Green, Lean and Growing

Hathaway Dinwiddie
Written by Nate Hendley

The Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company is a California-based general contractor that has worked on everything from university dorms to presidential libraries. The company emphasizes sustainable construction practices, making it a leader in a state with increasingly stringent green building standards.
“Decade after decade, Hathaway Dinwiddie has been engaged in important and unique construction projects throughout the metropolitan northern and southern California regions. The completion of the Getty Center in 1997 and the original J. Paul Getty Museum in 1973 are among the more significant,” says Executive Vice President Steve Smith.

The company completed major projects for California biotech firms Amgen in Thousand Oaks and Genentech in San Francisco, and Agensys in Santa Monica. Working closely with USC and HED, Hathaway Dinwiddie will complete the USC Village later this year.

Some of the company’s historic building projects include Grace Cathedral (completed in San Francisco in 1928), the Transamerica Pyramid (completed in San Francisco in 1972) and the Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Library (completed in Simi Valley in 2006).

Headquartered in San Francisco, Hathaway Dinwiddie also has offices in Santa Clara and Los Angeles. The company offers construction, pre-construction, construction management and design-build services, exclusively for California clients. The main sectors in which the company works include commercial and corporate office, education, life sciences, healthcare and medical, entertainment/hospitality/retail, education, high-tech, retrofit/restoration/addition and interiors.

The company can trace its roots to 1911 with the founding of the Dinwiddie Construction Company. Hathaway Construction began in 1926. The two firms merged in 1996. At present, Hathaway Dinwiddie has approximately 375 staff members and 200 to 400 trade workers, which is “up about ten to fifteen percent over last year,” says Smith.

Revenues for 2016 came to around $1.4 billion. Revenues are expected to be slightly less ($1.3 billion) this year.

Sustainability is a huge concern for the company. Many of its projects are certified LEED platinum or gold. Initially, the focus on sustainability was client-driven. If customers wanted a project built along eco-friendly lines, Hathaway Dinwiddie was happy to oblige. In 2002, the firm joined the U.S. Green Building Council and began to formalize its commitment to sustainable principles.

“People thought that it was somewhere the market was headed. We work with a lot of high-profile clients that were starting to raise the issue [of sustainability]. and we thought it was an opportunity to update our profile and expand our portfolio and expertise,” says Sustainability Chair Jessie Buckmaster.

Getting into sustainability was a way of staying ahead of the curve. The California Green Building Standards Code – known as CALGreen for short – came into effect August 2009. CALGreen is the first statewide green building code in U.S. and aims to boost energy and water efficiency, reduce material waste and enhance environmentally-friendly features in new buildings.

A few years ago, Hathaway Dinwiddie built two LEED Platinum-certified dorms at Pomona College in Southern California. The dorms feature solar panels for energy, solar-powered water heaters, low-flow fixtures to cut back on excessive water usage, rainwater recycling, green rooftop and high-efficiency lighting, windows and HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems. Recycled material was used when possible, and almost all waste was diverted from landfill. The dorms were completed in 2011.

Other schools for which Hathaway Dinwiddie has done work include Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and Irvine, the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology. Many high-tech firms in the Silicon Valley have used Hathaway Dinwiddie for green-building projects, says Buckmaster.

Hathaway Dinwiddie has been honored for its work in sustainability and the overall quality of its projects. In 2012, Pomona College was chosen as one of the ‘Ten Greenest Dorms in the World’ by the website, The company ranked thirty-seventh on the top one hundred Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) green building contractors of 2015 and was voted ENR California contractor of the year in 2016 in the fall of 2016.

Hathaway Dinwiddie is currently taking part in the ‘Living Building Challenge’, an initiative organized by the Seattle-based non-profit International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Firms that accept the challenge have to abide by the most demanding standards for environmentally friendly buildings in the world.

To complement sustainability, Hathaway Dinwiddie has embraced lean construction principles. Like lean manufacturing before it, lean construction centers on strategies to reduce waste and boost efficiencies. Continuous improvement is the goal, and a collective, idea-sharing spirit is encouraged.

