Architect George T. Heery Sr., a powerhouse who cofounded architect-engineer Heery & Heery in 1952 and became an expert in project delivery, died on Jan. 21 in Atlanta. He was 93.

Unlike most architects who thought only about design, “George thought about the process,” says retired architect Chuck Thomsen, who was chairman of 3D/International until 2006. “He understood the moving parts, the motivation and everyone’s biases,” adds Thomsen, who calls Heery, often a competitor and occasionally a collaborator, his best friend.

In 2012, Heery and 15 public and private-sector building professionals formed the Bridging Institute of America, a nonprofit education and advocacy group to promote the use of a design-build delivery contract that requires the architect, under contract to the owner, to develop the design to a certain stage, and hand it off to the design-builder’s architect. The approach, a hybrid of design-bid-build and design-build, is intended to eliminate the architect’s conflict of interest in typical contractor-led design-build projects.

Reduce Owner's Risk and Cost 

Overall, the method’s primary emphasis is to reduce risk and cost for the owner. “There’s more collaboration among designers and constructors and quicker and less expensive fixes in correcting problems,” Heery said in 2012.

At that time, Heery was chairman of Brookwood Group, a real estate consultant he cofounded in 1989, with his son S. Shepherd "Shep" Heery, a developer, and daughter Laura Heery, an architect-planner. "I came up with the name 'bridging' and Dad liked it better than the name he had been using, which he called the 'concentrated responsibility contract' method," says Shep, the current chairman and CEO of Brookwood. "My inspiration was the Golden Gate Bridge, which I used to cross every day."

Shep's idea was that the two bridge towers might symbolize contract award points in the two-step award process, and the entire span might be seen as bridging over and avoiding risks often encountered by owners in the course of managing design, construction and initial occupancy of major projects.

The bridging group was the culmination of George Heery's considerable experience in project delivery, which started in the 1960s. Heery was among a small group of American design and construction professionals, including Thomsen, who pioneered the professions of construction management and construction program management, now called program management.

Control Project Time and Cost

Heery and his colleagues at the firm renamed Heery International Inc. honed their project management procedures, still used by other firms, to control project time and cost through the predesign, design and construction phases of major building programs. In addition to traditional design services, the firm offered services in construction management, program management, development management and bridging design-build, though it was not called that until 1989.

In 1974, Heery authored Time, Cost and Architecture, published by McGraw-Hill. In 1981, he developed a real estate and facilities planning methodology for corporations and institutions with multiple facilities and real estate holdings.

In 1983, after working for several years to devise new and better ways to organize the roles and responsibilities of architects, engineers and contractors, Heery refined his new method of design and construction procurement to reduce risk, cost and post-construction problems for owners.

The design firm went through several ownership transitions. Heery cofounded the firm with his father, architect C. Wilmer Heery Jr. In 1961, George became Heery & Heery’s CEO and grew the firm into a 600-person, multidisciplinary professional corporation with offices throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1989, George retired from Heery International, when it was acquired by the conglomerate that owned Balfour Beatty Construction Co. At that time, the firm ranked #195 on ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms list. In 2017, Balfour Beatty sold Heery to CBRE.

Heery designed major league stadiums, leading projects in Atlanta, Cincinnati, outside Boston and Buffalo, N.Y. He also designed sports facilities for academia, including the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., and the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, N.C. The firm designed and managed large infrastructure, government, health care, corporate and academic projects from Florida to Alaska and, internationally, from Scotland to Portugal and from Jordan to Japan.

“George just lived life big,” says Thomsen. “He was a pioneer.”