Deliberate Words

Mother of All Volunteers

March 17, 2022 David Stutzman and Steve Gantner Season 2 Episode 3
Deliberate Words
Mother of All Volunteers
Show Notes Transcript

Our guest, Lauren Harris, Associate AIA, is the BIM manager at L2P.  She received the Associate of the Year Award in 2019, at the AIA-NJ Gala, which is where we met her and learned about her fascinating story of entering into architecture.  Her path to becoming an architect and her impact on the industry, truly embodies the feminine qualities of a woman. 

 Learn more about:
- Her journey going back to school during motherhood (she has 4 children) and discussion on women in architecture programs.
- Her passion for nurturing the next generation through amazing educational involvement. STEAM Tank Competition

- Her drive for bettering architecture and construction through her many volunteer positions. Regional Associates Director for AIA-NJ, Chair of East Coast Green Conference, AIA Grass Roots Conference

Speaker 1:

The power, the beauty, the meaning of deliberate words can sign significantly impact the success of the construction project. In this podcast. Conspectus orchestrator of syllables chats with word users, AKA anyone and everyone who participates on the project team. Let's learn how a simple sentence can create trust, transparency, and transform the process resulting in high performance buildings and strong relationships. In this episode in honor of women in construction during the month of March, we chat with Liber TA Lauren Harris, who we met during the AIA New Jersey awards gala. When she won associate of the year in 2019 Lauren's story and path to becoming an, a tech and her impact on the industry truly embodies the feminine qualities of a woman. She talks about her journey going back to school during motherhood, her passion for nurturing the next generation through amazing educational involvement and the drive she has for bettering the architecture and construction industry through her many volunteer positions. She's a fantastic example of a woman in construction. Now, here are your hosts, Dave Stutzman, and Steve Gantner speaking with Lauren Harris, the mother of all volunteers.

Speaker 2:

I , I think I'd like to talk about one of your favorite subjects

Speaker 3:

Who yours. Okay .

Speaker 2:

Tell me what you think about work packages.

Speaker 4:

Well, depends on what you're talking about with work packages.

Speaker 2:

No , tell me what you really think about work packages.

Speaker 4:

I think they can be done away with if there's some forethought put into the project.

Speaker 2:

Oh wait . You know, not all of our listeners are gonna know what we're talking about, work packages. So now first you have to educate a little bit

Speaker 4:

All , when you say work packages to me, I'm thinking , uh, well, there's many different ways to think of work packages. Are we talking about phasing work packages? Are we talking about bidding work packages or I guess we're talking about all of them . Um, but they're kind of a pain in the key . So because how do you, how do you scope the work and how do you get the work laid out and planned out properly and keep from repeating yourself

Speaker 2:

Well and who who's defining what all these things are. Yeah , that , that to me is one of the biggest questions. Well,

Speaker 4:

And that really depends on who the strongest, I don't wanna say personality, but almost strongest entity in the room is when it comes to that, if the architects drive in the main bus, then the architect is gonna have a , more of a say on what the work packages are or what the Fay is . But then they have they'll head down a path for work packages. And then when a cm or contractor comes on board , then the contractor will look at it from a different perspective. And that may change the work packages or phasing because they know the logistics of trying to work on a site like that. So it's , it's a very complicated issue.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I, and I'm keeping, you know, as we're doing proposals and being requested to look at projects that are coming outta the shoot with defined work packages, I was looking at one today. If I , if I looked at the actual discre of how it was written, it was supposed to be five work packages because of fast track construction. And then they go on to define a number of submittals that are required for the, for the project. Now you would think that each submittal series would apply to each work package. So for I've worked packages and just during this construction documents, phase six submittals for each package, times five packages, that's 30 submittals during the CD phase, which is only, I think it's scheduled for six months.

Speaker 4:

So in that we're gonna spend 30 days putting together a set of documents that may or may not be looked at.

Speaker 2:

Correct. Is that helpful?

Speaker 4:

No,

Speaker 2:

Not particularly. I don't think so either.

Speaker 4:

That's where I think you come back and you come back around and go to S P D and talk about a systems performance and say, now, what do you really need

Speaker 2:

Yeah. To get . So I'm trying to figure this out. I'm trying to figure out, because if I price this thing, as, as I understand the proposal to be asking, nobody's gonna be able to afford this.

Speaker 4:

Right. Well, are we gonna have the time to do it?

Speaker 2:

Well , I mean , that's a different

Speaker 4:

Issue . A work package depends on what's in the work package. It could take a day the better part of a day, at least to put that together, to get it out the door,

Speaker 2:

Looking at just the logistics of getting those done. I think you're absolutely right. Trying to accomplish all of this in the limited time that we've got, it's almost impossible. And yet, yet we're seeing this, it's almost like a per ation of, of work packages today. It's a , it's seemingly an easy solution to trying to get construction started early.

Speaker 4:

Well, and is that a result of what's going on in the world today? And I'm not talking about just today, the past few years with the escalation of pricing, the , uh, lack of materials , um, the overall cost of labor or lack of labor, people are wanting to bid the work when they can, as soon as they can to get the lowest price.

Speaker 2:

I don't know if that is the case. I mean, you would like to believe that there was some rationale behind all of this.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I guess I'm trying to justify it.

Speaker 2:

You know, that I, I can understand if somebody says, Hey, it's speed to market and we need to get the doors open and we're doing the us because we need to get the doors open, but that that's not always the case, or at least it's not apparent if it is the case. So how many of these things can you balance on a job? I'm just curious. I mean, what, what's your top number that you've seen?

