Taking the Architectural Registration Exam in the Middle East

It’s a tedious process taking the ARE if you’ve graduated from a University in the Middle East when it’s not an accredited program. I thought I’d share my experience in the hope that this would answer some questions you have.

When I was studying at the University of Bahrain; we were told that the NAAB (which is the national architectural accreditation board) was visiting the campus to make an evaluation as to whether our university was considered a viable educational program or not. It seems that it was going to take a lot of time, and I graduated before anything happened. So I was left with a degree that was not nationally recognized. What should I do now?

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Calculating the Total Floor Area

While I was working on a project for a client; creating alternate options and studying which option would work best. It occurred to me that the only reason why this is important is because essentially any client would want to make money leasing flats. The only way to do that is to increase the percentage of the part that’s saleable and reduce as much as possible the amount he has to spend constructing the building.

That’s why it’s important to know how to calculate both the Saleable Area and the Construction Area.
Now this may seem pretty straight forward at start. But there are a lot of calculations that you’re going to need to sum up to get those two variables.

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How Many Mistakes is an Architectural Intern allowed to Make?

You’re always put under a lot of pressure when you’re working in an environment which expects you to get things right all the time. Impossible in any case, it’s more so when you’ve only just graduated. Which was pretty much my case.

Being an Architectural Intern; every time I was given a project, I was very briefly talked through the details of the task. There were times in which I wished I had a tape recorder. It really was that hard.

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Calculating the Total Construction Area

he Total Construction Floor area sums all areas for all building floors. This includes the surface area and thickness of exterior walls (excluding voids), excavated basement areas, and inner and outer balconies.

The Construction Area also includes parking lots, where the asphalted surfaces are considered in the total built area.

Let’s take an example to make things clearer. This is a 5 storey flat located on a plot area of 810 sq.m
We are given three floor plans (The Ground floor plan, The Typical Floor plan, and the Roof Floor plan).

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Attention to Detail

“The Details are not the design, they make the design.”

Details make the difference between a drawing on a paper and  a built project. If you cannot detail what you’ve drawn, you cannot build it.
Take for example a detail of a door. While everyone else sees “a door”, we tend to look into the details that keep the door in place. The frame, the hinges, the screws … The same way designers see colors, architects see details.

Our eyes are accustomed to see things and overlook details that do not matter. This tends to occur especially with places we are in the habit of revisiting on a regular basis. The next time we drop by, we’re seeing what our mind has already stored in our memory and not precisely what exists at that very moment.

When we try to explore details, we begin by training our minds to see beyond what our eyes see. Beyond the people, colors and things. This can be achieved by routine exercise that train our minds to pay more attention. I list some of the techniques I use below:

  1. One sketch a day.
    Sketches form the bridge between the visual and the actual world. When we sketch or draw something we document everything our eyes can capture. All the things we may have overlooked.
    It’s important to know that you don’t have to be a great artist to sketch objects. Sketching is a medium that anyone can use. And this will come handy when practiced on a daily basis. Draw something that lies within your reach or someplace you visited today. Do this again the next day, and the next, till it becomes a daily routine.
    A great tool you can use is this journal: http://www.amazon.com/One-Sketch-Day-Visual-Journal/dp/0811875342
    It’s a lovely journal, and it’s clear formatting makes it very easy to commit to a sketch a day.
  2. Neufert.
    Whenever you have the time- open your copy of neufert and look through some of the details in the book. The biggest library of details you’ll find is in neufert. If you’re looking for a way to understand details better without looking into dimensions, this is a good place to start.
    If you’re a student and find it tiring to keep a neufert in your backpack, you can always save a digital copy that you refer to in your e-reader.
  3. Look around.
    While looking at details can be important, seeing how things look in reality is almost as important. Sometimes if you cannot picture something in your mind it will be difficult to understand it. You wouldn’t want to spend your time learning details that you cannot understand. Where’s the fun in that anyways?
  4. Lumoisty.
    I’ve tried some of their games (http://www.lumosity.com/) one of them being attention games. You can also set daily reminders and notifications on your phone so you don’t miss a day.

What do Architects do Anyway?

Architects design buildings. If you’re an architect you already know this. But if you haven’t practiced architecture, there are a few things that you may not know about the profession.

Architects don’t all perform the same job. Some architects draft, some design and others manage projects. I was lucky enough to do a bit of both drafting and designing. Drafting didn’t require much thinking, since it’s more of a repetitive job. Designing can be frustrating at times. Only when you haven’t got the final say that is.

Project managers are quite at the top of all of this. You’re not designing, but you need to know everything about the project. Assign tasks, manage contractors and designers … and of course set deadlines and milestones.

The job of an architect can vary from one place to another. In some countries architects perform the job of the structural, electrical and the civil engineer. In others, they’re more focused on the social and design aspects of the job. Whereas the engineers are responsible for the technical issues.

Fresh Graduates:

Interns always complain about how they never get the chance to do actual design work. How their job is just about drafting the work of other architects. The boring stuff if you like to say. Which is why we call them “cad-monkeys”. I like to think that it’s not as bad as it sounds. When you’ve just graduated you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the do’s and the don’ts in the job. Building codes, materials, structural details and all the other things you couldn’t have possible studied at school. Drafting the work of other architects gives you an insight on how things are done. Observation is key to understanding.

Design Managers:

I haven’t reached there yet, but I once heard my supervisor -who happens to be a design manager- talk about the 7 years he spent designing as an architect before he became a Design Manager. He didn’t sound so happy, not sure if that had anything to do with his self esteem.  But design managers have a cool position in the office. They meet clients (every architects dream) and choose who does what in the team.

Senior Architects:

A senior architect is the man who sees the project from A to Z. They design, plan and oversee the construction of buildings. Firms looking for senior architects often look for people with 10+ years of experience.

I guess that sums up all what matters in this topic. I hope this helped in giving you a better understanding of what Architects really do.

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