Driving through Washington, it’s almost impossible not to drive past a landmark that started out in the hands of Gary Terschluse, P.E., S.E., and Ron Unnerstall, P.E., of Washington Engineering & Architecture, P.C.
The business, located at 1301 W. Fifth St., is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. The two started the business in early 1989.
“There was a need for an engineering company, an architectural engineering company in particular, in this area,” Unnerstall said.
At the time, Terschluse said, other local firms focused on land development projects, sewers and roads.
“Nobody was involved in a wider area of consulting,” Terschluse said.
The firm designed its current building and moved in 1995.
“Our vision was to be able to provide services in this area, to live and to work in this area,” Terschluse said. “We’ve been able to do that.”
Unnerstall said he and Terschluse share a personal pride for the area. Both are St. Francis Borgia Regional High School graduates.
Terschluse earned his BS degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his MS degree in structural engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Unnerstall attended East Central College’s pre-engineering program for two years. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a BS degree in civil engineering, with an emphasis in building services.
The firm offers full-service architectural engineering services, specializing in structural, civil, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection. It also offers project management and construction.
Unnerstall noted that all employees are in-house and communicate well with one another.
“We think we produce a better product by having that advantage,” he said.
The two have worked on dozens of projects over the past 25 years.
One of their earliest works was Scenic Regional Library in Union, followed by the public works building and fire station headquarters, both in Washington.
They have done work for Washington High School and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School — designing both school’s athletic fields, one as prime architect and one as a consultant.
They also designed Ronsick Field, The Missourian’s press building located on Bluff Road, several projects for East Central College, as well as for banks, industrial plants, emergency facilities, automotive dealerships, municipal, governmental, educational and religious entities, and many other businesses.
The firm is an approved architect for the St. Louis Archdiocese.
“We take pride in all of our projects that we do, especially locally,” Unnerstall said. “There is a feeling of satisfaction when you’re able to drive around after 25 years and remember working (on various projects).”
Terschluse added that they’re not so much proud of the building itself, but what happens in the building.
“It’s a work place for a lot of people and we’re proud that we can provide a nice, safe working environment for people,” he said.
The two have records of every job they’ve done over the years. And while most jobs are within a 100-mile radius of Washington, the two also have contributed to national and international projects.
Unnerstall said part of the enjoyment is the uniqueness of each project and designing with each client’s specific needs in mind.
The biggest change in the industry since the two started Washington Engineering & Architecture has been going from hand drawings to computer-aided design.
“I think we were fortunate when we started, we decided to do CAD 100 percent starting out,” Unnerstall said. “At the time, we were the only CAD firm locally.”
The other big change has been with codes and regulations, Terschluse said, which have “grown exponentially.”
“Code books have tripled in size,” he said. “It’s become a lot more complex.”
Terschluse said the company’s goal is to “continue to provide a high level of service for the local community,”
Both Terschluse and Unnerstall have been involved with area organizations, Terschluse with the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce and Unnerstall with the Fair Board. They also have served on city and county boards, committees and clubs.
The company has been the consultant for the 353 Redevelopment Corporation since 1992.
Over the years, Unnerstall and Terschluse have volunteered services for multiple projects in town.
“We see it as an opportunity to grow Washington,” Unnerstall said.
But the two were quick to point out that there are many people who have made “huge contributions” to Washington through the Washington Civic Industrial Corporation, the 353 Redevelopment Corporation and the Chamber.
“We’re proud to be a part of that group that does contribute,” Terschluse said. “We try to work alongside the others in this community.”
Terschluse said that in 2008, through the economic downturn, a lot of firms went out of business. Washington Engineering’s diversified portfolio has allowed the business to prosper during those times, he said.
“Diversification is the key to our stability,” Unnerstall said.
The company currently employs a staff of seven.
“None of these projects can happen without a good staff,” Terschluse said. “Every project depends on teamwork between our clients, us and the craftsmen building the projects.”
Unnerstall thanked clients for having confidence in the firm to fulfill their dreams.