Building Envelope Architects

(Released on December 19)
About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

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Paul: Welcome everyone to the Everything Building Envelope podcast, and we’ve got a really interesting guest today, Brian Neumann. Brian is a building envelope architect, so that’s obviously near and dear to all of our hearts. Brian is with Neumann Sloat Arnold Architects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Welcome, Brian.

Brian: Thank you.

Paul: So Brian, before we get into our topic and our discussion, could you please tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and your firm and how you got into the business of being a building envelope architect?

Brian: Well, like you said, I am a building envelope architect, I started off as a traditional, conventional architect doing design work in firms, and when I moved to San Francisco, I had a couple of classmates that got jobs in this building envelope firm. And I used to call over there and pick their brains, and I thought it was really interesting that there was a firm out there that just did the detailing and just did construction documents.

And eventually, I needed to find another job. My design career kinda fizzled out a little bit because of the economy. And I went back to the building envelope firm and I told them I needed a job, and they hired me on the spot. And they said, “Well, you’re a design architect, we’ll give you two, three years max.

Well, 20 some odd years later, I’m still doing it because I just think it’s a really fascinating field and I really believe that it matters. And as architects, I think, you know, it’s really important for us to be able to kinda walk that building science path as much as the design path, and so I found that it’s a very rewarding thing for us to do.

As architects, we get involved in lots of different jobs. I think that’s one of the more rewarding things I find is that you can get into lots and lots of jobs. You can affect many, many projects. You’re not stuck on one big design project for two, three, four years.

Paul: So does your firm solely do building envelope work or do you do other things as well?

Brian: Well, we’re primarily building envelope architects, so we work with other architects, we work with contractors, we work with homeowners, but we also get involved in historical restoration work. We get involved in construction defect work. We’re expert witnesses. We’ve actually testified in trial.

So anything related to the exterior envelopes of buildings from commercial, multifamily, high rise, from new construction, restorations, additions, remodeling, up to construction defect work and reconstruction projects.

Paul: So from birth to, I was gonna say to death, birth to the finger pointing stage and everything in between?

Brian: Yeah. Pretty much. You got it.

Paul: So what kinda things are you working on these days with materials, methods, those sorts of things? Anything new out there that’s got your interest?

Brian: Well, you know, I think it’s interesting because what I find is that it’s a constantly evolving industry as far as new technologies, new chemistry. I mean, chemistry to me has changed so much of how we do our work.

I remember back when self-adhered membranes came along, and that was like, “Wow. That’s the best thing since sliced bread.” And people were using self-adhered membranes, and you know, then 10 years later, we were watching them fail like crazy.

And I think right now, what we’re seeing is a lot of products, materials, mostly at the chemical level where we’re starting to see different types of sealants, STPEs, silyl terminated polyethers for instance, great materials, you know, silicones. We’re starting to develop silicones that no longer bleed so that you don’t have the staining associated with the silicone sealants.

So, you know, the rain screen applications, those, you know, STPE, fluid applied air barriers. They’re making, you know, silicone air barriers, acrylic air barriers. So, you know, I find that there’s always new things happening, new ways of doing filming, new ways of detailing, and a lot of it is based on, you know, chemistry of these products. You know, what sticks to what? What is compatible with what? What is not compatible with what now?

You know, we’re learning things about how silicones and urethanes affect each other’s cure. So you can actually stop the silicone from curing if you install a urethane joint next to it. You know, things like that.

Paul: So you’re talking about new materials. What’s your tolerance for being the guinea pig? I guess, maybe I would ask it that way.

Brian: Very low. What we tend to do is…there’s certain numbers of contractors that are a little bit more willing to try, willing to experiment. And what we generally do is we’ll try and find projects where we have a very low risk application. We’ve installed new membranes on stem walls and crawl spaces, you know, just to see it go down, see how it reacts, see how it’s detailed. You know, not really hanging your neck out too far because, you know, I do not like to try new stuff.

