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The History of Interactive Resources


Interactive Resources was founded in 1973 by five individuals who shared a vision for an architecture and engineering firm that would provide comprehensive interdisciplinary services, from site acquisition through project planning design and construction. The name of the firm, "Interactive Resources", was originally conceived to describe this goal of bringing together several design disciplines to better integrate the architecture and engineering professions.

The founding partners were Tom Butt, FAIA, John Clinton, SE, AIA, George Faucette, Robert Johnson, and Patrick Leamy, AIA. Only Tom Butt and John Clinton went on to establish Interactive Resources; the others remained in their existing occupations and eventually relinquished their ownership in the business.

Tom Butt and John Clinton first met as engineer officers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vietnam in 1969, HHC, 159th Engineer Group, headquartered at Long Binh, Vietnam. The two became reacquainted in 1971 while commuting into San Francisco on the Sausalito Ferry.

Interactive Resources opened its first office in Point Richmond in 1973, just a block north of where the firm is located today. Tom Butt (a licensed architect, general contractor and real estate broker) and John Clinton (a licensed architect and structural engineer) were the first full-time employees. Charles (Chuck) Beavers, AIA, joined the firm in 1975, and was later promoted to vice-president. Ed Anisman, AIA, who came aboard in 1977, is currently one of the firm's principals.

When the firm formed in 1973, the energy crisis resulting from the Middle East oil embargo was already in full swing. Responding to widespread panic characterized by long lines at service stations and rapidly rising energy prices, Interactive Resources quickly gained a reputation for energy-efficient design and alternative energy applications. The firm erected the first (and at the time, also the largest) wind generator to feed power into an electrical grid in California. Some of the first "solar" homes in California were designed by Interactive Resources, and the firm initiated, and for several years sponsored, statewide conferences on the use of solar and wind energy. Interactive Resources' work in California in the 1970s and early 1980s influenced subsequent state energy conservation legislation and sped the incorporation of energy conservation considerations into the mainstream of California architectural practice.

By 1980, Interactive Resources operated as three "divisions": Structural Engineering, Architecture and Solar. The Architectural Division also operated a construction management service, with projects including the rehabilitation of Hotel Mac, the Richmond Plunge, the Winters Building, and Steamer Gold Landing.

In the early 1980s, the tax incentives and high energy costs that had made solar energy applications and energy efficient design a strong market began to fade. Energy efficient design was no longer a pioneering specialty; it had been institutionalized into building codes. In 1981, Interactive Resources' Architectural Division designed its last custom home project and turned its focus to commercial, government and institutional design projects, with clients such as Chevron and several local, state and federal government agencies. About the same time, the firm took on its first "forensic" project, which involved diagnosing the source of leakage and water damage in a building, designing repairs and providing technical support for litigation.

Several of the firm's senior architects and engineers joined Interactive Resources during the 1980s. This included Calvin Chooey, AIA, who was an expert on forensic and diagnostic services. Calvin Chooey was a 22-year employee of Interactive Resources and a firm principal. He passed away on October 5th, 2008, following a short illness. For more information about Calvin Chooey, please visit his memorial page.

In 1977, Interactive Resources had formed a real estate investment partnership and purchased the building at 117 Park Place in Point Richmond, where the firm is still located today. In 1986, the building was expanded to 8,000 square feet plus a 4,000 square foot basement. By 1989, Interactive Resources had grown to nearly 60 employees, and had filled not only the 117 Park Place building but also annexes adjacent to and behind the main building.

The real estate industry boomed in California in the late 1980s, and Interactive Resources responded by expanding its services for developers. One resulting project was the Wareham Development Point Richmond Tech Center, first occupied by Pixar Animation Studios.

When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit in October of 1989, Interactive Resources was called in on an emergency basis to evaluate the condition of Candlestick Park, which was hosting the third game of the World Series during the tremor. An emergency response team of engineers and architects was dispatched immediately to the stadium, to perform a visual inspection and identify areas damaged by the earthquake. Following the identification of problem areas, Interactive Resources worked on the scene with contractors, the City staff and stadium management to ensure that Candlestick Park was repaired to its original condition and was ready for the resumption of the World Series ten days later.

The early 1990s are remembered as the bust that followed the boom. Real estate development dried up as did the firm's development and historic preservation projects. Forensic architecture and engineering, earthquake repair work and public agency projects dominated the firm's work. Like most Bay Area firms, the number of employees at Interactive Resources shrank to less than a third of what it had been a few years earlier.

During the 1990s, Interactive Resources landed two separate multi-million dollar contracts with the General Services Administration. The firm provided Building Evaluation Reports (assessments of the condition and repair needs of existing buildings) and Prospectus Development Studies (detailed work plans for a proposed new building or for the renovation of an existing building) for dozens of federal buildings. The firm also provided repair, design and security upgrade services to federal buildings throughout the West Coast and Hawaii.

In 1995, Interactive Resources absorbed the staff of another Richmond architecture firm, Cometta-Cianfichi who had specialized in community college projects for many years. Paul Cianfichi, AIA, continued to manage the community college work until 1999, at which time he left for other career opportunities. Today, several former Cometta-Cianfichi employees remain with Interactive Resources, including George Namkung, AIA, and Sabrina Kurita and the firm continues to provide services to several community college campuses.

In recent years, Interactive Resources has realized one of its earliest visions: the successful development of real estate projects that reflected the firm's design values. Partnerships headed by Interactive Resources had purchased two large partially vacant parcels in Point Richmond in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but it was twenty years before real estate economics made them ripe for development. The resulting mixed-use urban infill projects, Mariner Square (completed in 1999) and Baltic Square (completed in 2002), complement and blend in with existing historical structures in the Point Richmond Historic District.

Currently, Interactive Resources has a stable and diverse workload that includes education projects, diagnostic and forensic services, historic preservation, solar photovoltaic installation and specialty building envelope consulting.

 
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