Q+A with Scott Heywood, Vice President, Alabama Office
You joined Ghafari and started our Birmingham, Alabama office in late 2014. What were your goals when you first took on this role?
Joining Ghafari in 2014 and being a part of the launch team for our Birmingham office was a very exciting time. One of my main goals was to help the company establish a permanent presence in the Southeast and make the firm a known player in this area. In opening this office, we wanted to be closer to many of our core industrial clients while continuing to diversify our portfolio in market sectors like healthcare and higher education.
You’ve worked in the architecture / engineering field for over 20 years. Based on your experience, what do you think makes Ghafari different from other firms in our industry?
Upon joining the firm, I was blown away by our team’s depth of knowledge. We are very entrepreneurial and aren’t afraid to investigate cutting-edge technologies and new trends. Working in a full-service firm has allowed for cross-functional familiarity that many companies don’t have. Not to mention we have an entire in-house process engineering team.
What kinds of projects is the Birmingham team working on?
Oh, we’re working on so many cool projects right now with clients like the University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB Medicine, Auburn University, University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Mercedes-Benz, ZF, Brose, Thompson Tractor, Protective Life Insurance Company, and the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. In addition to new construction projects, we’re involved in tons of renovations and additions, and we’re becoming pretty well known for them down here.
What is it about the Ghafari approach that enables us to excel at a variety of project types?
We’re good at leveraging all the skillsets that we have in house and applying that knowledge to different project types. As an example, we have worked on hundreds of automotive and industrial plants. Many of their qualities can be applied to other project types. For instance, we’re working on a brand new campus for Auburn University’s Poultry Science Department, a division of their School of Agriculture. It’s a higher education project that also has many similarities to work we’ve done with our industrial clients, so we’re able to apply our expertise in process engineering – including material flow planning and equipment selection and procurement – and draw on our experience in both sectors.
In your time with Ghafari, what has been your favorite project so far and why?
My favorite project so far has been the master plan we worked on with UAB Medicine. The project involved an in-depth space programming study of a 30-building medical campus totaling nearly six million square feet. I loved this project because it gave me the chance to work with a longtime client of mine and help them mold the future of their campus. It also gave us a unique opportunity to demonstrate Ghafari’s skills in the healthcare sector, and I was very excited about that.
Three and a half years after starting the Birmingham office, what are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of the strides we’ve made to diversify our portfolio and get settled in the Southeast. Prior to 2014, a lot of people in the region weren’t very familiar with Ghafari, and now we’re a part of our community and more recognizable.
I’m also really proud of the great client relationships we’ve developed. Leading-edge technology doesn’t replace the human element that is so critical for the success of these projects. We’ve worked really hard to earn the trust of our clients and are grateful for the opportunities they’ve given us to demonstrate our capabilities, especially with facility types that we haven’t been typically known for.
Looking ahead, where would you like to see the Birmingham office go in the next five years?
I want to see our staff grow ‒ both in number and in knowledge. I would also like us to continue to be involved in our community and get to know more of the wonderful people in the area while expanding our portfolio.
Give us five adjectives that describe Ghafari team members.
Diverse, entrepreneurial, loyal, innovative, and driven.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I write one of the six exams that architects are required to pass for licensure through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). As a coordinator, I help tailor exams to make sure architects are prepared and well versed in their craft.
I also play a mean guitar. 90s-era, Pearl Jam-style grunge rock is my favorite.