New Direction in 2013

2012 has had its ups and downs both personally and professionally.  So there are some big changes for myself and Sym-Home for 2013. First off, at the beginning of December I resigned from Conservation Services Group (CSG).  I am grateful for the experience and knowledge that I have obtained by working for CSG over the past two years.  I have met some great people within the organization as well as some great customers.  Working as an Energy Auditor put me directly in the field of energy efficiency and building science.  It has shown me what will and what will not work in terms of design and construction, giving me field experience that would have never been obtained working in an architectural office.

changes aheadHowever I have accepted a new position as a Job Caption with a small architectural firm.  Re-entering the architecture profession, I am going to be taking my experiences from the past two plus years and applying it directly to my design work.  I will be working for PCI Design Group designing and detailing affordable housing, both single & multi-family properties, most of which are LEED certified.  PCI is an in house architecture group for The Woda Group which is an affordable housing developer and contractor.  I am looking forward to the new experiences that working directly with the developer and contractors will bring.

So what does this mean for Sym-Home?  In no way does that mean Sym-Home is going away.  Sym-Home started as a personal project/mission to educate the average home owner how to affordably “green” their home.  So that aspect of the website will not change.  I will continue to post new articles in the blog.  And with the acceptance of my home into the 1000 Home Challenge, I will be continuing the Energy Hog blog series showing all the steps we have made and will be taking to reduce our energy usage.  There will be some restructuring of the Sym-Home website as well as the organization itself.  There have been discussions of partnerships to expand the services that are offered.   So stay tuned to what is to come in 2013, in the mean time follow us on Twitter & Facebook to stay up to date with Sym-Home and other industry topics related to design & energy efficiency.


Slow times

With today’s economy, it is to no surprise that the design and construction industry has slowed down, significantly.  There have been numerous articles in some of the trade publications such as Architect magazine (Available: Immediately), even Architectural Record has created the Architect’s Survival Guide.  I have heard that in upwards of 40% of the architectural profession is currently unemployed.  So needless to say, times are scary.  What do you do if you loose your job because there is currently a lot of competition for very few jobs.  People are starting to get creative with their marketing efforts, such as 5 cent Architect.

On the other hand, every week I feel lucky that I still have a job and still receive a paycheck. Even though we have not had a new project come into our office for almost 10 months.  I guess that is the benefit of working for a smaller architectural firm that is well established.  This is not the owners first recession, so he is a little more prepared for the slow down.  But we have not been totally insulated from the slow down.  We had to let go two of our employees back in January, which equates to almost a third of our staff.  But what makes things nerve wracking is the fact that we have submitted more qualifications statements so far this year than we did all last year.  And out of 10 interviews in the past 3 months, all that work has only landed us one small job that won’t even start up for another month.  I guess we are lucky to get calls to submit for work, or that there is even work out there at all.  I just would like to see the management of the firm out hitting the pavement a little more instead of just wait for Request For Qualifications.

As a result of the slow down, our office has actually been taking advantage of the time to re-tool itself.  First it is starting to think about a new brand.  How can we reinvent ourselves?  We are also updating our website to get the most current projects online.  We have even updated our current CAD software to the latest version and revisited our project standards in preparation for the next project.  It has even given me the opportunity to organize the AIA Ohio Affordable Green Home design competition utilizing more office time.  Something that I did not expect back in December when I received the approval to move forward with the competition.  I have even been given the opportunity to teach Greening Your Home seminars to local homeowners, which should put a few extra dollars in my pocket.  But most importantly potentially drum up some work for the office.

I try and keep my mind off the fact that we are slow and keep myself busy with the organizations that I am involved with.  I will even get back to studying for the ARE (4 more exams to go!) once the competition rolls out later this month.  So hopefully I will have some better news to report within the coming weeks/months as my office prepares for a couple more interviews.  Until then I will continue to absorb as much knowledge as I can with the free time I have and do my part with the marketing efforts and the occasional RFI or LEED submittal that comes across my desk.


CSCC Project Video

Well our client, Columbus State Community College decided to create a video of their first LEED building on their new campus.  It has been an interesting ride so far during the construction process and keeping our contractors in line with all of their LEED paper work.

At this point we are still targeting a Gold certification.  Unfortunatly we still have a year of construction ahead of us to even determine if that will happen.  So periodically I will post some construction photos as well as other updates as it may relate to LEED and share some of the things that I have learned along the way.

In the meantime, enjoy the short video.


2009 Open Architecture Challenge

My office has committed to work with a local high school on this competition in an effort to teach students about the profession as well as to consiously put more effort toward social responsibility within the office.

The 2009 Open Architecture Challenge invites the global design and construction community to collaborate with primary and secondary school teachers and students to create safer, healthier and smarter learning environments. Teams can partner with a school of their choice or design a classroom for Orient Global’s school-building partners.

This year’s jurors currently includes Dave Eggers, Michelle Kaufmann, Hilary Cottam, Kigge Hvid and others. More will be added over the course of the registration period. The winning designer/school team will be given up to $50,000 in funding for classroom construction and upgrading, plus a design grant of $5,000 for the designer to help the school complete the project.

Bid phase hurdles and results

With the state of the current economy, who would have thought that we would have so much trouble bidding a residential project?  When we first started this project in the fall of 2008, the intent was to have this project bid to multiple contractors to let them determine the overall price, because at the time with the housing industry in a slump and with forecasts just projecting things to get worse, we thought we would have a plethora of contractor hungry for work, which in turn would yield us a much lower construction cost.

Boy were we wrong!  First we had trouble locating three reputable contractors in the area.  Now we don’t know if it was our lack of personal connections in the area since the project is an out of state job for us or just that the project was remote enough to warrant increasing our search radius from the site.  However we did find three contractors within an hour of our site.  So hurdle one cleared. Read the rest of this entry »