Celebrating Five Years in NYC
Entuitive’s New York office opened five years ago this spring. Recently, we sat down with the team to discuss the origins of the office, how it’s grown, and what moments have stood out along the way.
Why did we open an office in NYC?
David Thompson: From a building envelope perspective it was a necessity. I was working with a few clients down there and they expected me to be boots on the ground for our work in New York. At first, the structural guys were able to win work in New York and bring it back to Toronto. Increasingly, we needed a physical presence in the city.
Dave Douglas: From the beginning I think we’ve been an aspirational firm and New York is an obvious place to be. The best architecture and engineering firms are here. So, if we aspire to be the best we have to play in this sandbox.
What were the earliest days like?
David: We started off with one person in a co-working space and we moved to a four-person sized shared office with six people. That was on the west side closer to Hudson Yards, which is where our projects were located at the time. It was very tight working with so many people in such a small space. I appreciate our current location!
Dave: We have humble origins. It was small but to me it was a very collaborative environment and it worked. I think this is thanks to our people. It didn’t feel like a satellite office even though half the room was populated by people coming from other offices, which reflects the nature of Entuitive.
From the point at which you joined the company to the present day what has changed? Or, have things stayed the same?
Stephanie Berrios: My first year at Entuitive was the second year of the New York office, my second year of my master’s program, and the beginning of the 550 Washington Redevelopment project, so, everything was just madness for me! But despite being in different offices the rest of the 550 team provided tremendous support to those of us who had boots on the ground. A few years on, it’s still busy but it’s easier to manage because it’s dispersed between a bigger team.
Tanya Luthi: It doesn’t feel that different now than it did when I joined in 2019. Some of the faces have changed but our objective has stayed the same – we’re focused on figuring out how to help the office grow and expand our impact.
David: We’re situated in a great office space now and the people that are joining the team continue to be amazing. It’s quite a powerful office and I look forward to some big things happening soon.
Tushar Nagananda: Having joined just before Covid, I was impressed with our agility to shift to digital collaboration after the pandemic hit because I don’t think every firm did as good of a job as we did.
Pascal Urech: From where I started to today mass timber jobs have accelerated, which is great. We have some in the pipeline and some in construction.
Risa Rottenberg: Even though our office has been here for five years most of our projects to-date have been outside of the city. We have a commitment and are focused on opportunities to pursue projects in New York City and New York State. There’s a renewed focus on reducing building energy usage and a turning point for how we design new buildings and retrofit existing buildings. It’s a call to action at all levels of the industry and ties into our existing services in a really unique way – combining structural restoration, envelope, sustainability, and advanced performance analysis. Most of the buildings in NYC are over a hundred years old and can easily last one hundred years more. It’s our job to help them do that in a low carbon, energy efficient and sustainable way.
Dave: I don’t think things have stayed the same for me. At the beginning we were looking at projects that seemed foundational to our office. A lot of those started as a result of our relationships from other offices. We’re now building our own relationships and not as reliant on other offices, but we’re still collaborating with them. I think the types of work we’re chasing have also changed – before we were focused on large scale, commercial projects. Now, we’re more diversified.
What stood out to you about Entuitive and why did you choose to join?
Tanya: The multidisciplinary aspect at Entuitive was attractive and I was looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership role. So, both leadership and ownership opportunities presented themselves to me here. Being elected to the board of directors exceeded my already quite high expectations. Also, during my interview we had very frank conversations about diversity and these conversations were welcome and didn’t make people defensive. It seemed like diversity was something Entuitive wanted to do better and that was important to me, especially in this industry.
Powell Draper: The potential attracted me. There’s a lot of opportunity and I think we’re at an inflection point where we’re ten years in for Entuitive as a whole and five years for New York. We’re still in this scrappy mindset that we’re a startup but if you’re ten years in and just under 300 people we have to make sure we keep that same determination. I don’t think growth is sufficient by itself, so the opportunity is to ask ourselves how we can grow thoughtfully.
Tushar: What I like about Entuitive is it balances growth with stability. There’s a lot of experience from our Canadian leaders but we have a lot of younger people who enjoy keeping things agile and trying new things. In our industry that balance is hard to come by. Another thing I appreciate is my ability to create my own job. People say that you can do that at other firms but it’s often not the case, whereas at Entuitive it is the case and it’s something I can live up to.
Pascal: I was lucky that my former boss knew Tanya and introduced us. Reading up on Tanya’s history I was excited to work alongside her and appreciate that she’s given me the ability to work on mass timber projects. Once I got to Entuitive, I appreciated how nice the people are. You can talk to anyone.
Stephanie: When I first joined, we were smaller, and it was my first official job in the industry. Two things stood out then and continue to stand out now. There was a lot of support for my growth as an engineer. I mentioned in my interview that I wanted to continue my education and there was no hesitation but rather an expression of support. The other thing is that your voice really matters here, and someone is listening to you. Your team will help you push your ideas forward even when you think you’re not qualified. They’ll give you the insight to push your idea forward.
Risa: I was attracted by the opportunity to start a new line of services related to façade restoration and inspections in New York. Now, we’re focused on Local Law 97 and deep energy retrofit projects and I’m excited to help expand the service and the New York office.
