“We basically created super teams of people with very few weaknesses.”
KAI Design & Build’s Michael B. Kennedy on how building design can benefit from business acumen—and vice versa

Looking back on his childhood, Michael B. Kennedy can still recall watching his father design projects in the basement of their family home. In 1980, when Kennedy was just three years old, his father started what would become KAI Design & Build, a leading architecture and construction firm based in St. Louis that was making LEED-certifiable buildings before the USGBC emerged. Kennedy is now president of KAI Design & Build and uses his background in business to foster a company culture emphasizing communication and collaboration. 

I brought a business approach to KAI Design & Build. I am not an architect like my father. I run the sales, operations, and development side of the company, but I believe architects and artists are driving the sustainability movement. When I started here 11 years ago, I quickly realized that creative human beings are intuitively sustainable; they just seem to be more environmentally conscious. We always assume that new projects are going to be green until the owner tells us otherwise. With this cost-conscious economy, we’re seeing a new trend of clients saying they want a “LEED-like building,” meaning they want all of the LEED elements without the costly certification. People are doing the best they can with the budgets they have.

There are also projects where no expense is spared. Our Arlington Grove Apartments project is part of HUD’s Green Homes and Communities project, and it has a laundry list of sustainable features and other requirements unusual even for very upscale homes...


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