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The Architect and startup Business headache Part 4.

Dr Hector Sikazwe, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2021

This is the Last part of our series on the Zambian Architect and what it takes for them to set up a practice. The series is based on the experiences of Dr. Ar. Hector Sikazwe in his years as a professional which span over 25 years in both Private and public sector in Zambia, the United Kingdom and many other countries. He currently runs his own Architectural consulting firm Apex Business management Consultants Ltd, in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, where the firm conducts research in novel technologies in the construction industry. Last week we looked at the architectural office and what impact it has on how the architect sets up, Today we close up on the architectural office and the series by starting at looking at the role that Mentors play.

Get A Mentor

When starting an architecture firm, burgeoning Architects should find a successful architect to mentor them. These mentors must be Architects respected and in well keeping with ZIA, the professional body. The Mentor will be able to offer invaluable advice on what works and what doesn’t in the industry. Unfortunately, the Zambian construction Industry is difunctional and highly fragmented that it is very difficult to find anyone ready to be a Mentor.

Finding a mentor

✓ Architects need to contact a few of the most successful firms in the City where the Architect sets up the practice and enquire from principle Architects and directors if they’d be keen to provide Mentorship.

✓ Consult practicing Architects for general advice or help you need

✓ Contact ZIA secretariat for advice

Company legal structures

From the onset, it is important that the choice of the legal company structure for the architecture firm is important. The advice is to speak to a lawyer and possibly an accountant before setting up the firm. It’s advisable to get these things right from the beginning then to fix them later. Putting into place the legal status of the firm will play a bigger role in the future: ✓ A sole trader describes any business that is owned and controlled by one person – although they may employ workers. ✓ A limited company is a type of business structure where the company has a legal identity of its own, separate from its owners (shareholders) and its managers (directors). Even if a company has only one individual involved with it and that person is the only shareholder and the only director, the company is still a separate legal entity.
Liability is a huge issue in the architectural world. Its important that Architects seek advice from commercial lawyers and insurer and ensure they are properly covered for all eventualities. It’s important not to take chance when it comes to company structure and licensing matters.

Office Space Options
Architects need a comfortable place to work from. A physical space where they can set up their table, computer and drawing tools, as well as some comfortable chairs and most importantly a coffee machine for client meetings. Sounds strange, but a coffee maker is important for an Architect’s office. The chosen work space will depend on the size of the firm and particular aesthetic tastes, and location and proximity to the amenities needed.
It’s also important to realize that working from home is an option for many bootstrapping architects just starting out. There are numerous advantages, including lower overhead, comfortable and personal space, and no commuting to work. Some architects work from home while raising kids and, while it’s not easy, that can be very rewarding. If the Architect has a small family, this might be convenient but, in most cases, this would have detrimental effects to the business because clients do not respect those working from home.
However, working from home might be the only possible option. Most homes are not set up to accommodate an architect’s studio. Architects need the right space and light for their setup, and start-up Architectural business need to be aware that they will also be meeting clients at their home. Many Clients are uncomfortable with this and if Architects do not keep their home tidy, or the décor or design is a bit outdated, then it won’t make the best impression on clients.
Some architects solve this issue by working from home but hiring co-working or meeting spaces in day rented offices when they need to meet clients. This can be a great option until a firm has built up the cash flow to rent a permanent office space.

Type of Office
If neither of these options work for the Architect will need to find an office for rent. When choosing an office, the Architect must consider the following factors: ✓ A prime location, ✓ A pleasant work environment, ✓ A good rent price, ✓ A solid rent contract, ✓ A space that reflects personality and design principles of the Architect.

Tools required
Just like a Carpenter has a toolbox and a doctor a stethoscope, a good Architect has a suite of tools and equipment that help him or her do the best work. Here are some of the essential items Architects need to get your office set up:
✓ A desk – Most architects use a huge desk so they can spread out and work on large paper or multiple projects at once.
✓ Computers that are top notch in specifications to accommodate novel design software programmes. Big Computer screens. Projectors, Scanners, Printers.
✓ A comfy chair.
✓ Smartphone or tablet – These are powerful tools Architects can take everywhere.
✓ Tracing paper – A roll of this paper on hand at all times – even Architects do the majority of their work in CAD, they will find a myriad of uses for it around the office.
✓ Coffee machine or snack dispenser
✓ A range of rulers and scales – Architects use these ALL THE TIME.
✓ Reference material – Books, magazines, council regulations, brochures, guidelines … Architects need a bookshelf of essential reference and reading material.
✓ Pens, pencils, calculators, office stuff – The reason for this should be obvious.
✓ Camera – Architects often use one. At the very least, it’s vital to take pictures of the first few projects completed for portfolios and office displays.

General Office etiquette

As an architect, keeping track of multiple aspects of each job is key to project management. This can be very difficult if the Architect has more than one client at a time. Managing office business workflow in the office is one of the key components of a successful architectural firm.
Workflow management software based in the cloud, designed with the needs of architects and other designers in mind helps Architects

✓ Time Tracking – Track how long each stage of a project takes to complete. Architect can then figure out if they are over- or under-charging for certain aspects of their work.
✓ Project management – create deadlines, break architecture projects down into tasks, highlight significant milestones and create automatic notifications for upcoming due dates.
✓ Invoicing: bulk billing, bill for multiple jobs, invoices generated on actual time, and branded invoice templates.
✓ Create Reports – Learn the ins and outs of the Architect’s workflow through a range of report functions.
✓ Collaboration – Architects, Employees, contractors and clients can now all employ BIM as way of having integrated project management systems.
✓ Cloud-based – Architects can now access all their project data at any time, from any device, anywhere in the world by using cloud-based storage.


