Blog %

There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

EQxD Architecture And... Entrepreneur Robert Yuen

an interview by Susan Kolber

On 10/22 EQxD will be hosting our final workshop of the year EQxD U Workshop 4: Architecture And... at AIA SF. As architecture has become increasingly dynamic with shifting economies, technology, and environments,  entrepreneurs within the field are discovering innovative ways to create and inspire our built environment. Leading up to our workshop EQxD will be highlighting insights from our exciting “Architecture And…” panelists. Robert Yuen (RY) founder and president of Section Cut, a website providing curated design resources, shares his experience and passion for curated design information in the age of information overload, Section Cut’s vision and team dynamics,  leveraging the many skill sets of architects, and exciting trends in robotics and construction.

Robert Yuen, founder of Section Cut, will be speaking 10/22 on EQxD Architecture And... panel. 

Robert Yuen, founder of Section Cut, will be speaking 10/22 on EQxD Architecture And... panel. 

Has the culture of innovation in San Francisco and the Bay Area influenced your pursuit in non traditional architecture practices?
(RY) It’s part of my personal nature, I like things that are on the fringe. Being around San Francisco, being around the culture of startups, being around a lot of new innovation did push me harder to execute on Section Cut.

Have you pursued tech funding to grow Section Cut?
(RY) Absolutely, we are currently about to start our first seed round. It was important to me to prove that Section Cut was a worthwhile endeavor which is why we did not seek funding at the very beginning. It was in our best interest to prove the concept first, grow our user base, and now seek funding as we are ready to fuel the growth.

Can you explain the Section Cut's team dynamics and processes, how do you decide content? How often is the team virtually meeting/ corresponding? What is your favorite Section Cut Podcast?
(RY) At Section Cut we are a team of four, and we all have very specific responsibilities. All content comes from my partner and co-founder Dan Weissman, and his official title is Director of Content. He not only facilitates all of the scheduling of content, but also production. [Check out the Section Cut team here

The project itself started in 2012 right after my post graduate degree at the University of Michigan. From the beginning we knew that Section Cut would be a remote project where all the partners would not be in the same location. We have had mandatory meetings twice a week on  Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings. We’ve been doing that since 2012. We have tried a lot of different management software, because one of the biggest hurdles of running a virtual office is staying organized. It’s really important because we don’t sit next to each other. We don’t have those small chats to remind, to prod ourselves on what we need to do.  Staying organized and transparent has always been a top priority to run Section Cut smoothly.

One of my favorite of the Section Cut Podcasts is an interview of Malcolm McCullough. He was a professor of mine at University of Michigan and is an extraordinarily intelligent man. The interview is great, not only because he is a great instructor, but the interview itself has a lot to do with why Section Cut exists and speaks to our purpose. He talks about information glut, and the need for curatorial information as a designer and architect, so we can make better cities by being better curators and better builders.

Consulting is an attractive pursuit for architect entrepreneurs. Can you go into more detail on what you consult on and how you developed those skills? 
(RY)  I fell upon consulting based on necessity--I wanted more time on Section Cut. It was hard to work on Section Cut as a project while being fully employed at a firm. I naturally moved into consulting as a way to buy me time. Once you start thinking about the other skill sets that can be of use, there is a lot an architect can offer from branding exercises, marketing exercises, critiquing informational packages...there is a lot you can do! I’ve worked in many arenas, but I’ve fell back into mostly client representation. A lot of clients don’t understand architecture or the construction administration phase. The clients are in the middle of their house being renovated, the architects are proposing things, and the clients want another opinion to validate their architect. The clients may not have the experience to really understand if they are making the right decision. I can usually come in and fill in the gaps, vouching that the opinion of the architect is good or not good. A lot of clients want to learn more about architecture, but they're usually on a tight schedule, architects are on a tight schedule, so I can fill in as an information provider and direct the client if they have questions.

You have extensive knowledge and experience with robotics and 3D printing, what new technologies excite you? Can you provide a few examples of how you think robotics, scanning, 3D printing, will change architecture and construction/
 (RY) I think what's most exciting to me is what’s in the realm of robotics, and to be more precise:  robotics in the field of construction, less so in architecture. Robotics in the more traditional sense, like robotic arms in the automotive industry, have around for a long time. Right now, the cost of labor is still very low, so it's still hard to justify the use of expensive robotics in construction. However, it’s only a matter of time when the cost of technology will continue to drop and the cost of labor will go up. I think a lot of the interesting work architects are doing now with automation, with robotics, with digital fabrication, with digital technologies is not that new, the technology has actually been around. In most cases architects are repurposing. I think in general the history of architecture has been that way, usually innovation happens in the health industry, or engineering and the sciences, architecture finds ways to repurpose technology.