What’s the thing you’re most proud of?
Stephanie: The thing I’m most proud of is our growth, our strength, and our tight knit community. Nothing shakes our bond. Even when the pandemic tried to tear us apart, we kept coming together.
Tanya: Stephanie, you’re our glue.
Tushar: Of course, I’m proud of the projects I’ve worked on, but the tablet idea I submitted to Entuitive’s Ennovation idea hopper is what I’m most proud of. Even though it failed, the fact that it improved the workflow of two people is something I’m really proud of. I don’t think the opportunity to be awarded $6,000 to pursue an idea would have happened anywhere else.
Dave: For me it would be the transition from my work on the American Dream project, which represents a big chunk of my career, to finding a place in the New York office where I could help grow our construction engineering service and lay the foundation for our burgeoning infrastructure group.
Pascal: I was able to create a bunch of design aids for timber concrete composite or other timber aids that helped me a lot and hopefully it will help others in the company, too.
Tanya: I’m really proud of the quality of work that comes from everyone in this office. I think in a lot of firms there’s a tendency to have each Principal or Leader having a sense of “ownership” over their team. I think of Pascal, Stephanie, and Tushar and how they work with me, but they also work with people across the company. Every time they work with people across the company, I get a phone call about how amazing each of them are. Even though they’re not “mine”, I get a proud feeling when I receive that feedback.
David: Being able to be part of growing the team in New York is just a fantastic experience and to your point, Tanya, the people in the office are amazing.
Any memorable projects you want to reflect on and why they were so meaningful to you?
David: The Rockefeller University overbuild over the FDR. The scale of it and the speed at which we were able to build it was impressive. I went over to Barry (Charnish) and said, “Hey, you got Hudson Yards, I got the FDR”. It was fun and we enjoyed working with the team to explore construction options. We chose a route that allowed us to get the façade and the structure on. Ultimately, it was built in 17 days, which is remarkable. It was fun to be part of this unique and challenging job. New York gives us lots of unique construction challenges to solve.
Pascal: I was able to work on Humber College in Toronto where I did a lot of mass timber design.
Tanya: 550 Washington. Even though it’s not mass timber it’s still incredible. The scale and the quantity and quality of the services and work we provided on that job is impressive. By the time I got to Entuitive the project was in construction and it was an intense “boots on the ground” time. I was put on the project as Engineer of Record and on-site full time. I felt supported by the team that worked on the design. I always knew help was a phone call away.
Stephanie: 550 Washington is one of my proudest projects as well. I started on that job close to the beginning and I’ve hung on until now. Aside from that, I’d add LaGuardia Airport. It was my chance to go on site from a building envelope lens rather than a structural lens.
Tushar: I learned a lot on 700 University. The pavilion area I was working on was constantly changing, so coming up with ways to deal with that was a good learning experience for me.
Risa: My biggest project right now is helping to grow the New York office and that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
Dave: You can’t have a conversation about New York without mentioning Manhattan West. It was a big project for Entuitive alone and for the New York office. It’s an important piece of infrastructure that has unlocked development potential for a whole site. It’s a legacy project for the firm.
Risa: The origin story of how Entuitive started in New York, designing and building the platform over the Hudson Yards, is really compelling for a lot of people. In my mind, the story is that Entuitive engineers were the ones that figured out how to do this. When other engineers said that it would take four to five years of planning and design, Entuitive was able to design and get it built in one year, including designing the construction equipment. To me, that’s phenomenal.
What are your goals for the future of the New York office?
Powell: It’s important to continue to grow while maintaining our great culture. We’re a small office within a small firm but we have a lot of different disciplines. I think it’s important for us to think of ourselves as one office. We need to be focused on collaboration and Entuitive or Entuitive New York goals and accomplishments, rather than individual ones.
Pascal: More mass timber!
Tanya: I’ll probably repeat what has already been said about growth with a purpose. Growth needs to be mission-driven, values-driven, and invoke a strong feeling of identity. The result should be an ability to offer a bunch of services with an understanding of what ties us all together. An understanding of sustainability and what a huge responsibility it is for us. Doing sustainability in a meaningful way is important for me as we go forward.
Risa: To be a recognized name and respected for delivering quality work in New York.
Stephanie: In terms of goals, I hope we continue to grow and strengthen our presence in New York. I hope we can increase our level of collaboration so we can provide multiple services on one project. When I think of defining our New York office, I want us to be known how New York is known: “New York Tough.” What does that mean in an engineering sense? Well, we can take what looks impossible and find a solution, we provide what a city needs, and our projects integrate themselves into our city. We can repurpose existing infrastructure and blend it with new technology.
Tushar: Risa took the words I was going to use. Maybe I can phrase it as how do we become “big orange in the big apple?”
Dave: I agree with everything that has been said. What the responses so far have demonstrated is that we’re all aligned, and my goal would be to maintain that sense of alignment amongst the team.
David: I want our New York office to be the biggest office in the biggest market. I want to continue to grow and ensure our culture is maintained. If we keep growth with great culture in mind, we’ll differentiate ourselves from other New York offices.
Thank you for sitting down with us today, team. It’s incredible to hear your story of growth and we look forward to seeing what’s next!