Very often, young Architects start their own firms, and then get so bogged down in running the business that they don’t get to do what they actually enjoy doing, designing buildings. This is the risk all start up business owners face. It’s important that the Architect should enjoy strategy, networking, administration and other duties of running a business, and may sometimes need to either outsource those duties to someone else or go back to being an employee. Achieving balance in vital for a successful firm, and a fulfilling business. Unfortunately, it’s something that is different for every person, so it’s not something Architects can learn from watching others. They need to experiment with different ways of doing things until they find a business model and a balance that works for them.

This brings to an end our exciting series on The Architect and startup Business Headache, we pray it has informed and guided young aspirants in the field of Architecture, on the ins and outs of what getting into the Business of Architecture is all about.

Chappell, David; Powell-Smith, Vincent; Marshall, Derek; Cavender, Simon (12 May 2008). Building Contract Dictionary. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-77994-1.
D’Souza, N. (2007). Design intelligences: A case for multiple intelligences in Architectural design. ArchNet International Journal of Architectural Research, 1(2), 15-34.
Demirbas, O., & Demirkan, H. (2003). Focus on architectural design process through learning styles. Design Studies, 24(5), 437-456.
Felder, R., & Silverman, L. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering Education, 78(7), 674-681.
Felder, R., & Soloman, B. (2004). Index of learning styles. Retrieved on 20 September 2009 from Goldschmidt
Fleming et al., (1996); The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (5th ed. 1999);
G, (2000). Who should be a designer? Controlling admission into schools of architecture. Unpublished Research. Delft, Netherlands: University of Delft.
Langmead, Donald; Garnaut, Christine (1 December 2001). Encyclopaedia of Architectural and Engineering Feats. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-112-0.
Pevsner N., (1st rev. ed., intro. by M. Forsyth, 2009); An Outline of European Architecture C. Harris, Dictionary of Architecture and Construction (4th ed. 2006); P. Goldberger, Why Architecture Matters (2011).
See S. F. Kimball and G. H. Edgell, A History of Architecture (1946, repr. 2002); T. Hamlin, Architecture through the Ages (rev. ed. 1953);
Sikazwe, H. (2018) Ten things about Architects you need to know. SCRIBD USA
Vitruvius, Pollio (transl. Morris Hicky Morgan, 1960), The Ten Books on Architecture. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-20645-9.


The Architect and startup Business headache Part 3.

Dr Hector Sikazwe, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2021 

Today, we continue our series on the Zambian Architect and what it takes for them to set up a practice. The series is based on the experiences of Dr. Ar. Hector Sikazwe in his years as a professional which span over 25 years in both Private and public sector in Zambia, the United Kingdom and many other countries. He currently runs his own Architectural consulting firm Apex Business management Consultants Ltd, in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, where the firm conducts research in novel technologies in the construction industry. Last week we looked at what being an Architect is (and what it is not) Today we dive deeper by looking at the setting up of an architectural office.

Setting up office from scratch

Imagine you have just finished reading the details of who an Architect is above and you have your mouth hanging open with disbelief that after 5 years in Architectural school, you realise that is not what you were taught about who an Architect really was. You think about the many hours you spent doing modules that you now realise did not cover the issues of how to become an architect. All that knowledge you thought you had has just gone out of the window. What about the 3D presentation drawings you made using crack software that impressed your peers and now seem crude to the knowledge you now have about the real world and the practice of Architecture that now threatens to implode right under your gaze.

Maybe you’ve just finished school and you’re ready to brave the real world. Maybe you are tired of working for other companies, or maybe you just have an entrepreneurial streak. You have just recently passed your PCE examination. You are now getting that cringy feeling after reading the details of who an Architect person specific is and your heart is pounding uncontrollably. Maybe you are thinking, “I think I have what it takes to start my own company…” Then you get that churning in the pit of your stomach as you ponder on the fact that you don’t actually have the foggiest of where to start. Whatever the reason, you’re thinking its time you hung out your shingle and started your own architecture firm. Before you embark on any business decision – and starting your own firm is a HUGE business decision – you need to ensure you have goals in mind for the future. Your goals set the direction and focus of your business. They allow you to align your business with what you want for your life in years to come.

Set Goals for Your Architecture Firm – and Your Life
Goals for your architecture firm should always be SMART, and they might relate to the size of the firm, the revenue, the type of work you want to do, or where you want the firm to be in a certain period of time. Think about 3-5 goals for your business. They might include:
✓ How large do you want the firm to get?
✓ Do you want to focus on design work, or on managing the business?
✓ What type of projects do you want to take on?
✓ What types of clients do you want to work for?
✓ How much money do you want to make?
The above is probably not that encouraging when one considers the Zambian economic situation. Almost everything in Zambia revolves around Money. This cancer has eroded the Architectural profession to a point near the precipice of extinction of professionalism. Architects are using all the gimmicks of boy scout’s survival tactics if it means circumventing CAP 442 to survive.
Some breach the act with impunity, some inadvertently but most due to sheer ignorance. Unfortunately, Zambian Architects do not devote their lives to reading as a habit. They would rather spend time on social media engaging in the latest social gossip than sitting up sucking in knowledge about the practice of Architecture.