Speaker 4:

Um, I got three projects, right , right now that have multiple work packages. And I'm wanting to say the one south of the border on an island somewhere. We don't have a site visit for that one. Do we I'd really like to go visit that one in January, February next year? Um, that one has three phases. That one has 18 work package

Speaker 2:

For , for each phase?

Speaker 4:

No.

Speaker 2:

Oh, total, total. Oh, thankfully it's not each phase.

Speaker 4:

No.

Speaker 2:

Well that, that's a pretty good number. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So how , how are you gonna manage all these? I don't ask me to help.

Speaker 4:

Very carefully. Spreadsheets are key in my opinion.

Speaker 2:

All right . Well, I wish you lots of luck with that one.

Speaker 4:

Oh , thanks. Cause it doesn't sound like I'm getting any help. You're on your own.

Speaker 2:

I'll stick. I'll stick to my project with only nine work packages if that's okay with you.

Speaker 4:

I , I love that picture. It's great .

Speaker 5:

What , what really freaks me out about that picture is that he has hands . You should have pause, but I guess you can't play the bagpipe with pause . I don't know .

Speaker 2:

Yes. You need, you need fingers to cover the pipe holes, right?

Speaker 5:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Pause just don't work. So that's an amazing , so I know we talked about that last time a bit, but you know, how in the world did you even come by that photo?

Speaker 5:

So

Speaker 4:

That's her dog. That's

Speaker 5:

My dog. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, but

Speaker 5:

On the internet now they sell all these like , uh, photos of like you dressed up as Napoleon or you dressed up as, I don't know , some interesting historical figure. So I was like, let's see if we could get the dog dressed up. Yeah. I was like Instagram, like what people were doing with them , like themselves as like Leonardo DaVinci or something like that. And I was like, oh , wanna do this one with the dog? I was gonna do my, but then I was like, what am I gonna do with a 16? Like this one's small, but what was I gonna do with like a 16 by 20 portrait over my Mandel? Is my husband dressed up as like king Le or something? I dunno ,

Speaker 4:

Lord Harris. Well ,

Speaker 5:

That's what That's and Scotland that makes him a Lord. So my husband told me every day , since we got married, that if he had his druthers, he would be the minister of transportation so that he could be the only one driving on, on highways every day . So I couldn't make him the minister of transportation. Um , and you know, Pete budgie has a job that's similar to that and it wasn't up for grabs. So for his 50th birthday, we just made him Lord Harris. So at least he's royalty and he can drive in our driveway by himself.

Speaker 4:

Well , if gas prices keep doing what they're doing, he may end up with his own , which ,

Speaker 2:

Oh my

Speaker 5:

Goodness got the certificate from , uh , it's called established titles, but they have a bunch of different ones. And he has , uh , a one foot by 10 foot plot in Adeen Shire, Scotland in the middle of a , that at least makes him a Lord in this certificate. Know if it works in real life.

Speaker 2:

So now you need a guide to go find this plot of land. Right? Exactly. When you go visit,

Speaker 5:

We can set up a couple of chairs, just, just in a line,

Speaker 4:

Just enjoy our property

Speaker 2:

That would make for an even better photo.

Speaker 4:

Well , your chair wasn't wire than wide a foot,

Speaker 2:

As long as you're not arrested for trespasing on the next person's property. So, so Lauren , um, we wanna at least give you a chance, let you introduce yourselves here to all of our listeners and just tell us a little, little bit about yourself and , uh , who you are and where you are and where you're working. And okay ,

Speaker 5:

So I'm Libra Todd Lauren Harris , associate AIA. Um , but everyone calls me Lauren . I'm from Burlington, New Jersey and I work for L two P and Philadelphia. Um, I am their bin manage . Sure . Um , but among my many titles , um, I am the regional associates director for AIA New Jersey. Um, I represent New Jersey at the national associates council and among other things, I do a lot of volunteer work , um, with the K to 12 programs, making sure that students who want to be architects when they get older, have the opportunity to do that. Um, so we do a lot of volunteer work , um, working with the steam time competition and other steam programs so that kids can be courage by science, technology engineering, and of course architecture.

Speaker 2:

Well, that's really great. And you mentioned it steam. Now. I remember when that first was in Vogue, it was only stem,

Speaker 5:

Gotta put the art and architecture into the steam fields . Right?

Speaker 2:

Well , exactly. That was the big push wasn't it? Yeah . To get some recognition for them. So , uh, how, how did you actually get involved in the , uh , steam tank program?

Speaker 5:

So , um, I got involved because at some point, John Henry, who is the director of the steam tank program with the New Jersey school board association of New Jersey , um, reached out to AIA at to ask them to judge the competition, especially when it came to projects of the built environment. And through that multi-year relationship, we've had a lot of collaborations that have been really fruitful. And honestly, it's just tons of fun. Um, because these kids come up with the greatest inventions and you're just invigorated to take on the world, especially it comes to , um , climate change science and all the different products that they create. It's just pretty encouraging.

Speaker 2:

So what's, what was one of your favorite ones that you saw that you helped maybe that you helped to judge?

