The construction worker hates the architect....true???


I dont know about the rest of you but I have had some questionable experiences with blue collar folk that actually build the ideas we create (or will create/ or at least be a part of creating).

I told a carpenter of 40 years I was going for my masters in Architecture
He responds: "you really want to be one of those guys that think they know everything, but really dont know shit?"

My fiance's dad (superintendant) "more architects are the last thing we need."

"An engineer knows everything about something, an architect knows nothing about everything." construction manager

I worked for an electrician for 6 months: his quote: "you better not be one of those architects (99%) that forgets your ideas must be built by real people"

what are your thoughts?

May 21, 07 11:38 pm

I work for contractors...they ALL hate architects (and make fun of me- even though I'm not an Architect). That's ok though, a lot of architects hate most contractors.

Everyone hates the engineers.

May 21, 07 11:50 pm

less lions in the perspectives of the hyena is good.

we are hired by the client to check on the hyena.

May 21, 07 11:56 pm

yeah, they do. I used to work for a GC, figuring out the problems with the sets and generating RFI's. Somehow, the better the work I did, the less they thought of architects over there. I don't know how many times I heard, "Yeah, well how come these guys are getting paid so much, when I've got a kid in here that can pick their drawings to pieces?"

May 21, 07 11:57 pm

oldforgey> tell the old som guy to install another net next to it, same size same colour and by "offsetting the grid", may looks cool!! haha...

May 22, 07 1:12 am

i hate construction workers...they all fuck up my beautiful vision with their blue collar lack of skill

May 22, 07 2:49 am

working with contractors is like working with anyone else (professors, peers, clients, etc): it's about building relationships.

you build a relationship of mutual respect and leave behind statements like, 'blue collar folk that actually build the ideas we create, and you'll be much better off.

most of the contractors with whom i work were trained as professionals. most make more money than me. many understand the implications of our drawings better than we do. some - once a relationship is established - will work hard with you to figure out how to get to the result that you wanted, but didn't quite draw.

leave the us/them right here. it won't do anything but make your job harder. treat your contractors as partners that are necessary in getting your project built as well as it can be built.

May 22, 07 7:36 am

steven is right... like it or not, the contractor and his/her subcontractors are part of the team that will deliver a project... if you, as an architect, actually know what you are doing and detail a project correctly so that it can actually be built, then for the most part the contractors won't give you a hard time... if you design an unbuildable detail and then argue with the guys about how they should build it, then they're gonna give you shit... as steven alluded to, with your "blue collar folk" comment you are already headed in the wrong direction... most project managers at good general contractors/construction managers are college educated... and most good tradesmen go through a long period as an apprentice before they are going to be running a crew... at least early in your career, these guys all know a hell of a lot more about putting a building together than you do... so treat them with respect and try to learn something whenever you are on a construction site... then take that new found knowledge back to the office and put it into your drawings...

...also, make sure that you know how to count by 8 so that you make your stuff hit masonry dimensions...

May 22, 07 9:00 am

right on Steven!

I personally have a very good relationship with most of the Contractors I work with and have gone out for beers with many of them.

There are many factors that go along with the mutal respect. One is to understand that most of these guys know what they are talking about, another is not to throw them under the bus if they make a mistake (take them on the side and not infront of the owner) and a third is to stand up for yourself in a non-insulting mannar. (which they respect) The quality of your drawings also plays into it, if you produce incorrect, or incomplete drawings there is no way the contractor will ever respect your opinions. Listen to the contractor and consider their ideas, sometimes you will find a better way.

it may also depend on the type of project / firm - i work in a mid size firm on mid-sized projects (up to around 8mil) any larger than that (firm size and project size) may be a completely different dynamic

May 22, 07 9:01 am

ditto on that. i've worked with some great contractors who really appreciated my input, because i always took the time to listen to their view on aspects of the job. that's not to say they will always know the best way something should be done given the overall design or ambitions of the project, but they do need to be viewed as partners.
cln1, having worked in some larger offices and on larger projects...usually the contruction managers on larger projects will have quite a bit of their staff trained as architects, especially in their exterior envelope teams...since exteriors are so detail oriented and technically again, they will respect you if you are thoughtful and intelligent in how you design and conduct yourself.

May 22, 07 9:11 am

Trust me guys/ gals I am not looking down on contractors/ construction workers by using the term "blue collar folk". I know plenty of them are college educated and intelligent. I worked in construction industry for over 2 1/2 years and met a ton of people like that. My dad has worked at home depot since i can remember....etc..etc...
As I stated above one of my biggest critics is my soon to be father in law. So I can tell you am not turning up my nose at them.

