When I joined BIG–Bjarke Ingels Group in 2008, we had one office, one partner, and 45 employees. Eight years later we have 12 partners and more than 400 employees in Copenhagen, New York, and London. As we continue to expand our reach, projects, and staff I have awarded myself the luxury of looking back and distilling what has made a difference so far. These are my top eight lessons for having secured the successful growth of BIG over the past eight years.
This is the inaugural column “Practice Values,” a new bi-monthly series by architect and technologist Phil Bernstein. The column will focus on the evolving role of the architect at the intersection of design and construction, including subjects such as alternative delivery systems and value generation. Bernstein was formerly vice president at Autodesk and now teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.
This semester, I’m teaching a course called “Exploring New Value Propositions for Practice” that’s based on the premise that the changing role of architects in the building industry requires us to think critically about our value as designers in that system. After studying the structure and dynamics of practice business models, the supply chain, and other examples of innovative design enterprises, they’ll be asked to create a business plan for a “next generation” architectural practice. I’m agnostic as to what this practice does per se, as long as it operates somewhere in the constellation of things that architects can do, but there is one constraint—your proposed firm can’t be paid fixed or hourly rate fees. It has to create value (and profit) through some other strategy.
The ShiftxDesign Conference at Harvard, this February 19th, is an annual exploration of all things design. Launched in 2012, the conference is a collaborative effort between student groups at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Business School, and Harvard College - and the only cross-school event of its kind. The event brings together creative thinkers, design luminaries, experts from a variety of backgrounds, and students to engage in and reinterpret the design process.
Architecture salary. Perhaps one of the most talked about and passionately debated topics in the design community. I receive more emails on this subject than almost anything else.
Previously, in 5 Factors Affecting Your Architecture Salary, I covered several variables that contribute to your income. However, for this article I want to highlight the areas that will produce the best return on your investment of time and money.
While earning six figures doesn't mean what it used to, it is still a very admirable (and achievable) goal. So how do you go about reaching this significant architecture salary milestone? Let's discuss.
“The Archipreneur Concept” is an action-oriented guide about exploring new business models for entrepreneurially minded architects. You have the chance to win 1 out of 10 copies the Archipreneur Team is giving away for free this week.
Freelancing can be a great option for architects looking for more autonomy and freedom in their work. Although there are drawbacks to this kind of work, there are specific strategies that you can use to overcome the challenges and uncertainties of going solo.
It is easy to look down on freelancing. Those who are employed by a traditional company or firm see freelancing as an inferior work model that automatically implies less financial security and suggests to employers a loose definition of responsibility. People often imagine freelancers as slumming it in their pajamas doing just a few hours of work per day, or as Jacks-of-all-trades, overworked and constantly chasing new commissions. While data from recent studies and surveys show that freelancers do indeed work fewer hours than those in traditional employment, the rising number of freelancers proves that this trend is not waning. In fact, according to recent reports, increasing numbers of US and European workers are choosing to go freelance.
http://www.archdaily.com/799876/freelancing-as-an-architect-the-pros-the-cons-and-tips-for-successLidija Grozdanic for Archipreneur.com
Starting an architecture firm may sprout from one’s love for and interest in the discipline, but running a competitive business requires more than just a tendency to enjoy the work. BIM could be the edge a firm needs in order to stand out from the crowd. There are many ways a firm can make use of BIM to become more profitable on their projects and successful in winning those projects in the first place; read on to find out more about six of them.
http://www.archdaily.com/799864/6-ways-bim-can-make-your-architecture-firm-more-competitiveAD Editorial Team
Completing a degree in architecture can be a long and arduous process, but also wonderfully rewarding. Despite this, many freshly graduated architects find themselves unsure about where to begin, or deciding that they actually don’t want to be architects at all. Here is a list of 21 careers you can pursue with a degree in architecture, which may help some overcome the daunting task of beginning to think about and plan for the professional life that awaits.
The AEC industry is notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. Cumbersome organizational structures and high financial stakes make it difficult for AEC professionals to experiment. Due to the limited role of architects in the project development process, innovative design solutions and experimentation with new manufacturing techniques are still confined to academic circles and research institutions.
However, some architecture firms are utilizing their high profiles, international success and the influx of talented, young designers to establish in-house research divisions and incubators that support the development of new ideas in the AEC industry. The following five companies are consistent in pushing the envelope and helping architecture adopt some of the latest technologies:
http://www.archdaily.com/798252/these-are-the-worlds-most-innovative-architecture-firmsLidija Grozdanic for Archipreneur.com
While BIM is increasingly becoming a necessity in architecture, it is still difficult to quantify the benefits it is bringing to the industry. Currently, there is no industry-standard method for calculating BIM’s Return on Investment (ROI) and, due to the complexities of the calculation, many firms have not adopted any consistent measurement practices to determine the monetary benefit that the technology has brought to their practice. The difficulty centers upon the fact that traditional analysis of ROI is unable to represent intangible factors that are important to a construction project such as avoided costs or improved safety.
Therefore, as the leading providers of BIM technology, Autodesk was interested in researching the subject. Their study, “Achieving Strategic ROI: Measuring the Value of BIM,” reveals that the role of ROI in technology decision making is shifting in that leading firms are seeking a more nuanced view of ROI to inform their strategy of investment and innovation.
Transcending the traditional “profit versus cost” calculation, companies are looking into different dimensions of the company to develop well-informed quantifications of their ROI for BIM.
http://www.archdaily.com/793443/how-do-you-know-if-bim-is-worth-the-investment-for-your-firmAD Editorial Team
In The Archipreneur Concept, architect Tobias Maescher explores new business models that architect-entrepreneurs are using to build game-changing, novel enterprises that are enriching the field of architecture. The fundamentals of how to break away from the convention of trading time for profit, create additional income streams to help sustain your practice when times are tough, and build your own projects are explored through real-world examples and actionable techniques. The book is a comprehensive guide to new business models for architects interested in practicing their craft in an entrepreneurial way, with each business model complemented with case studies of exciting new firms and individuals that run their businesses with scalability and efficiency in mind.
