Friday, March 5, 2010

Design Build: An Avenue for Women in Construction & Green Building

Design Build: An Avenue for Women in Construction & Green Building, Our latest article for Seattle Builder/Architect Magazine. The March issue has a focus on women-led and owned businesses. Also check out Builder/Architect's new digital edition.

*Note: the caption on this page incorrectly labels Anna as an architect. We are not yet licensed architects.

Design Build: An Avenue for Women in Construction & Green Building

By Anne Hamilton and Anna Howden

Although there are relatively few women-owned general contracting companies, the transition from offering design build and general contracting services in addition to architectural services can be a fairly natural one. Many architectural firms offer construction management and administration services, and by default end up working side by side with the superintendent to work through issues and to ensure that the design intent is carried out in the final product.

Transitioning to a design build firm allows the architect to be involved in a project from start to finish, control the budget more efficiently, and have more control over the quality of the final product. Participating in the actual process of pricing and ordering in construction allows for architects to design more thoughtful and cost effective buildings. The commitment to green building can be upheld throughout the project most importantly through direct contact with suppliers and subcontractors. The architect writes the green specifications and also puts them into action rather than relying on someone else to follow their green initiative. Acting as both the architect and the contractor, the site visits are streamlined and create a team approach since the architect and the tradesmen are working together and not as separate entities.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that about 8 times as many men are employed in wage and salary positions in the construction industry as women, while 5 times as many men are self-employed in the construction industry. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as reported by Rena M. Klien, FAIA, in 2008 16% of architectural firm principals and partners were women, up 4% from 1999, though most of these are owners of small firms. In all industries, just 6% of highly paid executives are women.

An increasing number of women continue to receive architectural degrees. However, unlike the bar exam, for instance, which allows lawyers to obtain licenses directly out of law school, architectural interns must work for many years before they can become licensed (and in some states, before they can sit for the seven architectural licensing exams). This is usually in their early to mid thirties, when women with advanced degrees usually begin having children.

This biological reality and the time commitment outside of the work day needed to become licensed will most likely keep the “glass ceiling” in place for women architects in general. However, as revealed above in the statistics about the increasing number of small women-owned architectural firms, women can create their own opportunities in construction by adding construction management and design build services to their firms through becoming licensed general contractors.

The Master Builder tradition held almost exclusively by men and mostly phased out in modern times as most industries moved towards specialization, can now be enjoyed by women.

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D+A Studio strives to create elegant, sustainable solutions by forming flexible working relationships with each client based on their unique needs, making Real Green projects possible in the Real World. Learn more at, (206) 706-2565 (Seattle) or (360) 370-5955 (Friday Harbor), or email Studio How, LLC is our design-build entity that specializes in green construction. Learn more at , (360) 370-5955 (Friday Harbor), or email

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