Three principles established by our founder, James Posey, have guided our success for more than a century: to place the interest of our clients first, mentor staff and invest in their well-being, and most importantly, produce top quality work.
James Posey Associates celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. To help commemorate our centennial, Chairman Emeritus Carl Hossfeld compiled a history of the firm’s first 100 years. Carl served as President from 1981 through 2004. He retired at the end of 2005 after 42 years of service, but continues working with the firm on a consulting basis, including periodically updating this history.
OUR FIRST CENTURY: PLUS 10!
BY W. CARL HOSSFELD, JR., PE / CHAIRMAN EMERITUS
It is rare for any company to survive, much less thrive for more than 100 years. This is especially so for a design firm started in the early 1900s, considering the past century brought us two world wars, the Great Depression, numerous building recessions, two global pandemics, and major evolutions in building technology.
We are often asked what the key to our success is. There is no single answer, but there are three guiding principles established by our founder, James Posey, which we follow to this day. They are to place the interest of clients first, mentor and take care of staff, and most importantly, produce top quality work.
Founding and Early Years
A native of southern Maryland, James Posey attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts (now Maryland Institute College of Art), where he earned the prestigious Peabody Honor Prize from the School of Design.
In 1911, he founded the Office of James Posey after working for a decade at Henry Adams Consulting Engineers, then the only established MEP engineering firm in Maryland. He was always addressed as “Mr. Posey” in the office, and we refer to him that way to this day.
Early commissions were for various Baltimore architects and the Roland Park Company, a local developer and home builder. They soon expanded to schools, colleges, churches, hospitals, and commercial and manufacturing buildings throughout central Maryland. The work included process piping, coal burning power plants, campus water, sewage, and steam distribution, in addition to MEP building systems. As demand grew in the 1920s, Mr. Posey began working for the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland, Federal Reserve Bank in Virginia, and Federal Land Bank in South Carolina. High-rise apartment builders in Washington, DC, and county school systems throughout Maryland also requested the firm’s services.
The Federal Land Bank completed in 1923 in Columbia, SC was a major commission for James Posey’s still young office and allowed the small Baltimore staff to stretch its wings geographically.
During the Great Depression, local building construction dramatically slowed. Mr. Posey managed to keep his staff intact by reducing the five and a half-day work week to three days and obtaining commissions from architects in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia; Washington, DC; and Columbia, South Carolina. Initially, engineering staff was placed directly in the architects’ offices, but the growing number of commissions necessitated opening of branch offices in Richmond, Washington and Columbia.
These branches remained open until the start of World War II, when most had to be closed due to staff shortages and changes in the types of buildings being constructed to support the war effort. During the war, the small Baltimore staff worked on hospitals and projects for C&P Telephone (now Verizon), and the Bureau of Mines and other government agencies as far away as Oregon.
After World War II, increased demand for MEP engineering talent in Maryland did not allow reopening of the South Carolina and DC offices, but the Richmond office continued working for C&P Telephone and numerous hospitals, schools, and colleges in the region. The Baltimore office, located downtown in a large Pleasant Street townhouse, began to develop a more diverse practice with some of Maryland’s leading architects, continuing in the design of schools, colleges, hospitals, and libraries throughout the state. Many of these projects brought our first major central power plants and campus distribution systems for steam, water, and electric.
As the firm grew, Mr. Posey made partners of longtime employees Raymond Hughes and Carl Hossfeld’s father, Wilbur Hossfeld, changing the company name to James Posey & Associates. In those days, MEP building systems were far less complex, and codes for mechanical and life safety were very basic or nonexistent. Engineering schools taught little about building systems, so design firms depended on the “mentor-protégé” relationship to develop staff and future leaders. Mr. Posey was a strong believer in this approach, which continues in the firm today.
As Mr. Posey’s eyesight began to fail in the mid-1950s, Wilbur Hossfeld, who was managing the Richmond office, was needed in Baltimore so the Richmond office was closed. After exactly 50 years of leading the firm he founded, Mr. Posey died in 1961 at the age of 81.
