Upping The Game On Architecture

Rafanelli & Nahas

     What sets apart real estate development firm Rafanelli & Nahas? They create incredible buildings and manage them for the long haul. While many companies develop land then move on, this firm owns its properties and provides long-term management and maintenance. In the words of partner Scott Schoenherr, “We spoil our tenants, and our buildings stay full.” This unique outlook has allowed Rafanelli & Nahas to develop over one million square feet of landmark properties in the treasure valley.

11th & Idaho

     One such landmark property is their new building on 11th St. and Idaho in Boise. This exciting addition to their holdings is a ten-story office building with a rooftop deck. Designed by award-winning firm Perkins + Will, the 11th St. building boasts a 5,000 square foot lobby. It also includes floor to ceiling glass walls throughout each floor. However, the building is not just beautiful; it is also exceptionally well made. This Class A+ building not only provides excellent panoramic views of the city and landscape, but achieves LEED Gold certification.

Achieving LEED certification for any project takes a great deal of time, money, and dedication to sustainable building practices. A couple of significant ways the 11th St. building achieved LEED includes its energy-efficient windows and neolith stone cladding made of 100% natural materials. They offer superior resistance to UV rays and form the stunning black exterior of the building.

Lobby

The Rooftop Deck

     Yet, the 11th St. building’s exceptional quality is just one aspect of what makes it so special in Boise. As Schoenherr says, “When you own your stuff forever, you treat it a little more like you treat your house and less like you treat an investment. We’re a big believer that what makes an office building really special isn’t any one thing or two things; it’s a thousand thing. Having an architecturally significant building is important to us, and we think it’s important to tenants too.”

Yet, the building’s exceptional quality is just one aspect of what makes it so special in Boise. As Schoenherr says, “When you own your stuff forever, you treat it a little more like you treat your house and less like you treat an investment. We’re a big believer that what makes an office building really special isn’t any one thing or two things; it’s a thousand things. Having an architecturally significant building is important to us, and we think it’s important to our tenants too.”

One such notable aspect is the rooftop deck. At the beginning of the project, Perkins & Will encouraged the firm to include a rooftop deck. To cut costs, Rafanelli & Nahas declined. However, after touring LinkedIn’s headquarters in San Francisco, they learned just how vital a rooftop deck could be. LinkedIn’s HR Manager changed their minds by sharing, “When I’m interviewing someone that I really want to hire, this [the rooftop deck] is where I do it. This [experience] is what the young people want now.” Today the 11th St. building boasts a beautiful space with IPE wood decking that no other Class A office building in Boise has.

11th St. Building Rooftop Deck
Rooftop Deck

“Having an architecturally significant building is important to us.”

Making Space For A Park

         With such attention paid to creating a beautiful building for their tenants, one would think Rafanelli & Nahas would stop there. On the contrary, the firm’s long-term vision has driven it to beautifully shape Boise’s culture. Working hand-in-hand with CCDC and the City of Boise, the firm will be subleasing space adjacent to the building for an incredible new public park.

     What is currently being referred to as the Westside Urban Park will have a variety of coveted amenities. With a shift toward residential infill, having a public space within walking distance of new residences is important for the city. Artist, Matthew Mazzotta was hired by the City of Boise Arts and History to determine and create what the public prioritized in a new park. The response was in overwhelming support of a public art feature, flexible event space, and great food and dining.

The final design incorporates all these things with a large, green lawn and amphitheater, plenty of hardscapes for outdoor dining, a food truck and farmer’s market accessible parking lot, and a beautiful art feature. Seeking to reflect a cherry tree in bloom, Mazzotta’s featured piece “Gentle Breeze”, is a large, pink, tree-like sculpture set upon a small berm. The playful, attention grabbing color makes it a beautiful focal point for this new public space.

11th St. Building Park
Park Rendering by CCDC

Stewardship For Boise

Through its quality construction, exceptional management, and community focus, it is no wonder Rafanelli & Nahas have been so successful in Boise. But at the heart of the firm is a deep-rooted love and even stewardship for Boise and its culture. It is not often that you encounter a developer that takes on the responsibility to up the game on architecture in a city. While many firms are willing to forfeit quality to get something built, Rafanelli & Nahas is fighting against that. They hope that design review, CCDC, and planning and zoning will look to buildings like theirs and ask, “Why would we allow anything less to be built in our downtown?”

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Seeing The Unseen

And other amazing talents of modern day architects

In an era of HGTV and DIY projects where anyone can design an impressive space, we interviewed three architects to learn why architects matter to projects of all shapes and sizes.

miranda-anderson
Miranda Anderson
Associate Clinical Professor
University of Idaho

University of Idaho

Miranda Anderson, the interior architecture professor at the University of Idaho became interested in architecture in the sixth grade. Before teaching, she primarily designed K-12 schools in Idaho and surrounding states. After doing some historic preservation projects she focused on interior architecture and development. As she says, “The greenest building is the one that is already built. We need to think more creatively and innovatively about the way we use space and remember that a lot of existing buildings could do with a little creative transformation.

