If I Was In Charge…

 If I was in charge of architecture If I Was In Charge... Practice

If I Was In Charge… 

There’s a great Dr Suess Book called If I Ran The Zoo. It's about a little boy who had some strong opinions about his local zoo. Every Architect should read it. It’s all about taking the status quo, keeping some stuff that works but ultimately starting over and creating a new zoo. The little boy sets free all the boring old lions and tigers and travels the world inviting the most amazing animals come be apart of his new zoo.

zoo If I Was In Charge... Practice

I think the profession of architecture is pretty awesome. However If i was in charge things would be a lot different.  I feel like I constantly see how things could be better, how we could improve ourselves, or how someone missed a really blatant opportunity.

Below are a few things I would change if I was in charge of architecture.

If I Was in Charge of the Architect Experience Program (AXP)…

…I would add 50 hours of volunteer work in the local community to the AXP Program. This work would be required to become a Licensed Architect. To obtain these volunteering credits, candidates would need a letter from an organization, which verifies that you volunteered your time and attention to a worthy cause.

I would also be highly critical of what qualified as “volunteering.” I’d only count time that was spent giving attention to people who truly need it.

Building glossy art exhibits (that no one will ever see) trying to impress an International Star-Architect inside the local AIA Chapter office, would definitely NOT qualify as volunteering. No way, Jose. That’s not volunteering.

Helping the homeless in your community or volunteering to work with children are the kind of volunteering that would count.

Volunteering used to be a part of the IDP Program. (I had to do it.) I was sad when they removed this requirement, as part of the reboot into the AXP Program. I approve of NCARB streamlining the AXP Program, but not at the expense of volunteering.

If I Was in Charge of the AIA…

…I would celebrate ALL newly licensed Architects each year in all 50 states, regardless of whether or not they’re AIA Members. A few states already celebrate this, but sadly, most states do not.

Nothing was more depressing than spending $87,000, 7.5 years of college education, 5,800 hours of logging professional experience, 11 exams (7 passed & 4 failed), and 13 years of undocumented time to finally arrive at becoming a licensed architect, only to have ZERO acknowledgement from the profession and all the AIA (locally and national) did was use this as an opportunity to ask for more money.

This silence is the biggest missed opportunity to create comradery within this profession.

But how could AIA finance such an event? The answer is easy.

If I was in charge, AIA National would completely cover the cost of the newly Licensed Architects celebration. They would stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars putting silly commercials on network television, and invest that marketing budget into celebrating people who might actually become AIA members.

No one is joining the AIA because they saw a TV commercial about looking at architecture, in the middle of a golf tournament. People watching golf at 2pm on a Saturday don’t care about the AIA (unless they are already a member), they care about golf.

If I Was in Charge of the Profession…

All men in the profession would acknowledge, support, empower, and encourage the hardworking women in the profession. It embarrasses me to have to write this, but it’s still a major problem, if not one of the biggest problems in the profession of architecture.

It's no secret that architecture is one of the hardest careers to have. It’s also no secret that it’s three times harder for a woman to have a successful architecture career than it is for a man. This fact is proven, so it isn’t even debatable.

I recently attended a wonderful event at one of the AIA Chapters, which celebrated all the Local Women Architecture Professionals. We networked,  had some drinks and food. Then there was a very inspiring lecture from a very successful Woman Architect. The only problem was that the attendees included about 50 women and 5 men.

Why?!??? Where are the men?

Why aren’t the men celebrating the hardworking women in this profession?!????  There’s certainly no shortage of women around when gray-haired white guys in turtlenecks are (constantly) recognized and given awards.

This is just one small example, however there is no shortage of double standards in the profession between the men and the women in the profession when it comes to landing projects, getting paid, and being acknowledged on construction sites.

The good news is that I see this problem changing every day. It’s already changing faster than it ever has, and I could see it completely autocorrecting itself within 5-10 years. We just have to wait it out.

If I Was In Charge of Construction Permitting…

I would require any project that affects the built environment to have an Architect stamp before being able to obtain a building permit. The Clients, Contractors, Engineers, Code Officials, and unlicensed designers would no longer be allowed to eliminate the Architect from the dialogue about the built environment.

Too many residential permits are being issued without an Architects stamp. I would immediately eliminate ALL remodels and new residential construction under several thousand square feet that are being permitted without an Architect.

It’s really easy for the client, contractor, engineer, and code official to cut a big corner, and decide they don’t need an architect to be a part of the project team. “Architects just make things more complicated.”

Architecture licensing is all about understanding and coordinating all the disciplines, managing the project, taking responsibility, and (of course) protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. There are sooo many things that need to be coordinated, that are handled by an architect and not the other trades.

Contractors, Engineers, Code officials and unlicensed Architects don’t have this training as part of their licensing. How come they are eliminating us from the projects.

Am I the only Licensed Architect worrying about this?

 If I Was In Charge of AXP and the ARE…

I would directly link the AXP process to studying for the ARE in time. Collecting experience hours and studying for each exam needs to be more interconnected, so they help inform each other. A candidate shouldn’t be allowed to get too far into their exams until they’ve completed the corresponding experience areas, and vice versa.

