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As an Architect you proceed with the design of a building you draw, design, detail, model, etc. You go about it with almost no thought whatsoever, its second nature. Contract writing can flow just as easily with these basics in mind:

Purpose of a Contract:

  1. Define the Project Scope
  2. Establish and clarify relationships
  3. Allocate responsibilities and risk
  4. Confirm mutual understanding in writing
  5. Establish compensation for services

Contract Checklist:

  1. Understand the scope of the project
  2. Do not use superlative language – “highest standard, best, complete, most, economical, finest” etc.  The wrong use of language can negate basic legal protections and exceed your insurance coverage, create unreasonable duties, and establish expectation of perfection
  3. Express no warranties or guarantees – expands duty and is generally excluded from professional liability coverage
  4. Do not use language creating unobtainable expectations
  5. Include in contract preparation any and all pertinent members who will be responsible for executing the work
  6. Use historical data as a basis to help establish fees and schedules
  7. Know you can fulfill your obligations as defined by the contract or modify them
  8. Define procedure for project termination or suspension
  9. Review, review, review, and then have someone else review the contract

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Each contract you write will afford you more confidence and another skill set to your experiences. There’s no reason not to be writing your own contracts… actually getting them executed, well that’s another post. 

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted July 27 2010, edited/revised per date above- I’ve been careless on properly referencing the image to its source… meaning I haven’t and just used an image search engine. Inform me if I’ve used a copy written image and I’ll write a contract on the terms of removal of said image.

A succinct post with a hefty question to address- Is there a difference between a house designed by a builder and one by an architect? Rather than a long diatribe, I submit two images:

 

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What is The Best House for you? Still not sure of which is best? Tally the votes, counting visible ‘digits’ I see a 5:2 lead, hmm… Talk to an architect and begin the journey, it’ll be a great experience!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted May 9, 2012, edited/revised per date above.

A repeated discussion every architect has with residential clients is why do they even need an architect? The client will cite that their brother in-law had a builder designed house built and it turned out fine- just like the other 7 that look like it on their street. Or their nephews’ friend once took a technical drafting class at a community college 15 years ago and she can draft something over the weekend with some software from Staples for someone to build. Or better yet, they themselves took an art class in college and love math! I compose myself and begin the discussion…

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For years I would try and explain an architect’s value with grandiose terms and concepts- an aesthetic that reflects the modernity of their beliefs, villa this, axis that, concept of nothing being everything, datum, beaux arts that, white is not always white, machine for this or that, gables, we don’t need no stinking gables, etc. Then one day while going off on one of these rants, the client offered me some cake… mmmm cake. An epiphany occurred; I could see the delicious tree from the Black Forest! From that point on I simplified the explanation of an architect’s value in terms easily understood, cake! Who doesn’t love cake?

I found it easier to compare architect designed houses to non-architect houses as tier cakes from a bakery vs. grocery store bought sheet cake. One can typically stomach a sheet cake. However, is that what you expect from your cake? The sheet cake is just there… lying… like a sheet. There may be some ‘thing’ jammed in the center of the cake that all the kids are raging about, or a gel food coloring message. If you do dare eat it, your teeth will crackle and cringe from the 1,896 grams of sugar per slab, not including the so-called frosting. You’ve seen a sheet cake before, whoo hoo, looks like every other one you’ve seen. You walk past and ignore it. Lying there in the display case of sheet cake suburbia for mass consumption. Sheet cake, no thought, just doing what was done before.

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However, a tier cake from a bakery is, well, it’s prepared for your specific tastes. You’ll meet with the baker to discuss cake flavor options, fillings, combinations, aesthetics, frostings, colors, fondants, how many stories, size, shape, etc. In short, it will be customized for you. It won’t be too small nor too big, it’ll be just right. People will take notice and sense a good cake. They may not know why, but they’ll know it’s better than a sheet cake. One bite and you’ll know it was worth it- first a blast of chocolate, than a quick cool of raspberry, a touch of coffee notes in the frosting, are those white chocolate chunks? You won’t be able to imagine the day without the cake. It’ll be just what you wanted and will even have some delightful surprises.

Hungry? Go grab yourself a slice of tier cake and enjoy. Your tier cake will be the envy of all at the party. If you eavesdrop, you may hear guests saying “Can you believe we put up with sheet cake for so long, what were we thinking?” Trust me, they’ll be taking about your cake for years to come, and it won’t be because of indigestion! So go hire yourself a baker and enjoy some tier cake- and by baker I mean architect and by tier cake I mean a house designed for YOU!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 15 2012, edited/revised per date above- If these are copyrighted cake images, send me a cake sample for proof and I’ll promptly remove the images!

