Real Estate - Commercial

Drawing On Leadership Skills

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 7, 2020
Laura Miller stands at LS3P’s Wilmington office where she leads a team of nearly 40 people who are taking on local projects. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
LS3P’s Laura Miller has had a hand in many projects over the course of her nearly 20-year career as an architect. But her passion for the industry was sparked long before her first plans came to life.
Miller watched as her parents were planning their own home: looking over floor plans, figuring out where things needed to go and talking logistics with different general contractors.
“I was probably 9 or 10 at the time, and ever since then, the process was just really fascinating to me. And I always knew that’s what I wanted to do from that point on,” Miller said.
Today Miller leads the Wilmington office of LS3P, an architecture firm with 345 employees companywide and eight locations spread out between North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Miller took on the role of Wilmington office leader last February, previously serving as the firm’s local operations and finance manager. She leads an office of nearly 40 people.
“It’s been really interesting. We have a great team here and since I have been here for so long, it seemed like a pretty seamless transition for me,” Miller said of her leadership role. “I felt really supported by the whole team, not just firm leadership but the whole team here in Wilmington.”
Miller is a graduate of Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design in Ohio. She moved to Wilmington right after graduation in 2000 and joined LS3P, then Boney Architects before the two firms merged in 2005.
Her work at the firm has touched the Wilmington area and beyond and across many different sectors. Her projects have involved designs for behavioral health facilities, educational institutions and commercial developments.
Some of the local projects she’s had a hand in include the Wilmington Convention Center, Wilmington Police Department headquarters, the Union Station building at Cape Fear Community College’s downtown campus and the first building of Live Oak Bank’s Wilmington headquarters.
“It really is special to see people truly experiencing the space that you have created,” Miller said.
Each project has a different approach and is designed with the intended use in mind, she said. For example, the Wilmington Convention Center was built with several different functional spaces for meetings or celebrations, on top of elements such as gentle curves and arches inspired by waves and boats, with other facets inspired by Wilmington’s rail history, she said.
“The point of that building was really to showcase the Wilmington area, which is different than the Live Oak Bank experience – comfortable and efficient – to be the best work environment for them,” Miller said. And while some architects specialize in one particular type of architecture, Miller said she is more of a generalist.
“I do a little bit of everything. Being in Wilmington as a slightly smaller market than Raleigh or Charlotte, we have to be more flexible and be able to do whatever projects come up. It’s been great for me, personally. The variety of projects is really what I love,” Miller said. “I never want to lose that connection to projects ... I love working with the people … and figuring out what’s going to work best for them and being involved in the construction phase as well.”
In her new role, however, she’s taken a step back from the sketching table, working only on a handful of designs for long-standing clients or large projects.
Miller now works in all aspects of operations in her role from office management and marketing to business development as well as budgeting and forecasting metrics and financial goals for the office, she said.
Teamwork and problem-solving are critical components of her leadership, she said. That attribute is especially important in a field where there is great attention to detail, Miller said.
Working together is crucial for a successful outcome for the client, she said.
“No one is a team of one. We all are more successful if we work together,” Miller said. “As architects … it’s crucial to what we do every day.”
And as local leader, she has an opportunity to further guide the future of the firm’s Wilmington office to “have the greatest positive impact on our community,” she said, adding that it takes practicing sustainable development.
“Energy usage, water usage, the choice of materials on a particular project and how to think of all of those things with every project that we do, we as architects and our team with our engineering partners, we have the opportunity to have a huge impact on that … Figuring out how we can support those advances in technology and design can make an impact much more further reaching than we probably realize,” Miller said.
Whatever the project may be, it’s essential to keep in mind the ripple effects, she said, something the firm takes into consideration when selecting projects.
“We live here. We want to make sure that this is the best place for our families, as well as everybody else. And so we take that charge seriously,” Miller said. “What we do is so permanent. A building is going to be around for years to come. You can’t take that responsibility lightly.”
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