Two cool robotic projects include:

1. There is an interesting project in the Netherlands where Autodesk and robot company
MX3D are completely 3-D printing a bridge It will a great proof of concept when it’s complete and not just an academic research project.

2. ICD/ITKE 2015 Pavilion at the University of Stuttgart

Robert Yuen

Founder and CEO, Section Cut, RYRD

Robert Yuen is the co-founder and CEO of Section Cut and founder of RYRD (Robert Yuen Research + Design). Trained as an architect, Robert’s design practice has developed over 6 years into a dual focus on architectural services and web-based entrepreneurship. Robert earned his March from the University of Michigan, as well as an MS in Architecture specialized in the use of digital technologies with industrial multi-axis robotics. Robert is currently focused on Section Cut, a web-based community committed to empowering designers and demystifying design culture to the larger public. SC is a crowd-sourced, curated collection of design resources and objects with an educational agenda.

Don't Miss EQxD "U" Workshop 4 ! Architecture AND...Exploring Meaning & Influence by way of Multidisciplinary Practice.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6pm - 8:30pm @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco

We will explore alternate models of practice that expand the avenues of influence for architects. More than 50% of all respondents to the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey stated that they were dissatisfied with their current job situation. A large number responded that they were interested in alternative career paths. Rather than leave architecture behind completely - and have the profession lose ever more talent to other fields - how we can cultivate expansive multidisciplinary practices that are innovative, exploratory, and meaningful? 

The workshop will feature four professionals who have taken their work beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. After a review of key survey findings on the topic we will hear from the panelists about their paths, entrepreneurial thinking, and lessons learned in a question and answer session. This will be followed by design thinking exercises to guide us in thinking freely and widely about our career futures and the new kinds of practices we can create. Gain the courage and knowledge to turn your interests and ideas into a new work reality at our workshop!

10/22/15 Architecture AND… Workshop Agenda
Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Design Thinking Exercises 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm

Architecture And...

by Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA**

A couple years ago at an AIA event, I met Sir Ken Robinson, an author and speaker widely known for his TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity?” where he makes the argument that we, as professional individuals, are always more than just one defining vocation. He believes that although society asks us to define what we do as a singular vocation, our multifaceted lives include distractions, hobbies, and interests that serve as powerful influences to our professional work. After I introduced myself, Sir Robinson casually asked, “Emily, what do you do?”. I told him I was an architect, and his response was “that’s all?”

As professional practice and models evolve, I’m not sure architects have ever fully recognized all of the things we do in addition to getting a building designed and built. Architecture and the practice of architecture is often studied by looking at historic precedents— how things were built, their context, and their cultural significance. While understanding past influences is important to the success of architectural projects, I would argue that the ability to look forward—to understand future trends and influences and cultivate flexibility to anticipate the new thing we can’t yet imagine—is equally essential. A building is more than just a built form—it is a home, an office, a place to learn or play; and equally architects serve as sociologists, industrial engineers, environmental psychologists, facilitators, mediators, advocates, and advisers. Our profession has always been more than just the means of creating a building. Architecture, at its best, is a profession that is multifaceted and incorporates complementary influences that delight and elevate a place into an experience. 

To stay relevant in the 21st century economy, architects will need to leverage our innate curiosity as a value proposition. Architects are uniquely trained to think and work in a non-linear process due to our authentic, project-based academic experience. Young architects also learned from an early age to “Think Different”, just like the old Apple advertisement. We know conventional hierarchical processes can be upended by technology and societal expectations; So why aren’t we anticipating the next disruptive change in the practice of architecture? With our abilities in technology-based communication skills, access to resources, and the deep professional knowledge base of American architects, we can literally change the world and there are many people globally who can benefit from our design abilities. I expect to see the influence of architects in education policy, public health, economic growth, and a cultural shift in the way we view social equity. There is no limit to ways in which architects can use their skills for positive change. 