Miranda believes that the special thing architects and designers can bring to the table is their holistic view of a project. They are trained to be creative problem solvers that can look at things from a variety of perspectives. Architects are thinking about designing elements that can absorb sound or improve lighting which both have incredibly positive impacts on people. They are planning for the well-being of the whole person.

She also believes that architects have a responsibility to society. “A client might say ‘I really want XYZ,’ and we know from experience that that has some negative impacts. It is our job to identify and inform the public and our clients as best we can on the impacts of their decisions.” From her experience, some people start projects without architects and do not ask questions soon enough. They are not aware of potential health, safety, and welfare issues with the project until they get caught by code inspectors. Architects and designers have typically already thought of that.

Ann Wozniak
Ann Wozniak
Director of Architecture
Boise State University

Boise State Universiy

Since 2014, Ann Wozniak has been the Boise State University Architect and Director of Architecture. Growing up in the military, her family moved a lot. While living in places like Nairobi, Kenya and San Francisco, California, she was exposed to different cultures and architecture. At the age of 12 those experiences made her want to help people live a little bit better and a little differently. Architecture is the way she chose to do that. “I’ve always felt like architecture sets up culture and society and provides spaces that not only meet the basic need for shelter, but also propel society toward improved health. It is my hypothesis that the more spaces we have that encourage social interaction, the healthier we are both mentally and sometimes physically.

For Ann, the thing that makes architects important is their background, knowledge, and experience. They understand proportion and scale and what works functionally in a space. That requires years of experience that you can not easily teach somebody. Part of that includes learning to be open to new ideas. “It can be hard to listen to the client and not go forward with an agenda. I have learned that sometimes the design will be way better. While I live through one lens, everybody else has their own lens with a different shade and a different color. I think those are all valuable and I have to remember that I’m not the only one experiencing the space.”

Brad Smith
Architect
BVA

BVA

Brad Smith has been working with BVA on a variety of commercial projects. The company self-performs a majority of tenant improvements inside their buildings and Brad is the architect of record who signs off on everything. He discovered his love for architecture in high school soon after his family moved to Boise. When they were searching for a home, he saw lots of fliers full of floorplans. He then had fun creating his own and has never looked back.

Brad believes that it is the architect’s job to be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to designing. “You have to keep the built environment, society, social welfare, building science, and economic aspects in mind when working. That is what goes into that holistic approach for architecture.” Brad also understands his responsibility to clients. “Getting to know what doctors or attorneys need, you have to have a little bit of knowledge about everything. We are master builders who create bridges linking people together and building community.”

According to Brad, architecture is one of the best professions. Between meeting new people, and combining art with science and technology, it is a great profession. The most important thing Brad has learned through his career is very similar to Ann. “If you can put someone’s needs first, above your own or above what your vision is, within the boundaries of the built environment, health, safety, and welfare, then it’s going to be better for everybody.

So why do architects matter? They see the unseen and improve our world because of it.

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Smith System Guides

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Congress passed stimulus legislation to help the economy (CARES Act). INcluded in this Stimulus funding was billions of dollars targeted at education. Since then, new bills have created further funding opportunities in education.

You may ask, how are these funds being accessed? While processes may vary State to State, Smith System has provided guides to help you navigate how to take advantage of the new funding. Download the guides below to learn how to best prepare your school for the 2021-2022 school year.

Smith System 10 Step Buying Guide

Smith System Guide 3

Download the PDF

Bringing Students Back Guide

Smith System Guide 2

Download the PDF

Smith System 5 Step Stimulus Guide

Smith System Guide 1

Download the PDF

The First Wave of Workplace Change

While some headlines suggest the office will go away as people embrace working from home almost exclusively, the research identifies a more nuanced, hybrid future. Most people expect to work in the office most of the time, but they also expect greater flexibility from their organizations going forward.\

A More Flexible Approach to Work

The global experiment in working from home has shown it can be part of a viable work policy, but it requires each organization to consider its own culture, processes, technology infrastructure and real estate strategies.

After spending months working from home, people expect to be allowed to continue in some capacity. How often they expect to do it differs significantly, which means leaders need to consider what policy is right for individuals, teams and the organization overall.

The majority of people say they expect to spend more time working in the office than at home and do not expect to work at home every day. In most countries, the majority say they expect to work from home one day a week or less.

People in France and Germany, which have strong office-based work cultures, are least likely to expect to work from home. People in India and Mexico, on the other hand, expect to work from home more frequently. A word of caution to leaders in those countries: Both countries experienced significant productivity and engagement drops the longer people who were dissatisfied working from home did so, indicating the need for careful consideration of what work-from-home policy is best.

The majority of people say they expect to spend more time working in the office than at home and do not expect to work at home every day.

How Often People Expect to Work From Home

The majority of people in most countries expect to work from home one day a week or less post-pandemic.