First steps first
You need three things to start your own architecture firm:
✓ An architect (check)
✓ Vision and Determination (check)
? Money (che ……… uh oh). Any start-up Businesses need money to survive, and businesses in the start-up phase need more money than a business that is already established. To start a business, Architects need money to rent office space, buy equipment, obtain licenses, hire office helps like cleaners, administrators, and to make it worse, a vehicle. The amount of money needed will vary depending on the resources available and the type of architectural firm envisaged. Most start by working solo. Saves money, but the most complex as it does not put pressure on survival instincts. When starting as a solo practitioner, the Architect will always have a basic escape plan in case of hitting a brick wall. That would not be the case if one has paying staff who add pressure.
Senior Architects reflect on how they started their own firm and the mistakes they made. They will always suggest that before you begin to think about where the money will come from, it’s important to sit down and:
✓ Draw up a preliminary small budget.
✓ Work out what you need to get the business up and running,
✓ Determine the minimum you need to pay your bills for the first year.
Knowing how much money that is needed is the first step to financing a new architectural start up firm.
Next, the Architect might need to explore avenues to obtain that money. In Zambia, it is difficult to access finance to start a business. Mostly, Architects might need to borrow from friends, relatives, family but the luckiest ones might:
✓ Borrow from a bank.
✓ Use savings.
✓ Borrow from a parent,
✓ Secure funds through a business loan,
✓ Bootstrap the firm until a profit is achieved.
All these options have positive and negative aspects, and young Architects may use more than one form of finance to get their firm started. For example, obtaining a loan of half the money needed from parents, (those who are fortunate to have parents who are well to do) and then take out a bank loan for the remainder. Whatever the choice, it’s important for Architects to research all options, and preferably seek a business advisor before taking the plunge. Many Architects start their business start-up by using savings to fund their business without any external support from investors, grants or finance from the bank. Bootstrapping is hard work, but is one of the best ways to get ahead, as there are no loans to pay back or external shareholders to answer to.

In Part 4 we will continue on setting up a firm by looking at how having a Mentor, may impact your journey, and considering how the ‘office’ influences how your Architectural journey is shaped


The Architect and Startup Business headache Part 2.

Dr Hector Sikazwe, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2021

Today, we continue our series on the Zambian Architect and what it takes for them to set up a practice. The series is based on the experiences of Dr. Ar. Hector Sikazwe in his years as a professional which span over 25 years in both Private and public sector in Zambia, the United Kingdom and many other countries. He currently runs his own Architectural consulting firm Apex Business management Consultants Ltd, in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, where the firm conducts research in novel technologies in the construction industry.

Today we look at a few attributes that must be present in an Architect otherwise they remain basic draughtsman, 3D enthusiasts or simply cowboys:

Architects are synonymous with “Systems”
Architects are rare human beings who survive on “systems”. Architects think in terms of systems, not just things. “A system is a set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem.” A system can also be described as an organized, purposeful structure that consists of interrelated and interdependent elements (components, entities, factors, members, parts etc.). These elements continually influence one another (directly or indirectly) to maintain their activity and the existence of the system, to achieve the goal of the system. It is important to understand that all systems have:
✓ Inputs, outputs and feedback mechanisms,
✓ Maintain an internal steady-state (called homeostasis) despite a changing external environment,
✓ Display properties that are different than the whole (called emergent properties) but are not possessed by any of the individual elements, and
✓ Have boundaries that are usually defined by the system observer
Architects probably have one of three “systems” for organizing their bookshelves: by colour, by size (largest to smallest), by a publisher etc. None of these make any sense and ironically provide the very opposite of “order”, but it doesn’t matter, because it looks better. In fact, Architects will have a “system” for everything, including organizing the fridge, and how to put their clothes away, the sequence of what they do, the order of what they feel comes first, etc. You might think it’s cute and remarkable at first, an endearing quirk until you realize how much of Architect’s precious little free time is consumed by obsessing over things that:
✓ No one cares about and
✓ Does not enhance their lives in any way.
✓ Confusing habits like terrible sleeping habits
✓ Listen to strange music, attend Opera, etc

Architects understand that the world is not made up of individual, disconnected things, And that everything is causal, interrelated and connected. They design the spaces between things as well as the things themselves – and help others to see what they were formerly unable to see and was certain wasn’t there before we gifted them with a new pair of eyes.

Architects are educated
Architects are typically well-educated individuals. Architects spend a minimum of 5 years in University working all the time just for the first degree. Who is most qualified to lead integrated project teams? (Those who deem this to be elitist need not continue reading.) It is paramount to realize that Architects are people trained to think of other’s needs before their own. They are professionals licensed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the project’s inhabitants. They are the Doctor, teacher, carer, Preacher, Worrier, furniture expert, cleaner and arranger of space use. They fret over nothing and are allowed to indulge in lanes that are usually avoided by most. They are simply the custodian of the Orchestra of life interactions.
Invariably, Architects are dedicated to continuous learning. They are highly focused individuals possessing immense dedication in what they embark on. They don’t go through 5 years of architectural school by being lazy, indifferent and stupid. (hint Need a first date conversation starter with an Architect? Ask them about how many people dropped out of their program freshman year – they’ll be all too proud to tell you that “they were one of the few” who made it out unscathed.”) They know just enough about every culturally relevant artist, philosopher, composer etc to make them seem exceptionally worldly and widely-informed but heavily cultured to put icing on the cake.
Keep in mind that Architects can very aptly put on a show were previously not possible as they can always put on a perfect façade and that if you were to press them on any one of those topics, they’ll find a way to skilfully manipulate the conversation into some abstract “concept” and avoid being called out on not knowing much. This skill is known as “conversation design”. In a nutshell, Architects are the masters of knowledge beyond.
When architects discuss what the building will be used for, they talk about the “function” of the building. Incidentally, the “function” of a building is just one of the many things an architect has to think about when designing a building.
Good architects also spend a lot of time making sure a building is safely designed, and making sure the building will last for many years. A building that is not safely designed could catch on fire or fall on itself, resulting in many casualties. Therefore, Architects have to design a building so that people can escape from the building in an emergency. Of course, some emergencies, such as earthquakes or tornadoes, destroy even the safest buildings and other skills set from other building professionals have to be incorporated into the design team when designing.

