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Renovation resurgence cuts across sectors

Giants 300 reconstruction sector firms 'pumping fresh blood in tired spaces.'

July 19, 2012 |
New Yorks Marble Collegiate Church, designed by Samuel A. Warner (completed 185

Reconstruction work is alive and kicking for many AEC firms. “Higher education is huge for us, and that sector just stopped spending when the recession hit,” recalls Mark DiNapoli, President and General Manager (Northeast Region), Suffolk Construction. “Now we’re seeing projects starting to take off.” Healthcare, science and technology, and commercial (office/retail/hospitality) are also coming back in the Northeast, he says, as clients “think about how to transform their existing buildings.”

“The reconstruction market has gotten much busier,” notes Karl Anoushian, Senior Vice President and Director of Preconstruction Services at Structure Tone. “The smart landlords, the financially stable ones, have timed the market and are pulling the trigger on deals.” The strategy: repositioning—reskinning exteriors to make them pop, sprucing up lobbies and core bathrooms, upgrading the lighting, air-conditioning, and elevators.


Mary Miano-Sleeper, Vice President/Director of Corporate Development in the Dallas office of PageSoutherlandPage, says the growth in the rehabilitation of “tired spaces” in Class B and B+ buildings is “due to the availability of capital that was on the sidelines waiting for distressed assets to be vetted and put back into play.”

Wight & Co. has been getting “a good share of our work out of renovations,” notably for college and K-12 structures of the ’60s and ’70s, says Ken Osmun, PE, LEED BD+C, DBIA, Group President, Construction. The work often entails adding air-conditioning, bringing buildings up to code, and restoring their original appearance.

 “Most of the activity we are seeing is in cities immediately adjacent to large cities,” says Mathew Dougherty, PE, Vice President, McShane Construction. High-density, mixed-use urban infill developments with substantial upgrading and direct access to public transportation remain “highly popular with both tenants and developers,” he says.


AEC firms have to help clients capture available funds, such as historic tax credits, says Suffolk’s DiNapoli. “We provide detailed cost information every month so that they can collect their funds,” he says. “We’re much more involved at an early stage on these projects, to help with financing.”

In older cities like Boston, infrastructure usually has to be upgraded when a building is renovated. “The utilities are requiring transformer vaults inside the buildings instead of pad-mounted transformers,” says DiNapoli. That’s a hidden cost the client has to absorb, but it’s necessary to help prevent brownouts.

AEC firms are making the business case for reconstruction. Wight & Co. recently completed the renovation of a 70-year-old college residence hall that came in at one-third the cost of new construction. “Our clients have limited budgets, so renovation can help them manage their resources,” says Osmun.

Structure Tone’s global procurement process provides dollar savings and accelerated product delivery for clients. The firm also uses its contractor-controlled insurance program and subcontractor qualification process to hold down costs. “We’re big in cost segregation, which can have real tax advantages for the owner,” says Anoushian, whose firm does 800-900 reconstruction projects a year. “We try to offer the client the best savings over the life of the project.”


For a 420-bed hostel in Boston, Suffolk laser-scanned the interiors of all six floors of a landmark building and created a Revit-based BIM model that informed the design. “In reconstruction, the unknown is more important than the known,” says DiNapoli. “We need to provide clients with as much information as possible, set budgets with appropriate contingencies for unknowns, and plan, plan, plan.”

“We’re doing animated flythroughs on our renovation jobs, using Revit and 3D, to articulate to clients what they’re actually going to get,” says Osmun. “There may be piping that will affect actual ceiling height, or a column that can’t be removed. This helps establish client expectations more realistically, before we start the work.”

Structure Tone routinely uses geothermal and ice-storage technology on office renovations. “Major financial institutions have huge data demands, and you have to keep their data centers at 60 degrees” [Fahrenheit], says Anoushian.


“The second half of 2012 will continue to show slow but steady growth in reconstruction,” says PageSoutherlandPage’s Miano-Sleeper.

