An Eye For Detail
Kirtley-Cole Associates LLC delivers iconic structures for Washington state leaders
When it comes to construction, no one likes surprises. “Unforeseen risks—like a delayed permit or an environmental or site accessibility issue—can financially impact a project with schedule delays and change orders. Kirtley-Cole Associates LLC is keenly focused on searching out, discovering and managing those risks so clients have a high degree of confidence in their project decisions,” says Scott Lindley, Director of Business Development.
Headquartered in Everett, Washington, the midsize general contractor heads up new construction, tenant improvement and historic renovation projects throughout the state. Established in 1973, the firm serves a wide array of markets, including aerospace, industrial, manufacturing, faith-based, health care, independent and public education, multifamily, LEED/sustainable, office and retail.
According to Lindley, the company provides the sophistication of a larger firm with the agility and nimbleness of a smaller firm. “We employ systems like construction management software for detailed tracking of project documentation and job costs, as well as building information modeling and virtual design and construction technology that improves quality and reduces costs,” he says. “We combine these powerful systems typically found at larger firms with the attentiveness found at a much smaller company.”
He cites an example of a nearly 100,000-square-foot tenant improvement for Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems in Kirkland. “We converted two existing buildings, which were originally constructed five years prior, into a new facility that houses office space, cabin electronics, production, testing and engineering services, shipping and receiving and material storage areas,” Lindley says. “Through the use of building information modeling, we could map out existing structural components and review the new design in a three-dimensional format. The technology helped us more efficiently design and construct the new facility.”
Lindley says that as the construction industry evolves, technology continues to play a bigger role. “When you utilize systems like building information modeling, you can better identify and mitigate risks and omissions before you ever start building in the field. These technology tools help to prevent mistakes.”
While technology is a definite help, Kirtley-Cole’s team is painstaking in its attention to detail. “Our people spend the time to go through drawings with a fine-tooth comb,” Lindley says. “A project engineer might spend eight hours comparing architectural and structural drawings to make sure they line up. We put in that extra time upfront to find potential issues so the client can make informed decisions.”
With projects that range from $1 million to $25 million, and average $6 million, Kirtley-Cole is intentional in its choices. “We may only do 12 projects a year, and increasingly these are new construction projects that take anywhere from 11 to 18 months,” Lindley says. “We enjoy the complexity involved in building a structure from the ground up.”
One of the Kirtley-Cole’s standout projects is the 57,000-square-foot, three-story National Nordic Museum in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. “This museum celebrates the five Nordic cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden,” Lindley says. “It’s a cultural center that is very meaningful to the Nordic community.”
The museum was designed by renowned architects at Mithūn in Seattle, according to Lindley, and was funded through private donations collected over a decade. “We worked closely with the client to maximize dollars and provide as many design elements as possible within the confines of the budget,” he says. A head of state from each Nordic country was present at the museum’s grand opening in 2018. “It was exciting to work on something so iconic that will be enjoyed by millions of people each year.”
The company is also proud of its work with local nonprofits, including Cocoon House, Housing Hope and HopeWorks, which work to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness. The firm partnered with Cocoon House to construct The Hub, the nonprofit’s nearly 32,000-square-foot facility that gives homeless youth a safe place to sleep, as well as access to services that teach life skills.
For HopeWorks, an affiliate of Housing Hope, Kirtley-Cole constructed a four-story, 67,000-square-foot building, including structured underground parking. The building features 65 affordable-housing units, as well as a community hub and training academy, and is targeting International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and LEED certifications. “This new facility provides shelter and training space to help get people back on their feet,” Lindley says.
Kirtley-Cole has partnered with Housing Hope for more than 20 years. The firm organized and hosted a golf tournament to benefit the nonprofit in 2019. “We’ve also done this for the YMCA in the past,” Lindley says. “It’s a great opportunity to bring together subcontractors, suppliers and local firms for a fun day that helps a great organization.”
In addition to its nonprofit and civic work, Kirtley-Cole has been active in the construction of charter schools and independent learning centers such as Hamlin Robinson School, the only nonprofit school in Washington dedicated to educating students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. “The design of the building enables students with varying learning challenges to focus and perform at their potential,” Lindley says.
Diverse PROject Opportunities
Kirtley-Cole’s team of 40 employees is tight-knit, according to Lindley. “Our team has good chemistry and works well together—both in and outside of the office.” In addition to the golf tournament to benefit Housing Hope, employees participate in rafting trips, hockey games and chili cookoffs. “Employees pay to enter their chili with the proceeds donated to the local food bank,” he says. “We like to hang out and get together for an event every couple of months.”
Convincing the best and the brightest to work for Kirtley-Cole is an easy sell, says Lindley. The company recruits project engineers from the University of Washington, Washington State University and Central Washington University and partners those new hires with seasoned mentors who give them a comprehensive understanding of the industry. “With a larger company, a new hire might get stuck in a cubicle focused on one small aspect of construction. At Kirtley-Cole, that project engineer or project superintendent is given a fair bit of responsibility and has the opportunity to wear different hats and work in a variety of market segments.”
In addition to college graduates, Kirtley-Cole’s team includes those from a variety of backgrounds. “We have subcontractors who have come on board and those who have joined us from other industries. Our team is organized, motivated and logical and has an eagerness to learn and an attention to detail,” Lindley says.
As Kirtley-Cole moves into the future, the company is confident that its capabilities and nimbleness will continue to produce great work for its clients. “Our mission is to partner with successful business leaders who are investing in the future of their communities. We are proud of the work we do, and we are so grateful to work with such wonderful clients,” Lindley says.