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#1 Best Firms to Work For

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Huckabee was named the #1 Best Firms to Work For by Zweig Group—a ranking that recognizes outstanding work environments and company culture. Huckabee is dedicated to workplace excellence and our firm is excited to share this honor with our entire team! 

“This recognition is about our people and our shared passion for design, engineering and education. We place great emphasis on excellence in everything we do, and this means investing in our team, our offices and our culture,” said Chris Huckabee, Chief Executive Officer. 

Chris often works in the coffee bar or common areas of each office, using the time as an opportunity to engage with employees and enjoy the vibrant work environment. Over the past few years, Huckabee opened offices in live-work-play communities and transitioned to a more open, collaborative and flexible work space that better reflects the culture. Sit-to-stand desks, soft seating, technology-friendly meeting spaces, informal lounges, focus rooms and coffee bars are a few of the features employees enjoy.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into what our team needs to succeed. Each of our offices reflect our corporate culture as well as local personality. When you walk in, you know you’re in a Huckabee office,” he said.

Kim Hopper, Huckabee’s Chief Human Resources Officer believes our firm is consistently recognized as a best place to work because of our ongoing commitment to opportunity and family. “I knew from day one this was a special place. Opportunity is everywhere, and we have so many inspirational people on our team that provide ongoing mentorship to their colleagues each and every day.”

Family is key to Huckabee’s culture of excellence—whether at work or home. Our employee engagement coordinator plans culture-focused activities that bring small and large groups together in meaningful ways. An emphasis on work-life balance is also prevalent. Other programs and perks include professional development; wellness initiatives; employee-driven committees focused on culture; and great coffee.

Notably, Huckabee is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is commemorating the occasion with several employee-focused programs, including an employee scholarship program for personalized professional development; a limited-edition flair / swag program; and a firm-wide family day and anniversary party. 

“There is so much opportunity at Huckabee for any number of professionals in the architecture, engineering, design and support fields,” said Chris. “Huckabee’s culture is the result of 50 years of practice and focus in the educational market. We are life-long learners, and we hire people who bring passion, innovation and integrity to our team. We are proud of our firm and the reputation we’ve established as a great company to work for and with.”

For more information about Huckabee’s culture or career opportunities, visit www.morethanaworkplace.com.

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Zweig Group’s Best Firms to Work For honors outstanding workspaces in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, geotechnical, environmental and civil, structural, and multi-discipline engineering firms. Firms are ranked based on ability to create amazing workspaces through design, teamwork, benefits, amenities and work culture. They are scored on employee surveys and corporate evaluations. To view the full list, click here.

Huckabee honored by Midway ISD

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Midway ISD named Huckabee a 2017 Friends of Midway recipient. We are honored by the designation and proud of our 15+ year partnership. Here’s an excerpt from Midway ISD’s announcement:

Suzi Pagel, Executive Director of the Midway Education Foundation, says, “Huckabee has donated to the Midway Education Foundation each year since the nonprofit organization held their first annual campaign in 2001. We appreciate the faithful support that Huckabee has provided us. To date, seven grants have been named in honor of Huckabee. These grants have provided district-wide programs such as Midway Reads as well as elementary and high school level grant.”

In addition, Huckabee Architects have been instrumental in the successful launch of multiple recent large-scale, creative projects at Midway ISD. The Studio, a renovation to the 30-year old Midway Middle School library, has tremendously impacted the life of the campus. The Studio has also served as a best practice example to multiple other school districts interested in makerspaces and flexible arrangement spaces. Huckabee experts have also been crucial to the partnership between Baylor University, Spring Valley Elementary, Education Service Center Region 12, and Huckabee to study how the learning environment affects student engagement.

Read the full story here.

#LoveMySchoolDay #TxEdTuesday

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At Huckabee, we are advocates for education and life-long learning. As part of #TxEdTuesday’s #LoveMySchoolDay, we asked our employees to share their school memories and the impact education has had on their career, life and family. From elementary school to college, our team recognizes the shared hard work educators, coaches, friends and community put into our students each and every day.

Kerri Ranney
My two kids love learning! That love of learning is fostered at Raye McCoy Elementary School in Georgetown ISD. Go Bobcats!

