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Archiblog Knowledgebase

Following on from the first instalment of my comments on Vitruvius, the following demonstrates just one aspect of the importance of learning. At school over 40 years ago the beginnings of computing were interesting us as sixth formers and Maths lessons included learning BASIC. Some teachers were very 'anti' but most understood that times were changing. On getting to University to study Architecture computers were banned and all designs were done with pencil and paper, pen and ink, on drawing boards. During the 6 year course the engineering department moved from one computer fro 5 Universities to each department in each University having a room full of Commodore PET computers for student use, except the School of Architecture. One Architecture student even chose to write a simple CAD programme for his final project but was failed because of it 🙁

Upon entering the World of work, within a couple of years I was using AutoCad R2 but most practices were still drawing board based. By the early 1990s I was implementing 3D CAD to the practice I was working for, but practices were still using 2D CAD and drawing boards. I have now been using full BIM as it develops for a decade using Vectorworks but still happen across practices using 2D CAD and even drawing boards. The following illustration is VERY appropriate 🙂

There is nothing wrong with using 3D CAD, 2D CAD, or drawing boards except the lack of productivity: simple tools, draughting machines, 2D CAD, SketchUp, 3D CAD, early proprietary BIM (Revit and early ArchiCAD), OpenBIM (ArchiCAD and Vectorworks). Whilst a £10 million project is within my capabilities as a team of one using Vectorworks that would be impossible using 2D CAD or a drawing board.

I have been fascinated by the writings of the Roman Vitruvius (well the translations) for 40 years and they appear to be becoming more and more relevant:

In lay terms he is saying that an architect must be a thinker and a doer, the thinking informs the doing and vice versa.

Here, centuries before the invention of technicians and technologists, Vitruvius is pointing out that the danger of knowing how to construct without the scholarship of architecture is as bad as the danger of being an artist without the knowledge of construction. The architect is only ever an architect when he/she is a scholar who knows how to build. Which is as true today as in the Roman era.

Now it gets a bit more specific. An architect needs to be an all-round polymath educated in the Arts and Sciences. In modern terms always learning too. The purpose of professional CPD.

If there is interest I will work my way through the 319 pages of the "Ten Books on Architecture". In fact, as it is interesting to me, I might just do it anyway 🙂

 

"I don't know much about X, but I know what I like" is a phrase much used by the general public in discussing everything from clothes to music including architecture, unfortunately. But the elements of 'fashion' and 'style' have nothing to do with whether the subject of the vitriol is well designed or not. It is that issue that people have difficulty with. The bus station in Northampton was demolished because it's style was out of fashion not because it was badly designed. All it needed was a clean and the lights turning on and updated to 'daylight' LEDs! Victorian buildings, as a style, were much derided in the 1960s for much the same reason, whist now even poor examples are retained because fashion has changed back (as it does, in cycles).

Buildings today are considered appealing if designed in a 'Victorian' or a 'Classical' style but they are often badly designed and dysfunctional. Prince Charle's Poundbury 'works' as a well designed place but not for the reason he thinks it does, the 'classical' styling. It 'works' because it is laid out for humans not vehicles and is therefore a pleasure to walk through. Recently a house designed by a non-architect was much praised and exhibited for it's 'classical' styling yet was a bad design for many practical reasons: Every toilet was mounted on an internal wall leading to unpleasant sound transmission and the bathroom window (for stylistically reasons, presumably) was a large clear glazed window facing the street etc. Why? there are countless similarly silly errors in non-architect designed homes around the Country. Why?

Many Planning Committees are also unable to distinguish between good design (a planning matter) and mere style (NOT a planning matter). Why?

I am of an age that my tutors and lecturers were heros of Brutalist Architecture which we, sort of, fought back against. But with the benefit of hindsight I can now see that whilst 'out of fashion' in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, many examples were actually well designed. Robin Hood Gardens and Alexander Road in London for example. in fact they were very well designed just neglected, under maintained and vandalised. Patrick Hodgkinson's (my tutor) Brunswick Terrace, after he was allowed to finish and complete it as intended recently before he died, is now a wonderful piece of Architecture, the fact that it was well designed from the start proves that.

A building has to be designed well for a life that may last centuries, fashion and style are irrelevant in the long run. Demolishing a building just because it is not liked is unsustainable. Demolishing a building because it is badly designed, as long as it is being replaced by a well designed one, is on the other hand sustainable.