Noteworthy: People in France and Germany expect to work from home the least. People in India expect to work from home the most.

Leaders Anticipate More Flexibility

As people expect working from home to be an option, more organizations are listening and responding. Early in the pandemic, many leaders did not see a need to change their policies, but now 87% of leaders around the world say they expect they will allow more flexibility about where, when and how people work — which is a 38% increase from April 2020. More companies in more countries are allowing for the increase of flexible work policies.

Leaders Expect More Flexible Work Policies

Responses indicate growth in the number of leaders who expect employees will have more choice and control to work from home or elsewhere post-pandemic.

The Emerging Hybrid Model

The global experiment in working from home is shifting to become an experiment in hybrid work. As organizations consider the right approach for their people and their culture, predictions that people will work exclusively from home are being passed over for more flexible options.

Nearly a quarter of all businesses will continue to work in the office as the primary destination, and the majority of organizations will take a hybrid approach to work, in which employees work from both home and the office.

In fact, the number of organizations that expect people will work from home exclusively only increased 2% globally since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly a quarter of all businesses will continue to work in the office as the primary destination, and the majority of organizations will take a hybrid approach to work, in which employees work from home or a third place, and the office.Some organizations are considering a range of options beyond their primary offices or campuses. Given that the lack of commute is the number one reason people like working from home, organizations are beginning to explore options for people to work closer to their homes, such as satellite offices or co-working facilities. Leaders who plan to embrace more working from home options in their organizations are considering a mix of buying, building, leasing or private co-working options.

Global Leaders Anticipate More Hybrid Work

23% In Office
72% Hybrid
5% Work From Home

HYBRID WORK: BY COUNTRY

When asked in September 2020 what their expectations are for work post-pandemic, most leaders see three main approaches — with many considering a hybrid model in which some time is spent in the office and some at home or a third place.

Noteworthy: Just as people in France and Germany are less likely to expect to work at home, their leaders agree, saying more people will work predominantly in the office. India, China and the UK are much more likely to embrace a hybrid model, with people working from home more often.

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Standing In The Light Again

2021 Commercial Outlook

After talking with three commercial agents about their outlook for the future, we have determined that the Treasure Valley is a fantastic place to live. The only downside is that someone let the secret out, and everyone else wants to live here too! In the early days of 2020, business was booming, and the valley was dealing with exponential growth. Not much has changed. Although Covid brought everything to a screeching halt and we saw unemployment rise from 3.5% to 11.8%, our market has recovered quickly. In the end, the shutdown sped up the demise of dying national franchises and gave the valley a brief respite from growth.

Unlike many in the country, our unemployment rate is back down to 4%, and we are struggling to find talent, especially as new businesses relocate here. Whether people are escaping struggling cities or looking for a slower pace, the treasure valley continues to grow, and our three commercial agents are here to help us make sense of it all and share why they are optimistic about the future of the valley.

National vs Local Markets

Holt Haga works for BVA development which focuses on strategic capital investments and large-scale commercial development. BVA’s portfolio includes office, industrial, retail, medical, and even a little residential development, with Class A office buildings comprising 75% of their core activities. Haga believes it is crucial to understand that not all markets are created equal. “National media outlets paint a pretty bearish outlook. They are reporting on primary markets in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. What we are seeing in Boise is just a completely different story.”

Haga suggests that Boise has rebounded so quickly because companies are leaving these primary markets and coming to tertiary markets like Boise. “I think we are going to see a continuation of trends that existed long before Covid, such as the hub and spoke models. You have companies reducing the size of their footprint in those primary markets and creating tertiary markets (spokes) or regional headquarters. So, the Treasure Valley and Boise will certainly continue to benefit from that.”

Holt Haga with BVA

Waiting & Watching

Lew Manglos with Colliers International focuses on real estate property management, brokerage, leasing, and sales. Most of his work is in the Treasure Valley, and he sees the most activity in our industrial and multifamily sectors with low rent growth and high demand. In contrast, Covid has more significantly impacted the office and retail spaces.

While the market is healthy, Lew has seen more hesitation from tenants regarding expansion and leasing. “They are kind of waiting and watching. Generally, [tenants] haven’t made decisions to give up space. The vast majority are trying to continue to have office space. If we go back a year, some might have been looking to expand because they added employees. That same tenant is now more likely to wait and see how things shake out before they make a decision to move.” Ultimately Manglos expects things to return to the way they were before Covid, albeit with more flexible employee schedules.

Lew Manglos with Colliers International

Flexibility

Peter Oliver at TOK Commercial focuses on investment sales and leasing. He covers office space, industrial, retail, and multifamily. His time is split evenly between investment sales and leasing, mainly in the Treasure Valley. Like Manglos, Oliver agrees that tenants have been hesitant to act but that things are beginning to change as they gain more visibility. In fact, local companies have been quick to move in ways that national companies may regret later. While national companies made blanket mandates for return-to-work dates, they failed to look at markets individually.

