Staff: Constant learning, lifelong interest for architect and principal

A firm principal of CNH Architects and staff architect have at least two things in common- a love of learning and an interest in the field from a very early age.

Architect Jessica Johnson Kreps

Architect Jessica Johnson Kreps started to dream of a career in architecture as a second grade LEGO builder. And, firm Principal Wayne Hilbert also envisioned his career path from a young age. His goal was to do full projects in a smaller firm, rather than function as a “cog in the machine” at a larger one.

Johnson Kreps’ 10 years of experience began in Denver, after earning a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree from North Dakota State University in 2006. At other architectural firms, she designed retail shops and centers, coffee shops and restaurants.

The architect joined CNH in 2016. “I like being involved in all phases of a project,” she said. “That’s where you learn and grow.”

“I have learned so much in my 3 ½ years at CNH. It’s been the perfect fit for me,” she said, noting that firm principals are knowledgeable and serve as excellent mentors for young architects and designers. There’s also encouragement for continuing education to become well-rounded.

Johnson Kreps recently became a licensed architect. Over a five-year span she took six exams, with many weeks of study for each. The architect said five to seven years or more of architectural firm experience, which includes internship hours, are needed for licensing.
With client service at the center, many good relationships are formed, said Johnson Kreps, who is LEED accredited. And, the variety of projects makes work more “interesting and fun, never monotonous.”

Principal Wayne Hilbert

Hilbert said no one in the field knows everything, and professionals are constantly learning from each other. He describes CNH as a “large small firm” that takes a broader view of the profession.

“We try to stay close to the cutting edge,” he said. That involves keeping an eye on what’s happening in the field, what’s getting better and what the firm should be doing to improve. CNH’s 50 years in the business are evidence of this effort, said Hilbert. “You can’t stay stagnant. We have to provide better services for our clients.” Clients expect the best that CNH can provide and this isn’t possible without constant improvement and an effort to stay on top of what’s happening in the field.

Hilbert has close to 40 years in the business, nearly all of it with CNH. He started with the firm while working on his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota. Hilbert went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from the same school, and handles many of the business aspects of the firm.

He has designed and managed hundreds of new and remodeling projects for public and private clients. A few of the types include community centers, office buildings, retail stores, city halls, fire stations, libraries, retreat centers, camps and vehicle maintenance facilities.

Hilbert is LEED accredited and a registered architect in eight states. He is also a Certified Construction Specialist through the Construction Specifier Institute. Hilbert said he’s been fortunate to play a role in preparing architectural exams used in the United States and internationally through the National Council of Architectural Accreditation (NCARB).

“Learning what our colleagues from around the country do and where the profession is going has really been fun and fascinating,” he said.

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