Roberto Zuniga
I have three Coppell ISD graduates and one 9th grader. My graduates have gone to prime east coast private universities with almost full scholarships. Among the many opportunities that Coppell has given them, two of my kids have taken me to be the father, four times, of state champions and one made a proclamation on the floor of the Texas Senate. You’ve got to love public education!

Jennifer Brown
I am a proud graduate of Sherman High School in Sherman, Texas! Some of my favorite memories include Friday Night Lights in Bearcat Stadium where generations of my family watched and continue to watch football games, great teachers like Verna Sharer who taught me and my two baby sisters how to sew (sorry, Ms. Sharer—this didn’t stick), one-act play competitions and being voted “Most Likely to be Famous” and lifelong friendships that so easily pick up where we left off. I am so grateful for the commitment and selflessness of so many people along my learning journey who helped shape me into the person I am today. I love that I am able to give back in such a profound way through our work at Huckabee. Go Bearcats!

Kevin Billings
I grew up and went to school in the great state of Kansas. I am proud to say that I went to Washburn Rural HS. We had ‘Rural’ in our name because we had wheat fields beside the school and cattle in the field across the road. I love what I do because of my drafting teacher named Harold Bryan. I had taken all of the drafting courses my school had to offer, but he knew I wanted more. He used his own money and purchased a simple CAD program for me. We acquired a computer from another teacher and started the CAD drafting program. We developed a class syllabus, and I was the first person in my high school to receive credits for a CAD class. He did not know the software, so part of my grade was to help teach him. This happened because a teacher could see my passion and love for drafting. Today there is an entire CAD lab with over 20 computers dedicated to CAD, 3D and design software in my alma mater. Thank you Mr. Bryan for teaching me that the ‘best’ way between two points is not always a straight line. Take the curves and enjoy life! Auburn-Washburn Unified School District #437, Topeka, Kansas

Emmie Bennett
Proud to be a product of the Texas Public Education system, specifically Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. I was a Kent Cardinal, a Rainwater Hurricane, a Blalack Bear and finished as a Creekview Mustang. I associate each school with each mascot because athletics was my guiding light. However, I’ve always known my career was going to be in art. I had the same art teacher in elementary school and then again during high school. I owe everything to Mr. Bob Thomas, who sat at his desk with art books and artwork stacked so high he had to stand up to see us.

Bergen Hashemian
I attended public schools all throughout K-12, starting off in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and finishing n Carroll ISD. What I loved most about my school district was not only did the teachers push students to achieve their full potential and provide us with the opportunities to do so, but as a community, we all came together to support our football team!

Katie Bevan
I am SO PROUD of my Texas education. I went to public schools in Richardson ISD from K-12, and I loved every minute of it. We had amazing teachers and great opportunities. In high school I was part of a magnet as well as an internship program—all preparing me for the real world! Go Eagles!

Josh Brown
I am a proud graduate of Pottsboro High School. Getting the privilege to attend a small-town public school made me who I am today. From the teachers and coaches who tirelessly invested in our success as young men and women, the victories and heartache experienced with my teammates in sports, the relationships developed with those in the community. . . I will forever be humbled by those who invested in a young kid and continued to motivate and challenge me to get better each day, to believe that I could accomplish absolutely anything with proper preparation, and to help me understand that failing forward was a good thing.

Markita Richardson
“Education is a passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” —Malcolm X. I am PROUD to be a product of the Texas Public Education System. I started off as a Lakeview Viking, then became a Sugarland Titan and to end it all, a Kempner Cougar! What I loved most about attending these schools was not only did I make lifelong friendships with great people, but I had passionate teachers who went above and beyond to push their students to achieve their full potential.

Huckabee presenting at SXSWedu

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Kerri Ranney, Huckabee’s Director of Learning & Strategic Development, and Konrad Judd, our Director of Design, are slated to present at SXSWedu 2017. Their topic, “Planning and Designing Learning Experiences” explores the planning and design process and its value on the development of learning environments that meet the needs of students and educators. It will cover important topics about the future of education and the roles of both students and educators in that shift. In addition, it will include the many layers of student choice and its impact on the overall learning experience.

The presentation will take place at 5 PM on Wednesday, March 8 at the JW Marriott in Austin in Salon C.

Kerri and Konrad are working with school districts to design some of the most progressive learning environments in Texas. They are helping clients meet the needs of 21st century learners and educators, as well as contributing to research at the classroom level that explores agility in education.

