Seamless Creativity…a Little Something Extra
+one Design | Construction, LLC’s unique perspective about the design and building process
When Co-Founders Fritz Embaugh and David Baird named their company +one Design | Construction, LLC (+one), the +one part signified that they offered something extra to those seeking their services. But it’s the Design | Construction part that prospective clients should pay special attention to.
“From the beginning, we were determined not to have separate branches focused on design and construction,” says Fritz, an architect and licensed general contractor who serves as +one’s CEO and Director of Operations while David, also an architect, serves as Director of Design. “Our instinct is to approach projects with the understanding that design and building drive each other. We work to have a seamless connection between the two—and to do both.”
He adds, “It drives our creative process and makes things happen that other folks can’t achieve.”
In the 15 years since it was established, the Baton Rouge-based company has expanded to include offices in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and it’s accumulated an armful of design awards for projects that yield stunning results in unwieldy situations—projects like Baton Rouge’s Kiwi House, a contemporary “shotgun” house designed for a lot too narrow for a conventional housing footprint.
Even more meaningful to Fritz, however, may be +one’s ability to impact the quality of people’s lives. In Baton Rouge’s Mid City area, the company converted an old corner store into a thriving French Truck Coffee location and a vacant lot into the popular Curbside Burgers eatery. These two projects helped to launch a wave of neighborhood revitalization activity.
In Dallas, a recent project in the Lower Greenville neighborhood to renovate an underused building into a base for a restaurant and small retailers had a similar, albeit smaller, impact, adding four new tenants into previously unusable space. As Fritz says, “Our work in Lower Greenville is fuel for the fire, and investment is coming back into the area.”
The team at +one has been involved in many diverse, award-winning projects that include single-family homes, condominiums, office buildings, restaurants, nightclubs, conference spaces—and even a glamorous diamond showroom.
The Road to +one
Fritz’s journey to +one led him through service in the Gulf War as a U.S. Marine, architectural training at Louisiana State University (LSU), and 11 years working in design and construction for an established design/build firm in the Baton Rouge area. David, five years older than Fritz, was teaching design at LSU when the two met and became close friends during a study abroad program in 1995.
One day in 2005, after brunch with their wives, Fritz and David began sharing their frustrations with trends they were seeing in the industry. By the end of the conversation the two were on their way to founding +one.
“We knew from the start that we didn’t want a company with our names on it,” Fritz says. “We wanted something that would be bigger than us.” Direct inspiration came from David’s enthusiasm for basketball, which sometimes gives players an extra “plus one” free throw following successful foul shots.
They meant the concept to express that their services are more than just architectural design or construction—that the company integrates design and building for superior outcomes. As designers, it became obvious that their brand would be +one Design | Construction. In 2008, wanting to grow their business, the two opened a Dallas/Fort Worth office, headed by another David—David Pickens, a LEED-accredited architect who has worked in the area for more than two decades. The +one owners chose Dallas after judging the market there to be promising for their business. Today, David Pickens serves as +one’s Vice President of Operations.
Between the Baton Rouge and Dallas offices, the firm maintains a staff of 11, including three licensed architects, an intern architect, an intern interior designer and a field crew of five employees.
“Our field crew [consists of] skilled carpenters and site supervisors,” Fritz says. “Essentially, they are working superintendents who wear toolbelts.” The company self-performs some work, mainly on the finishing end of projects and subcontracts most sitework, with field supervisors overseeing operations.
Narrow Lots, Clean Lines
The projects that +one designs don’t so much fit into a category as project an attitude, showcasing clean lines, creative problem-solving and attention to flexible use. “We don’t fit into a niche, like Victorian or colonial,” Fritz says.
“We incline toward a contemporary look with a focus on ‘less is more,’ stripping off the ornamentation and emphasizing freedom of space. We tend toward an outdoor/indoor ambiance, so occupants can feel a connection with an outdoor space even from inside of the building,” he adds.
Early on, the firm focused on single-family homes, specializing in resolving challenging spaces and providing flexibility. This was the case with an early house that +one nicknamed “In the Shadows of the Interstate.” The structure sits on land bisected by Interstate 10 in Louisiana and was left vacant for 40 years due to its long, narrow shape. The resulting building effectively blocks out highway sounds, offers significant flexibility in its spaces and has been used as a residence, +one’s offices for five years, and an art gallery. The building is now occupied by Baton Rouge Green, a nonprofit environmental organization that plants trees and advocates for green spaces in the Baton Rouge area.
More recently, +one has moved toward an emphasis on commercial projects, illustrated by two recent renovations in Dallas. After Diamonds Direct USA of Dallas, LLC, a national retailer, bought out a local diamond business, the client sought to replace the dark, closed-in space with something more contemporary.
“In this design-build project, we worked with the client to create an interior with white, black and sterling glass,” Fritz says. “We used lots of glass and strategic overhead lighting to mimic the diamond sparkle contained within the cases.”
He adds, “We also did it on a very tight schedule, between major showroom events they staged three times a year. We hit the ground April 15 and were done by Aug. 1.”
For AdvoCare, the firm expanded the vitamin supplier’s headquarters in Richardson, a Dallas suburb, with an auditorium that both updated the existing complex while respecting and maintaining the corporate aesthetic. The expansion included a shaded courtyard with sustainable furniture and a living fence.
“We feel Dallas/Fort Worth offers significant opportunities for expansion,” Fritz says. “We were on an aggressive growth trajectory when the pandemic struck. Hopefully, we’re already seeing some return to normal and expect to be on track by early next year.”
Hitting Singles and Doubles
While +one was founded on the idea of integrating design and construction services, as the company has matured, the firm has expanded its reach.
“Historically, the only projects we built were things we designed,” Fritz says. “About five years ago, we reached a point where we wanted to grow the business, and that meant providing construction services for other clients. And, of course, we have a lot of architecture colleagues who know our work, giving us a leg up on referrals.”
He continues, “From a construction point of view, the process is straightforward. We take in plans from architects, review them, estimate project costs and offer up ideas for them to accept or not.” The converse is also true. About 40% of +one’s architectural work ends up constructed by outside builders.
Still, a major advantage of the design-build approach is the attention to ideas, details and costs.
“As builders, we understand and respect the design business,” Fritz says. “The design-build process is the essence of creativity—meetings to brainstorm with clients, dialogue and charrettes, drilling down on what the client wants to build, sharing drawings/sketches/elevations, getting feedback, always with an eye on cost controls.”
“When construction work runs over budget, some contractors simply go to cheaper materials,” he adds. “We go into those scenarios looking at the overall project, finding where we can revise the details with the least impact because, inherently, we see the issues as both architects and builders.”
As a result, +one has established a niche in providing its design expertise to other firms’ projects. “We get calls from other architects asking if we can apply our skills to projects in which they are stymied with overruns. We’re in the middle of three projects like that now,” Fritz notes.
One of them is a small retail teaching kitchen, a project for a spice shop that holds cooking classes. The expansion was running $100,000 over budget; +one made suggestions for subtle changes to such facets as plumbing and electrical systems and cabinet finishes. The project team was able to adapt the job and reduce costs, without stripping the project of its design integrity, Fritz says. “For a lot of small businesses, every penny counts, especially at this time of pandemic and recession. We want to help clients make the best use of every penny,” Fritz says. “We don’t necessarily hit home runs. We hit singles and doubles. But that may make them come back to us for more work later, or recommend us to their associates.”