Architects Share The Absolute Weirdest Requests They’ve Gotten From Customers That Defy Common Sense
Architecture, both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or any other structures, can be complex. Whether you're an architect or an engineer or craftsman of some kind, there are a lot of different factors to take into account.
So it should go without saying that literally defying the laws of physics goes against common sense, but customers aren't exactly known for that trait.
Property wanted us to evaluate the condition of their boilers and determine the best course of action.
What they REALLY wanted was for us to say "yea you can fix those up for a few more years". Went out with a boiler inspector who condemned the boilers on the spot. We informed them the boilers were not safe at all to operate, and needed replacement immediately.
They wanted us to amend our report to say everything was okay.. We refused, and they decided to stop contacting us...
I got to watch this gem of an e-mail chain over the course of a few days last year. I'm glad it wasn't me, I'm not sure I could have remained as professional as my colleague. (paraphrased to protect the innocent)
Contractor: "Hey, the inspector failed my work because I didn't construct this per your detail. Can you remove that detail from the plan? Thanks."
Engineer: "That was needed because of the anticipated load the owner will put there after construction."
Contractor: "But we didn't do it that way, so can you just pull the detail and tell the owner not to put the load there? Great, thanks."
Engineer: "... No."
Contractor: "Why are you being so unreasonable? The inspector won't give us a pass until you remove the detail. We've already finished the construction."
At this point, the office manager stepped in.
OM: "Sounds like you need to get out there any restart construction."
Contractor: "But that would be really expensive. It would just be easier for us of you changed the plans and the contract documents so we didn't have to do that."
OM: "Well, maybe you should have followed Engineer's plans in the first place. We're forwarding this email chain to Owner. I'm sure they'll be very interested in your new, delayed schedule before work complete."
Worked in a woodshop once a upon an age ago. A lady comes in and asks for a pine thingy for her yard. Guy she's talking to says no, pine will rot there you'll need teak or something a bit more water resistant, especially if your going to bury a bit of it. She was having none of it. Five carpenters came over to explain to her how certain woods are better in wet areas. She wanted pine. Well we had LOSP pine and CCA pine but we weren't getting into this as we knew she'd come back in a few months back asking for a free repair or a refund. She didn't get her product from us and I doubt she got anyone else to make it either. When six professionals come to you to say the exact same thing, maybe consider their words or at least just Google it.
Rich couple just bought a fancy new place and brought in a fairly well known interior designer/decorator. Dude walks into the living room and the first thing he says is "OMG, this place is just perfect for a fire place, you must get one build right here!" Couple agrees because they have more money than sense and will agree with anything as long as they think someone has some level of authority or knowledge.
Problem is, the place they bought is an apartment. On the fourth floor. There were six floors in total. There is literally no way to put a fireplace into this apartment without making massive structural alterations to the building, and I do mean MASSIVE. They couldn't even get a price estimate from any contractor because the work required to figure out the structural alterations was extensive enough to require a price estimate in itself.
Defense contract. The sales engineer sold an optical rocket tracking system for use on a desert coastal test range. And it wasn't until I showed up for testing and started astronomical self calibration that I realized...
In the summer the desert heat drives a standing dust cloud that starts at about 1 km altitude and reaches about 2 km altitude. And flows outward until it precipitated into the sea a few km offshore.
We could NOT see through it. It was impossible. The only time the system was usable was either very late at night or in the winter when the dust cloud went away. The system was useless.
The sales dude did the site visit in the winter.
From a customer: Why did your system fail? You said it would not fail due to a power outage. We did not have a power outage.
ME: Correct, you did not have a power failure. Our system failed when it was electrically shorted due to excessive humidity. The server was under 6' of water.
So an older neighborhood is being gentrified and a developer decides to get in on the act, buys two older one-story storefronts and plans to make them into one building for a restaurant/bar. So far, so good - he hires a well-respected architect to design the space and he decides not to remove the wall dividing the two old stores (which share a common truss roof) but to remove parts of the wall to create "windows" and leave the wall portions between the windows as supports. Restaurant opens, and isn't much of a success because that part of town is still sketchy. Restaurant fails and building stays empty for a year or so. New guy buys restaurant and decides he needs more space so he hires new architect to do something about those windows in the center wall. New architect decides to remove the wall completely and replace it with circular iron columns for that retro steampunk look, and to keep up a little support for that old truss roof.
This restaurant fails because the food was horrible. Third guy buys the restaurant and decides that those iron columns are ugly and takes them out on the advice of some builder who said "that truss roof is good for that span" after building inspector had OK'ed the new work plan which indicated no change to the central supports. Builder was one of those guys who hires casual labor in the parking lot of a Home Depot.
Sanitary inspector arrives one week before opening to check on kitchen, sees that the columns are gone, goes back to his office and calls building inspector, who rushes out to check on things. Condemns building as unsafe. Third owner goes bankrupt, and the building was torn down about six months later.
I watched all this from my office window and got inside reports from the owner of the bar next door. It was the most fun about that particular job.
In a previous job, I was asked by a customer, and my manager, to design, from scratch, something that was: A) way outside our wheelhouse, B) was beholden to numerous fire safety codes, and C) already available from dozens of vendors.
In more recent times I've been told by internal customers that they didn't like the design of a medical device because of the color I chose to render it in SolidWorks.
Former patent engineer here. not me, but guy at the desk next to me was asked to write a patent for an inventor who had a perpetual motion device. everything the guy had made sense, all his math, the deceive, etc, except for the fact that he simply could not comprehend the fact that friction exists and prevents the device from working.
in order for an invention to be patentable, it must be novel, non-obvious and useful. by definition, a perpetual motion device is not useful, because it does not exist.
