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US

DEVELOPERS JOURNAL

Summer 2009

www.usdevelopersjournal.com

BBH DESIGN

A Healthy Business

THE MAGAZINE FOR CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVES


BBH Design

A Healthy Business

By Shannon O’Neill Lee Buckner is one of the founders of BBH Design. Together with his partners Richard Beale and Douglas Hall, Lee began BBH Design as an independent architecture firm in the midst of the ‘Recession’ of 2002. The company traces its origins to an original 1975 Research Triangle Park, North Carolina office of the internationally recognized architecture firm, NBBJ. Since Lee and his two partners had been managing that office for over 10 years and each of the men had decades of experience in architecture and in office management, it was a natural transition to branch out on their own. Today BBH Design is an architectural firm with a wide range of capabilities including master planning, space programming

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and planning, design, technical documentation, construction administration and alternative project delivery services (e.g. design-build and program management). The firm specializes in projects involving health care and higher education, and the fields of science and research. This is a lucrative market, even in the current economy: “we’re blessed to be in markets that remain strong, unlike many others such as the commercial, retail, and housing sectors,” Lee notes. Lee is a licensed architect with three degrees in architecture, and dual graduate degrees in business and health care administration. Some of his education took place at UNC Charlotte, and some of it—in a more hands-on sense—took


place during the time he served as a medic in the US military, giving him his initial interest in the health care field; this is an interest he applies in his work to this day. Lee is also Nationally Certified by the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB), a licensed real estate broker, a LEED Accredited Professional, and is among the few architects in the nation to be certified as a Design-Builder by the Design Build Institute of America. He is currently pursuing his license as a general contractor. This diverse background and wide range of experiences make Lee a valuable and visionary leader for his firm and for the clients served by his firm He has a unique understanding of

the planning, design and construction processes as well as health care, strategic planning, and business operations. As he puts it, “diversity and flexibility is what it’s about as an architect and builder. You’ve got to know a little bit about everything in order to understand the big picture and be of value. I’ve worked in many different facets of the field and early in my career, I worked in various sized firms (small and large ones) in order to understand the attributes of both and to make myself flexible as both an employee and leader.” And the hard work has paid off. BBH Design has seen an average annual growth of 27.5 percent since its start and is currently comprised as a strong team of 50 plus employees bolstered by

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a great location in the Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill area. This gives the company close access to the state capital, to several hotspots for higher education, health care, research and also a nearby military presence that provides a market for potential projects. As BBH Design has grown in size and reputation, the company has been sure to foster a strong sense of community within the organization that supports employee growth. “We want an organization that gives people freedom to grow to where they can manage—and we have a series of six companies within BBH Design that allow people exposure to a lot of elements: we have interior design, design/build, management, graphics, real estate, and general architecture."

“We are an entrepreneurial organization with no limits in terms of where our people can go or how they can progress in their careers. We are comprised of people that are fearlessly innovative, collaborative in their process and passionate advocates of many different, yet related interests.” BBH Design encourages diversity of thought and continues to build an environment that enables action without fear of criticism or failure. To attract employees initially, BBH Design works with a number of universities, including local North Carolina State in Raleigh University. The firm participates in educational recruitment programs. “Some of our staff comes from NC State, but we are unique in that we are comprised of staff with national experience and graduates of a wide range of universities including those in North America, South America, Western Europe and Asia. For training in house, we have a number of programs that include technical, project management, mentoring and intern development designed to help staff meet requirements for licensure. Education is very important to us; we are a ‘learning organization’ and as such, spend a lot of man hours and dollars on education for our staff.” BBH Design is also very involved with AIA North Carolina in both membership and participation in the organization’s activities. Staff members are involved with the Young Architect’s Forum, the Diversity and Theory committees as well as being panelists for relevant discussions. BBH Design hosts various AIA meetings/lectures in their office offering the local architecture community a place to meet. BBH Design is not big on outsourcing—even when constructing the models and 3D Renderings for the projects they will potentially build, the company does most work in house. But in terms of actual project implementation, BBH Design works closely with trusted engineers and builders to execute the construction. BBH Design gets the job done well the first time and has developed a stable group of repeat clients that now account for some 80 to 85 percent of business. “Unlike many firms today, we do not attempt every project that surfaces and in fact we do not pursue clients, project or even team alliances unless there is a good fit,” Lee notes.

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“Diversity and flexibility is what it’s about as an architect and builder. You’ve got to know a little bit about everything in order to understand the big picture and be of value." ~Lee Buckner

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Some of the projects that he cites as especially rewarding are those the company has done in the health, science and higher education arenas. “We had an exciting project to develop a prototype hospital for the federal government –it had to be a design that they could put anywhere in the US, from Hawaii to Tennessee to wherever. So the challenge was coming up with something flexible and adaptive,” explains Lee. These CAHs, or Critical Access Hospitals, of 62,500 square feet are now being implemented all over the country. BBH Design also recently completed the WakeMed North Healthplex Emergency Department. This $4.5 million, 20,000 square-foot project is a stand alone emergency medical unit. The building allows a singular focus on immediate critical care without the need to navigate a large hospital building. The project was the first stand alone emergency department in the state of North Carolina. Bringing all the work back home, one of the most unique projects for BBH Design was creating its own offices. “We bought a facility three years ago, renovated it, and moved into it. It was a designer led, design-build project we did by ourselves, for ourselves,” Lee says. “And it is the first architecture office building in the Southeast to be certified as LEED gold.” In 2008, the project was honored by the Design Build Institute of America as the “Best Design-Build Renovation Project in the Southeast.”

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Recent developments inside the company show that business is steady and the future looks bright. In the past year, BBH Design introduced new design software and an integrated system for accounting and project management. The company also increased its focus on IT, updating equipment and back up servers, and has made the transition to Building Information Modeling (BIM) Looking ahead, Lee says, “We don’t see our business slowing down. We don’t have a magic number in mind for revenue, but we’re going to grow. We’ll probably get to a size of 80 to 100 employees; that would be ideal. But it’s not about the numbers; it’s about doing the right things for the right reasons.” And that’s what BBH Design will continue to do.

COMPANY AT A GLANCE Established : 2002 BBH Design Members : 50 President : Lee Buckner

www.bbh-design.com US Developers Journal

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BBH Design

Winter 2009

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