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May 23, 2013

Construction Q&A -- Bob Adams


Company: Guy F. Atkinson Construction

Title: Regional vice president

Bob Adams has been at Guy F. Atkinson Construction ever since he graduated from the University of Washington with an engineering degree.

That was 43 years ago.

He has spent a chunk of his career crisscrossing the map, including stops in Canada, Venezuela and Southern California, where he worked on a nuclear plant.

For the past 20-plus years, Adams said he has been building up operations in the Northwest, where the company serves mainly public-works clients.

Atkinson is the AGC of Washington’s 2013 grand award winner for its work on the Bellevue Braids project, which involved building “braided” ramps to separate vehicles entering and exiting Interstate 405.

The DJC asked Adams about the project and other construction-related topics. Here are his responses, edited and condensed.

Growing up, what convinced you to go into construction?

My family lived on a number of the hydroelectric plants that my father supervised. I developed a strong interest in the workings of the dams and powerhouses that matched the type of work Atkinson was performing at the time I graduated.

What was biggest challenge Atkinson faced with the Bellevue Braids?

The project was performed under a design-build contract with WSDOT. It required the top talent of our company to work collaboratively with our designers, WSDOT and stakeholders in the community to develop creative solutions to improve the flow of traffic in the Bellevue area.

We were able to bring the best solutions to the table and execute an effective project that minimized impacts to traffic and the nearby Overlake Hospital while bringing added capacity online early.

What’s been your most interesting or unusual assignment?

Building the world’s largest dam at the time in Venezuela, where we lived in depths of the Amazon jungle for five years, learning a new culture and making lifelong friends. By far the most enjoyable assignment has been building teams in Seattle and watching our staff grow into well-rounded construction professionals.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Selecting and retaining good people is always at the top of the list of challenges in our industry.

How do see the construction industry changing in the coming years?

Here in central Puget Sound there is going to be a continued need for infrastructure construction to support the population growth. What remains to be solved is how to pay for it. We are currently working across the industry to promote new transportation revenues.

What’s something outsiders don’t understand about construction?

The construction industry is comprised of hard working, intelligent, creative people that enjoy the chance to work together to build things. I still get excited every time we can show off our work or participate in events like AGC’s Build Washington to share successes with our colleagues.

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