Vancouver-based CEI Architecture is a leading architectural designer across the healthcare, real estate, post-secondary, recreation and culture sectors. Based in British Columbia, the firm has grown its project portfolio across the country, with ongoing work in Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador, to name a few.
CEI Architects is unique in that each project follows a collaborative effort with the client, rather than a signature style of architecture. CEI brings a fresh approach to every new job. “We are not a company that has a kind of style where you can say, ‘That’s a CEI project.’ Our projects take form by themselves, and what you see is the result of a highly successful and collaborative effort, meaning happy users, clients and overall, architecture that will serve its purpose well,” comments Richard Bolus, senior partner with the firm.
“We are really fascinated with process, to the extent that we are process innovators. Our results are based on designs that work well and on a consistent delivery of services. Our people also deeply understand their sectors and what interests clients. We feel that clients will come back to us on that basis.”
Sustainability and Innovation
CEI has an expansive project portfolio with 26 projects that have achieved or are targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the industry recognition of environmental sustainability as it relates to new building design. The company points to the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, completed in 2011, designed as one of the most innovative and advanced sustainable facilities, to the standards of the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous sustainability program worldwide.
The most exhilarating aspect of the Centre of Excellence is that the building itself will be used extensively as part of the teaching curriculum. The design allows most aspects of the building and its systems to be accessible and demonstrable, and learning from live building data provided. To encourage conservation and behavioural adaptation, energy use will be measured at each classroom, workshop, office and other areas.
CEI is also providing advisory services in the development of the proposed Wood Innovation and Design Centre located in downtown Prince George, B.CO. The Centre will promote expertise in advanced building systems, engineered wood products, interior wood design and applications, and other value-added wood products.
This multi-storey iconic wood building will showcase British Columbia’s expertise and global reputation as a leader in wood construction and design and engineered wood products. Its construction will catalyze new wood product development, commercialization and adoption. The Centre will be built to LEED Gold standards.
CEI is always looking to contribute to the exploration of opportunities and challenges for innovative new building systems. CEI’s innovation in wood design has been recognized with an Honourable Mention in the inaugural Office Building of the Future Design Competition, sponsored by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
The proposed design is a 40-storey tower predominantly comprised of wood — a material with special relevance to the B.C. marketplace. “As a firm practicing in B.C., we wanted to explore the full potential of designing with wood,” said Nick Bevanda, partner and design lead on the project submission. “It has so many inherent benefits, including availability, aesthetic quality, workability and ability to sequester carbon.”
CEI was the only Canadian company to receive recognition in the competition, which was open to NAIOP’s 15,000 members across North America.
In recent years, when the global economy took a turn for the worse, it robbed many clients of the ability to fund new construction projects. As a result, the funding structure for new projects was reborn through public-private partnerships.
CEI recognized early the impact that the recession would have on the industry. Soon after, an increasing number of projects came from the public sector. CEI’s involvement in P3 projects calmed the company through the recession.
“One of the things that differentiated us was that, early in the game, we saw that the private sector would be hit hard,” Bolus explained. “About a year before the recession took hold, we shifted from being about 50/50 between the public and private sector, and grew to about 80 per cent public sector, as that is where we saw project funding. “We could see that in British Columbia, P3 projects were going to be the prize, with the largest and most complex projects funded through federal infrastructure funding.”
Today, CEI has emerged as a company of choice for P3 projects, winning its last four consecutive project bids. Moving forward, CEI continues to focus on being a premier builder of comprehensive and sustainable architecture. The company continues to grow its national recognition and impact, while recognizing that its strong client relationships and collaborative process have paved the company’s success over the years.
“Our goal is not about numbers like revenue,” Bolus concluded. “We are a process-based company, not product-based, as we believe process will produce a better product than simply implementing a single vision. If we can achieve that goal, the numbers will be strong and we will be a great company.”