Unlikely partners in green building


News broke yesterday that the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council will be working together to improve LEED, the foremost green building certification system. That’s a partnership that personally matters a lot to me.

Creating buildings that have minimal environmental impacts – and that even seek to improve the health of those living and working inside – requires more than just inspired clients, designers and builders. Doing so also requires manufacturers that are committed to producing harm-free building materials.

But as you may recall, for too long the chemistry council had been working against LEED, believing that material transparency requirements in the recent LEED version 4 might result in fewer chemicals used in buildings. Last year, a group affiliated with the ACC – and supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – proposed language that would effectively ban the use of LEED in federal buildings, unless certain chemical-related LEED provisions were removed.

What a difference a year makes. In this new partnership, LEED will benefit from the materials expertise of ACC and its member companies. We believe this has the potential to be transformational. And it’s much more than we hoped for last year, when Skanska publicly pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest its support of the chemistry council’s activities.

That powerful chemical companies with their sizeable research and development budgets are working for LEED, rather than against, is tremendous. When companies like those get behind green, it should really propel green building materials forward – and help others see that doing what’s good for a sustainable future is generally good business.

The USGBC refers to LEED as a big tent in which all are welcome. There’s no better example of that than this partnership.

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Michael McNally

posted by Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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This Calatrava masterpiece comes to life – exactly as envisioned

This Saturday, Florida’s first STEM-focused college, Florida Polytechnic University, will mark its formal opening and the beginning of the 2015 school year. The Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building that is the centerpiece of the campus was designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and built by Skanska, as part of a collaborative team of numerous design and construction partners.

You might be impressed by the project’s facts: this 160,000-square-foot structure was completed on-time and within the strict $60 million budget. This was accomplished despite such immense challenges as 90 percent of the structure being on a radius and having to find a way to build never-done-before louver arms that rise up to 12 stories above grade, and then hydraulically lower – all to ensure the optimum amount of daylight enters the building. And importantly,  there were no lost-time injuries over the four years of work,  thanks to each team member staying highly engaged.

But what made this project really special was the intense trust developed between the designers and our construction team, how every craft worker understood they were creating a structure of which they could be forever proud, and how through our team’s hard work to truly understand Calatrava’s intent for the project so they could convey that to our trade partners, the IST building has been delivered exactly in line with Calatrava’s original vision. It’s rare that that happens, even more so on a project like this.

“Completing this project makes my team and I feel extremely happy and at the same time somewhat sad,” said Chuck Jablon, the Skanska vice president who has overseen this project from the beginning. “This Skanska team wishes it would never end. We felt challenged every day and each day brought our team closer together, as everyone had different skill sets that we all relied on to overcome the greatest of opportunities. I am most proud of each and every one of my Skanska team members and look forward to see how they continue with the knowledge and experience gained on this magical modern marvel of the 21st century.”

So before the crowds arrive for tomorrow’s celebration, we invite you to explore this building.


The butterfly-like aluminum louver arms are raised to let in the evening sun. Of the design, Jablon said, “You can’t tell me that this design hasn’t captured you. Calatrava captures your curiosity on the drawings alone. Then, when you start building it and you see it evolve, he gets your heart. And when the building is far enough along so you can see the full design realized, he’s damn sure captured your soul.” (Credit for all photos: Macbeth Photography)


Construction was a collaborative process, in which Skanska focused on engaging all the stakeholders in the construction and design process from beginning to end. As Scott Judy of ENR writes, we worked to “break down traditional silos of silence between the design and construction team.”


Inside, the roof’s exposed underbelly reveals concrete rakers that converge at an apex containing a skylight. A grand staircase takes center stage. Throughout the building, the concrete is clean and crisp – which required tremendous attention to detail and concrete craftsmanship from our team.


The complex rooftop system is supported by a concrete ring beam – 72 inches deep and 30 inches wide – that encircles the interior of the second floor’s grand common area. On the building’s radii, each column rotates on another angle. This building has about 300 radius points, with an incredible 90 percent of everything done on a radius. As Jablon said, “You see the radius – do you feel it?”


Calatrava designed the building to inspire students with a sense of optimism: “My first aim is to make an inspirational environment for the students and the professors and everyone working here.”


