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April 3, 2019

New York engineering firm acquires Portland's Becker Structural Engineers

Courtesy / Winky Lewis Members of the Thornton Tomasetti and Becker Structural Engineers executive teams. From left, Michael Pulaski, Thornton Tomasetti, Portland; Todd Neal, Becker Structural Engineers, Portland; Tom Scarangello, Thornton Tomasetti, New York; Paul Becker, Becker Structural Engineers; Tod Rittenhouse, Thornton Tomasetti, New York; Brent Vollenweider, Thornton Tomasetti, Boston; Vamshi Gooje, Thornton Tomasetti, Portland.
Courtesy / Thornton Tomasetti Thornton Tomasetti is providing structural design, daylighting, façade engineering, construction engineering and kinetic engineering services for a new steel-framed building at the 6.6-million-square-foot, mixed-use Hudson Yards Development project in Manhattan.
Courtesy / Thornton Tomasetti Thornton Tomasetti was involved in designing the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in lower Manhattan.

Thornton Tomasetti, an international engineering firm headquartered in New York City, has acquired Becker Structural Engineers Inc., a Portland firm with specializations in mass timber, parking structures and highway bridge projects.

Terms of the transaction, which closed at the end of March, were not disclosed.

The deal is expected to expand Thornton Tomasetti’s ability to serve clients in New England, according to a news release.

Becker will work with Thornton Tomasetti’s Portland and Boston offices. Becker’s founder and president, Paul Becker, and vice president, Todd Neal, will become senior principal and principal respectively at Thornton Tomasetti. Becker’s 27 employees will remain in its existing office at 75 York St.

“Our firm has always been known as a local leader and the go-to firm for innovative solutions to challenging projects,” Becker said in the release. “Teaming up with Thornton Tomasetti provides many opportunities for an expanded menu of services to better serve our clients. Joining a firm that is of like mind, one that is driven by engineering excellence and client service, was appealing to me. This is an exciting time for both firms, our staff and clients.”

Becker told Mainebiz the acquisition came about as a result of his deliberations regarding a transition plan for his company.

“We explored many different options,” including an employee stock ownership plan, he said. “We were running into roadblocks. Thornton Tomasetti already had an office in Portland and we work with their office on projects all the time. They were looking to increase the practice areas of their Portland office. They asked around, and our name kept coming up. The president called me one day and asked for a meeting. That was about two years ago.”

Becker said the key for him was to provide long-term stability and professional growth opportunities for his staff.

“Having a transition plan for the company is vital,” he said. “This provides stability for everyone in our office and it allows us to have expanded resources.”

Becker said he expects the acquisition to open new opportunities for his staff, particularly in the area of mass-timber construction.

“We hope to expand that area of business,” he said.

"Mass timber" means that the primary load-bearing structure of a building is a wood product.

Becker is an advocate for the expansion of the heavy timber industry in Maine. His expertise in the field, along with that of Thornton Tomasetti’s sustainability team, is expected to give Thornton Tomasetti a strong foothold in Portland, which will join its other mass timber centers of excellence in Toronto, Seattle and Chicago.

Becker has completed a number of mass timber projects, while Thornton Tomasetti is currently providing structural engineering services to what could be the tallest mass-timber tower in the Western Hemisphere, the 16-story Ascent in Milwaukee, Wis., and was on the team behind the concept of an 80-story timber skyscraper in Chicago., Ill.

Becker stressed that looking at company succession doesn’t mean he’s retiring.

“You need to plan well in advance,” he said. “My intention is to keep working for Thornton Tomasetti. I didn’t do this to retire. I did this to make sure everyone has a stable career here. So it’s a rebirth, really.”

A history of working together

Courtesy / Justin van Soest
At 84 Marginal Way, Portland, Becker Structural Engineers provided its services for a 10-story structure.

Becker Structural Engineers will take the Thornton Tomasetti name. Projects Becker’s team is currently working on include: a 2,400-car garage for Maine Medical Center; Portland Foreside Development Co.’s mixed-use development of 58 Fore St., Portland; and Fathom Co.’s development of a hotel at 1 Center St., Portland.

The Becker team and Thornton Tomasetti’s Portland office already have a long history of working together. They paired up on such projects as the 30,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum Roux Center for the Environment at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, a 23,000-square-foot addition to the Waynflete School Campus in Portland that is seeking Passive House certification, and the 100,000-square-foot University of Maine Engineering Education and Design Center in Orono, which is targeting LEED Silver certification.

For nearly 25 years, Becker Structural Engineers has offered a range of new design and rehabilitation services for commercial, cultural and residential buildings, parking structures and highway bridges. Its capabilities include historic restoration, seismic upgrades, structural strengthening and construction support services, such as structural evaluations, condition assessments and special inspections. The firm works across most sectors, with a strong presence in education and healthcare.

Becker’s parking practice is responsible for such projects as the $27-million, 1,000-space addition to the Portland International Jetport parking garage and the four-story, 430-car garage and six-story office building at 84 Marginal Way in Portland that is home to Intermed. The firm’s bridge group often works with the Maine Department of Transportation. Projects include the deck replacement for the Memorial Bridge in Guilford and the replacement of the Webster Avenue Bridge in Bangor. Becker also offers niche design services for architecturally complex, high-end residences.

Thornton Tomasetti, founded in 1949, is an employee-owned organization of engineers, scientists, architects and other professionals collaborating from offices worldwide.

It was the structural designer for the world’s tallest building, the 1,000-meter Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, and for six of the world’s 10 tallest buildings completed or under construction

“The addition of Becker Structural Engineers will allow us to offer new resources to our clients, including further innovation in mass timber construction and a broader platform in the transportation sector and beyond,” Thomas Scarangello, Thornton Tomasetti’s chairman and CEO, said in the release. “The pairing of our two companies is a good fit from both a business and cultural perspective.”

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