You know, it needs to have a track record. There’s a lot of products coming from other countries too, though, so, you know, you have to be careful about, you know, a 25 year track record in China, for instance, you know? Does that necessarily equate to the same track record you might have here, you know?

Some of the other things that we see is, has it been used in our region. Certain things don’t react the same way in Seattle as they do in Southeast Florida, you know, the materials, the environment. So it’s also, how much has this product been used in our area?

Paul: Yeah. You know, I feel like the construction industry might be one of the slower to evolve industries. And, you know, you see some of these industries where technology is, you know, growing leaps and bounds and, you know, making things irrelevant and whatnot.

And construction seems like, I mean yeah, we have technology. Everybody’s got an iPad in the field now, and we’re in the cloud and all that kind of stuff. But you don’t see the change as fast. I think part of the reason is it’s the long-term implications. You build a building, and it’s there for a long, long, long, long time.

So you’ve got, not only does it have to…you know, you’ve got the latest and greatest materials. Not only do they gotta stick to things, or not stick to things, whatever their intended, but the durability thing where they’ve gotta last for a long time. And you and I, I know can both reel off a long list of materials that seemed great when they started and, you know, have been colossal failures and cause all kinds of problems going forward.

So that’s something that I agree with you. You gotta be really careful when you’re trying to embrace new things, and I like new things, but not without knowing what’s gonna happen, what the ultimate consequences are with using them.

Brian: Yeah. I worked with a couple of guys, very early in my career. They were very old school. They were, you know, great craftsmen, you know? They were a little older and they would use the most basic materials, building paper, nothing fancy. And they would install things as simply as possible but as well as possible, and it’s still what I believe is the simplest the detail can be, the easier it can be implemented in the field, the more successful it’s going to be.

But what’s happened is now we’re changing into this new realm where, well, you know, if this product will do x, y, and z, let’s use that because then we can do that item here as opposed to three different things. And that’s where we’re starting to see some of the dangers, you know? There’s not like a catch all, the product here is gonna do all of these different things.

So you still have to rely on the guy in the field that’s handling these products, that’s installing them, that’s doing the work. That’s to me where most of the success is actually gonna come from, is the guy doing the work.

Paul: And as you say, the system has gotta be able to overcome user error to some degree. If it’s gotta be installed 100% perfect, it’s just not gonna happen. So one of the things that we really like at our firm these days are fluid applied waterproofing systems because you can really inspect them and see if they were applied right, especially if you’re using different colors and things like that.

As opposed to the sheet goods where, you know, they could not lap them properly or not detail them properly or get damaged after they’ve been on there for a while. So, you know, there are some instances where the new technology is good, but not all.

Brian: And fluid applied has really opened up. They’ve eliminated the sequencing issues. You know, you mentioned, you know, sheet goods. That’s all about sequencing, right? So the fluid applied, I think that’s really enabled a lot more, you know, contractors to come in and use these materials, but not have to worry so much about, you know, the sequencing of it.

You can always come back and add more. You can install windows. You can then come back and do the weather-resistant barrier, you know? And that’s really enabled the contractors to use these products more successfully.

Paul: Yeah, because they sure weren’t doing well with the sheet goods. In our business on the, you know, forensic expert witness side, we’ve probably done a thousand failures of sheet goods. And it’s not the material. It’s always, you know, the way it was applied or the lack of direction, lack of detail, installer error, all that kind of stuff.

Brian: Yeah, exactly.

Paul: How do you give a particular system the best chance of succeeding given the variability of installation? How do you get from, you know, a really good design to actually, you know, getting it installed and having it work? In other words, does that involve…I mean, obviously it involves more than just good details. What’s the sequence it needs to go through to have a successful installation?

Brian: A lot of times… What I like to call them is working meetings where early in the process, you’re sitting down. You might have the architect there, but you also have the contractor and the sub, or multiple subs, and you’re talking about different conditions. You’re looking at different issues on the building, and you’re proposing ways that you would recommend addressing them. You’re talking about, you know, different detailing or different products or different methods of addressing something.

