DKA Architecture

Specialty: Affordable housing and community, education and health care projects

Management: Chuck Clegern, Donald King and Rico Quirindongo

Founded: 1985

Headquarters: Seattle

2009 revenues: $5 million

Projected 2010 revenues: $4 million

Current projects: Construction management of Seattle Public Schools’ Building Excellence III program; design of Navos Mental Health Solutions’ outpatient clinic in Burien; site and facilities studies for Seattle Goodwill’s Dearborn Street project; mixed-use project with 16 units of housing and a new school for Catholic Housing Services and First Place; improvements to ranger stations in the Mount Hood National Forest

Rendering courtesy of DKA Architecture
DKA is designing renovations and additions to several ranger stations in the Mount Hood National Forest.

DKA Architecture, Seattle’s largest black-owned architecture firm, entered a new era this summer when company officials announced that two senior managers — Chuck Clegern and Rico Quirindongo — are buying the firm from founder Donald King. King will remain as CEO for at least another five years, but is freeing his time to do more design work.

Building relationships

“Short term, it has been more challenging to win contracts,” said Quirindongo, who talked about how DKA is competing against larger firms that previously didn’t go after smaller assignments. To maintain its market presence, DKA is focusing on existing relationships.

To persevere long term, the company has launched an initiative centered on collaboration. By doing things such as offering training on Revit BIM software, DKA hopes to foster relationships with contractors, designers and others in the industry. (A related story about this program in on page 9 of this special section.)

“The return is going to be slow, and (the industry) is never going to be what it was before,” said Quirindongo. “How we practice will never be the same.”

The new world he envisions would have like-minded designers and other consultants working near each another, perhaps in the same office with sole proprietors renting space from larger companies. The synergy could blossom into tenants and landlords pursuing business opportunities together while maintaining their independence. Quirindongo calls it “partnering in proximity.”

“I feel like we are well positioned in the market as a small, community-based firm,” said Quirindongo. The company is reaching out to large firms as well. DKA is working with general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis on some federal government design-build projects, and DKA hopes to build relationships with other contractors on similar size projects. “When larger (projects) present themselves, we’ll be in a good place to pursue work with them,” Quirindongo said.

Contraction coming?

Quirindongo expects the coming year will be one of contraction for DKA, though not due to the economy. DKA is the owner’s rep for Seattle Public School’s Building Excellence III program, a seven-project capital program worth $490 million. Seven of DKA’s 23 employees are working on that contract, and as schools are done the need for those employees’ services will diminish.

“I honestly don’t know what the future holds,” Quirindongo said. “We have a lot of prospects out there. If things work out and they come through, we’ll do fine.”

Besides government-funded projects, he thinks there will be opportunities for designers to work on energy retrofits, including extensive building envelope upgrades. Building codes are being updated to emphasize these functions, which DKA has been working on for 15 years.

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