Blog
   January 7, 2019

 

By Nick Grenfell

Fueled by excitement and several cups of hot chocolate, Cody Christianson, a senior project engineer at Loris, a division of Otak, attended a community thank you event, celebrating the successful completion of the Castle Creek Bridge/Hallam Street Improvement project in Aspen, Colorado. The event had a hot cocoa bar and site tours guided by the City of Aspen, Gould Construction, and the Otak/Loris design team.

The project team held the event to thank the Aspen community for their patience, participation, and understanding of the construction process, as well as to highlight the value of the critical capital asset project and close the loop on community education for the improvements and value added.

A large round of applause goes to PR Studio for assembling an event of this magnitude and for their diligent efforts in public involvement during project construction. Additional thanks go to the City of Aspen; members of the Otak/Loris design team, which consisted of Connect One Design, Z-Group Architects, KL&A, and RMH Group; and Gould Construction, for taking this project from conception to completion.

We were honored to be part of this important project, improving the community amenities in the City of Aspen.

Colorado | Engineering | Otak Denver | Transportation | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   January 2, 2019

By Mandi Roberts

Believing that diversity fosters innovation and strengthens our skills, we’re working to build a culture of equity and inclusion so everyone has a level playing field. Our professionals come from diverse backgrounds, and we regularly collaborate across the disciplines of planning, architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, structural engineering, project and construction management, natural resource sciences, and other areas of expertise. This interdisciplinary dynamic embraces equity, inclusion, and valuing each other’s unique perspectives. We continue to explore how to foster this aspect of our culture even more and to a greater level of depth throughout all our offices and teams.

To that end, Otak’s Executive Management Team (EMT) has been focusing on equity & inclusion in the past year. In October, the EMT participated in a workshop hosted by the Medici Group of New York. The workshop helped us learn more about how diversity can directly contribute to innovative ideas and our success in business.

Our thought leaders from Medici, Sharang Biswas and Juliana Echeverri, facilitated interesting discussions and group exercises, helping us experience first-hand the magic that can happen when diversity and inclusion overlap with innovation and strategy as shown in their signature approach graphic to the right.

The EMT participants broke into five small teams organized to include people of diverse disciplines, backgrounds, interests, ages, genders, geographic locations, and technical expertise. Each person shared information about themselves in short phrases and key words, writing on a large piece of paper in the form of a mind map. Then team members asked each other questions to gain a better understanding of each person’s story. The next step got participants’ ideas flowing—each team was asked to randomly pick two items on the mind map and come up with a new business-related idea or concept. The last step was to repeat the same exercise, but to brainstorm new ideas that were specific to an aspirational goal in Otak’s Strategic Plan:

Otak strives for client relationships that go beyond our work and develop into personal relationships

This process churned out some amazing and interesting ideas. EMT members had a blast getting to know each other better and sharing their unique ideas, making this monthly meeting one of the most interesting yet.

The Medici Group, founded by Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect (Harvard Business Press), a foundational book on innovation, and The Click Moment (Penguin Portfolio), helps companies activate diversity into an innovative edge by breaking down silos and leveraging diverse talents. Just as the Medici family catalyzed the Renaissance by bringing together people from different disciplines, cultures, and backgrounds, the Medici Group inspires the Renaissance of today.

Who were the Medicis?
The Medicis gained prominence in Italy in the early 15th century as wool merchants and bankers whose businesses were extremely profitable. They were leaders in business, politics, religion (three popes were Medicis), and the arts. Together with other prominent families, the Medicis inspired the Renaissance by funding creators from a wide range of disciplines—scientists, sculptors, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters, architects, and others, who converged on the city of Florence, where they learned from one another, broke down barriers, and forged a new world based on new ideas.

