Session 8: Developing Your Future With-in The Practice

Date: May 5, 2017
Location: District Architecture Center
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Carrie Parker, AIA LEED AP BD+C & Mary-Margaret Stacy, AIA LEED Green Assoc.

Session 8 (Full PDF)
Session 8 Agenda
Session 8 Speakers

When the profession is more inclusive, our clients and communities benefit. A talented group of speakers shared their experiences in working toward a more balanced gender, socio-economic, and culturally diverse profession.

Kathryn Prigmore encouraged scholars to push for more diversity in practice and in leadership roles. Prigmore shared the story of the Reeves Municipal Center designed after the area sat vacant for two decades following the riots of 1968. The design process of the Reeves Municipal Center engaged the community and still hosts vibrant community activity today. “Communities are revitalized when you embrace diversity,” says Prigmore. She highlighted opportunities through the Women in Architecture series, and the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit.

Randy Steiner shared her experience defying coworker expectations working as a female architect in a time when that was rather uncommon. She encouraged scholars to look past our preconceived notions and stereotypes when looking to hire young designers. Steiner has a passion for teaching, a perfect combination of design and psychology. She founded to Coalition of Community College Architecture Programs and advocates for the diverse strengths and passions that community college students bring to the profession.

Dr. Whitney Austin Gray brought the unique perspective of a public health expert studying the effects of buildings on people’s wellbeing. Gray encouraged scholars to get comfortable in spaces where they don’t know the answers, and to push themselves to ask questions of those with varied backgrounds. Gray outlined the importance of prioritizing diversity of thought. She encouraged designers to create buildings that are welcoming to all, stating, “when you design for the minority it benefits everyone.” Gray sees health and wellness as an architecture topic that’s here to stay. She recommended investigating the WELL professional certification as a way to gain more insight on the topic.

Jason Winters shared his innovative approach to practice. As an young architect, he was once told that he’d need to choose between the firm, and family. In an attempt to create a better balance, he started Kezlo group. Kezlo Group sees the firm as including not only its employees, but the families of its employees as well. The firm encourages working remotely and prioritizes work life balance. Winters’ ideas about the changing practice are outlined in the article “Balancing Act: How Firms are Adapting to the Modern Employee.” As adjunct faculty at University of Maryland School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, and the Architecture and Interior Design Department at Anne Arundel Community College, Jason teaches his approach to design process. He enjoys teaching at University of Maryland as a creative outlet, and sees teaching as a great balance to project work in the office. In both school and practice, Winters helps foster a strong diversity of design ideas as well as a diversity of design platforms.

The Internet of Things, and a multitude of apps are combining to automate technical processes in many fields. Brad Lukanic discussed ways this will impact how we practice. Perhaps in the future, applications will calculate code compliance and provide layouts for things like bathrooms and stairs. He encouraged scholars to examine new typologies as workplace and housing models shift. Lukanic recommended that scholars find workplaces willing to let them take on large amounts of responsibility, and take the leap and move on if they weren’t getting what they needed from their current offices.

Carl Elefante, the 2018 AIA President, closed the session with an inspiring discussion on the future of the profession. He encouraged scholars to recognize that it’s design impact that matters, not just the design itself. We must show the value of our designs, and we must value our environment. Life cycle assessment tools are making it easier to evaluate the carbon impact of our proposed buildings and renovations. We must show empathy and work to create healthy built environments for all.

Thank you to CertainTeed Ceilings and Mosa for sponsoring the session.

 

Session 7: Research and Practice

Date: April 7, 2017
Location: Milken Institute School of Public Health
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Marisa Allen, AIA, LEED AP ID+C and Lance Eubanks, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Session 7 (Full PDF)
Session 7 Agenda
Session 7 Speakers

Summary

Research and education are rapidly becoming two of the most crucial differentiators in the hyper-competitive practice of architecture. Firms that successfully integrate research into their practice advance their value to the community and provide a greater value proposition to the clients they serve. These are the core issues explored by Lance Eubanks and Marisa Allen, and furthered by their speakers who discussed strategies for incorporating research into their firm profile, education as a means of maintaining professional relevancy, and the positive social impact of incorporating both research and education to further our collective understanding of the health and wellness of the people who inhabit the built environment.