Speaker 5:

Um, there were a lot of great projects. Um, one of the projects I got to tour was a wearable smoke detection device. So for people who are hard of hearing, they would be able to wear a arm band or a sweatshirt or a different product. And it would vibrate if the smoke alarm went off. But one of my favorite projects that I got to judge, it was a team of girls. They were middle schoolers and they said that their parents were always upset that they got them a pair of dress shoes, and they only got to wear them once before they grew out of them . So the girls put together a prototype that they actually had made, and it's, it's an expandable shoe. And this expandable shoe would grow with you several sizes and, you know, through the encouragement of their mentors and their parents, they were able to get a prototype built and it looks like it was purchased by Sketchers. So I think they call it the stretcher.

Speaker 2:

Wow. So that's pretty exciting. And this is , this is for middle. So school girls , middle school

Speaker 5:

Girls that's so yeah. Good for

Speaker 2:

Them . That's

Speaker 5:

Fantastic. So I know that , uh , the program now has , um, a relationship with patent attorneys because they're realizing that this is, this is an important thing that kids are, kids are really contributing and , and making actual products.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So patents, that's, that's an interesting aspect of it too. I hope the federal government is speeding those , uh, applications up.

Speaker 5:

I hope so.

Speaker 4:

I'll , I'll grow it soon.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly. They made didn't need a next size up of the stretcher before the patent is approved.

Speaker 5:

Definitely.

Speaker 2:

So you , you mentioned you were involved in a lot of different volunteer work, so what other things, or do I know I, I had actually met you through AIA and that was, that was a wonderful experience getting , uh, to see you accept an award at a state level was fantastic. Yes.

Speaker 5:

Thank you so much. Yes. That's how we met , uh, your company cons , um , supported the award for the associate of the year. So I was luckily , uh , lucky enough to win that award that year. And, and there's been so many other amazing recipients , um, thereafter. Um, and , and , you know, one of the many things that I've gotten involved with is the next to lead program. So that's AIA nationals program. Um, it's 17 women of color that are in a intense training program to be the next to lead the AIA or their firms. Um, so it's been a really interest, same experience . The , some of the most accomplished women I've ever met, met life . And it's just been a really good experience where, you know, coming in on a , about eight months into a two year program, so fingers crossed , um, will have a lot of great , um, leaders that come out of this program to take our on all the climate science issues and all of the architectural issues in the next couple of years.

Speaker 2:

Why stop there? How about the next couple decades?

Speaker 5:

Yeah . In the next couple decades. Yeah .

Speaker 4:

Well , if you don't mind, I wanna back up a minute. Cause when we were talking previously, you had an interest story , a couple of 'em really, but one about , uh , going to college. Oh yeah. And I was wondering if you would , you would mind sharing the experience you had going back to college?

Speaker 5:

So around the time that my son was finishing his, his high school experience, he was looking at different colleges , uh, specifically for engineering. He wasn't sure if he wanted nuclear or , um, so he was just kind of researching different kinds of engineering and he was enthusiastic. And I had originally started my career in interior design and then kind of became a mother and a , and you know, your career ebbs and flows. But when he was so enthusiastic and invigorated to go to engineering school, it kind of brought up all those feelings of me too. So I decided to, to ask him, I said, what would you feel ? How would you feel if mommy went to college with you? And he was like, this is fantastic. He went to all his teachers and he was like, my mom's gonna go to college with me. So we did, we went to N G I T together. He went for engineering and I went for architecture and we spent many years , um, together, he lived in the dorms and I commuted, but it didn't stop me from when I was pulling my all-nighters. He was there with me. I had a , a little assistant model and, you know, he assisted me with my projects and I assisted him with his , um, he had all the unlimited snacks he wanted to cuz he can call home and ask for them . Yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's good news for him . Yeah . All set . And he's some more supplies mom. So when , when you finally made it to graduation, was that had also together?

Speaker 5:

We did. We graduated together. Um, I graduated from the honors college, so I graduated maybe four hours before he did, but indeed we had the same ceremony and we had a huge , um , a huge after party for our family. That was very cool .

Speaker 2:

So you got better grades than he did. Okay . We won't say anything. Don't let, 'em listen to this. Well, and you know, the only, the only saving grace is there after , after what, the first job application did anybody really care?

Speaker 5:

Probably not. No.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly. But congratulations. That was quite a, quite a , uh , Trek for you as , so what , what really made you decide to go back to college?

Speaker 5:

So , um, I was, I was working many, many years ago , um, at a, for the owner side of a , a large company. And when I was working there, you know, as an interior designer, you're oftentimes kind of rele to the back row. So they're like, you just make things, look pretty, let the real architects, you know, handle the , the strong, tough work. Like we do the heavy lifting, you just pick out carpet and, and tile and paint. Um, and it just kind of resonated with me over the years that like, I can do anything that you can do and I can do it backwards and heels. Right. Isn't that like , isn't that a famous thing. And so when my son was going back, I was like, this is a great opportunity. Let's do it. You know, my career had changed over the years and I was ready to dive back in it. But if I was gonna do it, I wanted to do it, you know, with full force and not necessarily, you know, relegated to the back row. Again, the child that went to college was my first born. So I still had three at home that I was taken care of. So it was my husband who did all the heavy lifting who did the lunches and took the kids to their doctor's appointments and to their after school activities. I will tell you that my, you can't even bring up the word cheerleading around my husband because he gets very upset when you talk about she year later . Cause he had to go multiple times, multiple schools like drive from one school to the other to pick them up from all their activities. Um, so that was, that was an interesting time. You know, the only reason why you can do a five year full time , 24 7 program like that is if you have an enormous support system. Um, and I , I would say that even to people who didn't have children, an architecture degree is a very, very difficult pursuit.