In my previous post, Crickets, I addressed my frustration with potential clients being unresponsive. As an architect I’m always looking to solve the problem at hand and make my client’s responsibilities as easy and efficient as possible. As such, I’ve created the [un]Response Form that can be left with potential clients to review and choose their response. I’ll even go so far as to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the [un]Response Form. Hopefully, this will elicit a few more responses. I present the latest in my library of forms:

 

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Download a PDF for your own use -> [un]Response Form

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted December 9, 2013, edited/revised per date above… the form is provided free of charge, and you assume all liability and comical consequences- however, at any point in the future I can decide to charge $79.99 for a one time use of the form… enjoy!

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Yesterday I was informed of two of things:

1. A residential renovation/addition project I interviewed for was not going to be- the potential client selected another firm.

2. The Schematic Design of a new custom residential house will stay just that, schematic design- the clients will possibly build in the future.

Not the information an architect wants to receive. However, before you start feeling sorry for me and sending pies, mountain dew, and skittles to cheer me up, know this- I’m okay with the news. My clients and potential clients informed me of their decision. While I’m not excited about it, they had the decency to inform me of such. I respect the fact that these clients/ potential clients trusted me and were comfortable having open honest communication. However, that’s not always the case.

As an architect I am constantly marketing and providing information in hopes of securing new work and clients. Several times a week I receive emails like these:

“Hello,

We stumbled across your site on the Internet and hope to speak with you in detail about our farmhouse renovation project. My contact is 123-456-7891 and my husband, ‘Male Potential Client’, can be reached at 123-456-9876.

Thank you,

‘Female Potential Client’

Sent from my iPad”

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Or

 

 “I sent you a quick note via Houzz earlier today and we are interested in talking to you about our project.

I am looking for an architect to design a ‘garage’ attached or adjacent to our house. This garage will have some features of a ‘man cave’ including an area devoted to a ‘gumball arcade’. We would like to invite you to come to our property and look at the possibilities and discuss your ideas and fees for creating a drawing for us. Home is farmhouse style on 14 acres.  

‘Male & Female Potential Client’

Cell:  123-456-1234”

I respond to such inquires with a few questions to get the conversation started. I forward a Residential Design Guidebook that I have developed over the years- it outlines the process of working with an architect and the phases involved. I provide previous project cut sheets that are in sync with the client’s vision for the project. I research property tax records, applicable codes, and zoning requirements. In total this accounts for about 1-2 hours of my time, I consider it due diligence and it affords me the ability to talk realistically about the potential project. I keep the dialogue going via email and/or phone. If all goes well I meet the client, discuss the project, propose a fee/agreement, client is agreeable and we have a new client and new project… * air high fives and pistol gestures* whoo hoo!

 

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However, for various reasons, sometimes clients say no… and that’s okay. My issue is when there is no response. What causes a potential client to be unresponsive? Nothing, nada, zip, the sound of chirping at dusk. Calls stop being returned, emails unanswered, no response. As a potential client, typically you initiate the conversation and request some sort of information. I am more than happy to respond and provide you with information to help you make an informed decision, but please let me know your decision. I don’t spend an enormous amount of time during the initial conversations or creating the information I provide. However, I do spend enough time that warrants a response. As an architect I deal with bad news regularly, it’s part of the profession and I can handle it. No news, well that just drives me crazy!

Is this just me venting due to losing some projects this week? Possibly. However, I’ve thought about this frequently, it’s an issue of common decency. When you are provided with information the least you can do is respond, even if it’s a no, just say “thanks, but I’m not interested.” I respected you by offering a bit of my time and expertise, afford me the same. Inform me, good or bad, such that I can focus my energies accordingly. As a potential client, you should know that it’s okay to say “no” to an architect- we don’t like it, but we can accept it and move on… on second thought, just say yes to your architect, it’ll make things easier for both of us

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 18, 2013, edited/revised per date above… no need to thank me for this post.

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What? Me… hire an architect?” By far, the most common question I’ve heard over the years from potential residential clients. In my experience what they’re actually asking is;

“Can I really afford an architect, aren’t they expensive?”

“Can’t I just by a builder house or buy plans from a book and still end up with what I want?”

“Isn’t an architect just going to design what they want and ignore me?”

These questions weigh heavily on clients, in reality; they couldn’t be further from the truth. However, hiring the services of an architect is not for everyone. Not everyone is building a custom home or taking on a significant renovation/addition. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

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People often don’t think about the cost of a realtor or contractor. Engaging their services costs thousands of dollars. However, you realize the value that they bring to your home and I doubt you would attempt to buy/sell or build your own home without them. Architects should be viewed in the same light. We aren’t as expensive as you might think, our fees are as flexible as the type of project you have in mind. Your home is in all likelihood the most expensive investment you’ve made/will make. Wouldn’t you want to enhance your return by hiring an architect to help guide you through the design and construction process?

