Over the past few years, pressure has been mounting on project architects to get through their projects quicker. While a desire for an increase in efficiency may be nothing new, it’s coming at a time when architecture firms are facing a revolution in the industry. New technology, shifts in client needs, economic interests, and environmental issues are forcing studios to change the way they research, design, and construct projects. Many architecture firms are also expanding their teams to include a wide range of experts from a variety of fields and backgrounds.

These trends lead to some real issues of feasibility and burnout among project architects in particular. How can they manage all of this added complexity without compromising on the quality of their work, their career, or their health?

The answer: they have to learn how to work smarter, not harder.

How Project Architects Can Increase Productivity and Still Keep Their Sanity

Here are three areas that all project architects today need to be paying attention to if they want to not only survive, but thrive in their career:

Basic training in project management. New architecture graduates often learn the hard way that architectural design is only a small part of what they do on the job. Business management and communication skills are absolutely essential, yet many candidates are never trained in these areas. The absence of these skills are all the more glaring for those who reach the level of project architect.

No matter how creative or passionate a project architect is, there is no getting away from the fact that behind every process there are people, technology, physical activities, and deadlines that must be considered and coordinated. Project architects need to be trained in basic project management. To be effective they need to learn how to properly plan, implement, and evaluate their projects so they know what to do, how to do it, and by when they can expect to get it done. This includes how to delegate responsibilities, prioritise project goals so they can tackle them with as little interference as possible, and how to develop projects that both solve real problems while seizing new opportunities. If their firm won’t provide this training, then they should strongly consider getting it on their own.

Knowing where technology begins and ends. With an increasing number of stakeholders getting involved in architecture projects, traditional “manual” procedures and systems are being replaced by technology enabled processes, such as mobile communication, real-time collaboration, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and virtual reality aided design. These advancements certainly offer numerous benefits to project architects, but only when they are implemented properly.

Proper implementation, however, requires a delicate balance.

On one hand, the added complexity in the design and development process as well as the need for speed, is pushing project architects and the firms that employ them towards greater reliance on technology to do the job. Project architects who make the effort to keep their tech skills fresh can significantly benefit from computer-aided design, the real-time exchange of ideas and data, the automation of repetitive tasks, the creation of reusable templates, and the customisation of these tools to follow the firm’s typical work flow.

On the other hand, technology can create different problems in it’s wake. Project architects in particular need to be careful about becoming overly reliant on these tools, assuming the technology will basically manage itself so that projects are plagued with glaring, yet easily preventable, mistakes and set backs, or are cookie cutter representations that are out of touch with end-user needs.

Treating each project as a learning experience. This last area is typically a lost opportunity among project architects and the firms they work for. One of the biggest mistakes that project architects make is not turning each project into a learning experience that can guide future projects. Often the pace of a project can be so quick, it can be a challenge to evaluate along the way which strategies are working and which ones aren’t. Then, when one project ends, the next one begins.

As the project progresses, project architects have a lot to gain simply by taking notes. After the project is completed, there should also be a little time spent on evaluating what went well and what could have been better. There are several questions that should be asked, like:

  •     How well did the team work together and share information?
  •     How were deadlines and budget constraints met?
  •     How was the communication to clients conducted and what was the level of client satisfaction regarding the project?
  •     How effectively were resources allocated?

The answers to these questions provide vital information that can be used to improve the project management experience going forward, resulting in fewer headaches, greater efficiency, and even greater project quality.

In closing, project architects may have a lot on their shoulders these days, but they don’t have to be crushed under the weight, nor do they have to compromise on quality. The greatest amount of positive change requires a little training and a simple change in approach.