Freiheit & Ho Architects

Specialty: Commercial architecture, planning, interior design

Management: Dick Freiheit, president; Lawrence K.L. Ho, vice president; Arthur S. Chang, principal; David Hills, principal; Rick B. Grimes, principal; Tom Spader, senior associate; Franklin Ng, senior associate

Founded: 1985

Headquarters: Kirkland

2006 revenues: $5 million

Projected 2007 revenues: $7.5 million

Current projects: 1200 Bellevue Way, Bellevue

Photo courtesy of Freiheit & Ho Architects
Freiheit & Ho designed 1200 Bellevue Way, a 49-unit fee-simple townhouse project in Bellevue.

Business has been good this year for Freiheit & Ho, allowing the firm to expand into the mixed-use and assisted-living markets. But Dick Freiheit, president, is skeptical about the future of mixed-use.

His gut feeling is that the industry is overbuilding the mixed-use market. “I’m not sure we can sustain this level of economics in 2008, but I don’t see a significant drop off. Some of it may be a flatlining,” he said.

So far, the market has been consistent, allowing Freiheit & Ho to take on four new mixed-use projects. The company, which works in 11 different markets, had strayed away from mixed-use over the past few decades because the segment tended to be small projects in suburban areas. But with the recent attention to mixed-use, projects have gotten “bigger and better” as they have infiltrated urban areas, drawing Freiheit & Ho back into the picture.

Retaining workers

Having enough skilled people to work in those new markets is also a concern. Freiheit said the company is 5 percent below its employment goal, which is much better than two years ago when it was 20 percent below.

Freiheit said that change is due to a company initiative to make employee’s office space more flexible and comfortable. Employee spaces are bigger than the usual cubicle and designed to support change, with the goal of helping the company retain good workers. Freiheit & Ho also recently relocated to a more spacious building.

Specialists as generalists Another draw for potential workers may be the ability to work in different fields. Traditionally, architects and designers are organized into specific markets. Instead, Freiheit & Ho organizes employees into project teams, so each person gets a chance to work with multiple clients and multiple types of projects.

“It keeps our people very interested in their work,” Freiheit said. “We have a tendency to be a group of specialists working as generalists.”

While flexibility helps draw qualified talent, it can also have its downside. Generalists don’t always have the opportunity to develop specialties in a field. But Freiheit says his employees have transcended that hurdle. “They’re able to use those skills they pick up in one market and take it into other markets.”

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