HKIT Architects

HKIT Architects is anticipating a boom in senior housing developments this year and is working to become more innovative and creative while working under increasingly tighter budgets. 

The Oakland, Calif.-based firm was founded in 1948 and is known for its multifamily housing design in the Bay Area, Principal Thomas Brutting says. “This has been a major component of our practice for more than 60 years,” he adds. “We are innovative and versatile in meeting our clients’ needs. Our broad experience enables us to change with the times and meet the current challenges of designing multifamily housing.”

In addition to multifamily housing, HKIT Architects also designs educational facilities and municipal buildings. Those three areas of focus have allowed the company to remain diversified and better able to ride the economic downturns, Brutting says. A majority of HKIT Architects’ work is in California, but the company is willing to go outside the state depending on the client and project. 

The company sticks to a staff of about 40 people and has purposely not expanded because it’s a comfortable size for the firm. 

Senior Boom

A number of building projects were put on hold in California because of the recession. Since the economy has begun to recover, those developments have picked back up, which means there is a great surge of opportunity, Brutting says. “We are ramping up to meet the challenges of deadlines, schedules and budgets,” he explains. “The future is looking bright right now.”

HKIT Architects designs senior housing under its multifamily housing umbrella and the need for market rate and affordable housing in that realm is increasing. “This trend is often referred to as the ‘silver tsunami’ because there is a huge need for senior housing in California,” Brutting says. 

The senior market will face many challenges in the near future, including dementia and memory care housing, Brutting attests. “There will be a profound need without any real way to care for people and we want to be part of that [solution],” he adds. “We have a rapidly aging population and people are living a lot longer. Memory care is usually needed after 85 years old and we don’t have the infrastructure or care models to handle what’s going to happen.” 

To keep up with demand, HKIT Architects is not only designing and building new housing, but is taking on major renovations and additions to its previously built communities. The firm is including new technology in its senior housing providing support measures for the residents to remain healthy. Computer systems have been added in some communities, which provide seniors a way to connect with their doctors daily for medical needs or with family members and friends. “This allows them to remain healthy, active and engaged for a longer period of time and remain independent,” Brutting says. 

A Positive Movement

The biggest trend is the move toward more sustainable communities, Brutting says. “Not only are our clients becoming more savvy and knowledgeable of sustainability and green building, but jurisdictions are now mandating that buildings be sustainable,” he adds. “That’s a really positive move forward.” 

Each building designed and built by HKIT Architects goes through a sustainability review and the firm works with clients to determine what can be achieved based on the site and budget constraints. Green materials such as reused wood finishes, reclaimed grey water, and photovoltaics to heat water are used by the firm. “Our residential communities are most often designed to meet the standards of the GreenPoint rating or LEED certification system,” Brutting says. 

HKIT Architects also been involved with some historic retrofits, such as an abandoned church in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, which was transformed into 40 senior housing units five years ago. “This was very exciting,” Brutting adds. “The church had been abandoned for decades. That’s one building that stuck out and is innovative.”

In the future, the firm will continue to look for creative ways to keep prices down because the cost of building in the Bay Area is forcing tighter budgets, Brutting says. California building codes, which ensure life safety, are being broadened and that will allow the company to be even more innovative and groundbreaking. “The future is looking bright right now,” Brutting adds. “We are always looking to grow with clients and take on new challenges.”

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