Architects slow people down
Almost every new generation has to work harder than the previous one, in one way or another. Our grandparents may have to endure hardships in life. We, the younger generation who are born in the age of technology, have our field of things to learn and to grasp, that was absent from our grandparent’s childhood days. They didn’t have to fight off the temptation of gaming. They didn’t have to attend Info comm. Studies The newest technologies, computers, genetic engineering and the emerging field of nanotech-differ from the technologies that fundamentally preceded them.
The telephone, the automobile, television and jet air travel accelerated for a while, transforming society along the way, but then settled into a manageable rate of change. Each was eventually rewarded more for staying the same than for radically transforming itself–a stable, predictable, reliable condition known as “lock-in.”
So, Architects come in and moderate the rate of change by designing places and spaces that help people to slow down, look around and take in the view. Without consciously knowing what effects are impacted on them, and before they realize it, they are no longer in the place, but of it. Architects can design places that touch the soul as people take in the breath-taking views of authentic structures that arouse soul-searching inner conversations. Architects design structures that seem to dictate to civilization to have the “NOT-SO-FAST” button. Proponents of good Architectural technological make a strong design case for letting self- accelerating building technologies to follow their life cycle.
“Rapid development in computer technology,” they point out, “has spun off robotics and the Internet–to the great benefit of industry and human communications and the design of appropriate building structures to house these technologies invariably regulate the speed of change.” Although it isn’t so easy for Architecture and the free society to put the brakes on technology, good design does provide some sequencing and moderation of the speed of transformation of the environment and the sustainability dictates of the environment.

Architects are T-shaped – both deep and wide
More than mere experts at what they do and know, architects, due to their training and education can see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others at the table. Architects have deep skills and wide wingspan breadth of the knowledge they possess for them to be entrusted with the designing of the built environment. Architects understand and get urban design. Architects know that the design of cities and buildings affects the quality of lives and communities, whether this is acknowledged or appreciated is another matter.

The bottom line is this: When it comes to creating the urban form, places where people live, work and play, architects’ matter. Architecture requires both empirical knowledge (knowledge obtained from experience) as well as the capability to do abstractions and work out solutions rationally. Architects have to have rational reasoning capacity in the fields of Physics, Chemistry and metaphysical natural cycles. In those fields, the faculty to do abstractions and rational thinking is what is most critically needed.
The width and depth of knowledge needed in architecture are quite vast. Many young architecture students and excitable young architects think that they can get all that quickly. It usually will not happen and one needs to develop both the “right” and “left” brain to be a good architect. Architecture takes time.

Architects think differently, even for others
This might not be politically correct for those that are sensitive: Architects think for other professions. This is no chip on the shoulder, but this is something Architects do for others. So many aspire to do something interesting with their lives, belong to a profession that offers endless opportunities to challenge oneself.
Being an architect is one of the last callings that matters. Architects don’t go into architecture to take or even to make money but to give something back to society. Architects matter because they are there to help their clients succeed. Architects and our professional services firms don’t succeed unless the client does. Architects love to help others achieve their goals and reach their dreams and find imaginative ways to help them get there.
Architects are able to think in both business and design terms, to use their design sense to further the business ambitions of their clients. Call it design thinking. Architects are leaders when it comes to design thinking – the ability to apply design sense to help others with their business needs.
Architects are continuously giving, whether going the extra mile, burning one more end of the candle, or by putting their talent and resources in the service of those who need it most. Such as the 1%, a program of Public Architecture, connects non-profits with architecture and design firms willing to give of their time without pay. Architects serve on many Non-profit making organisation’s and involve themselves in charity work world-wide. As much as Architects are community givers, they are also community builders too.

Architects are technologists, artists and craftsmen
The pride of the Architectural world is the fact that Architects are proven technologists, Artists, and craftsmen. Therefore, Architects, are an indispensable part of the design and construction process. They are at the crux of real estate, development, concrete and plumbing. On projects where there may be well over 100 independent entities – from interior design to energy analysis – all pass through the architect. Architects are the common link between project constituents. Not merely open to change, they assist in moving change along.
Architects may come across as Howard Roark types – lone wolves in sheep’s clothing. Architects are all born collaborators. Architects are trained and educated to work productively in teams, and despite the current interest in autonomy, Architects know that they get the best results when involving all stakeholders and working well with others.
No matter how traditional or conventional the assignment, architects make great strides to incorporate the latest advanced technologies. Good Architects have a good command of prevailing technologies and the use of software tools like AutoCAD, REVIT, ArchiCAD, MicroStation, Vector works etc. Architects recognise that the intelligent use of tools such as computers can marginally reduce the time on a project but the fact remains that for an architect to be worthy of being called as such would need to work BOTH on abstractions (conceptual thinking), and empirical knowledge. A lot of architectural knowledge taught in colleges (I am speaking from another planet’s perspective) are all empirical. To think in abstractions like the way a physicist or a mathematician would, may not be possible for all architects. They need to work on that aspect and most Architects have vast knowledge in the area of responsibility in the built environment.

Architects draw by hand, mouse and by a wand.
Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, we are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get their point across – but we are not above using a stick in the sand, rock on pavement or a burnt piece of charcoal to connect and help clients understand. Architects can work with what is available: Laptops, Mobile handsets, Tablets, drawing boards and even wands! Architects are dexterous and possess various skill sets that make them useful in whichever circumstance they are found in.
Architects use words, images and action to get ideas across and accepted. But in the end, most want to get their designs out in the world, for others to use, live in and among and yes, even critique and judge. Architects are master puzzle makers.
Architects are needed because they can put it all together. Architects fix what is broken and repair what’s been devastated. When given a multi-faceted program containing 1000’s of input and data – it doesn’t even occur to Architects that the result will be anything less and a complete, cohesive and coherent work of whole building design. That’s what Architects do: They work in mazes and still come out.

Architects transform chaos into order
Architects are proud to be described as the arranger of a chaotic environment into orderly finished products. Architects are not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Often, the problem they have been assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing.
Architects work efficiently and effectively to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem and provide the best solutions for the community and the built environment. Architects are accused of wanting to sort of making connections to processes – Architects literally see connections everywhere in everything and are, without much effort are also associative thinkers.
The world needs more of Architects – to feel less isolated. Architect’s product – buildings – may be one-offs, but not the way Architects design or plan them. Architects are always linking and making connections between things. Architects can’t help it – it’s the way their minds work. They are a series of moving parts that synchronise in motion to make everything normal and less chaotic.