One of the recurring themes with projects is the "Justa" project. Client phones up with "I'd like some plans drawn for a project, It is just a small extension". It happens on bigger projects too. They want an extension, and it follows this chain of events:

  1. phone a builder (not FMB or CIOB or NHBC registered.
  2. who phones up an 'architect' they know (nearly always nothing of the sort but cheap) to draw something up they can build.
  3. they give you the client a price.
  4. they submit for planning and it gets refused.
  5. they redraw and resubmit, eventually it gets approved once they've worn the planning officer down.
  6. the cost to you goes up.
  7. they draw up the construction information, submit for a Building Notice and start work.
  8. the building officer is unhappy with some of the work.
  9. they rebuilt to the BCO's advice.
  10. the cost to you goes up again.
  11. you visit site and are not building what you wanted.
  12. they rebuild to what you wanted.
  13. the cost to you goes up again.
  14. the building is completed and you discover although it is what you said you wanted it turns out not to be what you need.
  15. errors in the building appear but you had no fair building contract and there is no building warranty.
  16. the cost of repairs has to be paid for by you as the insurers are unhappy with the fact they were not consulted.

It might not all happen but that might sound familiar and I have simplified the process in the diagram below:

However, if you appoint an architect (the ONLY full list of them is at http://www.arb.org.uk) such as KR.eativ: Architects Ltd. (the earlier the better, and way before even thinking about a builder) we will assess your 'needs' from your 'wants' and design a building that meets your budget (on a cost per sq.m basis). We then submit only sufficient information that the planners and building regulations inspector need to make a decision. Once we have the approvals we will draw up all the information that the contractor needs to price and construct the building with the schedules and specifications they need. We then draw up a FAIR Building Contract (RIBA or JCT) between you and the builder where we are the contract administrator and certify progress, payment, and completion etc checking that the building is progressing in accordance with the drawings. ALL communication between you and the builder regarding the project is through us as CA and architect to ensure nothing changes that has a serious 'knock on' effect or pushes the scheme over the agreed budget without your approval.

By adding information sequentially, using BIM the prototype we are building in 'cyberspace', it can be used to test lighting, energy performance, etc as the design develops minimising wasting time. It does not make sense to decide to early that the kitchen has to be an x,y,z as a generic layout is a much as you need for the local authority approvals. and you can change you mind whether it is going to be x,y,z or a,b,c until we go out to tender saving potential wasted time and effort. But you do need to tell the contractor at tender stage where all the power sockets are, their height, material and colour etc. The earlier you can decide any energy saving devices you require (generically) the better the thermal performance will be. Likewise it is useful to know that you will need a charging point for an electric vehicle early on, but the fact that it will be a Tesla Model 12345 can be decided later.

I have been designing buildings and working on existing and listed ones for 40 years now, and as KR.eativ: Architects Ltd I've been using the latest 'BIM' software for a decade as it is the most efficient and accurate way of working.

There has been much talk and media concern about the number of jobs that will be lost in the coming years through the AI revolution. The good news is that architects are way down the list at only a 2% likelihood

However, technical staff are not going to be as lucky. A situation I have forecast for many years:

There is a problem though. Because the research was conducted in the the USA, where architects require a similar level of knowledge, skills, education and experience as here in the UK, the idiots (for the BBC) who translated that research into English failed to realise/understand that Chartered Architectural Technologists (there are not, and no need for, any in the USA) are NOT architects, or as qualified, and therefore out of ignorance included them in the chart as architects at No.338 as less than 2% likely to be automated:

Any Chartered Architectural Technologist would, currently, need to re-qualifiy from the beginning if they wanted to be an architect. They should therefore obviously be listed a lot nearer technicians with whom they share educational qualifications, knowledge and skills:

My advice to anybody who has just received their "A" results, or about to start on "A" levels, who wants a career 'in architecture' that the only career 'in architecture' with a future is that of architect. If you don't fancy University or are not 'academically' minded there are both part-time and apprenticeship course routes into the profession.

It is newsletter time again:

newsletter-1807-July

There are also lots of free PDFs accessible through the website and if you book a free 20 minute 'Ask and Expert' call to get you started in the right direction.

As the practice has a window of opportunity, for using the services of my RIBA Chartered Practice, opening up we are especially looking for town centre commercial projects to get it regenerated as the retail sector recedes: offices, residential, galleries, and workshops etc. Co-working spaces are very popular for small start-up businesses. As can be seen below I have had a varied experience that includes listed buildings.

