Arch Design Inc., Albuquerque, N.M.
Founded: E&E Enterprises, 1999, Arch Design, 2010
Q: How did you choose this career?
A: In 1986 I started out as a secretary answering phones and working my way up. I get bored pretty easily, so I looked around and thought, “Wow, I’m not bored. This is a pretty special industry. Maybe I better look around.” I figured the architects must set the stage, so I studied that and that path led me to where I am today. A business partner and I founded E&E Enterprises, a general contracting firm, in 1999, and I founded Arch Design in 2010.
Q: How has the profession changed since you have become involved?
A: Building sciences and our understanding of how we put things together and the ways products work together is light years ahead. I don’t think the construction industry as a whole really changed too much in the past 100 years. Better tools and equipment, but we were still doing things pretty much the same way. That’s true all the way up to the end of the 1990s, when we started understanding building sciences. With green remodeling taking off, I see we’re going to continue to change. Our codes and energy efficiency resources have gotten better. Our understanding of lifecycle of products has just gone beyond. It’s not out of reach for most consumers these days to think sustainable building.
Q: What is the most unusual project you’ve worked on?
A: In New Mexico we have a lot of building traditions, and we once opened up a kitchen wall and found clay tile as our wall structure. It caused me to sit back and scratch my head a moment.
Q: What is the best advice you have received?
A: Listen to your clients. Be able to understand what they’re trying to get across even if their manner or words are not something that you understand. Trying to get from where they’re coming from allows me to give better service.
Q: What does being part of NAHB mean to you?
A: It’s everything. It feels like I’ve come home. These are other individuals who are in the same industry as I am. They get out at the same hours I do, which is screaming early. They’re passionate about the industry as I am. When I’m with my family or friends and walk into a bar, I look at the details of construction; they don’t. They wonder why I’m looking at the ceiling, whereas the folks in the HBA do the same thing. It’s mingling with people who are superior in so many different ways to be a real powerhouse and single unified voice within the industry.
Community Involvement: Vassar implemented the Neighborhood Outreach Program with experts from the Green Building Council serving on a Green Build Council Retrofit Education Assistance Team panel. It provides free education to groups who are interested in lower maintenance costs and healthier living. Last December, Vassar was awarded with Associate Rising Star.
Industry Involvement: Vassar is in her second year on HBACNM’s board of directors as the Green Build Council Chair. She also is on the RMC board as the council’s vice chair.