Executing this design required forging a sincere bond between Skanska and Calatrava’s team. “This has been one of the best relationships I’ve had professionally with a contractor,” said Frank Lorino, chief architect of Calatrava’s New York office. “It hasn’t been without disagreement, but we know we’re both working for the same goal – the highest quality of project possible for the means that we have.”


The building’s exterior is wrapped by a pergola of lightweight aluminum trellis that covers walkways and gathering spaces. In addition to being visually stunning, the pergola also helps the building function efficiently, reducing the structure’s solar load by 30 percent.


The building’s amphitheater showcases the team’s craftsmanship. So much of the building’s detail is understated: from the rotation of the columns, to the quality of the concrete pours and the challenging patterns cut into the floors. As students embark on their STEM education, they’ll appreciate the work that went into achieving these features even more.


Jablon and the Skanska team relished the building process. “I wanted to do it,” he said. “If you’re a builder, this is what you dream about doing in your career. It’s an opportunity to take your experience and your knowledge and gather people you’ve worked with throughout your career and say, ‘Friends, we’ve got one. We’ve got what we’ve been dreaming about our whole career.’ That’s what it is about.”

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Sustainability as a core value: Why Skanska is a finalist for USGBC’s inaugural Best of Building Awards

At Skanska, we’re proud of our commitment to sustainability. It’s one of our core values, and because of this, we not only build environmentally-friendly buildings but do so while practicing sustainability at the highest levels: from mitigating our environmental impacts, to being an ethical and fair employer, to working with small- and minority-owned businesses, and otherwise actively engaging with our communities. Sustainability is so important to us that all parts of Skanska USA meet the stringent standards of ISO 14001, an internationally-recognized environmental management standard.

As a result of this sustainability mindset, we’re honored to be a finalist in the U.S. Green Building Council’s inaugural Best of Building Awards in the “Best Contractor/Builder – Large” category. Nominees and winners are selected by employees of USGBC member companies registered on USGBC.org. That’s where you may come in. If you’re a USGBC member, please consider voting for Skanska by visiting http://www.usgbc.org/best-of-building.

Here are just a few reasons why we hope you will vote for us:

Because we create some of the greenest buildings around

Bertshi School - World's Fourth Living Building

Inside Seattle’s Bertschi School, the world’s fourth Living Building.

From building America’s first LEED Gold hospital (Providence Newberg Medical Center in Newberg, Ore.) and first LEED-certified airline terminal (Terminal A at Boston Logan International Airport) to the world’s fourth (and West Coast’s first) Living Building (the Bertschi School Science Classroom addition), we’re at the forefront of green building and design. Even more, we strive to push the boundaries of green in our own company offices and development projects, for which we have more control over the outcomes. Take our 129,000-square-foot Stone34 LEED Platinum-targeted development (Brooks Sports’ new headquarters) for which we designed the building to reduce water and energy use by 75 percent of comparable buildings. In Houston, our 750,000-square-foot Capitol Tower office development has been pre-certified as Platinum under LEED v4’s beta program. We live green building in our Empire State Building flagship office too, where we proved that environmentally responsible renovation is possible even 330 feet up in a 75-year-old skyscraper.

Because we believe you can build anything green

Our concrete chute wash-out system at Elizabeth River Tunnels works to capture, retain and re-use water.

Our concrete chute wash-out system at Elizabeth River Tunnels in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va. works to capture, retain and re-use water.

Our joint venture’s Elizabeth River Tunnels project demonstrates our commitment to prioritizing sustainable outcomes when building infrastructure. This is something that more and more infrastructure clients are seeking, and the benefits through resource and money savings are clear. For example, our ERT team used a concrete chute wash-out system that allowed for the recycling of wash water in the chute washing process – it saved approximately $72,700 for every 100 pours while reducing potable water usage. In May, ERT became the first construction project approved for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Environmental Excellence Program, and it was approved at the highest level – Extraordinary Environmental Enterprise. We continue to look for new ways to apply green standards to our work. For instance, we applaud the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure for putting together a meaningful standard for civil projects with their Envision program. Two of our projects are already using Envision, which we see as raising the bar of green construction with infrastructure.

Because we stand up for what’s right

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year backed a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for federal buildings, we resigned our membership in the Chamber. We refused to be a part of an organization that opposes the stronger LEED v4 standard. LEED v4 encourages transparency in reporting the chemical composition of building materials, something we think is essential for anyone wanting to build responsibly.

