Coughlin Porter Lundeen
Specialty: Civil, structural, seismic engineering
Coughlin Porter Lundeen has always relied on its project diversity to weather downturns in the real estate market. The firm, which specializes in architectural structures, does a bit of everything: schools, retail, hotels, offices, garages, hospitals, laboratories, pubic buildings, residential towers and historic renovation projects, to name a few.
So when the market is firing on all cylinders, things get busy.
“Everything is strong right now,” said principal Jim Coughlin. “It’s pretty unique for a consultant to be strong for so many categories. That was our goal when we started 12 years ago.”
He said the firm is handling the surging market by taking on projects selectively. The firm has been adding staff, too, growing from 65 employees to 80 in the last couple of years.
Market ready to cool?
The hot market likely won’t last forever, though.
Looking ahead, “it’s anybody’s guess,” Coughlin said. “We’re expecting the condo market to correct itself, at least in downtown Seattle and Bellevue,” where the pace of construction will slow down.
Retirement housing will continue to be popular, Coughlin predicted, as will commercial and mixed-use developments in the suburbs, citing Woodinville Village and Burien Town Square as examples.
More value engineering
With construction costs escalating, Coughlin said his firm is spending more time on value engineering. Public projects are particularly vulnerable to having to scale back their size and scope midstream.
Though rising materials costs are part of the problem, he said, busy contractors and subcontractors also account for a big chunk of the growing expenses.
“I would like to see the contractors have some added capacity,” he said. “I don’t hope for a downturn, but I would like to see things get a little more competitive.”
More complex projects
Sustainable design has become mainstream in recent years, Coughlin said. As a result, structures have become more complex, including requirements for natural light and ventilation.
Such complexity requires more coordination with other project team members, he said, which plays to the firm’s strength for being proactive.
“If it gets more complicated, bring it on. We’re ready.”
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