Our Core Values
At the first weekly staff meeting of the new year I told everyone that I really wanted to kick off 2018 with a return to the core values that the company was founded on. It occurred to me in the meeting that not all of our staff were familiar with these values. You can add it to the long list of things we take for granted as principals but core values are not something that should be overlooked. Most of the staff were attracted to our firm based on the quality of the work we do and I would like to think that the core values of the company are apparent in our communications, website, social media, word of mouth and infused in everything we do. I might have been mistaken about this because when I described to our staff what STREAM means and how it came to be I was a little surprised that nobody was aware (or maybe some forgot) that STREAM is an acronym for our core values. Did they think I just liked to scream STREAM out loud by using all caps whenever it is written?
With the rapid growth we've experienced, going from just me in 2012 to a staff of 10 in 2018, and considering how busy we've been focusing on the work we do, it is easy to see how the larger philosophical basis for the company could be overlooked. In an attempt to reaffirm these core values in 2018 and communicate them to our staff, clients, contractors, consultants and vendors I decided to kick-off 2018 by telling the story of how the name came to be and hopefully provide a clear summary of our core values.
The many meanings behind STREAM
How do you come up with a name for a company? There are many ways of doing this and a lot of architecture firms use the name(s) of the principals, which then over time morphs into an acronym such as international firms HOK, SOM, BIG and locally HOLT. Other firms come up with a cool word or phrase that speaks to their philosophy and some architects just have cool names (e.g. Rem Koolhaus). Check out this list of 10 bizarre firm names (my favorites are Design, Bitches and Swimming Pool Architects which has nothing at all to do with swimming pools).
When I set out to name the firm I decided on two things. First, I didn't want to use my own name because I wanted to establish a firm that was about a lot more than just me. Second, I wanted the name to be meaningful and represent the core values of the firm. The process was both fun and challenging and also intimidating. Every entrepreneur wants to be successful so if I was going to succeed then the name would stick and I'd have to live with whatever I came up with on my own in the few weeks I had leading up to the launch of this new venture. This was a very independent and introspective (think lonely) experience but I was pretty happy with what I came up with and I found that my clients and colleagues instantly appreciated the multiple meanings of the name even without much explanation.
The word "stream" speaks to our watery locale here in the Finger Lakes Region and as a verb it speaks to movement and delivery of something in a somewhat controlled or organized fashion (like information as in streaming media or stream of consciousness). There was a small fear that some people might think I offered design services related to stream ecology but that hasn't happened yet after 6 years. One person did suggest that I reconsider the name even after a full year of being in business because they just didn't get it but then I explained that Apple, Inc. doesn't sell apples and how has that worked out for them? Ultimately I'm pretty convinced the name doesn't really matter as much as the brand and of course the quality of the work is what matters most.
STREAM as Anagram
The very first thing I did was take my own family name Demarest and throw it into an online anagram machine. An anagram is when you take the letters of one word and rearrange them to form another word. The results are mostly ridiculous or make no sense at all such as Tars Meed or Rats Deem. But one that jumped out right at the top of the list was "Streamed" (the very top was "Mastered"). If you take off the "De" which doesn't really mean anything other then "from" and just put in the Marest (originally Marets which means marsh or wetland in French) you can see how I naturally arrived at Stream.
So the next thing to do was to check the dictionary. What I really like about our firm name is that both words have double meanings depending on their use as a noun or a verb. I think the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word stream is as a noun but I like to emphasize the verb. Similarly, with the word collaborative you might think of that as a verb (to work collaboratively) but I think of it as a noun.
STREAM /streem/ verb
to move or proceed continuously like a flowing stream, as a procession.
Collaborative /kə-la-bə-rā-tiv/ noun
an entity working jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.
STREAM as Acronym
One of my favorite collaborators is Taitem Engineering. Taitem was founded by Ian Shapiro who I had met but did not really know well before starting STREAM. Ian has since become a really important mentor to me, basketball buddy, and our daughters are very close friends. The word Taitem is actually a made up word and an acronym for Technology As If The Earth Matters. This was an obvious inspiration to me so I set out to make the word Stream into an acronym of my own (several acronyms actually). The first one I came up with was more along the lines of Taitem's in that it forms a phrase that speaks to the philosophy or values of the company. Strategies To Realize Effective Architectural Methods. I later struck out the words Effective and Architectural and came up with Strategies to Realize Emerging Adaptation Methods. This phrase speaks to my deep concern for the status of our planet and how important it is for the design community (especially architects) to step up to the challenge of adapting the old way of thinking to provide better solutions for a more sustainable future.
I didn't want to totally rip off Taitem so I dug a little deeper into the possible acronyms for STREAM and I'm happy to say I settled on a list of words that speak directly to the core values of the company I set out to create. Core values are the guiding principles which help us choose right from wrong when we make the hundreds of decisions we face on a daily basis. Here for the record, to help guide our firm through 2018 and into the future, is the definitive list of STREAM’s core values.
our Core Values
We are committed to STREAM which is an acronym for:
conserving and protecting today’s human environments while respecting our neighbors and future generations to come,
staying at the cutting edge of the science, tools, and techniques for both design and construction in order to do more with less,
ensuring our buildings come safely through disruptive events with minimal damage requiring less energy, resources and time to bounce back,
understanding our impact to and incorporating biodiversity and natural resource management in our designs,
capturing imaginations and inspiring us all to protect and preserve beautiful places,
designing for simple and effective assemblies of materials with great consideration for the craftspeople (mechanics) manifesting our ideas.
Sustainability + Technology + Resiliency +
Ecology + Art + Mechanics