Why do we as a profession focus so much on the minimum competency instead of on larger issues relating to practice and the built environment?
— Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA

When it comes down to it, there is a value proposition at the crux of how architects can begin to innovate in practice. Think about it-architects as problem solvers; architects as strategists; architects as connectors--all possibilities. In 2011 according to AIA Facts and Figures and the Architecture Billings Index, architects generated $2 billion dollars of fees in support of over $320 billion of construction proving two things: our daily work has a huge impact on the construction economy, and architects generate big results with a relatively small budget. But I ask myself, where is the financial data on our impact on productivity and quality of life? As architects, we need to be proactive about quantifying and measuring this data in order to visualize and generate new business models to think differently about how we structure our practices. To demonstrate our ability and impact, we need to be explicit in how, where, and when our value makes a difference. This will allow us to begin to solve larger problems of the built environment and validate why architects will be part of the solution. Cutting-edge firms at three different scales such as SHoP Architects, Alloy in Brooklyn, and Latent Design in Chicago,, have already leveraged non-design based disciplines as core services to complement and distinguish their design work. I believe the ability to adapt and anticipate future trends will be the mark of a successful architecture profession in the 21st century and that growing our concept of architectural services will be part of this. We will need to collaborate, learn, research, and advocate in support of our own architectural practice because it will no longer be enough to just design.

So back to when Sir Ken Robinson said, “that’s all?” to me. Well, I corrected myself and said, “No. I’m an architect and...”

**(This article was originally written and published in collaboration with YAF Connection April Issue: EquityxDesign and can be referenced by clicking the link)

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA is an associate at Cambridge Seven Associates in Cambridge, MA. Emily served as 2014 President of the Boston Society of Architects/AIA and received the AIA Young Architects Award in 2008. In 2014, Emily was one of the Keynote Speakers for the symposium: Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action!


Don't Miss EQxD "U" Workshop 4 !

Architecture AND...Exploring Meaning & Influence by way of Multidisciplinary Practice

Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6pm - 8:30pm @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco 

We will explore alternate models of practice that expand the avenues of influence for architects. More than 50% of all respondents to the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey stated that they were dissatisfied with their current job situation. A large number responded that they were interested in alternative career paths. Rather than leave architecture behind completely - and have the profession lose ever more talent to other fields - how we can cultivate expansive multidisciplinary practices that are innovative, exploratory, and meaningful? 

The workshop will feature four professionals who have taken their work beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. After a review of key survey findings on the topic we will hear from the panelists about their paths, entrepreneurial thinking, and lessons learned in a question and answer session. This will be followed by design thinking exercises to guide us in thinking freely and widely about our career futures and the new kinds of practices we can create. Gain the courage and knowledge to turn your interests and ideas into a new work reality at our workshop!

10/22/15 Architecture AND… Workshop Agenda
Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Design Thinking Exercises 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm

EQxD “U” Workshop 3 - Negotiation is Your Power Tool - Meet the Panelists!

by Julia Mandell, 

We are excited to bring you the 3rd of 4 EQxD “U” Workshops - Negotiation is Your Power Tool. August 13th, 2015 @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco 6pm - 8:30pm

At this interactive workshop we will discuss and learn strategies for achieving success in various negotiations from salary discussions to contracts. According the the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey, negotiation skills are sorely lacking in our profession. The survey found that less than 35% of all respondents, regardless of gender, negotiated their current salaries. Those who had negotiated salary increases experienced similar rates of self-reported success, and successful negotiators of both genders made more money on average than their non-negotiating counterparts. While this is encouraging data, successful negotiation is a well-honed skill that requires a deep understanding of all the potential factors that influence positive outcomes.

The session will feature 4 professionals from architecture, construction, planning, and human resources who excel at negotiation in their various roles. Following a summary of key survey findings on negotiation and salary, we will engage the panelists in a question and answer session before participating in role-playing activities to strengthen our negotiation skills. Start refining your knowledge and developing your skills at our workshop.

8/13 Negotiation Workshop Agenda

Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Negotiation Role Play 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm


Laurie Dreyer

Laurie Dreyer
Director of Human Resources, Harris & Associates 

Laurie brings to Harris over 32 years of experience in HR leadership positions for such companies as Ratcliff Architects, Gensler, Psomas and Anshen+Allen/Stantec. Laurie has found her career calling as a human resources specialist and teacher. Her proudest moments are the times she’s able to help, teach or support someone. And she does all of those often at Harris— teaching classes, developing employee learning programs and enhancing recruitment efforts to build the best teams.She has also taught at the AIA, AEBL, Senior Executives Institute of ACEC, and Design Leadership events. Laurie has also been a popular presenter at several negotiation workshops at past years' AIASF The Missing 32% and Equity by Design Symposia.

Julia Laue

Julia Laue AIA, LEED AP
Principal Architect & Manager, Building Design and Construction, San Francisco Public Works, City and County of San Francisco 

As Principal Architect and Manager for Building, Design and Construction Julia’s focus is on excellence in Project Delivery and Design for the City's great civic projects.   She oversees 155+ architects, landscape architects and construction managers and employs many private architecture and engineering firms throughout the City. Having come from the private sector, for the last 2+ years she has been working towards the establishment of a culture of excellence within this office. Prior to her current position at the City of San Francisco she was Project Director and an Associate Partner at NC2 Studio and Vice President and Senior Project Manager at SB Architects.

Marc Pfenninger

Marc Pfenninger, AIA, LEED AP
Principal, San Francisco, STUDIOS Architecture

Marc joined STUDIOS’ San Francisco office in 1999. During his tenure, he has led civic, institutional, and commercial projects for education, high-tech, law, and other client types. With his in-depth knowledge of the construction industry and solid understanding of technical implementation and field administration, Marc is adept at managing and designing technically complex projects. Most recently, Marc was a key project architect for the retrofit and renovation of the California Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley, which includes 145,000 sf of new training and development facilities, seismic and program upgrades to the existing structure, and a new press box. He has also served as project designer for several high technology office and campus projects, including Exactly Vertical, Excite@Home, Silicon Graphics, and SoftNet.

Alec Banta 
Senior Project Manager, McCarthy Building Companies

Alec has been working with McCarthy for over 11 years, overseeing a number of high profile projects in Silicon Valley and the Sacramento Valley regions. An expert in design-build, Alec recently completed the Capital Improvement Project II for the College of San Mateo and the fast-track Housing and Healthcare Facility in Stockton. A natural communicator, Alec is a skilled consensus builder capable of managing large, complex teams. Alec is currently serving as the senior project manager for the new parking garage at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from California State University, Chico.

Negotiation Flipped Classroom

(Strategies and Resources to read before you attend):


EQxD Workshop #2 - What's Flex Got to do with Success? RECAP



On June 11th,  marking the 2 year anniversary of our group, Equity by Design took "Discussion and Action" a step further and another whale bite with the second EQxD "U" Program: What's Flex got to do with Success? about Work Life Flexibility challenges in the profession. 

Work life flexibility emerged as a major theme of last year's Equity in Architecture survey. Flexibility was one of the most important ways that our survey respondents defined success in their careers. The survey also shows that inflexible schedules and long hours are a real burden on our field - a significant portion of respondents had turned down opportunities or promotions due to issues of flexibility, people are leaving the field due to long hours and low pay, and taxing work schedules are a major obstacle to licensure. 

The workshop was hosted by AIA San Francisco with Amber Evans and Lilian Asperin-Clyman of the Equity by Design Committee. 4 guest panelists from a range of experience in Architecture and Engineering. Kirstin Weeks is a senior Energy and Building Ecology Specialist at Arup. Jeffrey Till has is an architect and Design Principal at Perkins & Will. Annette Jannotta is an interior architect with Flad Architects San Francisco. Douglas Speckhard is an architect and an Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

The Storify recap of live tweets from the event with #EQxDFlexWorks is part of our initiative to leverage technology as a way to capture and document valuable ideas and lessons learned for continuing the dialogue and inspiring action in your firms, local AIA Chapters or in our larger AEC community.


Hungry for more Knowledge, Discussion and Action? Join us for EQxD "U" Workshop #3 on Thursday, August 13th at 6-8:30pm for "Collaboratie Negotiation is your Power Tool". Are you an avoider, accommodator, compromiser, collaborator or competitor when in comes to Negotiations? Talk with negotiation experts, Take the Thomas-Kilmann Analysis of your default negotiation style and then Practice your skills w/ our customized Negotiation Role Play in the Break-Out. This will be a popular session and likely sold-out, so sign up early! As with all our sessions, this workshop is beneficial to men and women and AEC professionals.




I’m not an Architect...

by Karen Robichaud

I am not an architect and, I don't event play one on TV! 

