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Invest: Nashville interviews Wold Principal Martin Franks about the company’s Tennessee presence, healthcare construction in the region, industry trends & more

As a Principal at Wold, Martin Franks, AIA, NCARB, is a senior member of the firm’s Nashville office and manages several national healthcare clients. With 12+ years experience in healthcare planning and design, Martin aims to create an exceptional experience during the design process by collaborating with clients to create facilities that bring their visions to life. A Franklin, Tennessee native, Martin earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky, where he was a recipient of the AIA Henry Adams Medal, an annual award granted to only top-ranking graduates in accredited architecture programs.

Invest: Nashville recently interviewed Martin about how the partnership of Wold and HFR Design has created value for current and future clients, what makes the greater Nashville region an attractive market, and exciting industry trends.

Read the Q&A below:

Invest: Nashville: How has the partnership between HFR Design and Wold strengthened your firms?

Martin Franks:
From a cultural standpoint, both Wold and HFR Design are very similar. We’re service-oriented, client-focused and share the goal of creating long-standing relationships and a positive impact across the communities in which we work. It took a while to make this partnership official because we wanted to make sure that our cultures blended well, and they really have. It’s been a great experience.

The partnership allows us to provide each other with additional support in production, corporate activities and marketing. We have expanded our footprint across the US and created a strong portfolio that built upon our strengths and allowed us to provide specialized expertise for many project types. I’m excited about future opportunities given our enhanced capabilities.

IN: What makes the Nashville region a great market for the firm?

One of our strongest focuses is healthcare design and construction, and healthcare is a leading industry in Nashville. Having national owners and management companies here makes for strong personal relationships. Alongside large private healthcare companies, we have a substantial veterans’ community here that is anchored by Fort Campbell, which is only about 45 minutes away. The Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare presence is strong, and we happen to have one of the fastest-growing VA networks in the country. We also do quite a bit of government and educational work. For instance, we have significant experience designing schools, first-responder, and emergency medical service (EMS) facilities; and because of the population growth in the area, these markets show a ton of potential.

IN: What is driving healthcare construction in the region?

While healthcare in all regions continues to grow, the biggest piece of that growth is access points, which is a direct result of the population’s expectation of convenience. We’re receiving a lot more requests to shift to outpatient facilities and increase access points in rural areas to provide those communities better access to healthcare. That’s going to be a big focus in this region and across the country going forward. There is even legislation in Tennessee with the certificate-of-need (CON) reform that promotes increased access points and makes it easier to develop rural healthcare facilities.

IN: In what ways have spaces transformed as a result of the pandemic?

In general, owners are creating healthier buildings. For instance, the topic of indoor air quality has gained greater importance throughout the pandemic. Indoor air quality has always been important in the healthcare market, but the strategies used to improve air quality are now being used in other markets as well.

For healthcare specifically, the creation of more access points will help increase healthcare accessibility, create safer environments and help control future disease outbreaks. The fear of contracting diseases in a hospital has become even greater during the pandemic; individuals prefer smaller, more controlled environments.

IN: What is an exciting technology you’re keeping an eye on?

We’ve seen technology that can detect and notify people of viruses in real time. These units sit in the space and would allow the public to make their own decision on whether or not to stay if a virus is detected in the airstream. It was originally developed in response to COVID, but it’s supposedly adaptable to other viruses as well.

IN: What activity are you seeing with regard to sustainability?

We’re proud to be a part of the push toward more sustainable design. Wold | HFR Design is committed to the American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Challenge to net zero emissions. From an owner’s perspective, shorter payback periods are increasing their desire to invest more heavily in sustainable measures for their buildings.

IN: What main challenges is our industry facing?

Material availability, long lead times and volatile material prices are making it difficult to estimate costs and timelines, especially for projects that will require a few years to be completed. Although this is challenging, many people do expect material costs to start to level off in the near future once production is back to normal, which will help. The long-term concern, however, is that escalation rates on construction have risen significantly over the past couple years and may continue to do so, which is making it tough to forecast and budget future projects.

We’re also navigating a labor shortage. Some subcontractors are going after bigger, more certain projects. Some smaller, rural facilities are having a difficult time getting decent labor on their projects and keeping them for the project’s duration.

IN: What is your outlook for the firm and the construction industry in Middle Tennessee?

Our outlook is positive. We are projecting continued growth and are optimistic about how we will react over the next two years and beyond. Our partnership with Wold is growing stronger, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to develop and benefit our clients across the country.

Read the full 2022 publication on Capital Analytics: Invest: Nashville's website.

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