Architecture /

Fake Architects / Real News

I came across a news article about a fake architect named Paul J. Newman who went to prison for posing as a licensed architect. Apparently he “had rendered fraudulent architectural services” for seven years in upstate New York and was charged with six felonies including grand larceny, forgery, unauthorized practice of a profession and fraud. He was not licensed as an architect in any state or jurisdiction and was practicing architecture in New York state using a fake New York stamp. He got caught because he started to do work in Florida and neglected to make a fake Florida stamp for himself. Someone reported him to the Florida state board, which informed the New York state board about the infraction, and when the New York board looked into disciplining him they discovered that he was a complete fraud.

Some people are unaware that it’s illegal to call yourself an “architect” unless you are licensed in one of the states or jurisdictions. In addition, if you’re licensed as an architect in one state, it’s illegal to perform architectural services in another state (or even offer to do so) without a license in that other state. Usually, violators of these laws are fined by the state board and/or are placed on probation or have their license suspended. Sometimes the offenders are truly unaware of the law, and sometimes they are aware but try to get away with it and only stop if they are caught. The case of Paul J. Newman is the first time I heard of someone going that far to fool people into thinking he was a real architect (and therefore going to prison for it).

Is licensing of architects really so important that someone pretending to be an architect should go to jail? They say that the purpose of licensing architects is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. People spend a lot of time indoors, i.e. inside buildings, and the fact is that buildings have the potential to kill or harm lots of people. You may have heard the news stories last year about the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in west London, UK. While the responsibility for the disaster is still to be determined, it demonstrates the importance of life safety and building codes.

You may wonder, if the purpose of licensing is to ensure that those who design buildings protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, then why do designs need to be reviewed by the building department? I think the reason is that we are all human and are vulnerable to making mistakes. The Grenfell Tower renovation project was designed by licensed architects and reviewed and approved by building officials, yet the consensus seems to be that the design was flawed and caused the death of 71 people. Building department review is a belts and suspenders approach to make sure buildings are safe. Although clearly some mistakes still slip through the cracks. We are only human, but I believe the risk of mistakes is decreased when the individuals providing architectural services are real licensed architects, who by definition have undergone the education, experience and examination required to call themselves “Architects”.

General, People /

Lawrence Group People

Each month we are highlighting three of our employees by having them share everything from their personal motto to their favorite architect to what’s on their bucket list. We are hoping this gives you a glimpse into the people of Lawrence Group.

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People, Projects /

3 Intangibles to Design-Build

The design-build delivery method can set the stage for a smoother running project. The designer and the constructor sit at the same table with the owner from the beginning, understanding requirements and minimizing lapses in communication. When done well, this single source method of contracting has several side benefits for the project team such as quicker speed to market, higher quality, better overall value and cost, less change orders and less claims.

Some owners, designers and contractors dive right into the design-build contract arrangement thinking it will solve any problem, but the legal contract alone is not enough. There are several intangibles that contribute to the repeated success of the often complex commercial construction projects. Below are just three:

Awareness: The first step in working better together is to make sure team members are aware of, understand, and respect the roles and goals of the stakeholders in a project. For example, the designer should provide a safe, functional, code compliant project that meets the owner’s needs in addition to a creative, unique design. The contractor is responsible to control safety, risk and schedule while maintaining quality to “get the job done”. Owners must sometimes go through the craziness of design and construction in order to make their operation better. All parties involved desire to build an ongoing relationship and be profitable.

Attitude: Success in the design-build arena requires a different attitude than the traditional design-bid-build method of construction delivery. Collaboration and cooperation are critical for the betterment of the project and the relationship of the project team. Everyone needs to be in the same boat rowing the same direction at the same time, and successful teams have a good row master to keep everyone focused. A little fun sprinkled in never hurts either!

Integrity: This is one of the most important intangibles for each independent team member, because without integrity all other metrics for a great project are out the window. From a contractor’s point of view, one example would be how the GC acts when presented with a problem at the job site. There is often a “right” way to fix something and a cheap way. A good moral compass will point the GC to think about the best interest of not only his short-term bottom dollar, but also the longevity of the solution, the other team members and the impact of the project. Every team member will have similar challenges.

Having grown up in commercial construction, I’ve enjoyed using this project delivery method for many years. Each project is unique, and having the right team with the experience and the intangibles can make a big difference in creating a win-win for all the stakeholders.

General, Inspiration /

Reflecting on Music & Creativity

When stripped down, music isn’t so different from design—silence the blank canvas, the instrument, the chosen design utensil, and as with any creative endeavor, always the mind behind it all, reeling with possibilities.

At their best, both carry a certain universality. A relatable song, a familiar space—both lend a greater sense of connectedness to those around us. The ideal composition, like a well-executed design, feels so natural to the consumer that it becomes difficult to actively notice what’s so pleasing about it. I guess it’s sort of paradoxical in that sense—each element meticulously crafted, yet somehow culminating to produce something that appears effortless in its composition. The intuition and skill required to achieve such an effect continues to routinely astound me, and I often find myself pondering the nature of inspiration, searching for the foundation of what it takes to create something new. I suppose there’s not really an objective truth to it, but for me, it always goes back to music.