Huckabee presenting at TASBO

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Huckabee joins Granbury ISD to present “Furniture as a Learning Tool: Drawing Inspiration Beyond Education” at this year’s TASBO conference. The presentation will take place at 10:15 AM on March 2 at the Austin Convention Center. Our speakers include Amy Wood, Director of Technology Granbury ISD; Konrad Judd, our Director of Design; and Tami O’Neal, our Furniture Coordinator and Interior Designer.

Furniture as a Learning Tool: Drawing Inspiration Beyond Education

Furniture can make or break a learning environment. Its selection and use is key to creating an environment that engages learners, supports the profession of teaching and informs the use of the space. Looking beyond a traditional K-12 catalog, and seeking inspiration outside of education, increases value for students and teachers.

In Granbury ISD, the district used this approach to create huge impact for a major reconstruction of their high school—utilizing furniture and design to increase capacity, inspire collaboration, improve the professional environment for teachers and maximize the experience for students.

The district and design team discuss their approach and how they leveraged furniture and design choices as part of the renovation to deliver a 21st century educational environment for under $50 million.

A Golden Anniversary

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In 2017, Huckabee commemorates our 50th anniversary. We have proudly served Texas students, educators and communities for five decades. Our legacy is one we are honored to uphold.

We have a year of celebrations planned, and we look forward to the opportunity to reflect on the people, projects and moments that shaped our firm. Follow along at www.Huckabee50.com or #50more on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

From our roots as a small architecture firm in West Texas, to being named the #1 educational design firm in the state, it’s been an incredible journey. Here’s to 50 more years … we’re just getting started!

A FOUNDATION OF INTEGRITY

Fifty years ago, Tommie Huckabee saw an opportunity to bridge the gap in the architect and contractor relationship. He grew up working with his father, a general contractor, and knew the importance of a solid set of construction documents. As a result, he believed he owed it to his clients to do detailed drawings that bid more accurately and delivered more value. In 1967, Tommie and his colleague, Herman Riherd, opened Riherd & Huckabee in Andrews and Lubbock, Texas. The philosophy that inspired their vision is the foundation for what we still believe today—above all else: quality, integrity and service.

From the beginning, our work focused on education. We primarily served West Texas school districts, earning a reputation for excellence in the region. One of our first projects was a new gymnasium for Denver City ISD. More work followed, with Huckabee schools popping up across the plains. At the time, Riherd & Huckabee was designing some of the most innovative facilities in the region, including a new middle school for Andrews ISD that had a planetarium, three gymnasiums and an open concept learning environment. Another project, in Monahans-Wickett-Pyote ISD, was one of Tommie’s favorites; it was selected in 1976 to exhibit at an International Design Competition in Basel, Switzerland.

In the mid-70s, Riherd retired, and a new partner, Larry Donham, joined Tommie. Huckabee & Donham had 10 employees. For the next 15 years, they continued to build the firm’s legacy. During this time, Tommie opened an office in Stephenville, where the firm relocated after Donham’s retirement.

In 1989, Huckabee was short-listed in Mansfield ISD. The district was small, and they were looking for a partner to grow with. Huckabee fit the bill, and we kicked off a 28-year relationship that has resulted in more than $1.75 billion in school projects. It was one of the most significant moments for our firm. Today, Mansfield ISD serves more than 33,000 students. Their legacy is one we are proud to share.

In 1990, we became Huckabee & Associates. Tommie’s son, Chris Huckabee, graduated from Texas Tech University and joined the firm.

Chris had learned from the best. In second grade he attended his first board meeting with his father. Soon after, he started riding along to visit construction sites and meet with clients whenever the opportunity arose. He was entrenched in Huckabee, and when graduation came, eager to make his mark and work alongside Tommie.

A VISIONARY FUTURE

In 1995, Chris opened an office in Fort Worth, another significant move for Huckabee. It provided more opportunities for the firm to compete in a larger market. In 2000, Tommie passed the torch to Chris, leaving behind a legacy of excellence and a foundation that continues to sustain us.

Over the next nine years, Huckabee focused on the work, establishing a presence in new markets to the east, north and south. We developed new relationships and started working with school districts that remain our partners today.

