Case Studies

Harley Ellis Devereaux

Building on a Century of History

Alvin Harley, founder of Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED), was raised by a modest Canadian family that believed he should become more than a farmer. Harley’s parents moved him at a young age to London, Ontario, providing easy access to Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y.

It was during an early apprenticeship with an Ontario-based architect that Harley realized his passion. Harley moved to Detroit in the early 1890s to pursue the American dream of business and financial success. By 1908 Harley established his own business, one that has become the national full-service architecture, engineering and planning firm now known as HED.

During the company’s 105 years of business, HED has survived and thrived through changes in ownership, partnership, acquisitions and mergers, as well as the wax and wane of the American economy. Through its adaptability, the modest operation has developed into a booming business with locations in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

A team of architects and engineers lead HED in its success. With all the experience of the executive team combined, HED has a goal to create smarter designs that optimize space. Gary Skog, current CEO of HED, brought his experience to the firm in 1981. Throughout his tenure, Skog has played many pivotal roles as director of design, science and technology studio leader, as well as chief marketing officer for the company.

In addition, J. Peter Devereaux, current president and chief marketing officer of HED, brings 27 years of experience to the position. Devereaux joined the team in 2006 when the California-based practice of Fields Devereaux, of which he was CEO, joined forces with the Midwest-based practice of Harley Ellis. Dennis King, the current COO of HED, will be retiring spring 2013 and a new group of corporate leadership emerging from the three main offices will join Skog and Devereaux; Mike Cooper in Detroit, Enrique Suarez in Chicago and Tania Van Herle in Los Angeles.

The firm employs people with talent, insight and perspective to offer services across the country. The staff of about 230 helps plan and design projects and provide consultations for branded environments, strategy and sustainability. The company takes time considering clients’ needs while also offering daring and bold ideas. It is HED’s mission to create things in revolutionary ways, to produce extraordinary outcomes.

Ideas to Implementation

HED takes pride in seeing the design ideas produced by staff executed through construction. Many of the company’s projects are featured on its website. Sustainability has been, and continues to be, a key driver of innovation at HED.

“Continuously looking forward to what is next, our firm seeks the pathways that will lead the industry beyond LEED certification, and truly advance our client’s world in tangible ways like lower operating costs and higher productivity resulting from healthier environments,” details Devereaux.

A project currently under construction and generating much excitement in the arena is the West Branch Library in Berkeley, Calif. “This is because it marks the firm’s first foray into net-zero energy design,” says Dennis.

Susan Briggs, managing principal of HED’s San Francisco office, is the principal in charge of the West Branch Library project, which will replace the existing library with a new 9,300-square foot building. The new library will continue to serve as a meeting place and community library for the historic Oceanview and West Berkeley neighborhoods. In addition, it will produce a net-zero annual energy bill, as the project includes many other sustainable strategies that will contribute to LEED Platinum certification.

The firm has since designed a second net-zero energy building: the Lakota Lodge, for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. According to Dennis, the modest, 6,000-square foot facility is located at the Lakota Campground on land bequeathed to the nonprofit group within the Los Padres National Forest, and includes a commercial kitchen and dining facilities to seat 150 campers along with a bunk room and toilet facilities. The project is currently in the plan review and bidding phase.

Susan King, national sustainable design leader for HED, was the sustainable design leader and the principal in charge for the recently completed Country Club Hills Wellness Center in Country Club Hills, Ill. The center was designed for South Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) and Turnstone Development Corporation. The wellness center is a five-story building with 77 furnished apartments designed to help formerly homeless individuals and families get back on their feet.

Susan notes the facility received a LEED Bronze certification from the National Green Building Association for incorporating among other environmentally friendly strategies, geothermal heating and cooling and a solar thermal heating system for domestic hot water. All of these strategies are considered exceptional in the context of affordable housing and extremely tight budgets.

In designing buildings, HED takes into consideration various sustainable goals desired by clients and also industry trends. Chris Knell, managing principal for HED’s San Diego office, was the principal in charge on the recently completed Miramar College Public Safety Building for the San Diego Community College District. This facility also considered achieving net-zero energy and as currently constructed it is 80-percent more efficient then the code would require.

Net-zero remains a goal that will be achieved in a second phase of construction that includes the installation of a photovoltaic system on the roof of the nearby parking structure. According to Dennis, the safety building was awarded LEED Platinum certification in 2012 for all its energy saving and sustainability features.

In Detroit, while only pursuing a LEED Silver certification, another completed project garnering award attention is the Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) facility. The 48,000-square foot building provides a range of wellness and social services for the community. The facility has recently received two awards from the Construction Association of Michigan (CAM); the awards included a design excellence award, as well as being recognized as a 2012 Green Project of the Year.

… and Beyond

HED has sustained various economic climates, wars and military conflicts, as well as an ever-changing business demand. Susan expresses it is HED’s ability to adapt that has helped the company survive and thrive over the years.

“We’re good at embracing change,” says Susan, who has been with HED for 15 years. “This is a key component of innovation. While my national focus for the firm is on sustainable practice, I think the ability to change is really important in a lot of other areas in the profession, as well.”

According to remarks made by Dennis in a 2007 report, the expectation for HED’s future is high. He quotes Chicago architect Daniel Hudson Burnham as saying, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”

“The design industry is moving at a breakneck pace toward integrated practice,” says Dennis. “Things will be even more complicated. Change will come at us continuously. We must do whatever is needed – wherever it is required. Let’s be proud of what we have accomplished, and inspired by where we are going.”

As the company continues in its second century of business, HED will maintain leadership in the industry. As a result, the team at Harley Ellis Devereaux is proud to note that a reputation for successful projects will continue.

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