Having looked at the development of social networks, I finally decided that I too need to participate. I joined the AWI group on Linked In. I had raised a question in my May column regarding the competency of architects to specify constructional details as well as materials in these days of ever greater complexity, and that generated some interesting feedback. So, I decided to go further and thus posed to the AWI group this question:
“Should Architects specify construction details in custom cabinetry or rather let the experts make those decisions?”

Explicit comments 

Wow, did I get some great feedback as well as discussions on that one! Most of the comments were explicit, well reasoned and mostly in favor of having specialists, that is woodworkers, determine constructional details. Some were outright appalled and highly frustrated that architects do so now. Some stated that there is once in awhile an architect who is able to specify such details correctly.

Others stated that a back and forth between them and the architect eventually brings a consensus on such details, albeit at a great cost of time and aggravation. In any event the discussion has not yet abated, and like so many things this too has many shades of gray.

One-sided debate 

The problem I see with it all is that up to now the discussion is one sided. So how to get the architects involved? What even is the right forum?
As one participant correctly stated, the AWI Standards advocate minimums only. Who would benefit from addressing this issue and resolve it in such a manner that all things built are made smarter and more cost effective? Surely the client would. With that thought in mind, I decided to reexamine the question as to what part of a project is design and what part is execution. What does this mean in the 21st Century?

A thousand years ago the builder of a cathedral would design as well as build the structure. The builder that did it to the best liking of a client won the contract. Eventually even fame. So, if we reexamine the process now wherein a bid is called for and specified to the hilt, possibly by incompetence, what then will the client get but one answer at the lowest price?

A different specification 

Imagine we define design as function, space offered, shape, texture and color only. We define execution as all the rest for a given project. Invariably the client calling for a least three offers, and many more in most cases, will get a host of ideas based on materials, availability, core competency of a given company, practices employed and best of all independent thinking.

Would that not change the landscape? Would not the client benefit from such a stance? Would it not get the creative juices flowing with all participants? One thing is sure: Everyone will be better off, and things will be cheaper to produce. Most of all, they will be better because only the best will win, even if ultimately based on price only. However, a new dimension other than price will have been brought forth.

That in itself would be just too good to be true.

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