Hoefer Wysocki Architecture
- Written by: Kelly Matlock
- Produced by: Chuck McKenna
- Estimated reading time: 6 mins
Hoefer Wysocki Architecture (HWA) – named after founders Mitch Hoefer and Dave Wysocki – is known for being a company clients want to work with. Founded in 1996 in the basement of an Overland Park suburb of Kansas City, Kan., HWA has grown tremendously in 17 years to become a full-service architectural, planning and interior design firm.
Rob Welker, one of HWA’s six principals, came to the company in 2007 after being recruited. Welker was growing a business in the construction industry and was regularly working with Hoefer and Wysocki when the trio realized that more could be done if they joined forces.
“The founders were former HKS guys working in Dallas who wanted to get back to Kansas City,” says Welker. It was evident that the founders took extra care in crafting the company culture. “It means everything to us,” Welker says of the company’s strong backbone. “We do the right thing. That means doing what we say we’ll do.” In an industry where many over-commit and under-perform, HWA is a relief for clients.
Breaking down the work
HWA clients are mainly found in three markets: health care, commercial and government. While the business is based in the Midwest, clients hire HWA for projects all across the U.S., especially developers, real estate companies and government clients.
Health care facilities are currently the largest component of HWA’s work, and the breakdown is nearly a 50-50 split between the public and private sector. Often found designing health care centers for the government sector, the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army are repeat clients of HWA; specific medical groups include: USAF Medical Services, U.S. Navy Medicine, as well as U.S. Army Medical Command. Additionally, Homeland Security and the FBI are other repeat clients for HWA.
Work has been steady for HWA in the government sector, which includes buildings with a specific mission, such as health care and security. “Some of the buildings are government-owned real estate, but we’ve seen a lot of developer lease-backed projects grow and gain momentum,” says Welker. “Many of these buildings are outside the Midwest.”
Specific projects in the last few years for HWA have included new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics, as well as both new and renovations to U.S. Air Force medical facilities, ranging from $10 million to a $75 million.
In the commercial market, HWA designs many multiuse structures, including offices, retail shops and restaurants. “We have relationships with multiple large-scale real estate firms,” says Welker. “We work with them on a regional, as well as a national, basis.”
The commercial market is really heating up in some markets and booming in others. HWA is currently working on multiple new office buildings from the ground up. “No matter the market or the sector, we pride ourselves on being a diversified firm,” says Welker. “But, our niche is at-risk [design-build] work.”
Communication and Collaboration
An expert at-risk, HWA works with developers by using a pro forma (issued before the building is designed and constructed) and budgets accordingly. “We compete on a national basis, especially in the government sector,” says Welker. “It’s not for the weak of heart. We like it. We’re good at it.”
Design-build is a faster and smoother process than design-bid-build, according to Welker. “The entire team is involved from the beginning and it allows for a design that will be buildable from the get-go, meaning fewer issues at the job site, and fewer revisions along the way,” he details. “Having the contractors and subcontractors brought in, in the beginning, is a key to success. The more they are part of the planning stage, even in design, the better they’ll execute the work in the field, with a lot less risk. Construction in the field is only going to be as good as the contractors understanding of the design documents.”
The company’s subconsultants include: mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural and civil engineering work. For these, HWA works with repeat partners; however, the company hires locally across the U.S. “We pull regional players,” says Welker.
For example, HWA is currently working on multiple projects in Florida and is hiring Florida-based engineers who understand the local code requirements of the city and conditions of soil. On some government contracts, hiring local is preferred, due to small business priorities.
Throughout the work, communication is the No. 1 factor in design-build for HWA. “We really communicate upfront in the preplanning stages,” Welker explains. “It’s all about preplanning before executing. You can’t execute without a plan.”
Communication within the company is just as highly valued as communication with key partners and principals. “It’s a lead-by-example approach,” says Welker. An impressive amount of thought has gone into building and running HWA; the company even has its own Company Culture committee.
When designing a building, HWA is thinking about what should go where and why, and this has led to a service offering called: initial outfitting. What began as a service for government clients has been expanded to the private sector; post-construction, HWA will go in to the building and outfit interior furnishings.
“We coordinate everything,” says Welker. “It’s a real turnkey solution. The occupants can then go in, turn the lights on and get to work.” This service is growing in popularity, as well.
Conscientiousness at HWA includes its sustainability efforts, although they are not always immediately clear. “We incorporate LEED design features in all our projects,” explains Welker. “But in the private sector, owners often won’t pursue certification because of the expense to it.”
In the public sector, however, LEED certification is a priority. “The government sees the value and has taken the correct steps in having all new buildings be LEED-certified at the Silver level or higher,” Welker continues.
“Although it’s hard to pick a pet project, the most rewarding to me is our government health care facilities,” says Welker. “I say that because our country has been at war for the last 15 years, and it feels good to be able to provide the men and women of our military with state-of-the-art medical facilities for recovery.”
According to Welker, the team strives to design world-class healing environments. “When it’s finished, it’s great to see the look on the faces of those utilizing the facilities,” he details. HWA is working on multiple new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics that are developer-driven; including one in Montgomery, Ala., and another in Tallahassee, Fla.
One especially unique project was the postgraduate dental school at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The complex LEED Gold-certified project won an Air Force design award.
Whether steady or up and down, public or private, HWA makes sure to do the right thing. It’s a simple thing that often gets buried in the many layers of business. “Our word is true,” asserts Welker. “Tell people what you are going to do day one, and either meet it or beat it.”
Of course, Welker recognizes that everyone needs to make money. “I know,” says Welker, “but reputation and commitment is everything to me and to our company. I’d rather lose money on a job than not have a positive reference at the end of it.”
In addition to doing what’s right, being honest and taking responsibility, Welker stresses another big part of the work at HWA: fun. “We celebrate just about everything,” he laughs. “This means: birthdays, holiday, anniversaries, First Fridays, breakfasts brought in, company field trips and an annual summer event in August at a partner’s house. We work hard, but we play harder. Over the years, companies have moved away from this, but this is our staff and most importantly they are part of our family. Is anything more valuable to society than happiness?”
Down the road, there will be additional offices and HWA’s foray into international work. Expansion is a result of the way in which HWA works, earning the trust and respect of its clients. When a company produces good work, it catches on – Hoefer Wysocki Architecture has proven hard work does pay off.
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