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Derek Leavitt

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Modative Interview by Business of Architecture

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 @ 06:04 AM

Last year we had the pleasure of having Enoch Sears from the Business of Architecture visit our office and conduct an on-camera interview. We've always really appreciated Enoch's approach of focusing on the business side of architecture, something that has been a vital part of our practice. So, last week, Enoch published the interview on his website and we are very happy with the results. It's an open and honest depiction of the critical issues we've faced in the last few years, which include (taken from Business of Architecture's website):

  • Promoting a hands-on approach for staff.

  • Creating a process to help your clients believe in your brand.

  • Learning to say “No” and staying focused on your firm’s goals.

  • The benefits of showing your clients an open and honest process.

  • A design-driven website vs. an informative website.


modative business architecture interview

If you're interested, you can see the interview (and a transcript) on the Business of Architecture site - THE SECRETS TO A SUCCESSFUL ARCHITECTURE FIRM: INSIDE THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE FIRM MODATIVE

Enjoy!

Tags: Project Strategy, Organization, Architectual Practice, modern architecture firm, employees, architecture resources, Marketing

Modative Featured in Fox News Story on Small Lot Subdivision

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Fri, Nov 1, 2013 @ 16:11 PM

On October 17, Modative was fortunate enough to be featured in a Fox News National TV story on small lot subdivison in Los Angeles. Christian and I really enjoyed spending several hours with producer Laura Prabucki and her team, touring a few of our projects and conducting interviews with the two of us as well as a few of the residents that live in the projects we designed. 

Modative Fox News Small Lot Story

The story isn't really about architecture, but rather the larger impact that this trend has on society and the economy. We were really happy with the final cut and are thankful to the the residents that made themselves available for tours and interviews. The story was featured on Fox News (national) several times on October 17 and has made a few appearances on local news affiliates around the country. If you weren't able to catch it on TV, click the link to watch it online - Tiny homes trend: Narrow houses built on smaller lots

modative small lot subdivison fox news tv

 

Projects featured in the story include 726 California Ave (project in the opening live shot in Venice), Cullen Street Homes (project with the open wood stair in the living room) , Fay 2X Homes (interior shot above) and Fay 3X Homes (project under construction in the video). 

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Announcements, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, Small House

Modative Featured in LA Times Article on Small Lot Subdivision

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 12:07 PM

On Sunday, July 14, The Los Angeles Times featured an article on the front page about the growing popularity of Small Lot Subdivision in Los Angeles. We were lucky enough to be included in the article along with Planet Home Living (our client on the Artis @Echo Park project) and the Heyday Partnership.

Los Angeles Times Small Lot Subdivsion Architect Modative

Sunday Los Angeles Times Front Page.

LA Times Small Lot Home Architects Modative

And the Rest of the article. The images are from our Artis @ Echo Park project.

Modative has been focused on Small Lot Subdivision since our founding in 2006 and we are glad to see this innovative ordinance gaining in popularity in Los Angeles (and hopefully some other cities soon).

To read the article onlinehttp://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-small-lot-homes-20130714,0,563473.story

 

To learn more about developing Small Lot Subdivision Projects, we recommend downloading our free guide here. 

We also have a free Small Lot Subdivision Information Packet.

A list of Modative's Small Lot Subdivison Projects.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, Small House, Housing

Modative Architecture's 2012 Year in Review

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 @ 06:12 AM

Fortunately, 2012 has been a very busy year for us, which is why there's been little time for blog updates. So we thought we'd let you know about four important things that happened at Modative in 2012:

1. Cullen Art District Homes Sold

Cullen Art District Small Lot Subdivision

Our three home, small lot subdivision project on Cullen Street sold very quickly at the following prices.

Home A (Front): $650,000

Home B (Middle): $650,000

Home C (Rear): $675,000

Small Lot Subdivision Los Angeles Plans

The Cullen Street project was initiated by our client during a very uncertain economic time so it's great to see this project's ultimate success.

2. Modern Homes Under Construction

We currently have four residential projects under construction:

726 California Ave

A three-home small lot subdivision in Venice, CA. This project is currently wrapping up stucco, siding and interior finishes and should be complete by March 2013.

Venice Small Lot Architects Modern

Rendering

modern home venice architects 726 CA

Home A along California Ave. Stucco and siding going in on 12.21.12.

Venice small lot architects modative 2012

Home C from the alley.

 

Artis @ Echo Park

Construction of Phase I (8 homes) is underway on this 15-home small lot subdivision in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Artis is currently in framing and the first set of homes should be complete in the spring of 2013. Artis @ Echo Park was posted on Curbed Los Angeles earlier this week.