The first speaker of the afternoon was Michele Russo, the senior director of research at the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Michele’s current work at the AIA focuses on developing and fostering practice-relevant research “to amplify and make more accessible the knowledge and research available from AIA members, universities, and other building industry institutions.” The key tool for this is what the AIA refers to as Building Research Information Knowledgebase, or BRIK. BRIK was developed in 2014 to enable and support the building research knowledgebase, and to act as a central repository for non-biased, professionally reviewed and trusted content. Michele feels strongly that the AIA’s role is to act as facilitators of knowledge and education to increase research literacy with practicing professionals. The AIA accomplishes this by providing research based lectures at the annual Conference on Architecture, it’s web learning portal AIAU, and by forming partnerships with practicing professionals and firms actively engaged in research. Additionally, the AIA has heeded the call from firms to involve the next generation of professionals within the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). To accomplish this the AIA has introduced a new program to bridge the gap between professionals and students called CRIT Scholars, which is a mentorship where students partner with firms to work on a research project

Immediately following Michele was Andrea Love, who is the Director of Building Science and Associate Principal at Payette in Boston. As a prerequisite to her presentation, Marisa and Lance invited the scholars to watch an AIAU webinar entitled Three Firms’ Approach to Integrating Research in Practice, which featured speakers from Sasaki Associates, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, and Payette. The webinar was valuable with respect to providing a thematic framework for the session’s key topics.

Andrea began by describing Payette as a “dynamic, inquisitive studio environment,” where research is led by the Building Science Group and is heavily integrated into the firm’s culture. Payette’s research motivation, or business case is predicated on their desire to be thought leaders in the narrow healthcare architecture market, to provide staff with education and career development opportunities, to design better performing buildings, and to provide a culture where staff is afforded the time and ability to answer recurring questions that come up during design. The research process at Payette creates “partnerships between people that have hair and those who don’t have hair; people who maybe have a lot of knowledge but not a lot of time, with those that have more time but maybe not as much knowledge.”

Currently, Andrea estimates that about 69 of the 140 people, or roughly 40% of the staff are working on research projects, where employees explore a variety of topics, with the majority focusing on energy and building performance issues. The research process at Payette provides employees with billable time and concrete deadlines to foster research when there is a lull on a project. This is reinforced with meetings at predetermined intervals to encourage employees to make progress on their research projects. Key to their research is to target “sharing of findings internally and externally” by speaking at conferences, writing blog posts, and maintaining a robust research page on their website where they can share their findings. Andreas outlined a few examples of research projects on the Payette website, which includes their research on thermal bridging, which was funded by winning the Upjohn Grant in 2012. Other notable projects focused on natural ventilation in healthcare and their 2016 AIA Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Innovation award winning research on glazing and thermal comfort which produced a glazing and winter comfort tool available on their website.

After Andrea spoke, Michele was invited back to the front of the room for a brief question and answer session. Scholars solicited advice from Andrea regarding effective strategies for convincing firm leaders that there is value in research. Andrea indicated that research has yielded value by way of branding and providing a competitive advantage, creating business development opportunities by speaking at conferences, maintaining client relationships, and increasing the quality of work. Liability was raised as a possible issue regarding sharing information; however, Andrea indicated that they classified their published web-based research under the umbrella of the AIA’s definition of “standard of care” and a legal disclaimer which mitigates their risk.

After the panel, the group was addressed by Stephen Chung, who is an architect and principal of his firm, Stephen Chung, Architect, and the creator of the public television series entitled “Cool Spaces! The Best New Architecture.” Stephen opened by positing the following question: “how [can] we as architects… provide value to the community?” This query was born out of his personal journey after the 2007 economic downturn- a drastic rescission that saw about 30% of architects, including Stephen, lose their jobs between 2007-2011. His curiosity led him to investigate how the public perceives architects, what we do, and ultimately to discover how shocking the lack of connection to architects truly is. The architect, Stephen argued, is most often portrayed in popular culture as the “Starchitect,” an elitist professional that’s not in touch with mainstream culture and represents a small fraction of the overall design community. It’s because of this inaccurate portrayal, and the general lack of respect that the profession was receiving, that Stephen found his key message: “architects solve everyday problems.” He made it his mission to educate the public by exploring new vehicles and ultimately discovered that creating a television show would be the best platform to convey his message. After attending acting school and appearing in a few small roles, Stephen pitched various networks and learned that a simple core message, packaged in a repeatable platform was how Cool Spaces! would eventually get on the air with PBS. He ended with the following takeaway: much like the design of a building, “any production is the result of collaboration.”

The scholars were then invited to take a self-guided tour of the venue, the Miliken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University. The building’s meandering main atrium afforded the scholars and speakers the ideal time to enjoy the building and engage in additional conversations that related to the material presented thus far.

