A leading architect on the best way to attract architects

"For an architect, the composition of the aggregates means a lot. The ratio and how it's going to look at a distance, how it's going to look closeup. Once we pick a [concrete masonry] product we try to stick by it, and we try to be an ally."


Adel A. Nur AIA, LEED AP BD+C is an award-winning architect and principal at Bignell Watkins Hasser, otherwise known as BIGWAHA, a full-service design practice based out of Annapolis, Maryland. In his accomplished career, Nur has created and overseen a wide array of projects, from large-scale mixed use concrete masonry structures and commercial office developments to town centers, retail stores, and car dealerships.

Recently, Mr. Nur was a guest lecturer at one of NCMA’s in-person education courses, Concrete Masonry Level 2 Sales Course, which took place at NCMA Headquarters in Herndon, Virginia.

“Your main ally is going to be the architect because we spend a lot of time picking between one grade versus another. We don’t want to have someone come and change it overnight. Not because of ego or anything, but because we are confident that that’s the right choice and the one that’s going to make the building look good.”

With actual drawings of a project in hand, a commercial project on New York Avenue in Washington DC, Nur, standing at the head of the classroom, walks the concrete products sales professionals — now briefly students again — through the anatomy and paces of a design and development. In addition, he highlights the key phases in which producers can enter and potentially influence what the building solution will ultimately be.

Value engineering, turning a corner, and other familiar variables factored in, of course.

He also points out the best way for a product to be specified.

“Make sure the architect always has a copy of your product in the library,” he explains. “That’s the easiest way to increase the likeliness of your product being utilized.

Nur also makes a clear distinction between using a real sample, versus a picture.

“Photographs don’t do CMU justice.”

Potential LEED points can provide a lesser-known competitive advantage in the process, he explains. And it all has to do with miles. Distance. How far your plant is from the job itself.

Regional materials are rewarded by the United States Green Building Council, according to them, “to increase demand for building materials and products that are extracted and manufactured within the region, thereby supporting the use of indigenous resources and reducing the environmental impacts resulting from transportation.”

Perhaps the biggest tip of all, however, Nur spells out in straightforward terms after wrapping up his detailed account of how a building gets built:

What’s the best way to get the attention of architects?

Front-row seats to a bowl game, he says, in jest.

No, the real answer?


And learning, too, of course.

“The most effective way to get an architect’s attention is by organizing a luncheon,” he says. “As architects, to keep our licenses we have to do continuing education to get AIA credits. So, if your company is certified you can give a presentation — a one-hour presentation. Free food too, of course, that helps. But everyone at the firm is going to go that luncheon as opposed to leaving the building and walking ten minutes to the nearest Subway, for example.

“They’re going to join you and that way, you can see everybody in the office and give the presentation with good attendance, whether their motivation is their stomach or the AIA credit. Which is very important.

“Either way, you’re going to have a big audience. And you can engage, see what they may be working on and see if there’s room for your products.”


For more on Nur and BIGWAHA, click here.

To access NCMA’s AEC Daily page, which offers AIA credits to architects online, click here.

Published December 12, 2019
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