Howard Shergalis, R.A., LEED AP, Announces Retirement

Please join us in congratulating Howard Shergalis on his well-deserved retirement.

To celebrate, we spoke with Howard about his career, the evolution of the industry, his accomplishments and proud moments, and what he’s learned over a career that has spanned 40+ years and documented the conversation as an article for colleagues and friends to read.

From the entire RDL team to you, Howard, we thank you for your leadership and service to the industry. Enjoy your retirement!

What has evolved in the industry since you first started?

When I began doing senior living design, the current variety of places and options for people to live as they aged did not exist. Nursing homes and rest homes were institutional places everyone dreaded going to. Assisted living and life care communities as we currently know them, were in their infancy. There were no supportive environments for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The only option was a nursing home which was typically not set up to provide the necessary special care and security. The assisted living environments that we are designing today feel more like grand hotels and are managed on a hospitality model. An example is the recently completed project we designed for Harbor Chase Retirement in Shaker Hts.

A broad range of residential options are now available from active adult communities, congregate living, independent apartments with a la carte services, assisted living, memory care and short term stay rehabilitation facilities to all types of life care communities. People can plug in anywhere on the continuum based on their needs and lifestyle choices. Even nursing homes that provide high levels of support are designed to feel more home-like and allow residents to choose how they receive care.

There is more emphasis placed on physical, mental and social wellness as a way to help people age successfully with fewer disabilities. Spaces for exercise classes and equipment are now standard in all projects.

Dining in senior communities was often limited to one large dining room for three meals a day, sometimes served on trays like a cafeteria with a limited menu. Now there is a bewildering variety of available dining choices from short-order cafes, bistros, sports bars to white tablecloth-themed restaurants with booth seating. Menus are what you would expect to find in a nice restaurant with many custom options. The type and variety of food service has become one of the most important components of new community design.

Howard Shergalis, Principal, RDL Architects

Over the course of your career, what skills have you acquired and learned that you find to be the most valuable?

I think one of the most underappreciated skills is listening. As architects we need to learn to put our ego and prejudices aside and seek to understand what our clients are trying to tell us about their goals and dreams. That only occurs in a dialogue where we get them to talk more than we do. Architecture is a balance of the aesthetic and the technical, but also very emotional and psychological. I often joke that I should have minored in counseling.

The other important skill which new graduates take for granted, is an understanding of computer added design and production technology. When I began my career, we were drafting everything by hand on sheets of plastic with pens or special pencils. Fax machines were primitive and over-night delivery of drawings was just beginning. There was more time to contemplate design decisions. Now all our work is computer based with email and texting demanding instant decisions. I not only had to learn architecture but also keep pace with rapid changes in project communication and delivery systems.

Tell us about your career chapter at RDL Architects. What were some of the greatest accomplishments or successes during your time here?

I am grateful that Ron Lloyd allowed me the space to establish a studio that specializes in senior living design. Starting from the depths of the 2008 recession, over time we were able to attract some great clients and talented staff. I view architectural practice as a team effort and not a solo enterprise. So I believed it was important for the success of our studio to assemble a group of architects with complementary talents that were comfortable working together.

I was able to expand the practice outside of Ohio. We grew from doing small renovations and single buildings to full communities.

Presenting at national conferences.

Working with the Sisters of Notre Dame and Jennings to create Notre Dame Village. They trusted me to be their development advisor.

Expanding our service offering to include master planning.

As a Principal at RDL Architects, what did you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoyed the challenge of helping clients grow their business and create great places for the people they serve to live.

The challenge of working in a rapidly evolving field where developers and non-profit providers were constantly searching for ways to improve their communities.

Sharing my knowledge and lessons learned with my coworkers.

Looking back on your career, is there anything that you would have done differently?

I believe I entered the senior living field at the right time. Innovation in new products and care models was taking off and new providers were coming to market.

To connect to the previous question, what advice would you give up-and-coming architects about their own careers?

Invest in yourself, keep learning and growing. Firms, clients, and projects come and go but the skills and connections you acquire are your own. Learn from your mistakes and, even better, the mistakes of others. Get out to construction sites as often as possible. That’s where the real learning occurs.

Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells Promoted to VP, Architecture

Q&A with Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells; Recently Promoted to VP, Architecture

Congratulations to Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells who was recently promoted to VP, Architecture at RDL Architects. The entire team is so proud of your contributions to our team and the impactful, meaningful work you’ve led for our clients over the years, Kevin. We sat down with Kevin and asked him some questions about his career and promotion. Read the Q&A below:

Kevin, congratulations on your promotion to VP of Architecture. Take us back to the beginning – when did you find your passion for architecture?


In the middle of fifth grade, my family moved to a very small school district in rural Illinois. My mom found herself looking for ways to keep me challenged, and having picked up on a tentative interest in buildings took me out of school to drop me off for a day-long solar energy conference with a bunch of grown-up architects. I was out of my depth but fascinated – these folks were pulling off magic tricks just by moving walls and windows around to catch the sun, and I was hooked.

What was your personal “aha” moment when you discovered that this industry is where
you want to be?

I didn’t fully understand what I was getting into when I enrolled for an architecture degree, so that “aha” moment happened gradually. After finishing college, I was perhaps only 60% sure I wanted to practice as an architect and went into the Peace Corps teaching carpentry to teenagers while I thought on it. Coming back, that hands-on experience got me in the door with Jim McQuiston, a sole proprietor who happened to be a masterful woodworker as well as a very talented architect. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor in a first job, with the opportunity to do everything from answering phones to designing and detailing to construction administration. Experiencing such a broad variety of work each day and learning how every task could be elevated to a higher level of quality, I knew I was on the right road.

In your view, what is architecture all about?

Simply put, it’s problem-solving. While the questions people bring us are usually about buildings, good answers can encompass far more than sticks and bricks. Our best work comes out of clearly understanding all the issues that might converge in a project: client goals, building users’ needs, community context, climate, budgets, and more. Once we see the full picture, our designs can synthesize solutions that respond to all kinds of factors together.

What can architecture and design positively bring to the world?

We’re solving problems for people, and we humans are creatures with such rich and complex lives. We appreciate places that accommodate the entirety of our experience. Including a green and sunny patio to enjoy the company of others can be as important as the purely functional aspects of a design brief. As architects, we’re in the position to create spaces that really matter to people and help our cities become more vibrant.

Talk to us about your time here at RDL. What are some projects that you’ve led over the past few years that stick out in your mind?

Housing has been a huge part of my role at RDL, and affordable housing can be particularly meaningful for the impact it has on people’s lives. Our work in Pittsburgh stands out, transforming what had been ‘barracks-style’ public housing into real homes and creating a neighborhood. More recently, our Arcadia project design is well underway. Not only will it be an exceptional mixed-use project right here in Shaker Heights, but also includes the chance to design our new office home. It’s a true cross-studio collaboration and having such a talented group working together is bringing the design to the next level.

What are you looking forward to in this new role?

I have such tremendous respect for the talent, energy, and ideas we have in everyone here at RDL, but I haven’t had the opportunity to work closely with all our staff. This new role offers the opportunity to collaborate with a broader range of colleagues in our office and get to know them better. I know our work gets stronger as we bring more heads together, and I’m excited to see what we can do next.

What will this new role allow you to do professionally?

Supporting colleagues, growing together, and creating even higher levels of excellence in the work that we do for our clients are all part of our goals. I’ll be looking for approaches to support every studio in different ways that best support their individual needs, finding ways to connect our rich collection of talents with the needs of each person and project.

What is a goal that you are striving to achieve in 2023 as it relates to your new role?

We collaborate all the time here, both with each other and with our clients and partners. But we can do more, so a goal for this year is to create a framework that helps us strengthen our habits of sharing ideas and experiences with each other.

If you could give some advice to young architects/designers early in their career, what would you tell them?

Whenever you can, try taking a shot at the problem, even if it’s stretching yourself at the limits of your experience. Do the research, attempt an answer, sketch ideas, then bring it back to your colleagues to see if you’re on to something. I learn the most by actively trying and doing, I think that’s true for most of us.
Also, keep a tape measure within arm’s reach. I swear that half this job is simply knowing the sizes of things.