The Architect Series: Architect Does What? Project Management!

When I tell people that I am an architect the initial reaction is, “That’s amazing!” Generally, they don’t know what an architect does.

The architect solves problems, develops contract documents, and holds the liability for the contract documents that he or she signs and seals. The architect works on behalf of the owner to administer the contract documents, ensuring the owner’s best interest. The long list of services provided by the architect also includes project management.

To call yourself an architect takes several years of attending an accredited school for architecture, more than four years to be exact, several of which require internship hours in multiple categories. Ultimately, the years of study and internship are assessed via multiple exams before resulting in the title of “architect.” To be qualified to be called an architect, and to perform the duties of such in public education around the great state of Texas, takes decades of real-world experience, patience, and commitment.

I have worked both for an architect and as an architect for 28 years in Tarrant County. I have had the pleasure of honing the intricacies that make for the successful execution of a project from planning to substantial completion, and through the life of the building. I value the work I get to do with my clients because it’s rewarding. Educating our communities’ children, which changes year after year, and the importance placed on creating educational environments that align with the curricular needs for all children, is challenging to say the least; but it’s the greatest impact on our socio-economic community at large. I was once a child attending public school, and the trajectory of my entire life would not have been the same without my public schools, my teachers, and my administrators. Partnership and trust are attributes that cannot be negotiated or requested. They come from the sincerity of providing the absolute best opportunities and learning environments for generational success in the communities I serve.

I’ve observed discussions on services provided by program managers that are parallel with the services offered by licensed architects, and it makes me question their need. Does everyone know what an architect does? The services that are provided by the architect, more times than not, cover the services provided by a program manager, in most cases. The school district-selected architect is knowledgeable of the district’s standards, practices, and expectations for project delivery. The architect has the knowledge of construction methodology, building codes, environmental regulations, and project document reviews necessary to gain the needed owner feedback at milestones and phases during design. The process provided by architects is not formulaic and does not lack specificity of county, city, and district factors that are needed to be both impactful to the project, and of benefit to the owner. The architect and design team’s knowledge base is robust and moves projects forward, in lieu of inserting unnecessary checklists at each milestone. This is because architects issue the construction documents. As a licensed professional architect working with Texas public school districts, it is my goal to assist the owners in every way possible to protect their fiduciary responsibility to the public – not to procure services that are unnecessary to effectively execute the projects identified in their bond.

When I became a Principal at VLK Architects, I was able to utilize my decades of experience practicing architecture and partnering with several Texas public school districts within different counties and cities to learn how to effectively accomplish schedules to better define scope execution for the owner’s long-range planning. The thousands of projects executed by VLK across the state of Texas are unmatched by any program manager offering their services.

School district maintenance and operations personnel know how their facilities operate, how they need to operate. Therefore, they can collaborate with the architect and design team to ensure appropriateness, not wasting time educating a program manager, or spending unnecessary dollars when the district standards are already internalized and practiced by the architect serving the school district.

Construction Administration, provided as a basic service by architects and engineers, holds liability of construction documents, make construction observations, and generate reports noting if construction is non-compliant with construction documents. The firm’s design team collaborates with the school district to respond to contractor requests for information (RFIs) and submittals, because the design was signed and sealed by the design team, and the liability is held by the A/E firm.

Project document tracking and training is provided to the school district by the architect, ensuring accurate, timely, and transparent communication between architect and contractor. As the architect, I am responsible for producing both the team and the end date design schedule for successful execution of the project. This ensures the school district is not impacted by unnecessary delays. The level of management provided by the owner and architect agreement outlines responsibilities. I value being proactive with my expertise, explaining the strategy of avoiding significant project delays in lieu of making excuses as to “how we got here.”

This initial blog post is intended as my first in a series as my experiences and observations continue to grow, as well as the value VLK Architects brings to our clients’ projects.