The Second Studio Podcast: Should Architects Sell Floor Plans Online?
The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by Architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions.
A variety of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are tips for fellow designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or casual explorations of everyday life and design. The Second Studio is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
This week David and Marina of FAME Architecture & Design discuss whether or not architects should sell their floor plans online. The two cover the financial benefits of selling plans, making good floor plans accessible to more people, the downsides of selling partial services, quality concerns, the future of the profession, prioritizing speed and efficiency in design, why architects are often not used on projects, and more.
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Highlights and Timestamps
The cons of selling floor plans.
The cons of selling floor plans online is that we are betraying everything we believe in just for the sake of money, and not for people. We’re handing the responsibility over to someone else and we have no idea how the building is going to turn out. Those plans, probably more often than not, are just floor plans, and even if they have elevations, are the elevations relevant to the place where it’s going to be built? Or is the client buying plans to build a Swedish castle in California? Are we contributing to the nonsense of buildings that we see out there by selling plans online? Are we contributing to society thinking that we don’t need architects, that we just need some guy to come up with a good floor plan? Are we contributing to thinking about real estate and housing and buildings as consumer products rather than as things that get passed on over time and preserved and have different lives?
The pros of selling floor plans.
The pros of selling floor plans online are that most houses out there are not going to be built with architects on board anyways. They’re all going to have a very shitty floor plan that a developer cookie-cutter came up with. Then people select tile for their kitchen and they’re happy. But 15 years down the line, they’re going to sell it, and the person who’s going buy it is going to need to remodel it. It’s a ton of waste. It’s inefficient. Nobody’s happy because the floor plan didn’t make sense. So why not just give them something that’s good to start with and then they can take it from there? Just give them good bones. As architects, maybe that should be also part of our responsibility to help the people who cannot hire us for the full scope.
Problems the profession of architecture faces.
The biggest issue that the architecture and interior design professions have is that clients do not actually understand what we do or our value offering. The sheer volume and variety of information we have to deal with for one project, on any given day, that’s coming into our heads, across our screens, and through our calls, that we then have to put into the project or manage is so complex. And there’s an immense value to having someone on the project who’s going to do that for you in a way that produces an artistic result. And my fear is that when we shave off pieces of what we produce, which are primarily drawings, let’s say floor plan for example, even if it’s the best floor plan in the world, it’s devoid of the education that the client would learn if they worked with an architect versus them working with just a contractor. It might sound self-righteous, but I think it’s very important for more people to understand what we do because without it, I don’t know how we’re going to prove our value to people.
I think it’s silly that in California, and a lot of other states, you can build a very large house without an architect. That is mental. You have all these professionals who go through higher education, who have all this technical and creative knowledge, and for many whom single-family residential projects are their bread and butter… and you’re saying that they are not needed. If you look at the maximum size house by square footage that can be built without an architect, and what percentage of all the single-family houses in California fit within that square footage, it’s probably 90%. The idea that you don’t have to have an architect to produce 90% of the houses is crazy. Knowing the amount of information we (architects) have to deal with and the work that we have to do… The idea that there wouldn’t be a person with an architect’s skillset on a job is crazy. Without them, who’s making all these decisions? The answer is people who have no idea what they’re doing. So the issue of poor architecture being built is not just a cultural one, it’s not just an educational one, it’s a [legislative] one.
Check out The Second Studio Podcast’s previous editions.