By Marty Hedlund for Sundt Construction
More than a century and a quarter ago men wore top hats, women wore corsets, and every aspect of a construction project was painstakingly done by hand. Fast-forward 125 years to 2015 and the construction industry looks nothing the same.
Modern technology like 3D laser scanning and parametric estimating tools continue to push contractors to new heights, allowing them to build immense structures that dwarf some of history’s greatest architectural creations, with much greater safety and precision in a fraction of the time.
Through it all, one Arizona-based company has continued to occupy the forefront of construction innovation.
Sundt Construction: Est. 1890
Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, Sundt Construction, Inc. has grown from a small, family-owned business in Las Vegas, New Mexico, into an ESOP corporation owned entirely by its approximately 1,300 employees. Originally founded by a Norwegian immigrant named M. M. Sundt in 1890, Sundt relocated to Tucson in 1929 and established its headquarters in Tempe in 1967.
And, Sundt hasn’t just survived, it’s thrived – through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession – evolving from local to regional, to national and international. Along the way, the company has literally transformed the world by constructing some of the most complex and significant projects of our time, including structures that would become part of the Manhattan Project in 1941 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, NASA’s Launch Pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the relocation of the London Bridge to Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
“We are a timeless organization – proof that a 19th century company dedicated to the betterment of our society will thrive in the 21st century,” said David Crawford, Sundt president and CEO. “We believe that the built environment is transformative. It’s a reflection of who we are as an industry, community and company.”
Locally Sundt’s impact is even greater. Its work spans urban areas, remote reaches and landmark destinations throughout Arizona, literally shaping the state’s identity. From the construction of Kitt Peak Observatory in southern Arizona and the first phase of State Route 51 in Phoenix, to the latest Arizona State University Sun Devil Stadium renovation in Tempe and the new University of Arizona Biosciences Partnership Building underway in downtown Phoenix, Sundt’s projects have touched countless lives across nearly every sector in the state.
While many Sundt projects have become iconic symbols, the innovations developed during construction deserve just as much acclaim.
“We were among the first to implement slip-form technology into high-rise construction back when we built Reunion Tower in Dallas, in 1978,” said Crawford. “Our success led to the development of a new standard of building faster, more economical high-rise projects during the late ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Sundt again pushed the industry forward when it reconstructed the 100-year-old West 7th Street Bridge in Fort Worth, Texas. The team built the bridge’s 12 precast, post-tensioned concrete arches offsite and moved them into place on either side of the existing bridge before they demolished and reconstructed it – in just 150 calendar days. The bridge construction project was completed a month ahead of schedule and is the first of its kind in Texas.
“If there is a singular thing we have learned during the past 125 years, it is that we would not exist without good clients, architects, engineers, subcontractors, suppliers, industry associates and superb craft personnel,” said Crawford. “Every project has challenges, and we look forward to whatever set of challenges the next 125 years brings.”