When I spent time in Italy last summer with the University of Idaho Landscape Architecture program, we stayed in Florence for several days and visited Villa Medici, one of the many estates built by the family, as well as Renaissance-era architecture, gardens, and works of art throughout that region. This was an incredible experience, and I highly recommend walking in the footsteps of the Medicis for anyone seeking enlightenment about how embracing each other’s unique qualities can inspire our success as innovators.

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   December 27, 2018


By Adam Tycaster

It’s the future. Throughout the Puget Sound region, light rail carries residents and commuters on their daily commute. The morning is brisk and unseasonably bright. You find yourself in Mountlake Terrace, walking down the station steps. What do you see?

On Tuesday, December 11, the City of Mountlake Terrace and Otak met with residents to answer that question, sharing initial design concepts for a new pedestrian plaza outside of its upcoming Sound Transit light rail station. The aptly named “Gateway Plaza” is intended not only to be visitors’ first impression of the city, but an entrance to Snohomish County itself.

“It gives an identity to the area,” said Curtis LaPierre, Otak’s senior landscape architect for the project. Already heavily travelled, the plaza will add “a nice place for pedestrians to sit, meet up, and even to stroll through.” Listen to Curtis talking about this exciting project.

The meeting was a success, according to LaPierre. He and Jeff Betz, City of Mountlake Terrace’s Recreation and Parks Director, spent more than an hour with residents, taking questions and receiving ideas around the three preliminary focal concepts: waterfall, lighted, and community tree.

LaPierre explained that the biggest challenge for residents at these kinds of meetings is getting away from the placement of individual objects—like trees and paved paths—and explaining what they want to experience. This wasn’t the case for the December 11th meeting. “There was good communication and they had lots of good and useful ideas.”

The next community meeting will take place in January. Residents are encouraged to attend and comment through the City’s project web page, where they can find more information, including illustrations of the proposed concepts.

Check out MLTnews detailed reporting of the meeting here.

Landscape Architecture | Puget Sound | Sustainability | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   December 18, 2018

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   December 6, 2018

Nathan Dasler and Ryan Makie perform a final construction walkthrough with county project manager Steve Johnson and environmental coordinator Trevin Taylor before winter storms return flows to the stream.


The salmon returned to the Hunter Point Road culvert after 100 years away, thanks to the investment of Thurston County, Washington, in rehabilitating the culvert and the stream. See for yourself here!

The culvert was in a deep ravine and had a large drop at the downstream end, which blocked fish passage. Thurston County received state grants for culvert replacements, and Hunter Point Road was their highest-priority fish passage project. The project involved a new bridge and complete stream reconstruction, which was completed in fall 2018. Complications included high road embankments, a single access road (dead end), a stream confluence immediately upstream of the crossing, and the need to provide habitat function to the stream beneath the bridge structure. After consulting with the tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the team elected to include large woody debris in a variety of configurations along with specific stream bed geometries and materials.

During construction, the fish salvage team relocated approximately 500 fish from the downstream reach, indicating the high potential of future use upstream of the project. Otak structural engineers designed an 80-foot-span bridge to replace the existing 4-foot-diameter culvert. Shortly after construction was complete, in November 2018, videos captured the return of spawning salmon--after almost a century-long absence! This was truly a historic moment, and a tribute to the funding agencies and Thurston County for funding this project and hiring Otak to bring it to fruition! 

Otak’s team (Doug Sarkkinen--project manager; Elizabeth Sheehy—structural; and Nathan Dasler, Ryan Makie, Frank Sottosanto, and Mike Rafferty—water resources) is looking forward to seeing continued fish in the system, the new channel settling in, and the vegetation establish.

Engineering | Puget Sound | Sustainability | Transportation | Water | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   December 5, 2018


David Knowles has joined Otak to direct our transportation business. David will help build on Otak’s strong reputation for integrating natural and built environments; designing roads and bridges, trail/bike/pedestrian amenities, transit, aviation, and ports; and advancing our transportation planning practice.