“Hathaway Dinwiddie has had a culture of collaboration and efficiency since our beginning. This makes it natural for us to embrace ‘lean’ principles … After one hundred years of informal project collaboration and mutual goodwill, we are currently working on a project with Amgen and NBBJ architects using the formal Integrated Form of Agreement (IFoA),” says Smith.

An IFoA is “a multi-party agreement that includes the owner, design professional, and constructor as signatories to the same construction contract,” explains the Arlington, Virginia-based Lean Construction Institute.

Hathaway Dinwiddie’s forward-looking mindset extends into the high-tech realm. “Our company adopted 3D modeling, also referred to as building information modeling (BIM) or virtual design and construction (VDC), back in 2006. We started using it for quantity take-offs within our estimating models and for coordinating select projects. Eleven years later, we use BIM on ninety-five percent of our projects, for everything from estimating to logistics plans to virtual coordination of architectural, structural and MEP/FS systems,” says BIM Coordination Manager Kyle Spitznagel. MEP systems are mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, while FP are fire protection systems.

Hathaway Dinwiddie takes quality and safety extremely seriously. “We have a culture of expectation and unique quality control/quality assurance programs developed for the company (often tailored for the project), shared with our employees and built around safety as an inherent foundation for building the highest quality achievable,” says Smith.

This culture was developed in part by hiring field supervisors, project manager and engineers who stay continuously engaged with projects and pay close attention to detail. The most important aspect of Hathaway Dinwiddie’s quality process, however, is the fact the company “brings on only the best trade partners who will be performing the majority of the work in the field,” says Smith.

When it comes to safety, he says, “we personalize the safety process to engage all participants (administrative and field) and to reflect unique project conditions and expectations. This involves personal orientation, accountability, recognition and reward and acknowledgment of opportunities for improvement. We have a mindset that safety drives quality, and quality drives safety – that it’s a business matter but also a uniquely personal one.”

Hathaway Dinwiddie wants suppliers that share the company’s values. “First and foremost, we look for integrity and character. Then we look at performance, quality, capacity and commitment to safety. With the Living Building Challenge, we also look for that unique passion to achieve the healthiest and most sustainable environments,” states Smith.

An interest in sustainable construction is “not a requirement, but helpful” for anyone looking to join the company. “We do provide assistance for employees interested in achieving accreditation. Currently, we have 112 LEED-accredited employees on staff,” he says.

Hathaway Dinwiddie has built a strong, unique corporate culture. “Even though we are a bigger company, internally it still feels like a smaller company. Management is very accessible. They have an open door policy. Everyone is very supportive. Our company has a lot of integrity and is very honest in the way we do business, which can be rare for the construction industry,” says Buckmaster.

When it comes to promoting itself, Hathaway Dinwiddie has a website and “a pretty robust social media” presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms according to Buckmaster.

However, “Hathaway Dinwiddie is not a contractor that really advertises and markets ourselves. We do most of our work through relationships with clients and get a large amount of repeat work. We don’t take on a lot of new clients. We don’t take on hard bid type work. We do a lot of negotiated work and have for the majority of our history,” she adds.

Hathaway Dinwiddie is very involved with community work, including the ACE (architecture, construction and engineering) Mentor Program of America. ACE is a construction industry initiative to mentor high-school students interested in careers in construction or design work.

“We carefully seek and accept opportunities to engage in events and projects that positively impact our communities as a means of giving back and broadening our character,” says Smith.

Asked what the company’s biggest challenge is, Smith says, “resources. Mainly management resources available to assign to potential new projects we would like to pursue. Our ability to grow in the Southern California region has been hampered by the lack of management resources.”

In general, however, Hathaway Dinwiddie officials are very optimistic about the future. “We don’t expect to be the biggest contractor, but we do strive to be the best. We expect to grow and prosper with our clients, continue developing trade partner relationships and all the while delivering best in class projects. Hathaway Dinwiddie respects and greatly appreciates the confidence of clients, designers, trade partners and communities throughout California where we have conducted business for over one hundred years,” says Smith.



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