Zach Wiese celebrates 20 years at Legat Architects
From intricate details to whole buildings: Zach Wiese accomplishes two decades of mentoring architects and helping building owners achieve code compliance, avoid costly repairs, and complete major projects.
Generations Healthcare Network wasn’t sure about Zach Wiese leading the first major project it hired Legat Architects to do: additions and renovations at Generations at Neighbors skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. Wiese had done several smaller code-related projects for the provider, but this was different. However, after hearing more about Wiese’s leadership qualities and responsiveness to clients, Generations Healthcare Network gave him a shot.
Ten years later, Wiese has not only led the Generations at Neighbors project, but he’s also led similar projects at three additional Generations Healthcare Network properties.
“Zach has worked with us on four large projects, and in each case, the end result is a masterpiece,” said Generations Healthcare Network Senior Vice President Kirsten Schloss. “We’re grateful for all of his knowledge, hard work, and loyalty throughout the years.”
Wiese, who recently celebrated 20 years at Legat, has developed a reputation that goes far beyond his work at Generations—he has worked closely with Legat principal Berry DeSimone to solidify the firm’s code compliance expertise, he’s been called in to help teams tackle detail challenges, and he’s served as a project architect/manager for many other projects.
“I’ve been working closely with Zach for more than a decade now,” said Legat Chief Operating Officer Berry DeSimone. “He’s a person I completely trust because he always does the right thing.”
Coworkers recognize Wiese as a committed team member, a fair leader, and go-to source for technical issues. He’s also known to have some fun on occasion.
The Path to Knoxville
Wiese, the oldest of six children, grew up in the Illinois/Iowa region called the Quad Cities, where he tried to land a job after graduating from University of Michigan in 2000. That wasn’t in the cards (and Legat had not yet opened a Quad Cities studio); instead, he was hired by Alan Bombick (1955 – 2016), who assured Wiese he would get a well-rounded experience by working on many facility types and all project phases. The promise was fulfilled—Wiese’s experience turned out to be as diverse as his facial hair styles.
Wiese commuted from his home in Wheaton to Legat’s Chicago studio, where he worked on projects such as the new Colin Powell Middle School (Matteson, IL) and conversion of a five-story healthcare building into the Proviso Mathematics & Science Academy (Forest Park, IL).
When Wiese’s first daughter was born in 2005, he moved to Legat’s Oak Brook studio to be closer to his family. Last year, he headed to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he has remained a vital member of the Legat team.
Wiese’s first ten years at Legat culminated with him playing a key role on one of the firm’s most influential projects of that decade: Hubble Middle School.
The 190,000-square-foot facility was not only one of the nation’s first middle schools to achieve LEED for Schools Gold certification, but it was also Legat’s first major project designed completely in Revit Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. As project architect, he served as the right-hand man to project manager Paul Pessetti. Wiese was responsible for everything from coordinating consultants to leading all wall sections, roofing, and detailing.
“Zach is a good guy to have on your team,” said Pessetti. “You know that he’s committed to the project because he puts in the time and attention to detail to get it done right the first time.”
Keeping Cool: Studio Director
In 2017, Wiese stepped into the role of Legat’s Oak Brook, Illinois studio director to focus on building relationships, hitting deadlines, and achieving profitability. Major projects based in the Oak Brook studio during his leadership range from award-winning hotels to the new Laraway School and a $38 million renovation of LaSalle-Peru High School for which Wiese was project architect.
“People in the studio trusted that Zach would look out for them,” said Patrick Brosnan, president and CEO of Legat. “He also knew how to ask the tough questions and hold people accountable.”
Oak Brook studio members appreciated Wiese’s style, which was both personable and direct. Tyler Wade, for instance, admires Wiese’s ability to maintain his composure amid tense situations. “He is consistent in his emotions and does not let difficulties weigh him down,” said Wade. “He is always willing to teach from his experiences, always trying to push Legat forward.”
During his formative years at Legat, Wiese discovered that he had an aptitude for codes and detailing. Brosnan said, “He dove headfirst into understanding these elements, which are minimum yet crucial requirement for our projects. When we need to do a code review, Zach knows who needs to get involved.”
Wiese has completed more than 100 fire safety evaluation studies (FSES) for nursing homes. Many people think code reviews involve simply checking off a box, but they go far beyond that. He has helped clients meet code requirements while finding affordable ways around potentially costly renovations. Illinois Department of Public Health resolves the “tag” and the client saves money. Everyone benefits.
Since moving to the Volunteer State, Wiese has maintained several client relationships and tightened his focus on codes and detailing. The move has also allowed him to become a firmwide resource for quality enforcement ranging from helping teams address technical issues to responding to owner concerns about completed projects.
Up to the Challenge
Wiese has said that what motivates him is a “love of finding solutions to problems, whether it’s a spatial problem, a roof leak, or a code issue.” This motivation has undoubtedly made an impact on the next generation.
“Zach is probably one of my favorite people to work with,” said coworker Jessica Carlson. “I think it is common knowledge how hard he works, but he is also a great mentor and friend. He goes out of his way to share knowledge and has never let his years of experience stop him from learning from others.”
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