Hiring an architect is not something reserved for the wealthy. The majority of my work is working with ‘every-day people’ with moderate budgets- much like me. No matter the scale of the project, be it a garage addition, an in-law suite, or a new million dollar custom home, architects offer services for a variety of budgets and project types. An architect’s value is problem solving, addressing clients’ needs/ wishes/ budget/ schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient home. I help clients design/discover a home that works for them and fits their individuality and preferences. The value of our services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into an efficient cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to the client. This in turn enhances our affordability.

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You could buy a builder house or build a house from a ‘plan book’ or on-line source. Going that route will allow you to build someone’s house, it won’t be your house, but it will be a house. These houses and plans are typically designed for what the ‘masses’ want or what a market analysis determines they want. Either way, it’s not going to be a home tailored to how you live. You’ll be able to choose paint colors, flooring options, fireplace surround, etc. For the most part you’ll be locked-in to a floor plan that appeals to mass buyers. If that’s all you want in a home, than this may appeal to you. However, the best option is a home designed specifically for you. This home will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. I like to equate it as a builder/’plan book’ home fits you like a mitten while an architect designed home fits like a glove.

blog_29_02When it comes to designing your house, an architect will have strong preferences and recommendations. However, ultimately it will be up to you to make decisions. An architect will not force a design on you which you don’t want; if they do try, than you didn’t follow this series about ‘Hiring an Architect.’ We will make recommendations; present differing options, and offer our professional opinion- which is why you hire us. However, ultimately you make the decisions- we work for you. Working with an architect will allow you to make well informed decisions. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle.

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Armed with this series, a potential residential client should feel a bit more at ease about hiring and working with an architect. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email.

The previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

So the next time you find yourself asking “What? Me… hire an architect?” Be sure to answer with a resounding YES!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted September 17, 2013, edited/revised per date above.

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I’ve been involved with client based single family residential design for over twenty years. I’ve worked on single room additions, five million dollar+ custom houses, and everything in-between. Each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. No two clients have the same set of circumstances or needs/wants for their house. However, one issue is always prevalent- value. Usually value is associated with a monetary amount, but that’s not always true. Clients talk about wanting to add, increase, and maintain value… but typically they’re not sure what value they’re talking about or how it applies to their house.

So how does one address value in a house? It’s actually pretty simple; value in a house comes down to common sense and avoiding excess frill. Value comes from things that make sense and enhance ones comfort and enjoyment of living in a house. A valuable house should employ as many of the following as possible:

1. Location/ Orientation house should be located within a reasonable proximity to the client’s daily needs. Ideally, the house should be in a mixed-use community that offers various amenities with-in walking distance- the less dependent on a vehicle the better for the environs and one’s health. A house should be orientated to take advantage of the sun, prevailing winds, and site specific features. In addition, the house interior should have a connection to the outdoors, both visually and physically.

2. Sustainable house should take advantage of both passive and active sustainable building practices. There are numerous exterior and interior strategies/ methods that can be employed to reduce a house’s impact on the environment. However, the best thing is to construct only the spaces necessary.

3. Floor Plan should meet your needs and how you live. Do not design for what you are told is needed to re-sell the home or include whatever the latest trend is, i.e. “man cave/ diva den.” You don’t want rooms that you never use- not only will you have to furnish them but you will also have to heat and cool them- those monies are better spent elsewhere. Efficiency can be achieved by the minimization of the plan and simple building volumes.

4. Rooms/ Spaces all rooms and spaces should have ample daylight, sufficient applicable storage, and logically accommodate the intended furniture. Dedicated hallways and circulation spaces should be kept to a minimum. (entries to the house should be ‘spaces’ not just doors)

5. Kitchens + Bathrooms should be well organized, have efficient layouts, and provide ample storage- all of which can be achieved in a compact or moderately sized space.

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6. Mudroom minimum should include a washable floor, floor drain, and utility sink with a hose attachment. Ideally each occupant of the house would have their own cubby/locker for storage. The mudroom should be located wherever the family foot traffic passes on a daily basis. (it’s usually not the front door)

7. Garage cars are a reality that is not going away any time soon. However, a garage should not be the dominate element on a house. Ideally the garage should be set-back from the main elevation, or even better, if the site allows, the garage should be located on the side/rear and/or underneath of a house.

8. Roof complicated gables, hips, gambrels, etc. can be very distracting to the overall design of a home- they’re even more difficult to flash, vent, and properly waterproof. A roof should be simple in design and shed water.