As an industry, we’re taking major strides implementing green building techniques. Because Skanska is looking to expand our efforts even further, we’re exploring new ways to incorporate the WELL Building Standard – a new protocol that focuses on human wellness within the built environment – into future projects.

Because we’re committed to getting better

3009 Post Oak Boulevard

Houston’s 3009 Post Oak Boulevard, among the projects for which we’ve been tracking carbon emissions.

At Skanska, we want to understand how every facet of the design and building process impacts the Earth and how that facility will perform over its lifecycle. Research plays an important part in this process. Recently, we’ve partnered with the World Green Building Council on a major global research effort to establish common ways of measuring health and productivity benefits arising from green buildings, and to provide best practice guidance on the types of green building features – such as increased daylighting and ventilation – that enhance them.

We’ve also worked with the New Buildings Institute and the International Living Future Institute to help the District of Columbia’s Department of Environment investigate the costs associated with upgrading existing buildings from LEED. We conceptually transformed three LEED v3 Platinum-designed buildings in the District to net zero energy, net zero water and Living Buildings. Our findings are published in: Net Zero and Living Building Challenge Financial Study: A Cost Comparison Report for Buildings in the District of Columbia.

On our commercial development projects, for which we control both the design and construction of the buildings, we require our teams to implement a new sustainable feature or strategy that has not been tried before. For example, we worked in partnership with the University of Houston to track carbon emissions at 3009 Post Oak Boulevard in Houston, which helped us understand the need for more carbon-efficient concrete mixes.

Though sustainable building practices have been an integral part of Skanska’s business for years, we’re seeking to expand beyond standard measurements of green building and pursue a holistic approach to sustainability within construction and development. With each project, Skanska aims to meet the needs of the world today without jeopardizing the needs of the world tomorrow.

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Decades with Skanska: Some of our longest-serving colleagues share their stories

It used to be common for employees to stay at a job for twenty years or more. Today, the average length in one job is 4.4 years, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now consider that at Skanska, we have numerous employees who have stayed with the company nearly ten times the average – spending four decades with our organization. Here are some of their stories:

Making the most of an opportunity
Jack Carter, Superintendent, Virginia Beach

rw20140410_0008 Carter

Jack Carter

After graduating from the University of Florida in 1974, Jack Carter took a systematic approach to finding a job. He headed to Norfolk, Va., where he used the phone book to check in with the construction companies listed alphabetically. When Carter finally arrived at Tidewater Construction (which Skanska acquired in 1998) they were just letting an engineer go, creating an opening for him.

“I told the vice president that I had little experience and nothing to unlearn, but I could do work the Tidewater way,” Carter said. “He hired me – I got lucky.”

Carter went to work on projects ranging from paper mills to bridges to power plants, in places from Minnesota to Miami. He moved his young family nine times in the first nine years, until his son reached first grade. Now, he’s at home in the Norfolk area as a superintendent on the project of a lifetime – the $2.1 billion Elizabeth River Tunnels project.

He laments that construction has become somewhat bogged down, with so many emails and forms now needed to get things done. Years ago, he said, “I told you what I was going to do and then I did it, and you’d trust me to do that.” But safety is much improved, he notes: “Four people have not gone home from work in my career, and I share with the crews all the time how much better it is now with all the safety gear we have to keep ourselves safe – be sure to use it!”

He credits the mentorship of company leaders with helping him advance in his career, and says his favorite part of the job is mentoring today’s young engineers. “They are smart, eager to learn, and they share all the new technology with me so I can stay current,” Carter said.

He looks back on his Skanska careers with no regrets. “I wouldn’t want to change any of it.”

Teaching another generation
Tom Maxwell, Project executive, New York City

_MG_3326 MAxwell

Tom Maxwell

In his 42 years to date with Skanska, Tom Maxwell has built subways, power plants, tunnels and foundations from Boston to Atlanta. He has been part of reconstructing the World Trade Center after the 1993 attack and creating New York’s Second Avenue Subway.

Maxwell is able to guide such projects in part because of the Skanska mentors he’s had over the years: they were eager to teach young engineers how to build challenging infrastructure projects. Now, Maxwell hopes that the lessons he has to share will prove to be at least as valuable to his mentees.

He sets high expectations for his engineers. Book smarts don’t cut it on his team – you need to know how to build. When young engineers know about all the items of work – mechanical, electrical, structural and so on – that it takes to build a house, that’s when an engineer is truly ready to work for Maxwell.

