December 5, 2019


Congratulations Community Transit! Swift Bus Rapid Transit Green Line Recognized for Engineering Excellence; Receives 2019 PSRC Vision 2040 Award and 2019 WTS Innovative Transportation Solutions Award

Snohomish County in Washington state is a fast-growing region with rapidly expanding economic hubs and urban centers. It is also rich in rural areas, farmlands and forests. With another million+ residents anticipated over the next two decades, managing growth while preserving natural resources and building for a sustainable future is a key concern for the region. These are just a few of the challenges Community Transit was faced with when they embarked on the Swift Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project nearly fifteen years ago. From the start, Otak has been a trusted partner supporting the teams at CT and helping them deliver on their ambitious promise to the region.

While BRT in general is well established system for providing mass transit solutions, Community Transit (CT) has been on the leading edge in rapid transit development and the Swift BRT system has proven to be an innovative solution successfully integrating transit networks across communities and effectively connecting the broader region. Yes, the CT Swift BRT transit project has a primary goal of alleviating traffic congestion, but the Swift BRT solution is multifaceted. It’s not just about drivers and getting cars off the road. It’s also about pedestrians, bikers, trains, and commercial vehicles; as well as the property owners, businesses, and overlapping jurisdictions that are all impacted by the new transit system. 

Holistic Approach to Design and Development

CT recognized these complexities and the need for a holistic multidisciplinary approach to designing a solution. From the very start, CT partnered with multiple agencies, utilities, commissioners and community leaders, as well as civil engineers, landscape architects, urban designers and more. Otak was brought in early on the design and development of the Swift Blue Line and then the Green Line. The Otak team, led by project manager Windi Shapley, has been an integral part of the project leading station design and providing construction support for the Swift line transit stations including design, manufacturing, and installation of station platforms and shelters, amenities, ticket vending machines, shelter railings, passenger information signing and iconic station markers. The team has also been instrumental in providing surveying, civil engineering, landscape architecture, planning, utility coordination, and construction support services and inspection throughout the project. Shapley asserts that “to be successful and deliver the best possible solutions, you have to take a holistic approach. You need the expertise and insights from multiple disciplines because the smallest things can have a big impact, and everything is interconnected – especially in a multi-community transit project like the Swift BRT network.” 

Project Recognized for Innovative Design and Positive Impact on Regional Sustainability

The Swift BRT Blue Line was opened in 2009 as the first phase of the project. It was also the first of its kind and set the standard for phase two and the Green Line which began operating in March of 2019. The Swift BRT Green Line is a 12-mile route running between the Seaway Transit Center and the Canyon Park & Ride, serving the communities of South Everett, Mill Creek and Bothell in Snohomish County. The Swift Green Line is notable for connecting  the new commercial flight terminal at Paine Field and Boeing’s Everett Factory to Bothell, as well as the Swift Blue Line and the larger community transit network. In short, the addition of the Swift Green Line is an integral component to the long-term plan of creating a network of fast, frequent connections across the region and providing critical infrastructure for sustainable growth into the future.

The holistic approach has paid as the Swift BRT lines are effectively providing much needed transportation solutions while adhering to the vision and policies around regional growth, transportation and economic development planning within King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. The results are undeniable, and the CT Swift Green Line project has been recognized for innovative design and positive impact on regional sustainability by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and received a 2019 PSRC Vision 2040 Award

The Swift BRT Green line also won the 2019 WTS Innovative Transportation Solutions – Large Projects Award, not only for the innovative solutions, but also in recognition of the leadership by the all-woman team. The Swift Green Line project team has been led by Joy Munkers, Director of Planning and Development and June DeVoll, Manager of Strategic Planning and Grants of Community Transit. From planning through implementation, Joy and June have been supported by a project team which includes over 50 women. Women in lead roles include Grants/Funding - Melissa Cauley, Community Transit Grant Program Manager; OTHER CT; Project Management of Design, Permitting, and Construction Support - Windi Shapley, Otak; Traffic Engineering Lead - Katherine Casseday, Casseday Consulting; Right-of-Way Lead – Faith Roland, Contract Land Staff; Environmental Permitting Lead - Sharese Graham, Environmental Science Associates; 128th Street Improvements Design Lead – Yee-Fan Riu, WSP; and Geotechnical Lead - Debra Overbay, GeoEngineers.

Otak has also been nominated for an Engineering Excellence Award for the Swift Green Line BRT project. The Otak team has worked with CT for nearly fifteen years on the Swift BRT program and throughout, Windi Shapley has been the project manager. She attributes the project’s success in part to the consistent presence Otak has been able to provide as CT team members and project leads have changed over the years. “Fifteen years is a long time and staff changes are to be expected. We have been able to guide the project through these changes with the accumulated knowledge and expertise gained at all stages, and a steadfast commitment to the long-range vision, mission and purpose.” CT Manager, June DeVoll further asserts “Otak’s expertise, thoroughness, emphasis on team communication, and focus on quality and constructability has made them a trusted and invaluable member of our Swift Green Line team. They understand our mission, vision and expectations. The Otak team has proven they are invested in our success.”


The Swift BRT system will continue to expand with the development of the Orange line, which will connect the Blue and Green lines with city of Lynnwood, WA, and the new lite-rail line set to open in 2023. As with the Blue and Green lines, the development of the Orange Line will also include further roadway improvements and signal improvements to mitigate traffic congestion and potential interruptions to traffic flow – a top concern for commercial and delivery vehicles. The completion of the network will effectively connect the entire region with an attractive alternative to the automobile for fast, reliable and efficient commuting in an area that is committed to sustainable growth and protecting its natural resources.

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December 4, 2019

Otak is consistently ranked as a top design firm in the Pacific Northwest year over year and has long been recognized for engineering excellence and innovation in sustainable urban design and construction. What you may not know is this legacy of excellence is on a worldwide scale and, with the addition of K2, we’re now listed as one of the Top 50 PM firms in the UK.

Parent company, Hanmi Global is the number one PM/CM firm in Korea and ranked 9th globally and the newly acquired K2 is 26th in the United Kingdom. Otak broke ENR’s 2019 top ten list of design firms in the Northwest and is ranked ninth.

Our overall rankings are quite impressive and as we continue to grow, we’re confident Otak will continue to rise! 

 Otak Northwest Rankings

  • Top Design firms in the Northwest -  No. 9

  • Top Design firms in Oregon  - No. 5

  • Top Design firms Washington  - No. 13

  • Architecture firm in the Northwest -  No. 9

  • Transportation firm in the Northwest  - No. 9

  • Multi-unit residential design in the Northwest  - No. 3

  • Civil Engineering in the Northwest  - No. 8

Global Rankings

  • Top 500 Design Firms: Otak  - No. 249

  • Top  PM/CM firm in Korea: Hanmi Global  - No. 1

  • Top 20 Global CM/PM Firms (non-US): Hanmi Global  - No. 9

  • Top 50 PM firms in the UK: K2  - No. 26


The complete list of rankings can be found at

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June 5, 2019

On April 9, Otak submitted a Type 3 land use application for the precedent-setting Hyatt Place and Allison Residences, a 23-story mixed-use building containing 170 hotel rooms and 110 residential units. The ground level will offer areas for residents, visitors, and neighbors to gather, while the top of the building will consist of lounge and event spaces, a fitness center, and a guest kitchen. This project is the second hospitality + housing high-rise building designed by Otak, the first being Hotel Indigo/Kirkland Tower on the Vancouver waterfront.

Adding accommodations in a tight housing market

Representing a new kind of sustainable design for hospitality and housing in Portland, helped by a change in the City of Portland’s zoning codes, the Hyatt Place and Allison Residences project adds market rate and affordable housing in a tight real estate market. The City must provide growth capacity for 123,000 new households through 2035.

First building to use the City’s new design code allowing a greater height

The design team has made a rare and unique use of urban space, combining lodging and amenities into one-quarter block. The new Portland Central City 2035 zoning changes, which came into effect in summer 2018, transformed the opportunities for this 10,000-square-foot property. In response to recent urban growth, the City is allowing unlimited density, or floor-area ratio, and a new allowable maximum height of 250 feet for this property if it includes affordable housing.

With a 23-story building on a small footprint, efficient and elegant design is paramount. The two different types of use require two separate entrances, with priority given to pedestrian experience. 

Solving next-level sustainability challenges

Cars no longer drive urban planning. Portland’s trendy Pearl District is the perfect place to live and work car-free, so it’s the optimal location for this creative new property. As fewer of the young people moving to Portland own cars and as ride-sharing increases, the City wanted a building without parking. The design and development team embraced the opportunity for innovative, sustainable design and has chosen to use Green Globes to guide its sustainable design practices. The team is also working with the Energy Trust of Oregon to explore incentives and rebates for sustainable and efficiency elements. A green roof will form the team’s strategy for stormwater retention. This building meets the current needs of today, solving human-level sustainability issues.

Responding to neighborhood’s needs, presenting a new standard for development

While the building will be higher than all the others in its four-block radius, it is designed to respond to the rest of the neighborhood. From the concrete base, moving upward with metal panels, the design symbolizes moving into the future, yet also focused on protecting the past. The design and development team are focusing on protecting buildings that are worthy of protection, by transferring floor-area ratio (FAR) to the site from historical buildings in the area.

Residents will benefit from a new spot to grab coffee, wine, or a bite to eat, either in a new café or on the sidewalk under the new tree canopy. The building will offer hotel conveniences to tenants and fit in seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhood. This new building will be designed to fit the way people live, work, and play.

Collaborating with residents, the City of Portland, and other building owners in the design

After consulting with the City of Portland and attending two meetings with the Pearl District Neighborhood Association’s Land Use and Transportation Committee, the design team has submitted its land use application to the City. The team took into consideration all concerns and suggestions through a highly collaborative process.

“Given the significance of this precedent-setting, innovative mixed-use building, the architecture must be exceptional,” said Brian Fleener, Otak’s Director of Architecture. “How this building transitions from the tower down to the pedestrian realm, and complements the neighborhood’s architecture and character, will be critical.”

The design includes these responses and elements:

  • Massing was further refined by moving the fitness center from the northwest corner of the building to the southeast corner. This creates a single, glazed two-story crown for the tower that is much more coherent and focuses the architecture of the crown into a more powerful statement. Vertical slots on the east and west facades are further integrated with the crown, articulating the paired tower forms of the building. Balcony windows are inset to better integrate balconies in the building façade. Balcony panels were modified to permit more windows to open to the balcony and further integrate the balconies. The east wall has the maximum number of windows allowed by building code.

  • The northwest corner of the building was revised to add large balconies in the west wall at the residential units and two additional windows in each of the hotel rooms. This makes the corner more visually appealing, adding to the texture and interest of the corner at the intersection of 12th and Flanders.

  • Landscaping follows the River District right-of-way standards. The hotel entrance is located on the northwest corner of the site, with a large glass vestibule that opens to both north and west. The height of the tree canopy, coupled with the signage, makes the hotel entrance prominent. The residential entrance has a lower tree canopy with landscape elements that distinguish it from the hotel portion. The bike entrance is more open and welcoming, with storefront glazing and lighting design that promotes transparency, safety, and activity. Art and water features are architecturally integrated into the building, with panels that represent Portland rain and Portland themes.

Over 20 years ago, the once-dilapidated Pearl District came back to life through the visionary collaboration of the City and private developers. Now the area has a worldwide reputation for urban renaissance. The Pearl District will have a new architectural innovation in 2022—our city’s first new combined hospitality and housing space!

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February 11, 2019

Gary Larson first knew he wanted to become an architect at age 13. Growing up on the Olympic Peninsula and working with his builder father to design houses, he had design in his blood. After graduating from Washington State University, he moved to Boston and joined Kallmann McKinnell and Knowles Architects and got his start working with the team that designed the competition-winning Boston City Hall.

During his 50+ years in the business, Gary has played a central role in defining and shaping the urban environment, for which he has achieved national recognition for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects and major architectural publications. In 1976, while with ZGF Partnership, Gary was project designer for the three-building, 230-foot-tall World Trade Center on Portland’s waterfront, linking three buildings on three blocks with a unique, glazed space frame bridge and roof structure, redefining the city’s urban experience forever. 

In the past 50 years, he’s worked as senior principal, global design leader, partner, and design director for notable firms such as ZGF Partnership, MG2, and Walker McGough. He also cofounded his own design firms, Parker Larson Architects in New York City and BML Architects in Portland.

Shortly after retiring from MG2, Otak’s Brian Fleener, Director of Architecture, asked to join him again. Intrigued by the possibility of working with Brian to help sculpt and elevate the company’s architecture practice, Gary agreed to come out of retirement to join Otak. He quickly stepped into the fun challenge of mentoring Otak’s younger architects, working with a fascinating team of people working on great projects that have significant meaning in their communities.

“Gary and I have worked together for many years,” said Brian. “The passion he brings to project design is unequaled in this industry. Every time we get into a discussion about design, I leave the conversation full of energy.”

Since Gary and Brian have joined Otak, the company has teamed with Kirkland Development to design the boutique Hotel Indigo on the Vancouver waterfront and is working with James Wong from Vibrant Cities to design Hyatt Place, an innovative, mixed-use hotel/housing high-rise on a small site in Portland’s Pearl District. Next they will tackle revitalizing a mixed-use building, Jasmine, in the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown.

