The Studio 29: Shout-Out to Stephanie!

by Tim Alatorre

Nicholas Williams, B’Arch ’06, CM minor, M’Arch, and owner of nicholas WILLIAMS; develop + design + build talks about his latest projects and why he doesn’t have a desire to get his Architect’s license.

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Show Notes

Site News

  • New Facebook Fans
    • Jeremy J. Steinmeier
    • Joel Chapin
    • Michaelle Goodman
    • Stephanie Burton

Cal Poly News:

General News

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Cal Poly or Berkeley? CP
  • Autocad or Revit? Sketchup
  • Parallel bar or T-Square? Nothing, he doesn’t like straight lines
  • Facebook or LinkedIn? Facebook
  • Arch Record, Arch Digest, or Architect? Residential Archtiect
  • Drafting dots or tape ? Dots
  • Yellow trace or white? Yellow
  • Ad Markers or Prisma? Prisma
  • Pen or Pencil? Pen
  • Mac or PC? PC
  • What’s the Meaning of Life? show-up ?? (is that what he said??)



  • What has he been up to after graduating from Cal Poly?
  • Working on Remington Court inspired him to go out on his own and he has 6 projects now
    • He now works with Robert Dunner Rowon Ogden, a general contractor who owns sunrise construction
      • (correction 9/1/2010, Rowon Ogden is a graphical designer Nick works with)
    • He’s doing projects that he loves and seeing them actually get built
  • Advice for others thinking of going out on their own
    • It’s scary at first but it takes time and dedication
    • The economy is forcing many people to make that decision, but that could be a really great thing
    • It’s not rocket science, it’s building, so once you start thinking like a builder you can do it, it’s like an erector set
    • Once you understand how to build it you can try to build it for less, push the envelope
  • His Railyard project:
    • It’s a speculative project, and the banks aren’t really loaning to these types of projects
    • Even though banks aren’t giving as much as they used to it could be a good thing to challenge designers to do more with less
  • Observations of the economy and current state of things:
    • It’s a matter of survival right now, but maybe only the strongest will survive
    • It’s a great time for architects because people are recognizing that architects create value
    • Even if you aren’t working, go out and be a laborer, have a good attitude and learn from everything you’re doing
    • Watching a building go up is an education in itself, regardless of the perspective that you see it from
  • Currently working towards licensure? progress?
    • No, he’s not licensed and he’s not seeking it right now
    • He can do a lot right now without a license
    • He would love to have his license, but at the same time he can do a lot that architects can’t
    • Plus there are the issues of liability, and he doesn’t want to be sued 20 years down the line
    • A stamp on a drawing is liability, everytime you stamp a drawing you’re adding more liability
    • When you’re working with a great engineer they may take that risk from you based on your Errors and Omissions insurance
    • The buildings we create are greater than we are individually, there are many people that are involved and take part in creating and building them
  • Getting the Square Footage cost down is a big part of what he’s doing, what are some strategies
    • Optimal Value Enginnering (OVE) Framing, Advanced Framing: placing studs at 24″ on center saves your 33% on the cost of wood. You have to line up every joist with the stud, plus you get more insulation with the decrease in studs, there’s other strategies of streamlining and cutting out wood from the framing.
    • Manage the site well, sequence things, manage the people working so there is more efficient time spent doing the hard labor.
    • Having a trusting relationship with a great contractor, having a good buisness relationship is being able to bring something to the table that the other person doesn’t have.
  • What were factors that helped him get to where he is now, how did Cal Poly prepare him:
    • Cal Poly was a great foundation for what he’s doing, but he highly recommends the Woodbury program
    • Learning about the business of developing and building is really key
    • Being in the construction industry in general helped
    • The biggest part of what makes you successful is being able to talk to people from all walks of life
  • There are other ways to achieve sustainable design that don’t involve LEED
  • Words of wisdom:
    • Don’t be scared
    • Working in a huge firm they have huge projects to cover their overhead
    • You can do things for less when you go out on your own
    • Develop relationships with good people
    • People want champagne on a beer budget, many clients want to do more than they can afford.
    • It’s a business, we all want to do great buildings, but we have to get them built
      • Value Engineering is the bane of our existence
    • Learn Spanish
    • A lot of architects come on the jobsite and they don’t understand how the building goes together
  • Final thoughts on Cal Poly
    • More nails and studs rather than theory!

About the Author

Tim Alatorre