Providing ‘Concierge Service’
by Sue DeWerff
From the time founding principals’ Jack Rood and John Zwick opened their doors in 1987, the architects knew that hard work and trust were what would make their business successful. After three decades and the addition of J. Travis Kerr in 2007, the Cocoa-based business has become one they like to think of as a “concierge architecture” firm.
“We provide extreme customer service to all of our clients, focusing on developing relationships that enable our clients to use us as a resource, which often helps them uncover opportunities for improving their business, as well as answering questions about issues that may not even connected to their specific project,” said Kerr.
“Being available day or night, 24/7, and seeing a project through from start to finish, no matter what it takes, is our top priority. Many days, we are in the field more than at our desks, with a goal of making sure the buildings we have designed are being constructed per plans and specs, always looking for improvements that can only be found by visiting the site,” he added.
Technology & Changing Times
In a world where technology has played a part in businesses, modern architecture is on the cutting edge. For Rood and Zwick, drafting boards and Mylar paper were the tools they started with. Now, their clients can comfortably sit in front of an iPad anywhere, and visualize what their next archway, interior seating arrangement or the design of a multi-million dollar complex will resemble.
“Computers in Architecture are really the natural progression of a designer desiring to explore new design possibilities,” explained Rood. “With all the new CAD (computer-aided design) software technology available to us in the past few decades, we are constantly educating ourselves and learning new skills that continue to aid us in our profession. Because of the vast array of new products used for construction, as well as the equipment and labor, our jobs as designers have become more challenging and complex than ever,” Kerr added.
In order to meet these challenges, the partners rely on their extensive combined experience in working with accelerated design and construction schedules, referred to as “fast-tracking.”
“An important distinction that RZK offers in these lean economic times is value-based design integrated with construction,” Kerr explained. “We work with local construction companies to provide real-time cost and estimation, through all phases of the design sequence to ensure projects can be delivered on time and on budget.”
“When I started my professional career as an architect in 1995, the industry was geared towards what was referred to as the “triangle,” meaning that the architect, owner and contractor were all on different teams. Today, all three entities are working towards the same goal in a more collaborative environment.”
Good for Brevard; Good for Business
All principals of the firm currently serve on several nonprofit boards, conducting their business on the premise that, as a successful firm in Brevard, reaching out to the community and giving back is important and is just “good business.”
Zwick, who describes himself as a military brat, traveled all over the world in his younger years, enabling him to experience a wide variety of architecture. His primary focus has been schools, elderly and public housing, and theatres. He is currently working on the interior remodeling of the historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, and has been involved in past projects including six new performing arts theatres for Brevard Public Schools. As a resident of Brevard since 1967, Zwick said he enjoys working on the schools and housing projects because it gives him a sense of “giving back to the community.”
At any given time, the firm’s active list consists of more than 40 projects, including everything from schools, to churches, to a variety of county buildings, to hospitals and more. Whether it’s one of the nine elementary schools in the county, BCC’s Cocoa Campus Astronaut Hall and Planetarium, projects for Parrish Medical Center and Cape Canaveral, or the headquarters for the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA), there has not been much that the firm hasn’t touched in Brevard in the past 30 years.
Changing of the Guard
Kerr, who takes over the reigns as president of the firm this month, has been serving as director of Healthcare Architecture. With more than 15 years’ experience in this field, his passion for design was born at an early age.
“I used to build forts out of everything – from couch cushions to tree branches. During my first drafting class in high school, my teacher told me that every time you draw a line, you are making money. My dad had always said, ‘Do something that you love.’ That resonated with me, though, the more successful the architect, the less time you get to draw. This is the reality of the business, but it is still a profession I love,” he said.
Being a great architect is not without many challenges – though all the partners at RZK agree that most can be overcome by listening to the client. Kerr said, “In doing this we can hopefully live up to the motto of our firm: ‘Architecture does not become architecture until the project is successfully built.’”