Published March 16, 2010
Volume 18, Number 3

BKF Engineers ‘Very Strong and Growing’ 

One local BKF Engineers project is the shops at Waterford development  in Dublin.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Two years after settling into a larger branch office in Hacienda, BKF Engineers has been through another growth spurt. With a staff increase of roughly 20 percent, from 32 to 40, the extra space that was available on move-in is close to full. That kind of expansion during a recession may be unusual, but smart management has kept the firm pointed in the right direction, toward business sectors with funded projects.

“I am happy to say that we are still very strong and growing,” reports Natalina Bernardi, a principal in BKF’s Pleasanton office. “Our office here is staffed with a full civil engineering group, which includes surveying and master planning.”  The 95-year-old firm, headquartered in Redwood City, also has offices in San Jose, Walnut Creek, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Richmond, and Orange.

The campus market is one of the current high-activity areas, and BKF has long-planned projects at UC Berkeley, Las Positas College, and Lawrence Livermore Labs currently underway. “There is a fair amount of work in the academic environment,” Bernardi comments. “You must be really competitive and thorough, but good engineering firms are busy.” BKF’s reputation for high-quality work and timely delivery—just as important as the project bid—have helped it attract and keep “a great client base,” she says.

The Willow Road office houses a large transportation group, whose growth has been facilitated by Hacienda’s proximity to the 580/680 interchange. “From our location here, we can easily move out to San Joaquin and Solano counties, areas that we previously could not serve as effectively,” Bernardi observes.

The 580 corridor is not just a jumping off point for BKF; it is also a job site. “The transportation field is really strong even in this down economy, a good source of work for us. In fact, we are currently working right outside our door,” she says, referring to the 13 miles of a new westbound HOV lane, up to San Ramon Blvd., that the firm is currently designing. It is also working on a project in San Joaquin County, extending State Route 4 westward to help link I-5 and the Port of Stockton. Then there is the massive SR 4 project in Contra Costa County, which entails adding two lanes in each direction, one of which will be a carpool lane, to the existing four-lane roadway. BKF has a contract for one phase of the multi-phase undertaking.

“Each phase, about $80 million in construction value, is contracted to a different engineering firm, to keep to schedule,” Bernardi explains. “Dividing the work in that manner keeps contract values in a reasonable range and allows as many contractors as possible to bid to maximize competition. Plus, the work is spread throughout the community.”

BKF’s work in the housing arena has been greatly scaled back, but Bernardi has seen a few indicators suggesting that the market has finally hit bottom. “We have noticed we’ve received more requests concerning housing projects lately,” she remarks. Still, “the most important thing in an economy like this, with all its changes, is to be able to react quickly, which I think we’ve done very well.”  For more information, visit www.bkf.com


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