After the tour, the scholars had the opportunity to engage in a presentation and a panel discussion comprised of three professionals- Abigail Brown, Susan Piedmont-Palladino, and Karl Feldman. All three are currently involved in a range of research endeavors within the practice of architecture.

Abi, who currently works at Hickok Cole Architects, presented on her firm’s approach to integrated research incubator, iLab. iLab is a program at Hickok Cole Architects that provides “microgrants” to employees who are passionate about pursing research topics outside their normal project workload. Receiving an iLab microgrant involves a rigorous proposal process, whereby the firms’ leadership awards employees billable time to investigate a compelling research topic. Abi was one of the first participants in the program in 2014, when she was awarded the opportunity to study an interest of hers, modular multi-family housing in D.C. This led her to several speaking engagements and opportunities to present her ideas to other like-minded design professionals.

Susan Piedmont-Palladino, who is an architect and the director of Virginia Tech’s Washington/Alexandria Architecture Consortium (WAAC), addressed the group next. Her interest at the WAAC, which is a highly international, globally connected graduate program, is in forms of communication. Specifically, Susan is focused on how we communicate- both in terms of our natural language (speech), and graphical language, which is acquired. Representation and communication is her obsession, and through her research she has found two main types of graphical communication styles, “drawings that draw from the world” and “drawings that draw to the world.” The former, Susan argues, is indicative- and requires an allegiance to truth. The latter, which speaks to the effectiveness of architectural renderings, has an assumed understanding and can make the world different by “enrolling someone in our wishes.”

The last speaker of the afternoon was Karl Feldman of Hinge, who is involved in research in the architectural practice, and more specifically how research can help you grow. Karl contends that research plays an important role in helping answer the questions that are holding you back, and that “even bad news is good news.” By understanding your target audience, a firm that engages in frequent research can act on an objective basis, help focus efforts and resources to be in better alignment with your firm’s niche market. Ultimately this strategy is fundamental to understanding your target audience and building engagement with potential clients by repurposing content to a variety of platforms.

Lastly, the speakers were all invited back to the front of the room for a brief question and answer session. The panelists all agreed that when you’re communicating, whether it’s graphically or verbally, figuring out exactly what you’re trying to say is paramount and requires focus, thought, and discipline. The panelists were then asked about how to build interdisciplinary research efforts within a firm, a concern for many young architects who tend to become “siloed.” Abi was adamant that putting yourself out there and pushing yourself was the key to breaking out of the silo. Related to Abi’s suggestion, Susan left us with perhaps the most compelling take-away of the day, and her area of focus at the WAAC; “we are not training people, we want to educate people to be internally resilient.”

Session 6: Industry Trends

Date: March 3, 2017
Location: The Studio Theater
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Tim Nuanes, AIA, LEED AP BD+C and Clay Jackson, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Session 6 PDF
Session 6 Agenda
Session 6 Speakers

Summary

How is new and emerging technology shaping the profession of architecture? This is the question addressed by Clay Jackson and Tim Nuanes in their seminar for the 2017 Christopher Kelley Leadership Program. Throughout the afternoon’s session, presenters discussed how new technology is redefining business models, the many uses of virtual reality and augmented reality technology, the impact of “big data” and the architect-consultant, and how all of these tie together in architectural practice.

Hosted at the Studio Theater (14th and P St, NW), Session 6 of the 2017 CKLDP began with David Woessner of Local Motors kicking off the afternoon with a perspective from outside of the field of architecture.  Local Motors is an automobile manufacturer founded in 2007 with the mission of solving niche product needs through mass production on the scale of just a few thousand. Local Motors strives to shape the future, influencing humanity through the hardware they provide by taking advantage of 21st c
entury technological advances.

00_LocolMotors“What would Henry Ford have done in 1908 if he had the internet?” Woessner asked. “How would his assembly line structure be different?”

The team at Local Motors sought out their own answer to this query, structuring the organization by mirroring two major emerging trends: co-creation (i.e. crowdsourcing) and micro-manufacturing.  Through a co-creation platform, engineers and designers come together as a “hive-mind” to generate solutions for complex problems; they rely on cloud-based collaboration tools and brainstorm internationally.  On the production end, the manufacturer strives to “do complex things utilizing the best tooling and software to produce complex products on a limited footprint.” Or in more basic terms, create big things in small spaces. While the complexities of the auto industry and manufacturing may be foreign to most of the Scholars, there are transferrable lessons to be learned from another industry that has used technology to reinvent its entire process of design and production.

