How do you like your pizza? Which toppings are your favorite and which ones make you say “eww”? Think of all the options available; the types of pizza (Margherita, Neapolitan, Marinara) all the toppings (pineapples, anchovies, olives) and crust options (stuffed, thin, hand tossed). It’s mouthwatering to think about all the tasty options.
In your mind, when you place your order, you have designed the perfect pizza exactly the way you like it. It has everything you want on it – nothing more, nothing less. Once you’ve ordered that perfect pizza, have you ever opened the box and to your chagrin, it wasn’t what you ordered?
Now imagine the pizza you’re ordering is a new building. Think of all the options available to you: shape, size, exterior finishes, interior finishes, furniture, and on and on. There are literally thousands of options and choices when it comes to designing a building.
When participating in a building project as the Owner, you will be responsible to select the toppings that you want on your pizza…I mean building.
As an Architect, I liken designing a building to ordering a pizza. We take your order and make the pizza to your specifications. Moving through a building project, if you are involved from the inception of the project, you will have an understanding of most, if not all, the selections and decisions that are made. If you join the project team after most selections and decisions have been made, you may be surprised by the final outcome.
To avoid pizza disappointment, I recommend the 5 following instructions when ordering:
1. Understand what you’re ordering.
- Have you gone to a restaurant and not understood a menu item? I can tell you when I first saw the word “anchovies” on a pizza menu, I was clueless. If I had not sought understanding, I may have had an unexpected fishy and salty result. Asking questions to better understand what you’re asking for is vital to meeting your expectations.
- Asking questions goes both ways. The Architect asks questions to help better understand what you want. Owners ask questions to better understand what the architect is talking about and to ensure that the Architect understands the order.
2. Know what you ordered.
- Give clear direction to those placing the order. As the Owner, you will most likely have a team that needs to make many decisions. Identify expectations at the kickoff meeting – who will make decisions and about which items. The foundation of any pizza, the crust, is like building systems that support everything else. The toppings are the finishes of a building. Who will be responsible for making these decisions?
- Another item to remember, when ordering pizza for a group, it is important to choose a pie that satisfies everyone. Be sure someone has the group’s interests in mind and the “big picture” in sight.
3. Don’t make assumptions on toppings.
- If you have been disappointed that your pizza was not what you ordered, remember the Architect’s pizza is built to your order. Never make assumptions that the Architect will add something to your building that you didn’t order. And vice versa. The Architect should not add items to your building that you didn’t ask for.
- This is something I stress to my teams. Just because one Architect likes onion on their pizza, it doesn’t mean the Owner does so don’t put it on the pizza. It is the Architect’s role to help the Owner understand options and provide a building that has everything the Owner wants – nothing more, nothing less.
4. Verify what was ordered.
- Okay, you just successfully ordered your pizza. At this point, the pizzaiolo repeats back your order to assure expectations are met. The review of a building project order comes in the form of drawings and specifications that capture your order over its first 6 to 9 months. That’s a lot of decisions.
- Now is the time to review your order. You, as the Owner, will be given time to review the project drawings and specifications to assure they are inclusive of what you asked for. This is also an opportunity to ask why something you didn’t order is on the drawings or why something you did order isn’t on the drawings and to seek further clarification on any items you are still unclear on.
5. Keep your itemized receipt.
- Because there are thousands of decisions to make during the design process, there are dozens of meetings to discuss choices, tracked with meeting minutes. Keep those meeting minutes orderly and handy to monitor decisions that may have been made over a year earlier.
- At any point throughout the process, if something doesn’t fit your order, don’t hesitate to approach the issue. Perhaps you thought you ordered something but didn’t or perhaps you’re missing an item you did order. The sooner an issue is brought up, the more successful the outcome.
As the Architect, we help Owners work through their ideas to develop a building. The Architect interprets what the Owner wants and provides guidance. The Architect tries to provide a project that fits best with what the Owner orders – nothing more and nothing less. Follow these 5 tips for your perfect pizza…I mean building…and bon appetite!
Other available resources
Ensuring the success of your building project
Robert Vajgrt, AIA, LEED AP, CDT