2019 has marked another strong and dynamic year for the North American building environment with U.S. engineering and construction spending growth at an estimated 3 percent. Here, Bill Petit, P.E., vice president and office manager of Urban Engineers, a regional leader in civil, municipal, structural, environmental and geotechnical engineering, talks about the firm’s history in the construction and engineering industry and what’s new at Urban heading into 2020.
Urban Engineers has been in operation since 1960 in Philadelphia and has had a presence in the Erie area since 1969. Describe the size and scope of the firm today.
Urban was founded as a seven-person firm and has grown to a staff of more than 450 employees located throughout 15 regional offices across the United States. We provide services for facilities, ports and waterways, public transportation, railroads, airports, energy and utilities, bridges and roadways. Our staff works together with clients through collaboration and pro-active communication in order to fully understand projects so that we can successfully deliver on clients’ goals and expectations.
Explain some of the services you provide.
We are a multidisciplinary planning, design, environmental and construction support services firm, so we can assist at almost any point in developing an infrastructure or built-environment project. Specifically, our services include structural design, highway planning, stormwater retention, environmental, survey, and construction management and inspection. We also have a certified testing lab here in Erie for construction materials like stone, concrete, brick, and soil to ensure that our streets and buildings are constructed on solid foundations.
Who are your primary clients?
We primarily work with architects, developers, local and national firms, as well as local and state governments. Most public projects are funded with public money — which is always limited — so in addition to the technical experience we provide, it is important we find ways to stretch these limited dollars while delivering high quality products and services. Streets, highways, bridges, parks and other infrastructure projects are for the benefit of the communities in which we collectively serve. This is one of the reasons engineers need to be highly trained and understanding of expectations and impacts related to all of our projects.
What are some of your most notable and recent projects?
A great part of being at our firm is that you get to see your work in all of the places that we live, work and play here in Erie. Some notable projects we have been involved with include the Bayfront Connector, improvements to the Warner Theatre and updates at UPMC Park. We provided structural design services at the Bayfront Cruise Boat Terminal Building, Splash Lagoon and Scott Enterprises’ new Bayfront hotel. We have also provided support services for the health-care industry and have provided materials testing construction inspection for Allegheny Health Network’s Saint Vincent Cancer Institute.
Tell us about the importance of quality in your work and your ISO certification.
Our firm is ISO 9001:2015 certified and has been registered with the International Organization of Standardization since May of 2000. Our various work processes are documented and controlled through ISO so we can understand exactly how we do our work. This results in a standard for excellence across the board for us, as well as measurable maintenance and improvement in our client communications and overall project management. We strive to continually improve our quality system, and this quality system has enabled us at Urban to maintain competitiveness in the current work environment and pave the way for the firm’s future success.
What’s ahead for Urban Engineers in 2020? We are obviously excited about the investment and development ongoing in Erie and in western Pennsylvania as that leads to potential opportunities for us to support our community. Our firm is continuing our work with a myriad of public and private sector clients to develop work products that are functional and sustainable. Our goal for each assignment — in which we have opportunity to develop — is to create an outstanding outcome for our clients and customers