Following the lecture from Local Motors’, the session pivoted to a focus on technology becoming more ubiquitous in the field of architecture through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Hailing from Canada, Anthony Murry and Thomas Hirschmann of The Third Fate detailed their application of virtual reality for storytelling of spaces through the lens of “past, present, and future.”

00_ThirdFate-1Focusing on the past, The Third Fate uses VR to capture the memory of a place.  This can recreate an experience for someone else – such as amazed recreations of the BIG maze at the National Building Museum, or unglamorous moments such as the dilapidation of the Miami Marine Stadium. In the realm of “transforming the present,” VR is a tool for experiential tours, such as their idea for Battersea Station. Visitors to an historic smokestack could take in present day London in reality or, through virtual reality, experience London as it was during the World War 2 air strikes with barrage balloons floating high above the city.  In the final segment called “envisioning the future,” the speakers discussed the importance of a “render-to-real ratio” to trick your brain into thinking the entire rendering is real.

Throughout The Third Fate’s presentation, the group engaged in a discussion of morals and ethics in storytelling – in recreating the past through virtual reality, how do you distinguish between what was real and what is a modern conception superimposed into the past? Will virtual reality introduce a more real experience of a design concept, complete with “the un-prettiness of reality?”, e.g. street signs and traffic signals that block a view and are obscured from typical design visualization.

While the Third Fate focus their work in virtual reality, the group got a glimpse of augmented reality through Bill Santos of Gensler. Santos introduced the Microsoft HoloLens and its potential as the workspace of the future. Virtual monitors projected on a real-life surface can allow you to transform any seat or piece of wall into a workstation. Some of the challenges to integration right now are the reliance on Wi-Fi for connectivity, and the weight of the hardware that is worn around the user’s head.

00_HololenseDuring a short break, the Scholars and presenters were able to experiment with the VR experiences The Third Fate brought, and try out Gensler’s HoloLens.

“Big data” is another emerging industry trend that was addressed by Fady Barmada of Array Architects.  He spoke about the use of GIS to layer data and maps and guide decision making that happens before the constraints of a project scope and budget are set. Presenting from his perspective of practice in healthcare architecture, Barmada demonstrated how use of big data can drive hospital expansions and services based on the needs of the demographics they serve. Post-occupancy evaluations are another practice common in healthcare architecture that can harness the power of technology. Database technology can aggregate data from front-end metrics and POE’s to refine the decision-making process and evidence-based design power.

The topic of ethics arose again with the concept of the architect as a consultant. Acting as an architect-consultant, professionals can help a client to determine their need and set a budget, expanding the realm of architecture beyond the conventional constraints usually inherent to a pre-defined project. However, this business model may raise suspicions that the architect-consultant is using its position to drive clients towards a self-serving solution in the shape of a new building project that may be beyond a client’s true requirements.

The day’s presentations wrapped up with a lecture from Jeff Barber, a Principal and Regional Design Experience Leader with Gensler. Through his presentation, Barber knit together how many different technologies – new and old – are useful in achieving the ultimate goals of the profession: design and construction. In their Fab Labs, Gensler integrates technology like laser cutters and 3D-printers in the production of conventional physical models. A myriad of technologies go into producing many design and visualization tools, from 2D renderings to simulations and (with the advent of VR) immersion. These tools aid both designers and clients to understand and experience spaces as they are developed. Meanwhile, digital fabrication, full scale 3D-printing, and point-cloud scanning are transforming the construction process.

00_JeffBarber“We are not leaving behind the ways we used to draw, think, investigate,” Barber says, “but now the spectrum is much richer.”

 

Session 5: Marketing & Business Development

Date: February 3, 2017
Location: Town Hall Conference Center
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led By: Valerie Berstene, AIA, LEED AP, CNU-A and Joey Ijjias, RA, LEED AP

Session 5 Program
Agenda
Speakers

Summary

The fifth session, “Rain-Making” focused on marketing a business with the goal of becoming profitable in a viable way. The session was organized by Valerie Berstene and Joey Ijjas at the Town Hall Conference Center at 19th and K Street. The session began with two energetic presentations, first by Amy Cuddy and Laura Ewan, then followed by Carol Dorscher. The day ended with a panel discussion about business development that included the following panelists: Joe Brancato, Co-Managing Principal for Gensler’s Northeast and Latin America Regions; Joanna Hoffschneider, Business Development and Marketing Team Lead at Grimm + Parker Architects; Deborah Kuo, Vice President of Real Estate & Facilities for Exelon Organization, and; Sean C. Cahill, Senior Vice President of Development for PGP Development LLC.