"Hey, you know that old unit we've had you guys make for a decade which works perfectly fine? Well, we'd like to have a snazzy, updated version. We want more functionality, more controls, a built in computer instead of simplistic/basic controls, its own wifi, double the tank capacity, and make everything more compact. The old one did, like, one thing really well, so make this one do three different things at least. The old ones cost about $20,000, so we'd like the new one to cost less."
There's been about four different meetings of them demanding this. Last I heard there hasn't been any progress on the project.
True story. Mega rich couple are building a new 25,000 sq ft house. 18 months into the project their interior designer begins adding very heavy elements to the plans that the structure is not engineered for. Tempers flare. A new structural engineer is hired. At this point the house is ready for sheet rock; roof is on etc. New engineer raises doubts (here we go) that the structure is built per specifications and undergone proper materials testing and inspections, despite what the records show. Owners lawyer up. Builder lawyers up. Destructive testing is agreed to determine the integrity of the foundation which fails 5% of the cores taken. Settlement ensues. Owner has the whole house torn down and has the excavation filled in. Walked away.
A (potential) customer gave us a very enthusiastic pitch for their (unoriginal) device, the "unique selling point" being that it would last like 10x longer on batteries than all the existing ones on the market whilst being the same size, price, etc..
When we asked how this miracle would be achieved, the answer was that "we just buy a better battery".
Like Apple and Samsung and Tesla etc. had never thought of just using a better battery in their products.
I was once asked to proceed forward with a drop ceiling set 4" from the finish floor above, because "that should be enough for beams and wires and pipes."
I was once asked if our firm could do a small commercial kitchen for less than a quarter of what it would cost (all while the guy griped that it was unnecessary that he should have to build a fire-rated wall or hire engineers for his structural work).
But none of that beats the time I was given a set of schematic drawings by an owner, drawn up by freelancer, to proceed into design development, and somehow neither one noticed that the stairs from one floor to the next were not even in the same location.
I worked on a giant, complicated system for a government agency that pulled polluted groundwater out of the ground, sprayed it into the air (making it into air pollution, but I digress), then pumping the cleaned water back into the ground. They wanted to control the spray system from the state capital city so an expensive remote system that worked over the phone lines was installed. There is a lot of summertime thunderstorms so a lightning detector was installed to protect the remote system from lightning strikes by sensing an approaching storm, taking the whole system down in a controlled fashion and disconnecting everything from the phone lines. The thunderstorms also often knocked out the power so after that a gigantic backup generator was installed, a system almost the size of a railroad box car. The generator was immensely expensive but was finally installed completely.
During a meeting my business partner said "Umm,… why is there a generator for the system when the lightning detection system has already taken the whole system down and shut everything off?"
Dead. Freaking. Silence.
"Umm… Well… You bring up a good point there… That's something we're going to have to look at…"
Hydro electric turbines in the CA aquaduct. He couldn't wrap his head around the fact that the aquaduct is pumped uphill, and he wanted to but hydro turbines downstream from there.
Once had a client who was very into renewable energy and wanted all the lights in their car park to be powered with renewables. They however hated solar panels because "they are too ugly".
They instead wanted a geothermal plant...
In an attempt to demonstrate the impossibility of this exercise I roughly did the calculations for how deep we would need to dig in that part of Australia (we dont have an active volcano on the entire mainland). 12km deep, a 12km deep hole and subsequent power station to power the lights for a 100 car parking lot.
Needless to say they didnt get what they wanted.
part of my job is doing design and drafting for a millwork company.
the amount of times people have wanted a cabinet above their island with zero walls/ceilings touching it baffles me.
We LITERALLY installed a cabinet on airplane cable hanging over her island because she insisted over and over again. The ceiling was a good 16 ft above the island, the thing swayed 4 ft. with a slight breeze, she called back and asked us to remove it, we did, for a fee.
Another lady was insistent we use environmentally safe glues for all of our millwork, we only agreed if she waived the warranty because the environmentally safe stuff may be safer for fish if it ever got into the ground water, but it doesn't fucking work.
She got an Ikea kitchen a few years later when it all fell apart
I was an architect who was working for a lighting design company. The artsy farts interior designer on site for this millionaire's penthouse was delusional and ran up the budget a crazy amount because he honestly didn't know what the hell he was doing.
We were doing a final walkthrough of the penthouse after all the drywall, paint and fixtures were installed, and he asked (in front of the client), "Can we raise the entire ceiling another foot? How hard could that be?"
The contractors and I all just stared at him before the construction manager broke the silence with "are you f**king kidding me?" He spent the rest of the walkthrough huffing and puffing about how we were "overreacting to such a simple request."
I always have to reject my clients ideas because they don't obey the basic laws of economics. If you want your custom house to only cost $500,000 to build, you can't keep increasing the size of every room! I've designed a lot of million dollar houses for clients who did not have a million dollar budget.
A client asked this to my friend, who is an architect:
A single storey house with a flat slab roof made of concrete, like a big balcony, on part of the house. So the owners would be able to put some chairs there, sunbath, have some drinks, etc...
With the house almost done, the owner had a brilliant idea: 'why don't we cut the floor and put a pool on the roof?'.
Dude wanted a pool, with a trampoline there, it took a while to my friend make him understand that the part of the pool that needs to be filled with water would have to be inside his kitchen.
Dude ended up more frustrated than ashamed.
You know it's not a great place to work when employees band together to walk out. Literally.
Unions were basically created for this reason, by having the working people band together to fight against being mistreated by corporations, they create power in numbers. Even without a formal union, there is still power in numbers--no company wants to be tasked with explaining themselves like that.