Kai Schwarz – CEO / COO, Chief Designer & Engineer
Kai possesses a rare mix of architecture and design talent combined with hands-on building and construction knowledge. In addition, his experience in boat engineering and years of long-distance sailing have honed his understanding of how to make the most elegant and efficient use of small spaces to create comfortable living and working environments in a sustainable way.
Kai earned his architecture degree with honors from the Pratt Institute in New York, supporting himself through school by working high-rise construction. His varied work experience also includes stints on a large-scale sustainable construction project in Arizona, oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and as crew on commercial fishing boats.
He relocated to Seattle in 1989, spent six years designing custom residences with Lindal Cedar Homes, and three years working as an architect for Starbucks Coffee. During his time at Starbucks, he designed premiere retail locations across the US as well as signature stores in London, Tokyo, and Saudi Arabia. He helped develop a renovations regime for older stores and a complete redesign of the prototype stand-alone kiosks that are used by Starbucks around the world.
Kai was also instrumental in organizing community groups in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, negotiating with governmental and private organizations to save, restore and relocate the historic Hat & Boots landmark, and in the establishment of several neighborhood parks, crime prevention and anti-graffiti groups, and planting over 800 trees.
Kai then moved on to run his own successful architectural firm in Kona, Hawaii for two years, sandwiched in between approximately 27,000 miles of open ocean sailing. He has traveled solo across the Pacific in a 26-foot sailboat, and worked as navigator/crew on larger boats sailing to destinations such as Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands, from Halifax to New York and from San Diego through the Panama Canal into the Western Caribbean.
For the last three years, while researching and incubating the concepts for ShelterKraft Werks, he has focused his hands-on skills in the marine industry, providing electrical and engineering services for recreational yachts, scientific research ships, and commercial vessels in the Northwest and along the Pacific Coast.
From this wealth of experience, Kai understands the constraints and demands of creating structures that are designed for a broad range of environmental conditions, from Northeastern blizzards to tropical islands, from rainy maritime climates to arid desert regions, and even to withstand extreme weather conditions on the open seas. Drawing on his diverse skill set and unique background, ShelterKraft Werks represents the culmination of a vision for designing and building well-crafted, compact, flexible, and sustainable living spaces.