2017-02 CKLDP Session05 Edited-5

Amy and Laura started off the day by discussing their perspective on what marketing means to the A/E/C community. Both women are members of the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), a community of marketing and business development professionals working to secure profitable business relationships for their clients. Amy explained how the marketing industry is changing rapidly from a time when faxing proposals and cold calling clients was a common practice, to new approaches such as the use of social media. Some firms, for example, create themed marketing booklets to share their portfolio of projects with current and potential clients – a relatively novel marketing strategy that is starting to be adopted is the sharing of information that would be unique to a firm.

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Even in a competitive market, sharing information that would typically have been hidden from the public view could now be beneficial to aid clients. Amy then went on to discuss how her firm has restructured their marketing team to become more diverse, robust, and introduce a new hierarchy. In the past, a standardized title system and clear career path didn’t really exist within marketing. Amy, who is very much into data, started to describe the benefits of a robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. CRM are practices, strategies and technologies to manage and analyze customer interactions and data with the goal of improving business relationships with customers. CRM can be successfully implemented in a firm if the employees are empowered to enter the information. It can also be as sophisticated enough to track the number of clicks and information that is being read by individuals within a database.

Amy went on to explain that social media has boomed in the last five to six years. Due to the changes in marketing practices, several roles have been defined the scholars were walked through their descriptions. Amy described the importance of participating in a debrief even if the team wasn’t successful in winning a pursuit. There are many benefits that could come from the debrief, including an opportunity to work on another project. An interesting statistic that was mentioned was that 90% of pursuits should make the shortlist. This is because there should be more filtering of the pursuits so time is used more efficiently as there are other ways to get potential clients to know who you are. Lastly, Amy explains that firms needs to identify how to differentiate themselves from the competition. The differentiating factors can be unique for each project. Boiler plate templates can be appropriate for branding, but otherwise proposals and marketing content should be client focused.

Laura, after her introduction, explains that the industry is a bit behind in content marketing. She explains that “content marketing” is a relatively new term and it’s the art of communicating with customers without selling. It was explained that blogs should have a marketing mission and focused on what is being talked about constantly. Laura explains that various content has it’s advantages in different ways. For example, social media is useful for promoting blog content while video can be used to share testimonials. Conferences is an excellent way to capture an audience. Laura then shifted the presentation in talking about brands and how they should align with actions. Brand is a reputation and without proper alignment, clients and employees are going to realize the disconnect.

After the first presentation, Carol started her interactive workshop “The Human Connection: Bringing your Presentations to Life.” Carol is the CEO of Graceworks, a company that trains thousands of professionals on the importance of human connection during presentations and business development activities. Carol, a former Broadway actress, was quickly able to capture the participants’ attention right from the beginning of her workshop. She explains that there is a direct connection of the listeners to the speakers and that live communication is contagious. She further explains that clients care about trust, commitment and chemistry.

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While live presentations can be stressful, Carol suggested ways to minimize the anxiety. Some examples included a breathing exercise and even the simple suggestion of showing up to the meeting early to make friends. Following these examples, Carol facilitated an interactive exercise to understand the “responsive” handshake. Scholars shared their reactions to the exercise and through some more practice were able to feel more comfortable with it. Carol then asked the scholars to share the various “masks” one may use during a presentation. Many of the “masks” are nervous tendencies used which result in severing the connection with the audience. Carol then went into more specifics on some techniques that can be used during a presentation. Body language can contribute positively to a presentation, especially where “big moves” are being use to show commitment. When presenting from slides, Carol explains that the story should come first and the graphics should only be used to reinforce. For slides with a lot of content, you can break it down into multiple steps so it’s early to process. The session ended with one scholar giving a presentation about “What does she love about what she does” and another one use “big moves.” Scholars followed up with some constructive, supportive feedback.

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The day ended with a fruitful panel discussion about business development. Panelists included practitioners, business development professionals, and client side representative. Valerie and Joey facilitated the session with several questions. Some of the takeaways were that business development activity should be natural and purposeful; it’s important to make that meaningful connection. Building relationships is a professional effort but can be personal and ultimately long-term relationships are ones that matter. When aiming to keep connected with a client, understanding the metrics that are important to them and keeping them informed are great ways to maintain the relationship. For maintaining repeat clients, the culture of the firm and the people you will be interfacing with are some main drivers. To finish off the panel discussion, the panelist each gave their advice. Some examples, listen to the opinions of others and don’t get too attached to your outcomes. Be curious of what you are clients are thinking and concerned about. Be passionate about what you do and think long term but still have a good life/work balance.