By Vanessa Orr
For more than 70 years, Burt Hill has provided architectural and engineering services for clients throughout western Pennsylvania. Always a strong local company, the firm has since grown to expand their reach not only throughout the region, but throughout the world.
“We currently have 12 offices, with 10 locations in the United States and two abroad,” explained Thomas Demko, a principal at Burt Hill. “In 2004, we opened an office in Dubai that now employs 250 people, and this past year, we opened an office in Ahmedabad, India.
“One of the reasons that we chose to open offices in these countries is that they have highly educated, multicultural, technically proficient populations,” he added. “Staff in these offices can assist us with work both in the United States and in those countries.”
Long a well-respected firm in the states, Burt Hill offers architectural, engineering, interior design, landscape architecture, creative services and master planning services with a focus on sustainable design, technology integration and energy management. In addition to its offices in Boston, Butler, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, State College and Washington, DC, the firm recently opened offices in New York City, Miami, and Charlotte, NC. “We chose to open offices in these cities to follow our market sectors,” explained Demko. “By having a presence in Miami and New York, we hope to gain more international exposure.
“Our office in Charlotte was opened specifically to deal with healthcare clients,” he added. “Charlotte has a burgeoning population of elderly retirees who have chosen to live in North Carolina instead of moving to Florida.”
As Burt Hill has grown, so has its expertise in the healthcare arena. “Our growth has enabled us to have more resources available in house, including teams of excellence who bring a breadth of experience to healthcare projects,” said Demko. “We’ve grown from doing small healthcare projects to providing healthcare planning for academic medical center campuses that need not only to provide patient care, but must also house research and education facilities.”
Because Burt Hill offers these same services overseas, they must take special care to recognize cultural differences in designing healthcare facilities. “Working in Dubai and India requires that we provide facilities for separate, gender-based care,” said Demko. “Many facilities are also based on the European polyclinic model, where doctors stay put, and patients come in to see them. This is different from the American model, where patients are in separate rooms and doctors move from room to room.”
Burt Hill’s expertise in healthcare also enables it to help clients best budget their resources. “We are acutely aware that institutional projects are on the expense side of the ledger and not on the revenue-generating side,” said Demko. “In commercial work, the building is the revenue generator; clients rent the space per square foot. In institutional work, clients make money on their programs and not on the building, so they need to get the most for the money they spend.
“Sometimes that means spending more money up front to get it back in lower operating costs,” he added, “instead of having a lower first expense and paying yearly for inefficiency.”
Burt Hill’s staff also stays abreast of changes in the healthcare environment to make sure that clients are prepared for what the future holds. “Healthcare changes dramatically and quickly, and it is our job to help our clients achieve their patient care goals,” said Demko. “By improving the quality of the environment, we can not only increase patient satisfaction, but lower a patient’s length of stay in the facility.”
Whether a client needs assistance with a simple renovation project or help designing a master plan, Burt Hill has the resources to bring a project to fruition. “Our in-house engineering department gives us a leg up on energy modeling for sustainable design,” said Demko. “We are also known for being able to handle technically complex projects, like planning a large urban campus with limited space that can only grow by going up or down.
“What sets us apart is that when a client hires us for a project, they hire a team – not just an architect,” said Demko. “And that team has access to all of Burt Hill’s resources.”