When the recession hit in 2009, we doubled down on our commitment to Texas education. Huckabee invested in hiring talented leaders in the educational design field. We diversified our offerings and focused on being a trusted advisor for our clients. We took the time to reflect on our role in education and work with school districts to develop comprehensive plans for the future. We embodied the concept of being “More than Architects,” a vision that allowed us to do more, be more and give more to our clients. It was a defining moment for Huckabee, and it led to an incredible period of growth.

We are Huckabee Texas
happy hour Huckabee Texas

By 2011, Huckabee started expanding. We opened offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Notably, we also opened the Learning Experience Laboratories (LEx Labs) in partnership with ESC Region 12 at Baylor University. LEx Labs is an educational research center and test lab used by Huckabee, our clients and the university to explore 21st century classrooms and learning spaces. As education moves toward project-based learning and creating authenticity in the learning experience, we are standing beside Texas schools and helping lead the way for incredible facilities. LEx Labs represents this commitment, and it’s our way of investing in research and training that supports long-term student engagement and performance.

In 2016, on the eve of our 50th anniversary, Huckabee was named the #1 educational design firm in Texas by Engineering News Record. The recognition was a testament to our employees, clients and our commitment to education. Today, we have over 200 employees across the state, with more than 3,500 educational projects under our cap. We have worked with more than 150 school districts in the last few decades alone, and impacted thousands of students and educators throughout our shared journey.

Now in our 50th year, Huckabee still stands for the values that Tommie instilled: quality, integrity and service. We still stand for education and the success of all students. And we still strive to be more every single day, because education is worth it and our kids deserve it. As we celebrate our golden anniversary, we can’t help but look forward to 50 more years.

It’s been an incredible journey, and we’re just getting started.

Investing in a Better Texas

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The realities of school funding, needs and debt are complex. To shed light on the necessity of debt in the financial management of our schools, Huckabee researched and developed a report entitled, “Investing in a Better Texas.”

The report light-heartedly explains the multi-layered topic of public school finance. It demonstrates that the revenue generated by the federal government, state government and local communities is not enough to meet the needs of the more than 5 million students in the Texas public school system. The report also touches on how Texas’ funding structure makes it difficult for our fastest growing school districts to utilize debt effectively, further compounding their challenges to providing a quality education to every student.

Click here to download, “Investing in a Better Texas,” and its companion report, “Texas Schools Aren’t Average,” also published by Huckabee.

Best Companies to Work For

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Huckabee is more than a workplace. Our work community means many things to many people—from opportunity, integrity and growth to friendship, family and fun. It’s why we’re excited to be named to FWinc’s 2016 Best Companies to Work For! Of the many things Huckabee employees noted about why it’s an excellent place to work: our barista, our coffee, our employee events coordinator, our focus on professional development and growth, our culture of excellence, our wellness program, our team building activities and our mission. Click here to read to the story. And visit our careers page to learn more about opportunities at Huckabee.

Child-Centered Learning

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Kerri Ranney, Huckabee’s Director of Learning & Strategic Development, talks about child centered learning and empowering educators in a recent guest column in School Planning and Management magazine.

“In architectural design, we follow the foundational concept that form follows function, believing that instructional environments are most successful when approached methodically, as opposed to delivering a one-size-fits-all learning space. As customizable learning experiences come to prominence, more focus than ever is being put on child-centered learning philosophies, in which multiple pedagogies and diverse learning needs are used to inspire educational design.

However, focusing solely on the child-learner often misses a key opportunity: the professional development of educators. As educational facilities continue to evolve, expanding the planning and design conversation to include educator development and space needs will impart far greater success in the classroom, for educators and students alike.”

Click here to read the full article.

BD+C: #25 in Giants 300

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Building Design + Construction magazine released the 2016 Giants 300 Report, naming Huckabee #3 K-12 School Sector Architecture Firm and #25 Architecture / Engineering Firm in the nation. Of those recognized, Huckabee is one of the only firms that exclusively serves Texas educational clients. The annual list is determined based on market-sector revenue, BIM revenue, green building work and other criteria. It represents the largest and most innovative firms in the architecture, engineering and construction fields.

The publication also featured Kerri Ranney and LEx Labs, Huckabee’s educational research lab, in an article about the future of K-12 educational design. To read more, click here.

West ISD rendering Huckabee Texas

#1 Educational Design Firm

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Engineering News-Record Texas & Louisiana named Huckabee its 2016 Design Firm of the Year, “…for its commitment to employees, clients and enhancing learning environments across the state, as well as its dedication to the community.” Click here to read more. Huckabee also received the top nod as the #1 Educational Design Firm. Click here to see the lists.