Gary’s design portfolio includes iconic northwest projects such as the KOIN Tower, the Veterans’ Medical Center, Bellevue Towers, and Tower 12 residential mixed-use project near the Seattle Waterfront, Pacific Tower, as well as the Kaiser Interstate campus, Oregon Graduate Institute’s Cooley Science Center, Kah-Nee-Ta Vacation Resort, Convent of the Holy Names, Temple Beth Shalom, St. Luke’s Hospital, and Spokane County City Public Safety Building. Beyond the northwest, he’s designed Chengdu’s 57-story Suning Plaza and the Wuxi Chong An Towers in China. 

“I’m enjoying working at Otak and sharing my commitment to outstanding design and quality,” said Gary. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to cultivate and mentor the next generation of architects by sharing my passion for enhancing the urban experience through sustainable, elegant, and functional design.”

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January 29, 2019

When Gary Reddick, president of award-winning architectural firm V3 Studio is asked why he was drawn to Otak, he talks about the Multnomah County Courthouse. “Otak is there, and everybody else isn’t,” said Gary. “Otak got chosen to manage construction of two of the largest building projects downtown—the courthouse and the Portland Building—and that says something about the company’s commitment to outstanding project management and client service.” Gary was attracted to the way Otak combines great design and solid project delivery to deliver the best service to our clients. 

Gary’s company, V3 Studios, is bringing their extensive experience to advance Otak’s vision of combining science and art, and architecture and engineering, into the way the firm designs and creates next-generation communities. Gary’s portfolio and experience elevate Otak’s design capabilities several notches, in addition to the legacy of senior designer Gary Larson. 

Recognized as a leader in design, V3’s award-winning work illustrates a passion and commitment to urban projects that are responsive to their locale and context, which complements Otak’s urban development work in hospitality and housing. Both Otak and V3 believe that projects have become too complicated for either art or science. Instead we must integrate art, structure, sustainability, and water management to design projects that serve our changing world.

Their work and expertise complement Otak’s portfolio of multifamily housing, high rises, master planning, and hospitality projects:

  • Gary Reddick, AIA: A recognized expert in urban planning and smart growth, Gary has dedicated his career to designing high-quality architecture and increasing the livability of communities in the United States and throughout the world. His multifamily housing, hospitality, and master planning designs span the globe. A leader in the field, he’s frequently asked to speak at conferences, universities, planning departments, and civil organizations on urban architecture and master planning. A graduate of the University of Oregon and well known in Portland as a civic leader and architect for 40 years, Gary is also an accomplished fine artist with over 250 repeat collectors around the world.

  • Chris Maykut: Specializing in international urban planning and building design from conceptualization through design development, Chris is dedicated to strengthening and engaging the built urban environment through pedestrian-oriented sustainable communities. His senior design experience includes master planning large, high- density mixed-use developments, small urban infill projects, and retail projects ranging from dense multi-story urban malls to pedestrian lifestyle centers in the United States and overseas. Chris graduated from the Portland State University School of Architecture.

  • Jason Marshall: Jason joined V3 Studios in 2018 after earning his master’s in architecture from UCLA and designing museums and single-family residences in Virginia, Tennessee, Nebraska, and California. He then expanded into hospitality, residential, retail, and mixed-use projects in the U.S. and internationally. The company he founded, Lime Design Collective, worked with big brands on exhibit and environment design, as well as retail and consumer experience. 

“Gary brings an exceptional 40-year history in Portland and beyond,” said Jim Hamann, Otak CEO. “We’re fortunate to have Gary and the V3 team join Otak and continue to elevate Otak’s design capabilities and portfolio.”

Otak’s inclusive architecture practice combines civil engineering, land use planning, and landscape architecture, with a focus on the art and science of development. This varied expertise allows the company to tap into resources quickly and apply them collaboratively, offering innovative design solutions that are both functional and cost-effective. Otak has a reputation for smart, creative design that integrates natural and built environments. By bringing this design philosophy into communities, Otak transforms the way people use, experience, and enjoy the spaces they inhabit. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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., CWRE, 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!

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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

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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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April 26, 2018

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky,” said British educator Margaret McMillan in 1925. 

Science shows us that time spent outdoors improves short-term memory, restores mental energy, relieves stress, improves concentration, and enhances thinking and creativity. That’s why Otak believes in creating spaces to promote outdoor education for our children.

On Friday, April 20, Washington Elementary in Vancouver, Washington, opened its first community garden. Otak architects and engineers were on hand to celebrate with the school community after helping to design and construct the garden.

The fifth-grade students at Washington Elementary School expressed a desire to create a school community garden after reading an article on urban gardening. The students appealed to their visionary principal, Kirsten Copeland, who found a way to fund the project and move it to reality. 

Over the next five months, fourth-grade teacher Melissa Hendy led a planning committee, which fleshed out a vision for an outdoor learning environment. The school enlisted Melissa’s husband Allen, a civil engineer at Otak, to manage the project and direct construction. Landscape designer Maggie Daly laid out the garden and prepared the project estimate, and Tim Leavitt (director of Otak’s southwest operations) helped with construction. The Otak team also helped secure donations from local businesses and provided guidance to the principal on getting the project started and constructed.

“The Otak team, led by project manager Allen Hendy, helped lead the design of this project. The team took great care to provide student voice throughout the design process,” said Principal Copeland. “The Otak team listened to the key elements students wanted and embedded those elements into the final design layout. Their efficiency allowed us to take an idea from concept to reality in less than 8 weeks – just in time for planting. Washington Elementary couldn’t have done this project with this level of quality without them.”

On March 3, we joined students, staff, donors, neighborhood volunteers, and community partners to install 13 raised beds—one for each class and one for the onsite Boys & Girls Club, which will maintain the garden during the summer. The students plan to grow onions, leeks, peas, broccoli, tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruits. 

We joined the community again on April 20 for the official dedication and opening ceremony. Watch the time lapse video to see the garden grow from start to finish. 

“One of the reasons Vancouver is a great place to be is because of local corporate citizenship,” said Tim Leavitt, who is also the former mayor of Vancouver. “This community is a better place to live, work and play because companies like Otak support local initiatives and provide incentives for staff to get involved with personally meaningful and important local causes. It’s quite rewarding for both the community and our employees!”

Thanks to Melissa Hendy, the school now has a curriculum to use with the garden as an outdoor learning space. We look forward to seeing the garden come to life in the coming months.

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September 22, 2017

On Friday, September 15, cities across the world participated in PARK(ing) Day, an event in which parking spaces are temporarily converted to public parks. Teams from Otak offices in Portland and Denver contributed to parks in their respective cities, taking the opportunity to temporarily transform an ordinary parking space into a beautiful piece of urban landscape.

In Portland, designers from Otak’s PAD group collaborated with Friends of Trees to create a Micro Forest. The Micro Forest was a big hit—several Otak departments held meetings in the space, and diners from the adjacent Chipotle restaurant enjoyed having a cozy, shaded space to devour their burritos.

The landscape architecture team from Otak’s Denver office partnered with students and local designers to create the biggest PARK(ing) Day installation in the city, consisting of five parking spaces in front of Union Station. Otak oversaw the event and designed two of the spaces. The installation was designed to address adaptive reuse.

According to PARK(ing) Day’s website, “The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space and sustainable design, to generate debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human least until the meter runs out!”

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September 21, 2017

Otak's Portland stormwater engineers attended the 2017 Sustainable Stormwater Symposium on September 13th and 14th at OMSI. Otak was a platinum sponsor for the event, which was co-hosted by the Environmental Water Resources Group and the American Public Works Association. Symposium presentations included keynotes by the U.S. Geological Survey, Denver's Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Otak's Melanie Klym presented on a project which used channel restoration to address flow-duration design standards. A presentation by the City of Gresham highlighted Teresa Huntsinger’s work with the City to develop a stormwater retrofit assessment tool.

The Symposium included a half-day bike tour around Southeast and Southwest Portland to visit stormwater facilities and hear from those involved in their design, construction, and maintenance. Several Otakians served as bike tour leaders. Matt Klym, an engineer on Otak's Transportation and Infrastructure Systems team, presented at the fourth bike tour stop, giving an overview of the OHSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building (LEED Platinum) site design and stormwater management. We are already looking forward to the next Symposium in 2019!

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June 27, 2017

Teresa Huntsinger, Alex Morton, Melanie Klym, and Ashley Cantlon volunteering at a Depave event.

On Saturday, June 24th, while many Portlanders were finding ways to beat the 100-degree heat, a few Otakians laced up their work boots and took to the pavement. As part of a Depave community project, several of Otak’s WNR team members joined with volunteers to remove approximately 2,800 square feet of asphalt from the parking lot of Faithful Savior Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland. The “depaving” was an initial step in the construction of a rain garden, which will help to capture and treat stormwater originating from the church’s parking lot.

Depave is a Portland-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the transformation of over-paved places to overcome the social and environmental acts of pavement. They host volunteer “work parties” as well as provide education and training about the benefits of pavement removal. Since 2008, Depave has seen the removal of over 151,000 square feet of asphalt and the creation of over 50 community greenspaces in Portland. With the help of motivated individuals, Depave has already begun expanding to other cities across the US.

To learn more about Depave or to RSVP for future Depave events, visit 

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June 22, 2017

Otak’s trail planners enjoyed a beautiful summer afternoon talking about current regional trail initiatives at Metro’s 7th Annual Barbara Walker Trails Fair event held at the Convention Center Plaza. 

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May 12, 2017

On April 24, EcoDistricts CEO Rob Bennett spoke to nearly four dozen Otakians in our Portland office, outlining innovative techniques that Otak’s planners and architects can use in reimagining how to build cities that will best serve humans around the world in the 21st Century.

In his presentation, Rob explained EcoDistricts Protocol, a framework for achieving people-centered, economically vibrant, planet-loving neighborhood sustainability. Application of EcoDistricts Protocol tools, guidance, and rigorous performance requirements results in projects achieving EcoDistricts Certified standing, a mark of global sustainability excellence. Otak joined EcoDistricts earlier this year to support their global mission of developing sustainable cities and neighborhoods.

Bennett remarked on how well Otak’s values and goals aligned with EcoDistricts Protocol. “There is clear alignment between our organizations,” Bennett said. “The Otak gang understands that the future of city building requires a new model of collaboration, performative design and measuring impact. I look forward to the ways that EcoDistricts can support Otak’s pursuit of our common vision and goals to build vibrant, thriving places where we all want to work and live.”

EcoDistricts currently offers services supporting 16 projects across North America, with several in locations where Otak has offices (e.g., Portland’s Lloyd District, Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood). EcoDistricts provides expertise in the areas of green building, green infrastructure, urban planning, and community development, and offers urban development professionals classes in sustainability best practices, leading to their Accredited Professional (AP) credential.

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April 19, 2017

Students on a site visit.

In March 2017, Jesse Reynolds, an environmental planner and GIS analyst in Otak’s Redmond office, teamed up with Professor Jairo Angel of Cali, Colombia, to help conduct an urban design workshop for an impoverished community on the outskirts of the City (Alto Jordan, Comuna 18, Cali). This effort was funded by a grant from the US State Department—a reverse exchange through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, which had also brought Jairo to Otak’s Portland office in November 2016.

During the week-long workshop, an engineering and architecture team made up of students from Colombia worked with professors to help design open space areas, stormwater infrastructure, and public gathering spaces to enrich the community and surrounding areas. Jesse helped the team throughout the design process and also gave presentations on Low Impact Development and the use of GIS as a tool to aid in design.

Jesse presenting at the conference.

(left) Jairo and Jesse in the community's library. (right) Professor Orlando Cundumi and Jesse.

The community.

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April 13, 2017

Last week four Otak staff attended the 2017 Women in Leadership Symposium put on by Women Leading Water. The Keynote speaker was Jennifer Williamson, Oregon House Majority Leader. She said that overall, Oregon is doing well with female and minority political representation, but we could do better. Her message was to find issues you’re passionate about and get involved! Other sessions covered setting your path and how to overcome obstacles and rework your plan as needed, being decisive and taking charge of your life, standing up for yourself in the workplace, how to get involved in an organization you’re interested in, and practicing mindfulness.

It was a great opportunity for women from the Portland/Vancouver area to meet and learn from each other’s experiences.

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April 5, 2017

As part of the ACEC and ODOT Region 2 Brown Bag Lunch Series, Scott Banker, Melanie Klym, and Chad Maxwell gave a presentation on the US20: Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville (PME) Environmental Mitigation Measures. Environmental mitigation measures for stream and wetland impacts associated with the construction of the US20 PME project were constructed during 2016 and 2017, with additional habitat enhancement measures to be completed by the end of 2017. 

The contractor moved approximately 74,000 cubic yards of existing material, isolated creeks to perform channel grading and installed large wood structures. Mitigation efforts also included roughly 25 acres of planting and seeding. The presentation reviewed the unique aspects of the design and primarily focused on the challenges of constructing a large-scale mitigation project using traditional ODOT plans and specifications.

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March 27, 2017

On March 4th, Otakians from the Redmond office volunteered to give back to their community by helping clean up Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland, WA.

Working with the City’s Green Kirkland Partnership, volunteers worked to remove invasive Himalayan blackberry from the park and cover the cleared areas with mulch. The efforts from these workers allowed for more opportunities for native plants to spread.

To learn more about the Green Kirkland Partnership and upcoming opportunities to volunteer, visit their website here.

