Check your abbreviations and legends

I was recently in a coordination meeting with our project’s contractor and subcontractors. I always find it amazing how quickly the subcontractors learn about the project. They are experts at reading and interpreting our design documents. I’m embarrassed to say that the BIM coordinators very quickly know more about the project than the design team.

During the meeting, we came across an abbreviation in the documents that the subcontractors had never seen before. Guesses about what it meant were being passed around by anyone with an opinion. Thankfully, the engineering team was on the call and was able to provide everyone with a description.

As you may have guessed, the abbreviation didn’t appear on the legend sheet. I’m sure we are all using decades-old legends and abbreviations lists in our contract documents. Sometimes they get updated, but we usually don’t have the time to make sure they are accurate to the current set we generate, especially on large projects with a team of many architects generating the drawings.

One solution to this is for each person working on the set to have a printout of the sheet in front of them while they work. They should reference the sheet when they include abbreviations and symbols. They should add new information when necessary.

Of course, with CAD and BIM, there is less of a reason to use abbreviations since we can easily manipulate text boxes to make things fit. However, there are times when there just isn’t enough room and we have to use an abbreviation.

I urge you to assign the task of updating the abbreviations list in your drawings and make sure your symbols legend is correct. Archtoolbox has a list of common architectural abbreviations and symbols. You can also search the website for engineering versions of these articles.


January Billings Continue Decline

January billings moderated a bit to 46.2. That is still a decline, but at a less steep pace. According to this month’s report, they revised some 2023 ABI numbers so this marks 12 consecutive months of declining billings. Ouch.

In good news, the measurement for new contracts remains flat and inquiries for new projects continues to grow. Hopefully, this will continue, but we need to keep an eye on inflation, interest rates, and the overall economy.

The commentary this month focuses on the overall economic situation and looks at how much firms are spending on marketing and business development.

January: 46.2, December: 45.4, November: 45.3, October: 44.3, September: 44.8, August: 48.1

ABI January 2024: Business conditions remain soft at architecture firms to start the year

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Architect’s fee: hourly-based or value-based?

I think we will all argue that architects are underpaid. In fact, this article says the average profit margin for architects is under 10% compared to developers who operate at 25-29%. The author pushes to solve this imbalance by focusing on collaboration between all parties, resulting in measurable value-creation by the design team. This is always a challenge since clients see us as money-spenders and it is hard to measure the value impact we provide to their organizations. We need to go back to being the project leaders to generate noticeable value for our clients.

The case for value-based models

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Modular construction struggles to gain traction

I see a lot of sophisticated contractors using pre-fab and modular construction to improve their efficiency. It is all in the money for them. However, there are still some stumbling blocks holding modular construction back and this article looks at some of them.

Is Modular Construction Destined to Fail?

Also of note, the ICC and the Modular Building Institute have standards for offsite construction that have recently been adopted by Virginia and Salt Lake City.

Virginia pioneers adoption of offsite construction code

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Delegated Design vs. Design Assist

Bob Borson provides a thorough discussion about delegated design, design assist, and how the Spearin Doctrine affects risk for all parties involved. This is a great refresher and includes some good things to watch out for.

Ep 145: Delegated Design

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Eye candy: digital drawing

I’ve said this before, but I am a sucker for sketches, hand renderings, and other forms of drawing. Maybe it is because I never had the talent for it and always wanted to be good at sketching. Maybe I will find my calling now that AI can help me. Here is a nice dose of digital sketches for inspiration.

From Pencil to Pixel: Exploring Digital sketching in the Digital Age