Architects give the world meaning
It is not rocket science to know that the world needs architects. The earth, our continents and countries need architects to address national issues. Our region needs architects to represent what distinguishes one locale from another, to make sure that Architect’s work belongs to a specific place and time so that the world might place itself in it. Our Towns needs architects, our cities need architects, and especially our suburbs.
Architects may be involved in only a small number of projects, but just think of places where people have been happiest, felt most at home, felt a sense of purpose and accomplishment, at ease with themselves and their surroundings, if careful considerations is made, one finds that more than likely an architect was involved.
The bottom line is this: all architects are alike. They share similar values, obsessions, fixations and interests. Architects can learn a great deal from each other. Architects belong to a tribe. They speak one language: Make the world function better.

So now let us hear the basic conclusions of what an Architect really is. He is not a draughtsman. He is not a graphics designer. He is not a Quantity surveyor. He is not a bricklayer. He is not a plasterer. He is not an engineer. He is not a client. Dear me, I think I have gone off tangent, What I mean, he is all the above and much more! Architects are needed because they can put it all together. Architects fix what is broken and repair what’s been devastated. When given a complex program containing myriads s of input and data – it doesn’t even occur to us that the result will be anything less and a complete, cohesive and coherent work of whole building design. Architects are comfortable with ambiguity. Architects keep everyone’s needs, wants, aspirations and wishes, their ideas and ideals, in mind throughout the design process. With many balloons in the air, one would think it would be hard to make everybody happy. Architects not only improve the built world and environment but also design to improve natural processes.
Architects understand it’s not about the building, it’s about the business and the people and what they do when they are there. Upstream, downstream and throughout the project architects follow the flow of movement and energy to and from their projects. Architects matter because they know what they produce will be around for a while and therefore carry the additional weight of responsibility for their choices and actions on projects.
Architects try to make the most with what they have and are given even if it is not expected or asked for. Had they not done so, the built world would be confined to making shelters. Like Helmut Jahn, we strive for an architecture from which nothing can be taken away. Architects practice an art that is in the world and also of the world. But at the same time stands apart is its own animal. As Thom Mayne has said: Architecture is involved with the world, but at the same time it has a certain autonomy. This autonomy cannot be explained in terms of traditional logic because the most interesting parts of the work are non-verbal. They operate within the terms of the work, like any art, but better.

Next week, In Part 3 we will look at a how an architect sets up his office and brings their practice altogether.


The Architect and Startup Business headache Part 1.

Dr Hector Sikazwe, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2021

Today, we start a series on the Zambian Architect and what it takes for them to set up a practice. The series is based on the experiences of Dr. Ar. Hector Sikazwe in his years as a professional which span over 25 years in both Private and public sector in Zambia, the United Kingdom and many other countries. He currently runs his own Architectural consulting firm Apex Business management Consultants Ltd, in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, where the firm conducts research in novel technologies in the construction industry.

Starting an Architect’s firm from scratch is not easy. Many young architects take a different tact by working for established firms and using the knowledge and connections from that position to leverage the launch of a new firm. Their first clients may come from relationships built during their time as an employee. Another different path for an Architect to own their own firm is to work their way through the ranks in an established firm, becoming a partner and ultimately taking the reins and responsibility for that firm. Only a few lucky Architects ever get this route right. It takes too long. One has to be so loyal to a point of imbecility. The secret to getting noticed is for a young Architect to build their own platform from which to launch their start-up before taking the leap. This is usually done by building a foundation of relationships, connections and resources that would eventually support the Architect. This helps a lot to provide the basis on which to build their new firm and get them noticed.

Defining “Architect” Zambia has an infestation of people who are able to produce glossy and attractive pictures of buildings using 3D software that is also abused immensely. These people have great talent and can impress the most naïve that they are qualified Architects, architectural professionals or even famously call themselves just “Architects”. Unfortunately, Architects are more than just designers. “Anyone who designs a building without any construction knowledge is an artist or a designer; they are not an architect.” One will then ask who then is an Architect? The matter is relatively straightforward, the word “architect” is a protected term of reference under CAP 442 of the laws of Zambia. Under the Zambian law, only ‘architects’ are only legally allowed to call themselves ‘architects’ if they are adequately qualified and have been admitted onto the architects register administered by the Zambia Institute of Architects registration and membership Committee. This person will be referred to as a “registered architect” or simply an “Architect” and that means the term can only be applied to a person who is registered under section twenty-eight of CAP 442 and is defined as a “person who engages in the planning or supervision of, and erection or alteration of a building exceeding one hundred and twenty square metres.”

The ZIA Council, on the recommendation of the Registration and Membership Committee issues a practicing certificate to every architect or company registered under section twenty-eight. Currently all registered Architects in Zambia are distinguished from non-registered professionals by a pocket size photo identity card that has details of the Architect and current status of registration.

Membership categories The ZIA Act currently provides for five classes of membership namely:

1. Corporate Member – to be registered under this class of membership, must be resident in Zambia, has attained the age of twenty-one years and holds a bachelor of architecture degree or its equivalent recognized by the Council. They must also have completed at least two years of post-graduate practical full-time employment under the supervision of a registered architect, must have passed the professional competence examination conducted by the ZIA Council, and has paid the registration and membership fees prescribed by the Council.

2. Honorary Member – Must be nominated by the ZIA President and approved by the ZIA Council based on distinguished practice in the architectural or allied profession; or rendered exceptional and important services relating to the architectural or allied profession.

3. Life Member – must be a retired corporate member, and a person who has made outstanding contributions to the professions.

4. Foreign Member – A person who decides to practice the profession outside Zambia and, except for not being resident in Zambia qualifies to be a corporate member.