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February 23, 2017

“We are excited to see that the project is functioning as designed and reducing the frequency and severity of flooding on Foster Road. It is also gratifying to see the vegetation becoming established and providing additional wildlife habitat and refuge.” - Melanie Klym, PE

To view KOIN's article and video click here

For project details click here.

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October 11, 2016

By Mandi Roberts

One of the best ways to enhance community livability and strengthen neighborhoods is to design certain core streets to serve multiple purposes—as complete streets for multi-modal transportation and as festival streets, designed as pedestrian and open air market shared space that can be temporarily closed to vehicle traffic during special celebrations and events. Otak was proud to co-host a “walkshop” of our Georgetown Festival Street Project at the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) annual conference, held in Seattle in late September. The theme of the conference “Designing Cities” offered sessions and mobile workshops on a variety of innovative and interesting urban design and innovative street design topics. Otak partnered with Fehr & Peers and the City of Seattle Department of Transportation to host the walking tour of the vibrant Georgetown Neighborhood, focused on the recent festival street improvements. For the Georgetown Walkshop guide, click here

The Georgetown Festival Street Walkshop hosts highlighted neighborhood history and background, revitalization of the area, some of the unique challenges of designing a festival street, the importance of neighborhood engagement, the role the improvement area serves in hosting street parties, design references (including best practice built examples and the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide), and some of the innovative features and public art elements integrated into the design. Two Walkshops were offered on two separate days of the conference and each was well-attended. Each group made special stop at the World Famous Fran’s Chocolates factory and guest gallery, a sweet spot at the end of the tour! Special thanks to our Walkshop team: Art Brochet and Therese Casper with SDOT, Will Lisska with Fehr & Peers, and Lori McFarland and Mandi Roberts with Otak.

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September 1, 2016

Otakians Tammi Connolly, Matt Klym, Gary Wolff and Melanie McCandless helped to clean up Johnson Creek on August 29th.

105 volunteers worked in the creek to remove 269 bags of trash and lots of larger items that didn't fit into bags. By removing trash, water quality and habitat conditions improve for the wildlife including Steelhead and Chinook salmon that call the creek home. The clean-up extended from the creek’s confluence with the Willamette River up through I-205 in Portland.

After the clean-up volunteers enjoyed a barbecue and awards ceremony at Mill Park where the Golden Garbage Can award for strangest item found was given to team captain Paul for the child’s pegasus costume. Runners-up included a bowling ball on a chain, a slingshot, and complete apartment furnishings (desk, chair, toilet, bed, and countertop stove).

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July 20, 2016

As Biketown, Portland’s bike share program rolls out this week, four Biketown founding members from Otak go for a ride.

(from left to right) Glen Bolen, Tammi Connolly, Katie Kersten, and Andy Kutansky 

We walk towards the orange bike hub located one block from our office. Excited to try out the new system and see what it’s all about. After entering the code and pin, unlocking the u-lock and placing it on the bike, and wearing our Otak hardhats for safety, we’re off.

We ride the streets of Portland shifting gears with smiles on our faces. This will be a great way to travel around town and get some exercise. After our 20 minute 2.5 mile ride we’re back at the hub, locking them up and heading back to the office. 

The overall consensus was they were easy to check in and out, not as heavy as we imagined, and fun to ride. We recommend trying it out!

If you’re visiting Otak, the hub at 3rd between Morrison and Yamhill is closest to us.

Have Questions? Below is a link to frequently asked questions.

Biketown FAQ

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May 20, 2016

“Otakians Tim Ervin, Trista Kobluskie, and Melanie McCandless braved the rain for the East Portland Sunday Parkways on May 15. The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services invited Otak along with several other community partners to have booths at the Foster Floodplain Natural Area to provide environmental education opportunities. Otak’s booth featured a stream simulation table which demonstrates how rivers respond to common engineering practices such as large wood structures and boulders. Many participants, especially children, built dams across the river and the flow rate through the table was increased to show the effects of flooding and dam failure. People were able to make the connection to the Foster Floodplain Natural Area and the flood mitigation design, understanding that rivers need room to flood in ways that minimize property damage.” 

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May 11, 2016

Last week at the annual Daily Journal of Commerce Top Projects awards banquet, Otak and Hamilton Construction were presented with an award!

In the category of Infrastructure, Otak was awarded Second Place for our Colorado Dam Safe Passage (now called Bend Whitewater Park) in Bend, Oregon. This project is a great example of Otak’s integrated design using our in-house planning, civil engineering and bridge design, environmental and specialty services.

Otak and Hamilton reserved a table at the banquet and were joined by our client’s Michelle Healy and Brian Hudspeth from Bend Parks and Recreation District, and two project subconsultants: John van Staveren from Pacific Habitat Services and Mike Faha from Greenworks. 

“Everyone enjoyed getting to reconnect at the table. There was a lot of laughter, reminiscing, catching up, etc.” said Nichole Hayward, of Hamilton Construction.

Our team’s design process brought together a diverse group of river stewards and stakeholders to successfully create habitat solutions while also creating the West Coast’s first “adjustable standing wave” white water kayak/surfing run. The Park is open and Bend Parks and Recreation has a live camera feed of the whitewater run on their website.


For project information click here



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March 15, 2016

Volunteering at Johnson Creek Watershed Council's Watershed-Wide Event

Watershed Wide is an epic day of volunteerism coordinated by Johnson Creek Watershed Council and partners: Portland Parks and Recreation, City of Gresham, Friends of Trees, Friends of Tideman Johnson, and the Crystal Springs Partnership. This community event brings together hundreds of Johnson Creek supporters at ten different work sites that span the entire length of the watershed.  

Five Otakians joined nearly three hundred volunteers on March 5th to restore the health of the Johnson Creek Watershed. Riparian conditions were improved by planting over five thousand native plants across the ten sites. Emily Leete, Morgan Haines, and Ami Cobb joined Melanie McCandless at a site near the Foster Floodplain Natural Area (formerly known as the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project). Michael Rafferty provided needed maintenance on native plantings at the Westmoreland Park in a restored area of the Crystal Springs floodplain.

A big thank you to event sponsor Clackamas Water Environment Services!

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January 25, 2016

In the category of Social, Economic, and Sustainable Design Considerations, Otak was given a GOLD Award for our Overlake Village South Detention Vault—Integrated Facilities in Redmond, Washington. This project is a great example of integrated design, involving our WNR, PAD, and TIS groups.

The Overlake Village neighborhood is projected to grow into the next urban center on the eastside of the Central Puget Sound region. Plans call for the neighborhood to provide a mix of commercial, retail, and residential uses in proximity to the employment uses at the Microsoft campus and the planned East Link light rail service, targeted to open in 2023. Otak brought together the interdisciplinary skills of water resource engineers, urban planners, and landscape architects to examine options for multiple purpose infrastructure to serve the projected growth and redevelopment of the neighborhood.

The Otak team worked closely with City of Redmond staff on planning, analysis, and conceptual design for an integrated system of community features to minimize, control, and treat surface water runoff, and to provide neighborhood parks, recreation opportunities, and green spaces for the 323-acre Overlake drainage basin. LID techniques within public rights-of-way (street and trail corridors) as well as LID opportunities on adjacent private parcels will allow for localized rainwater infiltration, treatment, and open space opportunities. For larger rainfall events, regional stormwater facilities collocated with City parks will provide storage and infiltration of runoff and allow for public use over the top of the facilities. 

Otak developed a strategic implementation plan for this proactive approach to balance the interconnected LID elements, regional facilities, and parks and open spaces. This approach allowed the most cost-effective means of providing stormwater management by locating the regional facilities in areas most suitable for stormwater facilities and with dual function as public parks and open spaces to serve the growing neighborhood. An overarching objective of the project was provide the maximum benefit to the environment while also supporting a vibrant urban center. 

This first phase of implementation successfully constructed the largest stormwater detention vault in Washington. The vault was constructed within a highly urbanized neighborhood requiring deep excavation near busy roadways and adjacent businesses. The successful construction of the regional stormwater facility has significantly stimulated economic growth in the Overlake Village area with several redevelopment master plans being submitted before construction was completed. This project shows how careful planning can create a win-win situation for developers who can now maximize their site development potential and be assured that the stormwater from their sites is properly managed and for the City who wanted to the maximum the amount of environmental enhancement, economic growth, and open space in an area that lacked all three.

“It was a pleasure working with Otak, and I appreciated your flexibility as the project took its many starts and stops. 

I would recommend you highly for this kind of work. Thanks to you and your team.” 

 - Steve Hitch, Senior Stormwater Engineer, City of Redmond

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December 15, 2015

On Saturday, December 12, the Muslim Educational Trust celebrated the grand opening of their new community center and school. There were over 30 speakers and 750 attendees at the event comprised of local officials, community leaders, faith leaders, and community members.
The Muslim Educational Trust Center is a new two-story community center and school. The new 30,800-square-foot building includes a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, meeting room and lecture hall to serve both the school and broader community. The school will include 14 classrooms serving pre-k through 12th grade, a cafeteria, library, science lab, art studio and administrative spaces. The design focuses on creating a welcoming educational center and integrate sustainability throughout. Otak provided architecture on the project.

For more information on the event click here.

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December 10, 2015

images courtesy of Adam Simmons

The East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project (Foster Floodplain Natural Area) was designed to reduce nuisance flooding of Johnson Creek and construction finished in 2012. With recent record rainfalls, we wanted to see how the project was performing. On Monday night Johnson Creek exceeded the flood of record from 1996. The storage area filled and channel benches were activated reducing the amount of water on Foster Road. The system has proven to contain both the more frequent flood events and reduce the flooding for the less frequent larger flood events. Prior to project completion, this area would typically flood about once every two years.

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September 25, 2015

On September 18th, Otak participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual international event where participants turn metered parking spaces into temporary public parks! The purpose, aside from having fun, is to encourage thought and conversation about how public space is created and allocated in our cities.

Otak’s park, Where Plants Meet the Pavement, filled two parking spaces with native plants, many of which were donated by local nurseries. Our park created a safe, comfortable place for people to hang out while learning about the many benefits and varieties of native plants. We also wanted to highlight the importance of green space in creating healthy, sustainable urban communities.

Another key ingredient in creating healthy communities is the work of nonprofit organizations. Otak is lucky to share an office building with Guide Dogs for the Blind, and we frequently see staff and volunteers training dogs and handlers to help empower the visually impaired. We decided to sell the native plants in our park and donate all proceeds to Guide Dogs for the Blind. At the end of the day, we collected $405 for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and all pieces of our park were recycled, reused, or planted.

This was Otak’s second time participating in PARK(ing) Day, and we’re already looking forward to creating a new park next September!

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September 23, 2015

Several of Otak’s water and natural resources team members attended and presented at the biennial EWRG & APWA Sustainable Stormwater Symposium last week in Portland, Oregon. This conference focuses on the current practice of stormwater planning, design, and implementation, and was co-chaired by Otak’s Tammi Connolly with Otak as a platinum sponsor. Otak principal Kevin Timmins presented with Jadene Stensland of Clean Water Services on the T.R.U.S.T. continuous simulation software which Otak helped develop. Otak’s Trista Kobluskie also presented, joining Lori Faha from the City of Tigard to discuss the benefits of integrating stormwater management facilities into the development site plan as a community amenity. The two-day symposium was capped off by a half-day bike tour, the Bike-BMP-n’-Brew Tour, which took the group on a guided tour of local stormwater BMPs around Portland. Otak’s Rose Horton hauled a five-gallon water jug in her bike trailer to test the infiltration of some pervious pavement installations. It was a fun and informative event, and we look forward to participating in the next symposium!

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June 15, 2015

Otak’s stream professionals from the Portland office walked several tributaries of the Tualatin River to assess the geomorphic condition of the streams and collect baseline data prior to the planned River Terrace community development further upstream in Tigard. The geomorphic assessments involved measuring channel geometry, sampling bed material, documenting habitat and riparian characteristics, and evaluating fluvial erosion and bank instabilities. Otak worked closely with staff from the City of Tigard, and the findings of the study will inform the development of design alternatives with the goal of protecting the existing streams from degradation.

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May 13, 2015

Otakians joined over 3,000 other people to celebrate the Foster Floodplain Natural Area (formerly East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project) during this year’s East Portland Sunday Parkway. Members of our water and natural resources team ran a stream simulation table on loan from River Restoration Northwest. The stream simulation table allowed kids (and adults) to ‘play engineer’ by shaping various river forms, adding flow obstructions such as culverts and large woody debris, and building a dam or two. The table shows how rivers respond to human modifications and is an engaging way to show the value of floodplain restoration projects. Otak staff also informed visitors about the design and function of the Natural Area, which is now in its third year of vegetative maintenance. To date, the project has exceeded expectations and has prevented flooding of Foster Road.

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May 5, 2015

Otak was a sponsor of this year’s Oregon Opportunity Network (Oregon ON) Spring Industry Support Conference in Salem, Oregon. Oregon ON is a statewide association of affordable housing and community development organizations that provide housing and economic opportunity for working families, people with disabilities, seniors, and others struggling to meet their needs in communities throughout Oregon. Otak’s Jennifer Nye and Amy Scheckla-Cox attended the conference and spoke with representatives from various nonprofits, public agencies, and affordable housing advocates. Otak has been involved in many affordable housing projects, and we are proud supporters of Oregon ON’s mission.