Speaker 2:

It certainly is intense. I'll say that. I know that , um , when I went through it and it was far longer ago , then I really wanna remember. But , uh , just the time involved in architecture compared to any of the other bachelor's degrees was probably 50% more in class time.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, absolutely

Speaker 4:

Not necessarily class time , but studio time. For sure. While you're , while you're in your studio doing your work, it's like everyone else is out having fun.

Speaker 2:

I thought studio was fun.

Speaker 4:

Well, it , it was for us sick people, but for the other students, like, what are you doing? Why are you up so late at night, every night?

Speaker 2:

Why are you building

Speaker 4:

Models ? Why you building the only , yeah . Why , why is your building the only one with lights on at three in the morning?

Speaker 5:

I would say studio's pro probably fun at like three o'clock in the afternoon. Maybe from one to three o'clock in the morning, somewhere around three o'clock in the morning. It's no longer fun. There's a lot of tears. It's frustration. And then I don't think at like eight o'clock the next day, I don't think you remember anything that happened the day before

Speaker 4:

You , when you have a critique and you're trying to stay awake for right.

Speaker 5:

You know, being from a , a different generation of all these other students that are coming out. Now, it wasn't so easy back then. So I think it definitely motivated me to create that, that pipeline for them. So a always like having that red carpet rolled out for them and making connections for them because they shouldn't have to have it so hard. Right. It shouldn't be a fraternity of hazing , um, to do it right. So to open the door wide, open, roll out the red carpet and make sure that they get everything you , they need to be successful is, is kind of my sweet spot. Um, and it , it also ends up being my sweet spot in my career as a , as a bin manager. My only job is to make sure everyone else is successful. So training and setting up templates and, and constantly being there as a support system, fixing everything that's broken. So it's kind of like my sweet spot is like, there used to be a , um, an average campaign for like a chemical company and said we don't make the things, we just make the things better. And I really find like , that's my thing. Like I don't, I don't often be , I'm not often the designer on a building, but I'm just the support system and the backbone. And if everything breaks, I'm there to fix it.

Speaker 2:

Well, it's in a big aspect of architecture anymore because of , I everybody's working in , uh , BIM today virtually. Right. And you're actually building the building in BIM theoretically. And if you're keeping all of that running, that's a big part of the operation .

Speaker 5:

Yeah, definitely. It , it's more , it's a bigger part of the operation when it's down than when it's out .

Speaker 2:

Only cause everybody in the office can can't work if it's down.

Speaker 5:

Exactly. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's a big responsibility. So what, what do you think is the , uh , biggest advantage that BIM bringing to you and your firm? How is that really helping?

Speaker 5:

So I find that , um, the interesting thing from 2d CAD to 3d BIM is that third dimension, right. Really spatially understanding how things are built and that's where people find it the most difficult. It difficult because oftentimes when they're making 2d drawings, they're only doing what's represe representational. So they actually don't really understand how things are built. So I find that we're making better architects with the third dimension because now you have to terminate the wall at the top and the bottom. Whereas for as long as it looked okay in plan or it looked okay in the specific section, that was enough. It's no longer enough. Right. You have to, you really have to complete the thought , um, where you didn't have to before. So it is, it is more time consuming, but at the end of the day, you're getting much more data. And if you do it right, you know, you you're virtually building the project. So you should be able to fer it out, all the things that are about to go wrong in construction, if you're doing it. Right.

Speaker 2:

So, and would you say that the folks maybe that are most successful at this are ones that , uh , may have had some hands on experience so that they're actually thinking better in 3d?

Speaker 5:

Absolutely. Those who are much more successful are , are the people who really understand how things are constructed.

Speaker 2:

So where are you finding those folks? Are they coming out of architecture school?

Speaker 5:

No, those are the folks that those are the folks that everyone counts them out. Like the ones that opposed to retirement, the ones that are like, you'll never get so and so into BIM. And I tell them like, BIMS, just a software. It's the, it's the thought process from the person. So the people that are most successful are the ones that always surprise you. It's the ones that yeah. Are a couple years away from retirement that know everything that you need to know about building construction, who are like diving into have BI . And they're so successful because they understand what, what the job is.

Speaker 4:

That's kinda like what we wish we had when we were, we were drawing it by hand. How do you , how can you look at all directions and dimensions of that model, that , that element to see where it was gonna leak

Speaker 2:

To keep that. So, so Lauren , just, just, if you look really closely over Steve's shoulder, you're not going to see a Revit tool. You're gonna see something far more antiquated. Steve, bring out that drafting board.

Speaker 4:

My , my drafting table. Yeah . Yes. I'm , I'm a little antique now.

Speaker 5:

Are , are you still, are you still hand drafting?

Speaker 4:

I that's why I got into architecture. Um, and yes, when I , I get an opportunity , uh, I do,

Speaker 5:

That's fine .

Speaker 4:

And I really dunno how to use Revit.

Speaker 5:

No , we'll get you to learn because you'll be the one that's most successful. The , the person that you'll, that will be most surprised is you how successful you'll be in Revit

Speaker 4:

Probably. And, and I need someone like you to teach me though, because I don't know . I managed to break word every day . I surprised Dave at how I can break computer things. So, but yeah, I mean, if you're, if you're offering lessons, I'll take BI lessons.

Speaker 5:

Anytime , anytime you call me, we'll do it.

Speaker 4:

I need someone knowledgeable to teach me how to do it. Right.

Speaker 2:

And patient

Speaker 4:

And patient . Yes. Patience is I will test them. So

Speaker 2:

Lauren's a mom. She's obviously patient.

