A rogue trade

Most of the time, the construction of an architect-designed project proceeds according to plan. Construction unfolds on time. The construction documentation is clear and free of ambiguity. The trades perform their work skilfully and conscientiously. There are few surprises, be they physical or financial. The builder, owner and architect maintain a positive working relationship.

Sometimes though, construction does not proceed according to plan. Through negligence, disagreement or accident, a project is derailed. The derailment might last a moment in time, soon forgotten, or it might endure the entire project, poisoning both the process and relationships.

We have experienced and survived a number of derailments. They are stressful, sometimes expensive and always fractious. They test the good intentions of everyone involved.

What follows is the 6th of eight disaster lessons from site. We ask what went wrong and review what we’ve changed in our practices to prevent it from happening again. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

6. A rogue trade

20141228 rogue trade

What happened

Construction of a house can easily involve as many as twenty separate trades: excavators, demolition experts, concreters, steel fabricators, carpenters, roof plumbers, window fabricators, glaziers, brick layers, renderers, electricians, plumbers, hydronic heating installers, air-conditioning installers, joiners, plasterers, tilers, painters, landscapers, cleaners.[1]

When working with a good quality builder, two positive things happen: first, he is more likely to work with quality trades; and second, his approach to the construction process rubs off on them. His workmanship, attention to detail and cleanliness infuse everyone else on the team.

Invariably however, there is a rogue trade.

This has happened to us twice, in both cases with joiners. On both projects, the joiners began their work diligently. On both, the first joinery units delivered to site were built well. And on both, at some point their quality began to suffer.

What happened next

On one project, the mitres between timber benchtops were misaligned, on the other, timber veneer panels were discoloured. These issues were serious enough to warrant rectification work, however once the problems were identified they snowballed. Instead of knuckling under and just fixing the problems, the joiners grew recalcitrant and obstructive. Further workmanship suffered and units had to be repeatedly remade. Timeliness also began to spin out of control: deadlines were missed, promises weren’t kept, relationships began to suffer.

Why we think it happened

Everyone makes mistakes. Though we all begin with intentions of flawlessness, mistakes invariably happen. The existence of the mistake is not a problem – c’est la vie – as long as someone takes responsibility and fixes it.

In the case of our two rogue joiners, they refused this responsibility. Indeed, they blamed everyone under the sun but themselves, rendering the very idea of fixing the problems difficult for them. Instead of immediately sending in their most skilled craftsmen to make things right, they dragged their feet and eventually, grudgingly, sent in their most junior staff who inevitably caused yet further problems.

The lesson we learnt

Of all the trades, joiners are amongst the most important. Their work is very visible in the finished project, and designed to be manipulated on a daily basis. The detailed and complex nature of their work also makes them most vulnerable to error.[2] It doesn’t help that the joinery trade is often the most expensive, nor that their work is conducted off-site, away from the regular scrutiny of architect, builder and client.

The lesson we learnt, though have yet to deploy, was to consider one of two alternative ways of ensuring the right joiner is used for a project. Both, unfortunately, attract their own unique risks:

  1. We could nominate a joiner who knows our work, and we know will do the job right. This will mean the joiner’s price is not provided in a competitive environment, meaning his price might be unnecessarily high. It will also mean that the builder may never have worked with the joiner before, increasing the possibility for a poor working relationship.
  2. We could nominate a provisional sum for the joinery trade, and require the builder to obtain competitive quotes for the work once construction has started. This means the builder isn’t relying on a cheap joinery price to win the job, but exposes the client to the risks of an unsubstantiated provisional sum.

These strategies are relevant for any trade, though are most relevant for the more detailed or visible parts of a project.


Footnote

  1. Not to mention the dozens of other specialist installers that often work on more expensive residential projects.
  2. A timber frame that’s not quite plumb can always be adjusted prior to sheeting. A benchtop has no such opportunity: it needs to be perfect first time around.

Image source

  1. A rogue trade, author’s own image.
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A pause in construction

Most of the time, the construction of an architect-designed project proceeds according to plan. Construction unfolds on time. The construction documentation is clear and free of ambiguity. The trades perform their work skilfully and conscientiously. There are few surprises, be they physical or financial. The builder, owner and architect maintain a positive working relationship.

Sometimes though, construction does not proceed according to plan. Through negligence, disagreement or accident, a project is derailed. The derailment might last a moment in time, soon forgotten, or it might endure the entire project, poisoning both the process and relationships.

