Flexibility is a Core Value for Stemach Design + Architecture

Tracie SimmonsDesign

That’s One of the Reasons They Like Archicad so Much!

For Stacey and Rachel Stemach, a desire to live closer to family drove the decision to leave the east coast. They returned to Rachel’s hometown of Bend, Oregon in 2003 and started working for another local design firm. The Stemachs co-founded STEMACH Design + Architecture in 2013, now the fifth largest company in a very competitive market.

As a relatively small firm, “it would be difficult for us to specialize in one type of project,” said Stacey. “From a passion standpoint our philosophy is focused on design and sustainability, but from an economic standpoint we’ll design anything and do it well.” A staff of 10 design professionals plus an office manager means they can take on really small projects effectively but still have the depth and capability to handle large projects with good service. Between eight and 11 feels about the right size for Stacey and Rachel, who want to be architects and not business managers. Plenty of work is coming in at the moment “and we don’t take that for granted,” said Stacey.

The largest project currently in the design phase is a new regional service center for Pacific Power. The smallest is a tenant improvement of a couple hundred square feet for a restaurant. While the practice is rooted in central Oregon, project locations have regional reach. The STEMACH Design + Architecture portfolio includes work in California, Washington and Hawaii in addition to Oregon.

Archicad Works on Multiple Platforms

Valuing flexibility also lies behind choosing Archicad as their office design platform. As a business owner, Stacy wanted software platform choices and Archicad works on both Mac and Windows operating systems. A single license allows the user to run on either platform seamlessly. While the office is Mac based, recently one staff member was able to continue to work remotely from her personal Dell laptop using Windows based Archicad with no issues. “That kind of software flexibility I value, it gives me the option to jump platforms and encourages competition.”

Collaboration with Consultants is Smooth

Although some companies working in collaboration on other platforms had concerns at the beginning, synchronization with outside consultants has gone smoothly. Fundamental training for new employees has not been a problem when converting a previous BIM user. Stacey had learned Revit at his previous employer, had never experienced Archicad and was blown away at the similarities when he selected it for their firm platform. “We’ve had Revit users be up and running in two or three weeks.”

With the 2020 shutdown, everyone became used to working remotely. The firm is starting to integrate more laptops into the company to support mobile flexibility. The laptop solution is more expensive than desktop but better supports staff traveling to out of area project sites.

BIMx Presentations Differentiate

STEMACH Design + Architecture uses the 3D presentation tools as a differentiator in their primary marketplace in central Oregon. Clients appreciate seeing a model, often using Google Cardboard technology. Some contractors are asking for a BIMx model to wander around virtually and do pricing work. “Once we start getting them into it they come around,” said Stacey.

When asked for his final words of wisdom, Stacey repeated his advice to be as flexible as possible with software. Network licensing costs and forced upgrades can be expensive. “It’s too easy to get locked into a single platform. Our software costs with Archicad are more cost-effective overall than with Revit.”

Written by Sue Lani Madsen, AIA Member Emeritus, Freelance Columnist
You can reach Sue Lani at [email protected]