Speaker 5:

Yes .

Speaker 2:

Yep . So I wanna , I wanna go back to some of the volunteer work and, and you mentioned something earlier , uh , that was near and dear to my heart. You mentioned cheerleading.

Speaker 5:

Yes. Cheer cheerleading.

Speaker 2:

So I

Speaker 5:

Used to be a cheer coach. Yes.

Speaker 2:

And I have three daughters that went through cheerleading. My son being the youngest cringed, every time we had to go to a cheer competition. So , so you were a cheer coach for your daughters?

Speaker 5:

I was , uh , actually, no, I was her coach for everyone. Else's daughters. I , um, the funny thing about it is , um, my daughter was too young to cheer for the program. So I kind of started like maybe three years before she was age eligible to cheer. Um, and then by the time she was ready to cheer, I was done with coaching. Like I gotta say , like cheerleading has gotta be the most dramatic sport in the history of sports. I mean, there's so many feelings and emotions and injuries and

Speaker 2:

Drama

Speaker 5:

Drama. There's no, there's no, it's no surprise to anyone in cheerleading that lifetime makes movies about cheerleading murders.

Speaker 2:

I could picture ,

Speaker 4:

It just took a dark

Speaker 2:

Turn. Oh dear. Yeah, it was , it was like just way too with three daughters. And it was like just way too many years traveling around for cheering. And

Speaker 5:

It was, and, and I think my boys are still scarred by it. Cause my boys are older than my girls. So when we were cheerleading, they were like middle schoolers going like another city, another town, another arena , like don't .

Speaker 2:

Oh, but it was good for building character. Don't you think? Just think of all the patients that they, they gained from that

Speaker 5:

True. And, and they got to see a bunch of cities that they probably would never have seen without it. Right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah .

Speaker 4:

Speaking of cities , uh , I'm going back to our conversation. I, I , I find it fascinating what you did , uh, in Spain. What happened in Spain when you were there just roughly two years ago, right. About two years ago now, wasn't it?

Speaker 5:

Yes. So , uh , just before the start of COVID like about 30 days before COVID I had been traveling the globe for some AIA events. Um, we had, I think it was grassroots in new Orleans that year. And then I had to fly through Charlotte and then I went to visit my dad in Spain. And as I was leaving these country , or as I was leaving these cities , um, you know, flying for new Orleans, I had just missed that COVID outbreak from Marty GRA. And then I was flying through Charlotte and I just missed that COVID outbreak. And then we were in Spain and we were watching it on TV happening in real time . Like COVID S in Italy, it's now in Spain, where is it gonna go? And then we left Barcelona and flu Portugal. And in LIBO they were like, we're about to shut down that city . We were just from city to city . And then when we went to JF, they were making announcements on the news that they were about to shut down JFK. So like literally COVID was following me around the globe, but I managed to never get it . I don't even know how or

Speaker 2:

So, so Lauren, you mentioned grassroots and most of our listeners are not even going to know what grassroots is. So explain your involvement in that and, and what grassroots is all about.

Speaker 5:

So , uh , AIA, we do a conference every year. It happened to be last week and it's called grassroots. And really it is the leadership of all the cities and states and , um, getting together and really learning about, you know, the best way that you can reach our members. Um, like how do we support people? How do we mentor people? But it's also like a really inspirational conference for all the volunteers each year. It's almost like a thank you. Like here you do all this work all year long. Let's send you to this conference, we're gonna have the best speakers and we're gonna support you in every way possible. And honestly, everyone I know who goes to grassroot just is so enthusiastic for an entire year. And it's almost like to get them, you know, you're gonna be volunteering for a whole other year. See we needed a year of a good will . So we spend a couple of days like really just getting pumped up for the year ahead.

Speaker 4:

And you just got back from that from this year,

Speaker 5:

This year was virtual, but it was fantastic. We had a lot of great speakers.

Speaker 2:

Good . So you're looking forward to in person again. So you're gonna hang around for another year to get the in person event.

Speaker 5:

I'm gonna hang around another year. Um, our next conference is in Chicago in June, but that's a conference open to everyone. Everyone can come. It's gonna be exciting. There's a bunch of great speakers.

Speaker 2:

So you get to visit one of my favorite cities. I love Chicago.

Speaker 5:

Chicago is a fantastic city.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 5:

Talk about like a Mecca of architecture, right? The history of skyscrapers is in Chicago. Um , the old world fair . A lot of those are still up and that's a fantastic place to go if you love architecture. Yep .

Speaker 2:

Yep . Yeah. A lot of history there, especially in architecture.

Speaker 5:

One thing that we're doing here in, in New Jersey is we have the east coast green conference coming up and it's April 22nd to April 23rd and that's open into everyone and that's specific to climate change sustainability in the environment. And we have a lot of really great speakers. Um, we have , uh , Carl I Lafonte , who was the former president of AIA national. Who's gonna talk about his experience at C O P 26 . And we've got , um, Joe strick from Canada. Who's the father of building science and we've got , um, uh , Liz Gibbons who was mayor of a town in California and how she's meeting the 2050 climate change challenge , um, by electrification. And , um, we have a whole bunch of great speakers, Ilia, ARA . Who's really well known in New York city , um, for all of his Sandy work and , and putting legislature together to make sure that, you know, we have a sustainable shore , um, on the east coast. Um, and Michael, Irman the famous Michael Irman who writes the book, the Amber book all , and he's responsible for probably tens of thousands of people being licensed over the years. He writes all these books on all kinds of things and does great projects. So it's gonna be a great conference because it is talking about the built environment and, and actual things that we can do , um , to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. And, and you know, this year's conference is truly about what you can do at the architecture level to kind of help, you know, solve the climate crisis problem. Like, you know, buildings are 40% of our LA electricity needs and 49% of our carbon , um, are CO2 emissions. So you gotta , you gotta start with the big hitter and the big hitter is buildings.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So you're involved in helping to organize this conference. Is that right? Lauren ?

