September 19, 2018

Otak is honored to announce that two of our senior women have been named Women of Vision by the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce: Li Alligood and Tammi Connolly.

Li Alligood, AICP, LEED Green AP, is a senior planner and project manager who has mentored young women through the American Planning Association’s mentoring program; elevated Otak’s Green Otak (GO) Committee, which focuses on sustainable practices, operations, and training; and enjoys working with a large team of positive, sharp, committed professionals to build vibrant community spaces. Recently, she has worked as a senior planner on “The Fields,” a 264-unit affordable multifamily development and 100,000-square-foot office development in Tigard.

Principal Don Hanson believes his decision to hire Li is one of the best contributions he’s made in his 32 years at Otak. “Li’s exceptionable performance has upped our game on complicated projects and given both our team and our clients confidence that projects will be successful,” Don said. “Before joining Otak, Li did excellent work in the public sector on community-based planning initiatives. Li provides much of the glue that unifies our team moving forward.”

Tammi Connolly, P.E., ENV SP, is a water resources engineer with a true passion for helping others develop their technical and leadership skills. She’s a role model for young professionals through her commitment to diversity, sustainability, and community outreach. Tammi is on the board of Women Leading Water and chairs the annual Women in Leadership Symposium, a place for women to come together to talk about the challenges they face in the workplace, find ideas and support, and discuss how they can bring others along on the journey. She also co-chairs Otak’s GO Operations Subcommittee, coordinating sustainable operations at our offices, including composting, recycling, transit programs, and energy and water saving.

Tammi has been mentoring a young engineer, Jeremy Tamargo, P.E., for the past four years. “Tammi’s leadership manifests itself daily through her deeds, particularly her willingness and commitment to go above and beyond her job description to support team members. She always sets high standards, challenging team members to uncover latent abilities and talents which otherwise would remain untapped.” Jeremy concluded, “Tammi has made me feel like an appreciated and valued member of the team since my first day at Otak. Unsurprisingly, Tammi inspires a deep sense of loyalty and affection. I feel grateful to call her a mentor and a colleague.”

Otak is proud of Li and Tammi for what they have accomplished in their careers and for our communities. “Li and Tammi are with Otak not because they are women, but because they are leading professionals in our industry," said Jim Hamann, Otak’s CEO and president. "It’s our responsibility as a firm to ensure we continue to foster and increase our focus on establishing a culture of inclusion and equity for all. We look forward to the continued advancement of Li and Tammi, and all women in Otak, to make us a stronger and better firm in the future.” 

The Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce Women of Vision awards pay tribute to Oregon and Southwest Washington women who are shaping the built environment with their leadership, mentoring efforts, community involvement, and promotion of industry diversity. The awards ceremony will take place Oct. 18, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel.
Congratulations to Tammi and Li!

Community | Engineering | Oregon | Planning | Sustainability | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   September 18, 2018

The first phase of construction is wrapping up this month on the salmon-safe clean water retrofit that Otak designed at Mt. Hood Community College. This project, led by the Sandy River Watershed Council, will improve water quality and salmon habitat in Gresham’s Beaver Creek by treating 1.9 million gallons of polluted runoff per year. Older parking lots like this college campus were built without the stormwater treatment that is typically required in new development today. 

Otak’s water and natural resources engineers designed the retrofit project to treat as much runoff as possible while keeping costs down, minimizing loss of parking spaces, and protecting the mature trees that shade the parking lots. Stormwater swales and planters fit into slivers of available space, with drywells added to increase infiltration. A large raingarden creates the focal point of the retrofit, providing a visible opportunity to educate campus visitors about stormwater and watershed health. New signs designed by students will help spread the word about the project’s environmental benefits, and the City of Gresham installed devices to monitor water quality and flow rates before and after construction.

