Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help make it better by leaving a critique in the comment section below. Thx you rock! -Steve
Expert: having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience -Merriam Webster Dictionary
Your architectural expertise is the knowledge you will acquire over a long career. Included in this bucket are specialties like: building type expertise, construction expertise and design expertise. These specialties take time to acquire which is why I have included them last on the indispensable list.
Developing an expertise is important because this knowledge will help shape your career and bring you fulfillment. Becoming an expert can also help separate you from the pack and make you indispensable.
The following sections provide a sampling of possible expertise areas:
Building Type Expertise
By building type I am referring to function such as single-family residential, apartment, office, hotel, etc. Some architects will focus on one building type and others will cover many.
Most building types have specialties. For example, a hotel architect may choose a specific niche such as resort hotels or urban boutique hotels. A residential architect may develop a reputation for designing seaside villas or maybe they become an expert on tiny houses.
Every office will have people that are called the ‘nuts and bolts architects.’ These folks have a wealth of knowledge on the technical aspects of building and are extremely valuable. One way to be indispensable is to become one of these construction experts.
My best advice would be to start with the basics and then to focus on the construction types most specific to your office. For example, if you are a regional firm then you should:
Learn The Vernacular
The vernacular architecture is the building types and construction methods that are specific to a certain place. For example: in Vermont the vernacular architecture is often clad in wood shingles and topped with a steep roof slope which will help shed snow.
I put sustainability under the umbrella of construction because it has the most to do with construction materials and methods.
The better you understand the construction methods typical to your firm the more valuable you will be.
Building Code Expertise
Developing an expertise in building codes and zoning ordinances will make you a great resource within an architecture firm.
Building codes are a set of rules and standards that govern the life, safety, health and welfare of a building. For example a building code will stipulate:
- How many fire exits are required.
- Fire ratings of partitions.
- Ventilation requirements.
- Handicap ramp slopes.
Zoning ordinances are laws that govern land development. For example, a zoning ordinance will help you answer the following questions:
- What type of building is allowed?
- How much of the lot can be covered?
- How tall can a building be?
- How many parking spaces will be needed for an office use?
The better you can navigate the codes and ordinances, the more valuable you are to your firm.
At the heart of every architectural practice is design. It is the real value of what we do as architects. Ironically, only a small amount of architects will participate in the design process. This means that design architects have an excellent opportunity to stand out from the pack. If your path were to become a design architect than I would encourage you to find a good mentor.
Closing Thoughts on Developing Expertise
Another way to think about expertise is to think of super skills. Imagine that you are an architectural super hero. What will your super skill be?
Construction Detail Woman: She can detail her way out of any situation!
Sustainability Man: Saving the planet one building at a time!
Vernacular Woman: Fighting for an architecture of place!
O.K. Clearly I am not a comic book person. But you get the picture. Developing an expertise can be very rewarding and will make you indispensable.
- The more knowledge you develop the better you can contribute to your team.
- You will also be able to become a mentor and teach others.
- Your expertise could also help attract future clients.
Closing Thoughts on Chapter 12: How to Make Yourself Indispensable
This was a very meaty chapter. Becoming indispensable is very important and I wanted to make sure I gave you everything I’ve got. As a recap we covered:
The 3 Paths to Becoming Indispensable
The information covered in this chapter may seem overwhelming to some. My best advice is to start at the top of the list and work your way down. Take one day at a time and try to learn at least one new thing a day.
What about you?
Do you have a super skill to add to the list? How have you become indispensable or how have you witnessed others elevate? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Chapter 12 by the Numbers
· 3,075 words
· 12.3 – Translates into approximately 12.3 pages in book form.
· 4 – Blog Posts
· 6 – Hours to Write and Post on Blog
· 3 – Stretched over 17 calendar days.
· .72 – Average book pages written per day.
The Book by the Numbers
· 28,176 – Total Words
· 113 – Total Pages
· 39 – Total Blog Posts
· 220 – Goal for final page count.
· 78 – Days Since Starting
· 1.44 – Average book pages written per day.
· 103 – Estimated days to completion. (220-113) / 1.44) = 74
· 11– Chapters down.
· 19 – Chapters to go.
· 7 – New subscribers to the Breaking the Box Email Newsletter
· 37 – Total subscribers to the Breaking the Box Email Newsletter