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October 27, 2016

Survey: McKinstry

Photo by Charlie Schuck [enlarge]
McKinstry and Mortenson Construction retrofitted Pacific Tower in Seattle.

Specialty: Mechanical and electrical contracting; energy and facility services

Management: Dean C. Allen, CEO; Cheryl Di Re, chief administrative officer; Ash Awad, chief market officer; Ron Johnson, COO

Founded: 1960

Headquarters: Seattle

2015 revenues: $572 million

Projected 2016 revenues: N/A

Projects: Allen Institute, a 270,000-square-foot research facility in Seattle; comprehensive retrofit of Pacific Tower in Seattle

Ash Awad is chief market officer for McKinstry, which has 1,700 staff and union employees in 12 states. Awad answered questions from the DJC about his firm and trends in the industry.

Q: What can designers, developers and government do to make Seattle more livable and sustainable?

A: Sustainable cities hinge on one key ingredient: collaboration. Each player in a new development has a role to play. We need local government to set high standards for new buildings while still allowing for flexibility when developers look to push the envelope. We need developers to be willing to take a leap on cutting-edge projects and still be able to turn a profit at the end of the day. And designers need to dream big, but stand by their projects as they transition into day-to-day operations.

For example, we recently received confirmation that Stone34, Brooks Running’s new headquarters, passed the city’s “performance period” for the city’s Deep Green Pilot program. The building met strict energy and water reduction targets, verified over a one-year period by McKinstry’s energy management team, in exchange for an expanded floor-to-area ratio. Each member of the project team took on a financial risk to guarantee the building’s performance.

Q: Which project or two are you most proud of in 2016?

A: We had the good fortune to participate in two groundbreaking projects this year: the Allen Institute and the Pacific Tower renovation in Seattle.

The Allen Institute is a 270,000-square-foot research facility designed to reflect the institute’s guiding principles: team science, big science and open science. The integrated design-build team leveraged BIM and lean principles to resolve project challenges and meet the developer’s goals for preservation and sustainability. The result is a state-of-the-art research facility that is comfortable, efficient, versatile and beautiful. The building is Certified Salmon Safe, and targeting LEED gold.

Pacific Tower has been given a new lease on life with a comprehensive retrofit led by McKinstry and Mortenson Construction. The building is now a hub for community services organizations, anchored by Seattle College’s dental and medical technician schools. Highlights include the nation’s first community clinic staffed by a dental school, the Smart Building Center, and FareStart’s expanded catering service.

Q: What three things should a developer do to create a highly energy-efficient and sustainable high-rise that is cost effective?

A: It starts during design, but doesn’t end when the occupants move in.

Designers should run a life-cycle cost analysis on the systems that will go into the building. Such an analysis takes into account first costs, expected maintenance and repair costs, productivity or health benefits, and energy consumption costs.

Collaborative delivery models, like design-build or integrated project delivery, help reduce costs and speed up the schedule. These models drive collaboration early in the construction process and help iron out issues before they become prohibitively expensive to fix. During construction, prefabrication and lean construction methods play a big role in making jobsites safer and more efficient.

Finally, occupant engagement after the keys have been handed over helps maintain the building’s expected performance. That includes ongoing energy management, feedback loops for tenants such as dashboards or visual art (like Stone34’s lobby feature), and regular building tune-ups.

Q: What challenges and trends are you seeing?

A: We have an immense amount of knowledge capital in this region and a remarkable environment for sustainable development. We consistently set the bar for the rest of the nation when it comes to energy efficiency — a fact we may take for granted, but one that’s all the more remarkable given our consistently low utility rates.

Our challenge is to continue to establish a healthy balance between “carrot” and “stick” regulation. For example, Pacific Tower is the first building to go through the city’s alternate code path, which allowed it to meet strict energy targets and still adhere to historic building requirements. The project team could take advantage of this flexible regulation as long as they would prove, over the next few years, that the building met these energy targets.

We need more teams to deliver projects that push the market — and we need the regulatory support to do it.

Q: Where will growth come from locally in the next few years?

A: Two things aren’t going to change in the near future: our region’s drive for energy efficiency and sustainability, and our growing population. These two trends are linked; people are moving here in part because of our collective dedication to sustainability and the city’s “green” outlook.

We can count on these trends even when the construction industry slows during the next cyclical downturn. We lived that during the Great Recession, when our energy efficiency business kept growing even as new construction ground to a halt.

We’ve maintained a steady pace of growth at McKinstry, one that matches our belief in building a purposeful company that can weather downturns and still thrive during good times. Our diversified offerings allow us to find growth opportunities even as others slow down. We expect a similar trend over the next few years.

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