Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read May 2021 — After a challenging year, the Minneapolis-St. Paul real estate development market is poised for a strong comeback. Tim Dufault, principal and CEO of Cuningham, shares why he is bullish on the market going forward.
How did Cuningham manage to grow despite an atypical year?
We work across 13 different project sectors, organized into five studios: Live, Work, Play, Heal and Grow. That market-specific focus builds expertise that, in turn, consolidates a deeper understanding of the market, its needs, the needs of our clients, their businesses and their institutions. Across the horizontal setting, we have four practice areas: design and performance, people, business and strategy. The focus of each of those practice areas is to take our common practices and embed them across all of the five studios in a consistent and concise manner. These five studios feed a matrix platform we rolled out on March 1, 2020. We spent the better part of last year focusing on how we build that platform across the company to build up a one Cuningham approach in the work that we do. This ensures our clients are getting consistent value, consistent delivery and the highest quality work that they can get from our team and from each of our offices, regardless of where they are anywhere in the world.
What are some of the unique advantages of working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region?
The workforce here is incredibly talented. They are hard workers focused on moving forward, constant improvement and creating greater value for the marketplace. There is a high level of education and academic achievement up here, offering a great pool of people that we can draw from. It gives us the opportunity to engage in a lot of work that other firms in the country cannot. It’s interesting that the largest firms in the Twin Cities do most of their work outside the Twin Cities. We also have a lot of Fortune 100 companies that are headquartered here. That is a testament to the workforce, the lifestyle and the quality of the environment. It also points toward the innovation in how we deliver our work and how we move the profession forward. Our peer firms in the marketplace have been highly active in creating some of the most innovative approaches to design and construction.
What specific sustainability and future-oriented growth trends have you incorporated into your projects?
The biggest one facing us right now is embodied carbon. The amount of carbon that is expended in the development of building materials and of buildings is a significant contributor to what is happening with our global climate. We have to move to a place where we are reducing not simply the carbon that we emit through cars and through other activities in daily life, but the actual carbon that’s developed or released when we create the materials to erect buildings. Two of the biggest challenges there are the major building project products for all our buildings: concrete and steel. Concrete is one of the highest carbon-producing materials out there. Getting to a place where we can reduce or preferably eliminate carbon as an outcome of the production of concrete is going to be a big challenge not only for the industry but for the global economy, because concrete is the No. 1 construction material globally. The production of steel requires tremendous amounts of energy to create a single piece.
What would you tell potential investors looking to come to the city?
This is a great place to live. Our housing stock here is some of the best housing stock in the country. We have to build better here because the climate demands it. There is also a care about the environment here, which really attracts the younger generations. Our tax structure here is quite positive. Taxes are a necessary evil for roads and bridges, all of the services we use as residents of our region. We offer good value relative to the level of taxation that we have. We are highly bullish on this market.
What is your outlook for the firm toward 2022?
2022 is the year that architecture and design will launch back to where it was pre-pandemic. We expect 2021 to continue to be a regeneration year. We are seeing much more activity among our clients and we are seeing some large projects restarting after remaining on the sidelines for the past year. There is going to be a tremendous demand for entertainment and hospitality. We are also going to continue to see growth in our multifamily segment. We know that longer term the workplace will continue changing. The design of the workplace is going to be more focused on collaboration. That is a really exciting and interesting component.
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