Driven by a desire to positively impact the urban environment in Romania, Epstein Architecture & Engineering SRL’s best-in-class technologies, talent and capabilities are helping it to meet this mission
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
“Our industry is extremely rewarding. How many professionals in other sectors can point at a brand-new building and say, “I helped build that”?
“Whether it’s a shopping mall, office, road, home, or school, the things you build matter to the people in your community. They are structures that will be there, in many cases, for generations to come – something you can be proud of, a tangible legacy.”
A career in architecture and design was always on the cards for Geo Bitca.
The son of two Romanian designers, he naturally opted to follow in his family’s footsteps, graduating with a civil engineering degree from Bucharest Construction Technical University before enrolling onto a four-year long master’s programme at Beijing Tsinghua University.
17 years on, he today stands as the Managing Director of Epstein Architecture & Engineering SRL – the Romanian division of a global enterprise that’s truly helping to transform urban landscapes.
“Epstein is a company which provides high quality professional architectural design, engineering and construction services,” Bitca affirms. “Our main focus is to identify clients and project opportunities where there is a need for long term value in buildings, quality, sustainability, and meeting technically challenging demands.
“What sets us apart? First, our integrated service offering covering all design specialities.
“Second is our ability to offer tailored AEC and design and build services on specific projects, ensuring the coordination and quality of projects by reducing risk and cost through an optimised design, procurement and execution route that modifies the traditional working sequence.
“And third is our multidisciplinary team which ensures a single point of responsibility for clients and a maximum consistency of performance whose sole purpose is to optimise quality, time schedules and execution costs.”
Showcasing technical excellence
This harmonious trio of elements have combined to see Epstein deliver some critically important turnkey projects for acclaimed clients across Romania, the MD pointing to the likes of Lufkin Industries (General Electric), Cameron International (Schlumberger) and PPD Romania.
And its current pipeline looks similarly exciting.
“We are working on a very exciting project outside of Bucharest named Silk District – a mixed-use, 400,000-square-metre development located in Iasi featuring multiple functions including apartments, offices, hotel, conference venues,” Bitca explains.
“Each of these areas are intelligently integrated into a coherent build, providing an improved lifestyle to the community. It is a modern, exciting and iconic development which provides a template for the city of the future and sets the standard for subsequent mixed-use developments which will grow organically in Iasi.”
Projects are not the only area in which Epstein excels, however.
The company is one of few firms in Romania leveraging the latest building information modelling (BIM) technologies, its staff experienced in using Autodesk’s Revit program for digital 3D modelling.
“Revit allows for easy changes to the model that are immediately reflected in all 2D plans and documents,” the MD explains. “It further allows for the 3D coordination of utility systems, process equipment, structural elements, lighting and other systems to avoid interferences and conflicts, often only discovered later in the construction phase of the project.”
Likewise, the company has a number of internal management systems, its combination of custom and off-the-shelf tools available to project team members and field-base site managers at all times through a bespoke network server system.
“One of the most effective tools that we utilise is the Newforma Project Information Management system,” Bitca adds. “It allows us to effectively communicate, store and retrieve critical project information.”
Reliant on relationships
In tandem with these substantial investments into new technologies has come a major focus on the simultaneous improvement of Epstein’s talent base.
Comprising a mix of architects, specialised design engineers, project managers, cost engineers and SSM specialists, its workforce is deemed to be one of its most crucial assets and the company strives to offer staff a work environment in which they can deliver exceptional work, acknowledging dependence upon them to succeed.
Through this, it has created an employee-employer relationship based on trust and mutual benefit.
“One of the biggest challenges today’s employers face is attracting and retaining talent,” Bitca states.
“The old strategy of offering a better wage can only take you so far. In our industry, people are attracted not only to a company’s policies and culture but also by the portfolio of projects they will be working on, and currently ours is very appealing.
“We encourage collaboration. Every member of the team gets equal opportunities for communicating and participating, they learn from each other and develop their skills, and share talents to leverage the best solution for every issue. As a result, productivity and efficiency are enhanced.”
The contributions of Epstein’s suppliers and partners are seen to be similarly crucial – many of these relationships still going strong since the inauguration of its Romanian operations 15 years ago.
Listening to the architecture and engineering specialist’s needs, these contractors play a major role in ensuring that Epstein meets the criteria, expectations, budgets and deadlines promised to its own clientele.
Bitca affirms: “The expertise of the key partners and suppliers you select for your projects represents your assurance about the expected results when there is a very specific process or issue involved. The sub-contractors we work with are specialised in their area and we employ them to perform a specific task that requires special tools, expertise or knowledge.
“Construction is also all about collaboration and relationships. Projects involve many people working together towards a common goal, and their ability to do so makes or breaks the final result.”
Inspired to improve
Given the contributions of these gifted partners and employees, combined with Epstein’s technological excellence and an impressive pipeline, the Romanian division stands in good stead to take greater strides moving forward.
Leveraging Epstein’s global capabilities, it is currently exploring new opportunities in sectors such as aviation and education alongside an expanding presence in segments such as industrial, office, hotel and residential. And the climate in which these are presenting themselves is also buoyant.
“Romania still features one of the best potential growth rates in Europe,” Bitca explains. “Major structural reforms in areas like workforce mobility or education could unlock significant growth down the road with fairly little effort.
“More and more Romanians living abroad have a high interest in returning home and Romania’s major regional cities are in the fast-track development lane. Meanwhile, looking at the political environment, the country has the chance to promote major structural reforms after the 2020 elections, ranging from enhancing the public health and education systems to big progress in major infrastructure projects.”
€600 million in deals related to office projects that could close soon, office tenancy vacancies nearing 12-13 percent in Bucharest, and roughly 700,000 square metres of new office projects announced for the next couple of years (equating to around a quarter of current modern office stock) are further trends cited by the Managing Director, who is able to express distinct optimism, circling back to his love for construction, as our conversation comes to a close.
“Sitting at a desk nine to five every day sounds a little bit tedious – for us, every day is different and brings different challenges. You may have heard that one before, and that’s because it’s true.
“When you are on-site, the job constantly changes as work progresses, meaning that you will need to adapt quickly to the tasks required. And at the same time, there’s a real sense of satisfaction to be had.
“The construction of a new office building makes a change to the environment both physically and economically. Knowing that you are making an active difference and impacting the local economy positively is certainly rewarding and this passion will continue to drive us forward.”