We have experienced and survived a number of derailments. They are stressful, sometimes expensive and always fractious. They test the good intentions of everyone involved.

What follows is the 5th of eight disaster lessons from site. We ask what went wrong and review what we’ve changed in our practices to prevent it from happening again. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

5. A pause in construction

pause in construction

What happened

The opening trades of construction proceeded rapidly, on or even a touch ahead of schedule. Excavation, the concrete floor slab, framing and roof cladding were all finished within two months. But towards the end of this period, we made a late change to the window system. This would mean an unavoidable pause in progress while the window frames were fabricated: the builder was scheduled to finish the last of his pre-windows work a full month prior to their delivery.

What happened next

The builder found other work to fill the gap, getting started on a second project. He was transparent with us, though really what else could we expect? It was perfectly reasonable that a four week lull would need to be filled so he could keep his staff busy.

What we hadn’t expected though was that the new project would take over the builder’s attention as his primary focus. While the quality of his work on ours never suffered, from that point onwards progress became sporadic at best. During the finishing trades, the project barely limped along. Ultimately, it took the builder six weeks to get through the first third of construction and eight months for the remaining two thirds.[1]

Why we think it happened

The four week pause was enough to permanently disrupt the broader organisational focus of the builder. Managing the flow of work on site is an intense and continuous exercise that demands a builder’s full attention, attention he no longer had to give. He was now required to balance the competing demands of two sites, located at opposite ends of Melbourne, both in terms of anticipatory scheduling and on-site staffing. It was a task that proved too much for him: excuses began to creep in and milestones were repeatedly postponed.

Perhaps central to this was the cause for the disruption, that is, a change we and the client introduced. The windows delay was not something the builder had anticipated, and he was forced to cope with it on the fly. Though it was not discussed from that point onwards, it’s possible the delay became something like an excuse for him. He could let another week slip because, after all, it wasn’t his fault he had to get started on a second job.

The lesson we learnt

A builder is a small business operator. He has staff and overheads, both of which need to be paid every month. As mentioned previously, he also has to manage large volumes of cashflow to earn his income. He needs to stay busy or he’ll sink.

A significant delay, no matter what causes it, will mean a builder has to take himself and his staff elsewhere to fill the gap. The lesson we learnt was to ensure all our critical decisions are made with enough time for the builder to proceed with his works on schedule. We may not be able to control every external delaying influence on a project, but the least we can do is remove ourselves as one of them.


Footnote

  1. When, according to the builder’s works schedule, it should have only taken two months.

Image source

  1. A pause in construction, author’s own image.
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Irregular site meetings

Most of the time, the construction of an architect-designed project proceeds according to plan. Construction unfolds on time. The construction documentation is clear and free of ambiguity. The trades perform their work skilfully and conscientiously. There are few surprises, be they physical or financial. The builder, owner and architect maintain a positive working relationship.

Sometimes though, construction does not proceed according to plan. Through negligence, disagreement or accident, a project is derailed. The derailment might last a moment in time, soon forgotten, or it might endure the entire project, poisoning both the process and relationships.

We have experienced and survived a number of derailments. They are stressful, sometimes expensive and always fractious. They test the good intentions of everyone involved.

What follows is the 4th of eight disaster lessons from site. We ask what went wrong and review what we’ve changed in our practices to prevent it from happening again. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

4. Irregular site meetings

site meetings

What happened

The project was located an hour and a half’s drive south of Melbourne. The builder’s construction schedule required that he be on site on irregular days, making regular site meetings difficult to coordinate. Consequently, site meetings were never arranged, with most questions addressed either via phone or the occasional meeting in Melbourne.

What happened next

Talking through construction details on the phone was far from ideal, particularly in terms of maintaining clear paper trails for decisions, but it was manageable. If this had been the only hardship, the real issues created via the lack of site meetings likely would never have been revealed.

However, while the project proceeded well during the early stages of construction, progress slowed substantially during the finishing trades. This was not specifically related to the absence of site meetings, but without regular, face-to-face opportunities for communication, the lack of movement on site grew increasingly frustrating for the clients.[1] The relationship between the clients and builder thus became tense and, caught in the middle, this tension began to affect us also.

As the final weeks of the project stretched out across months, the lack of personal contact became exponentially problematic. We found ourselves acting as mediators between clients and builder. We relayed messages back and forth constantly and had the same futile conversations over and over again, all while absorbing the dismay of our clients as if by osmosis.