Artis @ Echo Park Modern Architects

Rendering

Echo Park Modern Architects 2012

First floor framing on 12.21.12.

Artis Echo Park small lot subdivision 2012

Phase I includes building the first eight homes.


Roberts Ave Residence

A single family residence in Culver City, CA that overlooks a public park.

modern culver city architects

Rendering

culver city residential architects contractors

slab pour


Fay 3X Homes

Three townhouse apartments. This is Phase II of III of the Fay Ave Art District Dwellings (a future small lot subdivision). Phase I, the Fay 2X Homes was complete in late 2011, featured in the Los Angeles Times in February 2012, and are still occupied by the original renters. Here's a bit more info on the design of the Fay 3X Homes. This phase is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2013. Also of note, Modative Build is the contractor on this project. And we will be building even more of our projects as we push into 2013.

fay 3x modern home architects

Rendering of 3X homes (left) next to the existing 2X homes (right).

Fay 3X modern los angeles apartment framing 2012

Framing started at Fay 3X Homes on 12.19.12

modern apartmnet architects fay 3x framing 1

And this is what it looked like a day later on 12.20.12

 

3. New Projects in 2012

2012 brought a lot of great new projects into the office. Here are some highlights:

Cardiff Cubes

We signed up this project in the first week of 2012; a great sign for the year. Cardiff Cubes is a three-home small lot subdivison near downtown Culver City. This project is approved by planning and is currently in the permitting phase. Construction start expected in spring of 2013.

 

cardiff cubes small lot subdivision los angeles

 

Fay 3X Homes

As mentioned above, this project is under construction.

fay 3x homes culver city arts district

 

Venice Boulevard Live/Work - Eight live/work apartments in Los Angeles. The likely future Modative and Modative Build world headquarters.

venice blvd modern live work los angeles architects

 

Ocean Park Hangar Homes

A four-home small lot subdivison in Los Angeles inspired by the nearby aviation and hangars of the Santa Monica Airport.

santa monica modern home architect ocean park

 

Milwood Avenue Residence

A single family spec home in Venice, CA. Scheduled to start construction in a few months.

Venice Modern Residence Architects

 

Vernon Avenue Residence

A single family spec home in Venice, CA. Scheduled to start construction in spring or summer of 2013.

Vernon Ave Residential Modern Architecture Firm Venice

 

 

Pettis Avenue Residence

A single family residence in Mountain View, Ca (that's up North). Scheduled to start construction in 2013.

Mountain View CA Modern Architects

 

4. New People in 2012

The new projects enabled us to add three new staff to our existing team of four, bringing our total to seven. We were very happy to welcome Dena, Jesus & Jesse to our team this year.

Modative Architecture Staff Add 2012

We didn't even ask them to smile. They did it on their own because they love working here.

 

Happy Holidays. See you in 2013!

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, website update, Architectual Practice, Residential, construction, Small Lot Subdivision, Cullen Street Homes Construction

Modative Featured by University of Southern California

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

Earlier today, USC posted an article by Allison Engel on our firm, USC Architecture Alums Make a Big Splash by Going Small. It goes into some detail on our background, founding, Small Lot Subdivison projects and surviving the recession. The three Modative founders (& Krystal) all attended USC's School of Architectureand feel very honored to be featured in this piece by the University.

usc architecture firms modative resized 600

Modative's founding partners in front of the Fay 2X Homes. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf

Many thanks to Allison and Dietmar for coming out to interview and photograph us for this piece.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Architectual Practice, modern architecture firm, Starting an architecture firm, Small Lot Subdivision, Housing

Modative Job Opening: Junior Architecture Position in Los Angeles

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:08 AM

We've had a busy year here at Modative and it's time to add to our team. If this looks like the position for you, please apply. If you think someone you know may be interested, please pass it along.

modative architecture job 2012

What you'll be working on

You'll be working under a project manager on design and construction documents (using ArchiCAD) on a few modern residential projects in the Los Angeles Area. You will gain extensive hands-on experience in what it takes to put a modern building together. This is a full-time position (40 hours/week), but is temporary, lasting about six months. If the project load in our office was to remain the same, this position could become a permanent position.

Mandatory Qualifications

1. Must have ArchiCAD (not AutoCAD) experience and be ready to be productive using this software from day one. Our office is currently using ArchiCAD 15 & 16.

2. Degree in architecture
3. One to three years of professional experience in the architecture field using ArchiCAD for construction documents.
4. Only persons currently residing in and able to legally work in the US will be considered. No international applicants for this position please.

This is a a very focused position. Applications not meeting the outlined criteria will be disregarded. Since this position is temporary and needs to be filled quickly, preference will be given candidates currently residing in the Los Angeles area or those able to relocate very quickly and on a short-term basis.