In contrast, local companies have already pivoted and brought their workforce back to capitalize on the Boise market’s resurgence. Part of that pivot has been negotiating shorter lease terms until they have more certainty to move forward. “A lot of tenants were trying to do as short of a renewal as possible because they were trying to grasp what things look like on the other side.” With a typical lease term ranging between 3-5 years, businesses have been trying to do 1-2 year extensions instead. Even if they sign onto a longer lease term, they want the ability to terminate the lease even if there is a penalty. They want flexibility while simultaneously not losing their space and facing a price jump for a new build.

Peter Oliver with TOK Commercial

Community Of The Office

While some national companies are transitioning to a full-time work-from-home model, Oliver observes that local companies value collaboration and believe in-person work is important. Lucky for them, most employees want to come back. “Over the last year, the demand for mental health services skyrocketed. The WCA in Boise has seen an 84% increase in demand for their services. We are just not meant to be in solitary confinement. For a lot of people, their company is their community. It is their social life in a lot of ways, so I just don’t see [the office] going away.”

Standing In The Light

As Haga says, “In the early parts of 2020, everybody was kind of in the fetal position looking down a very long, dark tunnel wondering how far away the light at the end will be.” Trends, statistics, and maybe a little bit of optimism suggest that within the next 60-90 days, we will be standing in the light again. Fortunately for us, the area is very well positioned for when that day arrives.

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To Better Serve The Community

When Police Chief John Dyer interviewed for his position at the Lake Stevens Police Department in 2016, a new facility was already in discussion. At the time, the LSPD was in a 4,000 square foot, triple-wide, manufactured building with much of its evidence and vehicle seizures processed off-site. While the facility may have been adequate when built 15 years ago, the city’s population had grown drastically. Today the city has 40,000 people compared to its mere 6,000 people twenty years ago. Additionally, the department’s old location was far away from a majority of its calls for service. As the Chief puts it, “When you have a city with a lake in the middle of it, and you have to get to the other side of town, that causes a little bit of an impediment to doing that.”

Relocation

To better serve its community, it was important for the LSPD to relocate. So, the city started looking for a new building. Around that time, the fire district was selling its headquarters building originally used as a real estate office. The property’s primary draw was that it offered three separate buildings that would allow the LSPD to bring all its operations to one secure location. They chose to buy the buildings and completely remodel the space. It required almost a total gut of the space, changing all the office configurations. Now the department has a place to process evidence on site as well as house vehicles from seizures. Even more critical for the growth of the department is their new training facility. With the room to host regional classes, the department will receive free seats in those classes providing more training for the department and serving the city better.

LSPD Gallery Vehicle Lift
Vehicle Lift

Customizing Offices

When it came to the main building, there was a lot of work to do. In order to accommodate 41 employees, it was necessary to rework the space. This included converting four new offices out of areas that had previously been designed for one. The functionality of these spaces became essential. That is when OEC got involved in the process. As the chief shares, “We had some really good experiences with [OEC] to really make this our own building. The part I appreciated the most was working with the OEC design team to customize each individual office. I got to bring each employee into my office, and they sat and talked about where the desk would go and the types of things they would need. It was custom furniture for each individual room because the sergeants, patrol officers, and detectives knew best what they needed. So, having the ability to do that was just fantastic, and it really added to the morale to be a part of that.”

“The part I appreciated the most was working with the design team to customize each individual office.”

Functionality

Making the workspace function was vital to the department. A good example being the patrol spaces. They previously had a room with a big round table and a few stations around it. That was where they would brief, eat lunch, and process evidence. There was no privacy and no ability to work individually. Now they have individual stations with a separate briefing room that will go a long way to make it much more conducive to how they work.

Another example is their forensics detective, who has a lot of computers and telephones. Creative solutions like pegboards proved useful to hang wires and cables, and granted plenty of storage for everything else. By customizing their furniture, the department was able to meet the specific needs of their officers.

Interior Design

The LSPD was the largest project that OEC’s junior designer, Gabriella Garcia, has ever done.  And the customization of each office added to its scope. “It was a long process and super personal, and that spoke to me in the sense that I knew it means a lot to them.” Gabriella was a pivotal part of interior design as well. When the Chief reached out about overall design, she created a color board with flooring, wall protection, wall paints, and even wallpaper that the department loved. “It was a pretty awesome experience being able to customize the furniture and use my creativity. Since I created [the color board], I already knew which way I wanted to go with the furniture selection.”

LSPD Gallery Warm Interview Room
Warm Interview Room

Unique Spaces

While every room is unique, there are a few that were particularly special to Gabriella. Those rooms included the “Warm Interview Room” for witnesses or victims and the “Comfort Room” for anyone who needs a moment of peace. The people using these rooms range from toddlers to the elderly, so creating an atmosphere of comfort was of utmost importance.

