Drive-thru Architectural Services


Over the years, we’ve been contacted by a lot of folks who have NO IDEA what Architects do, how we do it, why it’s necessary, what’s involved, how much it costs, and the rest of it.  Sometimes, their inquiry is simply to clear a legal hurdle en route to their desired destination.  The only reason they are calling at all is because someone is making them get an Architect. 

A fairly typical scenario is this:  A retail tenant decides that they want to open a shop and signs a lease for a space in a new strip center.  They need to either fit-up the space or renovate as the space is not suitable for their purposes as-is.  Their lease includes a provision that all work must be done under proper permits, so they run down to the local Inspections Department to pick up the “proper permits.”  The nice lady at the desk asks to see their drawings and they present a nice sketch that they did on graph paper the night before.  She explains that the sketch just isn’t “gonna do it,” and they really need to hire an Architect and/or Engineer to “draw up plans to Code” and submit the proper documents for permitting.  The tenant, who has been told nothing about this by their leasing agent, is shocked to learn that they may not be able to open next week as planned, and quickly goes about trying to find an Architect.

Right after “Archery Equipment & Supplies” in the Raleigh yellow pages stands the simple listing:  “Architects.”  After that follows contact information for some 145 architectural firms.  Gontram Architecture is #57 on the list.  We can always tell when someone is calling after finding our listing in the yellow pages.  Their question is straight to the point after having recited it 56 previous times.  “I need drawings for my store.  Do you have any on-file that I can come look at and buy?  I need permits today.”

It was happening often enough, we thought that would-be clients might actually be expecting a menu board in the parking lot and office lobby…

Drive Thru Menu

Drive Thru Menu for Architectural Services

They could pull up and order a complete set of permit drawings while idling at the curb….at Value Meal prices!

Unfortunately, even at these “fantasy” prices, architectural and engineering services are still an often unexpected, and un-budgeted, line item in some business plans.  Without exception, we have taken the time to explain to them what we do, and how we do it – that this is not a cookie-cutter process and that it takes time to provide the type of service that they are requesting.  Professional services are not (usually) quick, cheap, ready-made, off-the-shelf, etc.

Beyond protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public, there are many reasons why Architects are desirable for even a simple project.  In fact, properly performed architectural services can pay for themselves in a very short period of time.  Let’s face it, space is expensive, and maximizing the use of that space can save thousands of dollars over the terms of the lease or mortgage.  In the example of a retail store, space-saving techniques can be suggested which will maximize retail space, minimize wasted space, which gets more usable retail square footage for the same lease payment, or allow a tenant to lease less space while achieving the same goal.  Furthermore, quality design can enhance the retail experience and increase sales.  Let’s not forget about properly designed building envelopes and building systems, and their effects on utility bills.  And, finally, code compliance is imperative in this litigious society when you cater to the general public.

9 times out of 10, however, the surprised tenant moves on to #58 in the yellow pages, armed with a bit more knowledge about architectural services, but still seeking the firm with “drive-thru architectural services.”

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