During its 125 years of operation, Swinerton Builders has been no stranger to crises. In 1889, it helped rebuild fire-ravaged Bakersfield. In 1906, the firm pitched in to reconstruct San Francisco, long its home city, after the devastating earthquake. In 1994, Swinerton was on the scene north of Los Angeles restoring areas hammered by the Northridge quake.
Through all those critical periods, and drastic fluctuations in the economy, Swinerton has maintained a culture of innovation by pioneering new technology and expanding into new markets.
"Swinerton has survived and thrived throughout 125 years because of [its] willingness to adapt and a keen awareness of transformative building trends," says Mike Re, CEO of the employee-owned company. "This combination of flexibility and foresight has led to winning strategies, from the boardroom to the jobsite."
The company, which has 1,100 salaried workers in 14 offices in California, Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Texas, has made an impact in its communities. To mark the firm's anniversary, the city of San Francisco proclaimed June 6 as Swinerton Builders Day to honor the company's efforts in shaping the city and its charitable investments through entities such as the 11-year-old Swinerton Foundation.
Three years ago, the company conducted a brand survey. "We found that people connected the Swinerton name with integrity, experience and quality construction, and we are very proud of that perception," says Jeff Hoopes, president.
During the recession, when other companies pulled back, Swinerton saw an open road to new markets and hired top professionals and invested in cutting-edge technologies. "We needed to do those things then, and we did them," Hoopes says.
Those investments have paid off. In 2012, the firm's California revenue climbed 30%, to $1.17 billion, placing it fifth on ENR California's Top Contractors ranking. This year is shaping up to be even better; Swinerton says it expects 2013 revenue to total $1.73 billion.
Also notable is the company's safety record. The firm's experience-modification ratio is 0.43, one of the lowest in California. As far back as 1917, ENR cited the safety record of the Lindgren Co.—a predecessor to Swinerton—on the Southern Pacific office building in San Francisco. The project, at the time the largest office building west of Chicago, was completed in just a year with no serious injuries.
Swinerton had $912 million in revenue in 2012 from LEED-certified or equivalent projects in California, placing it second among ENR California's top green building contractors. With multiple net-zero and LEED-Platinum-certified projects, Swinerton employs more than 325 LEED-accredited professionals—the most among all firms participating in the ranking.
In San Francisco, Swinerton is targeting LEED Gold on the $75-million, 28-story 535 Mission Street, the first new high-rise office building to be constructed in the city in more than five years. Designed by HOK's San Francisco office, the 347,000-sq-ft, fast-track project features a clear-glass curtain wall on a steel frame.
As part of its preconstruction services, Swinerton helped developer Boston Properties acquire the project from the original owner, who had begun construction in 2008 before the recession forced a shutdown, says Steve Johnson, Swinerton vice president and manager of its San Francisco East Bay division. Delivery of the project is anticipated in October 2014.