Heitman Architects Inc.
Located in Itasca, Illinois, Heitman Architects is a full-service architectural firm specializing in the corporate-industrial market. With projects throughout the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Canada, Heitman designs facilities for corporate clients, including Fortune 100 and 500 companies, with developer-led work that places an emphasis on sustainability and optimization.
“We’re considered a thought leader in the industrial market,” says Karl Heitman, president of Heitman Architects. We’ve done some of the most notable industrial facilities in the Midwest and we’ve really leveraged technology in regards to sustainability and data modeling.”
As the sole proprietor of Heitman Architects, Karl Heitman got his start designing corporate buildings and office structures in Texas, but left for Chicago in 1986 when an oil shortage tanked the state’s economy. The exodus turned out to be well-timed, as Heitman arrived on the Chicago scene just as the industrial market in the city was starting to ramp up.
“The market changed from office to industrial and I just found myself in the right place at the right time,” he says. Heitman ran the Chicago office of a Dallas-based architecture firm for his first six years in the Windy City before setting out on his own in 1993 with the formation of Heitman Architects.
When the recession hit in the late 2000s, Heitman made a crucial pivot that helped the company persevere through the challenging economic period. “We understood there might not be any new buildings built for the next five years, so we started to focus inside the box and looked at optimizing and actually helping our clients with facility management of buildings by leveraging data models and building information modeling (BIM) formats,” says Heitman.
With the country emerging from the economic slowdown, Heitman says building projects are now picking back up. “We’re enjoying the market right now and the fact that there is a lot of pent-up demand means we’ve been able to build some really awesome facilities,” says Heitman.
Maximizing client value through sustainable design
Within the corporate-industrial market, Heitman Architects has developed a niche in adaptive reuse, rehabbing older, historic buildings into state-of-the-art facilities that meet the needs of its clients. The company has completed such projects for Illinois-based clients like hydraulic equipment supplier Parker-Hannifin and aerospace contractor ARR. “For the AAR project, we took a building that was 40 years old and created a very collaborative, integrated environment for the next-generation workforce,” says Heitman.
Sustainable design has been another trend driving the market as of late and at this point, Heitman says it’s almost more difficult not to end up with a project that qualifies for base LEED certification. “Some of the initiatives that were started by the U.S. Green Building Council and LEED have been transformational for the construction industry in general,” he says. “Everything you source in terms of materials has sustainable, green properties now; you can hardly buy paint, carpet or glue that doesn’t have some sustainable aspect to it.”
As it becomes easier to assess a building’s energy performance, clients are starting to see the benefits of sustainable design from a financial standpoint. “Those savings in performance and energy costs are becoming more tangible,” Heitman says.
Heitman Architects has positioned itself as a leader in sustainable design for the corporate-industrial market, designing the first LEED-certified industrial facility in the state of Illinois for leading global wire and cable, security and communications supplier Anixter. The company has been recognized within the industry for its sustainable design projects, earning a national award from NAIOP for an SC Johnson facility in Wisconsin.
While Heitman Architects has designed some of the most notable industrial and corporate facilities in the Midwest, it serves clients throughout the country. The firm recently designed a BMW facility in Redlands, California, and has done work in Texas, Detroit, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. In total, the company has designed over 40 million square feet of corporate industrial facilities, including 8 million square feet of LEED-certified space.”
In the Pullman district of Chicago, Heitman Architects recently completed a new manufacturing facility for Method Home Care Products that fuses the firm’s specialty in adaptive reuse with its commitment to sustainable design. The LEED-certified facility is the first in its sector to earn a Platinum rating and features a fully automated rooftop farm. “The rooftop greenhouse produces food for next-day consumption and is actually the largest rooftop farm in the U.S.,” says Heitman.
Client satisfaction as a mark of success
Like many architecture firms, Heitman Architects measures success by the number of referrals and repeat business that comes its way. “Most of our business has been through repeat contracts with established clients or referrals; we understand we’re doing something right if we can keep our clients and have repeat business,” Heitman says.
For Heitman, the biggest sense of pride comes from helping a client to modernize facilities and processes in a way that optimizes both its end product and the happiness and productivity of its employees. He cites a recent project at a Sunstar facility in Schaumburg, Illinois, as a prime example. The fully integrated building features robotic manufacturing capabilities, plastic injection molding equipment, 80,000 square feet of corporate office space and a 365-foot-long, 22-foot-high glass wall that overlooks the manufacturing floor.
“The clients just moved in and they’re delighted with the daylight, the views and the way the space is working out,” Heitman says. “It’s transformational for the population of the business because it creates a better work environment, which increases productivity and helps them to find the best and brightest employees and retain them.”
As Heitman Architects continues to grow, Heitman believes that the company’s history in sustainable, fully integrated design has it well-positioned for the future. “In our market sector we’re seeing buildings moving more and more toward environmentally and functionally integrated facilities, and we are hoping to continue to help make that happen for our clients,” he says.
With a specialization in adaptive reuse, a reputation for sustainable, cost-saving designs and a litany of high-end clients, Heitman Architects Inc. will continue to serve the market with the finest in corporate-industrial building design.
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