Mortenson Construction Co. has consistently leveraged its skills in virtual building, collaboration and prefabrication to build some of the region's largest and most complex projects, usually ones on short schedules and tight budgets. Those skills and a track record of service to long-term clients helped the company thrive during the recent recession.

Mortenson's Denver office helped the Minneapolis-based contractor remain financially strong with company-wide revenue ranging from $2.8 billion in 2008 to $2.3 billion in 2012. Last year, the Denver office generated $298 million in revenue, up from $274.6 million in 2011 and down from $313.8 million in 2008.

"We tried to predict the implications of the downturn long before it hit," says Maja Rosenquist, vice president and general manager of the Denver office. "We lined up large projects to help us bridge the hard recession years and retain our key people."

On the whole, Mortenson avoided the sizable layoffs and drastic cutbacks that many companies endured. "While work may have slowed down for one geographic group, the company's overall volume of work has remained strong," Rosenquist says. "We created a temporary traveling program that allowed team members to work in different regions on short-term assignments. By shifting our resources, we kept everyone working."

Several federal projects allowed the Denver office to keep more than 500 salaried and craft team members employed through the recession years.

Mortenson also continued its long-standing relationship with the General Services Administration in the $129-million modernization of the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in Denver. The 495,000-sq-ft retrofit broke ground in 2010. Using whole-building energy modeling, the Mortenson-led design-build team hopes to reduce the building's energy use by more than 80% and attain LEED-Platinum certification. Completion is expected by early 2014.

A Customer-Centric Model

Now, as the flow of federal work slows due to spending cuts, Mortenson has shifted its focus to corporate offices and smaller health care projects along the Front Range. In the coming years, the Denver office anticipates growth in mission-critical, higher education and municipal projects.

"The days of mega health care projects and huge replacement hospitals may be gone," Rosenquist says. "While health care will continue to be a strong market in the years to come, we anticipate more renovations and retrofit projects driven by tight budgets."

Rosenquist says the Denver office has recently become more selective about considering projects in adjacent states, pursuing only those that are highly profitable and that will help cultivate long-term client relationships.

In the competitive post-recession market, Mortenson remains committed to its "customer-centric approach." Nearly 80% of the company's business comes from repeat clients.

Mortenson won the $389-million contract to replace Denver's St. Joseph Hospital because of its work on other Exempla projects in Colorado. The contractor's ability to self-perform the hospital's concrete and exterior masonry added value to its proposal.

"Mortenson proved their abilities in the past. We knew they could handle the job," says Al Davis, vice president of facilities for Exempla Healthcare. "With our tight schedule, it made good sense to close the quality-control gaps where we could and let Mortenson self-perform portions of the project."

Mortenson also credits its "agility" for the winning of new work during the recession, says Gene Hodge, the company's director of project development. "We have tailored services and people to customers' individual approaches," he says. "Our people think out of the box to create the best possible solutions for customers."

One key to Mortenson's high level of customer satisfaction is the use of cave automatic virtual environments (CAVE), which allows customers to preview designs in 3D. Room-size cubes with projectors create a virtual building environment where the owner can see the spaces and identify design issues before construction begins. The company also leverages its BIM and prefabrication expertise during preconstruction to save customers time and money.

"What continues to impress me is their document management system," says Kelly Dunn, a senior associate with Denver-based Fentress Architects. "Their people work off screens, not paper. No one is carrying around old plans. They always have the most current plans at their fingertips."

BIM Collaboration

Working with Fentress Architects, Mortenson Denver delivered the city's Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center two months ahead of schedule. The 695,767-sq-ft courthouse and office is on track to earn LEED-Gold certification.