“After dropping their fees just to retain their people, subcontractors are trying to make a recovery,” says Suffolk’s DiNapoli. “We’re definitely seeing price escalation from subs, 6-8%, and it’s been a little startling for our clients—and for us.”

Wight & Co.’s Osmun says, “Our estimators are saying it’s a 2% increase overall in the last year. We have to sharpen our pencils more than ever. We have to be smart, and we can’t make a mistake in the field.”

“Firms need to develop ways to meet client needs for remodels and expansions,” says D. Bruce Henley, AIA, LEED AP, DBIA, Principal/Office Director with Dewberry. “It will mean survival for many.” +


Rank Company 2011 Reconstruction Revenue ($)
1 HOK 133,348,629
2 Cannon Design 93,000,000
3 EYP Architecture & Engineering 48,332,935
4 SmithGroupJJR 44,275,000
5 ZGF Architects 38,566,000
6 Gresham, Smith and Partners 27,662,548
7 PageSoutherlandPage 27,585,000
8 Perkowitz+Ruth Architects 26,910,000
9 RSP Architects 26,190,000
10 EwingCole 25,500,000
11 Corgan Associates 23,850,000
12 CTA Architects Engineers 23,276,400
13 Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners 22,700,000
14 FRCH Design Worldwide 21,690,000
15 RBB Architects 20,370,000
16 S/L/A/M Collaborative, The 17,764,184
17 Reynolds, Smith and Hills 16,800,000
18 BSA LifeStructures 15,860,773
19 Albert Kahn Family of Companies 14,000,000
20 Swanke Hayden Connell Architects 12,500,000
21 Fletcher Thompson 12,300,000
22 Baskervill 11,412,700
23 CASCO Diversified Corp. 11,000,000
24 Wight & Co. 10,027,500
25 Ennead Architects 9,944,000



Rank Company 2011 Reconstruction Revenue ($)
1 URS Corp. 1,945,200,000
2 Jacobs 1,810,600,000
3 STV 275,000,000
4 Stantec 235,000,000
5 Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates 64,080,000
6 Dewberry 63,384,145
7 Middough 51,750,000
8 Simpson Gumpertz & Heger 41,490,000
9 Syska Hennessy Group 40,121,834
10 Thornton Tomasetti 31,708,579
11 Henderson Engineers 31,000,000
12 Eaton Energy Solutions 30,374,875
13 Sebesta Blomberg 30,271,508
14 Science Applications International Corp. 28,696,000
15 Clark Nexsen 20,407,051
16 RMF Engineering 20,403,000
17 H&A Architects & Engineers 18,750,730
18 Rolf Jensen & Associates 16,000,000
19 Michael Baker Jr., Inc 15,184,500
20 Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers 15,100,000
21 Dunham Associates 13,500,000
22 TLC Engineering for Architecture 13,463,203
23 Degenkolb Engineers 11,920,636
24 Henneman Engineering 10,800,000
25 Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers 9,707,771



Rank Company 2011 Reconstruction Revenue ($)
1 Gilbane Building Co. 2,149,930,000
2 URS Corp. 1,945,200,000
3 Jacobs 1,810,600,000
4 Structure Tone 1,699,180,000
5 Turner Corporation, The 1,476,646,000
6 Shawmut Design and Construction 465,000,000
7 Holder Construction 350,000,000
8 Swinerton 326,929,500
9 Suffolk Construction 238,619,421
10 Walbridge 216,975,000
11 Ryan Companies US 210,943,550
12 Power Construction 207,000,000
13 Weitz Co., The 179,880,756
14 Walsh Group, The 161,205,219
15 W. M. Jordan Co. 137,277,920
16 O’Neil Industries/W.E. O’Neil 130,140,000
17 Bernards 113,894,000
18 KBE Building Corp. 102,083,867
19 EMJ Corp. 100,905,397
20 Robins & Morton 89,106,900
21 Clayco 82,000,000
22 Layton Construction 75,200,000
23 Hunt Construction Group 75,000,000
24 Kitchell 71,070,000
25 Doster Construction 66,202,115
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