5. Student – A person may on the application to the council be admitted as a student member if he is undergoing post graduate period of training in any industry connected with architecture or an allied profession

ZIA Council regulatory role and SI 106 ZIA Council is the sole regulator of architects and any person on the ZIA registration list is bound by Statutory Instrument No. 106 of 1999 that contains the Zambia Institute of Architects Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct and Conditions of Engagement that has Regulations, 1999 ‘Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice’. This SI sets out the minimum standards of service an architect must provide.

Appointment of Architects

Prior to appointing an architect, it would be prudent for Clients to check if the prospective architect is listed on the list of Registered Architects which would also highlight if there were any disciplinary actions against them as that which could avoid a dispute later on down the road. This is important because an architect is held responsible for the conception, execution, and successful completion of a building.

The Architect, person specific
Architects are optimists. With their optimism, Architects are considered to possess positive vibes. Optimism is a form of positive thinking that includes the belief that one is responsible for their happiness and that more good things will continue to happen to them in the future. So, Architects see things that are not yet there and as such provide the world with imagination and visualization of the future. Imagine what it would be like to have no Architects!

The world without Architects would not be what it is. The world couldn’t survive, anticipate and prepare for an unknown future and imagine what is not there. Imagine a world of pessimist designers, planning for the worst. That’s the world without architects. Architects plan in thin air and bring to life what would normally never be fathomed by an ordinary man. Architects balance multiple intelligences.

Architects do what they do because they are passionate about architecture and design. Despite the rigours of school and the relative lack of money to be obtained in the field, architects that have been in the field already for some time do what they do because they love to do it: plain and simple.
Invariably, Architects work not just because they’re required to gather tally, and document their continuing education credits, they are predominantly curious beings in the best sense of the word. Architects want to know it all, and that means everything, and are almost insatiably thirsty for knowledge. Well, one would say, that is a good thing because they need to know it all. People trust those endowed with knowledge.

That is why we need Architects. It’s a job requirement and for some a liability if they get into it for the wrong reason. Architects use all of their faculties when they design and document including spatial intelligence that can only exist in a sick mind. Architects are not normal. Other than that, Architects are strategists. They ask tough, penetrating questions, seldom taking assignments or answers at face value.
“A career in architecture, as one parent of an architect put, is a never-ending learning experience with a myriad of “career spokes” springing from the hub of the core disciplines. The architect takes it upon himself/herself to continually learn and grow, remaining throughout their career a student not just of architecture but of life as a whole. They reframe questions that are lobbed at the world. They go about their work less as object designers than chess players or basketball coaches parlaying the playbook.” (Sikazwe,2018)

Next week, In Part 2 we will look at a few attributes that must be present in an Architect to remain relevant and correctly ensure their practice is taken in a serious matter.


Zambia Institute of Architects honours Women in Architecture

The Zambia Institue of Architects honoured 9 of its senior female architects on this years Womens day tribute. Drawing attention to their amazing contibution spanning over decades in the industry.

With currently only 38 female registered architects out of the 164 registered in the country the profession remains one of the most marginalized for Women to participate in.

With the formation of Women in Architecture Forum (WIAF), it is hoped that the challenges facing women in Architecture will be brought to the fore and more women will join the Industry and flourish in the future.

Below is a statement from the Chairperson of the WIAF honouring the nine architects, released on this years Womens day which fell on Monday, 8th March 2021.

Dear Members,
Women in Architecture Forum of the Zambia Institute of Architects joins the International Community in commemorating the International Women’s day on 8th March, 2021 themed: “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.”
 The theme draws attention to women and girls around the world that contribute in reshaping the world amidst the pandemic.
The efforts of the women in Architecture are recognized as many women continue to work in their various lines of duty showing leadership and setting examples in the profession. 
Indeed having these women as pioneers is an encouragement to many upcoming architects as well as the girl child that the issues of gender disparities can be resolved.
With 38 registered female architects, WIAF seeks to encourage, advance and support the participation of women who aspire to join or are working in the architectural profession in Zambia. 
In this year’s celebration, we recognize 9 female senior architects who have contributed to the profession of Architecture in Zambia. 
These are:
1. Ar. Irene Ndilila            
2. Ar. Lorenz Charlotte                
3. Ar. Gordana Savic                
4. Ar. Kasonde A.M Katengo
5. Ar. Eleni Coromvli Mukuka
6. Ar. Mutinta Sichali                  
7. Ar. Mwangala Mwenda Lethbridge
8. Ar. Wankumbu Sikombe
9. Ar. Mphangela Tembo Nkonge

As various female architects continue to lead in different capacities amidst COVID-19; in the Public sector, Private sector and Academia, it is without doubt that we can improve visibility of female architects in Zambia and strengthen networks amongst women in the profession. This is achievable through strategic partnerships both locally and internationally.
In this regard, all women in the profession are encouraged to contribute and lead in various ways to:
1. Improve visibility of women working in the architectural profession
2. Outline challenges within the profession that women encounter
3. Create support structures for women to support each other in the profession.
4. Sustainable partnerships with WIAF

I wish you success in this year’s 2021 commemoration.

Ar. Luse Katanekwa WIAF Chairperson


YAF speakers and time set for tomorrows meeting

The Young Architects Forum Webinar is set up for Friday, 18:00 with a host of interesting speakers set to participate.

We now profile your speakers for the event, and as the adage goes Ladies first.

Ar. Barbara Sichizya is a Registered Architect with over 10 years of work experience post licensure in both private and public sector. She has worked for various Architectural firms, Barclays Bank, Zanaco Bank and National Housing Bond Trust to name but a few. Her passion lies in Project and Contract Management, Interior design and landscape Architecture.

Next we have the current President of the Zambia Institute of Architects, Ar. Bwalya Masabo.

Ar. Bwalya Masabo is a Registered Architect with over 13 years of work experience post licensure in both private and private sector. He currently serves as the ZIA President and runs his own private practice.

