Spokane Journal of Business

Hanson Carlen ignited with work deep into next year

Owners claim company is busier now than it was before pandemic

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-Kevin Blocker
Hanson Carlen architect Janette Hruban and company owner David Hanson currently oversee a high volume of projects.

A look of disbelief ran across David Hanson’s face as he pondered the backlog of work orders that started early this year and now extends deep into next year for his architecture and construction company.

As the last remaining principal of Hanson Carlen Architecture & Construction Inc., the 56-year-old Hanson saw his brother, Tom, retire from the company late last year, just months before the arrival of the coronavirus to the U.S.

Then, almost as if on cue, work orders to the high-end luxury residential construction company arrived in unprecedented fashion at the onset of the pandemic, and they haven’t stopped.

“It’s amazing,” Hanson says. “In the history of this company, we’ve never been busier. Maybe it’s because people are staying at home and thinking about their projects.”

Adds Hanson, “It’s just crazy. We’re out over a year and turning down stuff.”

Founded in 1975 by his father, Dewey Hanson, now 92, David Hanson has picked up where his father, brother, and brother-in-law, Dana Carlen, all left off. Carlen retired as a company principal in 2015, Hanson says.

Hanson and the firm’s lone architect, Janette Hruban, work out of a roughly 800-square-foot suite at 112 S. Monroe, at the southwest corner of Monroe Street and First Avenue.

However, construction recently started on its new, 2,100-square-foot building located at 1803 W. Fifth, immediately north of Interstate 90, and directly south of the Browne’s Addition neighborhood. Hanson Carlen is executing its own design-build project. Hanson says the company expects to move into the building sometime during the first quarter of next year.

Hanson Carlen employs a total of 12 workers, 10 of whom are either working remotely or on assignment. Hanson Carlen specializes in custom residential design and construction, according to Hansen.

The company is currently working on two “good-sized projects” and another that’s smaller in scope, he says.

“Next year, we’re looking at building a new home on the South Hill on about 65th (Avenue), and another fun one is a tear down and rebuild of lake home with a steep grade on Liberty Lake,” Hanson says. “And we’ve got another three currently in design.”

Hanson says half the company’s work is in the form of new residential construction with the rest of the work dedicated to remodeling.

“My father moved the family and the business here from Moorhead, Minnesota in the mid-’70s,” Hanson says. “Our roots were always in craftsmanship. Dad was just a great craftsman.”

Roughly a dozen years ago, the company moved into architectural space. Hruban joined the firm eight years ago.

Hruban earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas.

The wife of a retired U.S. Army veteran, she’s worked for architecture firms in Germany and Japan, as well having worked on projects for both the U.S. Air Force and the Army, she says.

“I ended up being able to work in almost every place we lived,” Hruban says.

More than any of her previous assignments though, Hruban says residential architecture is her favorite work.

“I get the opportunity to really get to know my clients and understand what their dreams are and help bring those dreams to fruition,” she says.

Last year, the company earned a national bronze award in the annual Masters Design Awards’ residential category contest for its design-build of a 650-square foot, $127,000 pergola for a private, homeowner client that was built to replace an acutely flawed structure.

The Master Design Awards competition began 42 years ago with the desire to recognize remodelers, architects, builders, kitchen, bath specialists, and other professionals for outstanding project design and construction.

That same project earned the company a 2019 Chrysalis Award, another national awards program – started in 1994 – which recognizes the nation’s best work in more than a dozen general categories of residential and commercial remodeling.

In a press release announcing Hanson Carlen’s award, Ken Kanline, the program’s director writes, “This company has won four Chrysalis Awards in the past nine years, demonstrating their ongoing commitment to professionalism and excellence.”

Despite the building accolades and increase in demand for work, Hanson says  the company has found a comfortable niche in the higher-end residential home market in the Inland Northwest and doesn’t want to jeopardize its standing by expanding.

“I think we’re very content with where we are size-wise,” he says. “Janette is at her limit with what she can do. I’m at my limit of what I can do, and our field people are just going nonstop right now.”

“At this point in my career, I’m happy with the size we are,” Hanson says. “We want to work for a clientele we can have fun with on projects.”

Hanson adds, “We like things that are hard, high-end, and test our mettle as craftsmen. That’s kind of where our niche is.”

Kevin Blocker
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