Just add water: architecture startups!

Zagats for Architects: ¢,$,$$,$$$…
September 28, 2012, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Startup

I recently took an informal poll among friends on the going hourly rate for an architect.  Most gave me a range of billing rates, based on scope of work, schedule, location of project (NYC or elsewhere), and type of client (private/nonprofit/government).

What’s interesting was that no one cited the same rate billed at their former employers.  The lowest was 41% of their previous billing rate and the highest was 86%.  Assuming all factors the same, does a startup’s architecture firms smaller portfolio (or, fill in the blank) warrant a lower billing rate?

Here’s some articles on the rates, fee structure, salaries:




PS: The AIA doesn’t help sort any of this out, citing anti-trust clauses but gives this: http://blog.aia.org/smallfirms/2008/08/calculating_fees.html

(Yearly Salary/2080) * 2.5 to 3.5 = Billable Rate


the gift that keeps on giving…
September 25, 2012, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Startup

Maintaining your license and your associations means also keeping up with your continuing ed.  For my state, it required 36hrs of continuing education credits in 3 years.  Each state and associations (AIA, LEED)  have their own specific criteria for maintaining your license and membership.  You can find out specifics here:

State Licensure: http://www.aia.org/education/ces/mcerequirements/index.htm



Now that you’re on your own, lunch and learns might be less accessible.  I’m finding that you can find a lot of options online, but still need to supplement them with “interactive” courses in your local community or else conferences (which unfortunately are usually pricey).  Here are the sites that I’ve found for free continuing ed courses:






How are you keeping up with your continuing education?

Coffice: Where all the magic happens!
September 23, 2012, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Startup

Cof•fice  [kaw-fis]


a small, usually inexpensive, space where wi-fi, refreshments and light meals are served and business is conducted.

If you’re starting out, maintaining a low-overhead is important, if not a necessity.  I’ve been working out of my coffice for many months now. Luckily most of my clients are remote, where Skype conference calls, email and phone disguise the lack of a professional brick and mortar.   For now, it works, but eventually this may not be tenable.   There’s also the option of renting workspace– these sites are inspiring coops for creative sparks.





So, where does your magic happen?  Are you finding spaces in your city?  What have been the pros/cons of working in shared spaces?  What was the tipping factor to start paying rent for your business?

Skip the entree, sides are yummier!
September 21, 2012, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Startup

One of the best things about being an architect is that your job is to make– make models. make drawings. make presentations. make graphics. make space…it’s non-stop production.  And it gets even better when you get to see it built, full scale!  *yikes!/woohoo!!*

(Un)Fortunately, this production doesn’t usually stop when you go home at night.  If you’re like me, you have projects scattered all over your house…or maybe your house IS the project!  A typical soundbite might go like: ‘Em, yes, yes I did just dig that table out of the dumpster…it’s got great form. All I need to do is pour that concrete top and it’ll be perrrrfect.   That? eh, that’s almost done. It’s going to be a rubber lamp.”   Yep.  making.

So what happens when you start spending more time on your side projects than your capital “A”rchitecture projects?  Etsy anyone?

Just a buncha letters after my name….
September 20, 2012, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Startup

    AiA nCArB LeED Ap…

Just a buncha letters that follow my name.   Each letter costs me a couple hundred bucks a year…and I’m wondering what’s it worth?

Do you think its important to maintain these associations?  Do you use it more for marketing purposes or actually use the organizations’ services?  What’s most important to you?

the Extraction
September 20, 2012, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Startup

After years of showing up every day at my old office, I finally decided to quit.  The actual conversation went down like a bad ’80s breakup movie.

me:  no, no really, its not you. It’s me.  I’m looking for a change…. (staring down at my shoes)
head honcho: are you going somewhere else? who else have you been with??
me (squirming uncomfortably): no, really. I’m not starting at  another office right away. I’m just looking to change directions…
head honcho: what are you going to do? do you have a plan?  
me: no. I’m just…just….(pause)….moving on.

yep.  noooo idea what I’m doing, but I’m going for it!  I ended up leaving the office (physically speaking) but continued to work as a consultant for the next seven months.  There were definitely pros/cons to that situation:

PROS: flexible hours and geography, working in the pajamas while taking conference calls, a steady paycheck while figuring what’s next.

CONS: not the cleanest breakup – plus, running an office out of my bedroom

What were your experiences like? How long did you stay? Any thing you wish you’d done differently?  What were your pros/cons?

What’s in a name?
September 19, 2012, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Startup

So you’ve finally landed that awesome kitchen renovation! The first thing that comes up is “What’s your name?”
Given the difficulty in just naming a blog, the process of naming your own firm is mind boggling! Never mind the disheartening moment when you find someone else, somewhere else in a far, faraway land has already taken that name!!

Names are so important- on a basic level they provide identity in the most precise way.  It’s not simply who you are…but what you do… how you want to be perceived…and that’s not even touching the potentials of font, punctuation, and other designy items.

A quick  scan through archinect’s links to design firms, you find either the:

personal name/initials +

  • studio?  (Just open enough to allow you to do architecture and beyond!)
  • Architect?  (the state board, aia, ncarb and other bodies rule this definition)
  • designs?

OR the engimatic 

  • verb  (the action begins! WORK! Build!)
  • noun
  • a combination of letters, numbers, symbols that could really just be Prince, for all we know.

What was your process in naming?  Any good runner ups? Was the potential for future collaborations factored into this?