The Miller|Hull Partnership

Specialty: Public works buildings, residential

Management: Ron Rochon, managing partner; David Miller and Robert Hull, founding partners; Norman Strong, Craig Curtis, Sian Roberts, Scott Wolf, partners

Founded: 1977

Headquarters: Seattle

2009 revenues: $11 million

Projected 2010 revenues: $18 million

Current projects: The Bullitt Foundation’s Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction in Seattle; University Center at Seattle Pacific University; Hands on Children’s Museum in Olympia; South Tacoma Community Center; San Ysidro Land Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico

Photo by Raul J. Garcia Architecture
Miller Hull designed Cascadia Community College’s Center for Global Learning and the Arts in Bothell.

The Miller|Hull Partnership has had a really good year, thanks in large part to two new projects. But Ron Rochon, managing partner, said the firm’s focus on relationships and its willingness to try new things are the underlying drivers of the firm’s success.

It won one project — design of a new music space and recital hall for Seattle Pacific University — in part because of a long-term relationship with the owner. Miller Hull is teamed up with Boston firm Bruner/Cott and should finish design on the $50 million project in late 2011. It has been working on it steadily for about 16 months.

It won another major project — the General Services Administration’s San Ysidro Land Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana — because of its flexibility in trying new things in tough times. At the end of 2008, the firm won an indefinite quantity/indefinite delivery contract with GSA, meaning it was added to a select group of architectural firms around the country pre-approved for work with the agency.

The contract allowed it to be in the running for San Ysidro, a multi-phase project targeting net-zero energy with a $400 million construction budget. The firm recently completed the first phase of work and should be involved with the project for the next five years.

“With the GSA, it was something we had never tried before. We never believed anything this significant would come from it,” Rochon said. “It’s absolutely a game changer for us, just in terms of the sheer scale of it and the ability to do a project this big with the GSA, the biggest landlord in America.”

The work allowed Miller Hull to hire 18 people in 2010, mostly architectural staff. Its revenues also increased significantly. That’s not to say the firm hasn’t felt the affects of the recession. At the beginning of 2009, it laid off 10 percent of its staff.

An “ego-free” attitude, collaborative approach to design, and diversity of client type and of public and private work has also helped Miller Hull. Rochon said the hardest-hit firms did a few things really well but when those areas went south, so did business. He said he is hopeful for the industry in general as firms the size of Miller Hull or bigger are starting to pick up work.

Looking forward

Rochon said public-sector projects are lagging, though the firm has recently seen a slight uptick in RFQs coming out. People are doing a lot of planning. “There aren’t a lot of real projects right now but there are certainly a lot of people preparing to get into design as soon as they feel that things are financially right for them,” he said.

Since it has a strong backlog of work, Miller Hull is looking strategically at what it wants to pursue in 2011, rather than “scatter-shooting.”

Rochon said San Ysidro’s size, the firm’s first recital project with Seattle Pacific University and the intense sustainability requirements of the Bullitt Foundation’s Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction expand the firm’s resume.

“Our whole goal is to come out of this recession stronger than when we went into it,” he said, “We’re forecasting that we’re going to meet our revenue goals for 2010 and 2011 at this point.”

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