How to apply

Send us a resume, portfolio and whatever else makes you look good to info@modative.com . We're too busy at this time to take calls on this position. Please keep your email attachment sizes reasonable (under 5 MB or send us a link to download).
To avoid spam, and test of your ability to follow directions, please include "Modative Junior Position" in the subject line.

Schedule

Applications will be accepted until 11:59pm PST on Monday, 08.27.12. Applicants must be available for an in-person interview on either 08.30.12, 08.31.12 or 09.04.12. The job will start the week of 09.10.12.

Click here to see this job posting on our site.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Announcements, Architectual Practice, Architecture Experience, architecture job search

A Modern Architecture Firm's Approach to Organizing Marketing Leads

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, May 2, 2012 @ 06:05 AM

At the tail end of 2010, we realized that the worst of the recession was over for us. Things were getting better. New marketing leads were coming in and we needed to better manage them if we were to take full advantage of this potential increase in business.

As with most small architecture firms, the three principals split up the core roles of running the company. As a principal, one of my roles is marketing manager. So, as 2011 approached, I worked with Christian and Michael to come up with a system for managing leads coming into the office.

When it comes to lead generation, our office is a bit different than most architects in that about 90% of our leads come through our website. So, unlike many older offices that get high probability referral leads, we have to sort through significant noise in our web leads to find the valuable ones. This only increases our need to be more organized.

We began this process by generating two simple diagrams. The first diagram is a simple breakdown of how Modative acquires projects.

modern architects project aquisition

 

The basic idea in this diagram is that you get leads and filter them down to determine which ones become RFP (Request for Proposal) projects (a small win) and then, after proposals and contracts, which ones become real projects (a big win).

The second diagram describes our process of organizing and managing active leads.

modern architects lead funnel resized 600

 

Let's take a closer look at what each step entails.

Document and Assign Lead

1. Add Lead to Master List - This is a simple Excel spreadsheet (we use Numbers, a Mac program) that tracks the basics and is used to give incoming leads a number. Lead numbers begin with an "L" for "Lead" and the last two digits of the year, followed by three digits - L11-001. Here's a sample of the Master Lead List.

Lead # Lead Name Start Date First Contact Date Assigned To Project Type Lead Type Notes
L11-044 John Doe 06.12.11 06.13.11 CDN SFR Phone W. LA Home
L11-045 Jane Smith 06.18.11 06.19.11 MDS SLS Web Form Venice Beach

2. Create Lead Folder - Active leads are assigned to managers and the following folder structure is copied into the lead managers folder (on the server) and given the appropriate name - "L11-044 John Doe 06.12.11".

architecture lead folder structure

In the "Lead Log and Checklist" folder, there is a word processor file that is filled out with the same info from the Master Lead List and most often, a copy of the the web form data. Below that is a log for the lead manager to keep track of all correspondence with the lead.

modern architects marketing lead log

 

3. Add Lead to Clothesline - If you missed last year's post on "The Clothesline", check it out to see one of the ways we stay organized. Similar to the Master Lead List, the lead info is added via permanent marker (old school, I know) to the Clothesline in the office for everyone to see.

 modern architects marketing leads clothesline

As marketing manger, this provides me with a quick visual on how leads are progressing.

4. Email Lead Assignment to Manger - After the lead has been documented and assigned, we send out a simple email to the lead manager, letting them know that they now have an active lead.

 

Contact Lead & Follow-Up

1. Initial Lead Contact - It is the lead manager's job to contact the lead within 24 hours and log this contact in both the Lead Log and Clothesline. Most lead managers print out the Lead Log and hand write in the information while on the phone.

2. Lead Follow-up and Determination - After contacting the lead, it is the lead manager's job to determine whether the lead is "Dead", "Inactive" or has the potential to become an "RFP Project". If the lead has potential, the next step is often an in-person meeting. If that goes well, the project graduates to become an "RFP Project" when the potential client asks for a proposal.

3. Weekly Updates - At our regular Monday morning meetings, we review all active leads and managers give a quick update.

Does This Lead Management Process Work?

I'm sure for many, this process seems like overkill. There are several steps and many of them accomplish similar things. But for us, this system has created a series of checks and balances that has worked well versus the alternative of Post-it notes and haphazard internal conversations. No matter how you look at it, without proper lead management, we would be lucky to get any new projects. Besides, any aspect of running our office where we can be more efficient, only leaves us more time to better serve our existing clients.

What systems do you have in place at your office for lead management?

Post by Derek Leavitt. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Krystal Návar, and Michael Scott.