You will discover how to avoid common traps in passive income models, and how to take advantage of productizing architectural services through automation, building products, developing your own projects through co-housing initiatives, taking the lead in design builds, contributing to projects on tactical urbanism, and marketing your firm effectively.
The following is an excerpt from the chapter "Archipreneurship as a Solution."
When I started my business almost four years ago, I read every business book I could get my hands on. Apart from a paper route in grade school, I didn’t have a business background. I hadn’t even taken any business classes in college. But after seeing many hardworking colleagues get laid off during the 2009 recession, I realized I wanted to call my own shots and be my own boss.
Needless to say, I had some catching up to do.
So I went to the library and the book store and got a stack of books on marketing, sales, and business finance. You name it, I read it. The problem was that I couldn’t always put these books into a context that made sense to me. I didn’t want to run a Fortune 500 business. I didn’t have a marketing team. I didn’t even know if I wanted to hire employees. I just wanted work for myself and build something of my own.
So you’re convinced that BIM will be a good addition to your firm. Unlike more conventional CAD, BIM is composed of intelligent 3D models which make critical design and construction processes such as coordination, communication, and collaboration much easier and faster. However, for these reasons BIM is also seen by many as a more complicated software with a steep learning curve, with the potential to take a large chunk out of a firm’s operating budget during the transition period. So how do you actually transition an entire firm’s process to BIM? Here are ten steps to guide you on your way.
http://www.archdaily.com/791767/10-steps-to-simplify-your-firms-transition-to-bimAD Editorial Team
These days, BIM is becoming standard practice. Most people involved in the construction sector—from the architects and engineers who use BIM to the governments that are implementing mandates for BIM in certain project types—are well and truly sold on the benefits it brings, including efficiency, collaboration, cost-savings, and improved communication. As a result, many practices these days that haven’t yet switched to BIM give the same reason: the dreaded transitional period.
Of course, these fears of transition are not entirely unfounded, as new software, staff training and teething problems are an inevitable part of upending your existing workflow. These initial costs create a barrier for many busy practices who simply can’t afford the time or money right now that would enable them to unlock BIM’s benefits down the line. The key to solving this conundrum of course is to minimize the initial costs—and one way of doing this that many experts recommend is to start your firm’s transition to BIM with a single pilot project, in which you will be able to establish a workflow and define standards that suit your practice, and transfer these lessons onto later projects.
But what is the best way to select this pilot project? Should you work on a large or small building? A complex work or a simple one? Here, three early adopters of BIM share what they learned from their own pilot projects, each with very different characteristics.
http://www.archdaily.com/790251/how-to-adopt-bim-3-ways-to-approach-your-firms-pilot-projectAD Editorial Team
Downtown Los Angeles is on the verge of a breakthrough moment. It is becoming more livable, walkable and enjoyable as we speak. But what's missing? A multidisciplinary panel at the A+D Museum examines the promise of DTLA almost a decade after the museum's show Enlightened Development asked the question: How do we foster a "sustainable downtown revitalization"? What can we learn from other cities where a similar downtown renaissance has taken place?
The benefits and capabilities of building information modeling in large-scale architectural practices are well known. But is BIM really necessary for smaller firms? Many small firms have been operating using traditional CAD methods for some time now, and switching technologies can seem a daunting task, especially for companies that operate on small budgets and without the specialized personnel of large international firms. But this is 2016 and the economic landscape has changed, with more and more expected from architects all the time. Time is more valuable now than ever. Where BIM software programs were once seen as simply nice to have, their large range of benefits have now made BIM an essential part of the design process. And as the following reasons show, BIM is just as important a tool for small offices as it is for larger ones.
http://www.archdaily.com/782695/7-reasons-why-transitioning-to-bim-makes-sense-for-small-firmsAD Editorial Team
For decades, architectural competitions have been recognized as a great way for architecture firms to get their big break, or to make a name for themselves in the types of projects they might not have been considered for before. However, competitions come with a downside: it’s not always easy for firms to build them in to their culture. Design competitions take time, often don’t translate to billable hours, and aren’t always clear pathways to strengthening the firm’s balance sheet, and as a result they have seen somethingof a backlashin recent years.
Still, as the architecture profession evolves, it’s important we never lose sight of the remarkable value design competitions can bring to architects, firms and design culture. Regardless of their type, scale or structure, design competitions are key creative opportunities that can enrich our efforts personally and professionally, and as design leader of CannonDesign’s New York City office, I’ve worked with my colleagues to embed them into our work. We see numerous ways in which they can add value to our work, our firm and our clients – and they could do the same for you too.
In “Architect + Entrepreneur Volume Two”, we follow along as architect Eric Reinholdt scales his business, continuing the narrative begun in volume 1 and applying an entrepreneurial mindset to every facet of his work. The book chronicles his experiments – failures and successes – as he reinvents his architectural practice.
The primary innovation is a focus on passive income producing products and it involves a simple shift supplementing the standard consulting arrangement – hours traded for revenues earned – with an architecture-as-product revenue model. We discover how products, especially digital products, are nearly infinitely scalable. As compared with the limits of time, which govern the standard consulting arrangement, passive-income-generating products reinforce the brand message and create more freedom for the business owner.
Rather than wholly rejecting the individualized, high-touch service side of the business in favor of products, the book demonstrates how a line of products can actually nourish the consulting arm with only those clients best suited for the brand, while producing enough residual income to fully fund the practice.
The following is an excerpt from chapter 2, “A New Hope Model.”