Aside from that my experiences have been along the lines of what you all have stated.

The contractor respects the architect that truly understands the building industry.

May 22, 07 10:31 am

The retired carpenter of 40 yrs I mentioned above also stated:

"It should be a requirement for an Architect to spend at least 6 months working in each building trade: Carpentry, plumbing, electrician, mason....etc"

It seems like a good idea in theory but I dont know about all of you I think my 7- 1/2 years of college and then min 3yrs interning for peanuts are enough for me.

May 22, 07 10:34 am

I think the carpenter is partly right. Architects should understand how things work in the field.

More often than not, though, bitching about architects comes from being sticklers about design. We don't always want to cut corners or do things in the quick and sloppy way.

For instance, I've design a bartop that has a thick epoxy finish that needs to run over an eased edge and down a vertical part. The fabricator is having a hellish time doing this evenly, and keeps calling to bitch about it (45 minutes yesterday.) But that's the design! Should I change the design just because it's hard for him? It was in the bid package, they knew it was coming.

He keeps suggesting changes to the design that would make his job easier, but make the design less interesting (bolt two pieces of pre-epoxied wood together, for instance.)

So...50% of it comes from architects not understanding how things work in the field. But 50% comes from tradespeople being irritated that architects uphold specific high standards.

May 22, 07 11:15 am

But, absolutely, respecting these people is crucial. A good, mutual relationship with a contractor will always result in a better project.

May 22, 07 11:17 am

where I went to school, we were refused credit for classes that we took in the construction management school because they were not 'intellectual and critical' enough for the rigours of architecture school...

all those students know how to put buildings together better, and are making more $$$ than us architects...

May 22, 07 12:16 pm

agreed that understanding field conditions are the key to the contractor's heart. the best drawings and details aren't necessarily the ones that include every screw, block or stud. sometimes those drawings just smack of a smart-aleck architect, and can inflate your bids. the best drawings are the one's that reflect an understanding of construction sequencing, whether there is enough space to get the tool needed into the job, the number of workers required to move materials, etc. you can learn a lot by sitting down with a good gc and a handful of different colored highlighters...

working on high-end residential work in new york, i've encountered several gc's and tradesmen who were brilliant. ivy-league grads...even one phd. lots of artists who realize that they're more interested in craft than 'art'...

May 22, 07 12:25 pm

i took a CM class last fall to get more vast knowledge, yet i'm an architectural student. the whole time the teacher would tell "those freakin' architect" stories, i'd raise my hand and argue with her though. gave that shit right back.

May 22, 07 12:26 pm
Chili Davis

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised my friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man below says: "Yes you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field between 40 & 41 degrees latitude and 120 and 124 degrees West longitude."

"You must be an Architect," says the balloonist.

"I am" replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well" says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's of absolutely no use to me and I still don't know where I am."

The man below says, "You must be a contractor."
"Well yes" replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well", says the man, "You don't know where you are or where you're going. You've made a promise that you can't keep, but now you expect me to solve your problem. You're in the same position as you were before we met, but now it's my fault."

May 22, 07 12:27 pm

ha ha ha, nice one chili.

so, are there any archinectors out there who are architects and have their contractor's license?

May 22, 07 12:34 pm
Chili Davis

This one is aimed more at clients...

Dear Mr Architect,

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion.

My house should have between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has.

I advise you to run up and look at my neighbor's house he constructed last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the final cost.

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

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

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.
PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.

May 22, 07 12:40 pm

hey what does it take to get the contractor license anyway???

May 22, 07 12:52 pm

there are tests you can take to get a contractors license, but it is not necessarily required. I have my undergrad degree in construction management and was a project manager at a general contractor. no license to do so, but degree was required. no working towards masters of architecture.
i highly recommend any student of architecture to at least do an internship in construction-it will open your eyes.

May 22, 07 2:05 pm

I've spent the last year building my own house acting as the GC and love the experience of working through issues with the trades. i'm pretty experienced already, having built a number of homes but I doubt many on this web site has asked and discussed the process the drywaller prefers to lay up the board, the mud, the tape and quality of the board products pros and cons, preference for air flow vs. heat. These guys care about their work and understanding what is good and the sequence to make it right is way more complicated than writing on teh interior finish schedule "GWB" . My example is just one trade but they all have techniques and skills which will only make you a better Architect. Also no that no two tile setters like having wonderboard instaled the same way, who knew? I second the comments about spending time on a job site it is a great learning experience, The trades don't hate us we just don't understand their job and what it takes to acheive the end product we all desire.

