In my last journal post, I gave a brief description of what an Architect does, albeit with a fair amount of subliminal pleas for help. Architects are, all said and done, just one of the many parts that make up the machine known colloquially as ‘kujenga’, albeit a rather big part. And a pretty one (we also have a gift for self-aggrandizement).
There are various players in the industry that make up the project team. They may vary according to the complexity and scale of the project, but generally most of these will be involved:
Quantity Surveyor: The finance gurus of the project. These are the good fellows that give you an indication of what the building should cost (despite your insistence that your aunt’s first cousin’s wife’s brother’s friend can build it at a third of the price), and also keep the project costs in check through the project. Another vital function they perform is to value the amount of work done on site over a particular duration, mainly to prevent the contractor from asking for more money than what they are actually due (not that that prevents them from trying occasionally).
Structural and Civil Engineer: Can usually be seen in the deep recesses of the structure inspecting reinforcements and concrete quality. One of the most important trades in any project, their job is to ensure that the building is structurally sound, ie it can withstand any and all forces and still stay strong, very much unlike my willpower. Additionally, they design and advise on the civil works of the project.
Service Engineers: There’s a variety of this particular species, but they mainly fall under the broad categories of Electrical Engineers and Mechanical Engineers (HVAC Engineers). Most, if not all buildings will require these services, unless you’re deliberately going for that grizzled caveman typology in homage to your ancient ancestors. They are tasked with designing and supervising the services of the building: Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing, Solar and so on.
Interior Designer/Interior Architect: Does what it says on the tin. More or less. The scope and involvement of these varies greatly from project to project. In many cases, especially smaller ones, the Architect takes up the role. Personally, I find it extremely useful to have a specialist Interiors person on the team as it allows a fair amount of attention being paid to the interior spaces, which are, let’s face it, the most important part of any building (he says, accompanied by the wailing and gnashing of teeth of Architects who believe Function follows Form).
The Landscape Architect: Again, does what it say on the tin. Unfortunately, most people assume the title Landscape Architect is a way of saying ‘gardener’ with added delusions of grandeur, and additionally believe the title of Landscape Architect is only adopted in order to get a bigger fee. This really couldn’t be further from the truth. A Landscape Architect DESIGNS the external spaces, creating spaces that are not only functional, but also enhance the quality of life experienced within these spaces. And plant trees and plants. Lots and lots of them, hopefully.
There are a few newer professions on project teams as well (I say newer because they are still marginally represented in majority of construction projects). Some of these include:
The Project Manager: Now there’s a thankless task if ever there was one. The PM’s task is to manage the entirety of the project: to ensure that all aspects of the project on a day to day basis are in sync with the master program, both in terms of progress as well as financials. Unfortunately, this also entails checking up on ALL the people involved, from consultants to contractors and sometimes even neighbors. The preceding is a fairly simplistic description, as I’m sure a Project Manager would gladly tell you if you were to chance on one. Architects generally tend to handle the project management in majority of the projects, but for the bigger projects a Project Manager is usually appointed.
Environmental Engineers: The new kid on the block (no pun intended). With the growing awareness of the environmental impact of the built environment, its understandable that a specific discipline needed a figurative and literal seat at the project table, and so the advent of the Environmental Engineer. Their functions are many and varied: environmental audits, impact assessments, design suggestions to reduce impact on the environment and even environmental certifications. And that’s the tip of the iceberg (which they will help keep from melting).
So there you have a short and not exhaustive description of the various players in a building project. Apologies if there are any trades I may have overlooked, and even more profuse apologies if I’ve short-sold any of those I did mention. Blame it on the weather (also known as force majeure).