“A trade worker only has to know the rules of his union – we at Skanska have to know the rules of all the unions,” Maxwell said. “A plumber only has to know about plumbing parts – we have to know the skills of all of the trades. These young engineers have to be the whole package. They have to know everything to be a superintendent running a jobsite.”

Focused on Boston Mike Donovan, Purchasing director, Boston

IMG_0111 Donovan

Mike Donovan

There are two ways that Mike Donovan explores the buildings that Skanska constructs in Boston. The first is with the half-size set of drawings that he colors to help understand the designers’ intents. The second is with his Canon camera, which he uses on his regular jobsite visits.

He takes the photos not only to record how Skanska is transforming the skyline, but also to see and preserve how each building is assembled to help him develop better bid packages. Building technologies and techniques are always improving – greater use of high-strength concrete, chilled beams, rain screen assemblies and destination dispatch elevators are just some of the recent advances – so he needs to capture them.

For his entire 40 years with Skanska, he’s been photographing our projects, and his collection fills some 30 photo albums and numerous gigabytes of storage. Without a doubt, Donovan is Skanska’s unofficial Boston historian. Teams come to him when they want to know such details as how a wall was assembled on a previous project.

“My wife tells me, ‘Maybe when you retire you can do talks on how Boston has changed over the last 40 years,’” Donovan said.

But such talks will have to wait, as retirement isn’t on Donovan’s radar. Having been in purchasing for more than 25 years, he’s too busy sharing his love of this side of the business, both in helping project teams buy out their projects and by being a Skanska instructor on subcontracts, purchasing and ethics.

“I’ve found that I succeed when the people around me are successful,” he said.

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Celebrating four decades – or more – with Skanska

In today’s mobile society, it can seem only natural to change employers every few years. So Skanska is fortunate to not only have many long-time employees, but to have numerous colleagues who have spent decades working for us. This week we will be celebrating and sharing the stories of a few of our colleagues who have dedicated their time and talent to Skanska for at least forty years.

All in the family
Jeff Barber, Senior superintendent, Seattle


Jeff Barber

Jeff Barber represents three generations of Skanska service: his father, Don, spent 33 years with Skanska (beginning when it was still Baugh Construction) before retiring in 2000. Barber’s son, Scott, spent 17 years with Skanska before leaving our organization last year when he was a field superintendent to start his own business.

As for Barber, he’s busy running projects at Sea-Tac Airport and for Boeing, while adding new service stickers to his hard hat. He’s had to get a bit creative with those decals: Skanska doesn’t have service stickers above 40 years, so he uses two stickers: one for “40” and another for “3.”

Barber’s construction career began when he worked under his father as a laborer on a Nordstrom addition in Tacoma. He’s stayed with Skanska and construction for his entire career – he’s worked on about 70 projects – because he’s excited by the challenges of the projects he builds, and energized by the colleagues with whom he gets to work.

“Bob Baugh set the tone of treating people fairly, building them up and giving them challenges,” Barber said, referring to one of Baugh Construction’s founders. That approach continues today, he added, pointing out that several of our Seattle superintendents have also been with Skanska their entire careers.

When Barber finally decides to retire his Skanska hard hat, what he’ll miss the most is “all the great people in this company.” When you’re retired, he said, it’s hard to stay in touch.

“Everybody says, ‘Just give me a call’ – I’ve heard that over the years. But the people retiring don’t really do that,” Barber said. “You don’t want to impose on those who are running jobs – they’re busy.”

But in reality, maybe that’s a connection people on both ends of that call would appreciate.

Championing collaboration
Richard Redmon, Vice president of operations, Tampa

Redmon photo

 Richard Redmon, center, with on the left Fred Hames, executive vice president, and Bill Flemming, Skanska USA Building president and CEO

Looking back over his 51 years with Skanska, Richard Redmon said his most satisfying projects have been those with a high level of cooperation amongst the owner, designer, trade contractors and Skanska. That has happened most completely on two of his projects: a major expansion of Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Virginia, and Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida.

“If you can end all projects with everybody in a good mood because they’re proud of what they did, with a building that’s going to function well and with an owner who can’t wait to move in – that’s the kind of outcome I like,” Redmon explained.