Though it’s fairly common to search for inspirational content somewhere within your own medium, music has this bizarre, near-transcendent quality to it that seems to improve one’s output across all mediums. There’s a particular type of music to enhance every activity—“Eye of the Tiger” for your daily workout, some instrumental stuff if you’re attempting to focus, and, most importantly, that one Springsteen song you belt out on every road trip. Point is, music can often serve as an integral counterpart to existence. I find it has this endless ability to complement and enhance day-to-day life, and perhaps when it comes to our creative endeavors, we sometimes take it for granted. When performing any creative activity, our carefully selected assortment of tunes provides some loose form of escapism. While plugged into Nina Simone’s greatest hits, it becomes easier to attain an effective, lasting creative rhythm. Suddenly, you can’t hear the sound of the radiator turning on and off in its habitually tedious 15-minute cycles, nor the shrill beeps and ominous cranks of the elevator as it travels up and down. Lost within the illusion of your own personally catered universe, I suspect a creative endeavor may begin. Pretty neat.

 

People /

Lawrence Group People

Each month we are highlighting three of our employees by having them share everything from their personal motto to their favorite architect to what’s on their bucket list. We are hoping this gives you a glimpse into the people of Lawrence Group.

(more…)

General, People /

Out and About in Q1

Hard to believe that April is almost here. After enjoying some time off for the holidays, we hit the ground running fast in January, and it’s been a bit of a blur since. But, in between all the deadlines, we managed to get out and about in the first quarter. Here’s a look at a few of those fun, extracurricular activities:

In January, Lawrence Group sponsored the 13th annual St. Louis Business Journal Women’s Conference, which attracted nearly 1,000 business leaders. Principal Becky Egan and I staffed our exhibit booth, while almost a dozen other LG architects, designers, managers and leaders were able to take advantage of the great speakers and networking opportunities at the conference. During the opening ceremonies, CFO Laura Conrad represented Lawrence Group on-stage with other sponsoring organizations.

Two LGers also took time out to speak at local events in January. CEO Steve Smith presented an education workshop for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) St. Louis on January 10th, and Micah Gray, our digital practice manager, spoke at the St. Louis Chapter of the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) on the pros and cons of the use of drones and lasers for construction estimating.

In Austin, Principal Earl Swisher, Associate Director Julie Steffens and I enjoyed a beautiful night out at the Sam Houston State University Department of Agricultural Sciences “Honoring Traditions, Creating Futures” dinner.

February was career fair mania. Our architects and designers kicked it off at Iowa State and ended up at Kansas State meeting lots of curious students and sharing what it’s like to work at Lawrence Group. In February, Monica Conners and I also attended the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Leadership Summit in Tucson, Arizona. The summit was filled with lots of great networking and leadership training.

This month, Associate Director Sharon Henderson and Senior Associate Lisa Morrison presented “The Science of Workplace” at the International Facility Management Association (IFMA)’s Facility Fusion 2018 Conference and Expo in Chicago, Illinois. On the 15th, Steve Smith also spoke to attendees at the Building Owners and Managers (BOMA) St. Louis March luncheon about the City Foundry STL development.

So, what’s next? On April 4th, stop by our booth at the annual Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) St. Louis Prime Time Event: Diversity Outreach at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall. On April 10th, it’s the Chouteau Greenway Design Competition Community Kickoff Day at The Sheldon. On April 19th, our creative (and competitive) LGers will be watching their car in the annual construction industry’s Pinewood Derby at the MOTO Museum. Hope to see you out and about soon!

 

Inspiration /

ReDesign to Make it Better

Perennial is a local St. Louis non-profit organization doing some great things. Their mission is to build a creative culture of sustainability by transforming discarded items into valued and cherished resources. Through their mission, they aim to teach people to creatively reuse objects in order to divert waste from landfills, foster thoughtful consumerism and generate revenue to support the underserved. Under this mission Perennial challenged the community of designers, crafters, and local architects to participate in their “ReDesign” Challenge. This annual challenge coincides with their annual “Lost + F(o)und” fundraiser to auction off the completed pieces.

Lawrence Group was up to the challenge. We put together two teams, got our “Lost” objects, and set off to “Find” something great hidden in them. Each team conceptualized, analyzed the materials, and came up with a plan. One of the most fun parts of this challenge was getting to know and collaborate with people from all different areas of the organization that we do not get to work with regularly and put something together with everyone’s unique skills. The objective is to only use the materials that come with the table and put the new item together using only fasteners and tools already owned. (more…)

Inspiration, People /

Inspire Your Imagination: Dreams Do Come True

One of my favorite quotes that is always in the back of my head when setting a personal goal is “If you can dream it, you can do it.”- Walt Disney.

Having my own photography show was a long lost dream of mine that always got postponed due to everyday struggles. After a very rough year, I decided to share my perspective on inspiration through photography. I started by gathering photos I took since I started my path in photography. After that, I went on a hunt for the right space! I started brainstorming spaces that could bring the design industry together for a fun night full of art and networking and that is when CI Select came to mind. (more…)

Inspiration, Interior Design /

Into the Deep Blue Hue: Deciphering the Sherwin Williams Color of the Year 2018

Ask people what their favorite color is and a clear majority of men and women will answer: “blue!” Maybe not that enthusiastically, but we designers generally get excited about color. Each year, top paint manufacturers issue their color of the year, and I always find it interesting to see what they think we should be buzzing about in the next year. It’s no Pantone Color of the Year, but when Sherwin William introduces its Color of the Year, we run the proverbial color up the design flag pole and dissect it for a hot minute.

(more…)

People /

Lawrence Group People

Each month we are highlighting three of our employees by having them share everything from their personal motto to their favorite architect to what’s on their bucket list. We are hoping this gives you a glimpse into the people of Lawrence Group.

(more…)