PCS Structural Solutions

Specialty: Education and health care structural engineering

Management: James Collins, Brian Phair, Dan Putnam, Don Scott, Craig Stauffer

Founded: 1965

Headquarters: Tacoma

2009 revenues: $7.5 million

Projected 2010 revenues:$8.2 million

Current projects: Seattle Children’s clinic and surgery center, Bellevue; University of Washington Phase 3, Tacoma; Aviation High School, Highline Public Schools; Hunt Middle School, Tacoma

Photo courtesy of PCS Structural Solutions
PCS Structural Solutions’ new Tacoma office at Pacific Plaza includes an auditorium designed to encourage collaboration.

It’s been a year of major changes at PCS Structural Solutions.

Next year promises to also be an important one for the firm, which is expanding into high-rise design work with its new patent-pending core wall coupling beam system for tall buildings.

“PCS is going to be in that market,” said vice president Brian Phair. “I think that is going to be the big surprise.”

New digs

This summer, the company moved into Pacific Plaza — a formerly homely parking garage that PCS and its project partners transformed into a $30 million, LEED platinum mixed-use project.

“Our new office is set up like no other,” said Phair. With their large dual screens, the auditorium and conference rooms were designed to encourage collaboration, especially the new integrated project delivery (IPD) process.

IPD, which brings engineers, general contractors and the end user into the planning process together, is the buzz of the industry. “It’s true — with a capital T — collaboration,” Phair said.

PCS’s embrace of IPD, which it is using on the $70 million Seattle Children’s clinic and surgery center in Bellevue, along with not-as-new technologies, such as Revit and Lean Design, demonstrates how the company is looking to the future, according to Phair, who is puzzled when he hears how some businesses say they are hunkering down to survive the recession.

“We are definitely not hunkering down,” he said.

Revenues going up

PCS projects a 9 percent hike in revenues next year.

“It’s really based off our backlog,” said Phair. Current year revenues “are holding steady and we think we can bring more work in.”

He anticipates that higher-education projects will do OK, and federal government work will continue. The U.S. General Services Administration has multiple requests for proposals out, and PCS has won a Veterans Administration project at the American Lake campus.

“The bid wildcard is K-12,” Phair said, adding many districts are expected to seek voter approval of bonds.

“We’re talking billions. I am hoping the public will pass those to not miss the value out there in the market. I have been saying schools are on sale, 30 percent off. The public is hopefully hearing that.”

Staff cuts

Like many, if not most, AEC firms, PCS has cut staff and made other cost-cutting moves. “There’s no sugar coating that,” Phair said.

Over the last year, the company cut staff by 25 to 30 percent. In addition, PCS did across-the-board salary reductions. He would not disclose the amount of the pay cuts but did say there were “double percentage cuts at the top.”

One saving grace is PCS’s diverse client list. The company has not had a client represent more than 8 to 10 percent of its revenue, and the roster is weighted evenly between the public and private sectors. “That’s been really helpful in a tight market.”

As for the new high-rise method that PCS is developing for launch at the end of the year, Phair said, “it is kind of our secret weapon. You will have to stay tuned on that.”

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