Finding the best solutions for highly complex projects brings out the best of Kirlin Design Buildkirlin design build, boss magazine

“If it’s 100 percent drawn and cookie-cutter, then it’s probably not the job for us.” That observation by Doug Makosy is a savvy indicator of why Kirlin Design Build is in high demand in our nation’s capital and other east coast locales.

As president of Kirlin Design Build, Makosy leads a team of designers, engineers, and construction experts that have a shared desire to embrace the most challenging projects possible — and to redefine the design-build concept along the way. “Ours is a different way of doing construction. The jobs are a little more collaborative and fun instead of adversarial plan and spec jobs,” he said. “We enjoy it a lot more.”

There’s plenty to enjoy, given that Kirlin is in a prime position to take a leadership role in the burgeoning design-build construction sector. Long viewed as an alternative approach to the typical design-bid-build model, the demand for design-build services is on the upswing. The domestic market is expected to exceed $320 billion by 2021.

As a recent study conducted for the Design Build Association of America reports, “Overall, owners indicated receiving significant value from design-build when employed on larger and more complex projects. These projects allowed for greater opportunity to provide project innovations and subsequent cost savings.”

That just happens to be Kirlin’s sweet spot. “We focus on large, complex, federal and private sector projects in the DC metro area,” Makosy confirmed. “Jobs that have a strong need for design are fast-tracked, and they are typically the ones that our clients call us for.” Right now, the government is calling on Kirlin for several high-visibility design build projects, including a large office building at Fort Meade, a large renovation of an existing National Institutes of Standards laboratory in Maryland, and the newly awarded Howard County Courthouse in Maryland.

The company is currently involved in the reconstruction of the legendary Cannon House Building, the oldest congressional building on the Capitol grounds. The Beaux Arts style structure, built in 1908, is one of the most iconic buildings on Capitol Hill, and will take a decade to renovate.

“Most of our federal clients, whether it’s the Corps of Engineers, NAVFAC, or GSA, have complicated and stringent criteria, and that’s where we’re a good fit,” Makosy pointed out. “We understand all the stringent criteria associated with those types of jobs very well. They’re good targets for us.”

As part of their renovation portfolio, Kirlin is spearheading the renovation of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. “It’s a five-or six-year project that we just got about a month ago,” Makosy said. “We are going to keep the building open while we do the work in phases, so it’s going to be a pretty complex project. We’re looking forward to it.”

Engineering on the Forefront

kirlin design build, boss magazineCollaboration is central to the design-build methodology, and it’s a commitment that the Kirlin team takes very seriously. “We’re really trying to think outside the box. We try to be more of a collaborative partner,” Makosy stressed. “We institute a problem-solving mentality and try to be a collaborator that creates win-win situations instead of being just a company that says, ‘This is what you bought, if you want anything different you’ll have to pay for it.’ We are a solution-driven organization.”

For Kirlin, those solutions are bolstered by their elite design and engineering expertise. “We lead with our design more than our construction,” he admitted. “We’d like to be known as an engineering firm first and a contractor second. That’s kind of odd, but that’s really what we are shooting for. We want to be known as one of the best design firms in town–and, by the way, we do construction.”

With two principal engineers, multiple senior design engineers, and a substantial support team on staff, Kirlin is primed to reset client expectations when it comes to offering design-build services. “Some people claim they’re a design-build firm, but they don’t have engineers on their payroll,” he added. “We have an engineering staff that can stamp drawings if need be, work with another engineering group, and we really walk the walk when it comes to design-build. We can actually design and build it.”

There are times, Makosy said, when clients engage separate engineering firms because they don’t expect their design-build firm to have engineers onboard. “We create a collaborative environment while working with other engineering firms because there’s a level of respect developed. I think it opens doors and allows us to be a little unique.”

The firm further sets itself apart by maintaining an in-house commissioning group. In construction, commissioning is the process of ensuring that a building’s core systems and infrastructure meet the requirements of the project. “That’s part of the problem-solver mentality that we’re trying to bring. We have a large group of highly-touted individuals that are involved in the commissioning group. We also have an internal Quality Control group,” he said.

“We have a large pre-construction group of about 40 people, including engineering, so that front-end group is really large. Where most firms just have an estimating group, we have a lot more on the front end, so we are capable of manning up a job in the beginning, doing the estimating-engineering-planning, whatever the need is, and we still have all of the aspects of a construction group.”

Autodesk’s inimitable Revit building information modeling software helps give Kirlin the edge. “In almost everything that we do, from design all the way to construction, fabrication, installation, and material purchasing, we try to maximize the use of the Revit model.”

Virtual reality (VR) technology is used in Kirlin’s work. Said Makosy, “It allows us to see everything that’s going into the architecture and structure, so we can plan accordingly with other trades as far as sequencing goes. We’re using it as a design tool as well as a planning tool in the field for fabrication and construction. We can see the structure a little better and see how the design will fit into the building. We use it on the front end as well as the back end.”

kirlin design build, boss magazineThe firm is currently beta-testing VR on their larger project job sites. “We’ve got a really nice system setup in the office that we use in design, but we found that the foremen were coming in and using it to plan, so we said, ‘Heck, why don’t we have these on job sites?’”

That exploration is one more aspect of Kirlin’s commitment to finding the right solutions for the most complex undertakings. Hiring associates who share those values will keep the firm afloat for the future. “We are problem solvers, not problem finders,” he concluded. “We try to bring people aboard the ship that think outside the box a little bit, and we give them that latitude to be creative. We don’t stop the creative and Innovative juices from flowing. That’s what makes us a little unique here.”

That originality is a boon for Kirlin’s discerning clientele — and a design for Kirlin’s continued success.


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Kirlin Design Build
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