US Handiss Spotlight - Sami Freiji

Handiss Spotlight: Sami Freiji – Principal Design Architect & Project Manager

Sami is a skilled and proven Architect with design experience for education, churches, government, hospitality, healthcare, mixed-use, retail, residential & transportation projects. Throughout his experience, he has demonstrated capacity to provide construction administration and oversight for both commercial & residential projects. In addition to that, he is well-versed in guiding the construction, engineering, and daily operation, scheduling and management of a wide variety of cross-functional teams & external cross-disciplines.

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Q: How do you typically spend your day on the job as a Principal Design Architect & Project Manager?

A: A typical day starts with networking & client contacts & works its way into production. I run a small practice with the goal to maintain control & efficiency as business grows. I do the work of 3 persons; from meeting clients to preparing & signing agreements to going through the 3 standard design phases, to permit submittals & field inspections.

Q: How do you ensure that a project starts off properly?

A: Communication is key to ensuring the proper start & continued success of any project. A well written agreement with goals clearly stated & communicated to all stakeholders. Most problems are due to poor communication at any moment in the life of a project.

Q: How is work picking up in your industry after the recent lockdown?

A: Work surprisingly continued at a fairly steady pace as it was during the lockdown. I mostly work on specialty custom light commercial & custom residential projects. In January 2020, I had 2 substantial projects that continued through the lockdown. Even though there was a general fear of investing in the middle of the pandemic; Many owners took advantage of quiet times to take care of remodeling projects.

Q: What licenses and certificates does an architect need in the US for career growth?

A: State Registration & Licensing is critical to hold the title of ‘Architect’; specially if you wish to be able to design projects other than small single family homes. Also NCARB or national certification comes next to achieve reciprocity & be legally entitled to register & be the ‘Architect of Record’ on projects in any other state. In the last decade LEED & other green certifications have become career additions. However, unless green rating is incorporated into the building code, it will remain optional & the last thing on a project owner’s mind looking to afford their project.

Q: What advice would you give to someone whose career objective is to become an architect?

A: My advice is always avoid ‘Pre-Conception of Form’; design is a discovery process. Master all building systems & how to assemble a set of construction drawings 1st. Art in Architecture is only a by-product of well coordinated & functional elements. Customize education with either a dual degree or a minor degree in Engineering. For too long, architecture schools have focused on art, history, theory, form & style. Even after 6 years of Bachelor of Science & Master of Architecture degrees; you’re not even ready to sit for the registration exam & have barely scratched the surface for what it will take to become a licensed & practicing Architect. I also advise that you take a business & marketing course if you wish to run your own firm someday.

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