Number TEN Architectural Group

Leaders in Sustainable Design and Best Practices Management

On the morning The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Greg Hasiuk, Partner and Practice Leader at Number TEN Architectural Group in Winnipeg, he’d already logged what would be, for most people, the better part of a full day on a hectic, loaded schedule. Hasiuk had been up since a 3:45am wakeup call in Regina where he’d been part of a speaking engagement the previous day. He was then off to catch a 5:30am flight back to the Manitoba capital and into his office. Such a whirlwind agenda is just part of the daily routine for Hasiuk and his associates at Number TEN. It’s that type of constant shared commitment by the entire staff that has helped propel this company of 75 individuals to the very top within their industry, 65 of whom work at the head office and another 10 in Victoria.

The genesis of the firm has origins dating back to 1954 and a practice known as Waisman Ross, which quickly merged with another young practice called Koop Blankstein the following year. The fledgling company was very much design-driven and almost immediately viewed as pioneers in architectural design in western Canada. As the organization grew throughout its first successful decade, an expansion of partners occurred in 1964 and the official corporate name was changed to Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna.

Through increasing success became the demand for more room to operate, as additional staff was brought on board, and so the partners decided to build their own offices at 10 Donald Street in Winnipeg. In the late 1960s the firm’s savvy telephone receptionist grew weary of constantly repeating the rather long-winded name of the entire partnership group for each and every incoming call, and so she took it upon herself to shorten the introductory greeting to “Good Morning – Architects at Ten Donald” which then morphed into “Architects at Number Ten.”

“Our name kind of grew organically into Number TEN Architectural Group and the partners decided to officially change the name in 1970,” Hasiuk reveals.

Dating back to those early, formative years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the firm was involved in a number of highly-publicized projects including the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon and the federal Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Number Ten Architectural Group continued to enjoy tremendous prosperity and a strengthening reputation in the community at large. Hasiuk joined the team in 1988 by which time there was a second generation of partners. Now he is among the third wave of owners, some 61 years after the doors were first opened.

Projects and Structure

Each project at Number TEN comes with its own unique set of circumstances, characteristics and requirements, making it next to impossible for Hasiuk to select two or three that stand out as being his favourites, because it’s evident he clearly feels the same sense of pride in all the company’s projects, regardless of size and scope. Nonetheless, as an example of some of the more high-profile, substantial projects the firm has on its resume would be the likes of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the Winnipeg Taxation Centre and the MTS Centre, home to the NHL’s Jets.

“Some of the projects were done in collaboration with other architects, which is quite common,” Hasiuk says. “We still do that today.”

There are four studios at Number TEN and they all bring their own distinct areas of specialty and expertise. Each studio is led by a partner, who is known as the principal. Support staff within a studio is akin to a working sub-committee. In addition to one of the owners, the teams have a studio lead who is a senior architect or interior designer who works alongside the studio principal to organize the group, which is typically between 10 to 12 people. The groups meet regularly to discuss current trends, while sharing new thoughts and ideas.

The company also employs its own in-house videographer, which is quite unique in the architecture profession. Hasiuk and his partners recognize video as a very powerful tool that can help explain to all stakeholders what has been – and what can be – accomplished on any given project. There is also an experienced management team that supports the studios, including a CFO, a manager of operations, marketing manager and a creative director.

The office is essentially split down the middle with two studios in the public realm and two in the private domain.

“We look at those as two very different types of client groups and different types of processes to get the work done,” Hasiuk says.

Education and recreation along with civic and institutional represents the public side, including art galleries, courthouses, police stations or penitentiaries – anything built on behalf of the government. On the private side is hospitality and entertainment, which can include the likes of hotels and casinos and then there is also commercial and residential.

On the commercial front, Number TEN are experts in designing retail malls and restaurants and they do a lot of residential multi-family housing. Hasiuk tells us the company is aiming to focus more on the seniors’ market because it’s such a fast-growing sector. The firm’s Victoria office has done a tremendous amount of work in that regard. In addition to that, the company has always had a strong foothold in the Arctic.

“I spent from the year 2000 through the mid-2000s doing schools and courthouses up in Nunavut, which I found incredibly interesting,” Hasiuk says. “We did the new justice centre in Iqaluit, which was a fascinating building to design because we were asked to design a building that represented the Inuit culture.”

Selected as a distinguished member on the list of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, Number TEN also recently won an award at the World Architectural Festival for best future design, which was a very proud occasion for Hasiuk and members of the entire team.

“I have to mention that we did win that in association with another firm here in town (Winnipeg) but we were the only North American firms to win. Our creative director flew out to Singapore to accept the award,” he says.

It’s obvious when speaking with Hasiuk that he has an incredible level of enthusiasm and pride in the work that is performed at Number TEN. A proven process that is orchestrated by an experienced group of professionals, emphasizing a collaborative and integrated system, is what keeps everything on target.

“We train our staff in what has been a long tradition here where we are much like conductors in a symphony. A good conductor has everyone on the same page,” he says. “As architects and conductors of large groups of stakeholders, I think we are really good at keeping everybody on the same page and pulling in the same direction. The key to it all is an integrated approach where everyone in the office feels that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.”

The design of a building or structure is only half the work; it then needs to be built.  The blend of professional architects, interior designers, architectural technologists and contract administrators who can speak the language of contractors is a huge advantage when it comes time to pull the entire project together in the handoff from design to production.

