EXPOSED | Schemmer Senior Architect Pat Birch, AIA, LEED AP BD+C


Work at Schemmer. As the market leader for the affordable housing and higher education sectors, I’m involved with a wide range of projects. This summer, I led the effort for a campus master plan for a non-profit who serve youth in Council Bluffs. I have a couple projects at University of Nebraska - Lincoln that are in construction, and a 100-unit independent living Low Income Housing Tax Credit project in Hastings. In addition, we completed the City of Lincoln’s Municipal Service Center about a year ago, which was a 355,000 SF project to consolidate various City departments under one roof.

Achievements in design. It’s hard to cite one project that I am most proud of because all have their rewards in some manner. If I am going to choose just one, it would be the OPPD Omaha Service Center project, which I designed. It was a new building, and rather complicated in its functional requirements, which I like, and the Owner asked that it be LEED Certified – Silver level at a minimum. However, we achieved the highest level of LEED certification – Platinum, which was a significant accomplishment, and a very rewarding feeling.

It is great to have buildings built that you’ve designed! You start by making sketches on a small piece of tracing paper or laptop screen, and the next thing you know you’re standing before a 120-foot-high building. It can be challenging at first because you want it to be perfect and it will be visible for all to see and experience, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Early Influences. Growing up, I enjoyed art and math, and was pretty good at both. Architecture is a profession where both of those aptitudes are valuable. In high school, I decided to try mechanical and architectural drafting. I loved them both and had a fabulous teacher who was a great influence on my decision to pursue a career in architecture.

My parents also exposed me to art in many ways that had an influence on my career path: art museums, art classes at Joslyn, a huge drawing pad of paper. I built a lot of things out of cardboard and glue.

Passions. Outside the workplace, I love gardening – perennial gardening, that is. I have no talent for growing tomatoes, but I do well with flowers and it’s another type of design and creative outlet. Something about digging in dirt is therapeutic.

Inside the workplace, it’s pretty simple: I do everything I can to have happy clients. They’re the best. I would also like help take the firm to the next level of sustainable design. Buildings are the biggest contributor to climate change (click here for more information). I would like to learn more about designing net zero buildings.

Fun Fact: I set a goal to spend a month in Copenhagen, Denmark, which I accomplished back in 1989. To prepare, I took Danish lessons for a year and arranged to do research at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. I rented an apartment and had a fabulous month pursuing a goal to do some research on an ancestor.