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Meet Nathan Kipnis, FAIA of Kipnis Architecture and Planning in Evanston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Kipnis, FAIA.

Nathan is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. AIA Fellows are recognized with the AIA’s highest membership honor for their exceptional work and contributions to architecture and society. Only 3% of AIA members have this distinction.

He has spent his career practicing and promoting the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency in architectural design. A life-long interest was initially sparked during the 1973 energy crisis, and Mr. Kipnis designed his first solar home, located in Boulder, CO, when he was just 22 years old.

The architectural work designed by Mr. Kipnis has been widely published both locally and nationally.

Selected awards and distinctions include:

2015 – Elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects.
2011 – Chicago Magazine Green Award
2009 – Home of the Decade, Natural Home Magazine
1999 – Green Homes for Chicago
A KAP design was selected for this international design competition and built.

“He is one of Chicago’s new breed of up-and-coming architects, who blends excellence in architecture with a social conscience. Before the advent of air conditioning, before electricity, everything that was built related to nature. Nate understands that. He made a habit of it long before it was fashionable.” — Stanley Tigerman, FAIA and co-founder of Archeworks.

Viewing the mission beyond his own practice of architecture, his leadership was instrumental in helping to develop the idea of an offshore wind farm in Lake Michigan off Evanston’s shoreline. The work led to a Design Evanston Urban Design/Planning award, and the project is now on the DOE’s list of potential offshore wind farm sites.

Additionally, he currently serves on the National AIA’s 2030 Commitment Working Group. In this capacity, he assists architects with the AIA 2030 Commitment, whose goal is to design full Net Zero buildings by 2030.

Nathan also lectures extensively on topics related to sustainable architectural design and renewable energy. He has been an invited speaker at numerous symposiums and conferences, including at national AIA conventions, the Chicago AIA, Archeworks, GreenBuild, The Midwest Renewable Energy Association, the Center for Green Technology in Chicago, and Northwestern University’s “Green City Summer Institute,” as well as being one of the keynote speakers at the Mother Earth News Fair, among others.

Please tell us about KAP.
Recognized as Chicago’s premier award winning sustainable architectural practice, Kipnis Architecture + Planning (KAP) was founded in 1993 and is based in Evanston, Illinois. KAP has practiced the architectural design philosophy of ‘High Design/Low Carbon™’ long before it was in vogue. KAP is guided by the idea that architectural design excellence need not be sacrificed for principles of sustainability. Rather, KAP believes sustainable design expands the possibilities for innovative architectural forms, construction methods and the use of materials. A particular expertise is the architectural integration of passive solar and bioclimatic design. KAP is early signatories to the AIA’s 2030 Commitment, rigorously working towards having KAP’s projects be ‘net zero’ for their energy use by 2030.

Stylistically, KAP’s designs are the creative synthesis of the client’s wishes and the site’s context. KAP excels at modern, transitional, and historic aesthetics.

In addition to creating award-winning architecture, KAP has earned a solid reputation for expertly integrating architectural styles in the renovation and rehabilitation of historic homes and other significant projects. KAP’s work ranges from seamless additions to full historic restorations. KAP emphasize combining aesthetics with cutting-edge mechanical systems to maximize energy efficiency, while maintaining a structure’s distinctive vintage character.

KAP is now the founding member of the ‘NextHaus Alliance’, NextHaus Alliance is a team of selected premier design and build firms in Chicago committed to incorporating sustainability and resilient design into beautiful homes.

NextHaus Alliance was formed to serve visionary home owners who desire sustainable future forward custom homes or home renovations that reflect beauty with a refined lifestyle. NextHaus Alliance is a unique group of like-minded firms, committed to making the client experience of designing and building a seamless enjoyable journey. Utilizing their “under one roof” concept, with alliance members that believe in client-centric service, we are combining beautiful living with superior environmental choices, all managed expertly by tenured professionals.

NextHaus Alliance brings an unsurpassed team together with an earned national reputation for environmental design, the finest in quality construction, thoughtful landscape architecture – respecting the planet, and the newest tested technology, ultimately providing our clients with beautiful homes that live healthy, resiliently and lasting.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Early on, most people did not understand or want to understand sustainable design. It seems difficult to believe today, but in the mid ’80’s through the ’90’s, there was very little interest in it.

