Architects DCA is an Ottawa-based architectural practice with roots dating back more than 25 years. We strive for design excellence – This means balancing the creative architectural solutions to client needs with the practical aspects of creating quality, durable, beautiful buildings. As such, we not only develop and promote architectural excellence in the buildings we design, but we do so while successfully developing and fostering positive customer relationships. This balance allows us to continually deliver projects on time, within budget and ultimately, with the respect of all parties involved in the life of any one of our architectural projects.
The firm’s project experience includes commercial, retail, office, industrial and institutional work in varying settings. It includes infill residential, both single family, multi-unit and condominium projects. It includes leading edge, high-tech, research and development facilities in complex environments. We thrive on complexity and challenge.
We have a thorough understanding of applicable building codes and the approval processes for the various jurisdictions that our practice covers, including federal, provincial and municipal approvals. We are actively engaged in the planning and approval stage of projects to help ensure that the client objectives are met and that architectural excellence is at the forefront of all our buildings.
The firm has a currently certified ISO 9001:2015 quality management system. Through this system, we Plan, Do, Check and Act in a standard cycle that helps us be clear about our how we deliver excellence to our clients.
We are an active member of both local business organizations and provincial and federal architectural associations including the Ontario Association of Architects and Architecture Canada. The firm believes in active involvement to “give back” through volunteerism, mentorship, and support for allied arts and professionals.
We are firm believers in design excellence. We want to design buildings that our clients, our city, and our team can be proud of. Our goal is that our designs meet our client’s goals, contribute positively to the urban environment, and stand the test of time.
We believe in building trust between our team and our clients. We will always assign a single point of contact so that our clients know exactly who they can turn to, to get things done. A fundamental part of our management philosophy is that communication is a key to any project. Our strategy helps instructions and documents to flow through, to and from, the project team members and clear communication is often the cornerstone to keeping the project on budget.
We are certified under the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System. For twelve years, this standard has formed part of our corporate culture. Adopting this standard helps us provide road maps for all projects. Quality Control and Quality Assurance are relevant to the design process. Our quality manual documents office procedures and is a key tool in measuring success.
Our philosophy on execution is based on the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle encouraged by the Quality Management processes. This means that we will document all project actions. For some clients that means detailed reports and tracking are necessary; not all clients want that level of administration so our system is flexible enough to be able to work with exactly the kind of reporting our clients need, on their project. We believe in building a relationship of listening and trust so that our systems provide the documents needed through the natural progress of a project, and is adaptable to the specific needs of each project.
In short, we believe if we listen to our clients, plan well, communicate effectively, and work as a team, we will produce excellent work.
As architects, we are natural project managers. Our professional skills and services lend themselves to a variety of services under the broader definition of Architecture.
Architects are creative problem solvers. We think outside the box to come up with innovative solutions to solve design issues. This can range from simple support to electrical engineers to solve access issues around generators, to leading large, multi-disciplinary teams on complex projects.
As architects, we are interested in all aspects of design, including urban planning, interior design, furniture, and of course, traditional architecture. We look at constructability of buildings to understand how to build, not just what to build. We are interested in chemistry and materials, how things work together and react; we are interested in material sourcing to understand the impact of the built environment on climate change. We are interested in the local economy to understand how our clients’ buildings can affect local jobs, businesses, and ways of life.
We are life-long learners and seek to always expand our understanding of the world around us.
Retail and office buildings including new buildings, additions, renovations, adaptive reuse and tenant fit-up for a variety of retail and commercial uses. Projects like this need to be delivered on time, on target, and with a high degree of diligence to suit specific client needs for marketing and industry brand recognition. Projects in this category often include detailed planning to produce the most efficient built form, often with a goal of being adaptable to changing tenant requirements, and office layout needs.
Residential Architecture – Single Family
Single family homes require a highly developed understanding of the needs of a variety of individuals. No two projects are ever exactly the same, just as no two families are identical. Custom homes, including new homes, additions and renovations, are designed from the perspective of addressing the individual needs of the owner/family/occupants. A unique task-based design strategy allows for progressive development of design that incorporates owner participation in the design process.
Residential Architecture – Multi Unit
Infill development of multi-unit residential projects, including condominiums, mid and high rise, as well as smaller scale multi-unit projects are more and more the norm as our cities densify. These projects require a sophisticated understanding of the complexities of site planning, sensitivity to urban conditions and development requirements including zoning and urban design guidelines. Projects also require thorough knowledge of acoustics, programming, and Tarion legislation to understand the complex regulatory environment of these projects. As public space around a home is reduced, and more and more people live in closer proximity, the higher the quality those spaces need to become. As architects, it is our role to strive for design excellence so that the urban environment becomes a positive place to live, work and play.
We believe that urban design, and architecture’s role in city building, is affected by a range of disciplines. The impact of walkable communities, bicycle networks, local food/farmers markets and local business/economy are key factors of urban design that are of particular interest. How a building is inserted into the urban fabric and responds to its context is a key element of a project’s success. We work hard to understand how the built form affects, and is affected by, its context to create lasting value for our clients, and our communities.
