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Six Companies To Watch

Keeping an eye on 2011’s prospects, ENR California highlights five private firms and a public agency that are poised to lead the state

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California, like many other states, is facing severe economic challenges, especially in the construction industry. But with every challenge, there are companies and entities that rise above and take on leadership roles, finding success and persevering through every drop or dip. As 2011 begins to unfold, ENR California has looked at the industry and found representatives in the owner, contracting, architecture, engineering, vendor/supplier and subcontracting fields that fit this leadership-by-example role. The companies—and one public entity that has emerged as a high-profile employer—have experienced robust success in the past year and are entering the new year with the same amount of grit and determination. This list is not definitive and other firms may shine later this year, but these firms will definitely be looked upon as leaders. Though a couple of the firms are not headquartered in the Golden State, they have boosted their presence significantly in the past few years and have adopted the California building style, which concentrates heavily on green building, BIM, prefabrication and design-build.

Rendering Courtesy Of Fentress Architects
Fentress Architects Denver Created: 1980.
Founder: Curtis Fentress. Fentress recently won a contract to design the $750-million San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 expansion in association with John Portman & Associates and Civitas Inc.
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Iconic state projects in 2010 boost contractor’s prospects in 2011

Rick Millitello, Skanska USA’s executive vice president and area general manager, is optimistic about prospects for 2011 after a year filled with work on iconic California projects.

One such project that the company delivered is the $181-million, 80,000-sq-ft design-build Central Plant for the California Dept. of General Services. The 140-ft tall, metal-insulated checkered blue-and-white thermal-energy storage tank holds 4.25 million gallons of water that chills at night when rates are lower and uses it to cool 5.5 million sq ft in 23 state buildings in Sacramento’s downtown during the hot summer days.

Skanska also worked on a $146-million outpatient clinic at Palo Alto Medical Center in San Carlos and the $45-million West Hills Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, which includes the life-saving Grossman Burn Center. “There will continue to be a demand for health care,” Millitello says.

Skanska’s civil projects included transportation projects in San Bernardino and San Francisco. Millitello predicts that 2011 will bring even more design-build and integrated delivery project contracts.

“Instead of basing everything on the lowest bid, clients are looking for the lowest overall cost of the project,” he says. “They want to see the benefits of collaboration—including faster delivery.”

Millitello is also seeing more demand for prefabricated work because it adds value, safety and speed to a project by moving much of the work off-site where conditions can be better controlled.

Fentress Architects

Three huge state airport projects redefine design firm’s expertise

Curtis Fentress, principal-in-charge of design at Fentress Architects, labeled 2010 a “lucky” year for the firm for winning and completing high-profile projects. Of course, the American Institute of Architects’ Thomas Jefferson Award winner defines lucky as “where preparation and talent meet opportunity.”

The first half of that equation has involved positioning the company as experts in airport design.

In 2010 alone, Denver-based Fentress (with offices in Los Angeles and San Jose) was part of the team for the $1.2-billion Los Angeles International Airport terminal addition now under construction; the $1.1-billion Sacramento International Airport Big Build and the $750-million Mineta San Jose International Airport renovation/expansion. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, airport design has become a high-technology endeavor with redundant, sophisticated screening systems embedded behind the scenes to ensure safer travel.


Autodesk reseller and BIM consultancy firm expands service

The push to smooth out the learning curve for adopting building information modeling paid off for Costa Mesa-based U.S. CAD in 2010 as the Autodesk-authorized, value-added reseller and BIM consultant expanded its production service business.

“We saw a gap in the ability of architecture and engineering companies to adopt BIM with in-house staff, so we sent experts out to augment their staff,” says Daniel Hebert, U.S. CAD president. “This way they can meet owner requirements to use the tool, realize the efficiencies and train their staff at the same time—it fast-tracks BIM adoption.”

Hebert says the service was one the customers were asking for as the software is getting more powerful, feature-rich and, therefore, more challenging to learn.


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