“Designing this space became very personal to me. I was able to put myself in other people’s shoes and recognize that those in these spaces were in situations that they did not want to be in, and that can be scary. So it was emotional in a sense that I wanted each person to feel some comfort and
control in this environment.”

Gabriella’s favorite room to design was the Chief’s office. “He is so devoted to the police department and the city of Lake Stevens. “He wanted it to be a space that was unique to him, but when folks came in to discuss anything with him, he wanted them to feel comfortable, but not too comfortable.” Gabriella had to walk a fine line by creating something traditional yet modern and did so with some surprises. One such welcome addition was a custom glass table with the LSPD logo. Special details like this were well received by the Chief and his staff. “I love my office, and I hadn’t even thought of the table, so that was a surprise that I was pretty happy with.”

LSPD Gallery Comfort Room
Comfort Room

Back Up To Speed

With a fully outfitted new facility, the LSPD is looking forward to better serving their community. As the Chief says, “Lake stevens is a great city with a great department and really good folks. And now that we have this new facility, we are bringing the city up to speed where it should be as far as law enforcement.”

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Three Life Lessons From Running A Marathon

I ran a marathon a few weeks ago.  Here are three life lessons I learned.

“I signed up to run a marathon in February”, I told my brother and business partner last fall during the 2020.  My brother, who has run marathons before, including Boston, thought this over for a bit.  Then he told me it will be hard to do marathon training in Boise in February.  Are you sure you are up for that? 

As it turns out I was up for it.  A few weeks ago I completed the Red Rock marathon in the desert outside of Las Vegas.  Here are some of the lessons I learned.

marathon-training-with-dog
Scott and dog training in the cold snow. Notice the snow beard on my dog, Bear?

Lesson 1. You can accomplish great things, but you’ll likely have to give something up

This is as true for marathons as it is for about anything in life.  For me I gave up a few things—among them sleep, warmth, and comfort.  My training schedule required me to run a 20-mile run on February 6; it’s just not warm at that time of year.  I ran 20 miles in 20 degrees; it was cold.  Another morning it had snowed six inches at night.  I somehow convinced my brother to come out with me at 5am to run the foot hills with me.  I told him it would be fun.  He actually showed up and we ran six miles in the foothills in six inches of snow.  About two minutes into the running with snow stinging the skin between our socks and our tights, he told me.  “You know what, this isn’t very fun”.  By the end we both agreed it actually was fun and were glad we had not turned back earlier. 

Is there something big you would like to accomplish in life?  That’s great.  Start thinking about what you might have to give up in order to get it—because that’s how life works. 

marathon-training-foothils
Photo at 5am in the foothills of Boise. You can just see my dog over the ridge as the sun starts to peek out.

Lesson 2.  You can probably do more than you think you can

I can clearly remember 10 years ago I did a little bit of running because my wife coerced me into running a triathlon with her.  I was a sprinter in high school but had never liked distance running.  Coaxed by my wife to run a triathlon with her, I thought I would give it a try.  I recall running about 2 miles one afternoon and thinking, “Why would anybody willingly do this? Running is the worst.”  My feet hurt, I was overheated, and I couldn’t breathe.  During the triathlon (in Emmett Idaho) I clearly remember being humiliated as a 90-year old man passed me on the running portion while my family cheered for me with confusion on their faces.  They were wondering why I was letting the 90-year-old pass me.  I hadn’t prepared properly, I didn’t like running, and I was seriously questioning my life’s choices at that moment.

Fast forward a decade.    

I was able to complete an extremely challenging 26.6 mile race that included 13 miles of uphill running.  I ran for 4 hours and 35 minutes to complete the race, something I hadn’t ever dreamed was remotely possible. 

The truth is we as humans can oftentimes do much more than we think is possible.  We can be our own worst enemy because we impose limits on ourselves.  We tell ourselves how far we can run, how much money we can make, what projects we are capable of accomplishing, etc.  My high school wrestling coach used to tell us “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”.  Just as we can be our own worst enemy, we can also be our own motivation.  Take a moment and dream big, you can probably accomplish more than you think you can.

Scott-marathon
Scott running the Red Rock marathon

Lesson 3.  Commit

I committed to running a marathon six months in advance of the actual event.  This was important for two reasons.  First of all, I needed the time to prepare my body to be able to handle the 26.6 miles of continuous running.  Second, due to Covid there was a limited number of seats available for the marathon.  The race did run in person but as it turns out the government limited the race organizers to 25% capacity.  Anybody who tried to get in less than three months in advance was locked out.  I got to run the race because I committed early.  Looking back on how hard it was, I don’t know if I could have finished a marathon if I wasn’t running in an actual event where there are people cheering and providing support along the way.

scott-and-codi-before-marathon
Scott and wife Codi minutes before the race. My wife trained and ran the race with me. It was dark and cold in the Nevada desert when we started the marathon.

