An aspiring architect since age 12, Kevin has a passion for problem-solving, planning and design, and the great outdoors. This proud Eagle Scout also loves a good range of design projects—we give him FEH Design badges for creativity, leadership and a great sense of humor!
How did you decide on your career path?
Several people in my childhood influenced me to become an architect, including my junior high counselor, high school teachers and my mother, who loved the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and exposed me to it at an influential age. I also think architecture is in my blood—my grandfather was an apprentice draftsman before giving up his career to run the family farm after his older brothers went to fight in WWI.
Historic buildings and their details inspire me, and I love the way a well-designed building can improve function and bring joy. Architects have the unique ability to make people’s dreams come true and change the world for the better. What an opportunity, and what a responsibility.
What is your favorite part of the design process?
My favorite part of the process is conceptual design. I love the implementation of a strong and intelligent idea. I also really enjoy engaging with our clients and the committees we work with as we develop a design to meet their goals. It’s that level of collaboration that elevates the work we do.
How are you creating vibrant communities through design?
The level of community and public engagement we include in our design process is really what sets FEH apart. We have been successful in facilitating community conversations to enhance the planning phase, and that creates a project that everyone can be invested in.
What makes Dubuque a great place to live?
I’ve lived in Dubuque since 1986 when I graduated from college. Dubuque has a rich history and is located on the beautiful Mississippi River framed by bluffs and an undulating landscape. Early in my career I was able to participate in the master planning process for our community, including the downtown and riverfront, and the results continue to be rewarding for me. I’m constantly inspired by how people here work together to support the growth of Dubuque.
Where is your favorite place to visit in the Midwest?
The Midwest is full of wonderful places to visit, and since we opened the FEH Design office in Dubuque in 2011, I have been able to work in 99 communities, including my hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa. It’s fun to return to these communities and see the work our team has completed. There are many more communities I would love to visit, explore, and provide our design influence.
Kids: Two boys and one girl.
Drink: Pistachio Nut-brown Snow Pilot.
Spirit Animal: Bald Eagle.
Hobby: Drawing. Hiking. Fishing. Scouting.
Vacation: Anywhere to learn and be inspired.
Hero: Duncan Idaho and Davey Crocket.
Quote: “Don’t worry about the little things.” – Dad
Team: Dallas Cowboys since 1969.
Collection: Antique toy marbles, vintage pottery, stamps, and sports cards.
Irrational Fear: False Evidence Against Reality.
Breakfast: The most important meal of the day!
States Visited: All but three; Alaska, Hawaii, Georgia.
By Liisa Andreassen
June 2022: Eipperle first developed an interest in architecture when, at the age of 12, he helped his mother to design a little cabin in the woods. He then went on to help build it with his father and brothers. He was adept at math, art, and details and as time wore on, he decided to blend the three into what would turn into a lifelong career. Today, he and his team generate great design solutions and they have fun doing it. And, he’s doing it at a firm that’s been around since the late 1800s!
“We have existed since the 1800s. The ownership has been passed down successfully for a long time,” Eipperle says. “We are a corporation with 16 shareholders of different levels of stock. We keep an ownership attitude, but also one of stewardship of the firm.”
A conversation with Kevin Eipperle.
The Zweig Letter: Collaboration and teamwork seem important to you. Can you tell me about a recent brainstorming session that was particularly inspirational and why?
Kevin Eipperle: One great example is during the design of the new Galesburg Public Library. The design team was getting together to generate ideas for making the children’s area special. One of us mentioned the idea of connecting a theme to the community. Carl Sandburg was a resident, and we got the idea to connect him as a famous local author to the library. A couple of his children’s books had great stories and we each just kept building on each other’s ideas in an excited and intelligent way. It got everyone energized about the whole area of the building. The client loved the connections too.
TZL: How has COVID-19 permanently impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting?
KE: One of the things that we love most about design is the collaboration. Collaborating remotely is not as efficient or productive. You lose the energy that you get from working shoulder to shoulder when you are working virtually. Remote workers lose the opportunity to learn by being around the veterans. It is clear that any designer working remotely will have a truncated learning and training experience. Their counterparts will get more experience, learn more, and build stronger relationships, and be at an advantage over them. We believe that any firms that embrace remote working on a large scale for long-term solutions will not be as well positioned, with experienced staff, to serve their clients. We have not changed any policies for that beyond the COVID needs.
TZL: When did you become president? What was your role prior to that and when did you start with the company?
KE: It became official in January 1992, but it was decided a couple of years earlier as a part of our transition planning. That gave me lots of time to learn the role. I started with FEH Design in September 2011 by starting a branch office in my home. We built the office one staff member at a time as we grew our client base. Within six months we landed a $30 million project. I have managed this office since then.
TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”
KE: Even though I serve as president, I spend most of my time serving our clients or getting new clients. Our leadership culture at FEH Design has always been that way. We are all architects, and we love the work.
TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients?
KE: Honest communication is the base of any relationship. Some grey hair is one way, but real experience and friendship is better. Friendship is built on trust. If you make a sale for a project, you can make some money, but if you make a friend, you can earn a fortune in every way. Continue reading.