May 22, 07 2:43 pm
some person

I'm having one hell of a time with construction administration right now. Everyone on the team gets along on a personal level, but it's a much different story when push comes to shove, when mistakes are made, when things get behind schedule.

We can theorize how things SHOULD happen during construction, but I'm having difficulties where the rubber hits the road. I mean, who doesn't want to go into a construction project with the best intentions in mind?

On another note, good point, farwest1:

For instance, I've design a bartop that has a thick epoxy finish that needs to run over an eased edge and down a vertical part. The fabricator is having a hellish time doing this evenly, and keeps calling to bitch about it (45 minutes yesterday.) But that's the design! Should I change the design just because it's hard for him? It was in the bid package, they knew it was coming.

Does anyone else feel as though their drawings are treated as "suggestions" rather than "the contract?" Perhaps this is the difference of working with a typically design-build contractor on a traditional design-bid-build project?

May 22, 07 10:27 pm

Sure he bid the job and maybe the one detail is more work than he expected, but maybe you could discuss the intent of the design for the bar and perhpas he has a better suggestion on how to acheive the end result, I am not saying its his fault or yours but rather that no matter how you do the work it may end up looking shitty. The end result just might not be as easy to attain as you thought. Therefore a better solution might exist.

May 23, 07 12:50 am
le bossman

i live in a world of design-build. this is much more nebulous for me.

May 23, 07 10:19 am

today...I HATE the architect!!!!

stop trying to blame us for delaying the project when we can't do our work cause you haven't done your work. Plus, you lying SOB, you signed off on the, if you changed your mind about a detail AFTER THE FACT, don't try to blame us as if you didn't write the spec AND SIGN OFF ON IT! I have your signature that says "NO EXCEPTIONS TAKEN" on my shop drawings.

If you made a mistake and something needs to be changed...we'll work with you...but, PLEASE, don't blame me for your mistake?!?!

May 23, 07 1:51 pm

when you go to the jobsite to see that the contractor fucked up the $200,000 concrete job....

May 23, 07 5:18 pm

After getting a few years under my belt and more recently doing a lot more CA work, I'm getting sick of architects sticking their heads in the sand and saying, "You (the contractor/sub) priced and bid the project, now build it per the design intent in the drawings/spec!!!"

I've noticed that this attitude is even more prevalent among young and naive designers (and admittedly I used to be one). While they may've drawn a beautiful and elegant detail that completely rocks in the VIZ rendering, it may also be very costly and time consuming from a constructability standpoint. This is what angers contractors and triggers the "college puke architect that doesn't know how buildings happen" response. Where we (architects) see beauty and simplicity, they see added cost, time delays, and fussiness.

I totally agree with what's been said above about the client, architect, consultants, and contractor being on the same page when it comes to project delivery and expectations. Despite being cliched, the old saying that any project can only have two (not all) of the following three: quality, cost, or speed is true. Everyone needs to maintain some flexibility. Holding a gun to the contractors head to hit the documents is just going to cause problems later on. If a contractor really wants to, they can find gaping holes in your documents (no matter how bulletproof you think they are) and cause more headaches - they even have seminars on how to do this!!!

To be fair to contractors and subs, the market is crazy right now and they're scrambling to put bids together for multiple projects. They don't have the time to scrutinize your drawings or catch every detail or nuance and will pad their bid number to cover themselves. Things will get missed - roll with it.

May 23, 07 6:00 pm
On the fence

I agree, if they do not have the time to put a proper bid together, yet still do manage a bid, I would make sure they ate any discrepancy if they won.


I had a contractor call me yesterday and tell me it was a pleasure working with us...(mr and mrs). He is the brother of our client, so it was a very nice call to receive, cause you know he did it because we came thru for him when he needed it. His brother has also thanked us a number of times and even remembered us in the press, which is the kind of advertising you can't pay for.

May 23, 07 11:40 pm

All of this also depends on the kind of contractor you have. A few years ago, I worked with a contractor who had only done Home Depots and chinese restaurants in malls. Our job was a small high end public building. He was a nightmare to work with -- a real "beat to fit, paint to match" kind of guy. No matter what we did, he tried to crapify it, substitute cheaper materials, cheaper work.

