Specialty: Community-use facilities, affordable housing for public agencies and private not-for-profits

Management: Donald King, president and CEO, plus a team of five senior staff members (in transition from sole ownership to a partnership-held corporation)

Founded: 1985

Headquarters: Seattle

2006 revenues: $3.8 million

Projected 2007 revenues: $4.5 million

Current projects: Urban League Village at Colman School, which will house the Northwest African American Museum and 36 affordable housing units; the new home for the Asian Counseling and Referral Service Community Center; space planning for 500,000 square feet in the University of Washington Tower; program and project management for Seattle Public Schools’ $490 million Building Excellence III program

Photo by Cindy Kester/DKA
DKA is working on the Northwest African American Museum, which is part of the new Urban League Village under construction at Colman School.

Donald King, president and CEO of DKA, said more Seattle architects are working outside the country, giving smaller firms like his 24-person operation a greater shot at regional work.

“Everybody’s moving up,” he said.

King said the industry’s biggest challenge is finding talent in design, management or production during these busy times.

“It’s interesting as you begin to bring in the work, can you really provide the services that you want to clients,” he said.

Permit challenges

Another challenge facing development is the long time it takes to get a building permit in the Puget Sound region, King said. In Seattle, for instance, “sometimes it can take as long to get a master-use permit (and) a building permit as it does to build the project,” he said.

This impacts clients because construction costs can escalate as much as 20 percent in 18 months, he said. They need to set aside a contingency to cover those costs, he said.


King sees fast-tracking of projects as a trend: A developer builds as he gets each permit rather than waiting to get them all. But, “There’s a definite risk in it because you lock in a lot of decisions early,” he said. For example, if site work for a three-level parking garage is done early, and later the developer finds he needs another level, it’s going to be more costly and time-consuming, King said.

Another trend is developers seeking a master-use permit before the project design is done, he said. They’re also negotiating separate contracts for parts of a project, such as site work, to get it done during the best weather, before the overall larger contract is signed.

In some projects, the contractor is also more of a partner in the design process than he traditionally has been. This can save money, he said.

“You’re getting someone that’s buying into the construction documents with enough time to look at them,” he said. This method is being employed in DKA’s renovation of 22 affordable and special needs residences in mid- and high-rise buildings for the Seattle Housing Authority, he said.

Copyright ©2007 Seattle Daily Journal and DJC.COM.
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