With an uncompromising commitment to its clients’ visions, budgets and schedules, NWS Architects has maintained a client retention rate of more than 90 percent. This has allowed the company to provide architectural services throughout the country for 80 years. Located in Chicago, NWS is licensed in 45 states and caters to the commercial and industrial sectors. In recent years, the firm has become a household name in the green building and sustainability industry.
Sanjiv Chadha, president of NWS, says that his architecture firm stands out from the competition by completing nontraditional sustainability projects. “Everybody does office and retail spaces but I don’t know anybody else who has done a 24/7 laundromat,” he shares. “We did one that was with all solar panels and everything green. It received a few awards and even grants from the state.”
Building a niche in unusual green projects
NWS has established a niche for itself in the retrofitting market. The company has recently taken on the challenge of converting existing warehouses into sustainable structures by applying a green design to the renovation. “This is happening not because the landlords love it, but because the tenants are actually demanding it,” says Chadha. “It’s difficult to convert warehouses to achieve LEED certification because the developers build them as cheap as possible.”
The retrofitting aspect is also being incorporated into many high-rise buildings. NWS is capitalizing on several developers’ and property management firms’ decisions to upgrade mechanical and electrical aspects of their facilities to green and sustainable systems.
In the retail sector, NWS recently designed a building in Chicago for Uniqlo, a men’s and women’s clothing accessory store. Construction on the 60,000-square-foot facility was completed in December and is the largest retail store in Chicago. The building was not LEED-certified due to the fact that Uniqlo is a Japanese company that claims that all materials used in its stores are already green.
Chadha says that as an architectural firm that aims to design green facilities, the biggest hesitancy he faces from clients is the paperwork and cost to chase a LEED certification. “The overall cost to achieve a LEED-certified building is about 2 percent more than the original construction cost,” he says. “The fees involved in the paperwork account for about 1 percent of that. So we run into a lot of clients that want green and sustainable aspects of their properties but aren’t necessarily interested in achieving LEED status.”
Client satisfaction pays off
Over the years NWS has been able to establish a pattern of generating repeat business. Since 2008, NWS has maintained a relationship with Dollar General Stores. Over the past eight years, NWS has designed more than 200 locations throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. The company is currently under contract to design approximately 50 stores per year.
The relationships that NWS has generated and maintained, along with its niche portfolio have enabled the company to weather storms with the ups and downs of the economy and construction industry. “By working with clients like Uniqlo and Dollar General Stores, we create some leeway for ourselves,” says Chadha. “When the bigger retail chains slowed down during the recession, clients like Dollar General picked up because all of the sudden malls across the country were inviting them into their developments.”
Another aspect that has proven to be an asset for NWS is that with having a niche in the retrofitting market, many of the company’s clients are seeking to improve their existing facilities as opposed to developing new structures. “This especially came into play during the recession,” recalls Chadha. “Achieving LEED certification and creating more sustainable facilities is a motivating factor for many owners.”
At a recent International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) roundtable conference, Chadha gave a presentation on surviving tough times such as a recession. “My basic theory is: jump high and jump cheap,” says Chadha. “All architects want to design great-looking buildings, but not everyone can afford to do it all of the time.”
The staff of 19 at NWS takes a team approach to every project. By working in collaboration with its clients, NWS is able to not only meet the needs of the client, but also guide them through the many processes involved. “We do annual reviews with all of our clients,” says Chadha. “Every year our clients comment on how great our service was during the project.”
With a staff of highly trained professionals experienced in all aspects of project development, NWS Architects will continue to pride itself in its professionalism and uncompromising dedication to its clients.
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