Paul: I’ll tell you one thing that drives me crazy is when you get out in the field, for instance, on a window installation, and the installers have never seen and don’t have the window shop drawings, you know, which are basically what they’re using to build the building, to build that trade with. So frequently, we see that the information does not get disseminated down properly, and that’s where a lot of problems ensue.

Brian: Yeah. I agree. Like drawings. You know, you’ve got guys out in field, and they’re doing work on a certain area and they don’t have a drawing. They don’t have a clue as to what the detail actually looks like. And, you know, the contractor hasn’t provided it to them. You know, they’re out there doing what they always do.

Paul: They ultimately become the designer.

Brian: Yeah. Well, this is how we do it. Well, that’s not how we detailed it.

Paul: I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years, that’s…

Brian: And I’ve never had a problem.

Paul: Right. It’s because they’re long gone before the problems start.

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: You had mentioned rain screens. Are they becoming over-specified, and what do you feel the long-term outlook is with them?

Brian: Well, you know, it’s interesting. That question came up recently. I’m part of an organization, the Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration Institute. And this is something that one of the contractors raised and said, “You know, what is the deal with rain screens? Every time I turn around there’s another rain screen.” It’s like, you know, is this like green washing? Is this that anything and everything should be a rain screen and that’s the way we’re, you know, gonna be building buildings?

And actually I responded to it because, you know, my feeling is that the concept behind the rain screen is solid. The differential pressure, allowing the drainage plane beyond your cladding system to perform. The part that sorta makes me crazy is there’s still people out there that believe a rain screen is like the slatted wood, and we’ve got some black material behind it which is supposed to act as the weather-resistant barrier and the slatted wood and that’s a rain screen.

And the other bit that I take, you know, sort of offense with is that they’re not necessarily intended to just take in an incredible amount of water. They’re intended to take some water. Five percent is what the Air Barrier Association feels as an open rain screen, if you get 5% of the actual water on the membrane. Five percent is not a lot. That means 95% of the water is not touching the membrane.

And so to me, I think it’s solid science. It comes from Canada. They’ve been doing it for years. That’s kinda where we adopt a lot of our detailing and our standards, is from the Canadian codes. So I think rain screens are great. I think they’re starting to slowly become understood by, you know, the people that are designing and the contractors that are installing them.

The stucco subs. I’ve tried to fight the battle with stucco subs for years. And finally, it’s turned the corner where now the stucco sub says, “I won’t install the stucco without a drainage plane behind it,” you know? And I love it, you know? It’s like, “Finally. We’ve crossed over.”

So I think it’s a good system and I think they are here to stay. I think we’re just gonna learn to build them better and I think we’re gonna continue to develop additional weather-resistant barriers, especially fluid applied barriers.

Paul: Yep. And that’s where, you know, the emerging, improving materials and technologies associated with them can really be a big help. But you know, it’s a market to market thing because in South Florida, if you suddenly started doing rain screens, it would be a dismal failure. And the reason for that is because they don’t do them, so there’s a whole transition of education and how you get, you know, the market comfortable with it.

I remember a job that we did, oh, maybe five years ago, which was a healthcare, an ACLU building, like a five story building. And the architect was from the Midwest and wanted to use a high performance rain screen with eaves cladding. And the contractor, who’s actually from the same part of the Midwest but had a Florida office, argued against it saying, “Nobody knows how to do that down here.”

And the contractor was right. It probably wouldn’t have gone well. So ultimately, they did the block and stucco that they’re so used to doing in Florida. And it’s unfortunate but, you know, a lot of it is just, I think it’s regionally, does the market have the expertise to execute something that takes a little bit more workmanship than say, you know, block and stucco type application?

Brian: Yeah. Well, you touched on a good point in regional changes in how construction is done. We have offices in Oregon and California and we do a lot of work in Hawaii. Those are actually the three states that we’re licensed to be, you know, the architect of record. And you can’t detail buildings the same way you do in the Bay Area as you would in Hawaii for instance.