Why we think it happened

The builder’s request to avoid site meetings, and our readiness to agree, came from our shared misapprehension that they would inconvenience the construction process rather than facilitate it. Indeed, reflecting on other projects, and our sense that builders sometimes itch to end our meetings and get back to the “real” work, it’s likely this belief is not isolated.

The lesson we learnt

For this project, the rural location of the site combined with the builder’s sporadic presence there were enough for us to let site meetings slip off the radar. In hindsight, the driving time required to get to and from site would have been more than compensated for by the benefit of having regular opportunities for clients, builder and architect to meet in person.

The lesson we learnt therefore is to insist on site meetings, every two weeks at least, throughout the entire duration of the construction process. We would add that this should be the case even if progress is for some reason retarded or delayed: the builder is driving progress, but it is only through the combined efforts of builder and architect that he can navigate also.


Footnote

  1. The clients continued to live on site during construction, which exacerbated their frustration. Having the client so close to the building process is another disaster waiting to happen, though is unfortunately outside our control.

Image source

  1. Irregular site meetings, author’s own image.
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An unsubstantiated provisional sum

Most of the time, the construction of an architect-designed project proceeds according to plan. Construction unfolds on time. The construction documentation is clear and free of ambiguity. The trades perform their work skilfully and conscientiously. There are few surprises, be they physical or financial. The builder, owner and architect maintain a positive working relationship.

Sometimes though, construction does not proceed according to plan. Through negligence, disagreement or accident, a project is derailed. The derailment might last a moment in time, soon forgotten, or it might endure the entire project, poisoning both the process and relationships.

We have experienced and survived a number of derailments. They are stressful, sometimes expensive and always fractious. They test the good intentions of everyone involved.

What follows is the 3rd of eight disaster lessons from site. We ask what went wrong and review what we’ve changed in our practices to prevent it from happening again. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

3. An unsubstantiated provisional sum

provisional sum

What happened

As the name suggests, a provisional sum is a nominal allowance within most fixed price building contracts that relates to a portion of a project that is not yet known. Typical examples of such sums might be a supply rate for bathroom tiles still to be selected, or an item of joinery not yet documented. We try to keep provisional sums to a minimum, as they represent an unnecessary financial risk to our clients.

In this instance, the builder requested a portion of the works be removed from the fixed component of the contract and relegated to a provisional sum. The works involved new pool fencing to an existing pool. The fence had already been thoroughly documented, but the builder was struggling to lock down a price, and both he and our clients were keen for him to start on site as soon as possible. The builder provided an estimate for the fence – around $12,000 – and we accepted his request.

What happened next

The builder started on site. Some months later, he submitted a fixed quote for the pool fence based on a simplified version of the originally submitted documentation. We were shocked to discover that despite this simplification his quote was more than double his original estimate.

Our analysis of the builder’s quote proved our design to be economical, and his fixed quote to in fact be fair and reasonable. It was his estimate that was flawed and, unfortunately, the nature of provisional sums made his error our client’s problem. They were ultimately put in a position where they had to spend $15,000 over their expectations to build their fence.

Why we think it happened

The builder was not sufficiently diligent when preparing his estimate for the pool fence, we think in large part because he had no need to be. He had already more or less won the tender, and the estimate was intended for a provisional sum, with no requirement for him to honour it. His calculations for the materials and labour required for the fence were both seriously undercooked, errors he was able to later rectify.

The lesson we learnt

It is rare for a provisional sum to be prepared by a builder, but in the event one is, the lesson we learnt is it should always be cross-checked for accuracy. This can be done by analysis of the breakdown of the sum, or even better, by comparison against other builders’ or a quantity surveyor’s estimates.


Image source

  1. An unsubstantiated provisional sum, author’s own image.
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Progress payments by stage

Most of the time, the construction of an architect-designed project proceeds according to plan. Construction unfolds on time. The construction documentation is clear and free of ambiguity. The trades perform their work skilfully and conscientiously. There are few surprises, be they physical or financial. The builder, owner and architect maintain a positive working relationship.

Sometimes though, construction does not proceed according to plan. Through negligence, disagreement or accident, a project is derailed. The derailment might last a moment in time, soon forgotten, or it might endure the entire project, poisoning both the process and relationships.

We have experienced and survived a number of derailments. They are stressful, sometimes expensive and always fractious. They test the good intentions of everyone involved.