Do you have something important to you?  Commit early, make a plan and go for it.  Don’t half commit, it’s too easy to get out when things get hard.  And if I have learned anything during my 43 years of life, it’s that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.  If it’s worth accomplishing, it’s going to get hard at some point.  Just remember these three things (and you can accomplish anything):

  1. You’re going to have to give something up
  2. You can do more than you think you can
  3. Commit early    

Scott Galloway

President & Newly Minted Marathoner

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PETIQ-sneak-peak-header

PETIQ Sneak Peak

PETIQ is building its new headquarters in Eagle, Idaho. The building will finish in June of this year. Thanks to Matt Huffield and Ian Hoffman at Cole Architects, OEC got a sneak peak of the space while it is under construction.

The PETIQ building is unique for Eagle. Its contemporary style and height differ greatly from other buildings in the area. However, when the building is complete, it will use brick and metal accents to blend beautifully with the surrounding architecture. At that point, OEC will come in and fully furnish the 3-story building.

A Conversation With Matt Huffield Of Cole Architects

As the exciting new PetIQ Headquarters rises in Eagle, president of OEC, Scott Galloway, sat down with the president of Cole Architects, Matt Huffield, to discuss the project. Cole Architects was the designer of the new building and has been working with OEC to outfit the completed space with an exceptional lineup of OEC office solutions. Huffield shares about his experiences in architecture, his advice for aspiring architects, and what the firm is currently up to in Idaho.

Becoming An Architect

Galloway: Tell me a little bit about how you got interested in being an architect?

Huffield: Probably exposure. When I was a kid, two of my friends, one kid’s mom and another guy’s dad, were architects. I think going through school, I realized that the aptitude was there. You do all those aptitude tests and architect was always at the top. I think there was definitely an interest with the built environment and structures and how they go together. Every little kid is playing with Legos or those kinds of things and I think it’s just the exposure from seeing my friend’s parents, with drafting boards in their houses and things like that, back before we had AutoCAD, and Revit. Then finding an interest in it and continuing to pursue it. I told my mom when I was 10, that I was going to be an architect.

Galloway: Oh, wow. You determined that a long time ago?

Huffield: Yeah, my mom said something like, “Oh, yeah. Okay, next week, it’ll be a firefighter,” but I just went all the way through, and it has always been enjoyable. It seems, my brain works well for that kind of work that we do. I have a vision that I think suits well with the industry and dealing with the built environment.

What Makes A Good Architect

Galloway: For the youth that are interested in being architects, what skill sets, or interests or mindsets do you think are useful or may indicate to somebody “Hey, this may be a good fit. This may be a good career choice for you?”

Huffield: I think problem solving is number one, I work with the Montana State School of Architecture on their Advisory Council. And I continually work with their staff in dealing with design and problem solving as the criteria. A lot of schools out there are trying to promote the software, and I have this vision that I think the next 50 years, the software is going to almost be irrelevant. You know, 30 years ago, we were hand drafting, now we’re doing 3d modeling. The next 20 or 30 years we’re going to have some sort of headset on, and the software is going to be doing all the work in the background, and you don’t draw anymore. I think it’s going to be that much of a connection with the software that learning a piece of software is not the important part.

I think the important part is learning how to design and problem solve and be creative. As we automate our world, creativity is going to be one of the last things that is automated, it’s the one thing that a computer can’t do, or will be one of the last things that a computer can do. And so, focusing on the creative side of what we do is going to be the value in architecture in the coming years. The nice thing about the industry is there is a broad range of what a person can do, whether it’s the technical figuring out a detail or the design side. And so, for somebody who is looking at the industry, I think there’s always a place for somebody in our industry.

Finding Talent

Galloway: Where do you find your talent, and how many are on your teams?

Huffield: There’s 10 of us right now. Almost all licensed architects.” Our talent is random, a lot of times I’ll post on LinkedIn. I’ve worked for several companies that are really good working with and growing talent. I’ve worked with some that are horrible at it. And so I’ve learned ways and philosophies that I strongly believe in. We’re only as good as the people that work with us on our team. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. We spend a lot of time and focus, doing things right by our employees. This year, we were voted to the top 10 places to work in Idaho.

Galloway: Congratulations.  

Huffield: Thank you. It means a lot. We’re the only architect on that list. And that’s all-size categories, both honorable mention and award winners, which it means a lot because just this year, we switched over to an unlimited PTO policy. So, we do a lot of things like that, that try to give back to the employees that work hard.

Becoming An Owner

Galloway: Tell us a little bit about Cole architects and maybe how you came to be the owner?

Huffield: I have been self-employed since the early 2000s. Partnership in a couple of different firms. And through the recession, I ended up having to leave Boise to go find gainful employment,

Galloway: The 2008 recession?

Huffield: Yeah, and I was able to stick around till 2013. And then I left and went on a pretty fun journey. I lived in Houston, LA, and New York City, was able to work on some really cool projects, two of which have won national AIA awards.

