Place Architects

Specialty: Housing, arts and recreation, commercial

Management: Heather Johnston, founding principal; Jennifer Reilly, principal

Founded: 1999

Headquarters: Seattle

2007 revenues: Close to $1 million

Projected 2008 revenues: Close to $1 million

Current projects: Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, an expansion of a live theater with a target of LEED silver; a line of prefabricated homes in four sizes called Place houses; Summit Tower, a renovation of a 14-unit apartment building on Capitol Hill; The Boulders in Redmond, a 178-unit apartment complex redeveloped into condos

Photo courtesy of Place Architects
Place Architects is designing prefabricated homes called “Place” houses.

The economy’s downturn has been “a really mixed bag” for this small architecture firm, which began the year with 12 employees but now has 10, says founding principal Heather Johnston.

Some residential remodeling projects have been cancelled, but large public and commercial projects are filling the void. Those include a site master planning project for cluster housing and an office building renovation in Kirkland.

“We were slower in July and August than we are now,” Johnston said. ”If things pull together relatively soon ... I think we’ll probably be OK.”

New Canada office

Things can’t be that bad. On Sept. 1, Johnston opened a branch office in Vancouver, B.C., where she has moved with her family.

“I’m interested in working all across Cascadia,” she said. “There’s a lot of benefit to be gained for both places and for our clients.”

At press time Johnston had just met with a prospective client in Vancouver, where she was working out of a coffee shop while her new office (and home) in Horseshoe Bay was being remodeled.

Getting green

The biggest influence on Place Architects is the drive to design more sustainably. In Seattle, the building codes are getting greener all the time, and it’s hard to keep track of it all, Johnston said.

“We’re making great strides very quickly to develop greener, more renewable, better architecture. With every project we’re getting deeper and deeper into that,” Johnston said. As the years go by, the firm’s projects will be less and less dependent on non-renewable energy sources.

“That’s the only way we can survive,” she added.

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