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May 5, 2015

Otak’s Don Hanson recently co-chaired the City of Portland’s Southeast Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The 27-member committee held 14 meetings to discuss and review a draft of the Southeast Quadrant Proposed Plan. The committee recently held its final meeting and recommended the proposed plan to the City of Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission.

The Southeast Quadrant Plan is part of the City’s ongoing Central City 2035 (CC2035) project to update the City’s plan and policies. Otak was also involved in the West Quadrant portion of CC2035 through leading a week-long design charrette. Don Hanson, a long-time Portlander, has served on a number of committees and commissions for the City, including the Planning and Sustainability Commission, Development Review Advisory Committee, Stakeholder Advisory Group for Vision 2000, Urban Renewal District Status Committee, and the Citizen Advisory Committee reviewing the Title 34 Land Development Ordinance.

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April 23, 2015

In celebration of Earth Day, a group of Otakians and their family members participated in the Oaks Bottom Restoration and Cleanup in Portland. They joined Portland Surfrider, Portland Parks & Recreation, and other volunteers in enhancing the Oaks Bottom wetlands and forest by cleaning the area and planting native plants. It was a fun way to celebrate Earth Day by improving our environment and connecting with our community!

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March 18, 2015

Eight Otakians joined over 400 other volunteers in the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s 17th Annual Watershed-Wide Restoration Event. Volunteers worked at nine different sites throughout the watershed, planting nearly 7,000 native trees and shrubs, removing 33 cubic yards of invasive species, distributing nearly 15 cubic yards of mulch, and installing 1,000 feet of protective fencing. Tim Ervin, Ashley Cantlon, and Joe Primeau maintained plantings along the Springwater Corridor in the lower watershed; Melanie McCandless, Kevin Timmins, and Matt Klym helped install native plants and remove invasive species in the middle watershed just upstream of the Foster Floodplain Natural Area; Michael Rafferty installed native trees and shrubs near the confluence of Hogan Creek in the upper watershed; and Gary Wolff photographed volunteers at Tideman-Johnson Park in the lower watershed. Melanie McCandless has been volunteering with the Council since 2008 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2013.

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March 17, 2015

Otak’s Liz Gilliam recently volunteered with the Nature Conservancy at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge! The volunteers worked to restore a parcel of land back to a native habitat by planting 250 black cottonwood, 275 Oregon ash, 550 red-osier dogwood, 200 Pacific ninebark, and 250 Cascara.

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March 3, 2015

Last month, Otak’s Joshua Owens visited the Colorado Avenue Dam Safe Passage project site in Bend, Oregon, to inspect construction. This project will provide a passage over the existing dam via three channels, one for habitat, one for whitewater recreation, and a “safe passage” option for recreation without rapids. Joshua, a water resources engineer, visited the site with Jason Carey, principal river engineer at River Restoration, the Colorado-based firm that designed the whitewater and habitat channels. In Stage 2 of the project, water is diverted into the future habitat channel while the safe passage and whitewater channels are being constructed. The whitewater channel, which is being built first, will have four drops, each designed to provide a unique wave experience for kayakers and paddle boarders. Pneumatic bladders installed on the drops will be able to shape and fine-tune the waves. During the visit, boulders were selected and placed for drops two and three in the whitewater channel to ensure that they are built as designed.

To learn more about this project and view a time-lapse video of construction, please click here.

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February 23, 2015

Otak’s Theo Malone has recently been elected president of the Portland chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Theo is a Water Resources Engineering Designer in our Vancouver, Washington, office, and he has been volunteering with EWB since 2010. EWB-USA Portland Professionals has four international programs: a water and sanitation program in Ecuador, another water and sanitation program in Haiti, a solar program in Tanzania, and a new stormwater drainage program in Honduras. Theo is involved in the new Honduras project, which involves assessing a community’s need for river crossing to provide safe passage for foot traffic throughout the community. The chapter will travel on their first assessment trip in June. Congratulations, Theo!

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February 11, 2015

Members of Otak’s Water & Natural Resources group recently attended the 14th Annual River Restoration Northwest Symposium at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington. The symposium draws approximately 500 restoration practitioners, including engineers, biologists, planners, and regulatory staff, to exchange knowledge and techniques in restoration practice. Otak was a Gold Sponsor this year, and we displayed several of our natural systems projects at our booth. The Portland office was represented by Kevin Timmins, Liz Gilliam, Michael Rafferty, Melanie McCandless, and Gary Wolff. Seungjin Baek represented the Redmond office, and Luke Swan flew in from Colorado. Gary Wolff is an active RRNW Board member, and he coordinated the Monday short courses and the Friday field trip.

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November 24, 2014

Three of Otak’s Water and Natural Resources staff are teaching in Portland State University’s River Restoration Professional Certificate Program. There are five core courses in the River Restoration Professional Certificate Program, and the courses that Liz Gilliam, Kevin Timmins, and Gary Wolff are teaching include:

• EPP 221 - Introduction to River Restoration, Part I: Physical Processes
• EPP 223 - Site Evaluation and Assessment
• EPP 225 - Restoration Project Management

Liz just wrapped up her fifth year of teaching with the program, and in addition to the courses mentioned above, Kevin will be a guest speaker in the Project Management course in December, and Gary will teach Hydraulic Modeling next spring. We are proud to play a significant role in this nationally recognized program!

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November 5, 2014

Otak participated in this year’s EcoChallenge from October 15 to 29. Organized by the Northwest Earth Institute, the EcoChallenge is an annual event that asks participants to change one habit that benefits both you and the environment for two weeks. It is a fun and convenient way to stop and consider your impact on the environment and to think of creative ways to lessen your footprint. The EcoChallenge website provides many helpful tips, and participants join teams for added motivation and encouragement.

Otak has organized an EcoChallenge team for several years, and this year was one of our strongest showings. Twenty-four participants joined our team, and their challenges ranged from selecting sustainable food options to energy efficiency to trash reduction. Participants earn points through checking in on the EcoChallenge website, posting blogs about their progress, and clicking “Challenge Met.” At the end of the challenge, we gave out prizes to our highest point-earners. This year’s winners included:

Emily Leete, who had organic foods in 20 meals, 20 meatless meals, and 30 meals with 0 waste. She won a piece of sustainable art designed by Rachel Laura.

Kelly Youngberg, who chose alternative transportation as her challenge and saved 34.46 lbs. of CO2. She won an Otak bamboo storage stick.

Theo Malone, who chose water conservation as his challenge and saved 400 gallons of water. He won a bamboo Otak thumb drive.

We're looking forward to participating in next year’s EcoChallenge!

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October 9, 2014

Otak's Tammi Connolly joined about 120 volunteers last weekend to help plant over 5,000 trees in Oregon's Washington County. Although it was a tiring three hours of crawling around and tearing up root balls, it was gratifying to see all the newly planted trees! The weekend before, Tammi and Otakian Kelly Youngberg participated in a SOLVE Beach Cleanup on the Oregon Coast.

SOLVE is a state-wide non-profit organization that organizes over 1,000 cleanup and restoration projects throughout Oregon.

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October 8, 2014

Otak’s Portland office participated in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commute Challenge again this year! Here are a few numbers from our team:

226.5 total trips
2.338 total miles ridden
2,291 pounds of CO2 saved
114,562 calories burned (That's over 148 basic Chipotle chicken burritos or 734 12-oz cans of PBR!)
432 - most miles logged by a single person (Ron Dean)
100% - highest commute rate (completed by Megan Karner, Ron Dean, and Tim Ervin)
63 - most miles Ridden on a Single-Speed Bike = Jason Lien with 63 miles

Participants were entered into a raffle for a wide variety of coveted prizes, including bike spoke reflectors, temporary tattoos, a Metal Earth 3D Laser-Cut Praying Mantis Model (assembly required), and a bicycle-themed mug.

Congratulations, team, and we look forward to participating again next year!

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September 10, 2014

Otak is pleased to welcome 12 new hires!

Oregon/Southwest Washington

Melissa Toman has joined Otak as a job captain working out of our office in Portland, Oregon. She brings four years of experience in the design industry, and prior to joining Otak she served as the lead production member at a private architecture firm. Her responsibilities included producing design development drawings, 3D models and construction documents, and communicating with clients and consultants. Melissa earned her Bachelor of Architecture from Woodbury University in San Diego, California.

Jeremy Tamargo has joined Otak as a water resources engineering designer working out of our office in Portland, Oregon. He brings extensive experience collecting urban stormwater field samples, laboratory work, producing written reports, and generating computer models. He earned his Master of Science in Environmental Engineering and his certificate of advanced study in sustainable enterprise from Syracuse University and his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

Ben Bross has joined Otak as a project engineer working out of our office in Vancouver, Washington. He brings over 15 years of experience in civil engineering, and he spent the past 10 years working for the Washington Department of Transportation as a civil engineer and construction inspector. His responsibilities included designing transportation and infrastructure; preparing contract plans, specifications, and estimates; and coordinating multidisciplinary design groups, as well as coordination with stakeholders. Ben earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Washington State University.

Aaron Richard has joined Otak as a recruiter/HR generalist working out of our corporate office in Portland, Oregon. He has been working in the human resources field for the past 14 years.

Jeffrey Sherman has joined Otak as a landscape architect working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. He brings experience in urban design, land planning, open space planning, transportation, transit, and multidisciplinary projects. Prior to joining Otak, Jeffrey owned and operated an award-winning urban design and landscape architecture firm while simultaneously owning, operating, and managing a major manufacturer of urban street and transit furniture. He earned his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arizona, and he studied architecture at the University of La Salle in Mexico City.

Richard Johnson has joined Otak as a project architect working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. He brings 27 years of project experience working on the planning and design of new and re-use projects for public, commercial, educational, and healthcare clients. His experience includes working directly with clients, contractors, and design teams throughout all phases of project development. Richard earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arizona, and he is a registered architect in Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Skyler Flood has joined Otak as a landscape design professional working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. He is well-versed in research, drafting plans, and both hand-rendering and 3D modeling programs. Skyler recently earned his Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Arizona State University, and he is active in the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Geoff Brady has returned to Otak as a landscape design professional working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. Geoff brings extensive experience in landscape design and GIS analysis. His specialties include desert-adapted and arid planting design, urban planning and design, and modeling. He has worked on a variety of projects, including master-planned communities, private residences, commercial complexes, streetscapes, and parks and community areas. Geoff earned his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Arizona State University.

Puget Sound

Marina Howard has joined Otak as a civil engineering designer working out of our office in Kirkland, Washington. She has served as an engineering intern at Clackamas County, as well as private engineering firms. Marina earned her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Santa Clara University, and she is a LEED Green Associate.

Abu Dhabi

Mohamed Sali Jaleelulla has joined Otak as a material inspector working out of our office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He brings 30 years of experience working as a materials inspector in the United Arab Emirates, and he has worked on a wide range of road, bridge, and civil engineering projects. Mohamed earned his degree in civil engineering from the Board of Technical Education in Kerala, India.

Ali Mohamed Ahmed Ali has joined Otak as an electromechanical inspector working out of our office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He brings 20 years of experience in electrical engineering and 11 years of experience working in the United Arab Emirates. Ali earned his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Menofia University in Egypt.

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August 27, 2014

Otakians Tammi Connolly, Liz Gilliam, Matt Klym, Hannah Marre, Melanie McCandless, and Gary Wolff participated in the 8th Annual Johnson Creek Clean-Up on August 23 in Portland, Oregon. They were part of a 140-person effort to remove trash from the lower six miles of the creek (starting at the Willamette River and going up past I-205). Over 37 tons of trash have been removed over the course of the eight Johnson Creek Clean-Ups, averaging 4.5 tons per year. Volunteers work in teams led by captains familiar with the reach of the creek and remove trash that poses a risk to wildlife and water quality.

After the morning clean-up volunteers returned to Mill Park for a BBQ and awards for the most interesting item found in the creek. Notable items this year included nearly 30 tires, one mattress, a model pirate ship, a packet of love letters, legacy media (a floppy disk and a VHS cassette), a bowling ball, an electronic dartboard, and wildlife including a Pacific lamprey and the carcass of a steelhead trout.

The clean-up is co-organized by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, the Overland Park Coalition, and Green Lents and was supported by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services’ Community Watershed Stewardship Program (CWSP) grant. Melanie, Tammi, and Gary put in extra volunteer hours to contribute to the success of the clean-up. Melanie trained the team captains and coordinated the in-water work, Tammi wrote the successful CWSP grant application, and Gary served as event photographer.

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July 18, 2014

Otak’s Water Resources Engineer, Tammi Connolly, PE, ENV SP, has recently passed her Water Rights Examiner Exam! Certified Water Rights Examiners (CWREs) are knowledgeable of Oregon water laws and can prepare water right transfer and certification applications, take water usage measurements, and help prepare for the water needs of a growing population. Tammi is the first engineer at Otak to become a CWRE, and we are proud to offer this service to our clients. Congratulations, Tammi!

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June 18, 2014

Joe Primeau passed his Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) Exam, becoming Otak’s 17th ENV SP! Joe is an engineering designer working out of our office in Portland, Oregon, and he will join our other ENV SPs in providing guidance on designing sustainable infrastructure projects.

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June 17, 2014

Otak’s Beth Johannessen has recently passed her LEED AP Homes exam! Beth is a landscape design professional working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona, and her new accreditation will allow her to provide input on designing healthy, durable homes that produce less waste and use fewer resources. Congratulations, Beth!