Wilbur Hossfeld and Ray Hughes incorporated the company as it is known today, James Posey Associates, Inc., with Wilbur Hossfeld as President. They soon promoted George Arendt, another longtime employee, to Principal. Arendt’s primary clients were architects in nearby Anne Arundel County engaged in County school design, and the firm opened a Glen Burnie branch office under his direction.
Both locations thrived primarily on a steady stream of education related projects. In 1969, Ray Hughes left and both offices consolidated to one location in Baltimore County, just west of the city. Projects were numerous and increasingly larger due to the “baby boomer” surges in need of more schools in Baltimore’s rapidly expanding suburbs. At the time, it seemed the prosperity brought by this market would never end.
In 1972, Reese Williamson and Carl Hossfeld were promoted to Principals, Williamson having joined the firm in 1959, and Hossfeld in 1964. By the end of the decade, the boom in educational facilities came to a sudden halt. Fortunately, there had been some forewarning of this, and the firm was successful in pursuing the growing need for prime MEP work under “term contracts” with many of the DOD and federal agencies headquartered throughout the region.
The federal and DOD client base quickly expanded to include the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, General Services Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, Veterans Administration, National Institutes of Health, and Smithsonian Institution. This base in prime contract work was later strengthened by a continuous series of multi-year contracts with the Architect of the Capitol.
These relationships proved vital to the firm’s future with many continuing to present day. The firm was able to contract directly for MEP work while pursuing the traditional MEP consultant role on architecturally-led multi-discipline teams. Back-to-back term contracts with a wide variety of federal agencies established a reputation for quickly responding to “on call” work and managing multiple concurrent assignments. These contracts also provided experience on a wide variety of building and system types, management of multi-discipline design teams, and developed potential new client relationships for Posey.
The Expansion Era
In 1981, Carl Hossfeld succeeded his father as President. Wilbur Hossfeld followed George Arendt into retirement a few years later. Nils Lindfors was promoted to Vice President (1983), followed by longtime employee Michael Lippy (1991), rounding out the 3rd generation of leadership. This quartet of principals continued the firm’s client base expansion well beyond education projects to numerous military, medical, government, and cultural facilities.
The firm began a 20-year period of steady growth, increasing staff from less than 20 to 60 due to the growing number of military and federal projects and the gradual return of the education market. During this time, CAD and other computer-based technologies were fully implemented. A formal marketing department was established, which proved essential in procuring larger and more complex projects.
Many of these projects involved historically important monumental buildings, and the staff gained a reputation for its ability to incorporate modern systems in a sensitive and creative manner. As the firm’s reputation grew with institutional and government clients, nationally prominent architectural firms were soon approaching Posey for teaming opportunities on similar work. The opportunity to work with these firms matched well with the firm’s goal to maintain a more diverse practice of project types and clients, having learned well the lesson to not overly rely on a single market sector such as education.
The 1990s and into the 21st century was a period of professional growth for staff and recognition of the firm’s abilities to design prominent educational, institutional, and government facilities. During this decade, a series of nationally significant commissions for monumental building renovations were obtained such as at the US Naval Academy for the 1.5 million square foot Bancroft Hall, and two large Congressional Office Buildings for the Architect of the Capitol. Additionally, the firm’s dormant hospital design practice was revived with a number of buildings for the new campus of Anne Arundel Medical Center.
The education sector returned to full demand. The firm was retained as the prime firm for many large systemic renovations and as design team engineers for modernizations of the stock of aging facilities and new schools to accommodate shifts in population. The firm’s K-12 education practice expanded to the outlying counties and an increasing number of independent and faith-based schools.
With a growing clientele of sophisticated institutions and architectural firms, plus the desire to be a leader in sustainable design, the firm looked to college recruiting as its main source of new engineering talent. Efforts focused on the highly-regarded Architectural Engineering program at Pennsylvania State University. The education and creativity of these young engineers combined with mentoring by senior staff has enabled Posey to greatly improve its professional profile, while staying current with advances in sustainable design and the introduction of Building Information Modeling.
