Today we chat with Andrew van Leeuwen and Kevin Eckert, the minds behind BUILD LLC, an industrious design-build firm in Seattle, whose work focuses on permanence, sustainability and efficiency.
Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Andrew and Kevin: We run Seattle based BUILD LLC, a design-build firm focused on modern architecture and construction. Most of our work is in and around the Pacific Northwest and lately we’ve been taking on design work in northern California. Our tidy 6 person firm is kept deliberately small so that we can get our hands around all of our projects. The BUILDblog is an important part of our company and it’s become a cultural extension of what we do and how we do it. The blog allows us to share information, play a role in the global design community, and promote our work. We also run the Special Projects Division cabinet shop that specializes in design-forward precision-crafted cabinets. We have families, we’re foodies, and we like to cycle. Life is enjoyably full for us.
Novedge: What has been most important in developing and growing a successful practice?
Andrew and Kevin: Taking accountability for all aspects of the design and building process. This includes listening to our clients, coming up with sensible designs that are realistic to construct, being persistent in obtaining building permits, minding the schedule, and hitting the budget (which we consistently do). Early on in our careers we got tired of architects not taking budgets seriously; we set out to change that and do architecture with a capital ‘A’ while we’re at it. Every line we draw is embedded with the expertise of construction and the knowledge of pricing. We named the company BUILD because we’re adamant about getting projects built. We don’t do paper architecture, submit to design competitions or go after awards. Instead, we spend our time on projects and on our social media program.
Social media has been a critical part of our growth and success. In an industry that typically guards its secrets, we share as much information as we can. We blog, tweet, facebook, houzz, pin, and whatever is next. We embrace the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Novedge: What are some recent projects that you worked on?
A 4,200 square foot tenant improvement supplements the existing Society Consulting offices with additional work stations, conference space, accessible bathrooms, and a set of bleachers for working, meeting and playing. The interiors package includes full height decals, interactive walls, tiered lounges, and cool furnishings worthy of a forward-thinking tech operation.
A four-story, mixed-use building with underground parking and utilities. Built on a parcel that’s marginally bigger than a single-family home site, Park Modern was conceived as an opportunity to create 12 homes and 3 commercial spaces that accommodate hundreds of users each day and provide affordable living and working spaces for an ever-growing community of modernists. Its modern design focuses on sensible living and working spaces, while its architecture optimizes natural daylight and practicality of space. Sustainability is embedded in all aspects of the Park Modern. The building’s shell is constructed of highly durable steel and glass with protected wood areas. Its systems are selected for low energy consumption, including radiant flooring supplied by a central boiler and a tractionless elevator. Its large expanses of glass and east-west units provide for ample light and ventilation, and its efficient fixtures and appliances were selected to last far beyond the industry standard.
The floor plan is efficient and effective including 2,400 square feet of conditioned area and a 2 car garage. Inside, the open floor plan allows for smaller, smarter spaces while the envelope is a simple and elegant translation of the interior functions. The cantilevered living room hovers adjacent a greenbelt, giving the interior common areas a tree-house like feel. An open tread stairway becomes a sculptural feature of the home and allows unique views to the tree canopy beyond. Floor to ceiling windows at the bedrooms allow generous amounts of natural daylight and fresh air.
The project involved a complete overhaul to a 1967 home located 20 miles south of Seattle. Outside, a new cantilevered shed roof announces the entry as a new 940 square foot west facing deck opens up to a view of the Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula beyond. Inside, approximately 3,400 square feet of interiors have been updated with new doors & windows, appliances, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, cabinetry and surfaces throughout. The living room opens to the adjacent upper floor deck via a twenty-foot wide accordion door system. A new kitchen design improves function and allows for better ergonomics with the floor plan. Key components such as the rough-stone fireplace were kept intact to retain the original character of the home.
Novedge: What software do you use?
Andrew and Kevin: We use AutoCAD for our 2D drawing: this straight-forward drafting software allows us to maintain control and authorship over the design.
Sketchup has become our go-to program for 3D modeling because it’s simple and universal. Its numerous supplementary programs like Podium have enabled us to add detail and refinement to the final renderings.
Novedge: How important is team work in your field? And what about collaboration, not just within the team, but also with your clients?
Andrew and Kevin: Teamwork is paramount in how we work. A successful project depends on everyone from the laborers to the finish carpenters working with common goals and working together. We’re very proud of the individuals we work with and we take care of our sub-contractors.
Our favorite projects include a high level of collaboration with our clients. We start each project by explaining to homeowners and business owners that architecture is like going on an adventure with us and that the design and construction processes should be engaging and fun. On any given project, the clients usually come to the table with ideas that give us that slap-to-the-forehead reaction of: “We wish we’d thought of that."
Novedge: I personally love when companies post their manifesto or mission online. Can you talk about the principles guiding BUILD LLC?
Andrew and Kevin: Our manifesto was largely born out of the lessons we learned while studying abroad in Denmark. We noticed that the people in Scandinavia were content with their lives, there was a greater sense of community, and the designed environment was extraordinary. So we set out to define what we could do in our own profession and our own community to promote such an environment. While the BUILD manifesto expresses our design beliefs, it also maps out the basic DNA of the good life that we strive for.
Do you want to read more about BUILD LLC? Check out this recent Q&A on their site.