I majored in English and minored in Theatre Arts. When I graduated I had no clue what to do with myself or how to build a career out of my interests and skills. Eventually I stumbled into graphic design and communications for an architecture firm. This gives me a different perspective on how firms operate, how equity fits into that and what they can do. Because of my liberal arts background I’m always trying to connect issues and ideas across disciplines. Before I arrived in Atlanta for the Equity by Design Hackathon, I read the course materials, but I also revisited some of my favorite pieces that have taught me to broaden my perspective and deepened my understanding of how different people understand the world. Sometimes revisiting a favorite piece better clarifies my ideas or reminds me of a great way to phrase a thought. I too need to step outside myself and listen. I read through a few of my favorite passages from Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, re-watched Chimamanda Adiche’s TedTalk, “The Danger of a Single Story” and pulled up one of my long-time favorite essays “Yes, You Are” by Sarah D. Bunting about feminism. Each of those pieces inspires me and prompts me to think about what I can do and share to help “eat the equity whale.”

Walking in to the Hackathon, I had no idea what to expect from the experience. After all, I’m not a hacker and I’m not an architect! I left feeling inspired, excited and eager to implement hackathons everywhere. There’s so much to hack! As I listened to the introductory remarks and comments before we broke into small groups, I had an idea for something I’d like to hack specific to the equity movement. I was struck by the importance of language. I care deeply about how we use language and the meaning of the words we use (which is part of why “Yes, You Are” appeals to me). In the context of the Equity by Design discussion, I was struck by when and how words like male, female, man, woman and girl were used. I never heard anyone utter an equivalent of “girl.” In the session I heard a few people say “girl” when they should have said woman and I never heard that happen with “boy/man.” It’s a small thing and it’s subtle, but the longer we perpetuate the use of “girl” when we mean “woman,” the clearer it is that issues of equity and perception run deep in our social constructs.

I admire the research and dialogue the Equity by Design effort has cultivated, but I think a big piece of the puzzle is education on a broader level. How do the issues facing architecture mirror those facing other industries? We need to talk about what’s going on in our society at large for different groups to better understand how and why biases play out in the workplace. When we talk about the cultural ideals reflected in the media and pop culture, we better understand why it’s so deeply ingrained in our subconscious that it’s “bad” for women to exhibit assertive behavior. I think unlocking some of that is key. Many other industries suffer from the same gaps in diversity and if we have larger, interdisciplinary discussions that support and inform industry specific conversations, it becomes possible to move the ball forward on multiple fronts.

The Hackathon reminded me how important it is to listen, challenge assumptions and push outside my comfort zone. I want to keep talking about equity, draw parallels to other disciplines and elevate the conversation so we’re not working in a bubble. I want to find ways to help people see the challenge from many angles so that we’re all hear each other better.

We need to listen and we need to share stories fearlessly.

What's next for EQxD?

Join us in San Francisco at AIASF on June 11th for our next EQxD "U" Workshop "What's Flex got to do with Success?" (Win Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) Meet the panelists, and participate in small group break-outs to "hack" what works for flexibility in the modern workplace. This event is relevant to all AEC professionals! 6pm-8:30pm. 

We need to Hack more!

by Matthew Gaul    

Without a doubt, the most significant event of the whole AIA National convention in Atlanta was Equity by Design (EQxD) Hackathon ½ day event. Unique to the convention we were going to do something, on the spot, to improve the profession. The whole afternoon was a microcosm of what I have experienced since I attended my first EQxD meeting a year ago. What I got out of it was a real sense of what it will take to move the profession forward and an even stronger sense of optimism that we will get there.

Why I went:

First stop: a selfie at the front door.

First stop: a selfie at the front door.

Like all EQxD events and meetings I’ve been to, the Hackathon was about awareness and action. Action is the key to causes. Architecture is keen to action when it comes to external things like the 2030 Challenge for sustainability, but we’re ironically inactive about our own internal challenges.

At the Hackathon, we set out to focus internally, not on our desires about design as architects are regularly accused of doing, but on our self-worth and conduct. Frankly, it is still a significant thing for the profession to stand up out of our sandbox of beautiful designs, to grapple with real human issues. I believe doing so helps us realize our true value and prepare for a Post-Green world, when being sustainable will be as much of a concern to the public and the profession as being accessible and ADA compliant. When we get there, we’ll be left with our one common denominator: our fellow humans for whom we design. After all, Architecture can’t sustainably focus on sustainability because we’ll get there, and when we do, we’ll be left with our one common denominator: our fellow humans for whom we design.

I also wanted to be there to be one of the men in the room. Everyone has potential for implicit bias, groupthink, and ignorance. Research shows us that diverse groups make more intelligent and equitable decision through a reduction in assumptions and increase in experiences and awareness. So, by participating help mitigate these factors in myself and others.