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June 2, 2014

Otakians Tim Kraft, Liz Gilliam, Gary Wolff, and Melanie McCandless joined others in celebrating Johnson Creek on May 22 at Reed College. Approximately 180 attendees were present for the raffle, State of the Watershed report, Riffle Awards presentations, and guest speaker Dr. Colin Thorne. Dr. Thorne spoke about the values of blue-green infrastructure in the United States and the United Kingdom and highlighted the importance of Johnson Creek in the region. Otak designed the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ East Lents Floodplain Project (now the Foster Floodplain Natural Area), which plays an integral role in flood risk management in the watershed. Melanie McCandless currently serves as the Treasurer on the Council’s Board of Directors.

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May 9, 2014

Otak participated in the Oregon Chapter APWA Spring Conference, which took place in Seaside late last month. Otak’s booth included photo panels of recent and ongoing projects in Oregon, many of which were located on the Oregon coast. Otak showed its continued support and involvement in APWA through our attendees who were active participants in the Sustainability Committee, Water Resources Committee, Young Members Network, and the First-Timer program, all of which are ongoing efforts outside of the conference. This event kicked off the 50-year-anniversary celebration for the Oregon Chapter, which will continue at the Fall Conference in Pendleton.

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April 29, 2014

Kaela and I began carpooling when we started at Otak in October 2012. When Cheyenne joined our carpool a month later for the savings and witty conversation, I took on the task of designing a tracking system to ensure we paid everyone fairly. The resultant marvel of spreadsheet design and efficiency (a personal opinion) calculates who owes what to whom, what payments have been made, the amount saved per month, per person, and the total on tolls and gasoline. Our carpool grew with Chris and Jessica joining in Spring 2013, and from the start of our spreadsheet on November 27, 2012 through March 31, 2014, the five of us have saved a total of $6,550.90! The newest member of the Kirkland water resources team, Francesca, has already joined our carpool, promising more benefits.

In addition to the financial benefits of carpooling, each of us realized the environmental benefits as well. In the spreadsheet, we track saved carbon dioxide emissions using a typical conversion rate (one gallon of E10 gasoline emits 17.68 pounds of CO2 with combusted), and between November 2012 and March 2014, we saved 5.23 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere. The importance of this number cannot be overestimated with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicting large and negative effects resulting from climate change. While these problems may seem daunting, small actions can have immediate benefits and each one of us can make a difference.

I encourage you to evaluate your own commuting habits. Could you help your bank account with a small change or sacrifice? Or have you heard of the tragedy of the commons? We all can and should do our part to participate in grand solutions.

- Submitted by Neil Schaner

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April 29, 2014

Saturday, April 26, was SOLVe’s 25th Annual SOLVE-IT Earth Day event! Over 6,500 volunteers at 175 sites throughout Oregon worked together to improve environmental health. Otak’s Melanie McCandless led a group of 15 Portland State University students in a clean-up of green street facilities in the Lents Town Center. The green street facilities were installed in 2013 as part of the Streetscape Improvement project. Green streets manage stormwater quantity and quality, using biofiltration to slow down and treat the water before it discharges to Johnson Creek. The students removed approximately 60 pounds of trash and debris from the facilities and cleared inlets of accumulated sediment. The clean-up was a partnership with Green Lents, where Melanie serves as the Watershed Team leader; SOLVe; and the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ Green Street Stewards Program.

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April 17, 2014

Otak is committed to both sustainable business practices and sustainable project designs. Several Otakians in our Vancouver office recently received Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) certification, and 12 of our 16 technical staff members in Vancouver are now certified in Envision or LEED. These certified professionals help our clients and project teams achieve higher levels of sustainable design. Our certified staff in Vancouver include:

Ryan Billen, PE, ENV SP
Nick Brown, ENV SP
Derek Chisholm, AICP, LEED Green Associate, ENV SP
Rich Darland, PE, ENV SP
Grant Evenhus, PE, ENV SP
David Haynes, PLA, LEED Green Associate
Tim Kraft PE, ENV SP
Cory Kratovil, PE, ENV SP
Theo Malone, ENV SP
Hannah Marré, ENV SP
Greg Mines PE, ENV SP
Kelly Youngberg, ENV SP

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March 25, 2014

Over the past two weekends, Otakians Kelly Youngberg, Katie Kersten, Tim Ervin, Joe Primeau, Matt Klym, Melanie McCandless, and Hannah Marre have joined other volunteers in helping Green Lents enhance two bioswales in Portland’s East Lents neighborhood.

Over the years, weeds had invaded the bioswales, and in 2010 Green Lents canvassed over 300 homes in the area to assess knowledge of the swales and their purpose and to gauge interest in enhancing the swales with native plants. Three enthusiastic homeowners agreed to take part in the pilot project, and Green Lents worked with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ Sustainable Stormwater Group to develop a planting plan for the bioswales with plants that could thrive in the fast-draining environment while offering a wide range of bloom times to offer year-round support to pollinators. The swales will be monitored for two years with results contributing to a revised planting plan for other homeowners interested in enhancing their swales.

Green Lents is an all-volunteer nonprofit with a mission to provide education, volunteering, and leadership opportunities in and around the Lents neighborhood to provide a thriving, sustainable community. Melanie McCandless is the Watershed Team Leader and a founding Board member, and she is currently serving as Records Keeper.

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March 6, 2014

Otakians Rose Horton and Melanie McCandless participated in the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s 16th Annual Watershed-Wide event on Saturday, March 1. Their efforts, combined with almost 300 other volunteers, had a tremendous positive impact on the watershed’s health. Over the course of three hours at ten sites, volunteers planted 7,760 native plants, removed six cubic yards of invasive plants, and cleaned up three bags of garbage. Volunteers celebrated their successes afterward at a pizza luncheon.

The Watershed-Wide event occurs annually on the first Saturday in March. Melanie hosted the Foster Place site as the representative Board Member and Rose participated at the Freeway Lands site just downstream of the Foster Floodplain Natural Area (formerly East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project).

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March 3, 2014

Otak’s Kevin Janik, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, passed his Green Globes Professional (GGP) exam, becoming the eighth GGP in the state of Oregon. Green Globes is a web-based environmental assessment and certification program for commercial buildings, and GGPs, such as Kevin, may serve as consultants on Green Globes projects by facilitating the building certification process and providing project management. Otak’s design professionals boast accreditations and certifications in a number of sustainable design programs, including LEED, Envision, Estidama, and Low Impact Development, and Kevin’s GGP certification adds yet another tool to help our clients build sustainable projects. Green Globes is a product of the Green Building Initiative, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting sustainable building practices.

Kevin has been an architect with Otak for 23 years, and he focuses on design, construction document development, specification writing, and construction contract administration and quality control for residential, transit, and governmental projects.

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January 20, 2014

Otak’s East Lents Floodplain Restoration project won a 2014 ACEC Oregon Engineering Excellence Grand Award!

The ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards recognize engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of innovation, achievement, and value, and winners were announced last week at ACEC Oregon’s Engineering Excellence Awards Dinner. The Grand Award was given to six of the 20 submitted projects.

To learn more about the award-winning East Lents Floodplain Restoration, please click here.

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November 25, 2013

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services added an interesting video about the opening of Otak’s Foster Floodplain Natural Area project. In an e-newsletter about the project, City of Portland Commissioner Nick Fish wrote:

“This is one of the many ways we are using cost-effective natural solutions to manage stormwater. The additional community dividend: a treasured place for East Portland families to relax, walk the trail, and watch wildlife.”

To learn more about Otak’s involvement in the Foster Floodplain Natural Area, please click here.

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November 25, 2013

Nine volunteers braved the cold winds to enhance a green street in Portland’s Lents neighborhood. Otakians Kelly Youngberg and Matt Klym joined fellow Otakian Melanie McCandless’ group, Green Lents, to add native plants to a previously weed-infested infiltration basin. The facilities were installed in 2006 as part of a street improvement project. The swale enhancement project has been in the works for over two years as Green Lents negotiated with Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services for permission to do the work – the first of its kind in Portland to retrofit existing facilities. After extensive canvassing to identify neighbor interest, three swales along SE Yukon Street were selected for the pilot project enhancement. The plants will improve water quality, enhance aesthetics, and support native pollinators. Two more swales will be planted in Spring 2014 and will kick off a pollinator monitoring study during the summer. 

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November 19, 2013

Otak’s Rudayna Abdo participated in Abu Dhabi’s Building Sustainability conference. She took part in a panel on Regenerative Urban Planning and Design, which discussed the approach of regenerative design and how it differs from the concept of sustainable design, as well as how passive design can be used to save costs and enhance intangible aspects of livability.

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November 4, 2013

In late October, Otak’s Tom Litster attended the Rail~Volution conference in Seattle, Washington. This annual conference attracts a diverse group of people interested in the development of high-capacity transit systems (light rail, commuter rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit), access to those systems, and the social and economic impacts on the communities served. The region was well-represented in attendance by elected officials, public agency staff, and consultants.

Major themes included transit’s impact on economic development, bringing investment to urban communities, and achieving social and economic equity within station areas. These themes represent a growing national consensus around the measures of success for 21st century transit-oriented development. Along those lines, participation by non-profits on session panels was notable. Their mission is to ensure affordable opportunities for housing and small-scale businesses in developing station areas. There were also a few sessions addressing challenges of the “first mile, last mile” for transit riders. This shows that transit agencies are thinking about customers beyond the actual stop amenities, understanding that the walk and the bike ride are also part of the transit trip. Bike share programs received considerable attention, along with travel demand management and parking strategies.

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November 4, 2013

Otak participated in this year’s EcoChallenge! The EcoChallenge, organized by the Northwest Earth Institute, encourages participants to change one habit for the Earth from October 15-30. 166 teams signed up, and 18 Otakians joined our company-wide team. Some of the challenges taken on by Otakians included using reusable bags, eating a strictly plant-based diet, biking to the store, purchasing locally sourced organic food, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs. Otak has taken part in the EcoChallenge in previous years, and we always look forward to this event, which draws attention to our impact on the environment.

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October 29, 2013

Otak has been a financial supporter of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP) for many years, and earlier this month, Otak sponsored a table for LCEP's annual art auction and gala. The event brought together individuals from the policy, public, and scientific communities and highlighted the important environmental and educational work that LCEP conducts throughout the year. Otak recognizes the importance of the Lower Columbia for our communities and our environment, and we are delighted to support LCEP's efforts to protect and restore nature and clean water for future generations of fish, wildlife, and people.

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October 28, 2013

Following the depaving of the St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church parking lot last month, approximately 30 volunteers joined Melanie McCandless and John Notis of Green Lents in creating a rain garden and peripheral planting areas. Prior to the project, the only green space on the church lot was a small bed at the south end. The addition of over 500 native plants will improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat and aesthetic enhancement.

The central rain garden will allow water to soak into the ground rather than flooding the church and the rain garden will treat the water before it enters nearby Johnson Creek. The plantings along the edge of the parking lot will reduce the amount of runoff reaching the rain garden while providing a screen between the church and neighboring properties.

This project was a partnership between Depave, Green Lents, and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council and was funded by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services’ Community Watershed Stewardship Program.

There will be a rain garden celebration in Spring 2014. For more information, contact Melanie McCandless at

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October 18, 2013

Otak’s Lot 5 at the Yards project has recently earned LEED Silver Certification! This project, which is the last phase of the transit-oriented Yards at Union Station Development, converted an unsightly brownfield into an aesthetically pleasing building that provides 80 affordable housing units in Northwest Portland. The five-story building contains a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. The project includes many sustainable measures such as flow-through plantings, energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency windows and building envelope, linoleum floors, and materials with highly recycled content. We are proud to add Lot 5 to our portfolio of LEED Certified projects!

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October 15, 2013

Ron Dean, Otak architect, created an attractive display board of our Lot 5 at the Yards project for this year’s AIA Portland Design Awards People’s Choice exhibit. The boards are on display in Portland’s Pioneer Place Mall, across the street from our Portland office. The public has the opportunity to view the display boards and vote for your favorites by clicking here.

Lot 5 is an 80-unit affordable housing project in Northwest Portland and recently achieved a LEED Silver rating. Otak’s design team included Sinan Gumusoglu, Jennifer Nye, Ron Dean, Kevin Janik, and Ben Bortolazzo.

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October 10, 2013


Last Saturday, Dr. Lauren Allsopp, Adjunct Instructor of Historic Preservation at the University of Oregon, brought a group of her students to Otak’s Portland office to discuss green preservation and relevant projects in the Portland area. Don Hanson, Otak’s Director of Planning and Design, led the discussion and focused on changes he has seen while serving on the Portland Planning Commission. Otak’s Derek Chisholm also shared his experience in green preservation projects, as well as research he’s performed on the topic. The students toured Otak’s office in the historic Director Building and visited case-study sites. We thank Dr. Allsopp and her students for stopping by!

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October 7, 2013

Two Otakians, Melanie McCandless and Matt Klym, joined more than 50 other volunteers on Saturday, September 28, to break up part of a parking lot in the Lents area of Portland, Oregon. Volunteers from St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Depave, Green Lents, and Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) removed 2,400 square feet of asphalt (at least 30 tons), filling four and a half ten-yard bins. The central depaved area will be converted to a rain garden, while areas along the fence will be landscaped with drought-tolerant native plants.

The project is funded by a City of Portland community Watershed Stewardship Grant, and additional funds were raised at a traditional Ethiopian dinner at the Church this past June.

Twenty-five to thirty volunteers are needed to help plant the depaved areas on Saturday, October 26, from 10 am – 2 pm. To register, please contact JCWC Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Amy Lodholz, at

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September 30, 2013

On Friday, September 20, Otak's Portland office participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual international event where groups and individuals transform metered parking spaces into temporary public places. We converted the spot in front of our corporate office on SW Third Avenue and Yamhill Street into an interactive rock garden where people could use paint pens to draw or write on the rocks about their favorite places or why they were drawn to Portland. PARK(ing) Day draws attention to how much of our cities are reserved for movement and parking of cars, and tries to reclaim little pockets of that space for people to meet, congregate, and express themselves.

We thank all of the enthusiastic participants who helped make our first PARK(ing) Day a success, and we look forward to next year's event!

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September 30, 2013

Otak's Portland office participated in this year's Bike Commute Challenge. The challenge is a competition to see who can bike to work more during the month of September. Our team logged over 1,450 miles in over 160 trips. The Bike Commute Challenge is a fun way to get some exercise and empower people to explore biking as a form of transportation. The Bike Commute Challenge is organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), which is a non-profit organization working to promote bicycling and improve bicycling conditions in Oregon.

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September 26, 2013

Otak is pleased to welcome seven new hires!

Liz Gilliam has joined our office in Portland, Oregon, as a senior geomorphologist. She has been active in geomorphic studies, both on-the-ground measurements and decision-making, for many years. She brings more than a decade of practical experience in project development, management, implementation, and innovative technical analyses. She has been an adjunct professor in Portland State University’s Environmental Professional Program since 2009. Liz earned her Master of Science degree in Geomorphology from Colorado State University and she double majored in Geology and Geography/GIS from Western Michigan University.

Lorna Dominguez has joined our Denver, Colorado, office as a project assistant. She brings over 12 years of administrative and marketing experience, having led several successful proposal efforts on large projects in California and Colorado for private firms. Lorna earned her Master of Arts in Education, Pupil Personnel Services - Guidance Counseling from Azusa Pacific University and her Bachelor of Science in English Education from eastern Montana College.

Trista Kobluskie has joined our Vancouver, Washington, office as a stormwater planner. She is an experienced project manager and administrator in both government and the private sector, with strong knowledge of the Phase I Western Washington Municipal Stormwater Permit, as well as Clark County’s stormwater compliance program and MS4 infrastructure management. She wrote the 2010 Clark County Stormwater Management Plan, the first of its kind for a Phase I municipal stormwater permittee in Washington. Trista earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Drew University and received graduate instruction in GIS from Portland State University.

John Longbotham has joined our Kirkland, Washington, office as a civil engineering intern. He is a certified Engineer-in-Training currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Seattle University. His previous work experience includes an internship with the City of Woodinville Public Works Department.

Joni Lund has joined our Kirkland, Washington, office as a CAD technician. She has served as a CAD drafter, engineering technician, and CAD project manager for engineering firms in Washington and Texas and had been working at Otak as a temporary employee for the past few months. Joni earned her Associate of Arts in Technical Arts and Civil Engineering from Bates Technical College.

Melissa Johnson has joined our Portland, Oregon, office as a strategic planning manager. She brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, and organizational development. She earned her Master of Arts in Organization Design and Renewal from Seattle University and her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Western Washington University. Melissa is a Certified Professional Services Marketer and has received her Living Systems Theory and Application Professional Development Certification. She is the past Oregon Chapter President of the Society for Marketing Professional Services and she is a member of the Organizational Development Network and Degrees of Transition, LLC, Advisory Board.

Tim Ervin has joined our Portland, Oregon, office as a project assistant. Prior to Otak, Tim served as a project administrator/project management assistant at an engineering firm, where he was responsible for document control, quality management and reporting, proofing construction documents and drawings, and office management. He also brings more than a decade of project management experience in publishing and is a LEED Green Associate. Tim earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communications Design from California State University, Chico, and his Associate of Applied Science in Construction Project Management from Portland Community College - Rock Creek.

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September 10, 2013

A few of Otak’s water resources engineers joined the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and Portland Parks & Recreation to lead a tour of our East Lents Floodplain Restoration project - now known as the Foster Floodplain Natural Area.

To learn more about the tour and view the tour brochure, please click here.

To learn more about this project, please click here.

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August 28, 2013

Water and Natural Resources staff Gary Wolff, Theo Malone, Tammi Connolly, and Melanie McCandless got dirty for a good cause last Saturday in the 6th Annual Johnson Creek Clean-Up.  Over 100 volunteers were in the creek to remove trash from I-205 to the confluence with the Willamette River. Theo jumped into the challenging reach downstream of SE 82nd Avenue, and Tammi helped wrestle debris into the trailer for disposal. Gary served as event photographer, and Melanie co-organized the event with Amy Lodholz of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council and Norbert Loske of the Overland Park Coalition.

Over the past six years volunteers have removed over 30 tons of trash from the creek. Fortunately, this year continued last year’s trend of decreased trash loads – Johnson Creek is getting cleaner each year. Volunteers removed debris in the morning and celebrated in Mill Park afterward with a BBQ and award ceremony. The team of volunteers that found the oddest item in the creek won the Golden Trashcan, and the Dirty Olympics recognized the top three dirtiest volunteers with the bronze, silver, and gold soap-on-a-rope.

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July 22, 2013

Russ Gaston, PE, and Ryan Hawkins, PE, of Otak's Kirkland Water and Natural Resources group were recently invited to give a presentation on innovative stormwater management techniques to the Growth Management Policy Board (GMPB) of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The GMPB includes council members, mayors and other representatives of regional cities and counties, businesses, labor, civil and environmental groups. Russ and Ryan presented options for encouraging cost-effective and sustainable stormwater management for urban infill development. The presentation was followed by a question and answer period with questions fielded from numerous interested representatives of cities and counties across Puget Sound. The GMPB contacted Otak after calling several local city public works directors and hearing Otak's name come up several times as being a leader in the field.

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July 16, 2013

Creating Vibrant Urban Neighborhoods Outreach and Information Gathering is part of Otak’s East Corridor Implementation Support project for the Growing Transit Communities Partnership.


What is the Growing Transit Communities Partnership (GTCP)?
Coordinated by the Puget Sound Regional Council and involving partners such as the cities of Bellevue and Redmond, A Regional Coalition for Housing, and others, the GTCP is a regional effort to help make the most of voter-approved $15 billion investments in regional high capacity transit. The Partnership is committed to implementing economically vibrant and diverse neighborhoods and communities around high capacity transit stations throughout the region. There are four focus areas of the East Corridor Implementation Support project sponsored by GTCP: Affordable housing, business retention and attraction, transportation access and connectivity, and partnerships. The Partnership is funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program.

East Link:
Derby Days:

On Saturday, July 13, Otak staff (Mandi Roberts, Liz Johnson, and Finis Ray) engaged eastside residents at the annual Redmond Derby Days in visioning future urban neighborhood settings along the East Link extension of light rail. Participants were asked to show what neighborhood elements are most important and appealing when considering urban living. Otak provided information in order to help residents visualize the planned redevelopment of east corridor station areas, such as Overlake Village, into vibrant, urban neighborhoods for all ages. Liz and Finis, urban planning interns in Otak’s Kirkland office, will be compiling the results with the intent to better understand what might attract families and multi-generational residents to the new urban neighborhoods that will emerge on the eastside around light rail.

Using an interactive visual preference survey, Otak captured the public’s suggestions and ideas about what makes a neighborhood vibrant and family friendly. A kids table invited children to draw the favorite things about their neighborhood. Participation was enthusiastic! A companion online survey will be live all summer and through early fall at Everyone is invited to participate in the online survey; we welcome all input! So please tell us what elements are most important for urban neighborhoods.

Derby Days was the first of several stops for Otak’s Vibrant Urban Neighborhoods booth. The display will also be hosted at other at future community events on the eastside this summer and early fall.

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July 15, 2013

Congressman Earl Blumenauer recently toured Otak’s new Portland office and met with R. Nicholas Loope, FAIA, Otak’s President and CEO. He then met with a group of Otak staff for a brownbag lunch and town hall-style meeting where he discussed the priorities for essential infrastructure, transit, energy efficiency, clean water, and sustainable economic growth. We appreciate Congressman Blumenauer taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us, and we applaud his tireless advocacy for livable communities. He is always welcome back at Otak!

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June 10, 2013

Cascadia Community College in Bothell, Washington, held a celebration in honor of the Global Learning and the Arts Building achieving LEED Platinum! Otak served as the lead for civil engineering and also assisted with permitting/land use entitlement and provided surveying and mapping. Otak collaborated with the building’s designer, Miller/Hull Partnership, and at least a dozen professionals from all sectors of the college. LEED Platinum is the highest level of certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, and this is the first LEED Platinum building for both Cascadia Community College and the City of Bothell.

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June 7, 2013

Otak recently received a certificate of appreciation from the Shaw Contract Group for recognition of environmental stewardship! As part of the tenant improvements for our new Portland office, our architects were able to return approximately 3,918 pounds of post-consumer carpet back to the manufacturer to be recycled. This decision helped eliminate almost 4,000 pounds of landfill waste!

Recycling the old carpet is only one of many sustainable elements that Otak architects incorporated into the Portland office design. Other sustainable design features include energy-efficient lighting with daylight sensors and occupancy sensors, low-emitting materials, and materials reuse. We are pursuing LEED Commercial Interiors Silver certification.

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June 5, 2013

Over the last few months, Otakians in Lake Oswego have been organizing, packing, and purging unneeded items in preparation for our move to Portland. We are happy to report that our hard work has resulted in a beautiful, centrally located corporate office in downtown Portland! Our first day in the new office was May 28, and our IT team deserves special mention for working around-the-clock on Memorial Day weekend to ensure our office was ready for our arrival.

We have been in our office for about a week, and according to an internal survey, 80 percent of our Portland staff used alternate modes of transportation to commute to and from our new office. This number is up from around 15 percent at Lake Oswego! In addition to becoming more sustainable, relocating downtown allows us to establish new relationships and reconnect with our valued Portland-based clients and colleagues. Come visit us at:

808 SW Third Ave., Suite 300
Portland OR, 97204

Our new phone number is: (503) 287-OTAK (6825)

Our new fax number is: (503) 415-2304

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June 5, 2013

Otak recently participated in the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association’s Annual Planning Conference in Portland. Otak was an exhibitor, and our very own Derek Chisholm transported our exhibit booth from our Portland office to the conference on his electric tricycle! Don Hanson, Jennifer Mannhard, and Tom Litster joined Derek at the conference to tell other attendees about our new office and recent projects, and attend sessions, which focused on the lessons learned from the past 40 years of implementing Oregon’s statewide planning goals and the opportunities to improve upon our planning for the next 40 years. It was a good opportunity to reflect on our planning practice, engage new people, and reconnect with our valued clients and partners.

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May 16, 2013

Melanie McCandless is now an Envision Sustainability Professional! She is the second Otakian to earn her credentials through this program that encourages sustainability in infrastructure. Otak is an Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Charter Member, and we appreciate Melanie taking the time and effort to further her knowledge of sustainable design. Congratulations, Melanie!

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May 7, 2013

Congratulations to Jenny Ngo on becoming a LEED Green Associate! Jenny is a planner working out of our office in Kirkland, Washington, and our LEED Accredited Professionals like Jenny are instrumental in helping Otak plan sustainable communities. Studying for the LEED Green Associate exam takes time and effort, and we appreciate Jenny’s hard work!

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May 7, 2013

The City of Portland celebrated the Foster Floodplain Natural Area and the kickoff to World Environment Day on Thursday, April 24. Otak’s 63-acre East Lents Restoration Project became the Natural Area when construction was completed in 2012. The celebration was attended by staff from various City bureaus, local agencies, nonprofits, and neighbors. The site was blessed by Native Americans through song and dance, and several dignitaries including Dean Marriot, Director of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services; Mike Abbate, Director of Portland Parks & Recreation; Nick Fish, Portland City Commissioner; Amy Fraenkel, Regional Director of United Nations Environment Programme; and students from Kelly Elementary School. The students presented a book of poems about water to Ms. Fraenkel and read a few of their favorites. After the speeches, Maggie Skenderian (Johnson Creek Watershed Manager, Portland BES) spoke about the project’s impact in the neighborhood and the future plans for the area and led a ceremonial tree planting with students from Kelly Elementary.

Melanie McCandless planted a tree in recognition of her active participation in the community through Green Lents. Kevin Timmins led the site tour and Gary Wolff was available to answer questions about the hydraulic modeling intricacies of the project.

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May 2, 2013

Otak’s Rudayna Abdo, AICP, MCIP, PQP, recently delivered a presentation at the Datamatix GCC Nationals Housing and Financing Challenges Conference at the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Rudayna’s presentation, “Delivering Affordable Housing in the GCC through Community Creation and Sustainable Development,” examined the unique demographics of the GCC and their impact on the housing market and emphasized the role of master planning in providing sustainable housing. The two-day conference was attended by regional leaders in housing, real estate, banking and finance, education, and government organizations.

Rudayna wrote at greater length about the conference on the Affordable Housing Institute blog, and you may read her blog entry by clicking here.

