Wayne W. Barger, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP
Vice President and Health Practice Director
What motivated you to pursue healthcare architecture and/or design as a career.
My inspiration to pursue this profession came from my maternal grandfather, who enjoyed a long career as an architect in Detroit. While my grandfather spent most of his career working for Albert Kahn, he also had a short stint with Smith, Hinchman & Grylls – the predecessor company to my current firm, SmithGroup.
My decision to focus on healthcare design came a few years after architectural school. I am humbled by colleagues who were inspired to go into healthcare design due to a family member who was in the medical profession, or perhaps they had an experience with a serious illness that motivated them to make the healthcare system better.
In contrast, I was once advised by a senior colleague to seek out healthcare work as a strategy to avoid being laid off. Perhaps not the most virtuous reason for becoming a healthcare architect, but the core truth in that colleague’s advice was that healthcare is essential to our society and that demand for our services as healthcare architects would always be there. I now believe that hospitals are our most important civic buildings, and that our work as healthcare designers literally changes people’s lives.
How has ACHA certification enhanced your career in healthcare architecture and/or design?
While I believe that ACHA certification shows enhanced credibility outwardly to clients and industry colleagues, it is the closer connection to fellow healthcare architects—the true core of this profession— that I value more. It has also been rewarding to coach others in my firm to become ACHA-certified.
What led you to becoming ACHA certified?
My journey to ACHA certification was definitely not a straight line, and you could say that I’m an ACHA late bloomer. I initially pursued ACHA certification over 15 years ago, acquiring the requisite letters of recommendation and compiling my portfolio, but somewhere along the way I got side-tracked and never followed through with the exam. A few colleagues in my firm eventually became certified in the years following, but ACHA certification was never seriously promoted by the firm’s leadership.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I joined SmithGroup, where I found a firm with many ACHA certificate holders, a distinguished ACHA Fellow in Phil Tobey, and Vince Avallone on the ACHA Board. Being surrounded by people of this caliber and achievement provided the necessary motivation to finally get my certification.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you personally or your practice?
Having been a road warrior prior to the pandemic, this crisis has certainly made me rethink how much of our work-related travel is essential and what are the best ways to stay connected to our teams across the country. On the other side of this, I hope that business travel returns with more regularity, but at a much-reduced frequency. I think we’ve all realized that there was a lot of waste and excess in our professional and personal lives that was exposed by this crisis.
Education: Bachelor of Architecture, Kent State University
Although originally from the Midwest, I immediately moved to Dallas, Texas, after graduation and have never left. Texas has proven to be a great place for growing my career and raising a family. Most of my interests center around health and fitness, and I have been an avid runner since moving to Dallas. However, recent injuries have slowed done the running and shifted my focus to road biking, which I now enjoy immensely. I also like to follow political and economic events, but I enjoy turning to science fiction and astronomy when I need a distraction from real-world issues.
Well, getting ACHA-certified was a fairly recent accomplishment. Other accomplishments that I’m most proud of center around project team awards. I’m a big fan of Integrated Project Delivery—and all variations of collaborative design and construction. I find that these processes can yield the greatest professional satisfaction. I was a core IPD team member for the Cook Children’s Medical Center South Tower Expansion in Ft. Worth, Texas, which was recognized with an AGAC Build America award in 2019. Several years before that, I was proud to serve as PIC for the San Antonio Military Medical Center project, a large addition and renovation of the Brooke Army Medical Center. In addition to creating the largest inpatient facility in the Department of Defense, the project was also recognized at the local, state, and national levels for design excellence and sustainability.