Tuesday, 26 February 2013

BCIN Accreditation (Pt.I)

Since my departure from the corporate Architectural practices of my past, it has become a requirement for an Architectural Technologist (such as myself) to attain accreditation with the Ministry of Municipal affairs and Housing as a designer of structures.  This accreditation is know as a designer's BCIN (number / licence).  As my previous experiences have been within a practice, I could toil on another's design and have it issued under the practice with which I was employed.  Therefore, a BCIN number was not required for me, personally, during these years.

As I have recently started-out on my own, I am in the position where I will be going through the (rather arduous) process of becoming accredited with my own BCIN number. Currently, I am without my BCIN, and rely on consultants (Structural Engineers and / or Architects) to provide general review and stamping of my drawings, prior to building permit application.

However, I am proud to announce that I am enrolled in the programme (as of today) and will be sitting the (first) exam on May 21, 2013!

I hope to be describing the process of BCIN accreditation through this blog.  I look forward to successfully completing it and being able to service clients without the aid of additional consultants, in the very near future...  Exciting steps, to be sure!!

Monday, 25 February 2013

The SOLE proprietor, and what it means (Pt.I)

As mentioned in a previous blog post, my practice has been on an bit of an upswing lately...  Great news but, it presents challenges that I hadn't expected...

A current project is a new, residential bungalow for a client and family.  The design was brought to me in a moderately resolved state and (in the eyes of the client) only required some "tuning-up" and refining to prepare for budget pricing.  No problem, it's a nice opportunity!

Working through the design, I became aware that the roof plan was going to be a challenge.  This was not a "typical" bungalow coming in at just under 4000 SF (on the main floor).  Fortunately, the site allows for a generous walk-out basement feature, and boosts the "livable" space to the 7000 SF range.  Again, no problem:  Lots of glass, and bright, sunny spaces with a view...  Again, what an opportunity!  But, that roof...

After struggling with the design, it became clear that I was getting bogged-down, and needed some help.  Here's where I would have turned to a fellow / colleague in an office environment to share ideas and have a "second set of eye's" review the drawings.  As  a sole proprietor, I realized that I've given-up that support network that comes with working in a larger practice.  Naturally, I turned to my supportive wife, for her ideas.  Leave it to her to point me in the right direction...

One of the beliefs one must have, in order to make the switch to a private practice, is that "I am capable of handling it ALL".  It takes wisdom to realize that this confidence can provide a false sense of self.  I had to draw on my network of associates to re-create the advantages that a larger practice can provide.  I reached out to a long-time acquaintance and, coincidentally, a neighbour, to meet and discuss / review the plan...  Within a few minutes, we had a worked through the issues and I was on my way, again.  (Thanks Dan!)

So, a word of advice...  Don't be afraid to reach-out for help, in whatever you do.  More often than not, a colleague, associate or neighbour will be happy to share their knowledge and experience.  For a sole proprietor, the network you build is of tremendous importance. Invest in it, and use it.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday: A day of rest and renewal.

The practice has been busy lately, and I'm thankful!

Exciting projects and opportunities are happening all around me.  While some may be small in scope, they can be demanding and all-consuming.  I'm sure my fellow designers can identify with the experience.

The basement renovation project, which was the subject for my previous post, has been at the top of my mind, even though I have a much larger project / deadline looming, potential client-meetings and technology seminars in the coming week.  The enthusiasm which the client brings; fresh and innovative ideas, and challenges during construction, are keeping my senses sharp and I am learning much.

New media sources, shared to me by this client (twitter, pinterest and blogger) have opened a new "world" to me, and I am truly amazed at the amount of information out there.  More amazing to me, are the ways in which to manage this.  It's an exciting challenge that I had not expected.  Weekends are time for a break in the action.  Or, so I had thought...

