My Bio

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I graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology School of Architecture in 1993, and was already working with the Port Authority of NY/NJ as an intern.  I had worked in the field of architecture since the summer before entering NJIT.  It was very important to me that I work in the field while I was achieving my degree so that I was well prepared and could find a permanent position once I graduated.

The Influences that Impacted my Career

The internship at the Port Authority was paramount for my career and continues to influence how I practice architecture today.  Specifically that all the buildings, such as the World Trade Center, Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and JFK International Airport, were major public structures.  It was exhilarating for me to be designing with the understanding that tens of thousands of people each day would interact and experience these structures.  Of course, you cannot interview the client under these circumstances; in fact, you are the client as well as the designer.  So the design thought process was more difficult because the questions normally posed to a client had to be answered instinctively instead.

While at the Port Authority, a significant event took place that forever changed my perspective on what it means to be an architect – the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center of 1993.  I was one of the many who remained in the building and made the journey down from the 73rd floor of Tower One to West Street.  It was the first time in my life that I relied upon the life safety design of a building.  We are all aware of the damage that the building sustained and that it did not collapse although some lives were lost.  What struck me and has stayed with me is that it was the building design, the architect’s design, prevented further loss of life.  Architecture is not just about aesthetic design, and the fancy details, first and foremost is the health, safety and welfare of the occupants.  Architects must consistently ask themselves if the design is as safe as it can be within the client’s budget.  In fact, our business is to educate the client about life safety and that building codes do not provide the maximum level of protection, but the minimum.

The Early Years

I began my firm in 1998 in Upper Montclair, focusing on building a clientele and a good reputation.  My works consisted mainly of residential additions and alterations.  In the summer of that year, I hired my first employee and a summer intern from Lehigh University.  It is my belief that in order for architects to remain at the forefront of the building industry, we must also instruct students on how to become great architects.  For this reason, I have maintained a position for an intern in my office every summer. Shortly after that summer, I hired my first full-time employee and focused on growing the firm.

Our first important commission came in 2000.  It was the rehabilitation and renovation of a 15,000 square foot building in Boonton, NJ.  The project was most challenging for me because it was the complete “gut” of a 100-year-old building constructed of brick masonry and wood frame.  It was a mixed-use building with retail stores at the main level and offices on the other four levels.  The project took 18 months to complete and two million dollars of the owner’s money.  This project gave me the confidence that I did have the talent to work with a client to create a vision, prepare the necessary construction documents for construction, and then coordinate a construction process to make the design a reality.  This project brought together all aspects of my training and it was successful.  Since that time, we have designed and completed over 500 residential, commercial, retail and institutional projects totaling more than $75 million in construction.  I currently hold licenses in the states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, North Carolina and Florida.  We have completed projects in most of these states as well as other states in the fields of commercial and retail design.  I also hold a certificate from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (N.C.A.R.B.).

American Institute of Architects

I have been a member of the American Institute of Architects since I received my license in New Jersey in 1998.  I have held the offices of Treasurer and President of Newark & Suburban Architects, a Section of the American Institute of Architects and have since held the positions of Treasurer, Membership Chair, and member of the Legislative & Government Affairs Committee of AIA New Jersey.  Additionally, I serve as the Vice Chair of New Jersey Architect’s Political Action Committee (NJAPAC).

It is fulfilling for me to be actively involved with the Institute and to contribute to the development of the AIA.  It is also as important to remain in touch with and mentor the students of my alma mater.  As Treasurer of AIANJ, I have the opportunity to meet with the executive committee of the NJIT American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) chapter and help them develop their budget as well as act as a liason to AIANJ.

Pictured are Robert Emert AIA, Rep. Freilinghuysen, Justin A. Mihalik AIA

Pictured are Robet Emert AIA, Rep. Pascrell, Robert Cozzarelli AIA, Justin A. Mihalik AIA

Grassroots Visit to the Hill
Pictured are Justin A. Mihalik AIA and Jerry Eben AIA

A Passionate Advocate

Architecture is my passion.  It is important that every client be educated about why they should hire an architect, and the importance of the architect in the building process.  I have been in the construction industry for more than 25 years and in the architectural field for more than 17 years.  During this time I have learned a tremendous amount about both of these fields and now enjoy speaking about them on radio and television.  I had appeared on “The Home Show” with Jerry Leen on WOR 710.  I made my first appearance on “In Your Corner” on NJ12 News with Walt Kane, whose reports focus on consumer awareness and fraud prevention.  Both of these programs allowed me the opportunity to educate consumers on the importance of hiring an architect, and more importantly, hiring an AIA Architect.  I also accept speaking engagements with other trade organizations to better promote our industry.
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