What follows is the 2nd of eight disaster lessons from site. We ask what went wrong and review what we’ve changed in our practices to prevent it from happening again. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

2. Progress payments by stage

progress payments

What happened

It is typical for a builder to claim payments for his work on a monthly basis, where the sum claimed corresponds to the value of the work undertaken in the past month. The builder instead requested that payments be made by stage. This involves regulated percentages that can be claimed at the completion of stipulated stages of construction:

Base stage – 10%
Framing stage – 15%
Lock-up stage – 35%
Fixing stage – 20%
Completion – 20%

Staged payments are larger but less regular than monthly payments. We recognised that this request likely related to the builder’s aversion to paperwork, but were unable to see any problem with it, so accepted his request.

What happened next

After the first few months of construction had passed, it became clear that the staged payments were a problem for the builder. They were simply spread too far apart. He might not have liked the paperwork involved with monthly payments, but the stop-start cashflow really hurt him.

This had two important effects:

First, he began to disappear from site for weeks at a time. Though the builder refused to provide explanations for his absences, we suspected he was taking on smaller commissions with fast turnarounds to keep the money flowing. These periods of non-activity on site stacked alarmingly, stretching what was supposed to be a nine month construction period out to 18 months.

Second, in order to reduce the money he would owe subcontractors, he began to take on specialist trades like concreting, plastering, plumbing and hydronic heating himself. He had to redo many of these, as his workmanship was not up to an acceptable standard. He also made errors that were impossible to rectify, things like bootprints in finished concrete surfaces and hydronic heating lines emerging crookedly from concrete slabs.

Why we think it happened

Though the builder never came clean with us or our client, we had no doubt that he was struggling financially. If the project had proceeded according to schedule, he would have received his staged payments once every two months or so. As the schedule stretched further and further, there were times when four or five months passed without payment. The poor cashflow created a vicious cycle that stretched the project timeline and impeded cashflow further.

The builder was not capable of extricating himself from this cycle. He had dug his own hole and everything he did, in terms of both his poor scheduling and inattention to quality, only served to make the hole deeper.

The lesson we learnt

This experience was powerful proof of the importance of cashflow on site. Consider: on a $500,000 project, the builder’s profit margin is around 15%. In other words, he pays and receives $425,000 in order to earn just $75,000. He also has to pay suppliers and subcontractors before our client pays him, the gap between which might be as much as two months. He must therefore keep the money coming in or the cycle will disintegrate.

The lesson we learnt was simple: we no longer accept project payments by stage. Even if the builder is paperwork-shy, and we must produce additional paperwork to compensate, we insist on monthly payments.


Image source

  1. Progress payments by stage, author’s own image.
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Pre-contract confrontation

Most of the time, the construction of an architect-designed project proceeds according to plan. Construction unfolds on time. The construction documentation is clear and free of ambiguity. The trades perform their work skilfully and conscientiously. There are few surprises, be they physical or financial. The builder, owner and architect maintain a positive working relationship.

Sometimes though, construction does not proceed according to plan. Through negligence, disagreement or accident, a project is derailed. The derailment might last a moment in time, soon forgotten, or it might endure the entire project, poisoning both the process and relationships.

We have experienced and survived a number of derailments. They are stressful, sometimes expensive and always fractious. They test the good intentions of everyone involved.

What follows is the 1st of eight disaster lessons from site. We ask what went wrong and review what we’ve changed in our practices to prevent it from happening again. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

1. Pre-contract confrontation

confrontation

What happened

Prior to getting on site, prior even to signing the building contract, the builder started making our lives difficult. He provided insufficient explanation of his tender breakdown. He objected to provisions in the standard ABIC building contract that he had known about since the beginning of the tender period. He developed an aggressive attitude towards us. He became hard to reach by phone.

These isolated events came to a head on the evening we were due to sign contracts, where a shouting match erupted over eleventh hour changes the builder wanted to include. The documents were left unsigned when he stormed out in a rage.

What happened next

Despite the warning signals, we met with the builder to smooth things over. He had two important qualities that lulled us into overlooking his confrontational attitude: he had previously worked with our client’s brother, who regarded him highly; and his tender was substantially less than the only other builder who tendered. We knew that rejecting him would mean re-tendering, and were worried we would not find another builder who could match his price.

We felt at the time that we had no other choice but to plough in and hope we could manage him. So, to our long-lasting regret, we signed the building contracts with him.