We’ve done construction defect work in Hawaii where we actually brought our own crew with us because we needed to have the guys that had the experience, that understood what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how we wanted to go about it. We would go over there and we couldn’t work with the guys because they didn’t understand, you know, destructive testing, for instance. It’s like this isn’t demo. This is slowly peeling things apart.

And so you run into that. And so, and you know, it kinda goes back to what I was talking about originally with a working meeting. I really think that as architects, as designers, that we’re the smart guys, right? I want my people to be able to reach out and function with the contractors and subcontractors, in their realm, you know?

If they’re really good at these systems, if they’re really good at running, you know, these products or these materials, and we feel they’re appropriate, then I wanna work with them to help them install their stuff that they’re experienced with as well as they can, you know? Detail it, help them understand that this is the architecture. This is what we’re trying to honor, but we’re gonna use these products that you guys are very familiar with and you’ve used thousands of times.

And I think that’s important because you’re also letting that contractor and letting that subcontractor know that, you know, they’re part of this process, you know? You’re not the designer just telling them, “This is what you’re gonna use.” You’re part of the team and you’re saying, “This is what we anticipate, you know, we’re gonna use here. We’re gonna recommend this there.”

And they often will have good insight, you know? And I wanna hear that. I think the dumbest guy on the job site can actually teach us some of the best lessons.

Paul: Yeah. They live and breathe that everyday, so…

Brian: Exactly.

Paul: …who better than them that should know about that?

Brian: Mm-hmm.

Paul: So as we get into, you know, these newer systems and different types of betterments, I guess I would call them, you know, from an architectural education and design focus, what can be done there to help the winds of change blow a little better?

Brian: You know, this has been a long running issue for me. Depending on what architecture school you go to, you’re gonna get a different version of what it means to be an architect. You don’t actually learn to be an architect until you get out of school.
And what I found is that there’s been an increasing focus on the design aspects and the theoretical aspects of architecture, and this is a broad generalization. There are certainly some schools that do have a good technical focus, but what I think we need to do is we need to start understanding that there’s traditional architectural design and then there’s building technology or building science.

You know, just kinda why is there even building envelope architecture out there? It’s because, you know, we’re specializing. We know have lighting designers and AV guys and color consultants. Well, we’re a waterproofing firm. We’re the building envelope guy and I think the education of the architectural students needs to respond to that.

I think the materiality, the how things are put together and how things are built, that’s a really, really important aspect of what it means to be able to design a building. But in Canada, you do two years of school and you decide to go into design or technology. So I’ve actually hired, you know, a few people from Canada with an architectural technology degree.

And, you know, I think that’s kinda where it’s going. You’re gonna see more and more of that type of architect out there that doesn’t have a design focus.

Paul: So with regards specifically to the building envelope, able to teach anything about that in school? Or is that strictly a field experience acquired type of discipline?

Brian: Well, it kinda goes back to what I was saying. Like because I went to the University of Michigan. We had construction documents. We had materials and methods. So we actually were learning some of that stuff in school.

I was having a conversation with a former dean of Cal Poly out here in San Luis Obispo. We partnered up with Cal Poly to be part of their internship program. And he actually is reengaging with Cal Poly because he feels they’ve gotten too far away from the materiality of architecture. He thinks they’ve gotten into more theory.

Where are you actually gonna teach these kids what materials are? You know, he wants them to be able to pick up a brick and feel a brick and know what a brick is. As opposed to like, you know, how does a brick express itself in my building, you know? Those are the things that he was identifying that he really felt was a problem, you know, that we can’t be all theory. We have to be able to teach these kids the real nuts and bolts of architecture.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. I mean there’s nobody I admire more than a really good designer in an architectural firm. I mean, they come up with these spectacular looking buildings that are form and function, all that kinda stuff. But you gotta be able to build it. And I think that’s probably why firms like yours, and mine, and you mentioned other disciplines, are becoming more and more prevalent because nobody could possibly be an expert at everything.

And, you know, different firms with different focuses, if you get all the right pieces together then, you know, you complete the puzzle, basically.