It is our normal routine, to enjoy a Saturday morning breakfast at the St. Lawrence Market.  Carousel Bakery makes the most delicious peameal (Canadian / back bacon) sandwiches which my family and I enjoy very much...  I highly recommend them.  After breakfast, we've been spending a little family time by ice-skating at Harbourfront, Nathan Phillips Square or another of the fine rinks in Toronto.  Other times, we'll find a neighbourhood, and simply explore.  New things to see, smells and tastes to invigorate the senses.  Sharing these experiences with my young family, are what re-charge my batteries, and give me inspiration for the week / challenges ahead.

By nature, I am a sensitive person, and I take inspiration from all that is around me. These weekend jaunts into Toronto (from our suburban enclave) stimulate me while giving me an opportunity to share the neighbourhoods of my childhood and youth.  I have taken-up photography in the last few years, and find myself taking along my little Nikon V1 whenever we are out and about.  Random snapshots of interesting and inspirational scenes, details or colours are becoming touchstones or a "library" of reference to draw on.  New (to me) media, give me a wonderful way of cataloguing and sharing (which, I hope to do, here).  The challenge of uploading and managing / presenting them, are a work in progress...

This past weekend, we made our way to the Castlefield design district in search of a side-table (for laying-out drawings).  While we had minimal success in finding a suitable, affordable table, the amazing content of architectural antiques and vintage / salvage items were like lights at a carnival...  It was a spectacle of (almost) overwhelming proportions but, amazing to the senses and, maybe more importantly, fuel for the fire. Items may be used directly in current or future projects, or cues may be borrowed and replicated in designs suitable for projects that will be realized only in my imagination... No matter, the experience is the stimulus.

Now, a day of rest, and on to the challenges of the week ahead!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Adventures in renovation...

Over the past week or so, I have had the pleasure of working with the talented interior designer (and blogger extraordinaire) Christine Dovey on a residential basement renovation.  For those of you who are not familiar with Christine, here is a link to her inspiring design blog:   bijou and boheme

As this project is for her own dwelling, it's exciting opportunity for me to work with a client who is open to, and actually encourages, thinking "outside the box".  Christine is completely receptive to new and innovative ideas.  Indeed, the conversations can be animated, lengthy and detailed as we both have considerable knowledge to bring to the table.  This is not a typical architectural designer - client relationship which requires a lot of guidance and a firm hand on the part of the designer.  This dynamic is playful, fluid, responsive and inspiring even when faced with the challenges that occur in any project... More on those challenges, later.

Consultations with the client and family members to evaluate needs and wants, documenting site conditions and creating a workable design to present to the client and contractor are all typical steps I take towards a successful project.  On this particular project, I've been lucky to have a familiarity with a client who's involved and provides considerable design inspiration.  In large part, the seeds of this design have germinated in Christine's own creativity and were brought to me for pruning and cultivating.  Rarely, in my past experience, has a client had such a strong sense of the end-product, and vision towards what could be.

Basement renovations are tricky.  Not only are the spaces (typically) dark, confined and largely uninspiring they are filled with the "guts" and "bones" of what makes the remainder of the upper-storeys livable.  Christine and I came-up with a dramatic transformation to her existing space, and presented the design to the contractor.  Demolition commenced, and the ugly head of the underlying structure, reared.  Quickly, I was able to evaluate the site conditions and revise the design / layout to retain the majority of the "must-haves" on Christine's list, while minimizing impact (on the schedule and budget) by re-configuring spaces so construction could proceed without a delay.

I must say, it was this responsiveness to my client's needs and site conditions, that I'm most proud of to this stage.  This example is what I want my practice to be primarily known for:  Attentive and responsive to the client and considerate in all aspects of the project.  Good design is paramount and, by nature, considerate.

I am looking forward to seeing this project progress, and excited to experience the renovated space.  I hope to be able to share this (and more on other, current projects) through this blog, as I get more comfortable with posting, the layout and it's intricacies. Exciting stuff ahead!

Thanks for reading...  Stay tuned!