CRE N Illinois

Clayco architecture firms LJC and BatesForum to merge

Clayco architecture firms LJC and BatesForum to merge,ph1
Bob Clark, left, of Clayco, and Lamar Johnson of Lamar Johnson Collaborative.

Lamar Johnson Collaborative (LJC), a subsidiary of Clayco, will combine with Clayco-owned BatesForum, creating one architecture firm of more than 240 professionals in five offices. Lamar Johnson will head up the new organization, which will continue to be known as LJC and based in Chicago.

“Lamar Johnson is a name brand in the industry,” said Bob Clark, CEO and founder of Clayco. “I couldn’t be more excited to have a leader of his caliber bringing all of our architecture and engineering groups together under one brand.”

A full-service, development, master planning, architecture, engineering and construction firm, Clayco has transformed its design capabilities over the past year. The firm acquired LJC last October, several months after Clayco subsidiary Forum Studio merged with Bates.

There are two primary reasons for the merger. First, it will help eliminate inefficiencies and other challenges by streamlining Clayco’s architecture capabilities—which will strengthen the firm’s design-bid-build methodology.

“The inefficiency that remains in the traditional design-bid-build construction model needs to change,” said Johnson. “We believe we can leverage our combined firm’s proven capabilities in integrated execution to bring a similar approach to a broader range of projects and clients. We will be able to use the deep bench of resources and industry-leading technology of Clayco to deliver the best solution for the project client, whether we are the designer, executive architect or providing integrated delivery and full turnkey solutions.”

Secondly, the merger will help Clayco and its affiliated companies recommit to Chicago. Clayco currently has in-house business units centered on sector: industrial, corporate, institutional and residential. This merger will move to the creation of a geographic business unit, centered around Chicago.

“When I first came to Chicago … we were really attracted to being able to bring talent here and being able to travel and use the great infrastructure that Chicago has to offer. But I didn’t necessarily come here to get any business,” Clark said. “We’ve actually gotten an enormous amount of business since we’ve been here, even though we haven’t been focused on it. Now we are really changing our formula and I think that’s the importance of bringing Lamar Johnson into the fold.”

The expanded LJC’s unique capabilities include a technical assurance group (TAG), which consults with project teams to apply lessons from the built environment to projects still on the drawing board, and a virtual design and construction (VDC) team, which provides BIM support for the use of integrated models and provides collaboration space for real-time decision-making by owners.

“LJC will continue to collaborate with Clayco to deliver institutional, industrial, commercial, residential and hospitality projects nationally,” said Johnson. “At the same time, LJC remains committed to delivering design to its existing clients. We build relationships before we build projects.”

A number of factors have led to increased diversification and capabilities among developers, design-build and design-bid-build firms in recent years. The industry’s labor shortage issue is one of the greatest challenges compelling firms to redouble their flexibility and integration abilities.

“The labor force is changing dramatically, and not in a good way,” said Clark. “Of the 139,000 union workers in the Chicago area, 33 percent of them are at or above retirement age. That’s a frightening prospect for the industry.”

Clark believes that if the industry is going to avoid delivery problems from a worsening labor shortage, design-build firms need to integrate fabricated, modular and other forms of delivery to increase efficiency. This merger, he feels, sets out a solution toward that.

The combined LJC now exceeds 200 active architecture and design projects in 24 states, while together with parent company Clayco, the overall construction value of active integrated delivery projects exceeds $4 billion. An impressive list of clients includes Farpoint Development, Pfizer, Mercy, Brookfield Properties, Blackstone Realty, Levy Restaurants, Lennar Multifamily Communities, LLC, and Sterling Bay and The John Buck Company.