Evolving into more comprehensive design-build services was the driver behind CannonDesign’s recent merger with gkkworks, an integrated planning, design, and construction firm.
Founded in 1991, gkkworks employs 120 people in its offices in Irvine, Pasadena, and San Diego, Calif.; Denver; and Pune, India. (CannonDesign has an office in Mumbai.) Its annual revenue ranges from $50 million to $60 million.
Praful Kulkarni, president and CEO of gkkworks, says his goal has been to “create a firm with multiple professionals to customize the design process.” He notes that his company’s progressive design-build delivery model is promulgated on the belief that “architecture and construction are inseparable.”
Kulkarni’s new title at Cannon Design is director of integrated services, focused on advancing the combined firm’s design and construction capabilities.
Praful Kulkurni is now Cannon Design's director of intergated services, focused on the firm's design and construction capabilities. Image: courtesy of Cannon Design
Last year, Fast Company magazine recognized CannonDesign as one of the 10 most innovative architectural firms in the world. CannonDesign became acquainted with gkkworks through a “client connection,” says Brad Lukanic, AIA, LEED AP, CannonDesign’s growth-minded CEO.
Merging with gkkworks expands CannonDesign’s west-coast partnerships and moves the firm into the hospitality sector. Lukanic further explains the rationale behind this merger by stating “we’re finding that the industry is really hungry for alternative delivery methods. When there’s a single source of delivery, fewer mistakes are made.”
Cannon Design got into integrated modular design two years ago. Based on post-occupancy studies that CannonDesign has conducted on those subsequent projects, its delivery model is reducing delivery times by 28%, lowering costs by 20%, and reducing material waste by 30%. Kulkarni observes that these results “rest on involving the construction company at the point of selection.”
Deb Sheehan, Cannon Design's Executive Director-Firmwide Strategies, is looking forward to her company working earlier with subs and suppliers. Image: Cannon Design
Merging with gkkworks extends CannonDesign’s delivery reach to the supply chain, says Deb Sheehan, CannonDesign’s Executive Director-Firmwide Strategies. The company is already collaborating with GCs, and has started to include large subcontractors such as Hill Mechanical in early design discussions. Sheehan speaks enthusiastically about working sooner with suppliers and subcontractors to get costs down.
When asked why more firms should go the IDP route, Kulkarni cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that, he says, set “an impossibly high bar” for the accuracy of design drawings. In any disputes among building team members or with clients, that ruling “became a defensive position.” But when design and construction are integrated, “you no longer have these disputes.”
Since joining Cannon Design in 2016, CEO Brad Lukanic has been acquisition minded. Image: Cannon Design
“I believe our firm can play a vital role in a unified approach, as clients seek integrated solutions that link a project’s design and delivery phases,” says Lukanic. “By breaking traditional boundaries, our firm seeks to delivery every project aspect—from shaping the design experience to final construction.”
Its merger with gkkworks brings to 24 the number of offices Cannon Design operates. Over the next several months, Cannon Design and gkkworks will be combining their respective operations, “especially in California,” says Lukanic.