Impact Family VillageCost savings, accelerated schedules, coordination with seven funding agencies and two non-profit owners and goats earned Rafn Company the top award in the 2014 Excellence in Construction Awards, presented by Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington (ABC).   ABC awarded Rafn the Eagle of Excellence Award, as well as an Excellence in Construction Award, for the Emerald City Commons, a mixed-use development. Additionally, ABC presented eight other awards to six other firms in this year’s competition.

The awards credit all members of the teams responsible for winning projects, from contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, to owners, architects and engineers.


Eagle of Excellence and Mixed-Use Construction Awards:

Mixed-Use Construction

Rafn Company

Emerald City Commons, Seattle

Owners – Urban Impact and Mercy Housing NW

Architect – MulvannyG2 Architecture

Engineer – KPFF

This mixed-use project includes 61 affordable housing units, 5,700 square feet of commercial space, and parking. The retail space was created for Rainier Health and Fitness, a non-profit health organization of the project originator, Urban Impact. Challenges to the project started long before the project began – it was conceived and initially bid four years prior to its start. Add to that the two clients, both non-profits needing to stretch every dollar; six funding sources that required different types of documentation; the requirement to utilize local and WMBE subcontractors (32 percent of money spent on subs was allocated within a 10-mile radius and 48 percent went to WMBE subs); utility coordination with multiple agencies and requiring no interruption in service to the area; and very limited site access, all of which made for seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Then there was the previously undetected contaminated soil.

Rafn had to get very creative; they met or exceeded all expectations. They were diligent and clever in identifying cost-saving options. One was suggesting the podium be moved from east and north to reduce site work and structure costs. The owners took advantage of $298,000 in preconstruction savings, and Rafn credited the owner $110,000 due to cost savings during construction.

Sustainability goals were kicked off with a small herd of goats brought in to clear the land. Materials included 50/100 year building materials, low maintenance/allergen-reducing stained concrete or vinyl plank floors, and durable carpet tiles with low VOC adhesives. The units feature energy-efficient appliances and open interiors with large windows. The project was constructed to meet the Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard and earned a Seattle City Light Built Smart Award.

The long and narrow site allowed access only from busy Rainier Avenue and gained elevation on one side. That combined with poor soil conditions had Rafn utilizing a soil nailing system that eliminated the need for easements. Removal of the nearly 3,000 tons of contaminated soil delayed the project 42 days, but Rafn accelerated the schedule and cut that delay in half. Contaminated soil remediation contributed to more than 90 percent of the change in contract value.

Finally, as is inherent in all construction, neighbor relations was crucial to success. To that end, the Rafn team shared plans ahead of time, listened, and maintained open communications throughout the project. They rented their project office from Urban Impact in a previously unrented space, repaired a parking lot and repaved a driveway on adjoining properties, put in a new sidewalk, and retained the south property for use as a parking lot.

All that and there were no recordable or lost time accidents during the 17,384 hours worked.

In addition to safety, the success of the project is best told by the owners:

“Rafn Company provided excellent creative thinking and problem solving skills in finding cost-effective solutions. The project management team helped the owner research and investigate price alternatives that helped the project improve longevity and offset unanticipated costs due to the substantial soil remediation costs,” said Bill Rumpf, president, Mercy Housing Northwest.

“I still remember one of our early conversations where their on-site project manager declared ‘One of my top goals is when we finish this project, we’re still friends.’ I would say they over achieved, because we have a better relationship with the company now than when the project started. The Rafn team worked hard at not just a complex construction process, but also at keeping the number of stakeholders, vendors, and partners working well together,” Steve Bury, executive director of Urban Impact, remarked.

The ABC members that worked on this project were Clark Nuber P.S., Coast Crane Company, Custom Sprinkler Corp., Evergreen Concrete Cutting, Inc., Kirby Electric, Inc., Phoenix Builders LLC, Propel Insurance, and NCM Contracting Group.


Excellence in Construction Awards:


Commercial Construction

Synergy Construction, Inc.

The Cove Apartments, Federal Way

Owner –The Cove Apartments, LLC

Architect – Weidner

Engineer – DHP Engineers, PS

The Cove Leasing and Fitness building required Synergy Construction, Inc. to demolish the existing leasing office and build a new 2,170 square-foot building to house the leasing offices. A separate 490 square-foot fitness center with an exterior glass-block shower was built adjacent to the leasing office and the existing pool and spa.

The building’s main room features cathedral ceilings, a folding-glass security door, and a glass partition separating the office from leasing areas. The exterior finishes include cultured stone veneer and Hardie siding. The steep-pitch roof has architectural-grade composition shingles.

Sewer and drainage were significant challenges, as the existing storm pipe was not in the location shown. Likewise, the existing sewer pipe for outfall was not correctly sited. Working with the civil engineer who developed an alternative design, Synergy was able to use his plan and a camera in the pipes to find suitable connections.

All construction was done while the apartments were occupied. There was no room outside the construction area for lay-down or storage, and utility vaults needed to be moved with no interruption in service. When the project was nearly complete, the owner wanted the pool and spa upgraded to current codes requiring new drains, a new pump, and heating units. Synergy then demolished and replaced the pool deck.

With a tight landscaping budget, the Synergy team reconfigured the irrigation system, built a subterranean storm water infiltration to cover the added building and other impervious surfaces, and built a small rain garden.

Management and tenants were well informed and adhered to safety requests allowing the project to be completed in 1,462 hours of work with no accidents.

The ABC members that worked on this project were Heiberg, Inc., Propel Insurance, Schmitz & Associates, PS, and Sound Glass Sales, Inc.



NCM Contracting Group (NuTech Division)

Tsunami Dock Removal

Owner – NOAA

General Contractor – Global Diving & Salvage Inc.

Following the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, a section of dock became grounded on the Washington Coast about 1/4-mile south of where Mosquito Creek meets the Pacific Ocean in the Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. This 65-foot long, 20–foot wide, 7.5-foot tall, 185 ton section of dock fueled growing concerns about the 200 cubic yards of Styrofoam-type material that made up most of the dock’s volume being released into the ocean and onto the beach and ingested by fish, birds, and marine mammals. The dock had to be removed to comply with the resource protection goals in place on federally regulated lands and water.

The remote access allowed NCM Contracting Group only one alternative to working on the dock – getting to it via air. NCM utilized three different types of helicopters for crews, equipment and removal of all concrete. Steel and foam debris were handled by a Northwest Helicopters’ Huey with a maximum load limit of about 3,500 pounds. Consequently the dock needed to be cut into precise weight sections to ensure safety of ground crews and pilots.

Scheduling this project was difficult as NCM was only able to work during low tides and helicopter flights were weather dependent. NCM determined that it was not only more cost-effective but also better for the schedule to use smaller helicopters. With rapidly changing weather a factor, they had to have emergency provisions available for crews should they be stranded on the beach for several days.

This operation was unlike any taken on by an NCM project team before, so everything that needed doing had to be invented as they went along. With all that, the project was completed on budget and with no accidents or injuries.


Electrical & Communications

S.M.E., Inc. of Seattle

202 Westlake, Seattle

Owner – First Western Development Services, Inc.

General Contractor – Pennon Construction Company, Inc.

Architect – IA Interior Architects & DDG Architects

The 202 Westlake building consists of six stories of above-grade office space, retail spaces on the ground floor and four stories of below-grade parking. This 130,000 square-foot building was the first speculative commercial project to be built in Seattle after the 2009 recession. Initially proposed, designed, and budgeted in 2008, the project went on hold for three years due to poor economic conditions. The building owners secured a lease in the middle of the shell/core build out with the major tenant: Amazon. Amazon planned to occupy the building immediately following the shell/core completion.

S.M.E., Inc. of Seattle’s scope for this project was the design and installation of 5,800 amp, 480 volt service with 1,600 amp bus riser, a 350 KW generator, shell/core and office TI lighting & power, fire alarm, card access, distributed antenna system, area of refuge communications, site utilities, and Seattle City Light duct bank.

Fifteen months into the shell and core work, SME got the notice that Amazon was the client and that they were to proceed on the TI for them, which had to be completed within six months! Not only would the work be impacted by long lead times necessary for procurement, it also required that SME perform much of work alongside and in some cases, on top of the other shell/core work.

To maintain the schedule, SME procured light fixtures by cooperating with the lighting supplier to meet quick rough-in schedules. They then had fixtures delivered on a just-in-time basis to limit exposure to other construction activities.

SME manned the project with a superintendent and four foremen each assigned to a particular area – lighting and controls, overhead and HVAC power, wall and floor power, and fire alarms. At times, they elected to utilize overtime rather than just add manpower to maintain quality control.

SME’s success is measured by completing the project on time and within budget despite the very compressed deadline. In the 33,558 man hours worked there were no time-loss injuries.

The ABC member that worked on this project was Tradesmen International.



Donovan Brothers, Inc.

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe Smokehouse

Owner – Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Architect – Mahlum Architects

Engineers – Coughlin, Porter, Lundeen


This project, the first longhouse built on the Muckleshoot prairie in more than 100 years, is dedicated to the practice of the Smokehouse faith, a traditional spiritualism also known as Seowyn. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe committee worked on this project for more than a decade as it is a critical step in the revival of the tribe’s traditions.

The peeled log construction and long, gabled roof are true to the traditional longhouse structures of the Southern Salish peoples. Cedar, considered a gift to their ancestors because of the innumerable uses they found for it, is used for columns that stand sentinel in the ceremony rooms and planks that span between the columns sheltering the occupants. Douglas fir was harvested for the logs, rafters and decking of the roof structure.

The main ceremony space, at the west end of the building, seats 500, while the smaller “local room” at the east houses more intimate services. Dirt floors keep the dancers and congregants connected to the earth, and fires in the large wood stoves keep out the cold. The dining hall has a fully appointed kitchen and outdoor cooking area, and can serve 250 guests at a time.

After bidding the project and being awarded the contract, Donovan was informed that it was 25 percent over budget. That required months of meetings and design changes to ensure that the integrity of the project was maintained while meeting the budget. There were many other challenges to the project, but none ultimately impacted the schedule or functionality of the finished structure.

Neither water nor power was available to the building, so special generators, equipment and connections were utilized to power up the building in zones to test and inspect each system and component prior to completion. Water had to be brought in to flush and test both the fire lines and the water lines within the building. It is a tradition for Smokehouse members to do ornate carving in the vertical logs, so all had to be sized to provide structural support and also accommodate a certain depth of carving.

Onsite materials such as soils, trees, rocks, and native plants, are part of the longstanding Indian culture. No materials were allowed to leave or be brought onsite without express consent of the tribe. Trees and architectural rocks were harvested from tribal lands and river beds for use in the site development and landscaping. Soils in the ceremony rooms had to be specially mixed to be compactable, dust free and soft enough to walk on barefoot and required approval by the Smokehouse council.

The project required that the roof have a 50-year warranty calling for Donovan to have each penetration detailed and approved by the manufacturer before starting work and inspected through the duration of the project.

Despite the challenges of this unusual project, Donovan was able to complete it on time and on budget with no accidents for the 15,642 man hours worked. The result is a tribute to the Smokehouse council and the entire team.

The ABC members that worked on this project were Kirby Electric, Inc. and Miles Sand & Gravel Company.


Tenant Improvement

Rafn Company

UCDS EDGe & Teacher’s Nook, Seattle

Owner – Melissa Chittenden, University Child Development School

Architect – Carlson Architecture

Engineer – Swensen, Say, Faget

The University Child Development School needed to reconfigure spaces in order to fulfill its mission of creating a culture of inquiry essential to meaningful learning. To do this, Rafn reconfigured a 1,875 square-foot, two-level space within the building and added to an existing space to create a teachers’ nook.

Now called the Engineering and Design Garage (EDGe), the newly configured classroom space was previously used as staff offices. It features a steel grated mezzanine specifically designed for science experiments and a glass wall. A spiral metal staircase provides access to the mezzanine, which includes a hoist above an access panel in the floor, sturdy metal railings, and ceiling-mounted electric receptacles to keep the floor area clear. The steel sash windows of the glass wall were repurposed from the school’s boiler room and create a view into the EDGe from the interior of the building. The old science room was reconfigured as new staff offices.

The other major component of work was creating a “box on a stick” for the teacher’s nook. Rafn seamlessly integrated this new space with the existing second level walkway for the illusion of a box mounted on a stick from below with a floating stair to access it. This small addition was challenging due to the various angles and multiple levels involved, but the finished product is true to the visionary design intent.

The project was completed during the school’s summer break, but the campus was busy with students in various summer camps that used many parts of the school, teachers preparing their rooms and curriculum for the coming year, and maintenance staff.

The project architect, Don Carlson, started with sketches which allowed Rafn to drive the constructability of the project. The structural engineer, Dan Say, was a skilled collaborator and worked with the Rafn team to draw what they wanted to build. In a truly collaborative effort, Rafn’s questions would go to Don and the rest of the team, including the teachers who were going to be in the affected rooms. It created great collaboration and buy-in, making expectations easier to meet.

The “box on a stick,” the floating stair, and the mezzanine area were fueled by the architect’s pencil sketches. Challenges included figuring out how to build these areas with their variety of angles – none square – and required installing new structural steel in an enclosed wooden space, finding an ideal solution for a circular steel staircase and hoisting it into place, plus moving a 400-pound wood plank table from the mezzanine to the main floor. To hoist the stairs, Rafn used the old hoisting method of chain and chainfall. The school’s science teacher saw it and asked them to install one for him to use to teach students about hoisting.

Rafn’s long-term relationship with the steel subcontractor proved invaluable to the team and to the success of the project. Among other creative solutions, they designed and fabricated the steel staircase and saved the client $26,000. Reusing repurposed materials, steel sash windows, doors, and relites, saved the owner another $30,000 and kept materials out of the waste stream.

Rafn has been working with the school since 2002 on a variety of projects from building the school’s new administration, classroom and special programs building and connecting them to the existing buildings, as well as numerous changes to various spaces on campus to meet the school’s changing needs.

With all the challenges of this project, Rafn was able to complete it 11 days ahead of schedule, under budget and with no accidents in the 1,768 hours worked.

The ABC members that worked on this project were Air Systems Engineering, Inc., Clark Nuber P.S., Clearview Mechanical, Inc., Kirby Electric, Inc., NCM Contracting Group and Propel Insurance.


Mechanical Construction

Air Systems Engineering, Inc.

7 Cedars Bingo Hall Renovation, Sequim, Wash.

Owner – JKT Gaming, Inc- (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe) DBA “7 Cedars Casino”

General Contractor – Aecon Buildings, Inc.

Architect – Rice Fergus Miller Architecture & Planning

Engineer – Sazan Group, Inc.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe operates the 7 Cedars Casino that provides dining and gaming for the North Kitsap area. In 2010, Air Systems Engineering, Inc. was asked to partner with Aecon to develop plans and budgets to update and enlarge the existing Bingo wing of the facility. Work included replacing the aging HVAC system with a new system capable of ventilating the space using 100 percent outside air with heat recovery.

The project was scheduled to begin in late spring 2012, with the opening of the gaming floor by Christmas. However, funding was delayed until late July, shortening the schedule by eight weeks. Opening the gaming area late was not an option, and two additional bars and a restaurant were added to the scope.

To expedite work, ASEI pre-ordered long lead time equipment during demolition. At the same time they relocated several existing HVAC units so adjacent spaces could remain air conditioned during the construction.

Although preordered, much of the equipment didn’t arrive until late November, requiring that ASEI squeeze six weeks of work into the remaining four. The volume and variety of work, including setting and assembling large air handlers (48,000 CFM), a 200-ton cooling capacity chiller, four packaged HVAC units and installing heated water piping, underground chilled water piping, controls, sheet metal connections, air balancing and commissioning, required that the contractors stagger their installations, working in alternating shifts, including swing and graveyard shifts, as necessary – all done during inclement winter weather.

Another major challenge was a complex equipment lift into the building’s second floor mezzanine. Teams worked to provide a safe and effective lift plan that included the crane set up, fork boom equipment and hand winches, all of which would be required in order to position the equipment into place for final assembly. ASEI held mandatory daily safety meetings among the crews to discuss plans and ensure proper coordination of the work.

ASEI got each and every worker home safely each night and completed the project with zero lost-time accidents during the 3,153.75 man-hour job.

Although there was much work to do in ancillary areas, the gaming floor was opened on December 21st.

The ABC members that worked on this project were Aerotek Construction Services, Cornell Plumbing & Heating, Inc., Tradesmen International, Star Rentals and West Coast Omniduct.


Specialty Construction

Dochnahl Construction, Inc.

McBryan Residence, Seattle

Owner – McBryan Residence

General Contractor – JAS Design Build

Architect – JAS Design Build

Engineer – Swenson Say Faget


To complete an extensive remodel of the McBryan residence on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, Dochnahl Construction was hired for the excavation and shoring of the house, as well as all structural and architectural concrete work. Excavating in a dense neighborhood only a few feet from the property line at the beginning of the rainy season was just the beginning of the challenges faced on the project. Adding a two-car garage without raising the house, installing new foundations and architectural concrete, meeting setback codes, and installing the landscaping concrete in constantly changing terrain were among the others.

The west foundation wall was only five feet from the property line, so excavating to a depth of 10 feet without crossing the neighbor’s yard called for utilizing several two-inch pin piles and steel brackets to shore the existing foundation allowing Dochnahl to excavate to the necessary elevations. Then they formed and poured a “shelved in” foundation to achieve the needed height.

Excavating and shoring for the new garage without lifting the house and keeping the driveway at a relatively flat plane required excavating 16 feet below the main floor framing to reach footing sub grade. To maintain a small bump out on the top floor of the front side of the house Dochnahl used two-inch pipe piles with cross bracing welded to the face and tiebacks leading back to the framing. All the excavation removed and exported 525 yards of dirt so they used special erosion control measures to prevent dirt from washing into the street.

To maintain the legal setback, the western portion of the new garage had a concrete lid turning it into a partial bunker – the underground portion of a structure can cross setback lines but above ground portions cannot. The constantly changing terrain made forming the two exterior staircases, one to the back and one to the front entrance, difficult. The front entrance required a radius to get the required rise and run of the stairs to match the desired grade.

Dochnahl completed the job within one week of the estimated finish date,was $20,300 under budget and had no injuries in the 1,325 man hours worked.

The ABC member that worked on this project was Tradesmen International.


Community/Public Service

Donovan Brothers, Inc.

Auburn Valley Humane Society

Owner – Auburn Valley Humane Society

Architect – The Keimig Associates

After cuts by King County Animal Control produced unsustainable costs and created reduced services that were below acceptable standards, a group of citizens, council members, the mayor and an Auburn veterinarian set out to create Auburn Valley Humane Society (AVHS). The primary goal was to establish an independent local animal shelter aimed at caring for Auburn Valley’s lost, stray and abandoned pet population. After two years of planning, fundraising and gaining city approval and permits, the 6,000-square-foot former community center was remodeled to accommodate AVHS.

Prior to design and construction, the project team toured most of the King County and privately run shelters throughout western Washington to develop plans for this facility. Taking advice and ideas from other shelters they developed a functional space plan as well as incorporating state-of-the-art mechanical systems.

Unlike most facilities, the air in both office and animal areas of AVHS is both fully air conditioned and heated. This facility can evacuate and replace 100 percent of the air in the building with fully conditioned outdoor air up to every four minutes to control both odors and any possible airborne illnesses. Surgery areas consist of fully isolated HEPA-filtered HVAC systems. New feline intake rooms are pressurized and isolated from other HVAC systems to contain any illnesses that incoming animals may have.

Radiant heat was installed in the floors in all the canine, surgery and laundry facilities – particularly challenging with sloping floors with trench drains and dog kennels bolted to the slab. The floors not only create a sanitary environment but also greatly improve the quality of life for the rescue animals.

Other upgrades to the facility include epoxy paint throughout and tile walls in all the canine areas to provide not only a durable finish but a sanitary and easily cleanable environment. Integral color was added to the concrete in all new floors to provide a warmer and more inviting feeling for both the animals and visitors. Specially designed holding areas were installed to allow transferring of animals between the rooms without staff actually coming in contact with dangerous animals.

Instead of individual cages, feline adoption areas allow multiple animals to live in open environment rooms until adopted. All of the feline adoption rooms are visible through glass walls inside the lobby and sliding glass doors allow visitors to enter the adoption areas and get to know multiple animals at the same time.

Beyond the design and construction there was a deeply personal aspect to the project for both the design and construction teams. The architect, The Keimig Associates, volunteered along with Donovan Brothers, for nearly two years working with city officials to gain approval on the project. Providing design concepts, budgeting and assisting with permitting was volunteered at no cost to AVHS. As well as donating time and expertise, the design and construction teams also became charter members of AVHS.

AVHS is more than a shelter; it is a community education center where pets and people can come together. They provide pet-related seminars from local veterinarians and staff on topics ranging from grooming to diabetes. In addition, AVHS creates sustainable employment, offers countless volunteer opportunities and provides valuable educational experiences for those considering a career working with animals.

This project was proudly completed on budget, with 1,562 of man hours worked and zero accidents.



Other entrants included:

Air Systems Engineering, Inc. for Gig Harbor YMCA Remodel & Expansion

Air Systems Engineering, Inc. for Bank of America Olympia HVAC

Donovan Brothers, Inc. for UniBank Headquarters

Donovan Brothers, Inc. for Heritage Bank – Kent Branch

NCM Contracting Group for University of Washington Odegaard Library

Synergy Construction, Inc. for Aviara Apartments

Synergy Construction, Inc. for Green River Homes


Award judges for this year included:

John Schaufelberger, Ph.D., P.E., Dean of the College of Built Environments

Ben Minnick, Construction Editor, Daily Journal of Commerce

Bob Jayne, Robert Jayne Consultant

Scott Rhodes, Rhodes Architecture

Kate Spitzer, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, The Miller|Hull Partnership

Pat Logan, Senior Associate, CollinsWoerman


About ABC of Western Washington

ABC of Western Washington represents more than 300 companies and their 15,000 employees from both open shop and union contractors, professional service firms and suppliers. Its membership includes general and subcontractors as well as associated firms that are dedicated to promoting the free enterprise system through improved business conditions, increased training and safety and promoting positive employee/employer relations.

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