who decided to focus on facades early on in their careers. The scope varies by project and can range from doing entire envelope CDs to handling fabrication workflows for complex one-off systems. One thing to look out for is your ARE experience - not all states allow NCARB members to earn full working experience credits at non-architectural firms. Requirements vary by jurisdiction so do take this into consideration.

Feb 22, 22 5:12 pm  · 
1  · 
proto

good point re: ARE experience

we keep thinking high performance facade consultancy, but OP stated "contractor", though only considering a year internship

Feb 22, 22 7:01 pm  · 
1  · 
monosierra

Eh you're right! I went off on a tangent into consultants ... funnily enough, a few colleagues of mine actually jumped ship from consultants to contractors.

Feb 23, 22 12:23 am  · 
1  · 
robhaw

The company is both a facade consultant and facade contractor. As I mentioned in my first post they offer services from design to delivery on site. This is actually what makes the opportunity especially interesting as I could be involved in designing systems and also seeing them on site. I think that this insight on buildability issues could then make me a more valuable architect, when transioning back to traditional architecture practise and designing in an integrated way. I am only considering 1 year because I don't want to delay getting licensed.

Feb 23, 22 2:16 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

robhaw - Since they are doing design consulting, I would look into whether they have at least one licensed architect on staff who could sign for your ADP. I'm not sure one year is really enough to establish yourself as a real SME, so I'd be more encouraging if you could stay longer without sacrificing the ADP credit.

Mar 1, 22 8:13 pm  · 
2  · 

atelier nobody makes a good point. I wouldn't try to limit yourself to just one year. I might not even limit yourself to thinking you need to go into a traditional architecture firm to get your AXP hours. Double check with NCARB, but I think as long as the consultant you'd be working for has a licensed architect and offers architectural services, you can count those as experience setting A instead of defaulting to experience setting O and only being able to earn half your hours there. Experience setting O talks about work under a licensed architect at a firm that doesn't offer architectural services, or working for another design professional like a landscape arch, engineer, etc. If you can claim that the firm you work for offers architectural services, no matter how small they may be, use that to your full advantage and log those as experience setting A.

Mar 2, 22 12:45 pm  · 
2  · 
robhaw

I am coming back to the question of working as an external technical consultant vs in house technical architect, as I am curious about a few other things:

In your experience, do consultants - working in either engineering companies or contractor side - have better work / life balance compared to technical architects in traditional architecture practice?

I also wish to understand where the main stress factors of this line of work lie and how different they are to the ones in architecture. Is the main stress coming from the liability, the production to timescales or something else?

My understanding is that in architectural practice low project fees guarantee higher stress. Does this also translate to the work in consultancies? Or do consultancies are generally able to negotiate better fees than architects? For instance, is there a standard pricing model for consultants' work to guarantee for example delivering the required quality to X standards? I am was curious about this since EA mentioned that there is more money on that side, but just curious where the money originates from.

Feel free to contribute and please enlighten me in case I am thinking this the wrong way :)

Mar 1, 22 3:50 pm  · 
 · 

I can't say for sure on the work/life balance question, but to address my comment of more money on the consulting side ... the money probably comes from a couple of places. The first might simply be better ability to stick to the contracts. What I mean by that is we architects have a hard time telling the client no. I don't usually see that being a big deal with our consultants. For whatever reason they seem more willing or able to say no, or at least say that's going to be an add service. I think that might stem from having a more defined niche in the industry and in their services where architects like to get their hands into everything even if they shouldn't be. Maybe consultants understand their standard of care better or something, I'm not 100% sure, but I do see a difference.

The second thing might be better ability to articulate the value of the service. I've found it harder to convince firm leaders the value that someone specialized like me brings to them and receive commensurate compensation. Don't get me wrong though, I have been successful in this, but it took finding the right firm with the right leaders. However, on the other hand, if they are looking for outside consultancy, they've already admitted there is a value to the services you're offering and you have a better ability to negotiate the fee to better reflect the value of your service. 

There are probably other aspects to the more money in consultancy question, but I think those are the two main ones I've thought about.

Mar 2, 22 12:52 pm  · 
2  · 
robhaw

I am reviving this thread to ask some supplementary questions about approaching this opportunity and in particular about the compensation. In particular, I am trying to understand how much money someone at my level can get in this line of work. 


I am currently a graduate student at a technical architecture school, so I already have a good theoretical knowledge of facade technology. The interviewer himself acknowledged this during the interview and commented that I have more advanced knowledge than students or graduates he usually interviews. 


I also have about 3 years of experience in architecture internships, so I am not a complete beginner to construction, project delivery and office experience. Still however this will be my first ever position at a facade consultancy and I am wondering how much my value would be in this line of work with my current background. 


I want to clarify that I find this job to be a great opportunity for me, particularly in terms of learning and developing well sought after technical expertise. This I am very grateful for and I don't want to derail the job negotiation by appearing greedy given that I am a junior applicant. 


On the other hand, appropriate compensation is very important to me because I am a mature student (30 yo) and I need to support my self. Also, my past employers have described me as a highly competent person and I therefore have confidence in my value and do not want to work for peanuts, which is usually the case with internship pay. Instead I want to be happy with my salary as I believe this will motivate me further in performing to my optimum ability. 


How would you advise me to approach the salary negotiations so that I receive a satisfactory offer, without however comproming on the aspects I described above? 


Thank you in advance for your time. 

May 29, 22 5:09 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

Rob, saw your shout-out in the unrelated int-des thread.

May 31, 22 11:18 am  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

Not too sure I can add to this tho. Your post, while full of personal goals, is too thin on details. Is this an internship or a full time gig? Where is this company located and what are the terms/compensation offered? Are there set hours or is it as required (ie. overtime expected)? All need to be considered, obviously. 

I've worked with several building envelop consultants and envelop design/contractor firms and they are not the same breed. The consultants are typically PHDs who advise on technical items and performance and will work with us on the finer details and material selection. They will also set up testing where required. Envelop contractors are usually in-house drafting staff that pump out shop drawings on a as-needed basis. Actual knowledge of envelop design is not as important as drafting speed and efficiency using pre-existing systems/parts/details/etc to suit the architect's design.

...but we've worked with some more bespoke type envelope contractors who come in during early design phases and help design the building along with the rest of the team (as opposed to figuring things out after arch drawings are done). If you're going the envelope way, make sure the office you're applying to is one of the latter.

May 31, 22 11:27 am  · 
1  · 
arhiarhi design group

interesting

Jun 19, 22 1:48 am  · 
 · 

Block this user


Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: