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November 29, 2018
Specialty: Structural engineering for buildings and vertical structures
Management: Craig D. Stauffer, president/managing principal, Seattle; Brian C. Phair, CEO/managing principal, Tacoma; Luke A. Heath, managing principal, Portland
2017 revenues: $14 million
Projected 2018 revenues: $16 million
Projects: 850,000-square-foot combined casino and parking structures, including concert halls and restaurants, for Emerald Queen Casino; 380,000-square-foot Tacoma Convention Center Hotel; WSU Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, with a unique structural system using steel and concrete for minimalistic vertical support
Craig Stauffer, managing principal and president of PCS Structural Solutions, answered questions from the DJC about his firm and trends and issues in the industry.
Q: Which sector of your firm’s work has grown the most in recent years? Where do you expect growth in the next few years?
A: We generally perform structural services weighted around 50-50 in private/public work. In 2017 our private sector growth was significant and made up over 65 percent of our workload. However, in 2018 we saw a shift back to public sector work, with almost a full swing to 65 percent of our work comprised of primary and secondary schools, higher education buildings, and other civic projects.
Q: You recently opened an office in Portland. What types of jobs are you getting there, and where is that market headed?
A: We have had an incredible response our first 11 months in Portland. We focused on health care and education as a start. We have numerous new schools in design, are working on five health care campuses, and were recently awarded seismic evaluations for 50 buildings.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face?
A: Right now, our biggest challenge is finding tenured new hires with four to eight years of experience. We would like to hire numerous engineers in Portland and also have openings in our Seattle and Tacoma offices.
Q: What can engineers, developers and government do to make the Puget Sound region more livable and sustainable?
A: There is a genuine need for affordable housing, and developers and governments are making strides to address that need while also trying to integrate sustainable practices. PCS Structural Solutions’ engineers are investing in prefabrication, cross-laminated timber, and even writing white papers to our clients on important industry issues such as steel tariffs.
Q: How are rising land costs in Seattle and Bellevue affecting what gets built?
A: The Seattle effect is starting to have a direct impact on cities outside our Seattle office. Land prices, as well as escalated labor costs in Seattle and Bellevue, are making it difficult to deliver projects that people can afford to live in. In recent years we have performed much of this work out of our Seattle office due to the proximity of the clients and projects. We’re experiencing opportunities to also perform this design work in our Tacoma office as developers are shifting some of their focus to South Puget Sound.
Q: What change would you like to see in the industry?
A: A unified definition of delivery methods and acceptance that one way isn’t always the right choice for every project. We are big proponents of integrated project delivery (IPD) and design-build; in fact, PCS was the first structural engineering firm in the Northwest to embrace IPD and a tri-party agreement over 10 years ago.
GC/CM and even public bid delivery methods can work just fine if the owner is comfortable with the process and the team works collaboratively.
Our design-build project resume has grown exponentially every year, and owners such as the University of Washington have done a great job making the delivery methods well defined and consistent.
We are still seeing owners try different delivery methods without really vetting the right one for the project. The good news is more collaboration is fantastic and the industry continues to head that way.