Do you get your advice from experts or from your distant cousins twice removed? Do you still believe everything you hear? Now that information is simply just a few clicks of a mouse or the touch of your mobile phone away, where do you get information that is credible?
I have found that many people do not want to be confused with the facts. Its funny what people believe and from whom they get their information. I have heard people believe more about medicine from their Aunt Suzy than a medical doctor. Or if the local news broadcasts a 15 second “teaser” about an issue, it’s gospel in the minds of many. In this information age, we have access to too much cheap information, but I believe we need to be careful where we get our important information and who we believe as being the expert. This is particularly critical when one makes a decision based on misinformation. Let me share three stories that begin to illustrate my point as it pertains to architecture and building occupancy.
I had a client recently tell me they held off moving forward with their commercial renovation project based in part on some [mis]information given to them from someone (who happened to be a contractor) working with them to develop a budget price for a project (based on no drawings I might add). In the process, this person recommended they wait a few months until the next year because “the codes are going to change” on a particular issue. I came to find out from speaking with them that the code information given to them was not only incorrect, but it applied to residential work and not commercial projects. They based part of their decision on inaccurate information. At this point they have not moved forward with any of their plans.
Another related story involves a church who is seeking approval for a series of chair lifts installed many years ago. At one point, the previous church board voted to purchase and have this equipment installed, but they did not obtain code approval or receive a permit to install it. Apparently the manufacturer simply installed what they requested. Two years after the installation, a statewide building code was adopted and somehow the state officials (perhaps an equipment inspection) tagged the equipment forbidding them to use it until they applied for a permit under the new code. I was contacted to review it as part of an RFP process. With limited investigation, my conclusion was it had no chance of obtaining approval (under any building code) because although it may have addressed one deficiency, it is in violation of another code stipulation. Now the church is left to wonder what to do. It seems there were other options that were either never considered or dismissed before speaking to an expert.
One last story involves another religious organization that was renting space in a local downtown office building. They were operating for about a year when an anonymous complaint to the building department initiated an investigation into their use of their space…only to find they were in violation of the building code. They were using the space for a Type of Occupancy for which that space had never obtained approval. At the suggestion of the code official to contact an architect, they found me. I reviewed their space and the surrounding building features, consulted with them and briefly outlined what steps they would likely need to take to obtain approval to continue to use that space. It was going to be costly and likely impossible to comply without much pain. They had a connection with another architect (not local) who had agreed to help them pro-bono. Many months have gone by and I have not heard what ever happened to them.
So again I ask when you need to make a potentially costly or important decision, where do you get your information?
When it comes to architecture, building occupancy, construction and other related matters, my biased opinion believes one should contact an architect first with their questions (and just not limited to building code questions). Just as I recommend one should contact a doctor or medical professional with any health issues (stop asking your neighbor or listening to talk shows). Obviously one should contact an attorney with legal matters and if you need to know how to land on the moon, call NASA. If your child is having a problem with their math homework, call a math teacher.
If you are thinking of making a modification or addition to your existing structure, looking into renting space, or if you are considering building something new or purchasing an existing building, start with an architect first. Figure out the “what” before the “how much.” How can you start anywhere else and end up in the right place?
Be careful to whom you listen. Don’t believe everything you hear. Most importantly, think…critically.