It’s a word that I don’t understand and I have written about it in the past – click here. Nevertheless, I doubt that it’s a word we use often, but it is used by clients and contractors in speaking with us. Sometimes the word is used in a context with furrowed brows and red faces.
Let’s sort through this again. I just can’t help myself.
First of all, construction is expensive. I don’t find that to be an inaccurate statement. Go with it. It takes considerable resources both financial and time to construct anything. In the world of architecture and buildings intended to provide shelter, function, and have current technology included, it will cost money. Therefore, I think it’s a bit unfair to use the word loosely in that context.
Second, everyone has different values. In my practice I seek out unique solutions and creative responses to the owner’s needs and functional requirements. I do it responsibly, however my degree of accountability includes, yet endeavors to exceed mere shelter to perform their living or working activities. Perhaps some architects (for whatever reason) aim for cheap shelter – they’ve given up. I know some clients expect architects to react that way, however my solution is not going to be the cheapest, most unattractive response. Otherwise why hire me?
Perhaps that rouses some interaction.
Everyone’s take on the act of building will vary due to a different set of values. I doubt anyone would be intentionally wasteful. Yet, the term affordable is an imprecise term. Building without limits makes it impossible to make decisions. I do enjoy the challenge of finding lesser costly ways of achieving a delightful result.
If you don’t believe me read this post here.
My all-time highest viewed post (by leaps and bounds) is with respect to building affordably. Yet at some point the decision to build it or not build it becomes the threshold. In other words, there’s no way to cheapen the idea any further if it’s worth doing at all.
Architects’ ideas that are fortunate to be built ought to balance responsible use of resources while giving back more than what’s practical. I seek to include moments that provide experiences, yet are part of a functional building system. Elements that contribute to building performance or program function can also add a striking appearance. Owners may debate excluding these elements when the budget is tight. At some point eliminating certain features to bring down the cost, at least in the mind of an architect, creates an impassable situation.
In other words, build it like this or don’t build it all.
This is a difficult concept to reach agreement on with a roomful of people. I am OK with that. It does become frustrating and architects often lose the battle. Clients or contractors or whomever control the cost and are holding the pen that writes a check get the final say. I understand. We need to communicate how these components, spaces or materials are not only integral to the architectural idea, but critical in achieving code compliance, building performance or allowing the use to occur smoothly.
If one is trying to understand how the architect thinks, it seems to me that we aim for a qualitative response over the quantitative response. We would prefer to have less of it with better quality than to have more of it at a cheaper quality.
Here’s a simple analogy. When my wife and I look for restaurants, obviously we don’t go to the most expensive fancy restaurants, but we do look for a place that sells interesting quality food. We have no interest in the all-you-can-eat buffet. Not only are we unable to eat very much, we find that buffet food is average at best. We would rather not eat out at all than eat out with average food.
When you have kids, you sometimes break this rule.
What’s a rational solution? Do adequate research before deciding on a project. Calibrate your mind to the current cost of construction before settling on a budget. True, it is difficult to know how much a building will cost despite the amount of information available today. Accept that the amount you wish to spend does not necessarily equate to the amount of the project. Include a contingency. Despite what you might think, investing in an architect earlier than later can help develop a program concurrent with a developing a budget. We generally call this Pre-Design services.
I might be accused of chasing windmills at times. It’s the architect ingrained in me. I seek to persuade people to share in my value that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Unfortunately, many in our era don’t agree.
What do you think.
photo 1 credit: Clambake at WDW via photopin (license)
photo 2 credit: Breakfast Buffet at ITC Gardenia via photopin (license)
photo 3 credit: Chinese Buffet 04 via photopin (license)
photo 4 credit: Chinese Buffet 05 via photopin (license)