After several years of post-pandemic doldrums, the West Coast construction industry rallied in 2023, led by a group of ambitious megaprojects topping the $1-billion mark: the $8-billion Willow oil and gas project on Alaska’s North Shore; the $3.4-billion Graving Dry Dock at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii; and the $1.3-billion Swedish Medical Center North Tower in Seattle.

Across the region, which includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the construction market was buoyed by several sectors including energy, education, health care and transportation. Although residential was down nationally for the year, nonbuilding starts rose 16%, including in the West, according to Dodge Construction Network.

The projects on the Top Starts lists broke ground between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023, in California and Hawaii for ENR California, and in Alaska, Oregon and Washington for ENR Northwest. The annual survey includes data from Dodge Data & Analytics and information provided by the construction teams to ENR for work exceeding $100 million.

U.S. Navy Shipyard

The new dry dock at the U.S. Navy Shipyard in Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor is part of a wider investment in the U.S. military’s Pacific infrastructure.
Rendering courtesy Moffat & Nichol

Megaprojects Lead the Way

The largest project to be developed in the region was ConocoPhillips’ Willow project on Alaska’s North Slope. The project’s total price tag has been estimated in excess of $8 billion: a cost that includes $4.8 billion in construction expenses, according to Dodge.

Construction launched in December with $900 million worth of initial work that included the opening of a mine site, gravel road construction and pipeline installation. Expected to begin producing oil in 2029, Willow is expected to produce approximately 600 million barrels of oil over its 30-year lifetime. Designed to support and coexist with subsistence activities on Alaska’s North Slope, the Willow project underwent five years of rigorous regulatory and environmental review as well as a long legal battle.

Another megaproject that set sail in 2023 was the massive $3.4-billion effort to construct a new dry dock at the at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Oahu, Hawaii.

The Willow oil and gas project

The Willow oil and gas project on Alaska’s North Slope is the largest start for 2023 in ENR’s California and Northwest regions.
Photo courtesy ConocoPhillips

Last year, a joint venture of Dragados USA, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. and Orion Government Services LLC was awarded the multiple-award task-order contract to replace Dry Dock 3 at the shipyard.

Built in 1942, that area is too small to service Virginia-class submarines or larger surface ships; it will become obsolete when the Navy’s Los Angeles-class submarines are decommissioned. Officials say the project will take five years to complete.

In 2021, NAVFAC Pacific awarded five companies spots on the potential $8-billion multiple-award contract in support of the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, which seeks to integrate industrial plant equipment and other infrastructure investments at the service branch’s four public shipyards to meet requirements for nuclear fleet maintenance.

new hospital in Sitka

Building the new hospital in Sitka, Alaska, has been complicated by the remote location and weather.
Photo courtesy ASKW-Davis

Health Care Remains Strong

Three of the region’s largest ongoing hospital projects are Phase 1 of the Hoag Hospital Expansion in Irvine, Calif.; the CHOC Southwest Tower Medical Office Building 4 in Los Angeles; and the Critical Access Hospital in Sitka, Alaska.

The Hoag Hospital project is one of two regional top starts led by McCarthy Building Cos. The architect is LPA Design Studios. Expected completion is spring 2026.

In Orange, Calif., the McCarthy crew will complete the $350-million CHOC Southwest Tower Medical Office in the summer of 2025. Cameron Kilar, senior project manager at McCarthy, explains that two challenges are coordinating a design specific to children’s therapeutic needs and building along a limited lot line on all sides of the project, which sits on an active campus.

The $300-million Sitka hospital in Alaska began February 2023; a September 2025 completion is targeted. ASKW-Davis LLC is the construction manager/general contractor for the five-story, 250,000-sq-ft structure.

Location and weather have challenged the team. Materials and equipment are arriving by barge and/or steamship, including course aggregates and the sand and cement to make 8,000 cu yd of concrete. The team is using a Cementech volumetric mixing truck on site. Precipitation is constant in this part of the state.

“Battling the elements has been a consistent challenge throughout,” says James Murrell, project manager.

He adds that the building is incorporating ground-source heating. ASKW-Davis and subcontractors are drilling 84 loops 340 ft into the bedrock to extract the heat energy for heating and cooling.

The Kaye Luxury Apartment Tower

The Kaye Luxury Apartment Tower in Seattle is an example of large residential projects getting started on the West Coast.
Rendering courtesy Grzywinski+Pons

In Corvallis, Ore., the $213-million Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex at Oregon State University is a three-story, 150,000-sq-ft research facility with one of the nation’s most powerful supercomputers. It supports research in artificial intelligence, semiconductors, robotics and materials science to solve challenges in climate science, clean energy, water resources and more. General contractor Andersen Construction began work Dec. 18, 2023; completion is anticipated for fall 2026.

Libby Ramirez, university architect/director, and her team, including ZGF Architects, determined that a mass timber structure would reduce the carbon footprint of the building. All timber will be harvested in the Pacific Northwest, including a portion managed by the OSU College of Forestry.

In Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, Skanska USA Commercial Development and Skanska USA Building have joined forces for a 31-story, 324-unit Class A apartment building, the $190-million Kaye Luxury Apartment Tower. It will feature underground parking and a ground floor with 6,100 sq ft of mixed-use space. The 260,619-sq-ft multifamily tower was designed by VIA – a Perkins Eastman Studio and Grzywinski + Pons of New York and is targeting LEED Gold, Fitwel and WiredScore certifications. Completion is scheduled for 2025.