tnrkitect: (Default)
There has been a lot of talk recently about how "Government employees make too much money" and how the number of  government employees making over $100,000 has increased in the last couple of years.

Here's an interesting factoid.

Even though I earn 66% more in this new job than I did in my old one, my billable rate, the actual amount of money that it costs for me to work on a project that includes not only my pay, but also insurance (health and unemployment), building overhead from rent/mortgage, the overhead of support personnel, paying for vacation and sick leave, etc, etc, etc., has only increased 23 CENTS over my previous job in the private sector.

Mull that one over the next time you hear people complain that government employees make too much money.

(EDIT: For the record, I do not make over $100K)
tnrkitect: (Default)
Work is beginning to get less stressful now as I get more used to the way the Corps does things. In the intervening 11 years since I was last in uniform, I had forgotten just how much PAPERWORK the Army requires to do ANYTHING! lol!

I did a bit of musing on Twitter earlier this evening, and realized that many might get confused when I start talking about clients.

In the Corps of Engineers, we do work for Installations from all parts of the government, not just the Army. The program I work on has "clients" that are from the Air Force, the Army Reserve, the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Defense Logistics Agency, the National Guard, Army Materiel Command, and of course, the Corps of Engineers and the different Army posts world wide.

Speaking of the work I do, I also realized and tweeted about the fact that, even though the job that I do is not dirty, and therefore will never garner me a visit from Mike Rowe of Discovery's Dirty Jobs fame (I am sad about this), it is nonetheless important. My job is to help our clients discover ways to save money by reducing their energy usage. This not only allows commanders to spend more of their budgets on the soldiers, it also saves the taxpayer dollars.

We help our clients be more fiscally responsible by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency.

(Of course, the majority of the efficiency measures we discover in the next few months will most likely not "break ground" until fiscal year 2013... 2012 if we are VERY lucky)

So yeah, it is not architecture, but the new job actually let me make a DIFFERENCE.  Feels kinda nice, you know?
tnrkitect: (Default)
So, I've been thinking recently. As many may know, I have a new job working for the Corps of Engineers in Huntsville. My job is a Project Manager, and I manage Energy Surveys of DoD installations worldwide as we do them. I have clients (the installations) to keep happy (they are spending money from their budgets to pay us to do the work as the "experts"). I have engineers to manage that actually do the work or supervise the contractors that do the work. I deal with contract negotiations, budgets, scheduling issues, all the same stuff that I would do on a building project. The work is interesting and enjoyable, I'm continually learning, I get to travel, and the pay, job security, and vacation time can't be beat.

The only perceived drawback is that there is no design/creative aspect to the job.

By training and profession (and job description within the COE system) I am an Architect. The Corps even pays for my license renewal every year, and makes sure I have the opportunity to get the Continuing Education I need to keep my license. Yet the skills that I use for this job are the ones that do not require design.

The interesting thing is, I am OK with that.

Why?

Because I can get my design "fix" elsewhere! Who says that I can only be creative at work? Most commercial / government / military architectural work doesn't really require a lot of creativity. Your time is spent squeezing every last penny you can out of the design by only doing the minimum work required to give the customer the same old building typology dressed up in a different rearrangement of the same tired architectural tricks.

If a building has a brick facade, it is NOT a requirement that all corners must have quoins! It is not a requirement that every restroom that has upgraded decor must have an Uba-tuba granite counter top with a white, raised bowl sink and a single handle brushed nickel faucet that has an extension on it to be high enough to flow into the sink. I do not have to have only flat paint on all interior wall surfaces.

By NOT having to do design at work yet still getting paid to keep up my knowledge, it actually frees my creativity. I can reserve it for sketching, drawing or painting. I can use it for creating the miniature environs of a model railroad accurately. I can build furniture. I can moonlight, doing only the work I WANT to do. I can design and create architectural follies, or my own versions of tiny houses. I can experiment.I can renovate an old house.

The point is, my creativity is not wasted churning out the same tired design reconfigured to fit the requirements of a new building.

I get the best of both worlds.

Job security and skills maintenance, without the restrictions of having to conform my creativeness to the least common denominator.  AKA...

"How much is THAT going to cost me?"

The possibilities!

