Shadow Day: Gardner Kilcoyne Architects

I spent yesterday at the offices of Gardner Kilcoyne Architects, in Williston. Not really knowing what to expect, my plan was to ask a few questions and sit and watch things happen, maybe be there a few hours.
I started my day by meeting my connection, Bill Gardner, who gave me a quick tour of the office.


Bill Gardner in his office. Not pictured: drawings scattered all over the place behind me.


The main part of the office- workstations and standing desks for up to 8 architects, when things get busy. There are two dogs that hang out in the office (Daisy and Barley).










The small firm has 3 LEED certified Architects (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and prides themselves on their sustainable work. Much of their work is in large commercial, residential, and municipal projects, but they do residential as well. They’re the architects behind Q Burke, Higher Ground, several buildings at Champlain College and Jay Peak, and Jon Fishman’s house (insert pun about The Landlady here).
They had just finished their last project a few weeks ago (The Burke Mountain Hotel had its ribbon cutting ceremony recently) and nothing was currently under construction (“A rare lull for us!” Bill said), but there was still plenty to see going on in the office. Bill was working on a RFP (Request for Proposal) for a dog hydrotherapy center someone is looking to build, and the rest of the office was busy on the Eagle Landing, a block of apartments being built for Champlain College. Bill walked me through his routine (email, coffee, rinse and repeat) and we talked back and forth about the basics of what he does. Here are some things I learned:

  • More than 50% of architects become something other than architects after getting their degree- they become anything from construction management to illustrators for movie and video game animation.
  • There’s a difference between a french foot and an english foot. (?)
  • Saying “take a left at the oak tree” is a totally correct method of legally describing property.
  • Land deeds are still measured in terms of things like rods and chains. A chain is 66 feet, which makes an acre 1 chain by 1 chains! A hectare, however, is completely unrelated.
  • There’s no code for single family residences in Vermont, meaning you can build your house however the heck you want to.
  • Even after an Architect is licensed and accredited, they still are required by the state to take a certain number of credit hours every year.
  • An estimated 60 hours of work is put into every page in an architectural plan by the time it’s complete.
  • Related to above, it wouldn’t be unusual for an architect to charge $80 an hour for their work. Most jobs, however, they just charge a percentage of the final construction cost.

We didn’t just discuss tidbits, but I wouldn’t want to bore you with some of the details.
Bill apologized a few times that I happened to be visiting on a boring day, but I kept myself busy! David was working on a m a s s i v e CAD model of the Eagle Landing Apartments, and I learned quite a bit about workflow and collaboration. IMG_5989.JPG

I wish I had captured a more interesting image of what David was working on. The sheer size and complexity of the model was mind-boggling for me, as someone who has used CAD before and knows the kind of work that goes into making even small things correctly. David had spent his day reconciling errors in ReVit, the CAD program they use at GK. The day before, the firm had met with CK Consulting, an energy efficiency group that helps architects refine their plans to meet tight Energy Codes. They had also just received plans back from a structural engineer. Instead of having electricians and HVAC engineers and such in-house, they simply subcontract people to do technical parts of their plans for them. So they had sent their model to this engineer, and he added the steel beams and such right into their model. David was going through the model to check for errors (which there were) and make sure that the plans were revised with the changes from CK. Once that’s done, the plans can move to the next iteration of subcontractors, come back to David, go back out again, come back again, and on and on until every facet of the building is done and planned in black ink.


This project alone calls for thousands of these sheets, showing every necessary dimension and detail in the entire building.

Bill and I went out to a house under construction out in Richmond, just to take a look at some of that work in progress. The project was just a residential addition, but it was interesting to hold plans on paper and be able to immediately visualize what the product looks like.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend the day with such a cool and inviting group, and I learned a lot!


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