Jesse Thompson

Jesse Thompson is co-founder and Principal of Kaplan Thompson Architects and BrightBuilt Home, and has become a national leader in green design, building science, and affordable housing.

Growing up in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, he started his career working construction in high school before graduating from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s of Architecture. In his nearly thirty years of practice, Jesse has developed a diverse portfolio of residential and commercial projects that reflects his commitment to increasing access to excellent design and raising the bar for sustainability standards.

Jesse’s always working on balancing elements—engineering with art and design, beauty with affordability, function with potential. His coworkers say that he’s grounded, precise, technically-oriented, patient, and proven to get even the most impossible-seeming projects finished.

If Phil’s the initiator, the one who believes that if we jump, the net will appear, then Jesse’s the one who figures out how to build the best net. Jesse has “finisher tendencies,” and he relishes seeing a puzzle through from start to finish. A relentless learner, Jesse maintains our leadership in new energy efficient construction techniques, software adoption, and digital construction management.

Jesse is an award-winning Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut Licensed Architect, LEED Accredited Professional, and the first architect in northern New England to become a Certified Passive House Consultant. He has also served as past President Elect of the Maine Chapter of the AIA, a Board member of the Portland Society for Architecture, and a founding member of Passivhaus Maine.

The 2024 Jury of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) elevated Jesse to its prestigious College of Fellows. As the organization’s highest honor, Fellowship is awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession and to society, who exemplify architectural excellence, and whose work has had a profound influence or ripple effect. We have always known that he’s a superstar, and the architecture community agrees. Only 3% of the AIA’s 98,000+ national members have earned the distinction of Fellowship. In 2024, 96 AIA members were elevated to this honor. He joins six other Fellows in the state of Maine, and is the first to be recognized in the state since 2016.

Jesse was recognized in the category of Design, Urban Design, or Preservation, in which candidates must demonstrate how they have promoted the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession. The submission was based on his commitment to designing for ecology, change, and equity. Through industry leadership, individual mentorship, and high-performance architecture expertise, he inspires others to rise to the challenge of creating spaces that are beautiful, sustainable, and attainable.