Business for a Better World: Melichar Architects

Melichar Architects

207 East Westminster Avenue, Lake Forest

(847) 295-2440

Industry: Architecture and Interior Design

Annual revenue: $1 million

Number of employees: 7

An interview with Diana Melichar, Architect, President of Melichar Architects

Q: Describe your company.

A: Architecture firm that specializes in commercial, residential and historic preservation.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: No. We have been consistent with our staffing.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: We may be headed into another recession resulting in fewer people investing in building. But, in reality, this is the best time to be building because construction workers are more available and materials costs are typically lower during a recession. Also, it typically takes a fair amount of time to design and build a project, so by the time the project is completed, we are out of a recession.

Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: Making homes multifunctional. Since COVID, clients are trying to figure out how to use their home to work, play and sometimes home school.

Q: What does your company do to reduce the effects of climate change?

A: For decades we have designed buildings to be as energy efficient and solidly built as possible, utilizing the least amount of natural resources. The “greenest” projects are actually rehabilitation or adaptive reuse projects, because we are reusing building structures and adapting them for another century of use with far less waste.

New construction takes a lot of resources, and often, in our area, another building must be torn down to create a new one.

Q: Is your company minority-owned? Woman-owned? If so, what are the challenges of being a minority- or woman-owned company?

A: Woman-owned. We have been in business for 30 years. Although more prevalent in today's world, women owned architecture businesses are rare (about 17% are women-owned) and in the suburbs, there are only a handful. As a woman-owned business, and with several women on staff, we have to prove that we can perform the same services or better than male-owned businesses. The building industry is still considered a male world, even though it doesn't matter if a male or female is designing a structure.

Q: What does your company do regarding DE&I (diversity, equity & inclusion)?

A: We have always been color, race, religion and gender “blind.” It doesn't matter who the person is that works for us, or who our consultants or builders are for our clients, as long as their quality, work ethic, and creativity are excellent. We strive for professionalism and quality, so our designers are selected for their skill-sets and creativity rather than any other criteria.

Q: Does your company donate time or money to any philanthropic causes? If so, what causes?

A: We typically donate our time to serving our community, where our architecture, design and business expertise is helpful. Whether taking on executive roles through our local chamber of commerce, or participating in planning committees and boards.

Q: Does your company do anything else to make your community better?

A: Our office parties are typically focused on community service, like helping out at Feed My Starving Children and Bernie's Book Bank.

I have also served on Highland Park's Preservation Commission for five years, as well as served on Ragdale Foundation's Renovation Task Force.

Q: What do you do to make your business a good place to work for your employees?

A: Our firm has always put family first and work second. For three decades, we have been flexible with work schedules, and never, ever do we ask employees to work evenings or weekends unless there is an unusual event (such as an evening public hearing that we must attend). Our employees have always appreciated that commitment to them, and in turn they have shown loyalty and quality work to the firm.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: Serve every client with respect; and for each of them create beautiful and functional architecture, one project at a time. If a job is well done, the next one will naturally come to us.

Q: What is one interesting fact about your company that most people may not know?

A: It's very unusual to have an architectural firm with five women and two men. It just turned out that way. Each employee brings their talents and unique perspectives to their work. We work in one drafting room together, so there is always a synergy among our designs, and we have a lot of fun creating together. Our projects are diverse as well. We have not only designed beautiful homes, but we worked on three train stations, a state-of-the-art recording studio, several local banks and a car dealership.

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Photo courtesy of Melichar ArchitectsThe Melichar Architects office in Lake Forest.
Photo courtesy of Melichar ArchitectsThe Melichar Architects team in Lake Forest.

Melichar Architects

207 East Westminster Avenue, Lake Forest

(847) 295-2440

Industry: Architecture and Interior Design

Annual revenue: $1 million

Number of employees: 7

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