An architecture instructor once told Ken Andrews he’d never make a good architect because he was too close to the construction trades. So much for that theory. In 2011, AIA Colorado named Andrews, 37, both its Young Architect of the Year and its Instructor of the Year. Andrews, AIA, credits that success largely to his extensive jobsite experience. “I think I sympathize with people on the construction site more than most architects,” he says. “If they say they can’t build something, I can tell them, ‘Yes, you can, and here’s how.’”

That nuts-and-bolts interest in building informs Andrews’ work with Arch11, where he has been a partner for two years. “We’re always looking at materials that aren’t standard and using standard materials in different ways,” says Andrews, whose research at the University of Colorado School of Architecture and Planning focuses on innovative building systems. “The platform frame has been around for 200 years,” he notes. “We challenge that as much as we can.” Discussions with his students also enrich his practice. “My thinking about design problems becomes much more saturated,” he says. “I’m able to take all these ideas to my drafting board.” And he never discourages former carpenters.