9. Materials use low-maintenance long lasting materials.

10. Quality should take precedence over quantity. This applies to the entire house- overall size, rooms/ spaces, finishes, etc. Employ fewer elements executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

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The most valuable houses are the ones located in mixed-use walkable communities. Ideally the house is close to the owner’s daily needs. Houses that rely on an efficiency of space and are well designed with simple forms and details. Houses designed to meet the needs of the owners, minimize the life-cycle costs of operating and maintaining the house. A house designed for who you are and how you live – these are characteristics of a valuable house.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted September 24, 2013, edited/revised per date above.

What is the best house? Is it a mid-century modern? Perhaps it’s a contemporary? Is it a Georgian Revival? Is it a Craftsman Bungalow? Is it a 100 year old renovated farmhouse? Or is it something else? Yes… it’s all of these; the best house is the house that works for you and your lifestyle! However, without an architect, achieving the best house for you is challenging.

Most likely you’ve lived your entire life in one sort or another of a house. Typically we take our houses for granted and do not appreciate just how many decisions have to be made prior to constructing a new house, or renovating/adding to an existing house. At some point, someone had to think through the entire design and construction process- address needs, wishes, budget, schedule, and comply with local building and zoning codes- all while ensuring that the resultant house was structurally sound, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. The best ‘someone’ for the task is an architect. Architects are educated to help you define your needs, present options you may not have considered, prepare documents that instruct how your house is to be built, and assist you in the myriad of decisions inherent in the design/construction process… all while making it fun!

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Your house may be the most expensive project you will ever undertake. If you are making such an investment, and you want your house to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is a must. An architect will help you design/discover a house that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. This house, your house, will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. Your house will fit you, and your family, like a glove. An architect will assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality.

We architects take the opportunity to work with you on such an important aspect of your life very seriously. One of the most enjoyable aspects of our work is that we are hired to create wonderful places for daily living. It is a very rewarding experience for both architect and client. What is the best house? Easy, the best house is the house that works for you and your lifestyle! How to achieve the best house- well that’s a bit more challenging and should involve an architect.

What is the best house for you? Talk to an architect and begin the journey, it’ll be a great experience!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted October 14, 2013, edited/revised per date above… and by ‘architect’ I mean talk to me 😉

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Being an architect means constantly going ‘back to school’ and learning… and I don’t mean in the Thornton Melon sense of going back to school- although pulling of a Triple Lindy would be awesome! We architects are always trying to improve our skill set and become better at our craft. However, without Tony Robbins motivation what’s an architect to do? Well, simple, here are a few things you can implement today to make yourself a better architect:

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1. Stop working- rotate your drawings 90 or 180 degrees ccw or cw- continue working.

2. Embrace the fact the next project is your best project- always has been always will be.

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3. Listen to The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.

4. Learn how to self-edit and simplify.

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5. Learn when enough is enough and walk away.

6. Be practical.

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7. Realize there’ll always be a ‘cooler’ architect doing a project you wish you had done.

8. True design begins at the end of your comfort zone, get out of it!

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9. Take a break from architecture and pursue non-related hobbies… you’ll soon see a relation.

10. Accept that there are things you can do to be a better architect.

 

Seems simple, well that’s the point. Too often we overcomplicate architecture and forget the simple things- give a few of these suggestions a try and I guarantee you won’t be dissatisfied- if you are, well go have a snickers! Download your very own PDF cheat sheet-> Become a Better Architect

So what tips do you have to offer to become a better architect?

 

Design On,

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* Don’t doubt my valuable advice… give it a try… you’ll be a better architect in no time! This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Back to School– to read how other architects interpreted the topic for ArchiTalks #21, please click the links below:
 

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Back to School!

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/i-wish-i-were-going-back-to-school/

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: “Back To School”

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Have We Learned? It’s Back To School For #ArchiTalks 21

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
good to go back to school

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Back to School: Marketing for Architects

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Back to School Again

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 21 “back to school”

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Let’s Get Back To (Architect) School …or Work.

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Back to the Cartography Board

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Back to School

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
#ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
getting [schooled] again

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
What’s better than architecture after school?

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Back to {Architecture} School

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Back to School…Suckasssssss

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Back to School: Seoul Studio

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Back to School…

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Back to School? It Doesn’t Stop there for Architects.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Things I wish I knew about Architecture School

Architects tend to speak and ask questions in a circuitous manner. Sometimes, what you may hear from an architect isn’t what’s actually going through the architect’s mind- these are known as Architect Realities. In case you missed our previous post on these realities, the link is provided below. Keep in mind, clients can be just as bad. Below are a few examples of what you may hear from a client, as well as what’s actually going through the client’s mind.

 

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Architects, be sure to keep these in mind for your next meeting with your client; be sure you hear what your client is really saying!

Clients, be sure to review these Architect Realities, and keep them in mind for your next meeting with your architect; be sure you hear what your architect is really saying!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted February 26 2013, edited/revised per date above… My clients don’t do this; it’s just what I hear other clients do.