On the other hand, I saw the epoxied bartops I mentioned earlier yesterday. They're absolutely stunning. The subcontractor is really proud of the job he did, even if it took hm a long time and he bitched the whole way. Sure it was tough, but he exceeded our expecations.

I've heard from people who have worked with contractors in Germany, Switzerland, and Japan. There, precision seems to govern. Over here, it's all about cost (which also equals time.) And that's reflected to some extend in the quality of the average U.S. building.

No drawing set can cover any eventuality, but I feel that some contractors don't understand this. Every time an RFI goes through, they see lost dollars, and they blame the architect. We always have a note on our drawings that says something like "these drawings will not be complete in every detail. If there are questions, please consult the architect." That's basically a way of saying, hey, there will be discrepancies. It's part of the job, it always happens, so go easy on the architect - roll with it.

May 24, 07 10:49 am

p.s. I really wish this animosity didn't exist. I genuinely like contractors, I like working wih them, I like learning from them. But I don't think this feeling goes both ways. On many job I've been on, toward the end, the contractor devolves into grumbling and bitching. "College-educated puke," as someone said earlier. That's the mentality, and a lot of the problem. Contractors don't always see architects' strengths or respect our role (and its inherent limitations -- like not being able to forsee every problem in a 2D drawing.)

May 24, 07 10:59 am

i worked a couple of summers during school as an apprentice ironworker, mostly busting re-bar.

damn hard work - but, it really gave me an appreciation of what's required to erect a building. also taught me how to use an acetylene torch.

man, those guys could swear and, without doubt, they told the dirtiest jokes and stories I've ever heard. and yeah, they didn't have much use for either architects or engineers - or any other trade, for that matter.

budweiser, they liked.

May 24, 07 11:02 am

i think that a lot of architects don't understand the pressures that general contractors are operating under as well. especially on bigger projects, they are often forced to work with subcontractors they would rather really not be working with because to get the project in budget (at the owner's insistence), some guy in the estimating department selected the bid from BillyGlass rather than Kawneer, etc. The contractor might much rather work with Kone Elevators, but Thyseen-Krup always gets their foot in the door and screws everything up. its just like that pesky mechanical engineer you always get stuck working with on a project...sure there are much better engineer's to work with, but they charage more, too....

as for whoever was complaining about quality on the epoxy bartop, if the expectations are made clear early on, you'll avoid these kind of arguments later. Burying something in a specification and then holding the tradesman to it will not get you quality work, just as architect's can't be expected to catch things buried in the shop drawing. If the contractor draws attention on a shop drawing with questions they have on specific items, I can usually address them, but on an unreviewed shop drawing, I'll certainly miss important items. Likewise, being explicit about how you want work performed when it is a non-standard practice is essential. Maybe the quality you want on this bartop is unattainable. An if you know that it IS attainable...then work with someone you know will get you what you want, not the low bidder.

May 24, 07 11:46 am

design/build is the way to go..... can change stuff when you want and dont have to get hassled for it....

to get your builders license is easy....... the test was 4 hours but took me 30 minutes and is on computer....

easy test if you spend 1 day in home depot..really.... basic questions such as stud spacing/square footage/ squares for roofing/cubic volumn....

really easy..... i got there late and left early....haha...


May 24, 07 11:57 am
Ms Beary

I'm working with a contractor who hates everybody. He calls me to ask about something but his potty mouth goes off on the structural engineer or the electrican or whatever. I respond with stuff like, "mm, oh. he did? oh, I see. humm, that doesn't sound good."

Something it makes me think that when this guy talks to the electrician or framer, he is badmouthing me! you think? nah.

otherwise I get along extremely well with contractors (it must be my blue-collar roots, not sure if I'm kidding there or not). I have had 2 subs gush compliments to me on my design and tell me it was a lot of fun to work on my project! They both far exceeded my expectations with their craft as well! One supplier called me JUST to tell me that he thought my drawings were among the best he's seen. DO let down your ego and listen! It works wonders!

May 24, 07 2:22 pm

strawbeary - you can BET MONEY he has the same things to say about you (and worse) but that's just because he is an A**hole - and they're not all that way (as you know)...

i don't know what your "blue collar roots" are, but i bet they're growing out! ahaha - really though - i'll bet they "recognize" something in you or your personality (way of approaching them) that they find comforting and non-threatening and that could very well be because of your upbringing.

it's different for guys, too...i worked for almost a decade as a carpenter - believe me, i can shoot the sh*t on a jobsite, but when one isn't wearing a tool belt the measure of respect goes way down, and they are quick to take offense at a joke that would normally come across as harmless trash-talking - i've learned that the hard way during my infant professional career.

i look forward to getting into design-build myself in the not too distant future, i hope...


