your personal architect

Architectural Solutions to Human Problems

Sometimes I Wish People Didn’t Need Me

I was with a client today, doing the pre-drywall inspection on their house that’s under construction. I was doing a casual punchlist, they were double-checking that the house had their selected options, the construction supervisor was making sure that everything was right so that he can move on to County inspections.

I found that I was doing more explanation than observation during the process to reassure my client that what he’s seeing is normal and acceptable. But as I was leaving I was thinking that this house, which is being built pretty well and conscientiously, is still pretty crappy compared to what people are doing with Passive House or other advanced systems. It’s still just a code minimum house. And that’s a difficult thing to convey–that this house, for all it’s expense–is not state of the art.

Now I wasn’t hired to design the house – it’s a stock plan from the developer. I was hired to hold their hands through this, admittedly, scary experience. And it is scary, because they are putting a lot of money into this, and really trusting that everyone involved won’t screw them. So I’m more like that big guy in gangster movies who spends most of the time just looking big and scary.

But here’s the thing: I don’t like that this is a scary process that they need help with. It would be so easy for the builder and the salesperson and the inspector and everyone to be focusing on making the experience a good one for the buyers. Everyone but them does this all day long, and so they use jargon, and they rush through things, and in general set up an expectation that they (the customer) is in the way of them doing their job. And that feels wrong to me, and I wish that there were something that I could do.

Maybe I’ll write a blog post …

6 Comments»

  hedra wrote @

Yeah. It is ‘just a house’ and therefore not different enough to shake the teams out of their rut. Funny how much your job and mine intersect – not that I am the big guy, but that people ‘just trying to get the job done, to standards and on time’ are not also willing to step back, innovate in areas that cost little, or develop a conversation about the job and process with the client. It takes constant engagement to develop that mindset. We’ve got a fair bit on my teams, but I want to see it more, embedded, constant, until it stops being scary for them, and they stop making it scary for the client.

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  Ankit Jain wrote @

Hi Will,

I am very disappointed that you felt the need to call my home “crappy”.

You were not our designer or architecht and you are entitled to your opinion and post it wherever you want. But to squarely relate the situation the fact is that even if the realtor spoke in my language i still would have paid you simply because i do not understand the basic market. And in all fairness, yes, the realtor should have given the info but your services weren’t free either, no matter how small you think they were.

Infact, having worked as a consultant myself, i feel you are the only vendor who charges for giving a quote 🙂

Anyways, you find my home design “crappy” and I find this extremely offensive that I paid you for not telling me and writing about it. And yeah based of what????

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  yourpersonalarchitect wrote @

I had just gotten back from the AIA convention where we were looking at industry-leading approaches to how we build houses and what our goals are beyond providing residences. The current code that everyone is using can’t reach that level and that is disappointing. Everyone deserves these high performing houses, but they aren’t in the market yet.

I appreciate that you sought my expertise and knowledge to help you out, and I realize that I’ve damaged that relationship, and for that I am truly sorry. It’s not the design of the home that I have issue with, or even the construction. I was trying to express my feelings about the home building industry, and the way that you, the customer, isn’t the primary focus. Everything I said during our visit is true – your house is being built better than many.

I want the best house possible for you, and you are getting a good house, and it’s the difference between those two that I am reacting to.

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  hedra wrote @

Yeah, I think I read that differently, Ankit. Probably because Will and I have these conversations constantly. There are things that can be done, and even should be done because they cost little or even no more than the standard, but either the code hasn’t caught up to them, or the teams don’t know about them. And then only a few people do them, and the knowledge doesn’t spread outside little pockets, and… the rest of the world carries on like innovation never happened.

Not sure if I read your point right, but if I do, your underlying point is also relevant – sometimes the client has no interest in or need for the innovative, leading edge version. A well designed and well built standard application is sometimes really all the client truly wants.

BAs know this, right? A good client knows what they want, and doesn’t ask for more than what they really want. For those clients, we get stuck between providing what the client wants, and wanting them to have something that is really cool and useful without additional costs. Realities intervene – we may not have developers who know that next valuable thing, or we may be too far in, but knowing it is available and not being able to do it, kinda sucks. The on-the-ground version of home design and construction is several versions behind the newest releases, and still thinks those things are in beta.

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  hedra wrote @

(And QA would know it, too – I think in this case, Will is more QA …)

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  Ankit wrote @

I understand you sharing your knowledge with the world on what is that ‘vision of heaven’ that everyone should strive to achieve, including builders. And am sure more details will be required for you to compare and comment on what is best suited for each customer. My dislike was only on the comparison portion of the note which I believe could have been represented differently. But that being said, I am fairly confident on what we are getting and its value for money vs what all can be done out there in the world.

Hedra – No, that is not the point I was making. I don’t think customer is averse to listening to new innovations. Educating the customer is always the best thing to do, but how you educate does make a difference. Who other than you can better understand the need of appropriate communication and how to handle the customers (delivering right message at right time). Being a customer, I can assure you that the above mentioned way was not the best way here. Also it would not be fair to compare this with IT industry since this is a consumer driven industry vs a IT being more of a corporate industry. There are different level of emotions and personal quotient attached in a house then presenting the state of art IT infrastructure to a business or IT ‘sponsor’.

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