Excellent quality and dedication to each project from start to finish is an absolute must in order to gain the trust of clients. More than 70% of the work that comes through the doors at Number TEN is based on referrals or repeat business.

“Getting work by writing proposals in response to RFPs is a difficult way to get work. It’s important to keep relationships strong,” Hasiuk says.

Innovation and Technology

Currently, Number TEN is partaking in the massive expansion to the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre with the hope of having the venue fully operational in time for this year’s Grey Cup on November 29. There was also a major project just recently completed at the Assiniboine Park Zoo where Number TEN collaborated with a firm that specializes in zoo design.

“We created an entirely new main entrance. The Journey to Churchill exhibit is an enclosure for the polar bears where you can walk under the water in an acrylic tube and see the bears and seals on one side swimming above you. The polar bears often come down and stomp on the tube, which can be quite unnerving,” Hasiuk laughs.

Architecture is becoming more astounding and breathtaking with the results that are being produced. Its complexity requires constant upgrading of employee skillsets to stay ahead of the curve – something which is not lost on Hasiuk and his partners, who ensure staff members are always right up to date on the latest technologies, including software programs.

“The projects we’re doing now involve much larger teams, and often from different locations. We’re using technology to have collaborative design meetings using remote teleconferencing software and software that allows us to share drawings so that we can sketch on top of a plan in Winnipeg and then someone can pick up a pen in Portland or Calgary and start drawing on the same document,” Hasiuk says.

Nowadays everything is designed digitally on a computer before it’s built. At Number TEN, 2D drawings are produced from a 3D model. This type of modelling not only allows the team to visualize spaces better internally and with their clients, but it allows for enhanced collaboration with the in-house engineers, because they are now modelling the structure and the mechanical systems into one integrated model where they can better anticipate whether there’s going to be a beam in the way of a duct or conflict issues between various systems on site.

“We can now see those things and visualize them much better so they don’t come up on the jobsite when the contractor is trying to build it.  It’s far more expensive to fix on site than the computer,” Hasiuk says.

Community Partnerships

Bustling with activity each and every day is the boardroom at Number TEN, where experts on energy design and conservation as well as acoustics are brought in for consultation purposes. Such in-depth pre-planning has put the company at the top of the list in terms of having to deal with creating effective, strong building envelopes. As Hasiuk notes, nothing can be left exposed because the cold penetrates into the buildings very quickly.

Within the community, Number TEN is a proud sponsor of The Partners Program at the University of Manitoba, where the mandate is to try and connect industry and practice to the academic world.  There is also a close working relationship with Red River College.

“We are doing a major project for them right now called The Skills and Trades Centre, which is a huge facility designed to grow the local trades’ capabilities,” Hasiuk states. He and other members of the Number TEN team are quite often involved in assisting or leading with educational instruction as well as curriculum workshops at Red River College in order to ensure their programs continue to meet the needs of the profession, which often implements new techniques and methodologies.

Another aspect of the industry that is forefront in the minds of Hasiuk and his team is the inherent need for companies to immerse in LEED Certification programs, with best practices considered a must in this day and age. Number TEN has several of these projects securely under its belt now and will continue to expand that footprint moving forward.

“We’ve been working with LEED since 2008,” he confirms. “One of my partners was the first LEED certified professional in Manitoba.”

All of Number TEN’s major buildings strive for LEED Silver at a minimum, but they already have several LEED Gold certified buildings completed. The manufacturers, suppliers and contractors have caught up and are now in a position to provide architects and designers with what they need, which wasn’t always the case.  For many years it was a struggle for forward-thinking architectural firms to convince various other companies to climb aboard when working on a new project.  LEED has been a great way to move the construction and design industries into a more accountable type of process.

“LEED is now trying to stay ahead of the curve so the next big thing is NetZero design or buildings that are giving more energy back into the grid than they take,” Hasiuk says. “There are buildings in Canada now that are cleaning their own bio waste. They plan to scrub and clean their own black water and reuse their grey water and generate power in what is called regenerative design. That’s the next frontier for Number TEN – to get into the NetZero game.”

Over the past 26 years Hasiuk has also been personally and professionally involved with a number of initiatives relating to the advancement of Aboriginal communities in both Winnipeg and rural areas and into the north. Number TEN has coordinated an abundance of work with Aboriginal communities and it is an integral point of interest that Hasiuk and his partners plan to continue into the future.  It is a population that is a growing force in Manitoba and Canada in general.

“We have a really great relationship and understanding of issues surrounding Aboriginal culture. I feel honoured that we’ve had a chance to work in those communities,” Hasiuk says.”

Architecture has the ability to provide an integral piece to the puzzle when it comes to helping to improve the standard of living within those Aboriginal communities – especially the north. Hasiuk and his team involve themselves because they genuinely believe it’s the right thing to do.  It’s that level of understanding and human sensitivity that develops a path into successful projects at Number TEN, whether it’s with a community centre, school or business they take the time to learn what each particular culture is all about. The future looks bright, and is something Hasiuk thinks about all the time.

“We want to continue to grow and be considered experts and thought leaders in what we do,” he remarks. “We want to keep spreading our footprint into new markets and find great clients and be able to do work that we find fulfilling and by extension give back to the community as much as possible. We take our legacy very seriously.”