Q&A with Project and Architectural Design Manager, Don Elliott

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With three decades in the architectural profession, including 19 years with an award-winning global architectural and planning firm, Don Elliott AIA, LEED AP brings a seasoned knowledge of building design and construction to Boxman Studios. Since joining the team in the Spring of 2019 as a project and architectural design manager, he’s brought his expertise to modular designs for a wide array of clients from the quick-service restaurant space to experiential marketing. So, what is it like to make the switch to the modular space? 

You spent years in the traditional architecture space, what makes designing for modular builds different? 

It comes down to two things, the first being scale. At Boxman, we’re utilizing micro-architecture. Our structures have small footprints, and each is designed to maximize a small space. Beyond the differences in square footage, the schedule of a modular build is expedited. In traditional construction, we think in months, and at Boxman we think in days. Everything shrinks down in this world, but we are still building to the same level of complexity. 

With the entire build taking place in-house, how is the process different?  

I have the benefit of being steps away from the project every day, and that’s a really good thing. In traditional architecture, site visits take place every month or week, depending on where the project is on the timeline. Previously, I would hand off designs for someone else to build, but at Boxman, I am a part of the everyday build team and answering questions in real-time. I think that is beneficial for our internal teams as well as our clients. 

Modular construction allows for an expedited build schedule; how does Boxman streamline architectural design? 

We’re able to accomplish the entire build and achieve code approvals at the same time. We work closely with third party inspectors to review the project in our shop similar to a local inspector reviewing a site-built project. The architectural design process is also streamlined by incorporating standard assemblies and details and utilizing BIM software to coordinate plumbing, electric and HVAC systems with the modular framing in very tight tolerances.

How is Boxman’s process evolving with a shift to purpose-built structures? 

Purpose-built units offer more flexibility. There’s total design control of the exterior look and feel, and we can provide complete branding and customization for the unit. Our builds are modular, but they also offer any of the finishes and details that traditional builders can do. 

As businesses adapt to keep their customers safe in today’s world, what solutions can Boxman offer? 

There is an opportunity with the scale and speed at which we work to help customers respond to Covid-19 business circumstances. We’re all learning what this new normal means, and adaptability is vital during these times.

Through modular architecture, we can quickly produce open-air dining units that could be used temporarily or permanently. We know that many restaurants are shifting to a take-out only model, and we can provide units designed specifically for that purpose that can easily be brought to the location’s parking lot and installed.

What excites you about this space, and the future of Boxman? 

Every day is different, and I don’t think that will ever change. The schedules move so quickly, and we aren’t spending months or years on one project. It’s a dynamic job that requires us to flex our creative muscles in new ways each day. 

As an architect, it’s always rewarding to see a project go from an idea to reality, and now I get to experience more of that. There are many designs in the conceptual stage right now that I can’t wait to bring to fruition in the coming months as we continue to work with clients to create unique solutions across a range of different markets.