Industrial Architecture / Research & Development
Industrial projects are often designed for specific-use industrial processes. The architecture of the space becomes critical to be able to support the function of the industrial process and meet the client’s objectives for spatial and aesthetic concerns. We work in close collaboration with the key stakeholders to understand the program requirements and deliver on-time solutions. Industrial projects are also often set in a difficult environment where maintenance is not easy. Understanding durability and the investment made in processes and equipment, and the necessity of a high quality built form is important. Similarly, laboratory, research and development projects often require a careful programming stage to understand the scientific processes behind the facility. Having a thorough understanding of the needs of the science sector, and creating spaces for scientists to innovate, collaborate and develop, results in flexible spaces that meet the needs of todays scientific community. We strive to understand the scientific process and work with a range of stakeholders in programming and functional analysis. As these kinds of projects have significant mechanical, electrical and process engineering components, we work closely with specialized teams to ensure a detailed understanding of services to support research activities.
Projects include churches, schools and government facilities. Projects are often developed through stakeholder interviews and a detailed understanding of the project needs to ensure the best value for the end users. We recognize and respect that this can include projects where members of a community have fund-raised specific amounts for the project over the course of many years; the building can represent the hard work of the community. School and governmental projects rely on a longer term vision and development with an eye towards buildings that last for generations. Research and academic projects (including laboratories) that are designed for flexibility and change-of-process is an inherent requirement to allow the building design to adapt to the pace of change in the academic and research sectors. We understand that in many projects of this type, there is a desire for design excellence, but there is concern about creating an image of wastefulness. This is especially true when limited public funding is available. In these projects, we work hard to maximize the value of the investment, relying on a few key strategic moves to demonstrate high quality design while working diligently to ensure solid documentation provides evidence of long term value for publicly funded infrastructure.
Our Architecture Advocacy Efforts
The following explains the 4 key areas of focus for Architects DCA when it comes to advocating for the role of architects in society:
Supporting Local Firms
Architecture contracts are sometimes awarded to large multi-disciplinary firms from out of town, when immense talent exists right here in Ottawa. Instead of going outside of the capital, we need to demonstrate that the same work assigned to a large firm can be awarded to two or three small-to-medium local firms. In addition to supporting the local economy, this scenario offers the added benefit of knowledge and familiarity with the city where the project is located. From existing relationships with City Hall to an appreciation and understanding of local history and design, supporting local should be obvious. And where collaboration with large out-of-town firms is needed, due to their unique specialty experience, these partnerships need to be truly collaborative. As a SME (small to medium enterprise) we’ve regularly been involved in projects worth tens of millions of dollars, as have most other SME architecture practices in the city. There’s no reason to imagine that large or complex projects can’t be managed by experienced local firms.
Association Membership and Volunteerism
One of the best ways to create positive networks for collaboration, learning, and professional development is through active membership or volunteerism in provincial and federal associations such as the Ontario Association of Architects and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Participation in such bodies encourages a much more supportive and collegial vibe, and also has the power to cultivate partnerships that can lead to projects. It creates a shared voice on key issues that affect the entire profession, allowing for a singular voice to be amplified. At the grassroots level, getting involved with the Ottawa Regional Society of Architects, Heritage Ottawa or a local business improvement, community or similar board helps create a positive network for communities to show how #architectscanhelp
Because the policies and official plans of cities are so inextricably linked to the efforts of architects, it’s imperative that the architecture community exercise its right to participate in the greater conversation. This means being engaged, vocal and astute. Complaining doesn’t get us anywhere. But thoughtful, measured arguments based in fact can. Developing a shared voice for conversations on the role of architecture in cities is essential to our role in working for the public interest. This comes with challenges since political activism can be polarizing, and affect one’s relationships with clients/potential clients. Walking that fine line is a continuous challenge, especially in today’s politically charged, social media dominated discourse.
Good design begins with demanding that procurement departments stop placing value on the lowest bidder. Instead, they should be focused on quality, skill and design innovation. Current procurement models think they focus on quality, but once a minimum technical threshold is met, the selection of consultants is driven largely by fee: who can bid cheapest, deliver the minimum services asked for, and is willing to take the business or professional risks that the project asks for. Our built environment deserves a more thoughtful approach that leads to better design and extended lifecycle.
When a Request for Proposal (RFP) asks for the impossible, or procurement departments don’t know what they’re asking for, the public suffers; school board and municipal procurement departments who treat the purchase of professional services the same as purchase of paper goods or lawn maintenance fail to act in the public interest and do a disservice to the government departments they serve. Decades of case study, and law, in the United States, as well as from around the world, show that Quality Based Selection (QBS) improves the quality of the built environment.
The common procurement practice known as the P3 model (public/private partnerships) has been abundantly proven to deliver lower lifecycle value, greater cost, longer project completion time, and mediocre design. The architecture community needs to continuously voice its concerns on the impact of the P3 model on our built environment, and drive home why quality, skill and design innovation matter more than cost in the long run.
Why does this matter? The role of an architect in the design of new buildings, and the renovation of existing ones, has a significant impact on the functionality, lifecycle value and energy performance of the resulting building. If an architect can innovate, developing ideas to make the building function better, improve the community, or save on operations and maintenance costs, isn’t that worth something?
Its not about spending more money but about spending that money wisely.
We create buildings to house our families and provide a place to learn and work. We create works of architecture that reflect our culture. Who we are is manifested in what we build, and leaves a legacy for future generations. We should build the best we can, for the budget, and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.