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Practice of Architecture | 2017/12/12

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Debra Kunce: Demystifying the Architecture Process

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Believe it or not, the general public does not have a great understanding of the work that architects actually undertake. That’s where Debra Kunce and her company, CORE Planning Strategies, steps in and helps demystify the world of design and construction.


Deb’s Bio:
Deb owns an Indianapolis based management and consulting company, CORE Planning Strategies, focused on strengthening facility teams during their design and construction projects. Deb is a registered Architect who applies creative design strategies with practical implementation and has more than 20 years of experience in the design, planning, and construction industries serving as a Program Manager on multi-million dollar facility capital programs, energy audits, LEED projects, and public outreach initiatives.

Deb grew up the oldest of eight children on a farm in central Illinois. At an early age, she learned teamwork, the value of hard work, and the art of leading people. Deb also learned to drive a tractor before a car, which may explain some of her driving skills.

Deb and her twin sister, Denise, were the first in their family to graduate with Bachelor degrees from a University. Deb’s was earned at Ball State University where she subsequently served on their Alumni Governing Board and a member of their 2013 NAAB Accreditation Team. She has also served in senior leadership positions at Schmidt Associates, Inc. and was a National Vice President of the American Institute of Architects form 2012-2013. Deb was recently appointed an Indiana State Lottery Commissioner by Governor Michael R. Pence.

Deb’s service includes non-profit sector leadership, including the United Way of Central Indiana Facilities Maintenance Fund Committee Chairman, Hawthorne Campaign Committee, IPS Educational Foundation Committee, Kaleidoscope Youth Center Board, Horizons Student Enrichment Board, and the ACE Mentor Board. Deb has also been recognized by her professional and business community:

  • AIA College of Fellows for significant contributions to architecture and society, by AIA
  • Top 20 Young Professionals in 2011, by Engineering News Record, Midwest Construction
  • Indy’s Best and Brightest, by Junior Achievement of Central Indiana
  • Phyllis Wheatley Award Finalist to Salute to Women of Achievement by YWCA
  • Forty Under 40, by the Indianapolis Business Journal
  • Who’s Who Behind the Scenes in Construction, by the Indianapolis Business Journal
  • Juliet Peddle Award for Pioneering in Architectural Community, by AIA Indiana
  • Edward D. Pierre Outstanding Service to Profession and Public, by AIA Indiana
  • Outstanding Alumnus by Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning

Deb and her husband, Clete, live in Carmel, Indiana with their daughter.

The Quick Details:
Name: Debra S. Kunce, FAIA, LEED AP
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Occupation: Architect who created a Project Management firm to help clients maneuver through the “mysterious” world of design and construction.
Title: Owner of CORE Planning Strategies, LLC
Degrees / Education: Ball State University, Bachelor of Environmental Science and Bachelor of Architecture

Four of Five Questions:
What first made you interested in architecture?
I have joked many times that Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch was my first inspirational architect. He and his family went on great vacations and he was always at home…what a life! Actually, my parents have confirmed many times that since a young age, I was always trying to create things. I would take left over cans, wood, paper, etc and create new things. They weren’t surprised when I entered architecture school.

What do you do now?
When I’m asked “what do you do”, I start with a question: “Have you or a family member ever been involved in a construction project where you didn’t understand the language of the architect, contractor, and didn’t really know what was going on?”. The answer is invariably “yes”. I started CORE Planning Strategies to help avert this situation. In my 20 years, I have seem too many times when clients and the building users did not fully understand the design and construction process and needed a translator and a sherpa – an expert guiding them through their design and construction expeditions

Do you apply your architecture background to your current job?
My role as an Architect has significantly prepared me for this new business venture, and I look forward to expanding my future ventures into taking design thinking into other avenues of my clients’ business – beyond design and construction.

What’s in store for the future of architecture education, the profession, and/or the building industry?
Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. The interconnectedness of our world is growing at an exponential pace. Architects are well positioned to be the convener of the collaboration that is necessary to harness this interconnectedness – even beyond the built environment. When we embrace it and apply critical design thinking skills to new and growing problems, architects will flourish beyond traditional roles. We must look to the future!