Appreciation in Numbers


By Maurice Levitch, AIA

I’m thinking again about how projects come together; about how an idea becomes a reality from the perspective of all involved. We are so engrossed in the process on a day-to-day basis that we may lose sight of the awesome orchestra of talent that we lead as designers and builders. From the client or end user to the craftspeople involved, there are so many ideas, materials and people moving around that it is a wonder anything gets done at all. There will certainly be mistakes and misunderstandings along the way. With a moving target of real estate values, financing issues, new materials and methods, and rising fuel costs, we are challenged even more than before with turning out successful projects.

Just to get it out on the table, here are all the players in the band that I can think of right now: Property Owner (along with family and friends), neighbors, realtor, appraiser, lender, architect and associates, engineer and associates, planning and building department (along with outside plan checking service and field inspectors), interior designer, builder and associates, sub-contractors, and material suppliers.

For a recent small Bathroom remodel, I counted up to 53 individuals involved in creating the project! Just think of how many folks are concerned with a larger project. Last night at a SF Giants baseball game, as I was talking to my cousin who runs the “Guzzler” slide, I heard one of his adult clients proudly say he had helped build the thing. We must acknowledge and share the pride in creating a project with all those involved, because for most people a project is more than a paycheck.

In my Spanish class El Profesor brought in students from the ESL class so we could practice English and Spanish together. A majority of the ESL students were in the construction trades and had left their families back in their country. One of them said that El Jefe (the boss) required that he enroll in the class. This man, with great feeling, said his boss was a “buena persona”, telling us how his boss had come to the job and asked him to stop working so they could go to lunch together. The humanity in this was so clear that it made me look for ways to express my appreciation for my own crew better and more often. Being so busy with getting the project done can blind us to the importance of making sure to share our gratitude for those who give so much for us every day.

Whether you take a worker out to lunch, buy him or her a tool, offer to loan out the company truck for the weekend, teach your employees about a new building system, or simply acknowledge the nice work they just completed, you will be a better person and have a better staff to show for it. The same goes for the many others involved in the project. It is even OK to let your client know that the idea he or she had for the handrail detail was a winner!

This article was originally published in the June 2008 issue of Builder/Architect magazine.