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Uncomfortable Honesty

I walked into this meeting with certain expectations as to where the design process should be. I was wrong, and as a shareholder spending money, I immediately became uncomfortable as to the state of the design process.

There were several things in the space planning that the design team was still figuring out. I knew the document I created back in April had noted how to deal with the issues. I think having not been in-person to explain the document may have hindered the knowledge transfer.

It appeared to me as though a lot of spinning wheels had been turning on the spot since I completed that work in April.

From where I sat, it looked like the design team had no design sketch that they were really happy with. In fact, no one really presented a design – they presented their process and thoughts instead.

Knowing where the project needed to be in a few weeks, I got panicky.

With my background in design, and having sat on the opposite side of the table numerous times, I was confused by what was not done.

I took a deep breath, stepped out of my emotions and looked at the situation again. I realized I was assuming that Dennis and Christy were expecting what I was expecting; perhaps they were happy with where the project was?

When it came around to me to provide my thoughts on the day’s meeting, I turned the question back to Dennis, asking him and Christy what their expectations were.

They expressed that this was sort of what they were expecting, which made me feel a bit better. However, Dennis didn’t let me get away with that response, he wanted to hear what I was really thinking.

So I took a deep breath (knowing that I would not be the most popular kid in the room by what I was about to say) and chose my words carefully.

I expressed that based on what I saw on the walls (concept sketches) there was a clear lack of direction. It was an amazing opportunity for the design team to be given free reign over where to take the design, but it wasn’t helping move the project along.

I looked Dennis right in the eye and said – “ you will only get what you want if you ask for it.”

Everyone was a bit uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable that we couldn’t go out for dinner after the meeting and continue the discussion.

The next day I received an email from Christy, explaining that she woke up at 4 a.m. and realized that the design team was asking for direction in a subtle way, and was happy that I was there to say the words outloud. Dennis and Christy went back to the design team the next day to provide some additional direction.

I was so pleased to hear that Christy valued my input, especially since it was an ‘out of my comfort zone’ thing to say, and something that nobody wanted to hear. However, we have a schedule and a budget to stick to, so someone has to say something – I just never thought it would be me!

I emailed Dennis the following – to express my feelings on the matter the next day:

Even though architecture is a creative process, it still works best following the same rules you kick-ass at: “straw man stuffing”. Architects need direction to make the process effective, just as any other project. Don’t lose site of your awesome way of working, or let it get clouded because you are working in a different field than you are used to. 

In the end, it was nice to hear from Christy that they valued my opinion, and I felt like I got to express my concerns in a safe environment. I am excited to see where the design team takes the discussion and how they turn it into a design that gels.


Website: EcoAmmo

Stephani Carter, LEED AP, EcoAmmo

Stephani is all about the action and proving that Edmonton can build incredibly aesthetic buildings while being respectful of the environment they occupy. Steph is passionate about making sustainability a fun and engaging endeavor.

She’s the subject-matter expert in green building-rating systems, and facilitates group discussions to ensure that it’s the cutting edge, cool, sustainable project it’s supposed to be. Her company is going to be one of the first tenants, so she brings a user perspective to the table.

Stephani is somewhat of a collector of all things cool, but has a penchant for things that are old. As a young lady, she always dreamt about restoring historical buildings to be cutting-edge eco-friendly, or retrofitting classic cars with emission-free engines.

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