Two Licensed Architects at HighCraft

jeff anne aia
HighCraft Builders is the only residential design-build remodeling company in Fort Collins to have a husband-wife team of licensed architects on permanent staff.

HighCraft architects Jeff Gaines, AIA, NCARB, and Anne Nelsen, AIA, are also members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Why should consumers care? A considerable number of remodeling companies in Colorado suggest major changes to a home and develop those designs into construction drawings, but relatively few have true licensed architects on staff to better serve and protect the homeowner. Licensed architects bring extensive training, experience, and an industry stamp of approval to every building project.

Architects, like Gaines and Nelsen, earn their licensure by passing a series of seven rigorous tests administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Becoming an architect is so challenging, in fact, that every year one-third of all applicants fail the NCARB Architect Registration Examination® (ARE) – a testing process designed to protect the consumer. Gaines and Nelsen each passed the NCARB ARE with flying colors.

Between Gaines and Nelsen, the examination process included a combined 2,000 hours of studying, 67 hours of testing time and 14 individual exams. In addition, each of the aspiring architects was required to complete 5,600 hours of on-the-job experience in 17 different design categories under the supervision of an approved licensed architect.

The fact that Gaines and Nelsen became licensed architects in Fort Collins, Colorado, is even more special.

According to the 2015 NCARB by the Numbers report, of the 107,581 licensed architects in the United States, only 6,704 (6%) are licensed in Colorado. And according to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, there are only 77 architects (1% of all Colorado architects) with an active license working in Fort Collins.

“While architects are not required in the state of Colorado for single-family homes, the benefits of hiring an architect are many and stem from the foundation that all licensed architects are charged with protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people who occupy their designed buildings,” said Cathy Rosset, Executive Vice President/CEO of the American Institute of Architects, Colorado.

“Achieving licensure in architecture is not only a professional accomplishment for the architect, but also a contribution to the community.” Rosset added, “We applaud Jeff Gaines and Anne Nelsen for their commitment to the profession.”

Of the 77 licensed architects working in Fort Collins, many focus on commercial projects.

Gaines and Nelsen are among the smaller number of local licensed architects that specialize in residential, single-family architectural design.

Prior to passing the NCARB exams for licensure, Gaines and Nelsen each graduated with honors from architecture school, which is notoriously difficult.

Gaines earned a B.S. in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Architecture from the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. He has worked for leading architecture firms such as Johannes Cohen Collaborative in St. Louis, Davis Square Architects in Boston and Robin Chiang & Co in San Francisco.

Nelsen earned a B.A. in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. She studied architecture at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, and has worked at leading architecture firms including Robert Nebolon Architects in Berkeley, California.

Both Gaines and Nelsen worked for Laguarda.Low+Tanamachi in Tokyo, and McKay Architecture of Berkeley, now located in Wellington, New Zealand. The two licensed architects, who have been married since 2006, have international experience in both commercial and residential architectural design.

Nelsen says she doesn’t begrudge the time it took to pass the exams. “They prepared us for the role of protecting the homeowner. That’s not something you want to rush.” Gaines and Nelsen have been working for HighCraft since 2013. Gaines was officially licensed in late 2014, and Nelsen recently became licensed in August 2015.

“Becoming a licensed architect is a culmination of many years of education, training and testing,” said Nelsen. She and Gaines supported each other every step of the way. And like a good marriage, Nelsen says, “… the beauty of this career is that there is no ‘arrival point.’ We will be learning and improving for the rest of our lives.”

For more information about the design-build team at HighCraft Builders, visit The Crew page on our website. Learn about the Colorado Chapter of The American Institute of Architects at