Jefts says the project benefited from AECOM's varied disciplines, which provided expertise regardless of where the project was geographically. Some of the offices involved included those in Albuquerque, Houston, Orange, Calif., Washington and Philadelphia.
Spaceport America was one of 10 AECOM projects in the Southwest region to pursue LEED certification in 2010, helping the firm bring in 36.8% more sustainable design revenue than in 2009.
AECOM will also seek LEED certification for its new Phoenix office when it is completed later this year. “We are getting candidates interested in working for us because of our position on environmental issues and workplace strategies, which are enabling us to hire the best and the brightest,” says Steve Lichtenberger, principal and manager of architecture in Phoenix. The firm's existing Phoenix location was divided by design discipline, but in the new space, diverse teams will be grouped into project studio workstations, where multiple disciplines can collaborate, Lichtenberger says.
Current Phoenix projects, such as the $65-million future home of the Federal Bureau of Investigation being built by the U.S. General Services Administration, are already benefiting from this type of collaboration. When landscape designers had the idea to shape exterior stone walls and walking paths into a thumb-print pattern to evoke a method used by the FBI to identify criminals, the architects picked up on the idea and incorporated a newer technology—DNA mapping—into the building facade design. “If you aren't working together day in and day out, you miss those sparks for inspiration,” Vitek says.
Many of AECOM's projects revolve around a single big idea that acts as an organizing principle. With Civic Space, a multi-purpose park in downtown Phoenix, the idea was to create an “urban weave” of multiple uses, textures and patterns, says Chad Atterbury, landscape designer and associate. Within just 2.5 acres, designers did the equivalent of stuffing “10 pounds of fun into a 5-pound bag,” he says. Each site component has multiple functions: a canopy adorned with photovoltaic panels provides shade and generates electricity, and a plaza with pervious pavement serves as a public gathering area while also channeling valuable water to underground storage tanks. Completed in 2009, the project went on to win numerous accolades, including the national ENR Best of the Best award for landscaping.
AECOM's most active sector in 2010 was transportation, with $30.3 million in revenue. The largest current transportation project is Interstate 10 from Prince to Ruthrauff roads in Tucson, Ariz., a project which was actually taken to 95% design level a few years ago, but was shelved until funding became available. The estimated $110-million project is currently out for bid.
To Steven Fowler, vice president and transportation district manager for Arizona and New Mexico, the project that epitomizes the success of the AECOM formula is State Route 179, from Oak Creek to Sedona, completed last year. Previous efforts at improving the roadway were unsuccessful, but with AECOM's assistance, the Arizona Dept. of Transportation implemented a context-sensitive design approach to ensure that everyone involved, including the public, reached consensus on what would be built, Fowler says.
Despite all the mergers and acquisitions, Lake says the core asset for AECOM remains its staff, many of whom have been with the company or its merged firms for a long time, such as Lichtenberger (19 years) and Fowler (30 years).
“I imagine we'll still be acquiring firms and there will still be mergers,” Lake says. “But we'll have a better sense of what AECOM is as a whole company, as opposed to the intricacies of all those different operating companies we might have been at one point.”