All Access: Byron Kurogi, Associate

An Exclusive Insight into the Mind of a Project Manager, Byron Kurogi

Byron Kurogi, a graduate from the University of Kansas, has been with HMN Architects since 2003. Byron was promoted to an Associate in Spring 2014. Byron is registered in the State of Kansas to practice architecture and he is also a LEED® Accredited Professional. In his time at HMN Architects, Byron has completed a wide-range of healthcare projects, specializing in the following phases: planning and schematic design, design development, construction documents and specifications, construction administration, consultants coordination, 3D design and renderings, interior finish selection and design, contract documents and fee/cost proposals. We had the opportunity to sit down and ask Byron some questions about his recent work with Stormont Vail Health and his thoughts on the future of architecture technology.

Q: Describe your role at HMN Architects.
A: I’m a Project Architect and Designer. I’ve been with HMN since 2003 and was promoted in 2014 to become an Associate.
Q: How did you become interested in a career in architecture?
A: My interest in architecture started at a young age – it is probably a bit cliché but I can truly say that playing with LEGOS as a child set me on my way. I would build whatever the instructions said but then take everything apart, sort the different styles of pieces into different bins and construct small-scaled skyscrapers and city skylines. I still have all my LEGOS!
Q: What has been your favorite experiences so far in your career?
A: I think the most rewarding part of architecture is interacting with the staff and patients who will utilize the buildings and spaces you design. My goal is not to design for personal vanity but to collaborate with clients and user groups on projects that they will ultimately see a benefit from.
Q: What has challenged you as you have progressed through the industry?
A: The most challenging aspect of architecture is the sheer amount of knowledge one must learn in order to be effective at your job. You can’t design in a bubble. You need to have an understanding of health care, you need to have an understanding of the various engineering systems that make your building function and you have to have an understanding of construction and the construction process. Surrounding yourself with talented coworkers and knowledgeable consultants is a good step – one doesn’t have the time to be an expert at everything. But you need to know enough about everything to synthesize all the different aspects of design and documentation into a holistic project and to be able to communicate effectively. It is a learning process that never stops, no matter how much experience you have obtained.
Q: What is your view on project management?
A: One of the most important parts of project management for me is being able to effectively communicate and at times moderate or share with all kinds of different people and personalities. Nobody designs perfect spaces, draws perfect documents or builds perfect buildings. Navigating conflicts, be it during design or construction, in a fair and reasoned manner allows for a smoother process and greater likelihood of establishing continuing relationships.
Q: What is your/HMN's design philosophy?
A: I would categorize my philosophy when it comes to design as being client-collaborative. I know that will come with the stigma of “oh, well that means boring buildings”. But that really is not the truth. I definitely will utilize all the tools at my disposal, including visual communication techniques like renderings and informative diagrams, to push a client or user-group to think outside-the-box and to influence the design. But at the end of the day, I have to be flexible to the client’s needs – which include ideas such as budget and maintenance. Instead of hindrances to good design however, these are merely guidelines which help you focus on a suitable design solution for any given project.
Q: Why does a project manager need to be very proactive during a project?
A: Managing a project definitely keeps you on your toes. Time is money and whether it is completing documents or construction administration, there are always going to be fires to put out. If you foresee an issue and can deal with it before it becomes a major stumbling block in terms of time – that is always beneficial. Sometimes you have to make sure to keep your consultants on their toes as well and often, especially during the early design process, you need to work with the client to ensure that they understand the importance they have in establishing a timely workflow.
Q: Describe your connection and history with Stormont Vail Health.
A: I first started working with Stormont Vail soon after arriving at HMN, directly out of college. I’ve worked on at least a dozen projects including the Cotton O’Neil Cancer Center, South Patient Tower renovations, the Emergency Department on through the latest projects, which include Cotton O’Neil Kanza Park and Cotton O’Neil North.
Q: What were your biggest challenges on the Stormont Vail Health's Cotton O'Neil North Clinic and Cotton O'Neil Kanza Park projects?
A: I would say, especially on the ASC project (Cotton O’Neil Kanza Park), that weather played a major factor impacting the schedule. This creates a situation where everyone needs to be even more proactive to meet deadlines.
Q: Where do you see architecture technology in the next 10 years? What is HMN Doing to keep up with the advances in technology?
A: I don’t think it is a stretch to say “look at where video gaming technology is headed” to get an idea of how technology will impact our profession in the future. The real advancements will be in the ability to visually communicate in a much more immersive way. The idea that you can bring a client “into” a space during design will help us, as architects, to influence design in a much more tangible way than a flat drawing of a plan or elevation or even than a rendered, but static, view of a building or space. HMN already has a 3D printer which we can use to create easy-to-understand models. We can print a 3D master plan that has interchangeable building modules and different colors or print a scaled mock-up of a room. We have also been exploring the use of augmented reality (AR). Using AR, I can take a flat plan to a meeting, have a client load a quick and free app – and then, looking at the screen of their device at the plan, a 3D image of the project will appear on the page – which they can then rotate around or even “enter” at real-world scale. They key with all this technology is to integrate it into the design process and into what we already draw with BIM software so that it becomes an easy-to-access tool and not a separate, time-consuming process. And none of this is meant to replace sketch paper and actual real-life mock-ups of spaces – it is a support tool in our arsenal, to be brought out when the right project and right client will appreciate the effectiveness of it.