Everyone deserves a chance to participate. This is the driving idea behind the work of SSA, Inc. (SSA). It is an idea made evident in the design of exceptional educational facilities and civic buildings, in sensitive, barrier-free architecture and planning solutions that fully support the needs of every individual using each space.
Founded in 1980, SSA has two practice specialties of comparable size—ADA Access Compliance, and Civic and Educational Design. Our 15-person, award-winning architecture and planning firm is known for work that meets clients’ goals with precision and creativity while exhibiting a heightened attention to the needs of people with disabilities. SSA offers complete architectural services from concept development through construction administration and enjoys recognition as one of the foremost providers of access compliance services. Additionally, SSA has consistently led the industry in applying the concepts of Universal Design to real architectural solutions.
Headquartered in San Francisco, SSA has worked across the state of California; nationally for Cities such as Santa Fe, NM and Bend, OR, for Counties such as St. Louis, MO; and internationally for the 2014 and 2018 Olympics/Paralympics in Sochi, Russia and PyeongChang, South Korea.
In the past 36 months, we have completed surveys and site audits on 13.3 million square feet; the project value of SSA’s plan reviews has been over a billion dollars ($1,194,000,000). Combined with our specialty in design and planning, we are able to provide a uniquely comprehensive perspective on accessibility issues, always with a focus on aesthetic results balanced with cost-effective solutions.
Emphasizing attention to detail in all aspects of a project – from the cost estimate to the selection of materials – SSA has had great success on even the narrowest budgets; creating distinctive spaces that provide enjoyment and pleasure to the people they serve.
SSA is a certified Local and Small Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE, SBE, LBE, and U/DBE).
Lead Architects & Specialists
Sally Swanson, AIA
As Chief Executive Officer and founding principal, Sally Swanson sets the vision and direction for the firm. With 40 years of architectural experience to draw upon, Sally has established herself as an influential practitioner whose work is shaping the industry’s response to issues of accessibility and Universal Design. Leading her own award-winning firm since 1980, she has created spaces of exceptional functionality and empathic connection.
A steady focus on educational design for the majority of her career has inspired a special proficiency in the creation of exceptional learning environments that enrich the experience of teachers as well as students. One of Sally’s greatest strengths lies in helping clients define their specific needs and future goals, a process made possible by the channels of communication she establishes among team members, project stakeholders, and members of the community. Ms. Swanson sees each project as the practice of translating those goals into a built structure that creates a sense of humanity and enduring identity.
With a Master’s degree from Columbia University in Urban Design and Planning, Sally is insightful in seeing the big picture perspective. She has been an active presenter on a variety of design and access topics for the Coalition of Adequate School Housing (CASH), the Community College Facility Coalition (CCFC), the California Charter School Conference, and the Transportation Research Board (TRB). She is a member of the Global Universal Design Commission and serves on the Division of the State Architect Advisory Board Access Committee.
Kathleen Wong, AIA, LEED AP
Kathleen has 36 years of architecture experience and is skilled in project management, design, preparation of bid documents and construction administration. She has extensive experience with modernizations on a wide array of projects. She skillfully coordinates between review agencies, owners, consultants, and contractors from pre-design through construction administration. With intimate knowledge of LEED, constructability and code requirements, her day-to-day, hands-on management provides assurance that the projects will be successfully executed. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Architectural Design School, she has worked at SSA since 2004 primarily on K-12, High School and Community College projects.
Kathleen is an expert in the management of sustainability features and projected life-cycle energy savings for educational facilities. The new Ford Elementary School in Richmond garnered the highest-to-date HPI (High Performance Incentive) program rating for a new school in California resulting in monetary awards for the District.
Shao Chen, ICC, CASp
Senior Project Manager/Accessibility Specialist
With nearly 20 years of experience with SSA, Shao has responsibilities in both the firm’s architecture and ADA access compliance professional practices. He has over a decade of architecture experience ranging from the Carlmont High School Gymnasium in Belmont, California, City of Emeryville City Hall Garden Room Acoustic Upgrades, and City of San Francisco Community Justice Center Holding Cells to the Ford Elementary School, Replacement Campus and Transition Campus, Richmond, California. Spanning over five years, Shao’s ADA access compliance experience includes the West Valley Mission Community College District, University of California-Berkeley ADA Upgrades (various buildings) and the Kern Community College Campus-wide ADA compliant restroom design. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.
Ian Blakey, ICC, CASp
Senior Project Manager/Accessibility Specialist
Mr. Blakey has worked in the field of ADA access compliance for his entire career. His specialization involves the extensive research and coordination necessary to advise consumers, employers, business owners, architects, municipalities and the legal community. He has participated in access consulting for over 100 firms. In addition, Mr. Blakey has surveyed over 1300 facilities for access compliance issues. He has also served in the capacity of Expert Witness with regard to Mediation and Settlement Conference work. Project highlights include the Cities of Salinas and Emeryville and the San Mateo Community College District.
Construction Administrator/Project Manager
Mr. Sarkissian has over 20 years of experience as a construction administrator/project manager. He exhibits exceptional leadership skills and a strong background in all aspects of construction project coordination; including, but not limited to, drafting, modifications, building code (DSA plan check and DSA box, Owner’s Standards) compliancy assurance, permit applications and follow-up. Mr. Sarkissian has been responsible to review contractor Requests for Clarification, submittals and change order requests. He has broad knowledge coordinating a construction’s cross-disciplinary bodies to achieve the maximum efficiency by eliminating the redundancies and wait time as well as preventing additional costs. Based in SSA’s Burbank, California office, his project highlights include multiple school sites for the Los Angeles Unified School District.