Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Specialty: High-design civil engineering, and sustainability and structural engineering in 15 major building types

Management: Jon Magnusson, chairman and CEO; Ron Klemencic, president and principal; Brian McIntyre, chief operating operator; 15 market sector leader principals

Founded: 1923

Headquarters: Seattle

2006 revenues: $32.8 million

Projected 2007 revenues: $39 million

Current projects: Structural and civil engineering for Emergency Department Tower at Renton’s Valley Medical Center, Sheraton Seattle hotel expansion, Providence Everett Medical Center and Museum Plaza in Louisville, Ky.

Image courtesy of Luxigon
MKA is the structural and civil engineer for Museum Plaza in Louisville, Ky. The 1.6 million-square-foot mixed-use project was designed by Ramus Ella Architects and Kendall/Heaton Associates. It includes a public “island” hovering 23 stories in the air and a tower that reaches 63 stories.

Over the past few years, concerns of a slowing market have led Magnusson Klemencic Associates to turn down projects the firm would have loved to do, said Chairman and CEO Jon Magnusson.

Magnusson said MKA is being very strategic in the projects it takes on because it is working hard to not grow too fast to meet demands.

“We don’t want to overbuild our team,” Magnusson said. “We’re saying we’re not going to ramp way up and then face that correction.”

The firm has kept up a consistent employee growth rate of about 15 percent per year, Magnusson said. He said MKA is trying to model its growth after successful Seattle firms who learned to space out their delivery schedule to deal with the ebbs and flows of demand.

But he said some Seattle engineering and design firms are growing really quickly to meet building demand and that strategy may hurt them if a market correction does hit.

“I’m a little concerned,” Magnusson said. “I’ve seen a lot of people staffing up.”

Using BIM

Magnusson said building information modeling (BIM) is an excellent tool and the firm is increasingly doing projects, such as the Chicago Children’s Hospital, that are 100 percent BIM. But in order for it to work, everyone on the team needs to understand exactly how it is going to be used.

“There’s still lots of issues with what you actually model, who does the model, when the model is created and how to deal with some of the contractual and liability issues,” Magnusson said. “We work very hard at the beginning of the project to bring the whole team together and develop exactly what the scope of the modeling will be so that everyone can get a unified scope of the modeling.”

Teaching kids

Magnusson said his personal concerns about the engineering staffing shortage have led to his involvement with the ACE Mentor program, which pairs area high school students with architecture, engineering and construction professionals. As mentors in the program, the professionals work closely with the students in project teams that mimic real-world design. Magnusson said such early involvement is the best way to address the engineering shortage.

“By the time they’re in college it’s too late,” Magnusson said. “You really need to get them in high school and show them the excitement and the energy and the creativity that our industry is all about.”

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