The subsequent construction process was a disaster, easily the worst experience on site we have ever endured. He bullied and abused us, lied to us incessantly, made us dread each visit to site, and turned what should have been a joyous period into an anxiety-filled one.

Why we think it happened

The builder had an old-school approach to the construction process, right down to his poor paperwork, condescending nature and “She’ll be right, mate” responses to tricky questions. He felt his years of experience earned him the right to run our project however he liked, and our youth equalled incompetence. His apprenticeship-based education did not prepare him well for the age of information and paper trails, leaving him distrustful of any form of written communication. Whenever we challenged him on any point, he became defensive and unresponsive.

The lesson we learnt

Before contracts are signed, a builder should still be trying to sell himself to us and our client. He has not yet won the job, so it stands to reason that he must still try to woo us. He should be at his most accommodating, personable and enthusiastic. A builder who makes life difficult at first contact will not get any easier, and is likely to become more difficult, to manage once he has won the job and is on site.

The lesson we learnt was that a good relationship between architect and builder is essential from the very beginning. If the warning bells start ringing before contracts are signed, we should not be afraid to re-tender.


Image source

  1. Pre-contract confrontation, author’s own image.
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On being an architect and a dad

oscar in the studio

I am an architect and I am a dad.

I’m lots of other things as well – a husband, a small business owner, a writer, a teacher, a runner – but these two things (together with being a husband) represent the biggest and most important part of me. They demand the lion’s share of my waking life and I dedicate to them the lion’s share of my passions and energy.

For many parents, both men and women, the separation of these roles is reinforced by any number of influences: the physical act of leaving one’s home to go to work; the contrasting mental spaces required to work and to parent; fossilised attitudes within the workplace; even the desire to safeguard the efficiency of work and preciousness of family. The latter was certainly the case for my parents, who put great effort while I was growing up into protecting the bookends of the day.

Deservedly, this subject has received a lot of recent attention in lecture, institution and media circles. The gender discussion is multifaceted, but revolves predominantly around equity, work / life balance and family. Thanks to excellent research conducted by Parlour, we know that women disappear from the profession as they get older.[1] We know that disparity between the career progression of men and women still exists. And we know that long hours and poor pay remain a systemic problem within the industry, conditions that prohibit the balance of work and family.

But this is not my experience.

For me, the presence of women in the workplace, together with a flexible, family-friendly approach to working hours are the norm. After graduating, I worked at Perkins Architects where half the twelve architecture staff were women, where part time work for returning mothers was encouraged, and where the day started at nine and finished at six. Since establishing Mihaly Slocombe in 2010 with my wife, Erica Slocombe, these conditions have endured. We work from home, enjoy flexible working hours, wrap up by six, and our son, Oscar, is an important (if sometimes destructive) part of the studio environment.

This is not to say that we are world’s best practice. We don’t have an official gender or family policy. Plenty of the choices that have lead to our current work / life balance have been unconscious. And our parenting roles are in many ways based on traditional gender divisions. We are not driven by a fervour for gender equity, we just live and work in a fluid way that feels right.

I wonder if this is a commonplace arrangement? Since so many architects at some point start their own practice, surely my experience is not unique. Surely there are other archidads out there sharing the parenting load… Which is why I’m writing this article. Amidst all of the wonderful energy devoted to revealing and correcting the gender imbalance and poor working conditions that we know persist in our profession, the role of working men in parenting seems to be a less popular subject. While the picture we have of working mothers is highly detailed, the one of working fathers is blurry at best.[2]

I’d like to share my story in the hope that it provides some (tiny) measure of balance to the gender discussion. There is no doubt that the old boys club, unconscious bias and the glass ceiling are men’s shame to bear, but when I reflect on my dual identities as architect and dad, or should I say, co-identities, I am struck by how unlike the traditional caricature of male architects my life is.

matchbox cars

Location, location, location

More than anything, this distinction is enabled by the location of the Mihaly Slocombe studio in our spare bedroom. Working from home means work and family flow into one another: I am around my family, and my family are around my work, all the time. Design presentations, emails and piles of drawings overlap with play, songs and piles of toys. There is a shifting but ever-present colony of Matchbox cars in every corner of our house, my desk included.

My day would not be complete without at least one stint of working with Daddy time, memorable sessions involving Oscar perched on my lap while he navigates my iPhone with unnerving aptitude and I try valiantly to tap away at my keyboard around him. Meetings and deadlines are scheduled around nap times, dance class and nanny days. Making any decision in our work life means negotiating the needs of our family life, and vice versa.