(Addendum: I must note that the above is true for my position within the Energy Division. PM's of project that deal with design MAY get the chance to design in their daily job, however I am not certain as I have not seen the way they allocate work.)

tnrkitect: (Default)
I have now been at the new job for 3 weeks, and am just now starting to actually do any work relating to my job. LOL! It has been a seemingly endless procession of "you can't have access to this until you take this class" or "these are the 20 some odd mandatory classes you have to take as a new hire"

Anyways, today, I booked the flight, hotel and rental car for my first trip with the Corps. I will be flying to, of all places, Ft Riley, KS, where I was stationed while on active due back in the mid 90's.

It's funny, but the last time I was there, I was a lowly E-4 Specialist in rank. Now, I will be going back as a GS-13 civilian, which is considered equivalent in rank / duties to a Major. A slight improvement, no? :-)

I will be going along to act as the EEAP team representative when we debrief the post Director of Public Works and his staff on the results of the EEAP survey. What is EEAP? Glad you asked!

Energy Engineering Analysis Program — EEAP analyzes energy usage at installations and provides options for reducing energy consumption. Working with our partners, we completed energy surveys at eight Army installations in FY 2009. Since the program began in 2006, we have completed 24 surveys identifying approximately 2,204 potential energy saving projects when implemented; potentially saving the government $116 million per year in energy costs if implemented. (Note: the above figures do not include the projects completed in FY10, which ends September 30th, 2010) EEAP leverages expertise and capabilities of USACE and Department of Energy labs and other organizations.

This effort includes:
1. energy consumption assessments for selected facilities/installations,
2. evaluation, identification and recommendations of implementation options for energy conservation projects,
3. overseeing implementation of selected options,
4. assistance in sustaining local energy programs,
5. providing energy-related training, and
6. water conservation and waste water treatment.

My position with the Corps is as a Project Manager in charge of doing EEAP surveys for our "clients", army installations worldwide.

I will put together the team that surveys the installation, manage the creation of the report the team generates, debrief the installation personnel on the findings in the report, and most importantly, generate the DD form 1391's which are the Army's official means of determining what is worth being built.

The Corps explains it as such: "A DD Form 1391 is a construction project programming document used to scope, estimate, and justify all types of construction (MCA, OMA, NAF, etc.)"

Basically, the 1391 is a document that describes the potential project in a fair amount of detail, which when complete is ready to have the project funded and put out to bid for completion. By preparing 3 1391s for the installation, we are essentially giving them 3 turn-key energy projects that they can secure funding for that will aid them to meet the Army's sustainability and more importantly energy security goals that are required by policy.

Each army installation is required by policy to reduce their overall energy costs by 2015 to 30% below the baseline year of 2003, then continue on to become net-zero by 2030.

The EEAP program gives the installations a road map on how to achieve those mandatory goals, and I will be be providing that service.

Right down my alley, no?
tnrkitect: (Default)
Well, I am sitting in my mostly empty house here in Huntsville, AL. By mostly empty I mean that I have:

- 1 card table
- 1 folding chair
- 1 folding 16" x 30" side table
- 1 laptop stand
- 1 air mattress
- 1 fitted sheet
- 1 non-fitted sheet
- 1 16" sq. throw pillow
- 1 plate
- 1 bowl
- 1 butter knife
- 1 steak knife
- 1 fork
- 1 spoon
- 1 skillet
- 1 small pot
- 1 large pot
- 1 tumbler glass
- 1 pizza pan
- 1 computer
- 1 shower curtain
plus toiletries, and enough clothes and food to last me the week.

It's a bit lonely being here without Jessica, but I am headed back to Knoxville this weekend and she will be down shortly thereafter with our cat Annie. :-)

I am enjoying the new job so far, trying to digest a LOT of information. The Army does things quite differently from private A & E firms, and I am doing a LOT of reading trying to get familiar with it. This is aided by the fact that I do not have computer access at work yet. Why you might ask? Well, I do not have my Civilian Employee ID Card yet, and the computer uses a card reader and the ID to allow me to log on.

I have been issued a crackberry Blackberry Bold 9700, and have already been informed of when my first trip will be. I get to go to the DC area September 13th through 15th to observe and help with a Level Zero Energy Engineering Analysis Program (EEAP) survey at three bases in the area: Ft. Myer, Ft. McNair, and Ft. Meade.