Tags: Organization, Architectual Practice, modern architecture firm, architecture resorces, Starting an architecture firm, Marketing

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm - Tip 07: Plan It Out

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 @ 09:03 AM

This post is part of the How to Start an Architecture Firm series.

In February 2006, Christian, Michael and I went to work on forming our own architecture firm. The following is tip number seven of seven in our start-up strategy.

Side Note: After an almost two year break between Tip 06 and Tip 07, I thought it was about time to wrap up this series. We've had an interesting two years, surviving the recession and emerging as a viable and busy architecture firm. Enjoy!

Tip 07: Plan It Out

Architecture firm start up plans

photo credit

When architects dream of running their own firms, they often flash right to the fun stuff:

What types of buildings will we design?

What will our design philosophy be?

While these are important questions, it's important to design your business with equal thought. When I think back to Modative's founding, I don't think as much about that actual first day of being out on our own as much as the six months leading up to the launch. During this time, we met once a week to hash things out while still working our day jobs for other architecture firms. Because the three of us lived in the three corners of Los Angeles, we would either meet online (thanks ichat) or we would drive to USC at night (where we all had gone to school) and sneak into a classroom at the VKC building.

VKC USC Architecture Start Up Classroom

The VKC @ USC. Photo taken by Bobak Ha'Eri, on May 27, 2007

It was important to determine certain things before we all quit our day jobs. We didn't meet to create some exhaustive business plan that no one would read, but to determine general goals and strategies for the company. If you don't establish a grander vision from the start, two things are likely to happen:

1. You'll get too busy doing actual work (projects) and your firm will operate without a vision. This is like designing a project without clear goals or concepts: it can be done, but it doesn't lead to a great product.

2. You'll have no way to measure at whether you've been successful in achieving your goals.

One of the ways we got organized was to develop a strategic plan. The first step in that process was a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Here was our original SWOT analysis from 2006:

SWOT Analysis

Internal

External

Strengths

Opportunities

1.creativity

2. team approach

3. design ability

4. “technology”

5. organizational ability

6. diversity

7. presentation

8. leadership

9. network

 

 

 

 

 

1. former employers

2. large/ diverse residential pool

3. location - los angeles

4. network-friends and family

5. real estate agents, contractors

6. development projects

7. building possibly

8. “non-architecture” projects

9. diversity of los angeles

10. money in los angeles

11. music, movie, sports industry

12. “housing buble” burst

13. having lower fees

 

Weakness

Threat

1.not having “own” portfolio

2. no professional license

3. weak “field” const. experience

4. no infrastructure (equipment)

5. other than type “V” construction

6. staff quantity

7. experience/ age

8. inefficient staff-to-principle ratio

9. publicity

10. financial resources

11. credit worthiness

1.other capable firms

2. “housing bubble” burst

3. # of firms in los angeles

4. general misperception of no need for architect

5. major markets outside of los angeles

6. having lower fees

7. lack of credit and cash

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back after six years of being in business, many of these initial SWOT assumptions were correct. Over the years we've been able to take advantage of our strengths and opportunities, while reducing the weaknesses and threats. In the end, developing a strategic plan was easy -the final document was only five pages long.

Choose Your Partners Carefully

If you have business partners, this planning process is even more critical to determine if you and your partners share the same values. We all knew each other since our early days at USC, but just as important, we had overlapping work experience prior to starting Modative, meaning that we had worked together professionally prior to starting our firm. Here's a diagram we posted on our website back in 2006 showing our experience overlap.

modern architecture firm partners experience path

Now that we've shared Modative's founding story, it's time to begin your story.

 

Use the navigation below to get caught up on all of our 7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm.

los angeles modern architecture firm

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm

00   architect firm

00 Bootstrapping

Not a tip, but a critical theme in our start-up adventure.

posted 12.03.09

01   architect firm

01 Be Cheap

posted 12.08.09

02   architect firm

02 DIY (Do It Yourself)

posted 12.18.09 

 
03   architect firm

03 Get Advice

posted 12.22.09

04   architect firm

04 Learn from the Bad

posted 01.22.10 

05   architect firm

05 Start and Stay Small

posted 03.03.10 

06   architect firm

06 Stay Flexible

posted 04.05.10

07   architect firm

07 Plan It Out

posted 03.13.12

The bad news is that this is the last of the 7 Tips to Starting an Architecture Firm.  The good news is that we're learning and posting new tips all the time.