More than just good feelings, such happy conclusions – which he said start with proactively offering to assist in addressing project challenges – mean good business. For instance, Roanoke Memorial Hospital – now part of Carilion Clinic – was so pleased with the project’s results that they went on to award Skanska about a billion dollars in other projects, he said.

Originally from Atlanta, Redmon worked in Atlanta, Nashville and Virginia before moving to Florida in 1994 to help Skanska establish its building construction presence there. Wherever he was, he has focused on building healthcare and office projects. The demand for those building types has always balanced out in a nice way: when one of those sectors would slow down, the other would pick up.

Yet for all his construction knowledge and experience, making far-reaching industry predictions isn’t Redmon’s style.

“Who knows what the future is going to bring?” he said. “We just hope it’s going to need buildings.”


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Teaching about sustainability and LEED in Florida

Have you ever really thought about the impact buildings have on our surroundings? Residential and commercial buildings account for 39 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Millions of tons of construction-related waste ends up in landfills each year. And because buildings have long-life spans, decisions about how sustainable their construction and operational systems are have a profound impact on the environment. Making the right decisions is especially important when, over the next 20 years, more than three-quarters of America’s building stock will be renovated or built.

Educating students about sustainable construction and engineering is tantamount to a greener planet. That is why I jumped at the opportunity to teach an undergraduate-level green building class at Miami’s Florida International University with my Skanska colleague, Project Manager Vincent Collins.

The class’ focus was on how there can be – and should be – green aspects to every part of design and construction. Examples of this include how the building is oriented on a site, what systems and materials are selected, and how water and other resources might be conserved during construction itself. Vincent used a Skanska project, the City of Miami Gardens’ Municipal Complex, to illustrate the process of building to LEED Platinum standards.

One of the most important aspects of green building that the class touched on was the concept of lifecycle analysis. This means making decisions that not only consider the first cost of construction, but also the cost over years of the building in operation. After all, the expenses of lighting, heating, cooling and otherwise operating a building over decades typically adds up to more than it cost to build the facility itself! This also includes planning for ways to efficiently utilize a building even when new conditions arise later in its lifetime, and finding materials that can be easily recycled or re-used.

For the Municipal Complex, features designed to conserve resources to help lower future operating costs include water-saving elements such as rainwater harvesting and native landscaping, as well as such energy-saving solutions as daylighting, highly efficient mechanical systems and photovoltaics. In choosing to include these elements, we aim to push this project toward Deep Green.

Overall, the class was a huge success, a reflection of not only our team’s expertise, but also of the enthusiasm of the students. After the class, Professor Ali Mostafavi shared his student’s reactions and thanks via Twitter:


For more information on Skanska’s approach to sustainability check out our Core Values, here.

This post was written by Jose Cortes, Skanska USA vice president – business development and Vincent Collins, Skanska USA project manager.

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Jose Cortes

posted by Jose Cortes

Skanska USA vice president, business development

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WELL Building: The next step in green sports construction

The WELL Building Standard is a new protocol that focuses on human wellness within the built environment. Administered by the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), it identifies specific conditions that when holistically integrated into building architecture and design, enhance the health and well-being of the occupants.  This first of its kind, protocol was developed by Delos in partnership with scientists, architects and thought leaders, and prescribes a series of technology enhancements and performance-based measures that are systemized across seven categories relevant to occupant health in the built environment – Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.


WELL Building has been designed to complement green building standards and sit on top of existing platforms. Currently in pilot, the IWBI has partnered with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), to ensure that WELL Certification compliments and works seamlessly with LEED Certification. For example, air quality and lighting intersect both green and wellness, about 10 to 20 percent of WELL and LEED standards overlap as a result of this natural connection.

While we believe the WELL Building Standard should be considered for every building, we see a unique opportunity for them to be integrated into sports and recreation facilities, inspiring an operator to think holistically about how their facility interacts not only with the natural environment, but also with the athletes, sports fans and staff who will call their building home. In sports terms: it’s a win-win.

For owners the WELL Building Standard offers a twofold opportunity to deliver a competitive venue for their athletes — a facility that is optimized for their performance while also offering event attendees a healthier environment and a connection to well-being and athleticism.

For example, the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas implemented the Stay Well program for hospitality, an overlay program informed by the same evidence-based research as the WELL Building Standard. The MGM Grand saw such a strong return on their initial investment in implementing Stay Well rooms on their fourteenth floor- including high occupancy rates and a 25 percent increase in profitability – that they have quadrupled the number of Stay Well rooms and plan to expand to additional spaces.