Brian: Right. And I enjoy that, you know? It’s like you said, there’s some fantastic designers out there. That’s not us, you know? We’re not designers. We’re nuts and bolts guys and we wanna help you realize that vision. And, you know, so that high end residential stuff, I think those are the architects that are actually pushing some of the limits of materials on a certain level, you know?

You can’t do it so easily on a commercial project but, you know, residential stuff? Nobody wants to have a house that looks anything like anybody else’s. And no design architect wants to do, you know, the same house that they’ve done before. So those can be really, really challenging but extremely rewarding.

Paul: Yeah, so pushing the limits, what do you see going on these days with the effects of climate change? How is that affecting designs and applications?

Brian: Well, I think people are starting to…I mean, out here in California, we had years of drought. And then this last winter, we basically had a, you know, the 100 year storms and, you know, we got rid of our drought and we said the drought is over. Well, people were having, you know, leaks that they had long ago forgotten about, you know? It hadn’t leaked. There was five years of drought. And all of a sudden this storm comes along and it’s leaking like crazy.

I think what it’s done is it’s really starting to help people understand that design pressures for windows and cladding systems are important, you know? We’re not just trying to do a three pound window that in this location, it needs to be a six pound window. Do you remember the storm we had last summer…or last winter? “Oh yeah.” Okay. Well, let’s do six pound windows.

So, you know, it helps people understand that things are getting worse, you know, as far as events and they’re starting to see it in their building, you know, where they’ve never had a leak here. And lo and behold it’s leaking now because that storm was worse than anything they’ve ever seen.

Paul: It definitely raises the awareness level. So as we’re recording this, we had just gone through all these hurricanes this season. And so, what we’re seeing is…of course, you got the people that were affected by the storm, but you got a whole other group that right after Hurricane Irma hit, we got all these proposals returned to us, you know, signed and accepted. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, you know?

They were like, “Oh boy. We need to, you know, make sure our envelope is in good shape, you know, on new construction projects. And so the awareness level, well, it’s just like the economy. It rises and falls, so you know, people are very aware right now. Don’t have any storms for a few years, let’s see how that lasts. I’m sure it will probably wane.

So we were talking before we actually started recording the podcast, we’re talking about warranties, manufacturer’s warranties. And, you know, that’s always a big deal that you gotta get…you know, there’s always warranty requirements in the construction documents and getting the, you know, good warranty and what do you have to do and all that. What’s your view of warranties in general and what are you seeing out there? The good, the bad, and the ugly, I guess I would say.

Brian: Well, I guess the bottom line is I’m not a big warranty guy. I’m not sure I think warranties are doing anything but protecting the manufacturer. And, you know, conversations with manufacturers off the record, they’ll admit it. They’ll just say, “Yeah. I know. That’s purely to help us get outta, you know, making [inaudible 00:23:54].

And you get a lot of the industry that wants to, you know…companies are starting to develop a broad range of products. They want them to be used together. They try and sell you as a single source warranty, when the reality is they might have two or three pieces to that assembly that are what you would say below the level of quality that you want, or is substandard, or is not a detail that you can get behind.

So what I find is that we work really hard with manufacturers to try and get them to honor the use of their product in a certain assembly that may not be perfectly aligned with what their warranty documents say. For instance, there’s some companies that won’t warranty one of their own products when it’s applied to another one of their own products. I point that out to contractors, to owners, to people, say, you know, “What are you actually trying to buy with this system?”

So my focus has often been to pick and choose the best products across a number of different companies and do, you know, the best detailing you can do and get these contractors, these manufacturers to see it, to bless it, to understand that, “Okay. This is where I’m using your material. Can I get a letter saying you’re okay with me, you know, putting your material in between these two products?”

And it’s surprising. A lot of manufacturers will allow you to do that. And they will write a letter and say, “Yeah. We’ll warranty that.” So that’s where I think you can kinda play around a little bit with it. But ultimately, I am so not interested in hearing about warranties, you know?