So, I got to experience a lot from the high-end design firm, to a large 23,000 person firm. In 2016-17, I was kind of regrouping from all of that and the economy was starting to pick up. I ended up taking on some projects in Bend, Oregon, and was mostly working with consultants out of Boise (my old consulting group that I had before). I was spending a lot of time here and I had the opportunity to kind of live wherever I wanted to so chose to move back to Boise. Because of what happened in the recession, I feared everything is going to come crashing down again.

Diversifying

So, I spent a lot of time looking into ways to diversify what I was doing. And the opportunity came to purchase Stan’s firm. I had met Stan Cole a few times over the years. We kind of ran in the same circles but didn’t actually know each other. Then we got together and visited about it. He was at a point where he was ready to step back from day-to-day firm operations but still wanted involvement in design and business development, things like that. And so, it worked out really well for both of us. He gets to ski a few days a week and stay involved in projects and meeting with clients.

There were five people when I purchased firm and now we’re at 10-11 depending on the time of year. I think we’ve also been able to, take advantage of a little bit of the growth in Boise. We’ve got some great clients. I’ve had some really bad clients in the past so my goal is not necessarily focus on the project type that we do, but focus on good quality clients, people that treat us well and, and we enjoy working with.

The Right Clients For Cole Architects

Galloway: What kind of clients are a good fit for Cole?

Huffield: The ones that pay. Not only that, but it’s a respect thing. I’ve worked with clients that just have no respect for architects. And obviously, this is our profession, this is what drives us, this is what’s important to us. Ultimately, it comes down to, when a client respects you and enjoys working with you, they’re going to treat you better, they’re going to be more at ease to work with you and things like that. So, it’s finding that relationship, but so much of what we do is personal relationships.

I always tell people that about 95% of what architects do is communication, whether written, verbal drawings, etc; it’s all communication. Even a set of construction documents is in a way communication. So that’s a big part of what we try to do with our clients is spend a lot of time communicating with them, make sure everybody’s on the same page, and we know we’re moving toward the same goal.

Why Getting The Right Architect Is Important

Galloway: So why is it important for a client to choose a good architect? What, kind of difference does a good architect make in a project?

Huffield: I think it depends on the goals of the client. Certain clients want things done quickly and streamline everything. Other clients want the architect to do everything for them and be fully responsible for all of it. I think what makes a good architect is due diligence of researching, and putting together a good set of documents. This ensures that what the architect communicates and designs is constructed.

I think ultimately, as architects, it’s our ethical responsibility to improve the community, improve the built environment, do what’s right, both environmentally, etc. And our responsibility is not necessarily to the owner or to the architect, but to the project and to the to society as a whole. You want an architect that does the best for all of that. They don’t cut corners to just do what the client wants, or just do what the contractor wants.

Working On The Ronald McDonald House

Galloway: Can you give an example of a project that you’ve worked on where you enhanced the community? Explore the topic of doing what’s right not only for the client, but for the community.

Ronald McDonald House

Huffield: I would say probably the number one most recent project would be the Ronald McDonald House here in Boise. It was a very community focused project. They were able to do some really interesting things. They raised $15 million in 18 months to do that. We were able to work with the contractor and from start of design to opening doors was 15 months. That is relatively unheard of. It was a very fast pace. We all signed up for it ahead of time and said we’re going to get this done. And it took a lot of juggling to get that done. But it was very much a community involved process.

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Ronald McDonald House Lobby

Working With Boise

We had to work with the East end neighborhood district and the north end neighborhood districts to make sure that we are going to put something in their neighborhoods that fit the urban fabric. The basic concept of that building was to do something that was home-like. I think that was very important to the owner too because they are housing people. So they want it to look like a home. Their previous house was an old house that they had upgraded. They wanted something that looked residential, but you’re putting it on Main Street, across from an urban hospital. It is also mixed in with a historic neighborhood.

Then working with the city of Boise, we went through their project management process to help streamline and get us through the process faster. We were setting roof trusses the week we got our building permit. So we were able to push the envelope on speed and time to get through the process. It was a really fun, interesting, and challenging experience to go through all of that in a very short time. And it took all team members and Ian Hoffman and Stan Cole was very much involved. Mindy from Ronald McDonald house too. We also helped them with furniture selection, interior design, everything. Our interior designer worked closely with the folks at Ronald McDonald House to go through everything in great detail.

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Ronald McDonald House Toy Room

Designing The PETIQ Headquarters

Galloway: Great project example. It’s beautiful. I think we did some wooden slats in the building. Our construction division did kind of the wooden parallel posts that are somewhere up there. So let’s talk about a little bit about kind of the big project in Eagle that you’ve been working on. Talk to us a little bit about that project.

Huffield: Yeah, PetIQ approached us very similarly to the Ronald McDonald house. They had a fast timeline and wanted to do something unique for Eagle. The owners are from Eagle, want to stay in Eagle, and are very involved in the community. They approached us about doing their new corporate headquarters, which is about 55,000 square feet at the final square footage. They had a site selected in the Eagle River business development. And they wanted to do something that was a little bit more contemporary, keeping the down-to-earth, Idaho thought process.

