A Conversation with: Philip Leinbach, president of AEM Architects in Reading

Stacy Wescoe//June 6, 2022

A Conversation with: Philip Leinbach, president of AEM Architects in Reading

Stacy Wescoe//June 6, 2022

Philip Leinbach –

LVB: AEM provides architectural services for a wide variety of industries. Which ones are keeping you the busiest right now?

Leinbach: Our mainstay has been K-12 educational facilities since our company’s inception in 1974. That continues today and makes up about 85% of our current workload. We also have ongoing projects for higher education and commercial clients as well. We pretty much cover all areas of design except for the residential market.

LVB: Trends in architecture are always changing. What are the latest trends?

Leinbach: With respect to education, flexible use spaces are increasing in demand. Classrooms and learning spaces must be readily adaptable to different types of instruction and activities. Mobile desks (tables that nest or can be arranged in several configurations), mobile chairs, and flexible teaching areas are a must. Coupled with ever-changing technology, there is a move away from dedicated workstations to one-to-one programs at all grade levels. Tablets and laptops that provide interactive use with classroom displays are increasing. Classroom projectors are being replaced with large screen displays as they are becoming more affordable.

LVB: Is green building still popular?

Leinbach: There is still a draw for “green” design, but this varies based on the client. Many green practices have become more mainstream and are now inherent in design to comply with codes or simply because the “green” technology has now become more affordable (necessity is still the mother of invention) and sensible.

LVB: Has the pandemic impacted design?

Leinbach: Demands for improved air quality, the ability to have better separated personal space (social distancing), and the limiting of touch points are back at the forefront of good design practices. Better filtration and air quality are fairly simple to incorporate in new systems. Renovations are sometimes more difficult but often

have ready solutions. Having the space to social distance in classroom spaces is more readily accommodated with flexible design solutions for new construction. Existing facilities sometimes face challenges with established class sizes and the efficient footprint (smaller) classroom sizes.

LVB: Has the rising price of materials impacted decisions made in the design process?

Leinbach: Absolutely. We are trying to make decisions early in the design process regarding the selection of structural systems/members, building envelope, mechanical equipment, etc. Many of these items have long lead times and therefore are subject to increasing inflationary pressures that place a premium on cost and time on bid day.

The rising cost of fuel is one of the biggest pressures we are facing. The cost of transporting material, equipment, and labor to the construction site simply cannot be avoided. Additionally, petroleum-based products are common across all trades from asphalt paving, piping, to wire insulation. These costs are changing constantly making it difficult to estimate and receive solid bid day pricing.