Each year, Midwest Real Estate News inducts a new class into its Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame. Last year was no exception. Today, we look at the career of one of these new inductees, Karl Heitman, founder of Heitman Architects in Chicago.
Karl Heitman is a licensed architect with more than 30 years of experience in the design of corporate facilities, including a diverse range of industrial manufacturing and logistic/supply chain buildings for many Fortune 500 companies.
Inspired by his unique understanding of the latest “Manufacturing 4.0” technologies, emerging global supply chain demands and universal digital connectivity, Heitman has reimagined our cities based on locally sourced manufacturing centers that directly link producers and consumers in a “closed-loop” economy.
“Good design is somewhat of a performance art,” Heitman said. “Graphics and design go hand-in-hand. I’ve always focused on latest digital technologies to clearly convey design concepts to clients and project team members. Being able to communicate complicated designs in an interactive meeting is essential to advance projects where speed to market is critical.”
Sustainability has long been a priority for Heitman, and in 2004 his firm joined what was then a fledgling endeavor—the U.S. Green Building Council. He designed the first LEED-certified industrial building in Illinois for Anixter, which was also the first LEED-certified building in the Prologis portfolio. In 2016, Heitman Architects was awarded CoreNet Global Sustainable Leadership Award for The Method Soap Factory, which was the first LEED Platinum manufacturing facility in the world.
“I’ve always tried to be a ‘thought leader’ and a ‘trusted adviser’ in business. Keeping the project success in focus has always been the goal,” Heitman said. “In 2003, I realized the massive impact industrial buildings have on the environment. The buildings we were producing, if tipped on end, were actually longer than the height of Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers. The land consumed for the buildings we produced in one year exceeded the land area of the Chicago Loop. This realization prompted us to focus on environmental aspects and sustainability for our clients.”
When he’s not at work, Heitman enjoys travel and being with his family. He has four children—three of whom work at the firm and a fourth following a career in opera. One of his earliest loves was sailing, which he first took up on the Gulf Coast as a child with his father.
“I loved competitive sailing when I was in high school and throughout college,” said Heitman. “Racing sailboats developed my competitive spirit and taught me how to appreciate the power of the wind and the unpredictable forces of nature.”