ENR: Design Firm of the Year

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Engineering News Record Texas & Louisiana named Huckabee its 2016 Design Firm of the Year. Huckabee jumped nearly 150 spots in this year’s ENR Top 500 Design Firms to land at No. 213 on the list. Huckabee will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017 and has experienced exponential growth since the firm opened in 1967. Notably, in the past five years, Huckabee has opened multiple offices in thriving live / work / play communities, recruited the best of the best in educational planning and design and expanded service offerings to provide clients with a more holistic approach to designing the learning environment.

Huckabee will be featured in the June 13 edition of ENR Texas & Louisiana. Click here to read more.

Alvarado Junior High Huckabee Texas
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Learning Commons Huckabee Texas

ENR: #213 on the Top 500

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Huckabee jumped nearly 150 spots to place 213 on Engineering News Record’s 2016 Top 500 Design Firms. The list ranks firms across the nation based on design services revenue. Over the past few years, Huckabee has experienced record growth, increasing its services, staff and local office presence across the state of Texas. Notably in 2015, Huckabee opened a new corporate office in downtown Fort Worth, relocated offices in Houston and Austin into larger spaces (in thriving live / work / play communities) and opened a new office in San Antonio.

Huckabee’s reputation as a leader in learning environments and as a trusted advisor is the driving force behind the firm’s substantial growth. Huckabee has exclusively served educational clients for 49 years, and continues to provide exceptional service, innovative solutions and a client-centric approach for each and every project. Click here to view the full list of ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms.

training Huckabee Texas

K. Ranney Named Top 20 Under 40

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Kerri_RanneyColorKerri Ranney—Huckabee’s Director of Learning & Strategic Development Services—was named to Engineering News-Record’s Top 20 Under 40 Class of 2016. The Top 20 Under 40 list recognizes the top young construction / architectural professionals from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississipi and Oklahoma. Kerri was recognized for her contributions to the field of educational design. Click here to view the list.

Kerri was also recently appointed as the Southern Region Representative to the International Board for the Association for Learning Environments. The organization is dedicated to helping improve the educational environment, a mission for which Kerri is extremely passionate. She has been involved with the organization since 2008 and currently serves as Past President of the Southern Region.

For the past 16 years, Kerri has focused her career on serving educational clients—a passion that started in college when she spent a summer working in an educational design studio in Orlando. It was there that she determined her career focus, feeling drawn to educational design and the creativity and strategy that shapes the learning environment.

In 2013, Kerri joined Huckabee’s leadership team to head the Learning and Strategic Development department. Kerri crafted the department around providing services that would help schools evolve the learning experience—combining design, educational delivery and strategic vision into the master planning process. Under Kerri’s leadership, the Huckabee planning team is changing the landscape of educational design in Texas.

Haller award recipient Huckabee Texas

Haller Award: Ben Harris

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Benchmark_HarrisColorBenchmark Harris, Huckabee’s Director of Engineering, was named the 2015 Haller Award recipient, an honor presented by The Masonry Society to an engineer or engineering firm that has enhanced the knowledge of masonry in practice. The award recognizes the “beauty, elegance and economy” of structural masonry projects.

Ben is being recognized for his contributions in design, as well as his contributions as a leading expert in the field. He has more than 18 years of experience, completing more than $2 billion in construction projects utilizing concrete masonry as a primary structural element.

In his profession, Ben is frequently sought out to share his expertise and has been a featured speaker at events and conferences for organizations including, the U.S. Department of Education, American Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas Association of School Business Officials, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Brownsville, Structural Engineers Association of Texas, The Masonry Society, North American Masonry Conferences, ICON-Xchange and the International Masonry Institute. He has also been published by Structure Magazine, written numerous white papers and contributed to Masonry Designer’s Guide.

At Huckabee, Ben leads a team of 16 engineers and engineers-in-training. He promotes an informed and creative approach to developing solutions for educational design that integrate architectural and structural features. His team is heavily involved in the planning and design process, promoting collaboration, mentorship and shared knowledge to create innovative and structurally sound designs. Since joining the firm in 2011, Ben has led Huckabee’s engineering arm to become the top “Best Firm to Work For—Structural Engineering Firm,” in 2015 as named by Zweig Group.