May 24, 07 4:03 pm

If you've actually been on the building side you get serious street-cred (or construction-cred in this case) with contractors.

I worked as a carpenter for a little while after office burn-out and I heard all about how out of touch architects are with construction and how unusual it was for an architect to actually be on a site pounding nails...

Typically we reinforce the negative stereotype they have of architects; a sissy diletante who has no expertise in construction yet looks down their nose at the people who do.

May 24, 07 4:35 pm

hahahah real education is gained in the field thru experience

would be nice if everybody came up how i did but they haven't, i am unique.

May 24, 07 6:14 pm

How unique are you, Jonas? Scale of 1 to 10.

May 24, 07 6:23 pm

i couldn't judge as judgment is the lowest form of human intelligence

but that everybody is a 1 makes sense as we are all individuals and that we are all 10s makes sense too because not one need i have you don't

May 24, 07 6:27 pm

I think you are a perfect snowflake.

May 24, 07 6:29 pm

basic intrinsic needs/values/wants/aspirations/values
NOT the strategies to much such. and 'you' not being limited to human life either.

CONNECTION acceptance affection appreciation belonging cooperation communication closeness community companionship compassion consideration consistency empathy inclusion intimacy love mutuality nurturing respect/self-respect safety security stability support to know and be known to see and be seen to understand and be understood trust warmth
HONESTY authenticity integrity presence
PLAY joy humor
PEACE beauty communion ease equality harmony inspiration order
PHYSICAL WELL-BEING air food movement/exercise rest/sleep sexual expression safety shelter touch water
MEANING awareness celebration of life challenge clarity competence consciousness contribution creativity discovery efficacy effectiveness growth hope learning mourning participation purpose self-expression stimulation to matter understanding
AUTONOMY choice freedom independence space spontaneity
May 24, 07 6:29 pm

much = meet

May 24, 07 6:29 pm


which bring us back to the thread.

there was an interesting article in the SF chronicle a while back about what all the big strapping workers on job sites have in their lunch boxes.

interesting, that is, if you give a damn what carpenters and drywallers and sheetmetal benders all eat for lunch.

lots of fruit.

leftover pasta.

one guy was a vegetarian.

can you imagine being the only vegetarian on a jobsite?

oh the jokes that guy must endure.

"hey tofu boy. when you're done eating your salad, you think you can help us build this thing?"

May 24, 07 6:35 pm

The only vegetarian construction worker in SF must be the one from the Village People!!!

May 24, 07 6:44 pm

The stereotype is that construction workers are crude and tough, but I've worked with a number who were actually very calm and polite, and took an almost zen-like approach to what they were doing. Ex-hippies with a yen for craft.

At the high school I went to, a bunch of the English faculty spent their summers working carpentry. One of them was a poet on the side, one was a novelist (now semi-famous), one taught American history, but in the summer they were finish carpenters.

May 24, 07 6:48 pm

i have a good friend who is a GC and has a degree in asian philosophy and loves art and reading poetry.

May 24, 07 6:51 pm

i have been a vegetarian all my life and i can outwork any meat eater hands down. no matter if it is hard labor or mind work or sports

not only is meat murder its all the wrong hormones overdose of protein and now scientifically prove to cause cancer

meat is murder

try some quinoa.

tufo is full of estrogen, shrinks the brain (in a Japanese study) and can't be a raw food, the foods that are the most healthy for the human body. I was walking after breaking both legs in 1/2 after 2 months from a 100% raw food diet, the same kind of diet i had until i was 7 y.o.

most Olympic athletes when training eat raw (living food) as the enzymes are the fastest power transfer.

oh and meat causes inflammation of the intestines/gut.. maybe you have seen this effect?

May 24, 07 6:59 pm

I totally agree with the zen-like craftsman, Have a guy on my site right now whose description of tolerance for cutting posts and beams to fit is;

- to draw a line in the wood with a ballpoint pen and then cut it down the middle, try it...its f__king tough, he does it time after time.. craftsmanship like that......priceless.

before a guy steps on site to work I've learned to ask to look at his carpenter's pencil... to check how sharp it is, try that too, its a pretty good indication of how good a carpenter he'll be.

May 24, 07 7:04 pm

I'm not a hardcore meat eater myself, but here's one for you, Jonas:

May 24, 07 7:14 pm

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