Sunday, September 14, 2008

In other news...

With all the Maddy drama, this blog has had quite the dearth of architectural commentary of late. However, the recent news does explain to a great degree why this architect drinks, anyway. More news in architecture on a personal level has been happening lately, and I suppose much as Shakespeare would follow an intense, dramatic scene with a lighter and more comical one, I should follow The Bard's lead and provide some similar narrative relief for the WAD-reading public.

First, Guy. Guy's architecture office is a branch of a nationwide architecture firm that has been in Denver for a few years, and their first big project (which caused them to open the office in the first place) wrapped up just as Guy joined their firm. He then spent most of the past year and a half being almost unbillable--he would occasionally get to work on a marketing proposal or design, but spent a lot of days reading architecture articles online, trying to stay sharp while staying bored. He billed a lot of hours to "Overhead," and it made him absolutely insane. Recently, though, his office got two pretty big projects. One is a clinic on a Native American reservation in Arizona, and the other is a large hospital somewhere back east. His office will be doing three floors of the overall hospital, mostly D&T areas (diagnostic and treatment, that is: stuff like surgery suites, imaging departments, procedure suites, chemo treatment suites, physical therapy, etc.), and another office of his company will be doing the patient floors of the hospital. Guy is about to be very busy, which is just how he likes to be. Also, he'll get to do an imaging suite, I think, which is good experience. Every good healthcare architect should have the chance to work on an imaging suite and get to see what it takes to put in an x-ray machine, a CT scanner, an MRI, and so on. I must say that as a healthcare architect, knowing what goes into making a hospital tends to make it easier to be in one, say, laying in the ED with a sprained ankle.

Second, I've been helping Howie with a master planning project for the hospital in a little town near Wheatlands, KS, where my last big project was. It's interesting to say the least, this master planning thing. Hospitals, like colleges and other institutions, often hire architects to help them develop master plans to decide what they should do with their facilities in the coming 5-15 years. What we do is look at their existing facilities--the building itself, the spaces, the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems--and also look at their financials and their utilization statistics (how many of what kind of procedures do they do each year? where does their business come from? what zip codes?) and then help them see what they could and should be doing with their business. We work back and forth with them to give them something they can live with, as well; we check in with the senior administration and the hospital facility board intermittently to ask questions, and if we make a suggestion that goes against thier mission or values or might cause them to lose funding or accreditation, we revise our assumptions and go back to come up with a better plan for them.

Often, we'll also come up with some very schematic plans for the future of their buildings, which usually involves three scenarios: one, remodel the existing building in place; two, build an addition to the existing building, which may or may not include some selective demolition; and three, build a whole new building. We get a few engineers on board to write narratives to describe what they saw in the existing building and what it would take to do each of the three scenarios. We give our narratives, the engineers' narratives, and our very schematic plans (which usually look like a bunch of colored rectangles) to a contractor or a cost estimating company, and they figure out what each of the three options costs. Finally, we present all our info, including the cost estimates, to the owner, and they can decide for themselves what they want to do with their building, if anything.

It's a slow process, but it makes sure that a facility is doing the right thing with their space and their money. Many facilities, for example, just want to renovate in place: a little face-lifting here, a little remodeling there, and oh it'll all be fine. What they don't realize is that the construction and facility standards for healthcare has come a long way in the 30-50 years since their building was built, and if we face-lift your interiors, you'll spend $240/square foot and still be left with basically the same thing you had before you spent a crapton o' cash. So, we run the number for them to say, "Look, for the same price per square foot of renovation, you can have a brand new x, y, and z. How 'bout them apples, yo?"

Sadly, in order to get the gig, we let them beat us down on fee, so as of late Wednesday, I had to stop working on the project. So I spent Thursday and Friday helping marketing with a few things that aren't supposed to last past about Monday or Tuesday of this week. However, I'll be at the vet oncologist's with Maddy on Monday morning, so there's a few hours taken care of. I emailed a bunch of different project managers and associates on Thursday and Friday, letting them know that I was very available and needed work if they had it. Hopefully, I'll actually have something to do next week. Now, Guy and I are trading places as to who's busy and who's not. This is when being paid hourly sucks--it's great when you're working mad overtime, but not so great when you've got not a damn thing to do.


Miss Kitty said...

Master planning: probably looks better on your resume that master-bation.

BaxtersMum said...

wow. I hear ya, sister.

My work load has been going slower than slow and then 90 mph, then a brick wall, and hurry up and wait and then fastfastfast.

its enough to make you car sick.

hang in there.