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to this blog by adding your email to the subscribe form. Or, if you're a technocrat, you can grab our rss feed.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Inspiration, Communication, Architectual Practice, architecture resorces, Starting an architecture firm

Modative Architecture Welcomes Krystal Návar to the Team

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, Jun 22, 2011 @ 10:06 AM

2011 has been quite a year here at Modative. After utilizing our "be cheap" and "start and stay small" philosophy to get through the tough architecture/real estate market of the last few years, 2011 has required us to make a change.

After an increase in projects this year, we found ourselves very busy and in need of some help. While exciting, the thought of expanding was a bit unnerving, because while Modative is a business, it's also a bit like a family. The three Modative principals have known each other for over 15 years. This level of trust allows for complete honesty amongst the group - a key ingredient to design and business success.

So, when the time came to expand, we decided against a big search, but rather to keep the "family" connection going by bringing on Christian's wife, Krystal Návar. Krystal's well-rounded architecture experience fit well with our needs. Besides, Krystal already felt like part of the Modative team. She has shot photos of our projects and has been our blog editor since its' inception. Nothing has been posted on this blog without her prior review. While she will continue in this editorial role, I'm happy to announce that Krystal will also be authoring blog posts starting immediately. Since she's a better writer than the rest of us combined, we're excited to have her help on the blog.

We thought a great intro post would be for Krystal to document the design process of a new single family residence we've been working on since her arrival here about a month ago. This blog post will be up later this week. In the meantime, feel free to check out Krystal's profile on our website.

Krystal Navar @ Modative Architecture

Welcome to the team Krystal!

Tags: website update, Announcements, Organization, Architectual Practice, Architecture Experience, employment

Modative Build, Inc: Summer 2011 Internship

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Jun 7, 2011 @ 15:06 PM

A Better Way to Build

Modative was founded in 2006 with the goal of making modern design more affordable. Since then, we have been an architecture-only firm -- until last year when we formed a separate construction company called Modative Build, Inc. to provide our clients with an alternative to the traditional and often unsuccessful owner-contractor-architect relationship triangle. By having our own construction company we can now offer our clients a streamlined approach to getting their projects built at a reduced cost with far less headaches. Learn more about our approach.

build internship web

What You'll Be Working On

Although you may be occasionally asked to do a coffee run, this is not one of those kinds of internships. This is a hands-on, learn-though-real-experiences type of internship. You will not be directly constructing anything, but rather working on what really makes all construction companies tick: coordination and problem solving.

Bidding

Your primary responsibility will be to coordinate the bidding of several projects that Modative (the architecture company) has designed. You will work hands-on with the project designer and learn about all the trades that are required to put a real project together. You'll bid those trades out to subcontractors, then compile the selected subs into a beautiful, comprehensive bid. The projects you'll be bidding are primarily residential, type V construction. They are all modern.

Construction Management

You will also help us with the Fay 2X Homes, which are currently under construction a few blocks from our office. You'll get to see the construction process of these two homes happen first-hand, while also helping the project manager with behind-the-scenes coordination.

Collaboration

The construction company (Modative Build, Inc) and architecture firm (Modative, Inc.) operate in the same small office space without any cubicles. We're low on hierarchy and high on collaboration, so you might get pulled onto any number of projects.

What We're Looking For

We're looking for someone with an architecture or construction education/background, who like us, sees the importance of overlapping these two professions to achieve a greater goal. Someone that wants to turn the antiquated construction industry on it's head and that can use their design and organizational skills to bridge the architecture/construction gap.

If we like you and the opportunity arises, this internship could lead to a full-time position at Modative Build or Modative.

Bonus Points

You'll be using ArchiCAD, Numbers (Apple's version of Excel) and QuickBooks. Knowledge of these will help your learning curve. Spanish speaking will earn you extra points. We're also fans of creative resumes.

How to Apply

Send us a resume, portfolio and whatever else makes you look good to info@modativebuild.com .

To avoid spam, please include (MB Internship) in the subject line. Also, please provide short, concise answers the following questions in your email:

1. Please describe your current level of experience/education in the architecture and/or construction industry. If you're still in school and this is your first job, that's fine too.

2. Do you have experience with any CAD or BIM software?

3. Do you have experience with Excel and/or Numbers?

 

Schedule

We will be accepting applications until 6 pm PST on 06.09.11. From the applications we receive, we will narrow it down to 5-10 candidates for 15-minute speed interviews on 06.13.11. Follow-up interviews will be conducted later in the week if necessary. The internship will begin on Monday, 06.20.11 and last until late August or late September 2011.

Internship Location

Modative Build, Inc
8734 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Map

About Our Location: We're two blocks east of Helms Bakery, adjacent to the Culver City Arts District and within walking distance of several coffee shops and restaurants. It's a great central location in the LA basin.

Tags: Los Angeles, Architecture Experience, employment, construction