Monday, June 24, 2013

OPP (Other People's Problems)

I've continued to ponder on Jimmy Ray's comment a few weeks ago when he observed that I was doing three different roles on St. Ermahgerd. The staffing on this project has been problematic for a long time; even a year ago, Howie confided to me that the project was understaffed and had been for a while. On the Uber MOB I did 18-24 months ago, which was of a similar size and complexity as St. Ermahgerd, we had two architects and four interns working on just the interior architecture. St. Ermahgerd in contrast had me and two interns for most of the project, and then we picked up another architect (actually, we stole him from the St. Ermahgerd exterior team) to help during late DDs. 

Further complicating matters is that the St. Ermahgerd schedule kept stopping and then starting with a vengeance, so we'd suddenly have a lot of floor plan changes plus a fast deadline.  We didn't have enough people to make these deadlines, to make the plan changes, and to add in all the additional bits of information and details that make a set of DDs look like DDs. Hence, our DDs were really more like 50% DDs, and we then had two months to take 180,000 sf of building from 50% DDs to 100% CDs.  (We usually get about four months for CDs on a project of this size and complexity.) In order to make this even kinda sorta happen, I was having to scramble to find staff to help us during the week, on the weekends, after hours, whenever and wherever we could. Instead of working on redlines and specs, I was having to find staff  I also had to match the available and willing staff up with tasks that they could do in the time they had available--I had some experienced folks and newbies, and we kept finding that unfinished tasks tended to remain unfinished.

Even more difficult was that Chloe was clearly pregnant, and there seemed to be no strategy in place to fill in for her while she was out for three months with a newborn. I have to wonder if perhaps that the plan was that either my other architect or me were expected to be this person, but both of us are technically planners, not project architects--we need to be available for the next project coming down the pipeline, not stuck doing CA for the next 15 months. The fellow who ended up filling in for Chloe started at Design Associates five weeks after Chloe went on maternity leave, so I'm still getting calls and emails because I've had to be Chloe and me for a month.

I'm at the point where I hate having to do anything on St. Ermahgerd, even if what's being asked of me is perfectly reasonable. I'm worn down from having to make all the decisions on everything. Thank heavens that some other architects in the office have been answering questions regarding the exterior RFIs and shop drawings, because I really can't make those decisions, having not worked on the exterior (that was Chloe, who God bless her is still taking my occasional emails regarding questions on this project while being sleep-deprived and nursing a baby). It's like when you get barfing drunk on tequila, and then you get nauseous when you just see a bottle of tequila on a shelf. That's how I feel about St. Ermahgerd  when I even think about it--nausea.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Operation Clean Your Desk Up Already, Pixie

Before the chaos containment. Officey stuff, folders, craptasticness, cords and wires, loose papers. Tis was a failure pile in a sadness bowl, to quote Patton Oswalt.

After about ten days' worth of cleaning, purging, and organizing. There's still a little more to tidy up and put away, but this is 95% done. (Funny enough, right after I finished organizing, I got an offer to do some paid public speaking. Did a shorty unblock her chi or some cosmic shit? Ain't nobody know, but I won't argue with the results.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

This is where I work.

I keep wondering how best to explain what I've been dealing with at Design Associates for the past several months. St. Ermahgerd went from bad to worse to ungodly before the final deadline. I've been trying to come up with a good way to describe what made the project so hard, and the short answer is this: everything.

We had staffing consistency issues. We had staffing coordination issues. We had budget issues. We had management issues. We had owner issues. We had owner's rep issues. We had user group issues. We had schedule issues. We had reality issues. We. Had. Issues.

I've always felt like the point of this blog is to explain to people what it is that architects do all day, week, month, year...and why it makes us want to drink so much and so often. I also want to be at least fair and human, if not professional (especially given my promotion last year and the fact that a few of my colleagues actually do read this). But goddammit, I'm also pretty fucking angry at how overworked and overwrought I've been for the past year. Jimmy Ray, who has been working with me on St. Ermahgerd since late last summer, told me last week that what people generally say behind my back is that I'm doing three jobs and everyone can tell I'm exhausted. I'm weirdly relieved that my exhaustion is apparent, because I don't have the energy to pretend everything's okay, nor should I have to do so.

I'm still not sure that I'm going to be able to pull back as much as I've asked to from Howie, but I will do my damnedest to make sure I get time off from both professional and personal obligations for the next few months. And I'll put some decent effort into explaining in a hopefully-not-verbose manner all the different aspects that make for a tough project.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things to which I shall look forward

First off, my mom is coming to visit for a whole week starting on July 4th. I plan to take the entire time off that she's here, and I pity the fool that attempts to interrupt our visit with some bullshit RFIs and shop drawings.

Second, the rooftop pool is open!! What's a little skin cancer, right? Kidding, sort of. I have some SPF 20 and 30 ready to go, so I can sit around by the pool for a few hours and brush up on my trash reading and naps. 

Third, I've got to get to Georgia to see my sister, Miss Kitty's, house in its new tidy and cleaned up state. Housekeeping ha been a struggle for her most of her life, but while taking the summer off this year from teaching and classes, she's been sending me pictures of her cleaning and purging efforts. The house (aka the Happy Kitten Cottage) looks amazing, and I want to go experience it firsthand.

Fourth, the farmers market is open in Cherry Creek North, and with my firmly-stated limits on my time this summer, I'll be spending more time walking and perusing the goodies at the market each Saturday morning.

And finally, Guy and I have decided on our late-September birthday trip this year. With all of the hotel points and frequent flyer miles he's built up in the last 18 months due to working on a project back east, we've decided to go to Paris and London for 9 days. We've been to both places before, but not when we had jobs and money. So now we're going as adults with Hilton Honors points to stay in decent hotels and take trains everywhere and eat amazing breads and chocolates and drink fantastic tea and beer and wine and what the fuck ever we want to do.

So yeah, good stuff to which we shall look forward.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Well, now that that's over with...

Now that my major deadlines are behind me, I've finally had a chance to reflect on the past year-plus of working on St. Ermahgerd. This project was a pressure cooker for everyone, and it especially took its toll on me as well as my fellow middle managers. During this project, I found myself drinking a bottle of wine a week (not good, given how poorly I metabolize alcohol) and shouting the f-word at my boss, Howie. By May, when our three major deadlines were, I was using the word "fuck" or some conjugation/gerund thereof about every seven seconds. I mean, it's my favorite word, but there's such a thing as overuse.

So after Memorial Day weekend, Howie and I got together to see what we could do to alleviate my 24/7 rage and get me back to something like normal. My state of being was best described as central nervous system overload/failure, and I can't operate like that. I wanted to go home at a decent time every day, with sun still in the sky and energy left in my bones. We figured out staffing a little for the project, including figuring out who could take some of the construction administration (CA) tasks off my list. Howie also advocated for some regular three-day weekends this summer as well as taking a full week somewhere., which I planned to do around July 4th. 

I'll be posting more about what in St. Ermahgerd made me live up to this blog's name, as Howie and I agreed to do a post-mortem on the SD through CD process. I'll hopefully be able to stick to the architectural issues, as opposed to the general white-collar blues issues that plague us all. In the meantime, I'm going to go sit with my cats on the balcony and drink Riesling out of pleasure, not stress.