What do you dream about when you’re designing? The thrill of seeing your brilliant ideas built? The joy of receiving thanks and praise from your clients? Maybe you dream of getting some publicity or winning a design award? Or feeling deeply satisfied from knowing you’ve made the world a more beautiful place?

Or do you just hope the lawyers won’t show up?

Fame and glory and energy efficiency that’s 50% better than baseline are all good. But in reality, sometimes just getting that last invoice paid, delivering the manuals and walking away without getting subpoenaed is cause enough for celebration.

But let’s return to those happier thoughts. My crystal ball is ready. We can imagine a better future and set more ambitious goals for our practice. Here’s my dream about what a better working relationship between an architect and client would look like in the near future:

(The place: a snowy Vermont mountain town, slopeside. [Hey, this is my dream, right?] Architect sips coffee while looking at laptop. Architect looks at cell phone, pokes keyboard, waits for screen image, then speaks.)

Architect: Hey, Jesse. Just got those stats from Building 6 BMS on my cell. Thank your facilities folks for pushing that app out to me. No. I’m not skiing yet. Lifts don’t open for an hour here.

Client: I’m a little concerned about the energy use spike last month. It’s outside the ideal performance range you guys established for us on buildings 1 through 5.

Arch: Well, we did just install those laminar air flow sensors in the Building 6 auditorium. But they shouldn’t draw enough power to affect your demand that much. Can you link me to the live BMS dashboards?

Client: Will do. Lemme contact IT at Facilities and get right back to you.

(Architect reloads on coffee, watches snow accumulating, opens trail report site. Another email re-focuses his attention. Picks up phone, dials, speaks.)

Arch: Thanks for that link, Jesse. I’m on the dashboard right now. That power spike might be from increased fan energy use. You know we installed those air flow sensors when we suspected the stack effect ventilation strategy wasn’t giving you enough air changes when the hall was full. Do you think people are still screwing with the digital thermostats? That would cause fan energy to spike. Lemme check another document. (Pause.) We have plenty of fee left in this year’s master post-occupancyperformance contract. I’m going to see Ling (our firm’s commissioning specialist and an excellent snowboarder) on the hill in a little bit. I’ll see if she can be on site tomorrow.

Client: Thank you so much. I’m sorry to pester you when you’re out of the office, but we really appreciate everything you’ve done to make our whole university more energy efficient. And by the way, the President has some new ideas for energy-positive buildings and a net-zero branch campus. I know she’ll want your input.

Arch: No problem, Jesse. At your service, as always.

(Client hangs up. Architect smiles, turns off laptop, picks up backpack, leaves for boot room.)

This post originally appeared on the blog of Principal Mike Davis, FAIA.

Published Apr 15, 2014