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October 30, 2014

Survey: Driftmier Architects

Specialty: Full-service architecture firm with a focus on owner-occupied facilities, including offices, financial institutions, retail and government buildings

Management: Rick Driftmier, president/principal architect, Lee Driftmier, vice president/associate principal

Founded: 1980

Headquarters: Redmond

2014 revenues: N/A

Projected 2015 revenues:

Projects: Houghton Center remodel and expansion, Kirkland; North City Water District administration and public meeting building, Shoreline; 1st Security Bank, Poulsbo

Photo courtesy of Driftmier Architects [enlarge]
Driftmier Architects designed a renovation and expansion for the North City Water District Administration Building, which opened last year in Shoreline.

Rick Driftmier, president of his namesake architecture firm, responded to questions that ran the gamut from bank robberies to when to call it quits.

Q: What sort of projects have been keeping you busy?

A: Prior to 2009 we generally had 12 to 14 bank or credit union projects going. While that dropped off significantly for a few years, we now have five credit union and two bank projects in design or under construction.

We are also working with two larger utilities to design remodels or expansions of their headquarters facilities and helping one Washington county determine its facility needs over the next 20 years.

Q: Is there a type of work you’d like to do more of?

A: We have worked with a couple wineries and completed a few smaller shopping centers. Expanding those markets would be wonderful.

Q: As a mid-sized firm how do you attract clients and talented personnel?

A: Being a mid-sized firm actually is often a competitive advantage in both attracting clients and attracting employees.

We offer potential clients a wide range of experience that comes with a more personalized and responsive design process. To prospective employees we can offer the opportunity to work on a broad range of project types and experience in large array of responsibilities.

Q: Online banking makes it easy for customers to avoid setting foot in their local branch. How are banks and credit unions adapting?

A: It is true that many of us manage our accounts online and get our cash at the supermarket, but most of us prefer to get financial advice, finalize loans and accomplish similar items in person.

Branches are getting smaller, branch staffs are getting smaller and better trained, and the focus is moving from checking balances and processing transactions to providing better service on a wider variety of financial products.

Watch for banks to find more ways to get the customers in the door. This could lead to in-branch wine tastings, book clubs, and branches that share their lobby with a coffee shop or other retail establishment.

Q: When a robber successfully robs a bank is that partially a design fault?

A: Bank robberies occur for reasons totally separate from the bank or credit union itself. Generally, desperate and often irrational people look to banks for “easy money.” But there are lots of things an architect can do to help deter robberies.

Design elements that increase the time needed for the robbery, expose the robber to direct view and to cameras, and that impede the escape all contribute to deterring robberies. If a robbery does occur, the design needs to provide a high level of safety for customers and employees.

Design can also help catch the bad guy by collecting evidence through use of a creative branch layout, interior materials selection, camera placement and other design elements.

Q: You’ve been in business since 1980. Have you ever thought about calling it quits or merging with another firm?

A: Quitting has never been considered. But over the years we have had several opportunities to acquire, be acquired or merge with other firms. While this interest has been flattering, we have chosen to maintain our firm size and focus on excellent design solutions and exceptional customer service. This has led to a situation where more than 80 percent of our work over the last 20 years has been for repeat clients.

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