Speaker 5:

I'm the chair of this year's east coast green conference. So that's nice , exciting ,

Speaker 2:

And stressful

Speaker 5:

And stressful.

Speaker 4:

Where is the conference?

Speaker 5:

It is a virtual conference.

Speaker 4:

Virtual conference again. Okay .

Speaker 5:

So year's east coast green conference. We are dub the coast to coast conference because we have speakers from Hawaii all the way to New York and many places in between.

Speaker 4:

Hopefully you're being nice to them and putting them on later in the day. Yes .

Speaker 5:

Hawaii people , they have the 4:30 PM session. Yes .

Speaker 2:

Well, at least you thought about that. That was very good of, you know ,

Speaker 4:

Don't give me eight o'clock in the morning. One.

Speaker 2:

Do you know , do you remember how long this has been running? Because I know I I'm trying to think because I remember attending some of the very first, I don't know if it was the first , uh, but it hasn't been all that long.

Speaker 5:

So this is the 10th annual conference. Um, it's not continuous because we took a year off because of COVID. So I guess this would be the 11th year, but only the 10th conference.

Speaker 2:

So are you planning on chairing this more than one year or is once enough?

Speaker 5:

They asked me already last week. They were like, are you ready for next year? And I did. I did. I , it was, I already have asked people who the date and time didn't work for them. I was like, how about next year? Like I'm already like signing up speakers for next year. Just to get ahead.

Speaker 2:

Sounds like you've already got it underway. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

Yeah. I

Speaker 2:

Did . You haven't even got through this one yet.

Speaker 5:

Two for one. That's right . Get them all done on

Speaker 2:

That's

Speaker 4:

How you're recruit your next person to , to help you out. Just help you out. I've already started next year. Come lend me a hand.

Speaker 5:

Oh, that's a good plan. All right . I'm making , I'm taking notes.

Speaker 2:

So Lauren, what would , what would you advise? I mean, you went through this kind of a , um, sort of different path , uh, through your career. So what, what would you advise some of the younger people? How, what, what path would you suggest for them if they were truly interested in architecture and building?

Speaker 5:

So that , that's really interesting. Um, I, I think that schools don't really prepare you very much for what architecture truly is. Um, and we don't have a lot out of TV or movies that kind of even allude to what architecture is. So when I go from school to school, to school, to volunteer, most kids have no idea what it is . So how do you prepare somebody for a career in architecture where they have no exposure? So obviously the first thing we do is we go into the schools and we expose them to different kinds of, you know, mini projects, like how to do an elevation. You know, how to look at the block as a, you know, a , like how to infill projects in a block or how to create a city , um, so that they have some kind of perspective. But then when they go into the university level, you know, it's, it's a difficult five year program that they probably had no idea about. And then when they leave that, then there's internships and licensure. So it's difficult. So my advice to everyone is that as early as you can, you need to find a mentor, a sponsor, someone who's gonna answer all your questions, walk you through it, give you like the real deal of what it's about so that you are prepared in , um, in every aspect of it.

Speaker 4:

That's a good point. I, I, you mentioned it's not really portrayed anywhere. And I was thinking when you mentioned that, what movies have I seen that have represent architecture and, you know , being women's month, you think back on it, it's like none for women.

Speaker 5:

Yeah.

Speaker 4:

Because really

Speaker 5:

Very few

Speaker 4:

Of many Tom Hanks and sleepless in Seattle , uh ,

Speaker 2:

Brady punch

Speaker 4:

The Brady book . Yeah . Mike Brady , there was a , was the belly. The architect was another one, Brian dehi . And then , uh ,

Speaker 5:

The guy from how I met your mother to Mosby .

Speaker 4:

So yeah, there's that , that's a valid point. There's not a lot of , uh , female role models in architecture, which is unfortunate. Cuz there are some really good architects that are male and female, but a lot of good female architect.

Speaker 5:

Yeah. And you know, there's a , there's a , I'm gonna call it a convention for lack of a better word happening in June at N G I T. And it's all about careers for girls and it's gonna be all these high school girls that are gonna come to N G I T stay there for the weekend. And then they have all whole bunch of women representing all the careers that they could have if they went to university. So that will be at the end of June. So I get to represent architecture, which is fantastic. So I'm super excited, gotta make that really exciting so that they there's they're interested.

Speaker 2:

So there , there aren't even all that many schools in New Jersey available for architecture.

Speaker 5:

So there's two for undergrad. Um, and then three, if you wanna get a graduate degree in architecture, so then it's the New Jersey Institute of technology and Kane , university and Princeton, but they only have a , um , master's program .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Only the graduate program.

Speaker 5:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So there aren't all that many choices. So New Jersey residents may be looking elsewhere potentially.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, absolutely. And there's great schools , um, you know, just out off our borders. Right. We have that. We have N Y I T and Pratt , um, and Syracuse everyone's ha everyone loves Syracuse. Right. And where where'd you go, Dave? Where'd you go to school?

