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A Better Way to Build

A History of the Pankow Companies

by Michael R. Adamson, with a Foreword by Arthur J. Fox Jr.

Publication Year: 2013

While architects have been the subject of many scholarly studies, we know very little about the companies that built the structures they designed. This book is a study in business history as well as civil engineering and construction management. It details the contributions that Charles J. Pankow, a 1947 graduate of Purdue University, and his firm have made as builders of large, often concrete, commercial structures since the company’s foundation in 1963. In particular, it uses selected projects as case studies to analyze and explain how the company innovated at the project level. The company has been recognized as a pioneer in “design-build,” a methodology that involves the construction company in the development of structures and substitutes negotiated contracts for the bidding of architects’ plans. The Pankow companies also developed automated construction technologies that helped keep projects on time and within budget. The book includes dozens of photographs of buildings under construction from the company’s archive and other sources. At the same time, the author analyzes and evaluates the strategic decision making of the firm through 2004, the year in which the founder died. While Charles Pankow figures prominently in the narrative, the book also describes how others within the firm adapted the business so that the company could survive a commercial market that changed significantly as a result of the recession of the 1990s. Extending beyond the scope of most business biographies, this book is a study in industry innovation and the power of corporate culture, as well as the story of one particular company and the individuals who created it. Key Features: • There are many books about architects, but very few about twentieth-century “makers.” • Tells the story behind many iconic buildings, especially in the western half of the US. • Charles Pankow was a pioneer in concrete construction and the “design-build” system.

Published by: Purdue University Press


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pp. 1-6


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p. 7-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Here’s how to succeed in business—the Pankow way, with lessons for any innovative entrepreneur. Business historian Michael Adamson tells the Pankow story and spotlights its impact on the construction industry—an impact that lives on through the founder’s generous philanthropy and his outstanding ability to innovate. ...

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pp. xv-xxiii

This is a book about the restoration of the master builder to the commercial building site. As a sponsored project, it is written as the story of one firm, but one that delivered large commercial projects in ways that have helped to redefine the role of the general contractor. ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxiv-xxvi

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pp. 1-30

The hallmarks of the Pankow companies have been the deployment of designbuild methodology to deliver singular commercial projects, combined with innovations in job site automation, generally associated with, but not limited to, concrete as a building material. But Charlie Pankow was neither the first contractor to utilize design-build in the twentieth century ...

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Chapter 1: Kiewit Days

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pp. 31-76

In America, the relationship between the engineer and business has been a close one. Said Alexander C. Humphreys, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, a century ago: “Self-evident should be the truth of the proposition that the engineer ought to be a man of business.”1 ...

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Chapter 2: Executing Design-Build, 1963–1971

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pp. 77-114

Unlike the founders of Hewlett-Packard, Charlie Pankow did not establish his company in a garage. But one had to walk through the garage of his Altadena, California, home to get to the basement, where he set up shop not more than 10 miles to the west of his former Kiewit office. ...

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Chapter 3: Pankow in Hawaii, 1965–1984

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pp. 115-162

In May 1967, at the end of Charles Pankow, Inc.’s (CPI’s) first project in Hawaii, an office building for the James Campbell Estate, Charlie Pankow flew to Honolulu to meet with George Hutton for a final briefing on what had been a difficult engagement. So the story goes, Hutton asked Pankow what he wanted him to do next. ...

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Chapter 4: Pankow on the Mainland, 1972–1984

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pp. 163-214

After he joined the firm as a project sponsor in 1972, Dean Stephan rarely saw Charlie Pankow. Indeed, it seemed to him as if the company ran itself: “We were maybe like a platoon in the Marines. We were a very small group, very tight knit, all working for each other and covering each other’s back, and we really didn’t have a colonel around telling us what to do. ...

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Chapter 5: Reorganization, Growth, and Recession, 1984–1991

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pp. 215-252

As Charles Pankow, Inc. (CPI), neared its twentieth anniversary, Charlie Pankow pondered its corporate structure. Together, he, George Hutton, and Russ Osterman owned some 85 percent of the company’s stock. It was prohibitively expensive to acquire any ownership position, as the book value of the firm had increased appreciably over two decades. ...

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Chapter 6: Promoting Design-Build and Funding Concrete Construction Research

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pp. 253-290

This chapter steps aside from the chronological framework of the narrative to consider the diffusion of design-build and the role that Charlie Pankow and his firm played in spreading the practice. As design-build and certain concrete construction techniques were intertwined in Charlie Pankow’s construction program, ...

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Chapter 7: Adapting to Market Change, 1991–2004

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pp. 291-334

Well before the construction industry began to recover from the deep recession of the early 1990s, it was unclear whether the business model that had sustained Charlie Pankow’s company for almost three decades would enable it to thrive when the economy rebounded, much less survive the next downturn. The founder had no doubt that it could. ...

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pp. 335-344

Free of the contract provisions, minimum fees, and other constraints embedded in the founder’s business model, Charles Pankow Builders was able to compete on equal footing in the commercial segment of the industry during the frenzied boom that peaked in the spring of 2006. Indeed, the favorable market helped the company adjust to life without its founder. ...

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pp. 345-352

Charlie Pankow assembled a capable group of self-starters in a building division within the Los Angeles District of Peter Kiewit Sons’. Under his leadership, they became experts in concrete construction, and, as contractors, willing and able to assume sole responsibility for project execution under a building team configuration that became known as design-build. ...

Appendix A: Major Projects Completed on the Mainland, 1963–2004, and in Hawaii after the Retirement of George Hutton, 1992–2004

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pp. 353-364

Appendix B: Projects Completed in Hawaii under George Hutton

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pp. 365-370

Appendix C: The Pankow Companies: Innovations, Adaptations, and Tweaks

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pp. 371-374

List of Archival Collections

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pp. 375-378


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pp. 379-448


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pp. 449-470

E-ISBN-13: 9781612492308
E-ISBN-10: 1612492304
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557536341
Print-ISBN-10: 1557536341

Page Count: 460
Publication Year: 2013