Architect Dr. Hector Sikazwe who plys his trade overseas

Dr. Ar. Hector Sikazwe is a registered Architect with over 25 years of work experience post licensure in both private and public sector in Zambia, the United Kingdom and many more countries. He currently runs his own Architectural consulting firm in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, where the firm conducts research in novel technologies in the construction industry.

Rounding off the panel as the Facilitator will be Architect Fidelis Kabwiri of  L’ Atelier Asymmetric.

Ar. Fidelis Kabwiri is a registered Architect and the Principal of  L’ Atelier Asymmetric, which has been in the industry for over 8 years. He has vast experience on numerous projects across various industry sectors and brings a wealth of knowledge to the topic that will be presented.

The meeting is set to start at 18.00 CAT and looks like one to put on your calender especially for the Young as well as the aspiring architect looking to know how to get into the industry.


Architects warn against use of foreign house plans

The Zambia Institute of Architects (ZIA) has warned
the public against using foreign house plans because
these do not reflect prevailing local conditions.
ZIA president Bwalya Masabo said the tendency to use
plans off the internet was contributing to sub-standard
designs because most of the perpetrators are not registered to practice architecture.
“It has been quite a challenge in the sense that we have
had a lot of people who are not registered trying to
practice architecture. Am sure you have been seeing
some advertisements being stuck on walls on Facebook
offering very cheap services,” he said.
Mr. Masabo described this problem as one of the major challenges that the profession is facing because the
imported plans do not necessarily reflect Zambia’s local
conditions in terms of lighting, power, orientation and
the general design.

Zambia Institute of Architects President, Bwalya Masabo

“When you are designing a house or building as an
architect, you have to take into consideration the cultural and functional requirements of the area you are
designing for,” he said.
Mr. Masabo said this problem has led to the rise of
sub-standard buildings coming up and eventually
collapsing as happened recently in Lusaka.
Upon investigation, the ZIA found that none of its
members were involved .
He said although people think they could be saving
money by downloading plans off the internet, ultimately there were just putting their buildings at great
risk of disaster.
Meanwhile, Mr. Masabo has encouraged individuals to
not only seek architectural services but to fully involve
architects in supervision.

He said clients who only use architects to do the drawings, are forced to rely on their builders who are not
trained to understand the structural requirements of
certain buildings.
“This means you could have a design well done by an
architect but not supervised by an architect.When it
comes to construction, what comes out is something
else and not exactly what the architect envisioned,” the
ZIA president said.

Below are some excerpts from the interview:
BN: What level of involvement should your architect
have on your project?

Masabo: Ideally when you are engaging an architect,
you should agree on his level of involvement in your
project. The first section of the project obviously is
design. The supervision is independent, so it’s not
mandatory that the architect should be on site for supervision. However, we would like it to be mandatory
though we are mindful about whether the client can
manage to sustain the architect being on site throughout .

BN:Is it not too expensive to keep an architect
throughout your project?

Masabo: People imagine that it’s actually very expensive to have an architect on site. It’s not expensive. It’s
like an insurance policy. You can agree on him coming
to check on your project at critical stages if finances are a challenge. If you looked at the amount you
have to pay compared to the value of the project you
are putting up, you find that it’s actually 2 per cent.
Architectural fees for supervision are 2 per cent of the
construction value. For a car, you actually pay 7 to 8
percent for comprehensive insurance. So what is 2 per
cent of insurance guaranteeing you the right building
with an architect’s involvement?

BN: So it’s not mandatory now to have an architect
throughout the project?

Masabo: It’s not mandatory but we would like it to
be mandatory and we would like people to see it as a
necessity. The architect does not give you a builder.
You as a client engages the builder or the contractor.
What the architect does is help you identify the right
contractor but even that is a bit flawed because once
they get drawings from the architect, certain clients do
away with the architect. However, the clients must be

guided to involve the architect throughout the process.
BN: What do you do in the event of the architect
breaking an agreement to be present throughout the

Masabo: If you engage an architect and he abandons
the project, that’s professional misconduct and in such
a case you can report to the ZIA so that we take up
the matter.

BN: What should be the frequency of the architect’s
visits to the site?

Masabo: That is dependent on the type of project you
are talking about. It could be an office building, school
or house. Some projects like banks are fast-track and
could be done within six or seven weeks. So those
are usually tied to time and not stage. It also depends
on how good your contractor is. When left alone for
a considerable time, some contractors may not do as
originally planned.

BN: For the sake of the first-time builder, ideally at
what stages should you have an architect?

Masabo: Ideally at set-out, you need the architect.
When you are setting out the building, the architect
has to be there to help you ensure that the building
sits according to the plan and the boundary. At foundation digging you need the architect’s involvement.
Your builder will probably draw the lines and dig
everything but you need an architect to inspect the
trenches before you pour in the concrete. When you
pour the concrete and you set out the block work
for the foundation, the architect needs to inspect
to ensure the foundation is done according to the
drawing. At slab level, the architect has to ensure the
foundation has been done according to the standard
specifications. Actually, the architect has to be there
throughout the process.The only issue is agreeing on
time-related visits. Should there be an emergency, the
architect can still make an unscheduled visit to resolve
whatever problem could have cropped up.Such an
impromptu request should not be a problem because
architects are passionate about their buildings. When
the project comes out right, it’s a selling point for the

BN: So do the fees start kicking in when inspection
commences at the various stages?

Masabo: There are two ways in which you can bill for supervision. You can put a blanket fee or percentage
to cover the whole process which is usually 2 per cent
of the construction cost and the architect can be paid
either monthly or at the beginning of the project or
towards the end of the project.It’s on a case by case basis depending on what the client and architect discuss.
Secondly, you can pay hourly rates and keep a record
of how long the architect stays on site and you pay
for those specific times. So I strongly advise clients to
engage architects throughout because the cost of doing
so is minimal compared to a disaster happening on
site. Should that happen, the cost of repairing is usually huge and may even involve demolishing the whole
building. So the word we are trying to put out to the
public is that architects are actually very affordable.

