Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read September 2021 — Founded in 2004, Architectural Innovations is a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) focused on providing architectural and consulting services through a multidisciplinary approach. Founder and President Jan Brimmeier spoke with Invest: about the firm’s differentiators and its projects in the southwestern Pennsylvania region.
What differentiates Architectural Innovations from some of the other firms based in Pittsburgh?
AI has a wide range of experience in different building types. We are considered a small- to medium-sized architectural firm but we have always thought big. My background is from small to large and international firms. I’ve taken the best of my experiences and put them into Architectural Innovations. While we are considered relatively small for an architectural firm, we are capable of producing large scale projects. Our clients have accessibility to all of our team members. We have a seasoned staff, which is critical to our history. 80% of the staff have over 20 years of experience. We are also one of the largest Women Business Enterprise (WBE) firms headquartered in Pennsylvania. Across the country there are only 2 percent registered architects who are women, even fewer minorities and even fewer who own their own firms. We self-perform everything which differentiates us from our competitors. We have the ability to self-perform up to $150 million projects. That is something that differentiates us.
What makes southwestern Pennsylvania a special market to be located in and what are some of the projects you are working on?
We work with other architectural firms, such as on the new airport modernization project. Gensler / HDR are leading the new terminal and concourse modernization and we’ve become a critical team member. We’re the only other architectural firm working with Gensler on this project. Gensler / HDR took a different approach to the project versus the Penns Arena, in which we also participated when it was designed. HOK was the architect for that project and they had 26 minority / WBE firms participating. The airport project is different since they chose to provide a protege team to each division. We were fortunate to be working with Gensler as their protégé.
Another large project is the Gold 1A parking facility at Heinz Field, the first Parksmart Gold project in the country. Currently, we’re working on two different city of Pittsburgh projects with the department of public works. We’re also working for the state’s Department of General Services. We have several projects with American Eagle, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh. We have completed over 400 designs for them nationally and internationally.
How do opportunities in construction today compare to pre-pandemic levels?
The architectural, construction and engineering worlds took a bit of a dive during the pandemic, as everybody did. However, it’s beginning to come back. We’re busier than ever. One of our challenges is finding candidates to join our team. Supply chain issues are also impacting the projects. The short supply of materials and high demand are affecting our schedules, which are becoming longer. Materials are difficult to get and we’re getting a lot more substitutions during the construction phase. Contractors are asking us for material changes because they can’t get what was originally specified. There’s a greater effort and cost involved in keeping things moving today. These costs are affecting our ability to estimate. We’re doing our best but it’s hurting the accuracy of estimating projects today.
How do you expect the infrastructure bill to impact the Pittsburgh region?
It should help our industry a great deal. Project schedules are getting extended due to the pandemic.
What are your top priorities for Architectural Innovations?
Aside from continuing to be strong and continuing down the path that we have been successful with, there is a passion that has to do with diversity. We’ve worked hard in the last five years to develop 100% diverse teams for our projects. It has taken five years to develop teams because we want to protect our change order history. We’ve taken a lot of time in vetting our consultants and to maintain our history. We would like to see more diversity within our office but it’s not easy. We are still working on that. I feel good about what we’ve accomplished in terms of our diverse teams.
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