Rik Kunnath Honored with DBIA Lifetime Achievement Award

Words: Bronzella Cleveland

The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) has announced Richard M. (“Rik”) Kunnath, P.E., DBIA as the 2015 recipient of the DBIA Brunelleschi Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kunnath co-founded DBIA in 1993, and went on to serve as its second board chairman. As Board President of the Charles Pankow Foundation, he has led the organization since its inception, overseeing the implementation of more than 50 research grants and $10 million in research funds, all with the goal of improving the design and construction industry through technological and process advancement.

The Brunelleschi Award is the highest honor DBIA bestows. It is presented to an individual who has made significant contributions to the design and construction industry through outstanding leadership and the advancement of integrated design-build project delivery. Recipients have exhibited originality, vision, and breadth over the course of their professional life, with 25 years or more of strong and well-documented commitment to design-build project delivery. The prestigious award is named for Filippo Brunelleschi, the Florentine master builder whose most notable work is the Duomo of the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

“DBIA’s partnership with Rik Kunnath, Charles Pankow Builders, and The Charles Pankow Foundation has been integral to the advancement of design-build best practices,” says Lisa Washington, CAE, DBIA’s executive director/CEO. “Thanks to Rik and The Charles Pankow Foundation, DBIA has been able to improve design-build curriculum in universities, support our design-build advocacy with independent research, and create best practices to further improve the speed and efficiency of the building process. We are proud to honor Rik with the 2015 Brunelleschi Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Kunnath joined Charles Pankow Builders in Hawaii as a project engineer in 1979. That year, he managed his first true design-build project, a regional shopping center. He eventually became the chairman and CEO of Charles Pankow Builders, retiring as CEO in 2014 and continues to serve as executive chairman. He now leads the Charles Pankow Foundation, which funds research, development, and dissemination of new products and solutions that help the AEC Industry be more efficient and more cost competitive.

Kunnath advised the State of Hawaii on contract and procurement issues in preparation for that state’s very first design-build project. Design-build has subsequently become a widely accepted and successful project delivery method in the state.

For the past 20 years, he has been a speaker and invited lecturer at universities throughout the U.S. speaking to faculty and students about integrated delivery and procurement models. These include Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and more than a dozen other institutions. Kunnath is one of only three lecturers selected by the AIA California Council to engage in statewide education sessions related to design-build. For that effort, he received public recognition as having made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of design-build best practices in the architectural community.

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