Group 70 International
Gus Ishihara and Gordon Tyau established Group 70 International (G70) in 1971. For over 40 years, the business has grown from an architecture firm to a multidisciplinary design firm, serving hundreds of clients with unique needs throughout the Hawaiian archipelago and the greater Pacific Rim.
Leadership has shifted over the years; Linda Miki, president of G70, leads an experienced management staff, which includes Sheryl Seaman, vice chairman of G70, who has been with the firm since 1978. The team of 86 operates from a single office in Honolulu to deliver high-quality services.
“We have 16 partners and we practice more like a law firm or clinic in that each individual has a specialty,” Seaman says of the company’s unique structure. “We combine the components to best suit the needs of each project. We have more LEED-certified staff than any other firm in Hawaii and we are very focused on sustainable design. We have a large number of projects that have achieved LEED Platinum certification.”
Beginning with architecture, G70 added planning and interior design services in the 1980s, followed by a technology asset management component in the 1990s. In 2009, the company added a civil engineering division.
“We began more or less focused on institutional and resort-type projects, now we work in almost every market segment,” Seaman adds. “We set ourselves apart by having four distinct niches. On top of that, each partner specializes in different things. We have a partner who does education work, partners who do military work, manage our interiors department, focus on work with schools and nonprofits, one does primarily medical work, multifamily residential and so on. It really depends on what the project calls for.”
The year Seaman came aboard marked the company’s first hotel project. Since then, G70 has performed a growing amount of resort work. “Timeshares compose one of our bigger niche markets,” she elaborates. “Over the years, that trend has continued. We recently worked on the Grand Waikikian, a time share project at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu. We designed a big building with pools, restaurants and all the other accoutrements of a lovely vacation.”
One of the most rewarding projects for Seaman and her team was for a nonprofit organization. “When Joan Crock, widow of the founder of McDonald’s, passed away, she left $1.8 billion to build community centers in underserved communities all-around the country. We worked with our local Leeward division, which won one of the awards. We finished that project last December so it is now open and operating.”
According to Seaman, the center has a 500-seat sanctuary and performing arts center, a 500-seat conference center, dormitories hosting 48 beds, an NBA regulation gymnasium and a large fitness center.
“There is also a competition pool, a leisure pool with a lazy river and splash pad and two slides for the kids,” she continues. “There is an arts center, a 175-student kindergarten and preschool, as well as an assortment of other classrooms. The commercial kitchen and café serves breakfast, lunch and evening snacks.”
The center also boasts exciting amenities outdoors. “Outside, they have a five-acre field where they put on summer camps for 300 underserved children,” Seaman continues. “The organization’s services also include after school care programs and day care for families coming to work out so the kids can hang out and do homework or play. This was one of our favorite projects. We put a lot of time and energy into it.”
An Evolving Business
The work seems to never end for G70, which has a broad, rolling assortment of projects at any given time. The crew is currently performing design work for a local Public Broadcasting Station, which is in the design phase. For structural and mechanical components, G70 is working with a number of external consultants. The team includes security, broadcast equipment, as well as integration consultants.
Whether with clients, partners, contractors or employees, above all else G70 runs on relationships. The connections the firm has made over the years have helped to keep the business thriving, even throughout the recession.
“It never got too bad for us, but we have been around for more than 40 years, so we know the economy is cyclical,” Seaman elaborates. “When we see something happening we respond immediately. We stop buying fancy computers, we stop having catered lunches, all the fluff goes away and we hunker down and wait for it to improve, because it always does.”
Seaman is proud to note that G70’s long-term relationships with clients, as well as the company’s reputation, have put the team ahead. “These qualities have made us the architect of choice to some of our primary clients,” she continues, “Even though they also have to hunker down in downturn. That is often when development firms do planning, laying the groundwork so that when money loosens up and projects can start happening, they are prepared. They often include us in that preparation.”
As G70 grows, the business also continues to diversify, as evolution is at the heart of the company. “The reason I started our interior design division in the mid-80s was because I read an article that people spend 92 percent of their waking hours in doors,” Seaman recounts. “The things people see, touch, feel and live around every day have an impact on their lives, health, well-being and sense of enjoyment. I thought it was important we have that practice to address that fact.”
In the coming years, the trend of evolution and innovation will continue. With the growth of the firm’s civil engineering department, Seaman and her team are strongly considering the integration of other engineering disciplines. The growing company is changing; however, the more important components will remain unchanged. Group 70 International will remain dedicated to high quality service, performance and innovation for diverse clients along the Pacific Rim.
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