The project is funded by East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Metro regional government, the City of Gresham, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. In 2016 the partners came together to identify retrofit projects on the college campus that would maximize environmental benefits and public education opportunities. These parking lots got top priority and are expected to be the first of many future improvements. Mt. Hood Community College is the first Salmon Safe certified community college in the country, and the stormwater retrofits will help the college maintain its certification.

On October 27, volunteers will plant the portions of the project that were built by the nonprofit group Depave. Contractors for the project are Britton Excavating and Grow Construction. The second phase of the project is expected to be built next summer, pending funding. 

*Photo credits: Mt. Hood Community College

Engineering | Oregon | Sustainability | Water | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   August 24, 2018

Otak has joined a select group of leading firms on the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Sustainable Infrastructure Advisory Board (SIAB). SIAB works with the Zofnass program at Harvard University to identify approaches and metrics to measure and deliver sustainable infrastructure.

Founded in 2008 by Paul and Joan Zofnass, the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure develops and promote methods, processes, and tools that quantify sustainability for infrastructure. Its goal is to facilitate adoption of sustainable solutions for infrastructure projects and systems, and expand the body of knowledge for sustainable infrastructure. The program provides resources and tools and hosts events to facilitate sustainable project planning and design, as well as rate the sustainability of infrastructure projects.

Housed at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, the program is supported by the industry through the SIAB and by research foundations. The unique collaboration of academic experts and industry specialists led to the Zofnass Rating System, which has been integrated into the Envision™ system of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

“As charter members of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, this SIAB membership represents our ongoing commitment to sustainable infrastructure” said Jim Hamann, CEO and president of Otak. “We are recognized for the integrated expertise that crosses traditional barriers to create innovative solutions. We are proud of our successful track record of championing solutions that holistically encompass community livability and environmental sustainability.”


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   August 21, 2018

Employees began congregating in the lunchroom and adjacent conference room around 4:00 p.m. They lined up to fill their plates with food and their glasses with wine, beer on tap, or kombucha. After a busy day at work, it’s fun to relax with our coworkers.

Soon the attention was focused on the screen and Christina West and Nolan Dalman from the Architecture and Planning & Design teams, which hosted Wine-Down Wednesday’s brief program. We said goodbye to one of our summer interns, Nolan Dalman, and congratulated Otak’s two winners of the Daily Journal of Commerce Women of Vision awards: Li Alligood and Tammi Connolly.

First: a game! Employees viewed a series of project photos and competed to guess the name of the project. Was it the Beaverton High School gym repair and remodel; the Kronberg bridge, an elevated, meandering bridge through ecologically sensitive Kelly Creek; the new 22-story hotel and apartment tower in the Pearl District, Hyatt Place; or Yosemite Big Oak Flat visitor station? The first person who guessed correctly got a (fitting for the event) bottle opener.

Next: a rousing, quick game of Pictionary! Teams of two were called up and invited to draw, concurrently, the word on the piece of paper. The first team that guessed correctly went onto the next level of the tournament. Each team got just one try to get it right, but in the finals the best of three rounds won! All of the words related to Otak’s design and architecture work…bicycle lane, curtain wall, mass transit, rebar, crane…some of which challenged our creative attention. Creative Juices, the communications team (1/2 of which was a graphic designer), quickly learned it didn’t necessarily require drawing skills to win a round!

The winning team of Mandy Flett and Otho Belkhayat, titled “WOOOOW,” defeated the last remaining team from Marketing & Communications with the helpful name, “Don’t Eat Yellow Snow.”
Just another Wine-Down Wednesday in Otak’s Portland office, where every other month, we enjoy hanging out with our colleagues and laughing at ourselves!

After Hours | Community | Fun | Life @ Otak | Oregon | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   August 13, 2018

Congratulations to the U Champion team, an amazing trio of students who participated in the 16th annual OAME Youth Conference.

Five Otak employees participated in this great event. Stephen Wasserberger, senior project manager with DAY CPM (a division of Otak), coached the U Champion team, which took first place!