They gave us free reign to kind of do some designs and we came up with some concepts. We ended up with a design concept that they liked. They were willing to relocate outside Eagle to keep that design concept if Eagle wouldn’t let them in. There were a lot of negotiations with Eagle to get that design concept to work. We spent lots of time with Eagle River going through their design requirements to meet the standards for all parties.

Cole-Architects-PETIQ-Rendering
PETIQ Rendering

What Makes PETIQ Unique

Galloway: Can you give us an example of the building that are different or unique?

Huffield: We had to go through a height variance with Eagle. They have a 35-foot height variance. They are trying to keep things shorter than a lot of communities to keep their small-town roots. We had some large overhangs but for Eagle’s design requirements you have to fit one of five styles. Contemporary isn’t one of them. They follow more of the Victorian era. With the long horizontal overhangs, it created some issues with their zoning ordinance. We were able to work with their design review council and get those resolved. We tried to provide a lot of glass and views and the brick shapes are more contemporary. Because of other projects built in the area they were able to stretch their requirements to meet our plans.

Galloway: What do you think the building will be finished?

Huffield: June of 2021.

Other Projects For Cole Architects

Galloway: What other projects are you working on that are important for your firm?

Huffield: Right now, we have under construction the new fire station for the city of Ketchum. We have a dentist office and work at Stillwater Development in Eagle. We are working with Horizon Credit Union, and a new office building we are getting ready to start in Eagle.

Galloway: To individuals interested in pursuing a career as an architect, what would you tell them about the industry?

Huffield: Every day is a little bit different. You get a lot of variety and I think creative industries tend to be a little more satisfying. I always looked at it as I don’t want to sit in a factory and stamp a piece of metal. I want to go have a little more flexibility in what I do and I think architecture provides that.

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Improving The Community Through Architecture

“We feel it is critical to be stewards of society, to leave things better than we found them, and to create places that improve the built environment for all.” – Cole Architects Design Process Values.

With this strong statement, Cole Architects has accepted a great deal of responsibility and set a vision for the work it will do in the years to come. To learn more about this ambitious and commendable mission and how it is playing out in Idaho, we sat down with the president and managing partner of Cole Architects, Matt Huffield.

Huffield came to Cole Architects in a roundabout way. However, the detour made him the perfect leader for the 10-person architecture firm. After working on projects in Houston, LA, and NYC, Huffield wanted to create a strong, diverse foundation in Boise. That is when he met with Stan continues designing on a semi-retired basis.

Cole founded Cole Architects with the motivation to not only create functional and beautiful spaces but also pursue philanthropy. This altruistic mindset has guided the firm through many projects. They include government buildings, education, offices, light industrial, medical, retail hospitality, adaptive reuse, and mixed-use developments.

The Ronald McDonald House

One such philanthropic project Cole Architects recently finished is the Ronald McDonald House in downtown Boise. For years, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho have been giving families of sick children a place to rest and refresh close to their hospitalized children. After raising 15 million dollars from the community in just 18 months, the charity brought in Cole Architects to design the new space. Cole Architects worked closely with the contractor to open the building in 15 short months. “It was a very fast-paced [project]; we all signed up for it ahead of time and said we’re going to get this done.”

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Ronald McDonald House

The charity was previously functioning in an old house. Making the building feel like a home was very important to the owner. “We had to work with the east and north end neighborhood districts to make sure that we were going to put something in their neighborhoods that fit the urban fabric.”

PETIQ

Another unique project Cole Architects is currently working on is the new 55,000 s.f. headquarters for PetIQ in Eagle. Like the Ronald McDonald House, this building also has an aggressive timeline and will be unique for the area. It will wrap up in June of this year. However, working in Eagle has been challenging. Between its contemporary style, large overhangs, and three stories with a rooftop deck, the new building has undergone heavy negotiations to comply with local zoning ordinances and codes. 

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PETIQ Rendering

Cole Architects embraced the challenge by clinging to their core principles. “As architects, it’s our ethical responsibility to improve the community, improve the built environment, and do what’s right environmentally, etc. Our responsibility is not necessarily to the owner or architect but to the project and society as a whole. “From the very beginning of the project, the owners have kept the Eagle community in mind. They grew up in the city and are very involved in the community. Creating something that would enhance the area they love was very important to them.

The reason Cole Architects were perfect for this particular project comes down to their problem-solving and creative skills. As Huffield says, “I think the important part is learning how to design, how to problem solve, and be creative. As we automate our world, creativity is going to be one of the last things that we automate. It’s the one thing that a computer can’t do. “That is why they have worked hard to build such a talented and dedicated, detail-oriented, and civic-minded staff.  Cole Architects continues to be successful because they understand the fundamental principle. “We are only as good as the people who work with us.”

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