H. Thomas McDuffie, Jr., AIA, RIBA, is group vice president of Jacobs Global Buildings, whose 2,500 employees serve the federal, defense, justice, health, research, mission critical, education, retail, mixed-use, distribution, corporate, and commercial markets. Prior to joining Jacobs in 1992, McDuffie was president of Clark Tribble Harris and Li Architects. In 2007, he received the National SAME Urbahn Medal Certificate of Achievement. He is the author of the AIA Cornerstone "Building Information Modeling—A Case Study for Transforming a Traditional Practice Model into a Technology-enabled Integrated Practice Model." He holds a BArch degree from the University of North Carolina.
BD+C: What's the Jacobs strategy for getting through the recession?
Thomas McDuffie, Jr.: What's made this recession different from all previous ones is the banking crisis. We see a lot of AEC firms trying to diversify their services across markets, or trying to enter new markets. That's going to be difficult, due to the credit crunch, tougher competition, client demand to deliver consistently and globally, and the need to contain costs. Overall, the AEC industry is holding up pretty well, but I see continued consolidation of mid-size firms. More consolidation is going to happen all over the globe.
BD+C: Is Jacobs planning more acquisitions?
TM: We have an interest in all types of firms that could add to our skills base, geographic mix, and lines of business. About one-third of our growth comes from acquisitions. In any acquisition, we look at three core values: Is the company a relationship-based firm? Is growth imperative to them? And are the people driven to excellence? We treat each acquisition uniquely, and we work hard to understand the overall fit and to leverage the combined talent. The biggest mistake with acquisitions is when there's a problem with the cultural alignment.
BD+C: What about the employees of acquired firms?
TM: We let them know that they're joining a highly respected, well-funded, global, diversified company, where they could have opportunities to specialize, travel, take on the most challenging projects, and grow their careers.
BD+C: What markets are strong for Jacobs Global Buildings?
TM: The three bright spots are public-sector buildings and infrastructure in the U.S. and Europe, with continued DoD and other federal spending; aerospace and defense; and energy-related opportunities. Other bright spots are data centers, mission critical facilities, aviation, laboratory/R&D facilities, and healthcare program management and construction management. In Europe and the Middle East we are teaming with U.S. hospitals to look at strategies to address global growth.
BD+C: Where else are you succeeding?
TM: We're also finding adjacency opportunities from our presence in infrastructure. For example, one of our state highway clients just awarded us a project to improve the quality of building facilities along a major turnpike in the state. We see adjacencies with our other businesses, too, such as pharma and bio—master planning, programming, and planning new facilities. As an example, we're doing two new data centers for one of our pharma clients.
In the university arena, some of the emerging markets are energy master planning, campus energy grids, and alternative energy types.
We're also seeing interest in asset management, condition assessment, commissioning, and recommissioning, especially for public buildings.
BD+C: Are you getting a bump from the economic stimulus?
TM: Overall, the stimulus is going to have a positive impact on buildings, transit, etc. There's a substantial amount of proposal activity in the public sector market, but we have yet to see a material impact on our revenue. We look to benefit from the spending in the latter part of 2009 and into 2010. Will the stimulus heat up the economy? We hope so. We're actively engaged with the federal sector, and the volume of that business would not be there without the stimulus.
BD+C: Where is Jacobs on BIM adoption?
TM: It's here to stay. I mandated it in 2007 for our building projects. In our early projects, we even put in a BIM contingency, but it went unused. We're using Autodesk and Bentley. It's important that we stay flexible to meet client needs. We have 56 active contracts using BIM, and we've completed 40, and of those 40, the contractor is using our BIM model on 15 of the projects.
BD+C: What have you learned about BIM?
TM: We have three mandates: 1) start BIM early on every project, in mapping project scope and client expectations; 2) engage all the disciplines; and 3) embed schedule, costs, and constructability/safety into the 3D BIM design model. At this point, we have a 6D model. We're even looking at 7D, adding commissioning, maintenance, and operations, so the BIM documents can be used to support building maintenance and operations.