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October 3, 2019

Survey: Johnston Architects

Image provided by Johnston Architects
Shared Roof, a 35-unit apartment building in Phinney Ridge, will have shared amenities and living spaces.

Specialty: Architecture, interior design, and master planning services for a mix of public and private clients

Management: Partnership

Founded: 1990

Headquarters: Seattle

2018 revenues: $2.4 million

Projected 2019 revenues: $3 million

Projects: Stencil, Seattle; Lee Street Lofts, Seattle; Duvall Library, Duvall

Principal Jack Chaffin answered questions from the DJC about his firm and trends and issues in the industry.

Q: In recent years, has the firm seen any of its specialties perform especially well?

A: Public projects have finally crawled out of the shadow of the Great Recession. There are project needs at the state and local level that went unmet for the last decade because of low tax revenues, but that’s changed now.

We anticipate seeing the public projects sector grow for the foreseeable future as federal, state, county and city coffers continue to recover.

Q: Have you seen developers expanding their project types to include a more interesting mix of uses under one roof?

A: We are seeing numerous new and innovative developments in the mixed-use sector. As the market continues at this unprecedented rate, development is getting more challenging. Property owners are finding creative ways to bring projects to life.

One excellent example is Shared Roof, a new 35-unit, mixed-use apartment building in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood. It is unique in that it is being developed for families who are committed to living in a collaborative community.

The developer will also live in the building and is committed to the idea of shared amenities and living spaces. This idea of shared resources has tremendously influenced the design of this project.

Q: Can you describe a recent project that embodies your firm’s design approach?

A: As we have grown over the last few years, we have made a concerted effort to retain the culture and attributes of a smaller firm.

One of the best examples of this is our recent work for a new library in Winthrop.

After an extensive programming and community engagement process we brought the entire studio together for a design charrette. The project team shared the data collected from the Winthrop community, the town’s unique westernization design guidelines, and some very early concepts with the entire office and let the conversation begin.

One of the best parts of a small firm is the trust you build with one another.

Everyone knows each other well enough that it feels safe to speak up, ask questions, and voice your ideas. I think it also lends to a self-enforcing positive environment that amplifies confidence.

For our projects and clients, this positive and creative exchange of ideas from our diverse team of designers is invaluable.

Q: Do developers still have interest in high-level LEED and sustainable designs?

A: We see our clients’ commitments vary, but it’s certainly trending higher. In general, Seattleites have a desire to live sustainably and have a commitment to reducing our impact on the environment, and developers know that.

Q: Any forecasts for how business will be for you in the next year?

A: With the sustained uptick in the public sector and as Seattle’s shortage of housing continues to require solutions, we are cautiously optimistic moving into the 2020s.

If there is a dark cloud on the horizon, it is the concerns we are seeing around volatile material prices paired with the strain on our construction labor pool. These two issues are impacting current construction costs and future escalation forecasts and it is beginning to affect the viability of some projects.

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