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November 29, 2018

Survey: ZGF Architects

Image from ZGF Architects [enlarge]
This ZGF-designed office building in Sacramento will be one of the most energy efficient in the country.

Specialty: Commercial, mixed-use, healthcare, higher-education, urban planning, interior design, science and technology

Management: Design partners Todd Stine and Allyn Stellmacher

Founded: 1942; 1987 (Seattle office)

Headquarters: Portland

2017 revenues: $51 million

Projected 2018 revenues: N/A

Projects: Microsoft campus refresh, Redmond; Seattle Children’s Building Care, Seattle; Montana State University Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center, Bozeman

Todd Stine, design partner at ZGF, responded to questions about his firm and the industry.

Q: In the last year or so, has ZGF expanded or reduced its staff on the West Coast?

A: We have continually expanded our teams to meet the growing demand for our services. In Seattle, our staff grew by more than 7 percent last year, and our other West Coast offices experienced similar growth.

Q: Are there any new sectors for ZGF that have seen a particularly strong uptick?

A: The corporate/commercial office sector continues to keep us busy locally, including Expedia’s new headquarters in Interbay, Microsoft’s campus refresh in Redmond and the Clifford L. Allenby Building for the state of California in downtown Sacramento.

Governments in general are feeling the back end of the economic expansion, and their tax revenue streams are as healthy as they’ve ever been. Public-sector capital projects that may have been sidelined for many years are finally coming to fruition.

Despite some uncertainty at the federal policy level, the healthcare sector remains surprisingly robust.

Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the last couple years?

A: Across the board, senior experience is spread thin. During the previous economic downturn, there wasn’t sufficient growth in the ranks of mid-career professionals (the next generation of senior leadership). That’s challenging, not only on the design side and on the construction side, but also on the owner side. Everyone is trying to take advantage of the strong market, but everyone is stretched thin.

Also, the city of Seattle finds itself overwhelmed with the number of building permits it’s processing. Accommodating the city’s timelines for getting permits issued has been as big of a challenge as any in terms of keeping projects on track.

Q: Do you still see demand for highly sustainable developments, and if so what is contributing to that?

A: Yes, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, there is a much greater demand in the marketplace by office and multifamily tenants. People are looking to live and work in places where it’s healthier to live and work. This very much drives design decisions.

In the higher-ed realm, we’re seeing a groundswell of interest in sustainable campus design from incoming students (frankly, it’s become an expectation).

For the state of California’s net-zero energy Clifford L. Allenby Building in downtown Sacramento, and with the state of Washington’s LEED platinum-certified Helen Sommers Building in Olympia, our clients are setting a standard for what good stewardship of tax dollars looks like long-term.

Moving forward, the Well Building Standard and net zero will continue to get attention. Net-zero water design is something that I expect will see more adoption.

Q: Are we at a late stage in the building boom, or will the economy’s strength keep your business strong in the next few years?

A: The crystal ball is as cloudy as ever. We thought 2018 would show signs of a slowdown, and we really haven’t felt that yet. Early indications are that the first half of 2019 will continue to be strong. It will be interesting to see what happens politically.

The stock market appears to be coming back down to earth, which could lead to the tightening of capital.

Tariffs are certainly affecting the economics of our projects and the availability of materials. But we haven’t seen that cause a project to stop.

For now, we’re growing as fast as we can.

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