Each team of young people developed their own product or service from concept to presentation. They conceptualized a need for a product or service, came up with a name, branded it, made a promotional video in only 20 minutes, and developed and made a final presentation. They needed to consider how to allocate $5,000 of seed capital, advertising, marketing, pricing, and most of all, how to add a “secret sauce.” A panel of judges evaluated the teams’ presentations, similar to the TV show “Shark Tank.”

“I very much enjoyed working with the students,” said Stephen Wasserberger. “They are a remarkable group of kids with a strong future ahead of them.”

The winning U Champion team came up with a service to help student athletes who might not be recruited by top-tier colleges and universities. U Champion would match young people with the right divisional levels and help first-generation athletes and their families navigate the scholarship process. The service would advocate for students in what can be a stressful and complicated process.

The U Champion team consisted of Michelle (pursuing her master’s degree in counseling), high school student Myles, and middle school student Isaiah. Stephen assisted this team with Phil Miller of Fortis Construction and two people from Hoffman Construction.

“Sponsor support is critical to maintaining successful programs that champion education of our youth,” said Stephen. “I am proud to be a part of Otak/DAY CPM’s commitment to mentoring the leaders of tomorrow.“ 

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   August 7, 2018

Redmond office picnicThe Otak Redmond Office celebrated summer with a picnic at OO Denny Park on Lake Washington in Kirkland on Saturday.

Our staff, their partners, kids, and dogs had tons of fun in and out of the water. There were tippy canoes and BBQ too. No one got arrested, no one went to the ER, and no one got left behind – so all and all a good day.

View more photos on Otak's Facebook page.

After Hours | Community | Fun | Puget Sound | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   July 16, 2018

(Photo courtesy of the City of Twin Falls)

The residents of Twin Falls, Idaho, gathered to celebrate the opening of their new Downtown Commons last week. Otak designed a major reconstruction of seven blocks of downtown streets and a new public plaza next to city hall.

A professional base jumper parachuted into the street to kick off the festivities, city leaders shared their excitement in these new amenities, and it was rumored that the mayor was one of many to partake of the new splash pad and fountains during the festivities. Children and adults frolicked and splashed in the plaza’s central feature to escape the 90-degree heat.

The Downtown Commons also includes artwork, a beautiful walkway with landscaping, a special events space, and a restroom and storage building. The Main Avenue streetscape, also designed by Otak, was completely rebuilt from building face to building face with new sidewalks, public gathering spaces (including stretches of curbless festival streets specifically designed for events and markets), on-street parking, furnishings, lighting, trees, landscaping, and other features.

Otak principal, Mandi Roberts, and an integrated design team made up of Otak civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban designers, has worked with the City since 2014 when the planning stage began. “Seeing the Downtown Commons come to life has been gratifying to me because Twin Falls is where generations of my family lived,” said Mandi.

Mandy Werbeck Flett, another member of Otak’s project team, grew up in Twin Falls and supported the robust community and stakeholder engagement program that helped shape the design. “We worked hard to help the community visualize how downtown could once again become the vibrant, active heart of the community like it once was decades ago. It was incredibly rewarding to work with residents to come up with a design that is helping transform their hometown and build a stronger community. Judging from the turn-out at the grand opening and feedback from many residents, the community is embracing and loving the new improvements, and we are really proud of that.”

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   July 14, 2018

Congratulations to the City of Golden, Colorado, which received a Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association (APWA) for its Linking Lookout project. Otak worked as structural engineer-of-record to develop the design, construction phasing, and construction cost estimates for this $30 million project.

Linking Lookout is a beautiful and user-friendly path linking Golden and the communities at the base of Lookout Mountain, while helping bicyclists, pedestrians, and cars safely cross over US 6. The project is part of the City’s overall approach to transportation, designing highways that meet regional mobility needs and unite the community.

