Office of Regional Architecture

10 December 2018

Business courses, development programs and mentoring opportunities have helped motivate a reassessment and continual improvement approach for Rosalie Pech Eva.

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Background

When was the practice established and what were its early ambitions?

The Office of Regional Architecture (ORA) evolved from Rosalie Pech Eva Architect in September 2018, and is a two-person regional practice located in Brookton in the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Rosalie opened her practice in August 2010, so she could transition back into practice after a period of parental leave after some years of employment in metropolitan practices. Today, the practice is operated by Director/Architect Rosalie Pech Eva and Administration Officer Natalia Hall, plus contract CAD technicians. 

How has the practice evolved over time?

Originally, Rosalie was a sole practitioner undertaking residential, local government and community projects. Over time the scale and value of the local government and community projects has increased, while the residential projects remain additions and alterations of a similar scale and value. Many practice management functions are now undertaken by Natalia, freeing Rosalie to focus on business development and architectural practice. We transitioned to a company structure this year for risk management purposes, and our new practice name and branding more aptly represents us.

What is the practice philosophy?

At ORA, we are committed to providing a high standard of sustainable building and landscaping design and associated architectural services to our private, business and community clients in the regions of Western Australia. We are based in the heart of the Wheatbelt at Brookton, and invest our energies into creating and realising projects that benefit the people and communities of regional Western Australia. We believe in the viability and importance of the contribution of the regions to the wider Australian community; the importance of infrastructure and development projects to the economic and social sustainability of the communities of the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions; and the joy and increased quality of life that considered architectural design can bring to families, small businesses and community groups in daily life. We are extremely focused on presenting viable solutions to the problems our clients face in realising their building and planning projects.

Can you tell us about a key project or business initiative that provided a turning point in the life of the practice?

ORA has greatly benefited from ongoing business course attendance, development programs and mentoring (in addition to CPD learning, mainly via ACA and Institute webinars). The most valuable of these have been provided by Blue Turtle Consulting (Fee Proposal Writing and Negotiation workshops), Regional Development Australia – Wheatbelt (Building a Better Business course) and, over the last year, as a recipient of an Inspiring Rare Birds Entrepreneur Mentoring Scholarship. For the scholarship, Rosalie had the opportunity to be mentored by an amazing entrepreneur, Jane Barnes of the NSW Office of Premier and Cabinet, based in Wagga Wagga. Acquiring the knowledge and networking opportunities available in these programs and implementing it at ORA has allowed us to develop our architectural practice and focus on those projects which have made the strongest contributions to regional communities, and have been the most satisfying to be involved in. In the last year those projects have been the complete refurbishment and additions and alterations to the Kondinin Community Recreation Centre, currently under construction, and a new ablution facility inside the heritage-listed Girl Guides WA Barn Accommodation in York.

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The new ablution facility in the Girl Guides WA Barn Accommodation in York.

 

Lessons Learned

What are some of the most important business management lessons you have learned?

What you need to know about business management is out there and you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Just adopt what you need and tweak it to suit your own practice. However, you may have to invest in quality resources (just do it!), because the best stuff isn’t necessarily free. Research is invaluable, written plans are vital, and so is ongoing revision, rethinking and redesign of your business and business practices.

What have been the biggest challenges and successes in recent years?

The year 2018 has been the quietest for business Rosalie has experienced, so the mentoring experience of the last 12 months has really helped, to motivate a reassessment and continual improvement approach to the business and architectural practices. It has helped us stay buoyant and motivated, even as the bank balance slowly ebbs away… After a refreshing and complete summer break, we’ll be back with a renewed vigour to tackle 2019!

Business

What are the biggest issues involved in running the practice in 2018?

A dearth of quality clients with appropriately funded projects and a frustration with LGA inhouse attempted Project Management of the Construction Administration Stage and requests for provision of partial services.

How has technology impacted on how you conduct business?

The rolling out of the regional wireless NBN in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern has greatly reduced our internet expenses and provided a reliable, fast, high-volume service on which we are utterly dependent. Prior to its introduction this year, costs for mobile or fixed line internet were exorbitant and quality was poor at best and non-existent at worst.

How do you market your practice?

We have a website that we update frequently, and we advertise via the small local community newspapers throughout the Wheatbelt and Great Southern. (Regional people value your investment in their local newsletter – your commitment makes you a local). We attend the regional field days, get out there on social media (mainly Facebook), network with our LGA colleagues, and display cheeky signage on the Great Southern and Brookton–Corrigin Highways (Brookton is located on the cross-roads of these). Of course, there’s also word-of-mouth. Our cheapest methods reap the biggest rewards, being word of mouth (free!) and the highway signage (three at $180 each).

Future

What are the ambitions for the practice?

We’d love to take on professional staff to better serve our regional clients, and to provide a collegial workplace where architectural practice can grow through the synergy of several architects working collaboratively. That would require ongoing economic diversification and development and infrastructure development in regional Western Australia and specifically the Wheatbelt and Great Southern, which currently relies on the mixed fortunes of a largely primary industry–based economy. ORA would need to successfully procure those projects as they arise. Those of us who live here and love the regional life are working to make that happen!

Where do you see the business in the next five years?

Continuing to develop great architectural design in and for the regions; educating business and local government on the value architectural design (and a full suite of architectural services) can have on even the smallest infrastructure development; and working with regional people to improve their way of life and the sustainability of their communities.

If you had one piece of advice for someone starting out, what would it be?

Learn as much about business management as you possibly can. Like continuing professional development, it will pave the way to a satisfying and rewarding architectural practice.

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Kondinin Community Recreation Centre in the Shire of Kondinin.

Photos: Natalie Davy