The Haller Award—named in memory of Professor Paul Haller, an engineer who helped revolutionize the field—is reviewed annually; however, is not awarded each year. Ben is only the seventh recipient since the award was first bestowed in 1993.

Boren elementary school Huckabee Texas
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Viridian elementary exterior Huckabee Texas
Austin common area Huckabee Texas

Austin Business Journal Spotlight

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Austin Business Journal visited Huckabee’s local office to take a tour of the newly designed space, located in The Domain in northwest Austin. The article (click here to view) provides a visual tour of the space, which was designed by Gensler, an architecture firm known for creating exceptional work environments.

Huckabee has six offices in Texas, located in Fort Worth, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and LEx Labs, our educational research lab, at Baylor University in Waco. Each space features a similar environment, making Huckabee feel like home regardless of where it’s located.

austin office 2 Huckabee Texas
austin office space Huckabee Texas
We are Huckabee Texas
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LEx Labs Featured on KWTX News 10

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LEx Labs—Huckabee’s educational research lab in partnership with ESC Region 12 at Baylor University—was featured on KWTX News 10 in Waco. The story illustrates how teachers and administrators from across the state are using the space to explore how students react to different learning environments.

Within the space, Huckabee’s clients have access to technology and flexible use furniture that is equipped with motion sensors. The sensors track furniture movement and how students adjust their surroundings to create the most comfortable learning space. As more and more clients utilize LEx Labs, Huckabee is generating valuable data to help school districts make informed decisions about their educational design programs.

ribbon cutting Huckabee Texas

Huckabee Opens New Headquarters

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ribbon cutting 3 Huckabee Texas
ribbon cutting 2 Huckabee Texas

Huckabee officially cut the ribbon last week for its new office space in Burnett Plaza in downtown Fort Worth—on the heels of the firm’s grand opening for its Austin office’s new location in The Domain weeks before. It was Huckabee’s first chance to welcome school district clients, corporate partners and special guests into the new office (to read more about Huckabee’s new corporate digs, click here). More than 200 people attended and had the opportunity to explore the office’s 45,000 square feet of collaborative and technology-driven work space.

In Fort Worth, Huckabee dedicated three meeting spaces in honor of individuals who have made an impact on the Huckabee story. The Terry Learning Center—the central space in which Huckabee employees gather to re-connect, learn and socialize—was re-dedicated in memory of Timothy Terry, a former employee who made a lifelong impression on the firm before his passing. The Newsom Room—a unique meeting space and central design element of the lobby—was dedicated in memory of Vernon Newsom, former Superintendent of Mansfield ISD. And, The Founders Room—a state-of-the-art conference room—was dedicated in honor of the company’s founder, Mr. Tommie Huckabee. In Austin, Huckabee dedicated The Hart Room in honor of Dr. Rob Hart, Superintendent of Liberty Hill ISD.

Huckabee has six offices in Texas, located in Fort Worth, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and LEx Labs, our educational research lab, at Baylor University in Waco.

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Huckabee Named Giants 300 Top 10

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Building Design + Construction magazine released the 2015 Giants 300 list, naming Huckabee #40 nationwide and #4 in the Top 10 K-12 School Sector for Architecture Firms. Of those recognized, Huckabee is one of the only firms that exclusively serves Texas educational clients.

The annual list is determined based on market-sector revenue, BIM revenue, green building work and other criteria. It represents the largest and most innovative firms in the architecture, engineering and construction fields. Huckabee has earned its spot as one of the leading architecture firms in the nation, having experienced record growth over the past five years. Since 2010, the firm has added regional locations to complement the corporate office in Fort Worth (including offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio) in addition to an educational research lab, LEx Labs, at Baylor University where the learning environment is being studied and explored.

“We continue to strengthen our presence—both in size and in innovation. Being recognized as a top firm is a reflection of these efforts, driven by our commitment to educational clients and the design of pioneering learning environments.”

Chris Huckabee, Chief Executive Officer, Huckabee
Alvarado Jr High studying Huckabee Texas

Q & A with Konrad Judd

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Konrad-Judd-ColorFor 48 years, Huckabee has helped our clients achieve innovation and excellence in educational design, and as our company has grown over the years, we’ve continued to add best-in-class expertise to our team. In 2013, Huckabee welcomed Konrad Judd, an international thought leader in educational design, as our Director of Design. Together, we’ve continued our commitment to Texas students and Texas schools, providing innovation, value and flexible designs to meet emerging trends in educational delivery.

