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CannonDesign Adds New Chief Technology Officer, Acquires Four New Firms In Nine-Month Flurry Of Expansion


Over the past nine months, CannonDesign has executed multiple mergers, acquisitions, new partnerships and hires as part of a five-year strategic plan to reshape the firm and chart its future. The spate of activity brings CannonDesign to offices in 21 cities and over 1,000 employees around the globe offering 15 services ranging from master planning and construction services to workplace strategy and technology consulting. The deals expand its expertise in healthcare, education, science and technology and commercial design, and added a chief technology officer to the firm.

CannonDesign CEO Brad Lukanic

CannonDesign CEO Brad Lukanic said the moves will help the company meet the needs of its clients in a marketplace where technological innovation and specialization are becoming the norm.

“We want to lead our industry and not just react to changes in an evolving world so our diverse skill sets challenge and partner with our clients for best results,” Lukanic said.

CannonDesign launched the strategic plan in September by merging with Houston-based FKP, a respected healthcare and education design firm known especially for its expertise in pediatric healthcare design. The move gave CannonDesign entry into the Texas and Ohio markets.

In November, CannonDesign established its first office in Colorado with the acquisition of Bennett Wagner Grody Architects, whose most recent projects include Colorado State University’s Behavioral Sciences Building, Colorado Mesa University’s Engineering Building and numerous projects with Kaiser Permanente.

In April, CannonDesign acquired gkkworks, a firm known for its progressive approach to integrated project delivery with five locations in California, Colorado and India, and added hospitality to its specialties. CannonDesign also entered a new partnership with San Francisco-based Assembly Design studio, whose clients include Uber, Zillow, Cisco and Pinterest.

CannonDesign Executive Director of Firmwide Strategies Deb Sheehan

There are challenges to bringing aboard so many new firms and people in a short period of time, specifically how the new employees will fit in with the existing workplace culture. CannonDesign Executive Director of Firmwide Strategies Deb Sheehan said the company's commitment to a single firm, multiple office methodology has made integrating new teammates easier.

CannonDesign principal Charles Smith said the mergers are already paying off with clients who appreciate the mix of new service and market offerings, while workers from different specialties are collaborating more.

"It’s not uncommon for one of our project teams to be composed of experts from healthcare and workplace strategies or education experts," Smith said.

CannonDesign Commercial Practice Executive Director Meg Osman said the mergers now fully equip the firm to design a full spectrum of workplaces, from startups in their infancy to mature global corporations.

An Eye Toward Leveraging Tech

CannonDesign Chief Technology Officer Hilda Espinal

CannonDesign’s key personnel hires include Michael Bonomo as director of global workplace, Abbie Clary as director of health practice, Swapna Sathyan as director of workplace strategy consulting and Hilda Espinal as the firm’s first chief technology officer. A 16-year industry veteran, Espinal previously served as chief technology officer at HKS, where her primary focus was on computer-aided design and building information modeling.

Espinal said CannonDesign is working to create a new, fully immersive virtual reality experience for its design teams and clients. She believes this tech will knock down geographic barriers and allow client organizations to truly understand their real estate investments intimately, months and even years before a project is built.

“Not only will this experience produce a wow factor on steroids for all, but the multi-user virtual reality capabilities it offers will better connect our top designers, clients and project teams in virtual spaces that can enhance our design solutions,” Espinal said.

The mergers are resonating with clients. Smith said CannonDesign has secured new work with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital. The firm is building a new student center and dining facility at Western Michigan University, and is designing energy efficiencies for Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

CannonDesign also partnered with RedRick Technologies to update its planning guide for medical imaging reading environment optimization, which is intended to reduce repetitive stress injuries and improve interaction between radiologists and clinicians.