How it went:

It was hard. Not in the typical architecture-is-hard because the problems are complex and take a long time to develop solutions. It was hard because we didn’t have a long time to figure things out, and we couldn’t use our typical problem solving methods. We were actively figuring out what our methods could be while using them to solve our group’s chosen equity issue, and then presenting in a way that we were totally unaccustomed. And that’s the essence of a hackathon.

In the end, this was the most focused, participatory, and fruitful four hours of the whole convention. Don’t get me wrong; other convention activities had the same high qualities, but none produced original work on the spot and drew upon their participants to act in the present and future in quite the same way. We all left with a feeling of community, ownership, and responsibility.

What I take away from it:

“A pocket full of change.”

“A pocket full of change.”

Equity in Architecture and improving the value proposition/understanding of architecture is going to be a lot harder and more complicated than I thought. It isn’t just a matter of sharing information, straightening up, rallying others to action, and changing what others do or think. There is a lot of hard work in figuring out how and what we are doing to change ourselves as a profession and how others perceive us.

Personally, I will make it a point to draw on others more. (It won’t be just to spread the good word of equity, but it will also help shape the bricks that we will use to build a better profession. It is my hope that AIA National does the same.

There is a real value in every single person’s time and energy, because they can shape the course of events and the profession that shapes humanity’s built environment.

And who wouldn’t want a part of that?

Read more of Matthew's thoughts on the importance of equity in architecture from an excerpt of his EQxD Hackathon scholarship essay below. 

I believe that Architecture fundamentally needs to raise its internal and external valuation to reflect the importance of architecture in the daily lives of people, society, and the future of humanity. This improvement of valuation has to start with better, more equitable practices within the profession. Once we value ourselves better in this way, provide greater opportunities to our members, and retain more talent, we can better communicate our value to society, and achieve a level of regard and compensation that will enable us to produce our best work.
— Matthew Gaul

What's next for EQxD?

Join us in San Francisco at AIASF on June 11th for our next EQxD "U" Workshop "What's Flex got to do with Success?" (Win Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) Meet the panelists, and participate in small group break-outs to "hack" what works for flexibility in the modern workplace. This event is relevant to all AEC professionals! 6pm-8:30pm. 

#BUILDYOUrtribe - EQXD Hackathon 2015 Winners

Meaning and Influence: Entrepreneurship

We were told to get ready to eat the whale, to grab our forks and come hungry for action.  We walked into 2015 AIA Convention WE310 - Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action Hackathon energized and ready to “hack”.  But what that meant, we weren’t entirely sure at first.  

After the rundown and summary of the key findings from the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey, wonderfully presented by our personal twitter heroes: Rosa Sheng (@RosaSheng), Lilian Asperin Clyman (@liaspcly), Emily Grandstaff-Rice (@egraia), Virginia Marquardt (@branngin) and Nicole Graycar (@ngraycar), we were told to gravitate towards a topic of interest.  There were 6 topics written up on boards and spread throughout the room.  Immediately our group surrounded the meaning and influence board with the topic of entrepreneurship.   

We were supposed to limit the groups to 5 or 6 people but 7 of us sat down instantly. When asked if any of us wanted to switch groups, we all leaned in--committed to our team and topic of interest.  To quote from The Missing 32% Project blog post Anatomy of the EQxD Hackathon,  

“I have always believed that those who are meant to meet, find each other in due time. Hackers find themselves gravitating towards other folks who share a passion…”  

The EQxD leaders thankfully let us stick together and break the rules.  We quickly discovered we were fortunate to have a variety of experience in our group that consisted of: a recent architecture graduate, a designer on her path to licensure, a newly licensed architect working in a large firm, an entrepreneur turned employee, an employee turned entrepreneur, a private practice employee turned public architect and a non-profit leader advocating for women in leadership.

Step 1: “Deliberate and Discard: Define the problem

Why don’t architects think more entrepreneurially? How do we break the mold and move away from the traditional career path, whether employed in a large firm or going out on our own?  Many issues came up from architects not knowing the business side of the industry to asking how do architects obtain and retain clients to asking, “am I a service provider or an artist?  Time and work-life balance also came up in our discussion, we talked about architecture schools teaching a culture of ‘all-nighters’, and clients not understanding how much time our work takes or the value added by the architectural team.  We asked why profitability is a dirty word in our industry?  As the EQxD leaders had warned us, time flew by and we had to distinctly define our problem; this is what we came up with:

In order to retain talent, increase job satisfaction, and avoid pinch points, we need to think more entrepreneurially – which is actually more true to our authentic selves as creative problem solvers.  By thinking like an entrepreneur, an architect will easily articulate their own value to their colleagues within a firm, or as a sole proprietor, and will likely then be more valued, remain in the profession and achieve more job satisfaction. So why aren’t architects articulating their value, to themselves and to their colleagues and peers? We answered that question as having a lack of knowledge, resources and confidence.