Speaker 2:

Miami university.

Speaker 5:

Oh , that's a fun school.

Speaker 2:

Well, are you thinking of the right one? No,

Speaker 5:

The Midwestern one.

Speaker 2:

Yes. Yes. That's the only one. Yes. So yeah, cuz I grew up mostly in Ohio, so that, that was fun. It was a fun school. And I, I think about the , um, experience that I had there , the first time I actually saw the university was the day that I moved in.

Speaker 5:

Oh no, you didn't do like a college trip.

Speaker 2:

No, that wasn't something that you did at that time. And the, the only school that I applied to was Miami. So if I didn't get in, I was , you didn't get in . I wasn't going. That was simple.

Speaker 5:

Dave , you're a rebel. I don't ,

Speaker 2:

I mean, I don't know . I , I mean, it was a different era. I mean, think about it. I, this year I'm up for my 50 plus two high school reunion. So it was a different time Soly and today the, the pressures for getting in to school and the , and the gymnastics or the hoops folks have to jump through to get there is pretty amazing. But I just, I just remember being in college, that there was a huge New Jersey contingent at Miami. Really? Yes. A lot of New Jersey residents.

Speaker 5:

Did it have a good football team

Speaker 2:

At that time? It did . They did.

Speaker 5:

That might be it.

Speaker 2:

That could be something to do with it . I don't know the people I know that were there were not playing football, but if that's what you were , where you were going with, that

Speaker 4:

You can't participate in extracurriculars and be at architecture school. No it's physically not possible. Well ,

Speaker 2:

No, it takes school takes a long lot of time. Lot of commitment. Yeah. So what's, what is your next big step in your career here? Lauren? What do you think?

Speaker 5:

My next big step is licensure. I've been studying Dave from six o'clock in the morning till I go to work. And from when I come home from work like 10 , 11 o'clock at night, gotta pass those tests.

Speaker 2:

Have you, have you started the process yet?

Speaker 5:

I'm about halfway done.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Over, over how long a time has it been?

Speaker 5:

So I had a false start cuz like I was a really good test taker. I told you Dave, I was an honor student. There's no set , which thing is failure . Right. And then I, I started in 2018 and I went and took the first one and I was like, whoa, I'm not prepared for that . So , um, so after my fall start, it's only been a year. So three down in a year, three more to go, maybe in another year I'll be done.

Speaker 4:

Don't feel bad. You're not the only one to do that. I took the first test. I was like, oh , this should be easy. I'm gonna take the one that I know the most of I'm gonna go take that and be, be good to go for the rest of it. And I bombed it. It's false starts a good way to put it. Yeah. Now you gotta wait six months to go take it again.

Speaker 2:

Oh, wow. Or just call it the wake up call, right?

Speaker 4:

Yeah. It's an expensive wake up call.

Speaker 2:

Yep . Yeah. And for all the time you to get dedicate to even get there, what, and what do you think of the, the test that's there today? Lauren ? Is that, is it really a good representation of what you need as an architect?

Speaker 5:

Um,

Speaker 2:

Put you on the spot, put you on the spot . You're gonna

Speaker 5:

Me on this spot. You're gonna get me a letter. Like there's gonna be a cease. Just this letter on this podcast.

Speaker 2:

We can cut it out. If you say

Speaker 4:

Don't , don't give any answers to any questions, it'll be fine .

Speaker 5:

Um, ah , I would say that , uh , I , I wish that there was a little more standardization on the exam. So, you know, we've had a lot of , um , uh , webinars that we've had over the years about equity and architecture and a big part of the equity and architecture is equity and testing. And I know that NCARB is doing their fair share of research to figure it out. But you know, the, the point of the matter is, is it's supposed to be an experiential, but we don't all have the same experience. Right. You know, Dave , you're , you work in specifications and the people who work for you don't have the same experience with people that work in my firm who do workplace or the people that work, you know, with Steve or the people that work in any other firm. Right. So if you don't get the same experience, having experiential based exam is really difficult. So if you have an exam based on, you know, primary resources where we all come at it at a very equal footing, right. We all study the same amount of , we all study the same information, right. Then you can kind of say, well, we've leveled the playing field, but unfortunately, you know , studies have shown that people of color do not get the experience in the field, do not get the experience in the office. Um, and it's quantifiable. So is it a fair exam? No. Um, so we've been trying at Atia national and the national associates C to work through some of these items and find good solutions. We've been working at the state level at AI , New Jersey to kind of bring awareness to these issues. Know a lot of it can be fixed at the firm level, but not all of it. You know, the questions , um, sometimes are not worded in a way that one would consider an equal playing field for people in certain areas of the country or, you know, people whose English is not their first language. Um, the questions are written by volunteers. So frankly they're not experts in test question writing. So yeah, it's a , it's a difficult and complex situation. And a lot of people further up the chain and a lot more experience than I are, I am, are trying to make those solutions happen. But I think it's a , it's a difficult situation to be in, especially when , as an industry, we're trying to figure out a way to have more people of color in our industry and by keeping them out of licensure, you're keeping them out of all the economic possibility.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah. Cuz it's a big commitment that you're trying to make to the career. It's a, it's a, you , it's a long path to get there for sure. And if there's not a good light at the end of the tunnel, it might be frustrating and, and put some people off and have them abandon the industry.