The work we do 40 hours a week needs to be more connected to all the studying we do on nights and weekends. AXP could be a powerful opportunity to create better educated and more informed Future Architects,

Unfortunately, most (if not all) ARE Candidates treat AXP and the Exam as if they’re completely independent from each other. They’re separate burdens, with little correlation ever made between the two.

If I Was in Charge of NAAB Accredited Programs and the ARE…

I would have all Accredited degree programs complete ONE exam as part of a requirement for graduation. By the time students graduate, they would have completed 15-20% of the ARE, which would get them started so they could finish the remaining exams after graduation.

“But what about the Integrated Path to Architecture Licensing (IPAL) program, Michael Riscica?!? Why not finish all the exams before graduation?!???”

Yes, I know all about the IPAL Program. I was excited when I first learned about it, because I think it’s a step in the right direction. However, I think the IPAL Program is very far from being a realistic solution for creating Licensed Architects.

As a Licensed Architect who graduated from an accredited school of architecture, I just do not believe the IPAL Program is realistic or is setting students up for success. The biggest reason is that I believe the IPAL Program try’s too put 25 lbs of “stuff”, into a 5 lb box.

It’s too early to know the success of IPAL, but after discussing it with students already in IPAL Programs, I’ll just say that I believe this idea was dead on arrival—mainly because IPAL was created by Academia as a marketing tool to sell architecture programs to parents, NOT by the architecture profession to create more Licensed Architects.

I was in charge, my recommendation is to focus on completing ONE architect exam before graduation, NOT six. Let’s set them up for success, help them with their first exam, and put them in a really good place to finish the rest of the exams on their own.

Architecture Students should study for the Project Management exam. They can learn how to manage projects. Let’s be honest: Life after graduation quickly isn’t about design, it’s about process and managing projects.


If I Was in Charge of the Profession…

I would require all firms to identify the terms and conditions of overtime hours to every hire.

I’m not against overtime, by any means. The nature of an Architect’s work is to meet deadlines, and overtime is often how they’re achieved. I’ve certainly worked LOTS of overtime over my entire career, and I still do on a regular basis.

I’m very against overtime not being clearly communicated and regularly uncompensated.

Example A:

I have a friend who worked for a firm, and the office culture there involved everyone working 45-50 hours a week. The extra hours were never counted.

But if he worked 36 hours one week, then it became a big problem: The missing 4 hours would be deducted from his vacation time.

Example B:

In order to stay within a client’s budget, an architectural staff is being forced to work overtime, and not record the extra hours.

These HR Policies exist more frequently than we’d like to admit.

Anything over a few hours of overtime each week needs to be compensated for, unless something otherwise was discussed and arranged at hiring.

But these conversations aren’t taking place during hiring.

If I Was in Charge of NCARB…

I would take a strong stance against ARE Candidates and architecture firms who are ripping off the ARE Test Prep industry by stealing and illegally distributing copyrighted Test Prep material.

I would update the NCARB Rules of Conduct, and apply them to the integrity of future Licensed Architects in this profession, not just current Licensed Architects.

This situation is a serious problem among ARE Candidates, and even architecture firms. Too many firms are purchasing copyrighted books, cutting the spines off, turning them into PDFs, and putting them on their servers for all their employees to use and distribute online.

Let’s call this behavior what it is: Stealing from people who are working damn hard to help you pass your exams. If there’s anyone you shouldn’t be stealing from, it’s the people who are trying to help ARE Candidates be more successful in their careers.

If I Was In Charge of Academia…

I would have all architecture schools support and encourage involvement in the AIAS. Too many architecture students are missing out on traveling around the country for conferences and the incredible networking opportunities. A little bit of support from each institution would go a verrrry long way.

The School Administrators don’t see what is going on, because they don’t attend AIAS conferences, but I do. I see how powerful the AIAS is and how enriching it is to the students experience during architecture school.

The community and infrastructure of the larger AIAS network already exists and has a powerful impact to all the architecture students who are apart of it. There could be many more architecture schools encouraging involvement or tapping into this incredible resource for their students.

All architecture schools should give their AIAS Chapters a few thousand dollars each year to send 15-20 of their best students to architecture conferences. It’s such an easy slam dunk, but it just isn’t happening.

Whats a few thousand dollars to these academic institutions, considering the cost of architecture education?!

If I Was in Charge of ARE 5.0…

Ummm… The ARE Community is going to HATE me for saying this…

I would reevaluate or overhaul the PPD and PDD exams, and make them 3 or possibly even 4 exams, instead of 2 exams.

Generally speaking, I think ARE 5.0 is a very positive step in the right direction. This update was long overdue, and I agree with NCARB: It’s more aligned with the way architecture is actually practiced.

However, after 1.5 years of watching ARE 5.0 unfold, I don’t believe that it was a smart move to take the 4 hardest ARE 4.0 exams and consolidate them into 2 exams.

It’s just too much content crammed into 2 exams. Candidates are having a very difficult time preparing for these last 2 exams, because the body of knowledge is just too vast.

I’ll also argue that the Candidates aren’t learning as good as an education from studying for PPD and PDD, then if they would have studied for BS, BDCS, SS and SD.

Go ahead and hate me for recommending that the exam should be bigger. But unfortunately, I believe that studying for these 2 exams is much more daunting than studying for the 4 exams from 4.0.

But luckily, I’d say that everything else about ARE 5.0 is progress.

That’s it.

Just a few small changes. Have I lost my mind?!??


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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