Step 2: “Develop and Clarify”: Diverge, Deliberate, Converge

What are the root challenges? Lack of Knowledge, Resources, and Confidence.  
What can we do to overcome our lack of or perceived lack of knowledge, resources and confidence?  We started navigating towards 6 ‘C’ words – creativity, collaboration, communication, confidence, community and connection.  We need to surround ourselves with other creatives, collaborate and communicate with confidence and engage and connect with our community - both the design community and non-design community.

We kept circling around the fact that we really don’t do it all on our own, we partner with others whether it be our client, the city and/or the community.  We utilize an interdisciplinary approach, peer mentors, and shared resources to get the job done.  How do we make this process of knowledge building, resource sharing and confidence boosting more accessible?  First, BUILD YOU.  We realized you have to know what you are good at.  What are your skills and passions?  This isn’t always easy to figure out.  We must however build ourselves first.  Second, BUILD YOUR TRIBE. We need to find others that have different skills and passions, who challenge us,who help us develop and further our design visions.  We called this building our tribe.  

Step 3: “The Pitch”: Get ready to “sell” it

As the clock ticked by at what seemed like a rapid pace, we realized we needed this to engage the public in order to make a larger impact.  So we came up with #Buildyourtribe, we liked it because it contained #Buildyou, the notion of finding your own skills and passions first and then building your tribe.  

Next, we decided we could go further than just a social media campaign and came up with the idea of an app which would be focused on connecting the AEC community locally, regionally and maybe even globally to participate in events like the hackathon, to meet up, connect and make lasting relationships;  a sort of industry-specific mash-up between LinkedIn and MeetUp.

It was interesting that by the end of this brainstorming session, our concept of building our tribe was coming to fruition through our own group’s camaraderie. We had come from different backgrounds not knowing what truly to expect but had found a common thread to work on and were putting our entrepreneurial self to the forefront.  As a new group of “hackers” we are looking forward to developing the app!

Amanda Gann @amanda_gann
Jamie Molina @jamiemolina419
Neelanjana Sen @NeelanjanaSen
Marilyn Moedinger @mwmoedinger
Karen Bala @karencbala
Kelly Hayes McAlonie @KellyHayesM
Rebecca Johnson @rebeccainphilly

What's next for EQxD?

Join us in San Francisco at AIASF on June 11th for our next EQxD "U" Workshop "What's Flex got to do with Success?" (Win Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) Meet the panelists, and participate in small group break-outs to "hack" what works for flexibility in the modern workplace. This event is relevant to all AEC professionals! 6pm-8:30pm. 

EQxD "U" Wrkshp 1: "Satisfaction" 3/12 @AIASF (Meet the Panelists!)

Satisfaction: Workplace Innovations to Attract, Develop and Keep Talent.

March 12th, 2015 @AIASF 130 Sutter Street, San Francisco 6pm-8:30pm

Please join us to get "Satisfaction" in the 1st of 4 highly engaging EQxD workshops that explore workplace topics we experience but rarely discuss.  

We invited 4 Bay Area Principals of successful design firms that each have a unique story to tell about what it takes to attract and keep top talent and run an award winning design practice; From a practice that honors staff with biannual urban architectural retreats to a firm founded and largely owned by women with diverse and flexible work cultures. From a firm forging a design first ethos with meaningful work that respects employee needs to a successful small studio that has joined forces with a larger firm. 

What is the secret sauce for job satisfaction? How does this factor into talent retention in successful firms? Is it having a worker-centered culture or diversity in talent? Working on meaningful design projects ? Having a transparent promotion policy? Role models in leadership positions? High salary? Meaningful work?



MEET THE SATISFACTION PANELISTS! (and the amazing firms they lead)


Peter Larsen, AIA

Principal, Aidlin Darling Design

Peter Larsen has been a designer with Aidlin Darling Design since 1999, and became a Principal of the firm in 2012.  His design work ranges from large-scale multi-building projects on remote land parcels to handcrafted furniture and fixture design at the intimate scale of the human body. He has focused on developing sustainable building strategies, including LEED-platinum and Net Zero Energy projects, as well as taken on leadership roles in the management of the Aidlin Darling Design studio and team.

