Orange County Branch Newsletter

July 2012

OC Firm Spotlight

LPA, Inc.Takes Top Honors

By Kathereen M. Shinkai, P.E.

Since 1965, LPA Inc. has been designing award-winning architecture throughout California—buildings that are rooted in history, the environment, and the values of the people who use them. From the eye-catching, new Allied Health, Biological and Consumer Sciences building at Orange Coast College, to the Mission Viejo Town Centre, Sage Hill High School, and The Irvine Company’s twin towers, 20 & 40 Pacifica—seen on numerous TV shows depicting the “look and feel” of Orange County—the company is behind some of the region’s most celebrated buildings.

The Irvine Company-Twin Towers

More than 500 major design awards attest to LPA's commitment to design excellence.

With offices in Irvine, Roseville, and San Diego, Calif., the firm designs a diversity of facilities that span from K-12 schools, colleges and universities, to corporate and civic establishments—with an eye on sustainability, through an integrated design practice.

Cal State Northridge-Student Rec Center

Beginning with architecture and planning, LPA added interior design to its roster of services in 1985, landscape architecture in 1990, signage and graphics in 1995, and engineering in 2005. Today, structural, plumbing, mechanical, electrical and civil engineers work together, in-house. They now make up about one eighth of LPA’s professional staff.

“Our whole practice is based on the idea of integrated collaboration as a design process,” says President Dan Heinfeld, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C. “We know the benefits of having a multi-discipline firm. We look at the world a little differently.”

At LPA, in-house engineers make sustainable design work better

I joined LPA in 2009 and have not looked back since. Having been at an architectural engineering firm prior to coming to LPA and enjoyed the team atmosphere, LPA comes from a totally different perspective from other firms. Now, I feel at LPA, all the disciplines are integrated into the firm and understand the project from the very start of the project when we are still looking at site and planning to when we do construction administration. We are no longer a team member that comes in when needed at a specific time. Our civil engineering group does the typical civil engineering services, but what separates us is the involvement on a project we have from the very beginning of the project. We are involved in the day to day design along with the team and understand when changes are made.

Crean-Lutheran High School-Irvine

We as the civil engineer will go to interviews and are at client meetings talking about the civil engineering aspects of a project—along with the architects and the landscape architects—and allow the client to understand their project from different views. With the new storm water regulations that have come into effect, we are educating our clients about water quality at the beginning of a project instead of trying to come up with a solution after a whole site plan has been designed. If water quality is an afterthought once the site plan is designed, there may be no available space for any kind of best management practice. We are always trying to be at the forefront of these decisions. 

California Design Firm of the Year

Just last month, LPA was named California Design Firm of the Year*, by industry magnate, Engineering News-Record (ENR). According to ENR, LPA raised three spots in this year's Top Design Firms ranking – from No. 20 last year to No. 17 this year – as revenues climbed 11%, to $48.2 million, a notable accomplishment in a still-tough architectural and engineering market.

According to ENR Editor Robert Carlsen, LPA's project portfolio has had 35 consecutive years of award recognition by American Institute of Architects chapters. Last year, the AIA Orange County chapter gave the firm six of its 16 awards and the American Public Works Association named LPA's Fullerton Public Library expansion and renovation project its Project of the Year.

Laguna Niguel City Hall

What sets LPA apart is the deep green character of its people and projects. For example, there is no “Sustainability Director,” at LPA. Instead, more than 80% of its 200 employees are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professionals, including the Human Resources Director, CFO, and several other support staff.

Expansion of the firm’s office locations in Irvine and San Diego helped secure the honor. These “Sustainability Labs” allow us to test and try new products and technologies, before using them in client spaces. From office chair seat cushions that cool or warm, to onsite fuel cells, electric and fuel cell vehicles, LED lighting, vegetative walls, light louvers, daylight-controlled sun shades, operable windows and tubular daylighting systems, LPA’s tried it all.

The creation of the office in San Diego was a particularly interesting exercise as it involved taking a former commercial bakery building, constructed over a span between 1898 and 1924 —for Wonder Bread Company, and transforming it into a workspace suitable for the high tech designers of today. The office received LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council through a “do-less” approach. Structural and brick walls were left exposed and existing wood flooring was refinished, and reused. Two of the favorite features are the raised concrete silo platforms—former grain silos—that now serve as collaboration pods suitable for team and client meetings (see video tour below).

Final Thoughts

I truly enjoy the collaboration and the vision we have on all the projects at LPA. The communication between disciplines has helped us as a whole to understand each other and of course, create better designs for our clients. We are truly an “integrated design firm” that looks at the overall vision—and the results are apparent in LPA’s work. 

Kathereen M. Shinkai, P.E., is the Director of Civil Engineering at California-based LPA Inc. She is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the U.S. Green Building Council.

*California’s Design Firm of the Year is selected by the editors of ENR’s regional publications, with a focus on firms with notable accomplishments, impressive projects, high-profile project contracts, and growth in the annual Top Design Firms list.

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