Design Edge architecture: Creating building designs that work for individual clients

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Functional, distinctive retail, residential and office spaces don?t just happen. In fact, the complexity of adapting building plans to a site; figuring out who needs how much space; obtaining local government approvals, and getting construction done on-time and on-budget has confounded the Corporate Man since the beginning of time. Fortunately, a company like Design Edge, P.C., an architectural firm headquartered in Colorado Springs, actually thrives it.
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<br>The talents of Swagata Ghua, AIA, Principal, and her partner, Andy Ohlree, AIA, Principal, are not only listed in resumes ? they are respected by clients who like the firm?s combination of construction technology savvy, its understanding of governmental requirements, innovative design and smooth project management. The company, which started in 1994 when Ghua left a large national architectural firm to start her own company, operates offices in Colorado Springs and Denver. The Colorado Springs office developed first ? but thanks to ?exponential growth,? the two architects decided to open a second office in Denver by 1998. Currently 40 percent of the firm?s billings are generated by the Colorado Springs office ? and 60 percent by Denver. ?We actually do 80 percent of our jobs in the Springs,? says Ghua, but our largest projects have come from Denver clients.? Another interesting comparison is that the company?s jobs in Colorado Springs range from $700,000 to $2 million while just a few miles up I-25, the range grows from $100,000 (tenant finish for a restaurant or retail) to $13 million.
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<br>Those clients include an impressive list for such a young firm. Both Ghua and Olree earned their architectural degrees from Midwestern universities ? and Ghua holds both a Master of Architecture and a Master of Science, Civil & Construction Engineering degree from Iowa State University. ?Perhaps my background in engineering helps makes working with our clients and the contractors a more pleasant experience,? Ghua says. ?I enjoy that aspect of the business.? The Design Edge team is further strengthened by the experience of Todd Calvin, the company?s project manager. Together the small but talented group has already built an impressive portfolio.
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<br>The company?s work typically falls in the following categories: 45 percent multi-family; 15 percent office/commercial; 10 percent retail shell and tenant improvement work, with the remaining 30 percent ranging from residential design and recreational facilities (including several impressive local and state government projects), and municipal buildings. In Colorado Springs, Design Edge has designed such familiar structures as the University Park Office Building and, Fenton Plumbing and Heating Office Building, in addition to a number of new home elevations for area homebuilders.
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<br>Clubhouses and visitors centers offer the firm a chance to combine design, historical themes and features along with functionality ? and are among Ghua and Olree?s favorite projects. Government projects include the Lathrop State Park Visitors Center, the Bonny Lake State Park Headquarters, and the John Martin Reservoir Visitor?s Center. In the private sector, Pine Creek Golf Clubhouse, the new Woodmen Hills Golf Clubhouse and Meridian Ranch Recreation Center all speak to the firm?s depth and experience.
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<br>?We have worked extensively with Rusty Green, developer of Woodmen Hills, and are now designing the actual look and feel of his newest 80-acre residential community, The Courtyards at Woodmen Hills,? Ghua notes. ?The homes will have a sense of the Colorado prairie and will be designed for a broad range of buyers in a moderate price range. Based on the past work we have done for Rusty at Woodmen Hills, he has given us the room to add distinctive design features such as low-pitch rooflines, deeper eaves, porches and window features that will result in attractive streetscapes. He has also allowed us to incorporate wonderful recreational amenities in each neighborhood.? Those amenities include a golf clubhouse and recreational center that offers a complete family fitness center and two swimming pools. Another golf course with clubhouse is planned for Green?s new Meridian Ranch community ? and Design Edge will be doing the architectural design for that complex.
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<br>Another very different project that Olree, Ghua and the company?s six employees have worked on includes the Villa Rosso Condominiums at DTC West ? one of the first luxury mid-rise condominium developments in the southeast Denver Tech Center corridor. Building construction is of ?post-tensioned concrete,? with brick and stucco exteriors. Design Edge worked with the developer and The Weitz Co.construction team to create open, well-lit interiors designed to appeal to a wide variety of home buyers from young professionals to empty nesters. When asked how her firm won the contract, Ghua believes that it is their reputation for reliable project management and understanding of building construction as well as aesthetics that got Design Edge the job.
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<br>In spite of a volatile third and fourth quarter in 2001, Design Edge actually celebrated its best year to date financially. But according to Ghua, Olree and Calvin, their goal is to stay smaller in size and to focus on projects for the clients they enjoy. ?At Design Edge, we?d like to grow our client base, win more State architectural contracts, add some aerospace clients, and do more community/recreational centers,? says Ghua, noting that she would also like to increase the size and numbers of Pikes Peak region projects. Another match for the firm?s talents has been remodels and redesign work for schools and community colleges.
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<br>If the company?s clients are as impressed as developer, Rusty Green, the business will come. ?Working with the Design Edge team and Swagata Ghua has been a great experience. I have unbounded faith in her. She returns phone calls, she meets deadlines, and the company is open to our input and is responsive to our need to market our product effectively.? According to Green, Design Edge has ?not over-designed? his home elevations, it understands the role of engineering in siting a structure, and the architects maximize value to the customer by incorporating the features most important to buyers. With more than 80 architectural firms in the Pikes Peak region, those words may give a small architectural firm like Design Edge the ?edge to compete and thrive in the years ahead.?