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April 30, 2013

Don Hanson, PLA, Director of Planning, Architecture and Design at Otak, welcomed a visiting delegation from the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to Portland, Oregon. The event was arranged by First Stop Portland, a Portland State University program that organizes study tours for visiting delegations that are interested in learning about Portland’s internationally recognized sustainability policies and best practices. The UPC delegation, which included HH Sheikh Thehab Al Nahyan, learned about how planning can encourage cities and citizens to make more ecological decisions and to understand the interaction between the public and private sectors working together towards beneficial solutions. First Stop Portland invited Don to share his expertise along with several other prominent public- and private-sector leaders in Portland, including Mayor Charlie Hales.

Don has been an active shaper of Portland planning for decades, having worked on countless projects in the city and serving on numerous committees. He served as Chairman of the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission, which sets development and land use policies in Portland, and he is currently a member of the Commission. Otak has worked with UPC on many successful projects in the UAE, and the event highlighted the intersection of Otak’s local expertise and global reach.

To learn more about the event, please click here.

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April 11, 2013

Otak was well represented at the Oregon Chapter APWA Spring Conference, which took place in Hood River, Oregon. The conference drew over 150 attendees, including consultants, venders, and representatives from various local and statewide jurisdictions. Otak participated as a sponsor, which involved contributing to social-hour festivities, as well as having an innovative and informative booth showcasing a range of our recently completed projects. The booth also highlighted our upcoming move to Portland next month, which generated a lot of interest.

In an effort to further our sustainability goals, our booth provided QR codes to brochures on our website, making printed brochures unnecessary. We also held our first paperless raffle! Attendees who visited our booth were entered electronically into a raffle for Starbucks Card eGifts, which were emailed to the winners. The raffle was a success, and we look forward to refining and repeating this process at future conferences.

The conference featured a wide variety of presentation topics ranging from floodplain management improvements to moving the Sellwood Bridge. Many of the presentations were applicable to our wide range of expertise. Otak maintains an active APWA presence year-round, and the Spring Conference is always a fun opportunity to connect with our peers and share our work.

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April 3, 2013

Tammi Connolly, PE, is now an Envision Sustainability Professional! Envision is a joint collaboration between the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) that encourages sustainability in infrastructure. Similar to the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, Envision offers both a ratings system for infrastructure and a credentialing system for professionals. Otak is an ISI Charter Member, and we are confident that many more Otakians will join Tammi as Envision Sustainability Professionals. Congratulations, Tammi!

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March 12, 2013

Otak International’s Rudayna Abdo, AICP, MCIP, PQP, recently chaired and presented at the three-day Future Housing Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The first day of the summit focused on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the second day focused on financing and delivery methods, and the third day, chaired by Rudayna, focused on sustainability. Rudayna and Hicham Bou Habib from Solving Efeso delivered a presentation titled “Designing for the Desired Demographic: Dissecting Housing Needs in Abu Dhabi.” They examined demographics and housing typologies and discussed the supply/demand gap and affordability issues.

Rudayna’s summary of the conference is that there needs to be a better acceptance of higher density dwelling among the nationals of the GCC and that housing must be developed as part of city and community development and not as an isolated delivery system. She stressed that housing solutions need to be found for all representatives of the population, especially lower income expatriates, and of the importance of sustainability – economic, environmental, social and cultural – as a requirement rather than an option in development. Finally, it is important to have continued meetings to evaluate and discuss the many ongoing initiatives in the region and to learn from one another at events like the Future Housing Summit.

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March 11, 2013

The 15th Annual Johnson Creek Watershed Council Watershed-Wide Event was held, as always, on the first Saturday in March. I helped lead the Stonebridge Apartments site with Stream Team Captains from SOLVE and Matt Klym from Otak. With the help of 50 cub scouts, boy scouts and their families, we planted 250 trees, mulched  and installed protective fencing around the trees and picked up 12 bags of garbage. After the event we enjoyed lunch at Wall Street Pizza in Gresham or Pietro’s Pizza in Milwaukie. Overall, 470 volunteers attended the event in 12 different locations. The group planted 8,950 native trees and shrubs, removed 20 cubic yards of invasive plants, picked up 50 bags of garbage and moved seven yards of mulch. 

 - Submitted by Melanie McCandless

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March 1, 2013

Otak’s corporate office is moving from Lake Oswego to downtown Portland! Our new home will be the Director Building located at 808 SW 3rd Avenue, and we expect to be moved this spring. This move is an exciting opportunity for us to benefit from Portland’s creative energy and further our commitment to sustainability. Stay tuned for more information!

To learn more about our move, please click here.

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February 26, 2013

The Global Learning and Arts Building at Cascadia Community College (CCC) in Bothell, Washington, has been awarded LEED Platinum Certification, the highest level of certification recognized by the US Green Building Council. CCC is only the second community college in Washington to accomplish a LEED Platinum Certified building. As a subconsultant to the Miller Hull Partnership, Otak served as the lead civil engineer and also assisted with permitting and land use entitlement and provided surveying and mapping.

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January 22, 2013


Otak’s Melanie McCandless has recently been voted on to the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s Board of Directors! Melanie is a Water Resources Engineering Designer in our Lake Oswego, Oregon, office, and she has been volunteering with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council extensively since moving to the area in 2008. Congratulations, Melanie!

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December 12, 2012

Otak International’s Walaa Abu Hijleh is now an Estidama Pearl-Qualified Professional (PQP) in the Communities category. Estidama is the sustainability program implemented by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and it is similar to the American LEED system. Creating sustainable communities is one of Otak’s core values, and our PQPs are instrumental in realizing this core value on our projects in Abu Dhabi. Congratulations, Walaa!

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November 27, 2012

Sharlene Sherwood is Otak’s latest LEED Green Associate! Sharlene is a Landscape Design Professional working out of our office in Kirkland, Washington, and we appreciate her taking the time and effort to further her professional development and strengthen Otak’s core value of creating sustainable communities. Congratulations Sharlene!

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November 20, 2012

Otak is pleased to announce five new hires!

Cheyenne Covington, PE, LEED AP has joined Otak as a Senior Project Engineer with the Water and Natural Resources group in our office in Kirkland, Washington. He has served as Project Manager and Stormwater Technical Lead on many projects in the Puget Sound region and brings 14 years of experience in complex stormwater design, site development, and low impact development/green stormwater infrastructure implementation. Cheyenne earned both his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with a focus on Water Resources and his Bachelor of Arts in Civil Engineering with a focus on Environmental Engineering from Oregon State University.

Jeff Wilson has joined Otak as a Water Resources Analyst working out of our office in Kirkland, Washington. Prior to joining Otak, Jeff worked as a Staff Scientist and Water Quality Scientist at two private consulting firms and has served as a Hydrologic Science Technician for the US Forest Service. Jeff earned both his Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on Hydraulics and Water Resources and his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Washington.

Sami Auclair has joined Otak as a Marketing Coordinator working out of the firm’s office in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Prior to joining Otak, Sami worked as a Marketing Assistant at a private engineering firm where she wrote and edited content and provided assistance on proposal efforts. She also serves as the communications spokesperson for Architects Without Borders-Oregon where she has been writing and distributing press releases and editing internal and external materials since July 2012. Sami earned her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Pacific University.

Zachary Watson has joined Otak as a Landscape Technician working out of our office in Tempe, Arizona. Prior to joining Otak, Zachary worked as an Electrical Designer at a private engineering firm. He also spent three years working as a CAD Technician. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Arizona State University.

Marie Steffen has joined Otak as a Project Accounting Specialist working out of our office in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She brings over 20 years of experience in accounting, office management and administrative support. Prior to joining Otak, she was self-employed as a Full Charge Bookkeeper, and her clients included a construction company and a property management company. Marie earned her Associates Degree in Business/Accounting from Bellevue College.

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October 31, 2012

Otak is currently providing full-consultancy services to a government agency for their staff accommodation in Mirfa, a city in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. The development includes 40 buildings comprising 400 residential units and retail services, all of which are consistent with the 2030 Mirfa Master Plan.

The project has been approved by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), and Otak is now finalizing the Estidama approval process for a 2 Pearl Building rating and 1 Pearl Community rating for the design-rating stage. Estidama is Abu Dhabi’s sustainability program, and, according to the UPC, the aim of the Pearl Building Rating System is to “promote the development of sustainable buildings and improve quality of life.” This project will provide a higher quality of life, longer building lifespan and long-term cost savings through sustainable measures associated with an integrated design process. Otak is proud to be the lead consultant on this groundbreaking project, which meets all new design guidelines for streets, the public realm and sustainable practices.

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October 15, 2012

Otak’s Parvathi Nampoothiri, LEED AP, AICP, PQP, participated in a full-day workshop at the Future Cities conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on October 4, 2012.

Delegates and speakers from various disciplines across the industry gathered at the conference to discuss planning and urban development practices from around the world, with special focus on the opportunities and challenges in the Middle East.

The workshop was structured as a master class on creating livable and sustainable communities using the principles of New Urbanism. Parvathi’s presentation, ‘Rethinking Urban Streets in Abu Dhabi,’ looked at walkability and connectivity as key elements in creating livable communities. Her talk focused on creating pedestrian-friendly, multi-modal streets based on the design principles and practices established by the Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design Manual.

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October 4, 2012

Otak’s Brad Bielenberg attended the Valley Forward Association’s 32nd annual Environmental Excellence Awards banquet last Saturday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The event is Arizona’s oldest and most prestigious awards program focused exclusively on sustainability initiatives. Tempe Council Member Cory Woods accepted the Valley Forward Award for the Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge on behalf of the City of Tempe and the T.Y. Lin team for which Otak was a subconsultant on this project.

At the banquet, the Bridge received yet another distinction! The bridge won a Crescordia Award, which is given to the top project for a specific category. The Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge was in the “Buildings and Structures: Industrial & Public Works” category. The display developed for the award will rotate through all Phoenix communities through the upcoming year.


To learn more about Otak's involvement in the Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge project, please click here.


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October 2, 2012

Otak’s Rudayna Abdo spoke at the Oman Transport Infrastructure Summit, which was held on September 10-13 in Muscat, Oman. The event is billed as “Oman’s only high-level networking event for executives and senior officials involved in transport infrastructure.” Over 140 local and international industry professionals attended the summit, which highlighted interest in the country as the government is embarking on massive transport and infrastructure developments. Rudayna’s topic was titled “Designing Abu Dhabi urban streets to enhance the city’s life quality and sustainability.” Her presentation included designing pedestrian-friendly streets, improving street connectivity and designing street networks to improve safety for all modes of transportation.

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September 26, 2012


The Winkelman Park project in Beaverton, Oregon, involves creating a level soccer field, pedestrian path, and a dog park on a steeply sloping site. With 30,000 cubic yards of earthwork required, balancing cut and fill volumes in order to control costs was of primary concern for the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District. The earthwork process included stripping and stockpiling site topsoil so the district would not need to import expensive material.

In order to help ensure the field could be used during wet weather, Otak designed a subgrade drainage system with drain pipes placed about 12 inches below the surface and 15 feet on center throughout the sport field area. The installation of the subgrade drainage system required specialty equipment using laser-guided trenching to ensure proper drainage was achieved over the relatively flat slopes of the field. Water intercepted by these pipes is directed to a collector pipe on each side of the field and channeled to a dispersion trench at the toe of the fill slope. The dispersion trench includes a level weir along its entire 200-foot length, so large volumes of storm water are evenly discharged into the adjacent sloping pasture land.

The project is currently under construction and is on schedule to be completed by the end of October.

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September 26, 2012

Otak served as a Silver Sponsor of the 2012 Sustainable Stormwater Symposium held in Portland, Oregon, on September 19 and 20. The symposium was organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers – Environment and Water Resources Group at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland and was enjoyed by almost 150 attendees. Keynote speakers included Robert Pitt, PhD, PE, who summarized his research findings around design of green infrastructure; Scott Wells, PhD, PE, who shared cautions about interpreting and reporting modeling data; and Tracy Tackett, PE, who presented the history and future of Green Stormwater Infrastructure in the City of Seattle.

Other speakers covered topics including challenges in LID infrastructure design, best practices for facility maintenance, and innovative UIC retrofit projects. Unique presentations covered modeling of CSO geysers, partnering with school children to steward bioretention facilities, and the challenges of applying basic stormwater management techniques to an Engineers Without Borders project in Honduras.

Presentations will be available on the symposium website at:

The first day ended with a poster session happy hour. Ashley Cantlon, PE, LEED AP BD+C, presented a poster with a cost comparison between conventional stormwater treatment techniques and the constructed alternative using LIDA facilities at Burnham Green Street in Tigard, Oregon. The second day included a morning session of presentations and concluded with a “Bike-BMP-n-Brew” tour of local LID facilities in the downtown Portland area.

The symposium was a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge of the growing field of sustainable stormwater design. We are looking forward to participating in the next symposium!

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September 18, 2012

Otak is pleased to announce that Xiao Wu is now a LEED Green Associate! Xiao is a structural engineer working out of our office in Kirkland, Washington, and she is our latest design professional to earn LEED Green Associate status. We are proud of Xiao and confident that her knowledge of sustainable design will benefit our clients, our company and our environment.

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September 4, 2012

On September 20, 2012, Otak’s Mandi Roberts and Brad Bielenberg will lead a session at the American Planning Association (APA) – Arizona Chapter Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, titled “How Cool is Your Town? Smart Growth and Transportation Strategies from the Award-Winning Cool Planning Handbook.” The Cool Planning Handbook, which received APA’s National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice earlier this year, offers communities practical guidelines for reducing their carbon footprints through integrated land use and transportation planning practices. It describes low-tech, low-cost techniques that even the smallest of towns can implement.

