Karim Allana is the founder and CEO of the California-based firm Allana Buick & Bers, Inc. Mr. Allana, a licensed civil engineer, transitioned his small roofing services and consulting group into the large architectural engineering and construction management company it is today. With over 225 employees, ABB operates offices in 13 states and Mexico, offering expertise in building enclosure, HVAC systems, fire protection, and construction forensics for new and remedial projects, while prioritizing longevity and durability in sustainable construction.
We recently interviewed Karim to learn more about his company and to hear his advice for those aspiring to embark on a career in his field.
- Can you share more about the type of company Allana Buick & Bers, Inc. is and the services it provides?
ABB prides itself in making buildings perform better and reducing risk in construction. Our primary goal is to assist our clients in achieving a building that is sustainable, durable, and can stand the test of time. We accomplish this by designing, repairing, and consulting on Building Enclosure, Waterproofing, Roofing, Mechanical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection systems that are economical and long lasting. We understand that proper design and construction of building assemblies make buildings perform better and last longer. This also helps to reduce operating costs and our carbon footprint.
For buildings that are old or prematurely experiencing issues, we provide investigation and testing to identify the root cause of the problems; conceptualize repair options; prepare remedial construction documents; and assist with pre-construction services such as bidding, estimating and procurement of work and mock-up and laboratory testing.
During construction, we provide construction administration, quality assurance inspections, testing and verification, and construction management. ABB can provide traditional Design-Bid-Build as well as Design-Build delivery methods. As a leader in our field, we work closely with many subcontractors, manufacturers and suppliers and can assist a client in saving money on procurement by offering lean and integrated construction management.
On new construction projects, we assist owners and architects with full engineering design or peer review and consultation on building enclosure, fire protection and mechanical systems. As engineers of record for building enclosure and fire protection, we provide very detailed drawings akin to “shop drawings.” Highly detailed drawings result in more efficient buy-out, minimize change orders and RFI’s and improve construction schedule.
We can provide quality assurance throughout the construction process, making sure that a system is built as intended by the design team, which is the secret sauce for longevity and sustainable construction. We can test these systems to make sure construction is performing as intended and assist with providing alternative solutions if needed.
We can manage a project beginning to end, creating a seamless process between our investigation, design and construction teams. Giving the owner one point of contact that will manage a project beginning to end with their best interest in mind.
- How long has Allana Buick & Bers, Inc. been operating in the industry? Can you provide some key milestones or achievements since its establishment?
When I first founded my company back in 1987, we operated under the name Roofing Services and Consultants. Over the years, ABB has evolved into a prominent multidisciplinary architectural engineering and construction management company, delivering exceptional services and solutions.
In 1989, Gerson Bers joined the firm, bringing valuable expertise and contributing to its growth and success. The company relocated to San Jose to accommodate its expanding operations. Then, in 1992, Steve Lippert became the first Chief Architect, introducing a new level of architectural-engineering excellence to the organization.
As the company continued to expand and diversify its offerings, it underwent a name change in 1994, becoming Allana-Lippert Inc. In 2001, ABB achieved another milestone by opening its first branch office in San Diego, broadening its geographic reach, and increasing accessibility to clients in Southern California.
In 2002, Gerson Bers and Eugene Buick became partners in the firm, further strengthening its leadership and expertise. ABB’s growth trajectory continued with the opening of a branch office in Oahu, specializing in roof design and construction management services.
In 2005, the firm rebranded once again, adopting the name Allana Buick and Bers Inc. (ABB). This pivotal year also witnessed a doubling of the company’s size, with more than 40 employees and the establishment of the third and fourth branch offices in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The year 2006 marked a significant milestone as ABB moved its headquarters to a newly renovated 20,000-square-foot office space in Palo Alto, enhancing its operational capabilities and providing a centralized hub for its expanding activities. Subsequently, ABB continued to expand its presence with the opening of new branch offices in Maui and Sacramento in 2007.