Otak worked with the City of Golden, Kraemer North America, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and Colorado School of Mines to design the two-span, 160-foot-long by 280-foot-wide structure, which serves as an urban park as well as a major multi-modal transportation conduit. When the design team learned that hundreds to thousands of bike riders crossed US 6 each day, the design team knew that no ordinary interchange would do. Because there would be no other chance in a hundred years to do it right, it was a “Designable Moment.”

The team took the opportunity to create an urban park setting, with up to 10 feet of fill and trees added on top of the bridge deck, along with picnic tables, park space, and a small amphitheater. In addition to reconnecting the community, providing recreational amenities, and enhancing pedestrian and bike safety, the environmentally friendly project also improves traffic flow and air quality and reduces noise.

The design not only improves service for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, but it also improves connectivity from the residential areas on the west side of US 6 to the Colorado School of Mines campus east of US 6. It also increased safety for what used to be Golden’s most accident-prone intersection: 19th Street and US 6. Now US 6 is an underpass and vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians cross safely over the busy highway on their way between downtown Golden and other local destinations, including the Colorado School of Mines and Lookout Mountain.

Peter J. Loris served as the project manager for the LORIS and Associates team. Senior LORIS project manager Dan Beltzer, PE, and former LORIS bridge engineer Sarah Navarro, PE, provided the structural design. The project previously won the 2017 Innovative Transportation Solution of the Year award from the Women’s Transportation Seminar.

Colorado | Engineering | Otak Denver | Transportation | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   July 2, 2018

Otak’s Redmond and Everett offices have an active fun committee that hosts engaging, entertaining events that build office camaraderie. It’s always more fun to work with your friends! Here are eight things we’ve learned about Puget Sound employees:

1. They like to learn about different cultures. Redmond employees celebrated the Chinese New Year with a luncheon and calligraphy demonstration. Employees had their names written in Chinese, thanks to Curtis LaPierre, Eva Ho, and Tasha Wang. They had a potluck with green smoothies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Pi Day, and on Cinco de Mayo, they celebrated Mexican culture with an office-wide potluck.

2. They love their dogs even more than your average Otak employee. Yes, the Portland office has a “bring your dog to the office” policy, but they allow only one dog per day! At the second annual Puget Sound camping trip in June, the 18 campers had 5 dogs among them. This ratio proudly exceeds Otak’s minimum factor of 1 dog for every 3 humans.

3. A little rain doesn’t dampen their spirits. Although the weather was mostly beautiful on the camping trip at Baker Lake near the North Cascades National Park, the campers were not deterred by a little shower. They enjoyed hiking, biking, rope swinging, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, swimming, floating on the lake, playing lawn games, hammocking, and a trip to the local Birdsview Brewing Company!  The coworkers and friends are already looking forward to next year.

4. Wearing ugly shoes = bonding. Eighteen Redmond employees and friends bowled the night away at Kenmore Lanes this past March.  The night included some amazing strikes and some unfortunate gutter balls.  In the end, there was plenty of pizza and beer to drown our sorrows or celebrate our successes!

5. The office that bikes together stays together! The Redmond office has an outstanding bike-to-work program and 5 active cyclists. Otak has received three grants from the City of Redmond to purchase seven bicycles, a large storage rack, helmets, and basic bike tools, in addition to funds for commute-trip reduction and motorized vehicle reduction activities. Many employees ride their own bikes to work, and anyone can reserve an Otak bike if they haven’t ridden their bike in. Employees have monthly cycling events for lunch, coffee, ice cream, happy hour, and outdoor concerts at the Chateau St. Michelle winery.

6. They’ll look for any excuse for ice cream! Nine Redmond employees hopped on their bikes on Thursday, June 21, to celebrate the summer solstice at Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.

7. Whiskey is even better than ice cream. Following up on a wine-tasting event last year, the Redmond Fun Committee hosted a whiskey tasting to showcase the different tastes inherent to different whiskey styles and regions! At least 37 attendees tasted 5 different whiskeys (a bourbon, a Highland Scotch, an Irish, a local rye, and a local single malt) in a pre-poured side-by-side comparison. Pairing food and whiskey may not sound as straightforward as food-pairing wine, but the Redmond office consumed almost 7 pounds of cheese (a half-dozen varieties), which were paired with bread and apples, and of course, various chocolates.

