Better Together: OCO Architects to Merge with California’s LPA

(SAN ANTONIO, TX) July 1, 2014LPA Inc., a California design firm known for its leadership in sustainability, is excited to announce its merger with San Antonio’s OCO Architects. Beginning in July, OCO will join the LPA team and help continue its drive toward successful, sustainable design solutions.

      LPA has won more than 600 major design awards for projects spanning from K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to civic, corporate, religious, and retail establishments. OCO, turning 30 this year, is known for its focus on K-12, as well as urban infill residential, civic, and commercial projects. Notable local projects include the additions to and renovation of San Antonio’s East Central High School and the new Somerset Junior High School.

         Dan Heinfeld, President at LPA, says, “Texas is the second-largest marketplace in the country, and with the kinds of things we’re doing with education, among our other markets, it was a good time to look outside the state of California for the first time. So, we set off to find the right partner.” Common core values and design ethics made LPA and OCO a natural match.

            OCO Principal Lowell Tacker says the firms’ values and expectations are so similar that, initially, it felt like they were talking to themselves. “We each have a strong desire to provide fantastic services to our clients and a strong desire to be responsible to the communities in which our projects are built. We have a strong ethic when it comes to design and process, and we believe and live sustainability.”

            Mark Oppelt, Principal at OCO, says the pairing seemed obvious. “Looking at [LPA’s] portfolio was like looking at a mirror of ours,” he says, noting the two firms will be even stronger as one. He looks forward to a “dynamic base of knowledge” when the practices are combined. “It really is a two plus two equals five situation,” says Oppelt.

            With Texas experiencing a period of growth, the staff at OCO is ready to use its increased capabilities to take on new projects. “We’d like be able to provide service to a broader range of clients, and we’re anxious to use the expertise at LPA to do that in Texas,” says Oppelt. Both firms have a core of K-12 experience, and growth in that area, as well as higher education, is a goal of the merger. With a changing educational landscape across the nation, LPA and OCO are rethinking how schools are designed and built. “We hope to create some new solutions to old problems through our collaboration,” says Tacker. “The goal in all of this is to create better learning environments.”

            Another goal is for LPA’s effective integrated design process to become OCO’s model of service. With input from all the major disciplines throughout the process, efficiency increases and coordination problems are avoided. Mickey Conrad, Principal at OCO, says, “The integrated design approach is much more inclusive, not only of architects and consultants, but also our clients. The more good decisions we can make early on, the more the project is benefited later on.”

            Reactions to the merger have been extremely positive. “Clients have been excited for us,” says Conrad. “They have a respect for what we’ve done the last 30 years and see this as an opportunity for us to move up to another level,” he says. Oppelt sees the merger as a message to the community about OCO’s future. “The message we’re sending to clients is that we’re going to be better at what we do. OCO is becoming the one place where you can go for quality service, quality design, and a quality building that performs over time. If you can hit a homerun with those three aspects, there’s not a lot more you can ask for,” he says.

            The San Antonio office will now be known as OCO LPA, and the partnered firms will share ideas and expertise among existing staff. “We’re excited to have some new views and ways to look at the world. That’s what the creative process is about,” says LPA’s Heinfeld. “We’re looking forward to having an influence as well as getting new input from our Texas partners, and how that collaboration will influence the firm.”

            Click here to watch the principals discuss the new merger:


OCO LPA has more than 220 employees with offices in Irvine, Roseville, San Diego, and San Jose, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas. The firm provides services in architecture, sustainability, planning, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering, and graphics. There is no “Sustainability Director,” at LPA. Instead, more than 80 percent of the professionals are LEED accredited, including the Human Resources Director, CFO, and several other support staff. With extensive experience in public and private architecture, OCO LPA designs a diversity of facilities that span from K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to corporate and civic establishments. More than 600 major design awards attest to LPA’s commitment to design excellence. For more information, visit