The UK Government has released a paper "Industrial Strategy - Construction Sector Deal" that states the following 'people' policies":

  • Establish a technical education system that rivals the best in the world to stand alongside our world- class higher education system - There already was one 40 years ago that successive governments, of all parties, CHOSE to destroy.
  • Invest an additional £406m in maths, digital and technical education, helping to address the shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills - Ditto and those that benefitted 40 years ago are now stupidly under-employed.
  • Create a new National Retraining Scheme that supports people to re-skill, beginning with a £64m investment for digital and construction training - Those of us that qualified BEFORE those changes in education do not need retraining as we already have those skills. Most of us have kept up to date with digital technology but are ignored by a younger generation, that do not have the skills, who mistakenly think we do not possess them either.

    construction-sector-deal-print-ready

As a trustee I think it about time I introduced one of a human's oldest skills to the World of the Internet 🙂 We train people in the traditional building skills of stonemasonry and will be celebrating our 50th anniversary later in the year. BUT, and it is a big but, as a charity we are constantly in need of funds to keep going.

Contrary to You Tube's insistence we are not in Peterborough, and never have been, but based in the small village of Orton near Kettering in Northamptonshire. We do have a website http://www.ortontrust.org.uk.

In an economic environment where young adults cannot afford housing  and when they can the 'homes' on offer are infeasibly small we need a rethink. There is now a very odd situation in that if you can afford to buy a home, that home is smaller than the public sector could provide those who cannot afford to buy! An equally inequitable situation happens at the other end in that the elderly cannot afford the home-based care they need as the 'Old people's homes' (as they used to be called) are no longer available for many.

There is a solution and that is multi-generational housing. Homes that are big enough to cater for children, parents and grandparents at the same time retaining longer ownership of property and keeping families together (if they get on well enough). Larger homes housing more people uses land more efficiently too in the market towns and villages we have an abundance of in the County. A side effect being that because there is a lesser need to move the property market should slow and regain a bit of balance after decades of opportunistic profiteering. Adding to existing homes to make them more useful to the family can mean a move is unnecessary. Young families staying with parents / grandparents saves on bills and child care costs. Looking after aged parents is very much easier and affordable if they are living with you.

It is a shame that the many larger Victorian villas that are perfect for such a lifestyle are being divided up into increasingly smaller apartments and HMOs. Multi-generational living is more viable now that the historical 'workplace' is being replaced by a dispersed workforce operating from home and communal workspaces where businesses and individuals can work from closer to home meaning commuting can, if we want it to be, a thing of the past.

Having people around all day in homes means energy use can be more efficient as heating up a house from cold at the end of every day uses a lot of energy. Similarly the use of renewable energy and batteries etc become more viable too.

Are there any developers / builders / funders out there in the market place interested in exploring this further as they are in other parts of the Country and World?

If your workplace or home is no longer working for you but you don't want to move:

  • Don't just talk to a builder about an extension or a separate new building. They how to build but not what to build what would be best for you.
  • Non-architects who offer 'architectural services' will 'draw up' what you want, but not necessarily what you need.
  • Your ideas about what you want are also not necessarily what you need.
  • One of the many skills of an architect is to help you determine your needs as the project manager during the pre-planning stage. We offer a cost effective preliminary 'Needs and Options' Report to get that process underway.
  • By discussing possible solutions with you and the other building design professions (chartered engineers and chartered surveyors etc), architects are the project manager during the design stage.
  • By using a 'proper' and formal building contract for the construction the architect administers that contract. The 'project management' of the construction' is always best left to the main contractor as they manage the programme. As contract administrator the architect certifies progress, payment and completion.
  • The architect is therefore the best 'project manager' for a building project, it has been our role since the profession began as 'master builder'

I have frequently advised clients how their money could be much better spent making smaller improvements, reducing the structural cost by increasing the logic of the structure. Extending a building to have the beams within the floor thickness provides pleasant spaces but having a down-stand that supports the floor over from underneath rather than from within can half the cost. Likewise, adding additional space within the attic saves on foundation costs and leaves the garden the same size.

Un-used upper floors in town centres are a wasted resource but if opened up can be let to tenants or sold to increase income. The same is true of vacant industrial units, if the structure is sound simply re-cladding the unit to reduce energy costs and refitting the interior to suit other uses brings them back into use and can start the regeneration of an area. The Yards in Kettering is a very mild version of that but has missed some opportunities, much like most of Kettering 🙂