They have also asked if I had my passport yet, but just for general knowledge, since they have no need to send me overseas, ...yet.

Anyways, I am looking forward to learning the new job, especially since we will be identifying problems then recommending their solutions in a structured plan to make the buildings on the bases in the Army more energy efficient,thereby helping the Army be better stewards of the monies allocated to them by Congress for building construction and maintenance. It will help the Army obtain energy independence, and reduce the government's dependence on foreign oil.

It's funny,the Army not only acknowledges peak oil, but is actively doing something to try and mitigate it's effects on their operations. Too bad the rest of the government is not as forward thinking.
tnrkitect: (Default)
A week from today, on Monday August 9th, I start my new job with the Corp of Engineers at the US Army Engineering Support Center in Huntsville, AL.

I will be doing energy assessments and overseeing the design and implementation of retrofits to existing army facilities worldwide.

Best part of it all, it means a 66% pay increase over what I was making at MBI!

Wish us luck, because we have to finish the house (see previous post) find a place to live, and move at least me down there in 1 week.

Uggh. But still, YAY!
tnrkitect: (Default)
I am mentioned in 2 articles & the school I worked on is in a 3rd in the Michael Brady, Inc Sept.Newsletter(PDF)http://tinyurl.com/kpmvzb
tnrkitect: (Default)
Deadline tomorrow at work, so am here working late.

In lieu of real content, I give you the future of school buses, after oil gets too expensive.
tnrkitect: (Default)
Due to a Friday deadline.
tnrkitect: (Default)
Pay review went well, (with a raise!) and then I got home to find another PASS result on another section of the ARE.

For those keeping score:

Structures - Fail - retake it after the 17th of August due to missing something on the graphics portion

Building Design & Construction Systems - Pass

Construction Documents and Services - Pass

Site Planning and Design - Pass

Building Systems - TBD

Schematic Design - Take it in 1 week from tomorrow

Programming, Planning & Practice - Take it June 15th.
tnrkitect: (Default)
Well, even though I may not necessarily agree with the concept of the recently passed stimulus package, I am not above accepting the aid it is giving, in both the personal and professional aspects of my life.

The personal aspect was covered previously, and resulted in a HUMONGOUS tax return a few weeks back thanks to our buying a house last year. This allowed us to pay off our credit cards, and pay off the last of the mortgage on the land across from mom, as well as pay down some other bills and give us an emergency fund. The paying off the credit cards was particularly satisfying in that I received a notice from Capital One that effective April 17th, they were changing the terms on my credit card with them, going from the fixed 8.9% interest rate I've had since I got it over 5 years ago to a variable rate equal to 17.9%. It seems that I am not the only ones getting hit by this either: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/02/cap_one_revolt.html

I had the option of not accepting the changes and closing my account, which I did to spite them. I don't need their credit, especially if they are treating good customers this way.


The professional aspect of the stimulus is beginning to surface now. A major part of our team's work has been renovations and the occasional new construction projects for a good number of the public housing authorities in east Tennessee. In good times, this sort of work tends to be poo-poohed by architects, as it is not glamorous, there is a good bit of leg work involved, and most of the projects are piddly renovations that don't earn much such as window replacements or re-roofing jobs. But, they are still profitable, especially if you know what you are doing.

Now having contracts with the housing authorities is turning into a boon, as they are still spending money. Plus, the stimulus package just passed is giving them approximately 140% more funds (for a total of 240% of their normal yearly allotment), and the bonus amount has to be "allocated" within 1 year or they lose it. In H.A. parlance, allocated funds are those that have a project under contract with a contractor.

So... we are getting busy busy BUSY!

In other news, I have a headache tonight, that is making studying difficult. :-(
tnrkitect: (Default)
Today has been a rough day so far.

The architectural firm I worked for laid off 25 people. Those of us that are left took a 10% pay cut.

If the business environment doesn't turn around by June... well, who knows what will happen to the firm.

I hate the relieved yet guilty feeling of being among those who made it through.

I am thankful though.

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tnrkitect - Musings of an Unconventional Mind

June 2011

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