With a record of directing major transportation and land use planning projects, David has worked on iconic Northwest programs such as the West Seattle to Ballard Light Rail Extension, Tacoma Link Alternatives Analysis, Oregon Passenger Rail, Willamette River Light Rail Crossing and Portland Milwaukie Light Rail expansion, East Link Light Rail Transit preliminary engineering, Rose Quarter Plan, and Portland Mall Revitalization.

He brings a valuable combined perspective of both client and consultant, with leadership roles at Portland Metro, David Evans and Associates, Sheils Obletz Johnsen, Inc., and the City of Portland. In the last nine years, David led CH2M HILL’s transit business and managed the Portland office, the largest outside of corporate headquarters.

“We’re looking forward to having David expand our transportation business, broaden our technical capabilities, and serve our transportation clients by lifting our project delivery to a new level,” said Jim Hamann, CEO of Otak.

“I am excited to join a company that is small enough to be nimble and strategic, while also having a deep bench of talented planners, architects, and engineers,” said David. “I was attracted to Otak by its reputation for smart planning and design that makes a real difference in the places we live and work, and Otak’s culture and creativity convinced me it was the right place to work.” 

 

Corporate | Engineering | Oregon | Planning | Transportation | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   December 4, 2018

Are you an architecture student who is an organized communicator with a passion for sustainability? We need you! Apply now!

Otak has received a 2019 Net Zero Emerging Leaders Internship grant from the Energy Trust of Oregon to hire an architecture student for a 12-week internship beginning in January 2019. 

The intern will run energy use intensity analyses of past and current Oregon projects and report findings into the AIA 2030 Challenge DDx database. Working closely with design staff in determining project energy performance, the intern will gain experience in energy analysis and its role in high-performance design. The individual will gain knowledge of the processes related to the AIA 2030 Challenge and collaborate with other interns to improve the database’s efficiency and accuracy.

“We are moving the AIA 2030 Challenge forward with this grant!” said Brian Fleener, Otak’s Director of Architecture. “This is a wonderful opportunity to grow the next generation of energy-efficient architects. Thanks to the Energy Trust of Oregon for your commitment to this important effort!”

This is a paid internship at $20/hour, requiring a minimum of 15 hours a week from January to March 2019. Preference will be given to students who can work up to over 25 hours per week; have excellent organizational, file management, and communication skills; and have experience with Revit, SketchUp, and Sefaira. 

The internship program advances Energy Trust’s goal to design all buildings to net zero energy by 2030. The interns will share the knowledge they gain with their peers and the larger design community at an Energy Trust training and education event in April 2019.

The 2019 Net Zero Emerging Leaders Internship Program supports students on a path to becoming leaders in their field, while also growing Oregon’s network of forward-thinking design professionals throughout the state.

Architecture | Oregon | Sustainability | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   November 13, 2018

Congratulations to Jonathan Nyone, project manager with DAY CPM (a division of Otak), named as one of eleven Phenoms under 40 by the Daily Journal of Commerce. Phenoms & Icons is a new awards competition to honor the local building industry’s rising stars and building industry icons.

Jonathan is managing a critical, high-profile project for the City of Portland as owner’s representative: the $195 million complete renovation of the iconic Portland Building, adorned with the famous statue “Portlandia.” Not only is the project one year ahead of schedule and on budget, but the project team is also seeking LEED Gold and WELL certification for the building’s sustainable features. The Oregonian noted that “the fact that the massive renovation remains on budget is notable, given the white-hot competition in the construction market.”

Jonathan has promoted more active involvement with minority/women/disadvantaged business enterprises (M/WDBEs) on his projects, and consequently the Portland Building contains the most diverse subconsultant team we’ve ever had. He is also the social equity work group lead, representing the owner in bimonthly meetings, interfacing with procurement, talking about outreach opportunities, working closely with DAY’s equity subconsultant (FM Burch & Associates), coordinating with different subconsultant firms, and helping the City exceed its M/WDBE target.

