May 25, 2012

Wizards of architecture work at OZ

BOULDER — Having been around for more than 20 years — closer to 50 if you count the two original firms that merged to form the existing firm — the architects at OZ Architecture have racked up expertise in a variety of design areas: single-family homes, apartment complexes, museums, health care facilities, office buildings, fire stations, ski resorts.

The firm’s history encompasses the rise of post-modern and high-tech architecture, as well as the emergence of sustainability as a driving force in design.

But one of the biggest changes the firm has had to adapt to didn’t come from within the architecture industry itself.

SPONSORED CONTENT

Feel right at home with Sutherlands

Lumber and design gallery is the local resource for all things renovation! In this vibrant and rapidly-growing community, stands a long-time beacon of excellence in home improvement: Sutherlands Lumber and Design Gallery. A part of Northern Colorado’s landscape for over 30 years, Sutherlands has carved out a niche for itself as a premier destination for … Continued

Like many businesses, OZ Architecture, one of the region’s largest architecture firms, felt the pinch during the recent recession. But as business begins to pick up again, the company is embracing new trends in the industry and local opportunities for growth, all while keeping in mind the lessons learned during the economic slump.

“When the recession hit, things got very lean, very quickly,” said Kelly Davis, AIA, LEED AP, and managing principal at the firm’s office in Boulder. “It completely changed our business model. We had to become a lot more efficient and learn how to do more with less.”

It’s an attitude that the firm has kept even after the recession.

“Our industry has changed pretty significantly in the past four to five years, and I don’t think it’s going to change back,” Davis said. He explained that the value architects bring to a project is constantly being questioned, forcing them to prove their worth again and again. But OZ has risen to the challenge.

“We’ve upped the ante on the service and design we bring to clients,” Davis said, a commitment that has helped the firm forge new relationships and secure repeat business. “It’s definitely paying off.”

With studios in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas, the firm’s approximately 125 employees (40 of whom work in the LEED silver certified office in Boulder at the Twenty Night Street retail district) tackle projects across the country. Locally, recent projects include designing the new Nederland Library, the Via (formerly Boulder Special Transit transportation facility and collaborating on the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Visual Arts Complex, which houses the CU Art Museum and the departments of art and art history.

Currently, the firm is working on a range of projects, including office buildings for Boulder County and the Plaza on Broadway student apartments on The Hill, which will begin construction this year. But OZ is also carving out two distinct niches for itself.

The first is designing and renovating office space for growing and start-up technology companies.

“That’s one area that’s moving about 100 miles per hour right now,” said Davis, who added that the firm is involved in about 10-12 different tech business projects in the area.

He said that these companies are focused on two primary design criteria: flexibility and sustainability.

In terms of flexibility, Davis said that architects have had to change the way they think about designing office space, especially when it comes to tech employees.

“These aren’t the desk jockeys of yesterday,” he said. “They’re mobile, they work flexible hours, and they work as part of a collaborative team. Their offices have to allow for flexibility, efficiency and space for collaboration as well as privacy.”

OZ’s architects have also become skilled at designing for sustainability — many of them have received LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Guild. But Davis said that doesn’t just include conventional eco-friendly measures.

“We’re doing a lot of work in older buildings, which can be both good and bad in terms of sustainability,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do with the envelope, windows and insulation in those buildings.” Because of this, OZ architects are also using design to facilitate greener office practices, such as recycling, composting and day-lighting to reduce energy use.

“This push for sustainability is as strong as it’s ever been, but we’re coming at it from a more practical, applicable user interface,” Davis said.

OZ’s other new niche involves a completely difference type of technology: the kind used to produce Colorado’s renowned craft beers. The firm is working with three local breweries (they’re keeping which ones under wraps for now) to expand operations by increasing facility space and production capacity.

“We’ve really created an expertise and knowledge base where we understand both the process and equipment needs as well as the physical space requirements,” Davis said. “It’s a very fun area to be working in.”

As the area’s economic outlook continues to improve, OZ’s architects likely will find themselves even busier, a situation that David said is not only good for business, but good for design as well, since it promotes innovation.

“With things moving so fast, you don’t have the chance to over-think things,” he said. “You just keep trying new ideas and then moving on to the next one.”

BOULDER — Having been around for more than 20 years — closer to 50 if you count the two original firms that merged to form the existing firm — the architects at OZ Architecture have racked up expertise in a variety of design areas: single-family homes, apartment complexes, museums, health care facilities, office buildings, fire stations, ski resorts.

The firm’s history encompasses the rise of post-modern and high-tech architecture, as well as the emergence of sustainability as a driving force in design.

But one of the biggest changes the firm has had to adapt to didn’t come from within the architecture industry…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts