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September 27, 2018

Survey: Parametrix

Photo from Parametrix
Parametrix managed the design and construction of the 1.5-mile Calistoga Setback Levee in Orting to reduce the effects of flooding in the Puyallup Valley and restore 101 acres of salmon habitat.

Specialty: Water, transportation, community building, environmental planning and compliance

Management: Jeff Peacock, president and CEO; Roger Flint, COO; Holli Moeini, CFO

Founded: 1969

Headquarters: Seattle

2017 revenue: $86.96 million (firmwide); $32.61 million (environmental only)

2018 projected revenue: $95.7 million (firmwide); $35.8 million (environmental only)

Current projects: Managed design and construction of the Calistoga Setback Levee in Orting; designed, permitted and oversaw construction of a 2,600-gallon-per-minute groundwater pump and treatment system at the Port of Vancouver USA; designed two precast concrete box culverts and stream restoration to improve kokanee habitat in Zackuse Creek, King County

Jeff Peacock, president and CEO of Parametrix, answered questions about his company and trends in the industry. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is happening with funding for large infrastructure projects?

A: Demand for large infrastructure projects will continue to grow. The public’s willingness to fund those programs, however, may become increasingly strained.

Washington state’s reliance on the gas tax and voter approval for transit and roadway programs can only go so far. It is also unclear how tolling, congestion pricing, ride connecting and sharing programs, and emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence may influence future infrastructure projects.

The private sector is increasingly stepping forward to finance these types of programs and I think we’ll see more projects using public-private-partnership approaches so they can get built in a timely manner. We’re seeing this at the national level and it’s coming up here in Washington, too.

Q: What are trends in your industry locally and with your company?

A: The biggest trends today are driven by the strong economy generating increased demand for environmental and engineering services. Of course, that comes with a heightened need to keep and find the best talent. Effective retention and recruitment programs are critical.

Regarding specific markets, the Puget Sound region is in the middle of an unprecedented boom in transportation-related work. With that, related work in support disciplines like environmental assessment and cleanup, fish passage and utilities is also required.

On a larger scale, we’re seeing increasing realization of the impacts of climate change in the natural environment and its effect on the built environment. That growing trend will inevitably lead to stronger demand for integrating environmental and infrastructure services.

Overarching all this is the trend toward more and more projects being delivered through design-build or general contractor/construction manager approaches. Within that, owners are increasingly pushing project risks to the engineering and construction industry, something we’re all trying to manage in a thoughtful manner.

Q: Parametrix does sustainability planning and develops strategies for climate change adaptation. Which projects are you working on?

A: Parametrix is working with the Quileute Tribe of La Push to plan the tribe’s Move to Higher Ground program, out of the flood plain and tsunami zone. The impacts of climate change are felt deeply along the Washington coastline, as sea levels rise, and winter storms intensify — and the seasonal floods they cause — increase. The first relocation project is the Tribal School — currently just 20 feet above sea level, located precariously between the Pacific Ocean and the Quillayute River. The new 60,000-square-foot K-12 school will be out of harm’s way, on higher ground.

We helped the city of Orting mitigate the effects of climate change by designing and constructing a 1.5-mile-long setback levee, which also restored 101 acres of salmon habitat. Seven federally declared floods had impacted the city since 1990 and in 2006, the Puyallup River levee overtopped and ran through a nearby housing development, impacting hundreds of homes, three schools, businesses and city infrastructure. The new Calistoga Setback Levee survived its first big test in November 2014 when the fourth-largest flow since 1962 moved down the Puyallup River.

Q: You’ve been principal-in-charge of the Central Link and Lynnwood Link light rail projects. What’s the most important lesson?

A: Parametrix was the lead firm for the environmental impact statement for the Central Link. On the Lynnwood Link, it did the alternatives analysis and EIS in a joint venture with Parsons Brinkerhoff, now WSP.

The strongest lessons learned are to stay actively involved with what the project team is doing, where they are having the greatest challenges, and to regularly communicate with the client about their view of how things are going. Perhaps even more important, is to understand the client’s greatest concerns about the project and find ways to mitigate those concerns.

There is no substitute for active engagement with the team’s progress. When there are project issues or deadlines, I remind the team of our greater purpose — building the future of transportation and shaping communities within our region. Our partnership with Sound Transit to deliver the ST3 program is a prime example of this.

Q: Which services are most in demand? Where will growth be in the next five years?

A: Environmental and engineering services are in high demand now and barring an unforeseen shift in the economy, that will continue over the next five years. The services in high demand are related to exceptional project delivery, no matter what the technical discipline or delivery method may be. People and firms that consistently deliver projects on time, within budget and with no surprises will have as much work as they can handle.

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