Cary Kopczynski & Company Inc.

In the structural engineering industry, Cary Kopczynski & Company Inc. (CKC), based in Bellevue, Wash., is known as an innovator and pioneer. “We built the company around a philosophy that we believed was unique, and time has proven that to be the case,” President and CEO Cary Kopczynski says. “In addition to providing state-of-the-art structural engineering services, we also provide what’s known as ‘buildable design.’

“‘Buildability’ refers to a design that takes maximum advantage of efficient, productive, contemporary construction techniques,” he continues. “We like to partner with contractors early in the design process and gain a good understanding of their preferred construction systems; we then incorporate as much of their input as is appropriate into our design. By doing that, we can often design a better building with higher levels of structural integrity at a lower construction cost.”

Kopczynski grew up in a construction family and worked as a laborer on job sites throughout high school and college. A strong entrepreneurial desire prompted him to establish CKC in 1985, and his construction background enabled him to bring a unique perspective to the structural engineering industry. “When I started my own firm, I was convinced there were too few firms approaching structural design the way I thought it should be,” he says. “So we started with a philosophy of providing structural engineering excellence with an emphasis on buildabilty, and that has worked very well for us.”

Structural Pioneer

CKC has remained on the leading edge of technology since its inception. The company embraced building information modeling (BIM) when it was first introduced to the market. “We concluded that BIM was the future, converted the entire office to it and worked hard to move up the learning curve,” Kopczynski says. “We’ve now reached the point where we’re viewed in our region – and even beyond the Northwest – as true leaders in BIM technology.

“Another service we offer that is very valuable is our ability to provide accurate internal material quantity estimates of our designs at early stages in the design process,” he continues. “This creates a valuable pricing tool for the contractor and owner. When we start a project, our goal is to produce an efficient design. We can monitor how well we’re achieving that objective in time to make design course corrections, if necessary.”

Industry Accolades 

While the majority of the structural engineering industry is just now starting to embrace BIM, Cary Kopczynski & Company is pioneering new technologies. In recent years, the company has been promoting the use of high-strength 90 and 100 ksi reinforcing steel. 

It recently won the ACEC-Washington Gold Award for its use of high-strength steel on the 31-story Escala project in downtown Seattle. CKC also was selected by McGraw-Hill Construction and Engineering News-Record magazine as one of the top-25 newsmakers of 2007 for its pioneering work with 100 ksi steel on Escala, which was the first building in North America, and perhaps the world, to use 100 ksi steel for seismic reinforcing. 

Another CKC innovation is its use of an integrated core design in urban high-rises, which entails building the elevator/stair core up through the middle of the structure, while thickening the slabs around the perimeter, eliminating the need for internal columns. 

“We can design a more efficient structure with longer floor spans for either less cost or, at worst, no cost premium,” Kopczynski says. 

Its use of this process earned the company a national finalist award for New Buildings in the category of $30 million to $100 million project cost from the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, an Excellence in Concrete Construc­tion award from the Washington Aggregates and Concrete Associa­tion, and a National Award of Excellence – Residen­tial Buildings from the Post-Tensioning Institute.

International Presence

CKC is a structural engineering firm whose services are offered nationwide, but Kopczynski sees room for some “cautious growth” in the international market. “We selectively pursue work outside of the country,” he notes.

“It’s a little more challenging to ensure that the business deal is suitable,” he explains. “Certainty of payment is No. 1, and then we look for projects we think we can bring value to. 

“For example, Korea is interested in adopting new post-tensioning technology, and we have some contacts who are very intrigued with it. We’ve been doing consulting work in Seoul to assist in designing post-tensioned concrete buildings.”

The company also is looking at doing work in India. “We are quite interested in what’s happening over there because their economy is strong, and there is a major need for infrastructure,” he says.

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