Sports play an important role in American culture. We celebrate athleticism as a testament to the power of the human body. Stadiums, arenas and recreation centers are important gathering points for our communities, places where we come together to celebrate physical achievement. As such, these venues represent more than just spaces for sport. The buildings themselves speak loudly about who we are and what we believe in.


At NRG Stadium in Houston, mechanical and electrical systems are managed via smartphone, increasing energy efficiency.

As an industry, we’ve taken major strides implementing green building techniques in sports and entertainment construction. At first, the industry focused on greening the building enclosure, by reducing energy consumption and implementing resource management. Then, sustainability spread to mechanical, and electrical building  systems that use Computer Maintenance Management  Systems to increase efficiency, improve occupant comfort, and can be managed remotely via smart phone technology similar to NRG Stadium in Houston. Another great example of this approach to green building can be seen at the LEED Gold certified Portland State University Academic & Student Recreation Center, where students help power the rec center’s electrical system, through a voltage converter attached to exercise machines  that delivers electricity back to the building.


Portland State University Academic & Student Recreation Center earned LEED Gold certification through the use of natural lighting and ventilation in key areas as well as quality materials, proven systems, and other cutting edge environmental construction techniques.

Today, sports facilities are increasingly working to green the daily operations of their venues: from implementing more efficient waste management processes – like Gillette Stadium’s waste water treatment plant, to recycling and food service composting and using earth-friendly cleaning products. At MetLife Stadium, all waste kitchen oil is converted to biodiesel fuel; all kitchen scraps are composted, and all cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum and paper is recycled. The push to green sports facilities has extended to event operations themselves – this year’s Super Bowl at MetLife was the greenest on record, diverting more waste, conserving more water and saving more energy than any previous event.

William S Moorhead Federal Building

MetLife Stadium, home to 2014’s Super Bowl, is one of the greenest sports venues in the U.S.

So, while we continue to push ourselves to find the best ways to build venues that reduce our impact on the earth and its resources, what can we do to make sure these buildings are contributing to the physical well-being of the people within them?

WELL Building is the future of green sports construction – an opportunity for building owners and operators to consider not only the environmental impacts of their facilities but the ways they impact athletes and fans alike.

To learn more about the WELL Building Standard and their impact on occupant health, visit the International Well Building Institute.

This post was written by Tom Tingle, Skanska USA senior vice president and national director, Sports Center of Excellence and Beth Heider, Skanska USA chief sustainability officer.

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Tom Tingle

posted by Tom Tingle

Skanska USA senior vice president and national director, Sports Center of Excellence

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Consider this road for much-needed highway funding

The roads, bridges and transit lines we rely on daily are such an important part of the U.S. economy, both for connecting us together as a country and for the thousands of jobs their construction and maintenance provides. Yet the Highway Trust Fund that pays a large portion of many road and transit projects nationally is on the verge of running out of money. While the Administration and Congress are discussing a short-term patch to this problem, what’s really needed is a long-term solution – and creative yet proven approaches should be a central part of that.


If there’s one issue our divided federal government should be able to come together on, I would think it would be infrastructure. Of course, I’m biased in that view, as Skanska is a major infrastructure developer and builder. But here are three points to consider on this topic:

1)      It’s one thing to read in news reports that as many as 100,000 construction projects could be affected if the Trust Fund goes into the red as expected sometime in August, and with the U.S. government planning to slow highway payments to states before that. One impact of slowing payments will be on the men and women who are part of these projects. They’re working hard – even harder given the summer heat – to move these projects forward to provide important benefits to local communities. Congress owes it to these teams to work just as hard to find a funding solution.

2)      With our economy still recovering, construction workers are finally getting back to work. Some great news is that last month our industry had its best monthly jobless rate in nearly six years. I’d hate for anything to interrupt this progress.

3)      Should a lack of federal funding halt highway work, the public will likely pay for the associated added costs. Suppose a contractor receives a price estimate from a concrete supplier, and that quote is good for 30 days. If the 30 days comes and goes and a project team wasn’t able to sign that agreement because work was stopped and the new price is higher, that’s what our industry calls an impact or delay cost, and the contractor would ask their public client to cover that increase. Impact costs would also include charges for rental equipment that sits idle during a shutdown, and if there are added costs associated with bringing the project labor force back. So it’s definitely most economical to keep projects going once they’re started.