I even muse sometimes what influence this will have on Jake, our graduate architect. He takes part in the rituals of family lunch most days; he gets to enjoy Oscar’s regular visits to our studio space and interchangeable demands for John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance and Craig Smith’s timeless The Wonky Donkey; he arrives in the morning to tales of sleep deprivation; he has watched Oscar grow from a baby into a toddler.

Blurring boundaries

While working from home began as a decision to reduce our operating costs, it has evolved into an essential ingredient in the way we do business. This might strike many as highly counterproductive. And it’s true that a different office environment might facilitate greater profitability (as might slogging away at work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week). But in Oscar’s three years, I’ve never found the blurring of my identities to be a problem.

The practice of architecture has always expanded and contracted to fill the gaps in my life. All the way back to my primary school years, sketching houses was a weekend hobby. I undertook my first project commission while studying at university, and my second while working four days a week at Perkins. As a dad, architecture continues to bend and sway, to take place when it can and must.

I recognise this situation won’t last. Erica, Jake and I work 10 full time equivalent days between us, some of which overlap with us all working together. Our spare bedroom studio is very comfortable for two, but the third is challenging. Adding even one additional staff member would be impossible. But when a career first takes shape as a primary school hobby, even the difficult bits are imbued with a lustre of ease. I’m incredibly lucky to feel like this, I know, and recognise that for vast swathes of Australia, work is a chore. But for me, it’s just not. I love my family. I love architecture. While I still can, why in the world would I want to keep them separate?

Shared decision making

To use an old (somewhat gender-stereotypical) saying, it’s hard to say who in our family wears the pants. The same goes for our practice. As the primary carer, Erica is the expert on Oscar and so drives most decisions concerning him. As the primary businessperson, I drive most decisions concerning Mihaly Slocombe. But we are fortunate to enjoy both a work and life partnership where neither of us makes those decisions independently. The pants therefore are either large enough to fit us both, or we hop about wearing one leg each.

Ownership of our projects is also shared, as is any sense of individual authorship. This has only become more evident since Jake came on board two years ago, whose critical design input through modelling, detailing and documentation have come to reshape our design process.

Is this sharing of responsibilities rare or is it the norm? I’ve never canvassed opinion amongst either my friends or work colleagues, though it’s likely there exists a whole spectrum of structures. I do know it makes me uncomfortable watching Mad Men’s Donald Draper make executive decisions for his family. Perhaps it should be the norm. It is no coincidence that Parlour considers issues of gender equity as the canary in the coalmine for the whole architecture profession, women and men inclusive. We’re all in this together.

oscar playing shops

Future decisions

Writing this article has inspired me to reconsider my work and life ambitions. With a new baby on the way, and all the attendant furniture that will inevitably accompany her, the idea of keeping our studio at home has become more tenuous. But it’s an arrangement I hope we can retain, at least until Oscar and his baby sister head off to school, as it allows me to be the sort of parent I want to be. I like being around, listening all day to the sounds of Oscar’s play even if I’m not directly part of it. I like the zero commute time, the morning hustle to get the house ready for its use as a studio, and then the evening hustle to finish off work in time for dinner at 6pm.

When Erica returns to being a full time mum next year, having our studio at home will also enable her to remain connected to the work of the architecture practice that bears her name. Just as I am around Oscar all day, she will be around our work all day. Quick questions can be fielded, clients can be greeted, progress discussions can be had over lunch.

When I think about it, isn’t this what the entire gender discussion boils down to? How can we, as individuals living in a contemporary, egalitarian society, live our lives so the parts are in balance with one another? Working long hours sucks. Spending evenings locked up in the office sucks. Working the right amount to contribute meaningfully to the broader community while still dedicating the right amount of time to my family feels great.

I like my life.

oscar on site

 

This article is co-published on Parlour, an online resource on women, equity and architecture.


Footnotes:

  1. Around 45% of architects in their twenties are women. This number declines to less than 10% for architects over 55 years of age. Statistics sourced from Gill Matthewson; The numbers so far; Parlour; March 2012.
  2. I refer here to the general tone of the gender equity discussion. Since I am by no means an expert, I may be entirely wrong here. Please feel free to correct me if I am.

Images:

  1. At work with Oscar, author’s own image.
  2. Matchbox cars, author’s own image.
  3. Playing shops, author’s own image.
  4. On site with Oscar, author’s own image.

 

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