Paul: I agree completely. Do it right, you know? When you’re into the warranty claim stage, you’ve missed. You really need to…if you’re getting into, you know, finger pointing, then somebody hasn’t done something right along the way.

Brian: Yeah. And a lot of these warranties are not even…you can’t even comply with them. You know, I’ve looked at, you know, some window manufacturers’ warranties and they talk about, well, you have to test a certain number of windows, you know, 10% of the windows have to be installed and they have to be tested within two weeks of installation. And, you know, it has to have the protocols submitted within this time frame and they have to be approved.

You know, and it’s like, who’s ever gonna be able to even comply with that? Nobody, you know? So just by putting that document out there. You’re selling all these windows. Not one of them is warrantied because nobody has been able to comply with your warranty documents ever, so it’s a joke.

Paul: Yeah. I think people tend to put way too much importance on getting warranty. I mean, yes. You should have warranties. You know, if you have, say, silicone sealants and there’s a product failure, well, of course. You should have a warranty on that.

But these system warranties, there’s almost always an out if something does happen. And a lot of times, there’s an out because, you know, something wasn’t done right or whatever, and there should be an out. But, you know, even when things are done correctly… I mean, I try to think back of actually having a warranty claim and having it honored, and I don’t know if I can think of that ever happening from where I sit.

Brian: Yeah. They’re the toughest cases. If you’ve got a manufacturer issue and it comes down to a warranty fight, those are incredibly expensive cases, you know? And usually, you’re never gonna win, you know? Because, you know, you can imagine what does that open up?

If you, you know, won a settlement against a manufacturer based on some sort of warranty item, you’ve just opened the floodgates. You know, they’re never gonna let that happen because then they’ve exposed themselves to all kinds of cases.

Paul: Right. It’s not necessarily about right and wrong. There’s a lot of other factors that obviously come into play. So we’ve been talking about change and new things and what not. So, you know, another thing is the workforce is evolving, both, you know, workforce, both in the design side of things and on the construction side. So what’s your view working with, you know, the younger, the millennial workers that are probably comprising a big part of the workforce now?

Brian: Well, I think it’s interesting because this has been an ongoing discussion. Earlier, you said like well, this is how we’ve always done it. Well, these kids are walking into this industry that’s been dominated by those kinds of attitudes like this is the way we’ve always done it.

And there are certain amounts of technology that are starting to be used, you know? You mentioned the iPads on job sites and things like that. And what I found is that, you know… We hire a lot of millennials. They, you know, get them right out of school. And what I found is that they look at some of the methods that we use to do our jobs and wonder, “Why are we not taking advantage of technology?”

One of my most obvious examples is somebody is showing something on a computer screen, and I say, “Oh, hey. Can I see that?” And they turn their computer screen towards me. And I’m like, “No, no. I mean, print it for me.” And they give me this quizzical look of like, “Why would you wanna print it? It’s right there,” you know? And you start to realize, it’s like, you know, these guys, they take advantage of the technology that’s available to them.

The other part that I found is that you need to let them know that you’re hearing them. So when we’re doing a certain, you know…say we’re doing a project and we’re doing a construction defect case and we’ve got this massive database. The way we do photo logging, the way we, you know, log our issues, they’ll sometimes say, “You know, it would be easier if we did x, y, and z and took advantage of this software, whatever.”

You have to be able to sell, you know, say, “Okay. Do it. I hear you. Go ahead.” Let them be effective in their positions because if they’re not affecting change, if they’re not being heard, they’re gone, you know? These kids wanna change the world. They wanna feel like they’re part of that, and if you don’t empower them and sort of let them know that you’re hearing them and actually let them see you making changes based on their input, they’re not interested, you know?

So it’s been an interesting sort of process to get to know some of these kids. I mean, I’m hiring kids that are my kids’ age and, you know, and so I know how these kids grew up, you know? I know what they were like. I know they were getting their trophies for participation.

And there’s still a little bit of that, you know, kinda leftover mentality, and you have to understand it. But I also think that they’re, you know, a fascinating group of kids, you know? They offer a lot and their ability to use technology, their willingness to, you know, take things on, try something new is commendable. And I try and empower them to help me learn and help me grow.