Miro Radoynovski, DAY CPM senior project manager, said, “Jonathan is the champion of using new technology tools in the quest to better serve our clients. He is a natural leader who teaches, guides, and helps not only the people on his team, but also everyone who approaches him with a request. Jonathan conducts company-wide training sessions for how to use cloud-based project management software and improve work efficiency.”

Jonathan has also been working with Otak and DAY CPM to promote greater equity and inclusion on projects and in the company. Jonathan serves on Otak’s new Rising Together team, which is advising and educating Otak’s leadership and employees on how to create a more equitable, inclusive workforce and community.

"Jon has demonstrated unmatched forward-thinking, progressive management as a leader in our organization,” said Mike Day, president of DAY CPM. “He is always looking for opportunities to creatively serve our clients in addition to sponsoring new initiatives that advance our company."

Jonathan will be honored with the other 22 Phenoms and Icons on December 13 at the Sentinel Hotel from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Congratulations, Jonathan!

Construction project management | Oregon | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   November 7, 2018

Otak, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Quincy Engineering, provided design and construction management for this $25 million roadway improvement in the heart of Tillamook. The project made significant improvements to both US101 and OR6 and the intersection between the two highways, and it included reconstruction of the US101 bridge over Hoquarton Slough.

Otak designed the one-way couplet through downtown Tillamook and provided stormwater treatment and landscape architecture services throughout the project. With construction starting in summer 2016, we provided construction management and inspection to oversee work progress. The project was substantially completed in October 2018, a success story for both ODOT and the City of Tillamook.

On October 31, 2018, the City and ODOT held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the 2nd Street plaza, a festival street that will be used for farmers markets and other outdoor festivities to bring the community together. Members of the local community shared stories, along with ODOT and state representatives such as Senator Betsy Johnson and Congressman Kurt Schrader.

This project provides great value to the Tillamook community through improved traffic flow, pedestrian connectivity, and safety improvements, and it continues downtown revitalization with the new streetscape and aesthetics.

The Otak team is excited for ODOT, the City of Tillamook and its citizens, and the road users who will experience this great project!

Construction management and inspection | Engineering | Oregon | Transportation | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)
   November 7, 2018


On a recent Saturday, nearly 20 Otak employees and their friends joined in planting the riparian buffer of the Otak-designed Zackuse Creek Fish Passage and Stream Restoration Project.

The City of Sammamish partnered with King County to upgrade three undersized culvert pipes to fish-passable box culverts in the first 400 feet of stream above the confluence with Lake Sammamish.  Otak designed the third fish-passable culvert, under a major arterial, and realigned and restored over 400 feet of the creek upstream of the culvert and within private property.

Improvements included creating a more sinuous, stable channel with step pools, boulder bands, and woody debris appropriate for Kokanee spawning. Many key stakeholders were involved from the early stages of planning through design and permitting, including assisting during public outreach. This level of public involvement was greatly reflected in the diverse group of 100 people who came to help replant the area near Zackuse Creek, including the Snoqualmie Tribe (who organized the revegetation work party), families from the neighborhood, City staff, and other community members. 

In addition to design, Otak also provided construction support on the project. It was a special opportunity for many on the design team, to put the final touches on a project they had been creating and visualizing through a computer over the previous two years! And such a treat to do so on a sunny day with friends and coworkers! "It felt like Earth Day," said Kaela Mansfield, water resources engineer. "The Snoqualmie Tribe did a great job of advertising the event."

Congratulations to Otak's team: Greg Laird, project manager; Ryan Hawkins, construction management/inspection; Kaela Mansfield and Mike Rafferty, water resources; Eva Ho, Touta Phengsavath, and Dave Cole, civil and utility support; Bob Doherty, culvert/structures; Kevin O'Brien, permitting efforts; Ben Schneider and Lindsay Martin, planting restoration design; and Jeff Gray and Kevin O'Brien, permitting support.

After Hours | Community | Fun | Puget Sound | Sustainability | Make a Comment | View Comments (0)