Aidlin Darling Design rigorously explores design across a wide range of scales, programs and disciplines with the goal of enabling poetic, sustainable and appropriate site- and client-specific solutions. The firm has been awarded over 100 regional, national and international design awards including an AIA/COTE Top Ten + Award, a National Design Award by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, an international Civic Trust Award, a National AIA Honor Award, a National ASLA Honor Award for landscape architecture, two National IIDA Interior Design Awards, multiple American Architecture Awards from the Chicago Athenaeum, and a James Beard Award.



Melinda Rosenberg, Assoc. AIA, SHRM

Partner, Director of Human Resources, Office Manager,  WRNS Studio

Melinda has always been curious about understanding and shaping culture. She arrived at WRNS in 2005 and helped open their doors, ushering in the vibrant, creative, diverse and hard-working ethos that has helped WRNS become the nationally recognized design firm it is today. WRNS is truly its people, and Melinda has recruited and helped them retain the best. Since day one, they've attracted an incredibly talented group of designers and professionals who are committed to good design, social and environmental stewardship and critical discourse. With no shortage of parties and social outings, Melinda knows how to balance their culture of hard work with play.

WRNS Studio is a 75-person architecture firm with offices in San Francisco and Honolulu. Founded in 2005 with a design-first ethos, projects range in scale and typology from Adobe's new campus in Utah to small community centers here in San Francisco for the Trust for Public Land. Place, identity, context, technical innovation and resource conservation compel their every move. Recent clients include Airbnb, Dolby, UCSF, Stanford, the San Francisco Unified School District, and numerous private developers.

Janet Tam, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Principal, Noll & Tam

Janet Tam, AIA, is a founding partner of Noll & Tam Architects in Berkeley, CA. She holds a Master’s degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley and is a member of The American Institute of Architects, Society of College and University Planners, and California Parks and Recreation Society. A LEED Accredited Professional (BD+C), Janet is noted for her ability to analyze complex programs and synthesize all components into aesthetically pleasing architectural design. She has special expertise in facilitating consensus among diverse interest groups, particularly as part of an organized community process.

Noll & Tam Architects’ work reflects a dedication to the particular people and places that make our projects unique. Christopher Noll and Janet Tam founded the firm in 1992 to establish a talented studio of architects that pursued the ideal of active community involvement and environmentally responsive design. Today, we have 30 creative and energetic staff members, including 16 LEED Accredited Professionals with 67% women in firm leadership.

Anne Torney, AIA, LEED AP

Principal, Mithun

Anne Torney is an architect who has made transit-oriented affordable housing, urban place-making and social equity the focus of her work for more than 20 years. She is a Board member at Mithun, and manager of the Mithun's San Francisco office. Prior to joining Mithun, Anne was Principal and Director of Housing at the multi-disciplinary San-Francisco-based architectural design firm Daniel Solomon Design Partners, where she has led award-winning projects in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Seattle, WA. She brings a deep commitment to community outreach and sustainable design to all her projects, which range from supportive communities for the formerly homeless, to the revitalization of isolated public housing sites into walkable, mixed-use and mixed-income communities. Her sensitivity to client and user objectives animates her leadership of complex projects with multi-layered client and consultant teams.

Mithun’s architects, interior designers, landscape architects, urban designers and planners are working to inspire a sustainable world through leadership, innovation and integrated design. A national leader in sustainable design and urbanism since 1949, we look for and find connections — the universal in the specific, and ways to balance the human and natural worlds. Our work is an innovative blend of design, technology and nature to create places that excel in beauty, spirit and performance. Our integrated teams understand global issues and help to drive the best return on investments — economically, socially, environmentally and artistically. Making these connections, we deliver enduring value that raises the quality of life for individuals and entire communities.


EQxD Event Sponsorship

We are seeking sponsors for our ambitious 2015 Equity by Design Initiatives. If you are interested in supporting our goals for achieving equitable practice in architecture, please contact us to learn more about the multiple benefits for your support. Among other benefits, Sponsors get designated tickets for each of the 4 workshops in 2015 based on your level of support. So make the most of your sponsorship by contacting us early! 

We would like to thank Mithun and HDR Architecture for being our 1st sponsors of 2015! Logo recognition coming shortly!