Specialty: Commercial, retail centers, tenant improvements, industrial facilities, schools, churches, storage facilities and custom residences
Pedro Castro, president and founder of Redmond’s Magellan Architects, said the firm is braving the economic downturn so far thanks to its diversity of project types, its flexibility and the fact that residential work makes up only about 10 percent of its revenue.
“I started in a downturn as well with the collapse of 2000 and then September 11, so I am used to a rainy season,” said Castro, whose father was also an architect. “We are able to thrive in a bad economy because we’re a flexible company.”
Weathering the storm
Castro said one of the firm’s retail projects in Chehalis was put on hold because of the current market but he is confident that work in the Interstate 5 corridor will remain strong. The firm is finishing a retail building in Burlington, designing another building in Lacey and working on fitness clubs for Thrive in several locations along the I-5 corridor.
Castro said the firm is also well-positioned to weather the storm thanks to its unique philosophy that’s based more on client satisfaction than on the design work itself, and that pays off during tighter times.
“My vision was, let’s put customer service and client satisfaction as the goal, usually the design will follow,” Castro said. “I love design, but design should not be the first thing.”
He said he took inspiration from local firms like Nordstrom, Starbucks and Costco in creating the policy. The firm gets more than 80 percent of its work from repeat business from clients such as Bartell Drugs, Bank of America, Microsoft and Thrive Fitness. The firm also benefits from a diversity of staff, and that makes it more flexible, Castro said. Magellan was recently named minority business of the year by the University of Washington Foster School of Business.
High insurance costs
Castro said he is seeing an increase in team-build projects and expects to see more of them in the future. He said the design-build approach does a good job of letting architects and contractors collaborate early to maximize efficiency and minimize errors. But he said it doesn’t do as well as team-build at clarifying liability.
“One issue that’s been horrible with our industry is lawsuits against architects,” Castro said. “The small guys starting a business, they can’t even afford (the liability insurance coverage).”
He said he now pays the equivalent for a junior architect’s salary toward liability protection, and the firm has never had a claim against it.
“Now, everybody is sue-happy and the architect is a really easy target,” Castro said.
Castro said one area the firm is hoping to expand in is the biotech sector. He said that is a strong and growing market right now.
Magellan has 14 employees, counting part-timers and consultants.
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