BN: Does the ZIA have the capacity to monitor who
is a registered architect and who is not?

Masabo: To start with, if you want to build, you must
find out if the person you are about to engage is registered as an architect. The onus is really on you to safeguard your investment. Every registered architect has
a practice identity card or license valid for a year that
they can show you to prove that they are registered.
Secondly, we have an inspectorate department at the
institute which is basically set up to inspect construction projects going on in the country and ensure that
the right consultants are on these projects. That’s our
way of trying to enforce the ZIA Act.

BN: Is this enforcement capacity adequate?
Masabo: Honestly, it (inspectorate) was only set up in
2019 and we are still growing it. This is when we are
going flat out and in addition to that, we are signing a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with institutions like the National Construction Council (NCC)
so that we collaborate in safeguarding or regulating
the industry.

BN: How else do you regulate the industry?
Masabo:The other way in which we are regulating the
industry is through the use of planning authorities and
local councils with whom we have been in discussion
for an MOU. Actually, the public and health acts state
that only drawings done by architects should be approved for construction to get planning permission. So
the councils are our eyes on the ground for anybody
submitting for planning permission. I must say some
councils are very assertive when it comes to that but
then we still have a lot of work with other councils to
enforce this.
BN: How do you look at the registration of foreign
architectural firms?

Masabo: The issue of foreign architectural firms coming to Zambia to offer architectural services is actually
agreeable. We are okay with that but we only give a
condition that the foreign firm has to be in partnership with a local firm. Such partnership is important
because that firm could be coming, for instance, from
a Scandinavian country where local conditions are
very different from a tropical country.
So there is need to partner with a local firm to give
certain guidance on conditions and regulations they
have to follow in the design. ZIA is not against foreign
firms practicing in Zambia but we want to promote
joint ventures with the local firms. This is also important for sharing ideas and knowledge transfer. Similarly, if a Zambian went to South Africa or any other country, they will not be allowed to practice architecture unless they are in a joint venture with a local firm
in that respective country.

BN: What activities are being undertaken to increase
the registration of architects?

Masabo: Registration of architects. It’s good that you
have asked about that. For you to be registered as an
architect, you have to have been at the university and
have a degree in architecture. Before you are registered, you have to practice in Zambia for two years
under a registered architect. You are then required to
sit for your professional competence examination.
That’s how you get registered.
On top of that, we have realized that there are other
people who don’t have degrees but they have diplomas
in architecture, advanced diplomas and certificates in
drafting or architecture.
Then we also have others masquerading to be interior designers and sketch designers. So as an institute,
we are in the process of revising our Act so that it is
all-encompassing and allow us regulate all these professionals and not just limit it to degree holders.
So our revised Act is envisaged to have technologists,
technicians and draftsmen. We will work out regulations on what they can do or cannot do. So in that
way we shall also grow our membership.

Mr. Masabo with colleagues examining some drawings

BN: So you will just graduate the membership?
Masabo: Yes we will just graduate it and that also
helps the public in having a wider array of people they
can engage.

BN: So currently are these the ones who are, if I may
use the term, practicing illegally?
Masabo: I can’t really categorise them because they
come in all colours, shapes and sizes.Some don’t even
have any qualifications to do with architecture and
they are probably just looking for money and that
makes the public susceptible to conmen. Some will
just come because maybe they have a plan that they
saw somebody do and they will just keep on photocoping the plan and changing the name and giving it
Some may have a basic knowledge of technical drawing and believe they can draw a plan. However, design
is not just about technical drawing, it’s not just about
lines. You have to understand the proportions, functions and like I said earlier, culture.

BN: So what are you doing to bring these ill qualified
people to book and protect the public?

Masabo: We have a disciplinary committee and when
we get reports or find out someone is performing architectural services in that sense, we actually summon
them. After a hearing, we either fine them or take
them to court.It is actually punishable by law.

BN: Do you have a number of such cases you have
handled of late?

Masabo: I don’t have the number off hand but we
have been having a lot of them.

BN: Mr president, thank you very much for giving us
an opportunity to share this important information
with our readers.

Masabo:It was my pleasure and we are also grateful
you have helped us reach out to the public.

Contributor: Evans Milimo

This article originally appeared in Build Now, 7th Edition, Volume 1. February to May 2021


Small Houses Bureau Coming

People who cannot afford house plans will soon have
the designs available to them.
The plans will be given through the Small Houses
Bureau to be established by the Zambia Institute of
Architects (ZIA).

Newly elected president Bwalya Masabo said the institute will come up with standard low cost house designs
especially for people in rural areas who typically cannot
afford the plans.

Mr. Masabo said as a way of architects giving back to
society, the plans will not attract any architectural fees
but will only have a minimal charge to cover the cost
of stationery for the drawings.

“We will work out a guideline on how the plans will be
available to the public but ideally they are supposed to
target people who might have a challenge in accessing
architects in far flung areas like Shangombo or Kaputa,” Mr. Masabo said.
Councils in the districts will work with ZIA and the
bureau to provide the designs and help bridge the gap
in accessing architects in the nation.

The bureau will also come up with suggestions on sustainable construction methods to help potential home
”So beyond just providing a plan, we will also be
guiding on techniques and construction methods,” Mr.
Masabo said.

He said provision of these plans to the financially-challenged will assume greater significance should a time

arise when the services of an architect are made mandatory.
“We had a challenge in certain circles about what will
happen in areas where there are no architects if their
service was mandatory.

However, Mr. Masabo said the mandatory use of an
architect can only become enforceable if all stakeholders support the move.

This article originally appeared in Build Now, 7th Edition, Volume 1. February to May 2021