Think you might want a career in architectural design, but have no real idea what training involves—or what it means to study "sustainable" architecture?
You're not so different from Robbie Hart. Robbie was a carpenter for 15 years before heading back to school to study sustainable architecture at Herzing. When he first started, he knew very little about eco-friendly design, and had no drafting experience.
Now he's a successful freelancer, drafting building designs for several companies, including McGee & Associes Inc in Beaconsfield, Quebec. And he just finished the diploma 6 months ago!
In case you don't know, sustainable architecture involves designing buildings that minimize environmental impact. It's all about conserving energy and protecting our natural resources.
This field has been growing steadily in Canada for several years, as more people embrace the idea of environmentally responsible buildings and cities.
We interviewed Robbie to find out what he thought of Herzing's Sustainable Architecture program. We also wanted to know how he landed his first clients, what he's doing now, and what advice he has for new students.
Here's what we found out.
Q: Robbie, can you tell us a bit about your background? What led you back to school?
Robbie: I was carpenter for about 15 years, gradually growing my skill sets within the trade. But, I knew the physicality of the job would take a major toll on my body—so I decided the take the knowledge I had gained in the field, and see how I would fare as an architectural designer.
Q: Why sustainable architecture? What inspired you to choose this program?
Robbie: At first, I was more interested in the architecture aspect of the program. But as I started to read more about sustainable practices, I found them very interesting.
Also, knowing the amount of waste that can be created on a job site from my carpentry experience, I thought perhaps my ideas could be used to better the building industry as a whole.
Example of sustainable building techniques
Q: What was your experience like at Herzing? How did you find the instructor and overall approach?
Robbie: I enjoyed school at Herzing quite a bit because I felt like it was tailor-made for how I learn. Also, being able to work at my own pace at school or at home, allowed me to work part-time while doing my course.
My instructor, Noual Moncef was very helpful in getting me through the program. He was always available whenever I needed his advice on an issue or challenge that came up during training. I wouldn’t have been able to do so well without his help.
Q: What was the most challenging thing you learned during training?
Robbie: I would say the most challenging thing I learned, subject wise, was the advanced math. It had been over 10 years since I'd been in school, so just figuring out how to open my mind to new learning again was definitely difficult.
I have my instructor, Noual Moncef, to thank for getting me through the advanced math section of the course. He was willing to put in a lot of time with me, to help me understand everything as well as I did.
Q: So, what did you enjoy most about the Sustainable Architecture program?
Robbie: The Sustainable Architecture program really helped open up the creative side of my abilities. Being a carpenter can be artistic, but only in small aspects of a project.
Architecture really allows you to be expressive in every part of how a building comes together. The instructor really encouraged us to let our creativity shine through.
Eco-friendly shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Q: Can you tell us about where you're working now? What kind of projects are you doing?
Robbie: I am a sub-contractor for a few different companies, working as an architectural technician. But the company I enjoy working with the most is McGee & Associes Inc in Beaconsfield, Quebec.
This is also where I did my internship for the Sustainable Architecture program, from October 2018 - January 2019.
Plus, I had worked with Pat McGee before when I was a carpenter, and he played a big role in inspiring me to go into the architecture field.
As an architectural technician, I handle as-build measurements and site surveying, inputting and interpreting design drawings from clients, creating technical construction drawings, and 3d modelling/rendering work.
Q: Was it hard to find work after graduating from Herzing? How do you get clients?
Robbie: In the beginning, I got most of my initial contacts through McGee & Associes Inc., where I did my internship.
Here's how it works: I show the clients the drawings I’m capable of producing and my hourly rate, and they decide if they want to hire me for their project. I’ve won some, and I’ve lost some—but so far, it seems to be more on the winning side, so that’s great.
Wind and solar energy used to power a sustainable building
Q: Now that you've gained some professional experience, what advice would you give someone who is just starting out?
Robbie: I would say having actual experience working on a job site is extremely helpful to truly understand architecture. I was lucky enough to have that prior experience, but I would tell any future student to either try working on a job site part time, or at least visit a few to gain some first-hand experience.
Q: What are your career plans? Are there certain architectural projects you'd love to work on?
Robbie: One day, I hope to open up my own residential architectural design firm. After gaining 2 years work experience in the field, I can apply to become an Architectural Technologist—which would allow me to stamp building drawings independently.
I really love working on custom homes, and I hope to bring all the knowledge of sustainable building into my designs.
Example of an eco-friendly custom home
Thank-you, Robbie for sharing your story with us! We're so proud of your success, and can't wait to see you launch your own architectural design firm.
Have questions about Herzing's Sustainable Architecture Program?
This diploma program runs for 24 months, and includes a guaranteed 13-week internship. Training is offered in English and French, at the Herzing College Montreal campus.
Sustainable Architecture training includes in-depth instruction on AutoCAD software, the principles of architectural design, and the latest approaches to "green" construction for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
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