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Critical Eye: Holmes Hepner & Associates Architects

Unlike many architects, Peter Hepner didn't design his house. His Florida Cracker home, built on stilts and adjacent to a tidal estuary, was designed a quarter-century ago, while Hepner was still in school, by architect Dwight Holmes. Living in another's design has advantages: "I can come to the office every morning and criticize the architect."

That's especially easy because that architect works with him. Holmes and Hepner are the principals of Tampa's Holmes Hepner & Associates Architects, which in August was named Firm of The Year by the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects. The award honors design excellence and service to the community, profession and architecture education.

The 14-employee firm -- of whom four are registered architects -- averages $2 million to $2.5 million annually in gross revenue.

Holmes began his career in 1962 and in 1983 was inducted into the College of Fellows of the AIA. That was the year Hepner, who grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, joined Rowe Holmes Associates Architects. They collaborated on the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, which forged their professional relationship. They went on their own in 1992.

Their specialty is the education market. They designed the Joe E. Newsome High School in Hillsborough County, a bridges-and-balcony design. They want to expand into the higher-education market but remain small so that the principals can play a big part in projects. While many principals at other firms hand off the projects, Hepner says, "We stay heavily involved."

Hepner, 47, says he would like to design his own home someday but for now says, "We love the house."

Tailored for Florida

Sharon Jenkins-Owen, 46, sits on the governor's Affordable Housing Commission, was a Planner of the Year for the state American Planning Association chapter and president-elect of the state planning and zoning association. She advocates a plan to develop a certificate in Florida-specific planning and zoning issues for professionals.

"I'm very excited about that," she says. At Wilson-Miller, she focuses on large development planning and has just finished a major role in Arborwood, a 2,500-acre Worthington development in Fort Myers, and is handling the K-12 education and affordable housing planning for the new town of Ave Maria.


In 1969, the United Nations hired Herbert S. Saffir to study how to help low-cost housing weather hurricanes. Beyond "major" and "minor," there was no way to categorize them. Saffir developed a five-category scale based on property and tree damage and worked his way back to wind ranges. Robert Simpson, then in charge of the hurricane center, added storm surge effects, and the Saffir-Simpson scale was born.

Saffir, now retired, has added his voice to those who say the state should revisit building code strengths in places such as Charlotte County. When he moved here in 1947 to become an assistant Dade County engineer and began learning about hurricanes, he says, it was almost expected each year to have a hurricane come through south Florida. Saffir has grown to ignore hearing his name so often during hurricane season. "It's unfortunate it's been heard so much this year."