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October 31, 2013

A&E 2013 Surveys: GGLO

Specialty: Integrated, sustainable design

Management: Jeff Foster, managing principal

Founded: 1986

Headquarters: Seattle

2013 revenue: $19.2 million

Projected 2014 revenue: $21.1 million

Projects: Trinsic West Seattle, a 159-unit apartment with through-block public passage; Semiahmoo Resort restaurant and bar in Blaine; 10th Avenue Hillclimb, a pedestrian passage between the Little Saigon neighborhood and Yesler Terrace in Seattle

Image courtesy of GGLO for Seattle Housing Authorit [enlarge]
GGLO is doing urban design and landscape architecture for the 10th Avenue Hillclimb, a pedestrian link between the Little Saigon neighborhood and Yesler Terrace in Seattle.

GGLO managing principal Jeff Foster and principals James Bradley, Beth Dwyer, Jerry McDevitt, Sean Canady and Tom Sheldon answered questions from the DJC about their firm and the industry:

Q: What are the biggest trends in your industry locally?

Jeff Foster: Clients are paying more attention to and are increasingly savvy about differentiating their projects through design — really understanding their target occupants and guests and responding to their desires. The public “marketplace” and bicycle commuter facilities incorporated into Pine Street Group’s recently completed Via6 two-tower mixed-use apartment development are a good example of responding to specific demands rather than offering generic amenities.

Q: Where will growth come from in the next few years for your firm?

Foster: In addition to mixed-use, market-rate rental housing, GGLO is focusing on design of student- and campus-related housing, senior living and hospitality. We’re also interested in doing more urban design work for public agencies and businesses.

James Bradley: We are seeing the hospitality markets pick back up with a marked increase in hospitality property sales. Many of these properties need upgrades and repositioning along the lines of what we are doing with Wright Hotels and their project, the Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine. GGLO took a two-pronged approach to the repositioning: It designed some upgrades that could be done right after the property was purchased, so the resort could be reopened quickly. GGLO also created a master plan to guide upgrades over the next couple of years.

Beth Dwyer: We are chasing student housing and campus planning at public and private universities and community colleges. We are also working with private developers who provide housing for students in a public/private arrangement, or as market-rate student housing on or near college campuses.

Jerry McDevitt: We are working on projects ranging from remodels to new construction, master-planning and repositioning of senior living environments and special needs housing locally and out of state. As the numbers of those populations grow, along with monthly costs for senior living, alternate methods of care and housing are in high demand.

Our history of designing low-income and workforce housing for public agencies, housing authorities and faith-based providers has made us experts in designing for the evolving needs of seniors and special needs populations. We hope to be an even bigger part of devising ways to deliver more affordable options.

Q: Any ideas how Seattle can create more affordable housing?

Foster: Support has weakened at the federal level, even for programs that have bipartisan support like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, making it more challenging for our clients to serve growing demand. Locally, we would have liked to have seen affordable housing density bonuses at a more viable development cost in areas like Seattle’s South Lake Union.

Earlier this year, the Seattle City Council increased the fee per square foot by more than 40 percent over Mayor Mike McGinn’s proposal, making density bonuses too costly for developers to consider adding affordable housing.

Q: Your firm works on a mix of projects. How important is that?

Foster: Diversity in the type of work that we do, where we are doing it, and integrated delivery of that work is at the core of GGLO’s strategic plan for growth in the next five years. We remain committed to our core areas of strength in housing, hospitality and urban design.

Q: How is modular housing affecting architecture, landscape architecture and urban design?

Foster: It is a superior method of delivery for the right projects although it has still only enjoyed limited success. Nearly every contractor we work with panelizes and/or pre-assembles components. The method can save considerable time in the construction schedule, but we have not seen dramatic cost savings for fully modular projects in the Northwest.

Sean Canady: In the near future we can expect to see new digital fabrication techniques applied to modular construction. That and advanced materials and production techniques such as rapid-prototyping and large-scale 3-D printing for formwork will allow for factory production of complex shapes and structural systems.

These methods and materials will promote collaboration between designers, fabricators and contractors in ways that will lead to greater creativity, quality and efficiency.

Q: What are clients asking for now versus five or 10 years ago?

Foster: Sustainably certified projects are now standard. Today, code requirements, funding programs, customers, tenants and clients require this to be part of the design.

Building information modeling has increasingly become the tool of choice for the design work we do. The ability to quickly represent design in three dimensions and coordinate a multitude of building systems in one model is commonplace.

Tom Sheldon: Clients are seeing the value in getting all services and consultants on board and at the table from the beginning of the project.

Providing integrated architecture, interior design and landscape architecture in-house allows for streamlined cost control, methods, schedules and design to achieve the best value for the project.


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