An interesting side effect of specializing in sustainable design starting in the late ’70’s is that our potential clients sometimes want ‘too much’ sustainable elements incorporated into their designs.

It’s a great problem to have! Our challenge is to focus their sustainable concepts that make the most sense for the project, the site and their budget. No matter what, we want the house to be an amazing design that is the ultimate in comfort for the client.

Other struggles we have faced, like all architects, was making it through the 2008 Recession. It was a very difficult four or so years.

Please tell us more about Kipnis Architecture and Planning.
We are known for our sustainable work, both aesthetically and technically. I believe there are very few firms that can get integrate both of these to the level that we do.

We have done several LEED projects, all at the Platinum level, the highest possible rating. We are signatories to the AIA’s 2030 Commitment, which is a program leading architects to design buildings to Net Zero levels by 2030. In the years leading up to 2030, the reductions accumulate periodically until the Net Zero level at 2030. Currently, the program’s goal is for buildings to be at a 70% reduction level from ‘baseline’. We have started designing buildings that are achieving that level, and that is very rewarding to do. We continuously learn from our past projects and utilize that knowledge in our current projects to make them even more efficient, while maintaining their comfort levels and of course making them great examples of sustainable architecture.

The firm’s 25th anniversary is coming up in 2018, and we are extremely proud of the portfolio of sustainable work that we have accomplished, and continue to look forward to doing better and better. Our ‘Best Project’ is always our next project!

We have now started a new division known as ‘NextHaus Alliance’ (NHA). NHA is ‘Your Path to Premium Sustainable Homes’. We provide turnkey Net Zero design/build services for the lifestyle residential market that are visionary, healthy and fully in tune with the environment.

NextHaus Alliance is a team of selected premier design and build firms in Chicago committed to incorporating sustainability and resilient design into beautiful homes. We are dispelling the thought that these two terms, “sustainable” and “beautiful” are mutually exclusive.

NextHaus Alliance was formed to serve visionary home owners who desire sustainable future forward custom homes or home renovations that reflect beauty with a refined lifestyle. To best meet the high expectations of our clientele, Nathan Kipnis, founder of NextHaus Alliance, brought together his esteemed colleagues of complimentary talents, to work together, sharing sustainable education and best design build technologies, while making the world more beautiful and lasting, one home at a time.

NextHaus Alliance is a unique group of like-minded firms, committed to making the client experience of designing and building a seamless enjoyable journey. Utilizing their “under one roof” concept, with alliance members that believe in client-centric service, we are combining beautiful living with superior environmental choices, all managed expertly by tenured professionals.

NextHaus Alliance brings an unsurpassed team together with an earned national reputation for environmental design, the finest in quality construction, thoughtful landscape architecture – respecting the planet, and the newest tested technology, ultimately providing our clients with beautiful homes that live healthy, resiliently and lasting.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Without question, the proudest moment of my career has been to be elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows. As I previously mentioned, AIA Fellows are recognized with the AIA’s highest membership honor for their exceptional work and contributions to architecture and society. The prestige of “FAIA” after an architect’s name is unparalleled and the judging is rigorous. Architects who have made significant contributions to the profession and society and who exemplify architectural excellence can become a member of the AIA College of Fellows. Only 3% of AIA members have this distinction.

What this means for me, as the principal of a smaller (five person) firm, is that our work has had an impact at the national level. When you are a part of a smaller firm, you are involved with every aspect of the architecture, from the design, to the technical aspects to the day to day issues of the business environment. It means a lot to me that I have been able to juggle all of that and produce a body of work that has been acknowledged by my peers.

I was also featured in the 2015 movie ‘Green Giants’ (www.greengiantsmovie.com), as one of thirty individuals, including Will I. Am, who are making a positive contribution in the sustainable business revolution.

Pricing:

  • We typically do work from $350k on up of construction cost for rehabs and about $800k on up for new construction (generally starting at $250/s.f for finished space). Neither of these include professional fees, permits, furnishings, owner provided items and landscaping. For ‘NextHaus Alliance’, the starting construction cost is $500/s.f. not including the items noted previously.

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Image Credit:
Wayne Cable Photographer www.waynecable.com
Craftjack
Evanston Prairie
Sturgeon Bay
Chicago Home
Glencoe MCM

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