8. Even better when we enjoy projects we’ve designed! In May, employees enjoyed a bike and walking tour of the Redmond Central Connector Trail, which Otak designed and supported during construction. The Redmond office now has seven bikes that employees can rent for bike rides to meetings or for fun outings with coworkers, courtesy of a Go Redmond Grant, and some of the regular bike-muters take this trail to and from work – bringing this regional facility full circle.

Check out our open jobs at Otak to come join in the fun in Redmond. You too could be having fun at work!

After Hours | Fun | Life @ Otak | Puget Sound | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   June 21, 2018

We’re seeing huge uncertainty in the construction industry as the Trump administration announced steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and is escalating concerns of an upcoming trade war with U.S. allies. The European Union, Canada, Japan, Mexico, China, and India are retaliating with their own higher tariffs on U.S. imports. Last week, Donald Trump left the G7 summit suggesting that the United States might end all trade with our closest allies if they don’t submit to his demands over reduced trade barriers. Around the same time, China announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of American beef, poultry, tobacco, cars, and other products.

The metal tariffs came about in response to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s finding that U.S. steel imports, which were nearly four times our exports, threatened to impair national security. The administration hoped to boost domestic steel production and lower imports, leveling the playing field for the steel industry. It didn’t seem to take into account the rising costs of construction.

So what does this mean for the industry?

Many construction firms and industry experts predict the steel tariffs could hit the industry hard. Prices for construction materials have already risen rapidly. (According to the Associated General Contractors of America, steel mill product costs rose 5 percent between February 2017 and early 2018.)

“We are experiencing unprecedented market conditions. Construction demand is outpacing the market’s ability to provide labor and materials, and when they are available, they are at a premium,” said Terry Shanley, director of operations and business development for DAY CPM, a division of Otak. “At this point, we are unsure of what to expect in the near future. We know the prices will continue to rise as demand continues, which unlike the previous boom, appears to be fueled by demand, not something artificial.”

Higher costs, along with the ongoing labor shortage, will drive prices higher and might prompt some developers to halt some of their projects.

What should we expect?

We could see a rise in steel prices of 25 to 28 percent because of the tariffs through 2022. An even bigger concern is that the tariffs and apparent trade war could undermine economies here and around the world from the rollback of free trade practices, according to Tim Duy, economist at the University of Oregon. A trade war could threaten many of Oregon’s biggest industries.

U.S. steel prices are rising already. “Some can be attributed to uncertainty of impending tariffs, but most are a result of demand as is the case with other commodities such as drywall and lumber,” Terry Shanley said. “We expect prices to increase, across the board, as much as 12 percent over the next year.”

“These new tariffs will cause significant harm to the nation's construction industry, put tens of thousands of high-paying construction jobs at risk, undermine the President's proposed infrastructure initiative, and potentially dampen demand for new construction projects for years to come,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of Associated General Contractors of America. “That is because the newly imposed tariffs will lead to increases in what construction firms are forced to pay for the many steel and aluminum products that go into a typical construction project.”

In combination with skilled labor shortages, the increased steel prices could slow down development, depending on product type and location. The price increases could affect the budget for a steel-framed, high-rise office more than a wood-framed apartment complex.

How can clients prepare for the increased prices?

Along with the tariffs on imported steel, the uncertainty in the market means that you should build your budgets with additional contingency reserves to anticipate increased costs resulting from the current economic climate and market volatility. Cost estimating and managing scopes of work become more important than ever.

If you’d like to discuss how the steel tariffs will affect your specific projects, contact your Otak or DAY CPM project manager or owner’s representative. Partnering closely on cost estimating and project management, we can prevent surprises and mitigate the impact of the rising prices.


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