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Architects make all the pieces come together, as in the design elements
for the showroom for Carolina Business interiors, designed by Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee

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Putting It All Together

North Carolina architects ensure
a building's sum is greater than its parts

Whether your next building project is small or large, you may be certain it will involve countless complex and complicated decisions. The wrong choice will cost time and money. You can’t afford mistakes.

“One of the best investments a company or organization can make is to work with an architect early on in the process. It is helpful to be involved from the very beginning,” says Bobby Patterson, AIA, incoming president of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“Where we can be of greatest value,” the Winston-Salem architect continues, “is coming together early with a client who knows everything there is to know about their business. When you add to that what an architect knows about architecture, planning, site selection and life and safety issues, the end result is greater than the parts.

“An example is an office building project where the client tells us everything they need and we meet those needs with the design and program of the final building. What an architect adds to that process is creating an environment that not only meets their needs but also enhances the environment of the people working there. It’s fun to come to work because the design of the building you work in is efficient and you feel good being there,” Patterson says.

Working closely with clients and being attentive to their needs leads to innovative solutions that can make a business more efficient and functional. “There are situations,” Patterson notes, “where the building design itself can contribute to the profitability of an organization. Maybe it’s a manufacturing building where the design of the building streamlined the manufacturing process.”

Charlotte architect Roy W. Johnson, AIA, current AIA North Carolina president, agrees that the first and most important step in the building process is listening to the client. “Listening, learning about their business, understanding the markets they are in, recognizing their cost constraints and competitive pressures all takes place before an architect can begin to think about design.”

Patterson recalls once hearing someone say they would like to be viewed as an opportunity seeker rather than a problem solver. “A problem,” he explains, “conveys the sense there is something wrong. What we try to do when working with a client is to look at the opportunities and come up with something great in the process.  Architects look for opportunities to enhance what we work on and to leave it better than we found it.

“A school building is like that,” says Patterson, a principal of Architectural Design Associates, PLLC. “When you have all the things that make a school — classrooms, cafeteria, library, gym, offices — we can create an environment that enhances the process of education. If children enjoy coming to a school because they like the way it looks and how it makes them feel, that contributes to the bottom line we’re looking for.”

Because 85 percent of his firm’s clients are church congregations, Patterson knows and stresses the importance of developing a master plan. Churches, as well as businesses, often build in stages. “Planning is key,” Patterson says. “If you plan a building today knowing that in the future it will be added on to, the building can be designed to accept that addition without having to tear things down later.

“An architect’s work with master planning is vital because an organization is probably not going to build everything in the beginning but you want to start somewhere. We can help an organization meet those needs and decide how the site can best be developed. An architect with experience about building materials, systems and so forth can effectively build a good building on a budget and save the owner money,” Patterson explains.

Guy L. Hipp, a minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, has worked with Patterson on several building projects. “Our architect shows a professionalism in handling problems from design to construction management. He acts as our agent and ‘mouthpiece’ to the contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers. His manner lends itself to build quality friendships in the design team, construction team and with the building committee. When the projects are complete, the friendships remain and grow,” Hipp says.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects was founded in 1913 and is the largest statewide AIA chapter in the nation with more than 2,000 members. The AIA is the voice of the architectural profession dedicated to serving its members, advancing the value of architects to society, and improving the quality of the built environment.

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