Paul: I love millennials, personally, for all the reasons you just said. I mean, they’re so smart when it comes to the technology and, you know, the systems and doing things better. How do you feel about their, the word would be patience, with putting their time in to get the necessary experience as opposed to, you know, figuring out how to do this, that, or the other thing?

Brian: You know, I think that’s a really good point. I think that’s a really good point because they want to affect immediate change. And I think those of us that have been around for a while recognize that this is a long path, that this takes a lot of experience, a lot of, you know, trial and error, hits and misses. You have to, you know, do a lot of projects over many years in order to really develop the skill set, I think, that makes you successful.

I mean, I remember when I was in school, they used to say that architects didn’t become productive until they were in their mid 40s or early 50s. It’s because it takes that long to develop all those skills and then have those skills start to, you know, interact and use them and integrate those abilities.

And so for me, I try and make sure that my people see where they are in the path. And I also make sure that they’re aware of, that they’re never gonna be stuck doing, say one job. They do not want to be pigeon-holed. They wanna continually be offered new opportunities, get to job sites, do something that they’ve never done before.

And it’s impressive because so many of them are like yes people. You offer them to, you know, do some new testing or surveying on a high rise or something like that, and they are so ready to jump on it, you know? They’re so ready to do something new and to try something new.

And so I find that it’s really important to make sure that they see that path, that you’re constantly introducing new things to them but help them see that this is a long-term path. It’s a process where you can’t just jump forward. It takes time.

And sometimes, you do that by putting them into a situation where you know they’re probably not going to succeed. It’s going to be a little bit above their head and they’re gonna flounder around a little bit. But my job is to, you know, kinda catch them before they completely fall and then make sure that we’re still going in the right direction. But you kinda let them see that they’re not quite ready but, you know, this is where we wanna get you.

So I think it’s important to let them see kinda the projection of their career and that it’s not an instant overnight thing because it’s not like that for a lot of industries. I think that’s particular to, you know, things like architecture, and it takes a long time, you know?

You don’t just pop out with those skills, you know? You come out of school with an architecture degree, but that doesn’t mean you know the first thing about what it means to be in an office, or be on a job site, or work with a contractor, you know? So I…

Paul: All true. All true.

Brian: …think that’s something I do with them.

Paul: You just can’t teach experience. I guess that’s the bottom line. I mean as much as… I wish we could because some of our young, really bright people, that’s all they’re lacking, and they can figure anything out. But you can’t just throw them out there and expect them to do everything. You gotta put them in a chance to ultimately succeed or help them, you know, get through something so that ultimately, you know, they learn and they move on.

And I think it’s a great point about varying the experience and not having them stuck doing one thing because that’s not what they signed up for, particularly in our industry.

Brian: Right. I just hired a woman that just got into a design firm. They did winery buildings, great projects, and her boss told her, said, “You know, you’ll never go to the job site. I’m the only one that goes to job sites. And, you know, she looked at him and a month later, she laughed. She was like, “Forget it. I didn’t sign up to sit behind a desk, you know?”

So I hired her, and she’s out surveying high rises and doing water testing and crawling around building sites and she loves it, you know?

Paul: Yeah. That’s great. That’s really great. So Brian, really great discussion. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on. I know that the listeners are gonna really get a lot of good wisdom out of this. And I really appreciate, as I say, coming on today.

Brian: No, thank you. My pleasure.

Paul: If anybody wants to learn more about you or your firm, where would they look?

Brian: Well, the website is Neumann Sloat, And they can always reach me at

Paul: Great, great. So once again, thanks for coming on and really enjoyed the discussion.

Brian: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Paul: Thank you everyone for listening to the Everything Building Envelope podcast. Please tell your friends and colleagues if you enjoyed it. And if you’d like to subscribe, you can do that through iTunes, Android outlets such as Stitcher. So until next time, this is Paul Beers saying so long.