Konrad’s first project with Huckabee was the design of Alvarado ISD’s new junior high school. Konrad and his team helped the district realize their goals of merging project-based learning strategies with a traditional learning environment. The result is a modern facility that will act as a benchmark for future projects in the district.

The Huckabee team joined Alvarado ISD for a special ribbon cutting ceremony in August, opening the doors for the community to explore their newest instructional facility. The new building is exceptional, and we sat down with Konrad to talk about the project and how Huckabee’s design team is making an impact in education.

Q1: The district started off the conceptual process with the idea of designing a traditional learning facility; however, Alvarado JHS is anything but. How did Huckabee work with the district to re-envision their goals?

Huckabee’s planning and design process is very collaborative—with involvement from each of our design disciplines. We work with districts in their schools, scheduling design charrettes onsite with administrators, faculty and other stakeholders to talk through their educational delivery goals and present concepts and ideas for design. When we started talking with the district, we realized their goals leaned more toward modern, project-based learning strategies.

Our design team put together several concepts for the district’s review, and we decided to move forward with a facility that included innovative learning elements. The selections aligned well with what the district wanted to accomplish, long term. The process was a game-changer, and elements that are found in the junior high school will be used in future facilities.

Q2: Innovative elements are found throughout the facility. How did your design team incorporate these elements into the design?

The broad philosophy in educational circles right now focuses on breaking down schools into smaller environments, providing a shared and more personal experience for groups of students. Often, students feel overwhelmed in larger school environments.

In Alvarado ISD, staff and administrators decided to break down the junior high by grade level, creating two distinct spaces for 7th grade on the lower level and 8th grade on the second level. Each grade level is then separated into smaller academic pods that contain classrooms and labs that are centered on a living room or shared space. The shared space is connected vertically with the other grade level by a stairway, creating opportunities for students to interact and for 8th graders to mentor their younger counterparts.

Notably, the classrooms in each academic pod have a section of glass walls, creating transparency from classroom to the shared space. This concept of transparency is trending right now as schools are moving toward active learning environments that incorporate smaller doses of traditional stand-and-deliver teaching. Transparency enhances an active learning environment and mimics many aspects of the workplace, better preparing students for their future.

The team also incorporated outdoor learning courtyards for each grade level. These courtyards connect to the academic pods and feature comfortable seating and planter boxes that can be used for science experiments. Finding ways to connect the indoors with the outdoors, an important feature for student development.

Q3: One of the unique features in the facility is a Genius Lounge. But, what exactly is a Genius Lounge?

Huckabee’s Genius Lounge is a combination of Apple’s Genius Bar and a lounge you’d find at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. The space is found inside the library and features soft seating and an open concept. As today’s students are using libraries differently than generations before them, we must find ways to maintain the value in these types of spaces by encouraging scholarship and collaboration. The Genius Lounge accomplishes this, providing a comfortable space where students act as peer-to-peer geniuses as they problem solve together.

Q4: The facility has a modern aesthetic. How did your team’s selections fit into the district’s design goals?

Alvarado ISD was open to a design that was more progressive and sophisticated, blending professional with academic aesthetics. We used glass, steel, metal and masonry on the exterior to create the modern look, while incorporating wood, soft seating and pops of color inside to make it comfortable and suitable for the students and the academic environment.

Throughout the building the design team also placed brightly colored way-finding “portals.” These portals are intended to help students, teachers and visitors easily find areas of importance such as the entrance to the media center and academic pods, as well as other collaborative learning spaces. They also provided an opportunity to add visual interest and incorporate the school’s colors into the design.

Q5: What’s next for Huckabee’s clients?

Huckabee’s design department is working on some really exciting projects right now that are changing the way our schools think about educational delivery. We are working hand-in-hand with our planning teams to research the learning environment and design transformational spaces. In Dripping Springs, Georgetown, Killeen and Kaufman ISDs, as well as others, we are changing the design of learning spaces to support the way instruction is being delivered with today’s modern activity strategies and open-concept / flexible environments. Alvarado ISD’s new junior high is a great example of how we’re partnering with schools to enhance instruction and build a future for our kids.

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