Speaker 5:

Absolutely. And you know, there , there are initiatives at no about there's, there's an initiative at no called I think it's 500 women in architecture where they're actually trying to figure out if you know, where the women who are licensed are, are you on the one side of 500 or have we made it to 5 0 1 yet? I'm not sure, but you know, the fact that you have to do that initiative that in the history of licensure, there may or may not have been 500 women. That's kind of crazy , a hundred women of color. Um, that's, that's crazy that here we are in 2022 and we can't even get there.

Speaker 2:

So I th but I do think it's getting better. So just as , as an example, Lauren , so how many women were in your architecture class?

Speaker 5:

Oh, wow. Um , so my said , N G I T that that started was one of the largest classes at 1 99. Um, I don't re I would say more than half of them were women. And when I did meet with the Dean of architecture way back when , um, he said that they are my articulating more women than men, but that the women were kind of leaving the industry before they were getting licensed.

Speaker 2:

So as a point of comparison, my class, there were , uh , 110 of us that started the class. And there were two, two women.

Speaker 5:

You had a hundred and , and 10 in your class and only two of them were women.

Speaker 2:

Yes, we, our, our class was the one that broke the mold at Miami. I , they, they never expected 110 people to show up. They actually expected 50 and their typical graduating class was five. And we graduated with 50

Speaker 5:

That's impressive.

Speaker 2:

And the , and the two ,

Speaker 5:

How did you do that? Did you do that? Cuz you were just like supportive of one another.

Speaker 2:

I , I don't know , uh , what really it was that , um, but we had a , we had a very good, I think a fairly close knit class as we went through. And um , the ones that, I don't know , I'll say the ones that did not stick it out for the full five years were probably ones that were there, not as necessarily a first choice that architecture wasn't really what they wanted to do anyhow. So they , and they learned quickly cuz the clash shrunk quickly and then stayed pretty constant.

Speaker 5:

So were the girls running circles around the boys?

Speaker 2:

Were they, I, there , there were two different person . So one was um , Exar the other one was like completely opposite. So, you know, ver very much , uh , a dainty kind of a young girl. Right? So it was so, so completely extreme opposite, but they, they, they did well all the way through school. They did well.

Speaker 5:

That's fantastic. Do you , have you kept in touch? Do you know where they are now?

Speaker 2:

I have no idea. I have no idea.

Speaker 5:

We'll have to, we'll have to seek them out. We'll have to figure it out.

Speaker 2:

No, it would be interesting to find out, but Hey, most, most of the people , um, my age or now thinking of retiring or have already retired,

Speaker 4:

I, I don't remember the exact numbers Lauren, but we had a few more women in the class than Dave had. I wanna say we had 20 in our class out of a hundred.

Speaker 2:

So , uh , so that just goes to show Steve with the generational, cuz it we're almost talking to generational differences that it's really come a long way Lauren . But I did wanna make sure that we got in our one question for you coming up on the end. So, you know, because this podcast is all about deliberate words. So in five words or less, how do you manage to get involved? And so many things,

Speaker 5:

I just tell people if I'm interested in it, I just tell them , put me in coach and I just do it and they let me do it. I don't think they figured out I can't .

Speaker 2:

I , I only , I only have one word of advice. Lauren coming from my mother, you know, she, she was is always the one that told me, stop raising your hand.

Speaker 4:

That's it, Dave, we need to a podcast. Oh

Speaker 5:

Your mother needs to give me that talk. Yeah. I , I think it's really funny that like , uh , you know, there, there are people that tell people, go ahead and say yes to everything. Say yes, like every time somebody asks you say yes, say yes. Yeah . Yes. Okay . So that's the situation I've been in and they ask me, I say yes. And it's been great because I've had such a plethora of really interesting experiences. Um , but to those people who they haven't been asked yet, I would say, just tell them , put me in coach. Right? Like I'm excited about something. I wanna do it. You know, just ask. Cause what's the worst thing they're gonna say, no , I yeah. Just go and do it. And then you'll have a plethora of really interesting experiences.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And if you don't try it, you may never know that you actually like it.

Speaker 4:

The national conference. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

And you might be the next chair of a conference or you might be the , the next representation , uh , at a national level for your whole state. You might, you might be doing all kinds of crazy things that you never thought possib .

Speaker 2:

And it's a wonderful way to meet some really great people along the way . That's, that's probably one of the biggest benefits.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent .

Speaker 4:

Well, I , I think it's great too, that you were able to do all that while you still had young kids at home and you went to college with yourself . Yeah.

Speaker 5:

That's

Speaker 4:

So I had a great experience . Yeah . It's your story ? Just, I wish more people. I want , I hope more people listen to this podcast because it's inspiring that just cuz you have kids doesn't mean you're done doing whatever you wanted to do. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

And like, you know, now that my kids are getting older and they're doing their own thing, like my son is 28, my other son's 25 , my daughter's 21 . They're out living their lives. Like, you know, you should just mug here. It says, you're never old to call your mom. These are here. Cause I'm waiting for them to come home so I can give it to them . Right. Like, you know? Yeah . So you gotta , you gotta do something for yourself.

Speaker 2:

So Lauren, I really wanna thank you for joining us today. It's it's a all , always a pleasure to talk with you. You're always so positive. Upbeat, you know, it's like a great way to finish the day. Yeah .

Speaker 4:

This was fun.

Speaker 5:

Aw . Well thank you so much. This is so much fun. I'm always excited to be with you Dave. So anytime you need me I'm here .

Speaker 2:

Well good luck and everything you're doing .

Speaker 4:

Thanks Laura .

Speaker 5:

I .