Beginning in 1996, the 3rd generation of leaders –Reese Williamson, Nils Lindfors, Michael Lippy, and Carl Hossfeld – started a 10-year period of phased retirements. In 1999, Stephen Hudson, Richard Lang, and Timothy Cech were elevated to Vice Presidents, joined later by Kevin McCarthy, and Jeffrey Caldwell, to form the firm’s 4th generation of leadership.
Stephen Hudson became President at the end of 2005 replacing Carl Hossfeld, who was elected Chairman and later Chairman Emeritus. Not long after the start of this leadership generation in 2008, the design and construction industry, along with the general economy, entered the greatest recession since the Great Depression. Posey’s energetic leadership and staff were fortunate to navigate through the downturn unscathed and even with increased commissions. This was due to the now well-established diversification in various market sectors, maintaining the highest quality of design work, and a strong marketing effort.
In 2010 as the firm was about to embark on its second century, the future was further strengthened by the promotions of Thomas Clippinger, Patrick Marquez, and Michael Sherren as stockholders and Associate Principals following the longstanding and proven tradition of nurturing and promoting leadership and ownership from within the firm.
With the economy in recovery and the education sector further expanded, Stephen Hudson retired in 2013 and Timothy Cech followed in 2015. Kevin McCarthy was elected President and Managing Principal, with Jeffrey Caldwell and Richard Lang continuing as vice presidents. In 2017, Richard Lang retired and Associate Principal, Michael Sherren, was promoted to Principal and Vice President. Thomas Clippinger and Patrick Marquez were promoted to Vice President in 2018 to form the 5th generation of leadership alongside McCarthy, Caldwell, and Sherren.
This new generation of management updated quality control measures, added personnel, restructured administrative policies, and implemented new software and technology to continue as a leader in the evolving design profession workplace. Under their leadership, sustainability and building energy performance became further ingrained into the firm’s core practice. A dedicated sustainability engineering group was established to assist with guiding the philosophy. Lighting software and design capabilities were expanded and lighting simulation techniques initiated to ensure sustainability practices were incorporated with high-quality lighting designs. In-house commissioning capabilities were born, and continue to thrive as this field expands within the construction industry. Point cloud laser scanning equipment was purchased and when coupled with building information modeling (BIM) capabilities aided in efficiently obtaining pinpoint accuracy for documenting complex existing field conditions. The new generation of management and the firm’s well-educated and talented staff ushered in an era of outstanding technical excellence and high-performance building design leadership among the region’s design firms.
The firm continued to expand during the COVID-19 pandemic by using current technology already in-place to effectively communicate, design, and produce for clients, mostly remotely, prior to returning to the office in the spring of 2021. The firm maintains a strong backlog of diversified projects and has expanded to a 65-person staff with an average tenure of 17 years at James Posey Associates to continue to manage workload and be responsive to clients. Clients are increasingly entrusting the firm with larger, more significant and technically complex projects in the education, government, healthcare, research, cultural, and developer-led market sectors.
The engineering staff recruited and retained over the past two decades has developed to accommodate both the firm’s planned growth and recent retirements. In 2021, after a full year of evaluation, the principals reorganized the ownership structure to provide stockholder ownership to eight professional engineering staff members: Justin Bem, Zachary Haupt, Kyle Horst, Benjamin Meister, Patrick Morgan, Brian Romie, Adam Sontag, and Alexander Stough. The ownership expansion was undertaken to ensure James Posey Associates continues as a locally-owned and independently managed engineering firm, with ownership by licensed professional engineers who are working at the firm. As Associates and stockholders of the company, this next generation of leadership will continue serving and expanding the technical leadership, staff mentoring, and client service which is engrained in the firm’s culture.
The slogan for our centennial celebration in 2011 was “Celebrating a Century of Excellence”, and though none of us can predict the future, we believe by sticking to the same guiding principles established by Mr. Posey more than a century ago, James Posey Associates can look forward to another 100 years of excellence.
The James Senate Office Building in Annapolis, Maryland is a good example of JPA’s long history in business as the same firm. JPA designed the systems for the original 1938 building shown in the black and white photo and replaced them as part of an extensive modernization in 2003 as illustrated in the color image.