By 2009, ABB’s growth extended to the Pacific Northwest as the company opened its Seattle division, surpassing 100 employees and solidifying its status as a leading engineering and construction management firm. The subsequent years saw ABB’s expansion with the addition of an office in Irvine in 2012, the launch of its construction management division in 2013, and the opening of its 10th office in Oakland in 2015.
The company’s commitment to growth and excellence persisted, leading to the establishment of the 11th office in North Carolina in 2016. ABB’s unwavering dedication to its employees and outstanding work environment earned it the prestigious “Best Firms to Work For” award for ten consecutive years, starting in 2007.
As ABB celebrated its 30th year of operation in 2017, it further expanded its presence by opening the 12th office in Portland, strengthening its capacity to serve clients in the Pacific Northwest. In 2018, the company surpassed 140 employees, a testament to its continued growth and success.
The year 2019 brought a significant development as the Conley Group joined ABB, further enhancing its capabilities in building envelope consulting services. In 2021, ABB expanded its expertise by launching a dedicated Fire-Life Safety division and inaugurating a new office in Arizona.
In 2022, ABB welcomed BDI (Building Diagnostics, Inc.) into its family, integrating their expertise in building envelope consulting and testing in Austin, Houstin and Mexico City. This strategic move further solidified ABB’s position as an industry leader, combining diverse skill sets and expanding its service offerings into South America.
Today, Allana Buick and Bers Inc. (ABB) stands as a renowned engineering and construction management firm, with a robust presence spanning multiple regions and a talented team of professionals committed to delivering exceptional results and making buildings perform better.
- Your tagline or mission statement is “making buildings perform better.” Can you tell us how ABB helps its clients achieve this goal and why it’s so important in modern building design and construction?
Allana Buick & Bers (ABB) assists building owners, architects, contractors, and the construction industry with making buildings perform better. ABB has a holistic approach to building performance by applying lessons learned from forensic engineering to reduce failures, improve building longevity, mitigate risk of defects, and lower operational expenses based on proven performance and sound building sciences. Our world-class professional staff specializes in building envelope systems, roofing, waterproofing, building forensics, mechanical systems, fire protection and testing.
- What is something unique about your brand that sets it apart from your competitors?
The construction industry is constantly evolving, thanks to changes in environmental laws such as discontinuing asbestos, reducing hydrocarbon use, implementing energy conservation requirements, changing codes, etc. The field also continually advances as new materials and methods are invented and adopted, which inadvertently create risk of premature failure.
Each year, we are involved with investigating billions of dollars worth of construction failures in new construction projects that were built less than 10 years ago. These forensic failure investigations provide a wealth of lessons learned, giving us the information needed to guide our clients and help them reduce their risk in construction. We use this insight in our design and system selection for new construction and repair projects, which helps us reduce risk in construction, improve durability and lifespan and avoid premature failures.
- Do you have a favorite company or personal success story you can share?
One of my first clients was the Foothill-DeAnza College District, which has continued to hire us over the course of the past 35 years. One of the promises I made to their facilities staff is that I will help design and build their re-roofing projects to have minimal maintenance requirements and to last 30-40 years. My first re-roof design for them was approximately 35 years ago and we have been involved with the majority of their re-roofing projects over the past three decades. I am proud to report that their facilities staff confirmed that they had minimal maintenance costs and almost no reported warranty leaks in over 200 re-roofing projects. What’s more, the oldest low sloped roof that I designed is still going strong after 35 years.
- What are two or three skills you possess that you feel could help others succeed in a similar field?
Learn, share and grow! Don’t be afraid to pass on the lessons learned to others, including competitors, manufacturers, and industry experts. Help the entire construction industry, including architects, contractors and manufacturers, reduce risk in construction and improve longevity and sustainability. It is a group effort, and only by learning and sharing knowledge can we grow and improve.
- What has been the most inspiring part of your career so far?
The most inspiring part of my career so far has been mentoring and sharing the lessons learned from forensics with the construction industry and helping change the outcome. I believe that our sustainability efforts have saved the construction world billions of dollars worth of premature failures and increased lifespan of building assemblies that have resulted in a huge reduction in the carbon footprint of the construction industry.