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Architecture & Engineering

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October 30, 2014

Survey: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Specialty: Structural and civil consulting engineering services

Management: Ron Klemencic, chairman and CEO; Derek Beaman, president; Andy Fry, COO; Bill Christopher, CFO; senior principals Greg Briggs, Shelley Clark, Don Davies, Brian Dickson, Dave Eckmann, Drew Gangnes, John Hooper and Jay Taylor

Founded: 1920

Headquarters: Seattle

2014 revenues: $46 million

Projected 2015 revenues: $48 million

Projects: Amazon Rufus 2.0 Blocks 14, 19 and 20; Elliott Bay Central Seawall; 888 Second Avenue; Second and Pike Tower; Overlook Walk; University of Washington New Burke Museum; Rainier Square; Salesforce Tower in San Francisco

Photo by Benjamin Minnick [enlarge]
Magnusson Klemencic Associates is providing engineering for the central waterfront seawall project.

Magnusson Klemencic Associates is doing engineering work for some of the most important projects in Seattle and San Francisco, including Amazon.com’s three towers in the Denny Triangle, and Salesforce’s new headquarters in downtown San Francisco. It has also done work on parks and stadiums around the country. The DJC sat down with Chairman and CEO Ron Klemencic to talk about the company’s current projects and some industry trends.

Q: What sustainable elements have you introduced to your projects?

A: Our current and recent work focuses more on an overall approach to incorporating sustainability rather than any one specific element. Two areas of specific emphasis are carbon accounting and water resource management.

Our structural engineering practice is incorporating the assessment of embedded carbon content in the concrete, rebar, steel and heavy timber we specify, attempting to reduce overall carbon consumption through smart design, specification and procurement choices. We have been able to achieve an embedded carbon reduction of 30 to 40 percent with little, if any, cost premium.

Our civil practice is focusing on strategic water resource management, targeting significant reductions in overall water consumption of our building projects through rainwater capture and graywater and blackwater treatment and reuse.

Both of these strategies appear to be taking hold with our clients, as many of our recent projects are incorporating these strategies.

Q: What are some challenges in the industry right now?

A: Across the country, construction seems to be booming. With the attrition in the industry as a result of the great recession, there is a shortage of skilled and experienced architects, engineers and construction workers. Unfortunately, because of this, we are witnessing a general decline in the overall quality of the work that is being completed as firms are spread thin.

At MKA, we are committed to maintaining the quality of our services and work products, leading us to be more selective about the projects we are taking on in the face of extraordinary demand. While it is tempting to want to try to do it all, we are steadfast in our resolve to properly attend to our current and loyal clients.

Q: Which of your services are seeing the most demand and why?

A: MKA is a structural and civil engineering practice focused primarily on building projects and site design. We work in a variety of market sectors, such as aviation, healthcare, sports, convention centers, retail, office, residential, hospitality and large public parks. Each of these sectors is very active across the United States.

Much of the demand appears to be coming from the tremendous growth of Internet-related companies such as Amazon, Google, Salesforce, Twitter and Facebook, to name a few of the more obvious. With the growth of these companies, and many others, has come significant demand for new office buildings, hotels, retail and housing.

In addition, there is strong demand for our services from Asia, in particular China and Southeast Asia. While it is true that the Chinese economy is slowing, oversees investment opportunities are being sought for the wealth accumulated over the last two decades, driving the economies of many smaller, emerging nations.

Q: You’ve worked on several prominent stadiums recently, how have design, engineering and construction needs for stadiums changed over the years?

A: The entire stadium and arena delivery process has changed from what used to be a public design/bid/build process to more of a “team build” approach.

Most recent sports projects have been delivered with both public and private funding with partnerships between the public, team owners and private developers. This model of delivery has only increased the speed at which the projects are now expected to be brought on line.

Many of these large stadium and arena projects go beyond traditional “fast track” deliveries and are on “super-accelerated” schedules. As a result, there is a greater specialization needed by the contractors and design teams that execute these projects.

MKA has taken an approach similar to some of the national sports architects in that we have developed a Sports Specialist Group with a focus on, and extensive experience in, the unique design aspects of stadium and arenas.

Q: How does Seattle stack up to the other markets you are working in?

A: The Seattle market is strong and quite active. Of course, there is significant activity fueled by the growth of Amazon in South Lake Union, which a great number of us are supporting. Numerous commercial developers are proceeding forward with significant projects, including office, hotels and housing. The Washington State Convention Center is planning a significant expansion, which will also fuel additional commercial development.

Overall, we are quite optimistic about the Seattle market for the next several years.

Comparatively, San Francisco is an even stronger market. The amount of construction underway and in planning is extraordinary. Most of this demand is fueled by the growth of Internet companies headquartered in the Bay Area (mostly Silicon Valley) and their significant migration into the downtown area seeking to satisfy a workforce that is demanding a more urban lifestyle.

Access to public transportation, restaurants, retail, sports and cultural events is causing many traditionally suburban-based businesses to move into the city in order to recruit and retain employees. This trend seems to be growing across the country and is certainly evident with Amazon and the transformation of the South Lake Union neighborhood.

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