Meet the OZ Leaders: Kevin Schaffer

June 14, 2023

Name: Kevin Schaffer
Practice Area: Civic
Years at OZ: 20 years

What sparked your interest in architecture?
At 16, I had the unique opportunity to enroll in a mentorship program through my high school, which placed students in a professional environment for a semester. My father connected me with Don Jiran of Jiran Architects & Planners, with whom he had previously worked. From day one, I was excited about the opportunity to be involved in the process of creating. I picked up CAD relatively quickly, and before the semester was over, I had worked on projects at varying stages. I was able to design and document a small memorial for a sports field, and upon construction completion, I was enamored. Witnessing the transformation from an idea in my head to a final constructed product was all it took – I knew then that I wanted to pursue this as a career.

Tell us about your career journey and what led you to specializing in your practice area.
I started my career at Lightowler Johnson Associates, designing educational and industrial buildings while still in college. My first experience with public work was designing a school for children with health conditions and impairments. That project left a mark early in my career; I learned the value of inclusiveness and independence in design, and the project became the topic of my architectural thesis project. The school was essential to my research and allowed me to conduct interviews and charrettes that I included in my final thesis. Once I completed school, I began working at Pope Design Group in Minnesota, primarily on education projects and some single-family, industrial, historic preservation, and corporate office projects. Pope Design Group is where I learned the value of thoughtful design and detailing related to public projects.

Then, 20 years ago, I moved to Colorado and started my journey with OZ Architecture. Due to the variety and volume of project types, I gained experience in almost every sector imaginable. While my career grew profoundly from my experience in high-end and large-scale private sector projects, I always returned to public projects. I've been leading OZ’s Civic Practice Area for over six years while still working on some projects in the Workplace practice area.

What’s something people might not know about your practice area?
OZ Architecture has been devoted to Civic and public practices in and around Colorado since its inception almost 60 years ago. Joe Levi and the many others dedicated to this practice have built a solid foundation around which to grow and build a community. I am impressed with the projects this practice has contributed to the Colorado community and work daily to continue growing its legacy.

DFD Northfield Station No. 39 | Denver, CO
DFD Northfield Station No. 39 | Denver, CO
DFD Northfield Station No. 39 | Denver, CO
DFD Northfield Station No. 39 | Denver, CO
SMFR No. 20 | Highlands Ranch, CO
SMFR No. 20 | Highlands Ranch, CO

How would you describe your design approach?
My design approach has grown out of my 26 years of practice and continues to evolve on every project. The goal is to be thoughtful, innovative, inclusive, and collaborative. Everyone in our profession, as well as clients and consultants, have value to add to the process, and I encourage everyone on the team to engage in discussions as we push to be better with each design outcome. On public projects, in particular, we are designing for both the client and the broader community. We feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to be diligent in ensuring each building’s performance, resiliency, and design aesthetic will serve that community for many decades.

What is the most difficult part of your job? Your favorite part?
The best part of my job is working with people from design through the construction process. Mentoring and helping people grow professionally is incredibly rewarding. There is something remarkable about seeing a vision come to life through the construction process that has captivated me since the beginning of my career.

The most challenging part of my job—working with such a diverse range of practices at OZ – can also be one of the most rewarding. Working across many disciplines has allowed me to grow as a professional, as it constantly drives me to be better and think broader. Still, it can be challenging to weigh the differences between goals, aspirations, and values from one practice to another.

VF Corp HQ | Denver, CO
VF Corp HQ | Denver, CO
VF Corp Lab | Denver, CO
VF Corp Lab | Denver, CO
Arrow Electronics | Centennial, CO
Arrow Electronics | Centennial, CO

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on recently or are currently working on?
My team and I are currently working on several exciting projects. One of the newest ramp-up efforts is the Richard T. Castro Building rehabilitation for Denver Human Services. This remodel of a previous OZ project includes updates to new standards and reconsidering new workflows and workspaces for Human Services.

Public safety design, including fire, police, and EMS, is a staple of our practice area. We are working on fire stations throughout the Front Range, including projects for South Metro Fire Rescue, Monument Fire District, Mountain View Fire Rescue, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, and Denver Fire. Our Civic team is also working on on-call contracts for the City of Westminster, the City of Aurora, and the City of Denver, including police, sheriff, jail, fire, and parks and recreation projects.

We have multiple fleet maintenance projects in process or recently completed, including efforts for Winter Park and an adaptive reuse of a 1930s Denver Brick industrial building for Xcel Energy fleet maintenance.

In addition to the Civic projects, we have recently completed projects including Confluence Tower in downtown Denver and a wide range of projects for VF Corporation and Arrow Electronics.

What are three personal things about you that people might be interested to learn?
I spend my free time traveling and exploring the outdoors: camping, hiking, biking, and overlanding. I am fortunate to have traveled to nearly 30 countries and continue to make plans to experience new cultures and places. My love of travel flourished during my university semester abroad in Europe, where I backpacked, sketched, and studied architecture for four months, never staying in the same place for more than a few days.

I spent many childhood summers on our family dairy, livestock, and crop farms in North Dakota, which gave me a great appreciation for hard work, outdoors, animals, and life outside of our cities. Growing up in the city, it was always an adjustment to spend summers on the farm getting up before the sun, not finishing work until dusk, and running around barefoot. Today those are some of my fondest memories.

I enjoy working with my hands and consider myself to be a craftsman. I grew up with a dad who was always fixing or tinkering with something, whether a vehicle, the house, an appliance, or household electronics. I've completed various remodels to four homes, including framing, electrical, lighting, plumbing, drywalling, flooring, texturing, painting, and finishes. I've also transformed my pickup into an overlanding vehicle, having done much of the work myself with some help from professionals. When I lived in Minnesota, I owned a stained-glass studio where I designed and built custom windows for private clients.

As you forecast, what does the future hold for your practice area?
The future holds innovation and growth, deepening and broadening our Civic Practice Area. Over the past several years, we have established a solid footing in our main public project types, and we plan to grow into other types, where we have previous experience across our team. Strategically leading the industry in design and innovation in public safety and human services, we plan to broaden the knowledge we have gained into other practices.

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