An accomplished architect and project manager with more than 30 years of professional experience, Bill Zografos was recently named the PK-12 lead for Buffalo’s education market. In his role, Bill will help manage the day-to-day activities of PK-12 education projects, while guiding his team and CannonDesign partners to new project wins.

We sat down with Bill to catch up on his work to-date for CannonDesign, as well as what he sees as leading and fading trends within the education space:

How long have you been with CannonDesign?

I’ve been with CannonDesign for almost 14 years, having been first introduced to the firm through two former colleagues at my previous firm that left for CannonDesign. They showed me how the firm was changing the face of architecture and design; there was no way I could say no to the opportunities CannonDesign presented.

What brought you to focus on design for PK-12 education?

I basically jumped right in when I started; I saw PK-12 as a good niche market that allowed me to impact students in a positive way.

Tell us about what project/client/challenge/success you’ve been involved with at CannonDesign.

My memorable experiences revolve around the excitement of working with students; this is key for me. When you deal with adults it’s one thing, but when you get to work and engage the students, possibilities are limitless. They have no constraints on their thinking, and it’s always a high energy experience. It’s wonderful to see their expressions as they become more and more engaged with the projects and they can see their ideas come to life.

A project I’m proud of was developing a STEM wing for a regional high school. The design really pushed the envelope because it allowed an individual school district to have a hands-on role in selecting the technology featured in a local school. The wing also allowed the school to develop and established a series of academic and certificate programs, providing students with a wonderful cross section of hands-on tech experience. Students could study metal working, wood working, electronics, etc. and have great exposure to these items without going through a vocational-focused program.

In regards to a challenge – the biggest challenges we always face revolve around budget, especially in New York’s PK-12 market. Budgets are unfortunately getting tighter and tighter, and maintenance/repair budgets are being decreased in favor of operational needs in order to maintain programs. In the meantime, facilities continue to deteriorate. We try to find ways to give our clients spaces that will take them into the next 20 plus years while balancing existing conditions that need to be repaired.

What’s your design philosophy/approach/view?

You need to listen. Listen to what the users need, how they plan on using the space and understanding their expectation for their space. Only then can we truly engage with the client to ensure the space we design will meet or exceed their expectations.

It’s also important to take into account things clients may not have thought about, and use our experience and expertise to guide them. We function as education architects, so we need to be proactive and anticipate what our clients’ challenges will be 10 years down the road, and address them now.

What do you see as the leading and fading PK-12 education architectural trends?

Leading trend: In PK-12 it’s STEM or STEAM facilities and programs. They’re becoming more and more prevalent. While STEM/STEAM started out in the high school level, it’s now working its way down into elementary schools. As such, we need to work with our clients’ districts to determine how to create a facility that’s age appropriate, that supports their programs and can anticipate and adapt to changes down the road.

Fading trend: The traditional library (emphasis on the word traditional), and computer rooms. As more and more schools move to one-to-one computing, where every child has a device, computer rooms become obsolete. For libraries – students aren’t studying the way they used to at an oak or maple table and chair. They are more collaborative. As a result we’re seeing university-level student commons coming into the PK-12 world; more collaborative spaces with soft seating. We’re reducing the number of stacks, tables and chairs and allowing students to move freely and move furniture and engage in group studying. Again, libraries themselves are still very relevant, they’re just going to look and function differently.

What are your goals for the Buffalo office’s PK-12 education market?

I want us to reintroduce CannonDesign and our PK-12 education team within the state of New York. I’d like to focus on providing our clients and school districts with our resources to make their projects successful, exceed their expectations and continue to build a strong reputation for innovation and service in the industry.