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Updated: March 2, 2020 WBJ Hall of Fame

Richardson has designed with care

Photo | Matt Wright Scott Richardson

Community-minded businesses have to walk a fine line. There’s a lot they can do to help people and organizations around them through pro bono work, donations and service on boards. But spend too much time, energy and money on nonprofit initiatives and, before long, the firm won’t be in a position to do anyone good at all.

Scott Richardson, president and co-founder of Gorman Richardson Lewis Architects in Hopkinton, has been walking that line for more than four decades.

“He’s an extremely nice man, he’s got a heart of gold, he cares about people and the environment,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of the United Way of Tri-County, where Richardson serves as chairman of the board. “He’s also a pragmatic business man.”

Richardson knew from an early age he wanted to be an architect. It was what his father did, so he was exposed to design when he was young. He took advanced drafting in high school in Connecticut before heading to Boston Architectural College. There he met Michael Gorman, and, they started a firm in 1976. Later, they were joined by Steve Lewis, who now serves as the firm’s design principal, and in 2018 Gorman retired. The firm now has 23 employees.

Over time, technology has changed the way architects do their jobs.

“We used to draw everything by hand in the old days, and now, obviously, everything is done on the computer,” Richardson said.

Staying on top of new software takes effort, he said, but advances like computer-aided design and 3D modeling provide big advantages over the old-school analog methods. Meanwhile, given the prevalence of life science and advanced technology companies in the MetroWest area, the firm often deals with fast-changing technology indirectly. It provided architecture services for EMC as the computer company expanded across Central Mass., which meant designing the physical infrastructure to support EMC’s equipment.

Another area the firm expanded into back in 2003 is building envelopes sciences. This special division works to help clients address issues like water infiltration, deteriorating facades, and other issues impacting older buildings. The division in-house helps the architects ensure the buildings they’re designing will have less chance of developing these issues down the line.

“We like to think we design better buildings because of their expertise,” Richardson said.

With its interest in service, Gorman Richardson Lewis balances its large corporate and university accounts with serving local nonprofits. It’s done dozens of projects for the EcoTarium museum in Worcester, including designing its new wildcat exhibit.

The firm helped with the renovation of triple-deckers and multifamily housing for the Main South Community Development Corp. in Worcester, and is working on a project for the Worcester County Food Bank. Richardson has done so much work for the United Way of Tri-County that Mina has dubbed him the organization’s official architect.

Richardson said building community connections through pro bono work for good causes can be good for business since nonprofits think of the firm when they get going on larger projects.

“When they end up with money, you are able to get rewarded,” he said.

Richardson has served on a number of boards and local committees. He’s the immediate past president of the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce.

He’s extremely focused on the issue of climate change and is a trained presenter for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, organizing educational events with local chambers of commerce, community groups and colleges.

“My mandate now is to go out and do presentations supplied with very succinct and up-to-date information,” he said.

The climate issue is ever-present in architecture as well. Richardson said his firm has been committed to sustainable design since it started. It stays on top of advances in insulation and renewable energy systems, working with engineers to ensure the buildings have the lowest-possible carbon footprint.

Mina said this is another area where Richardson’s combination of caring and pragmatism serves him well.

“He believes in taking care of the environment,” Mina said. “He’s very smart that way. But he’s not so enthusiastic, let’s say, that he doesn’t understand the price issue and so the companies will turn off from doing anything because it’s such a high price tag.”

Mina said the architect is similarly sensible in volunteer work, recognizing the need to lead by example. Richardson isn’t necessarily excited about running, but when the United Way hosts 5K fundraisers, he leads the way.

“He still puts on his sneakers, and he goes out,” Mina said. “He sets an example by his actions, not just by his words. It makes a big difference.”

WBJ Hall of Fame: Class of 2020

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