The session will provide attendees with strategies for smart growth and transportation, and Otak will highlight a few regional projects where the guidelines, tools and strategies of the Cool Planning Handbook have been implemented. Session participants will learn how to audit their communities and about tools and strategies for cutting transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

To view the Cool Planning Handbook, please click here.

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August 31, 2012

On Monday, August 27th, the American Public Works Association (APWA) recognized the SW Burnham Street Improvements project as Project of the Year in the category of Transportation - $5 million but less than $25 million. Kevin Timmins attended the APWA National Congress in Anaheim, California, to accept the award on behalf of Otak. He was joined by representatives from the City of Tigard (Owner) and Kodiak Pacific Construction, which built the project. The awards evening was extended with dinner, conversation, and sharing of project images and stories from before, during and after construction of the project.

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July 10, 2012

The Group Health Commute Challenge is a friendly competition to see who can get more people biking to work during the month of May.

 Our team from the Kirkland office – Panic Otak - logged 47 trips for a respectable 672 miles reducing our CO2 emissions by approx. 658 lbs and burning up thousands of calories while having a blast cycling in the gorgeous and scenic Pacific Northwest - Is that why those burgers tasted soooooo good? The Group Health Commute Challenge was a huge success. According to the event's website:

Together, we reduced our region's CO2 emissions by nearly 1.5 million pounds. We also burned a whopping 74,311,558 calories (that's 150,000 cheeseburgers!) and logged 106,408 pedal-powered trips -- about the number of cars that travel on I-5 in one direction during a 24-hour period. Imagine all those empty freeway lanes!

 A huge thank you to the following participants - Keith Bates, Steve Wilson, Josh Christofferson, Danielle Urbany, Bill Lawrence, Stephanie Smith, Ryan Hawkins, Brennan Elder, and Brenda Elder.

Keep on Rolling!


- Submitted by Brenda Elder


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May 31, 2012

The Seattle Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers selected Otak’s Valley Estates Bank Stabilization and Culvert Replacement project for an Honor Award! Otak will receive the award on June 13 at an event at McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside in Seattle. This project provided an opportunity to enhance one of the few spawning locations within the Sammamish River, provide fish passage with improved habitat features and enhance the aesthetics and improve stewardship among the public reaches of the stream. Otak provided survey and base mapping, background studies including analysis of the watershed for design using HSPF and SWMM models, alternatives development, preliminary design, public involvement assistance, permitting, final design and construction documents, construction assistance and post-construction monitoring.


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May 16, 2012

With a proposed federal transportation bill sparking intense debate in congress, one Otak professional decided to lend his expert opinion to Capitol Hill. Curtis LaPierre flew from Washington State to Washington, D.C. and advocated for active transportation programs such as transportation enhancements, complete streets, safe routes to school and scenic byways in the transportation bill. He spoke to legislators from his home state about how these programs would expand travel choice, strengthen local economies, manage stormwater runoff and improve the quality of life for communities across the country. 

To learn more about the benefits of active transportation programs, please click here.


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May 1, 2012

Otak received the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Excellence Award for Best Practice at the APA’s National Conference in Los Angeles. Otak planners received the award for their work on Cool Planning: A Handbook on Local Strategies to Slow Climate Change. This handbook embodies Otak’s commitment to building sustainable communities, and winning such a prestigious national award for this project is a proud moment for all of us at Otak. We thank the APA for this honor and congratulate everyone who worked on this project.


To learn more about Cool Planning, please click here.

To view the Cool Planning handbook, please click here.






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May 1, 2012

Volunteers from Otak’s Lake Oswego and Vancouver offices planted trees as part of an Earth Day celebration with other volunteers from throughout the Portland area. It began on Saturday morning near the I-205 Multi-Use Path in the Gateway area of Portland where volunteers were taught tree-planting basics. Then the volunteers set to work lugging trees and tools up the steep incline, digging holes in the rocky soil, setting trees in the holes, covering the soil around the trees with burlap sacks, securing the sacks to the ground with stakes, and driving wooden poles into the ground on the sides of the trees. After four hours of work, the volunteers had planted 180 native species, making it the largest-ever planting in over three years of planting along the I-205 Multi-Use Path.

The event was organized by Friends of Trees, a group which aims to bring people in the Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield metro areas together to plant and care for city trees and green spaces. The Otak volunteer group worked with Friends of Trees through EarthShare.

To learn more about Friends of Trees and find out how you can get involved, click here.




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April 23, 2012

Congratulations to Amr Azzazi on passing his LEED Green Associate exam! Amr is an architect working out of our office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Otak’s LEED-Accredited professionals in Abu Dhabi ensure that our commitment to sustainability is being implemented overseas. Good job Amr!











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April 20, 2012

Otak has won the 2012 American Public Works Association’s Public Works Project of the Year Award for the Burnham Street Improvements project! This national award puts Otak in a very elite group of winners, and Otak will receive a plaque at the APWA annual Awards Recognition Ceremony in Anaheim, California this summer.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on this project!

To learn more about the Burnham Street project, please click here.

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April 2, 2012

Martin Glastra van Loon is now a LEED Green Associate! Martin is an award-winning Urban Designer at Otak’s Lake Oswego office, and he’s the most recent addition to our list of LEED Accredited Professionals. We are proud of Martin’s latest achievement and confident that he will apply his knowledge of sustainable design.


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March 15, 2012

Congratulations to Kaitlin North on becoming a LEED Green Associate! Kaitlin is a Landscape Architect working out of our Lake Oswego office, and we congratulate her on passing the exam! Our talented LEED Accredited Professionals are instrumental in helping Otak plan sustainable communities.


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February 23, 2012

Otak has been working on the University of Washington, Bothell/Cascadia Community College Collocated Campus since 1993. One of the key elements of campus development has been a 60-acre wetland and stream restoration that covers almost half of the 127-acre project site. This wetland restoration has become one of the largest and most successful restorations on the west coast. Otak provided the civil engineering associated with the restoration, which included the relocation of over 4,000 feet of North Creek and the creation of a new floodplain. The following video highlights the work done to restore the wetlands and create opportunities for student and public education.

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February 9, 2012

Four Otak professionals attended this year’s River Restoration Northwest (RRNW) Annual Stream Restoration Symposium at Skamania Lodge in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. The annual symposium is the main event put on by RRNW which features short courses and presentations intended to advance the science and standards of river restoration. There were many great presentations this year on topics such as sediment transport, large woody debris, restoration of steep streams, urban streams, and restoration techniques and practice. Otak was a Bronze Level Sponsor, and the highlight of the symposium for us was that our own Gary Wolff was elected onto RRNW’s board of directors. This is a great honor for Gary and a natural progression of his involvement in RRNW where he has presented in the past and has been teaching a HEC-RAS modeling course the past few years.

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February 9, 2012

December 29th was the day we all dreaded—the day WSDOT would start charging us each $7 per day to drive to work across the SR 520 Bridge. Eight Otak Seattleites: Jeremy Andrews, Jessica Christofferson, Keith Bates, Kevin O’Brien, Mark Shelby, Ryan Hawkins, Tom Early, and Tyler Christofferson, decided to band together to beat the SR 520 toll by forming a carpool group. In the month of January alone this group saved approximately $400 in tolls and another $200 in gasoline. However, the real accomplishment of this group is we managed to keep 1, 120 lbs of carbon dioxide out of the earth’s atmosphere, practicing Otak’s mission of sustainability! If we keep this up all year, we will save approximately $7,200 and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 13,440 lbs.

By Jessica Christofferson and Ryan Hawkins

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February 7, 2012

Otak’s Ron Dean and Dalton Geny are now LEED Green Associates! They join many other LEED accredited professionals at Otak who are putting into practice our core value of sustainability, and we applaud them both for passing the LEED Green Associate test. Congratulations Ron and Dalton!



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January 13, 2012

Otak attended the 2012 ACEC Awards for Engineering Excellence event on January 11, 2012 at Portland’s Multnomah Athletic Club. The event highlighted over 30 award applicants for projects completed between 2010 and 2011. Otak submitted an entry for the SW Burnham Street | Green Street located in downtown Tigard, Oregon. The project received an honor award, highlighting the street’s unique stormwater planters, LED lighting, and challenging utility relocation environment. Otak’s Amanda Owings and SW Burnham Street project manager Darrin Stairs accepted the award alongside City of Tigard project manager, Kim McMillan.

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December 7, 2011

Gary Wolff, Senior Water Resources Engineer, gave a presentation on November 30, 2011 for EWRG’s monthly meeting at the Lucky Lab. He presented a case study of modeling the complex hydraulic system posed by Otak’s East Lents Floodplain Restoration project, which is currently under construction.

The presentation gave an overview of the project with an emphasis on the unique application of an unsteady-flow HEC-RAS model to capture the salient hydraulic characteristics of the reach, including the off-channel storage of flood waters north and south of the creek. It was very well attended, and sparked lots of good questions and discussion within the audience.

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October 20, 2011

Otak’s work on the SW Burnham Street Improvements project for the City of Tigard recently won a Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association, Oregon Chapter. Otak supported the City’s vision for a revitalized downtown with design and construction services to transform Burnham Street into the City’s first “green street.” The Otak team faced the unique challenge of balancing sustainability objectives with the street’s status as a major utility and freight corridor populated with longstanding small businesses. Otak provided roadway and stormwater design, water main and landscaping design, utility coordination and preparation of legal descriptions for easement and right-of-way acquisition.

Otak also won an Achievement Award from the American Planning Association, Utah Chapter, for the City of Logan’s Land Development Code Update. This project marked the City’s first major update of land use regulations since 2004. The plan converted traditional code to an innovative “place-based” system that supports the unique qualities and character for each of Logan’s geographically diverse residential, commercial and industrial zones.   

Dan Dawson, based in Otak’s Kirkland office, recently won the James Robertson Award from the American Public Works Association, Washington Chapter. This award recognizes an individual for outstanding serviceand is one of the Chapter’s most prestigious awards.

Congratulations to Dan, as well as the project team members who were recognized for their efforts on the Burnham Street and City of Logan projects. We appreciate your dedication to building better cities, stronger communities and great places that many generations will enjoy.

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October 4, 2011

Otak’s Lake Oswego office recently participated in the annual Bike Commute Challenge organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). This year, 12 riders braved the traffic and elements and biked to work at least once during the month of September. The Otak team logged 79.5 rides (a round trip is 1 ride) for the month and traveled a total of 1,492 miles or about the distance from Portland to Tucson, Arizona. Otak’s ride percentage of 4.9% was several percentage points higher than last year. Using the BTA’s formulas, the Otak team saved 1,462 pounds of CO2 and burned 73,123 calories.

Overall, the challenge included 12,064 riders actively logging trips, and a total of 1,372,667 miles. BTA estimates the effort saved 1,345,213 pounds of CO2. Bike commuting is a great way to get exercise, relieve stress, save money on gas, and reduce your carbon footprint. 

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September 19, 2011

Kevin Timmins, an Otak water resource engineer and project manager, was asked to speak this past Sunday (Sept. 18th) as part of a preconference workshop at the 2011 Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association Annual Conference being held in Vancouver, Washington. The workshop entitled “Green Stormwater Infrastructures: Now that they are in your system, what do you do with them?” was designed to provide attendees with an in-depth review of the theory and operations of green stormwater infrastructure, including vegetated swales, rain gardens, and porous pavements.

Kevin, along with two dozen other conference attendees, spent the afternoon traveling by tour bus around North Portland visiting and discussing different Green Stormwater Infrastructure sites. Agency representatives from around the Pacific Northwest were present, including Clean Water Services; West Sound Utility District; Kitsap County Public Works; Cities of Boise, Lake Oswego, Corvallis, Coeur d'Alene, Everett, Salem, Portland, Rexburg, and Tacoma, and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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September 5, 2011

For the past several years, the City of Redmond, Washington has been actively planning for the Overlake Village neighborhood to become the next urban center of Puget Sound Region’s East Side. Infrastructure development to support revitalization is already underway. Otak completed a plan for collocated parks and stormwater facilities last year, and is now working with the City to implement Phase 1.

As the City continues to evaluate how to give the neighborhood a competitive edge in the market, the potential for district energy is an important opportunity. Otak recently supported the City in hosting a forum focused on the potential for District Energy and Eco-District implementation. Eco-Districts are highly integrated neighborhoods that:

• Are resource efficient;
• Capture, manage and reuse a majority of energy, water, and waste within the district;
• Facilitate a range of transportation choices; and
• Enhance community engagement and wellbeing.

Several notable experts spoke at the forum about eco-districts, district energy, and urban planning, including Tom Puttman, Business Development and Technical Director with the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI); David Siegel, FAICP,  principal urban planner with Otak; Stuart Yanow, a Geosystems Engineer with Geotility; and Anthony Amendola with Amendola Enterprises, Micheal Weinstein with Urban Innovations Group, and Greg Galusha with MacDonald-Miller who are supporting Energy Efficiency Collaboratives in the region. Terri Battuello, City of Bothell Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Manager spoke about her community’s successful experiences in planning to revitalize its downtown and to integrate district energy. Mandi Roberts, principal with Otak, served as the moderator for the forum.

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