Here’s why the Highway Trust Fund is in such bad financial shape: it’s financed by the gas tax, which is set at 18.4 cents per gallon. That rate has not changed since 1993, and with the increasing fuel efficiency of cars and the rise of hybrids, both have eroded revenue flowing into the fund. Meanwhile, the price of a gallon of gas has increased from $1.097 to $3.692 in that time, and driving remains as popular as ever. Many people agree that a reasonable gas tax increase to stabilize the Fund would be an acceptable solution.

But whatever modest gas tax Congress might approve – and any tax increase at all would be a tough sell in today’s Congress – still likely won’t be enough to provide the additional $79 billion needed annually until 2028 to significantly improve the condition of our nation’s highways. To close the gap, an increasingly popular – and forward thinking – alternative is with public-private partnerships. With P3s, limited public money is leveraged with private investment to fast-track critical projects for which cost or time overruns are prohibited and for which the long-term costs to maintain that infrastructure falls to the private partners, not the taxpayers. These performance-based contracts have proven highly effective and valuable in dozens of countries, including Canada, Chile, France, Germany and the Nordics, and here in the U.S. 33 states have approved P3 approaches for transportation infrastructure. Congress providing administrative, regulatory and credit support to states to encourage use of P3s would unlock billions of dollars of private investment, accelerate or generate critical infrastructure projects across multiple sectors, increase employment and economic development, and deliver long-term, lifecycle efficiencies without burdening taxpayers with the full exposure and costs.

Overall, these next few months are critical for infrastructure. The country needs a meaningful plan for funding the Highway Trust Fund, one that relies upon appropriate fiscal sources that provide a long-term solution. Additionally, the infrastructure bill that allocates such funds will expire on September 30 and needs to be renewed, ideally for six years. With no question that infrastructure is needed for our country to grow and succeed, I urge you to contact your Senator and Representative and let them know that this issue is important to you, and that P3s should be part of the solution.

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Richard Aquino

posted by Richard Aquino

Skanska USA vice president of business development and marketing

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Learning and living the Injury-Free Environment mindset

Learning about and living Skanska’s Injury-Free Environment® culture has impacted my life in a number of ways. Prior to working with Skanska, my view on safety – which was primarily influenced by my previous employer – was to follow all rules and regulations in order to stay out of trouble. However, the moment I attended a four-hour IFE orientation as a Skanska employee, my entire view of safety changed drastically.


Angelica Sepulveda, Skanska USA superintendent

IFE orientation began with a powerful statement from the group leader: “This is not a meeting about policies and procedures and how to follow them,” she said. “This is about how you and I relate to the critical subject of safety.” These words totally transformed the way I looked at safety, making it feel personal, relevant and important to me. IFE orientation gave safety meaning. I went from someone who felt forced to follow safety rules to someone who chose to follow safety rules because I understood the impact my choices could have on my life, the lives of my family members, my coworkers’ lives and the lives of their families. In my new found understanding of safety and adoption of the IFE culture I quickly realized the power that I had as a superintendent.

My education in IFE helped me build the confidence to lead. In 2008, I started with Skanska as an assistant superintendent. Not only was I an assistant superintendent, but in my eyes I was a 23-year-old female assistant superintendent who was lacking in field experience and entering an environment predominantly run by older, more experienced males. I was concerned that my differences and lack of experience would present a serious challenge for me in my new role.

But as I took part in further IFE training, I felt a boost in my self-esteem. I believe this training has played a key role in my success, now as a full superintendent. In adopting the IFE culture I made it a point to get to know the construction trade workers by name, asking them about their families, their hobbies and what they are passionate about. In choosing to develop relationships, I felt comfortable speaking up and I saw that they began doing the same. I learned how to correct negative behaviors and call out safety hazards in a positive way, which helped me earn their respect. Being able to step out of my shell, putting others before my selfish fears, and having the courage to develop personal relationships with my team has made a major impact in my life and my career.

But, while I embraced IFE as a leader on the jobsite, there was an important aspect of IFE that I neglected, which I later learned the hard way.

At Skanska we refer to IFE as, “The journey that takes you home,” but for me it was, “The journey that got me home, but didn’t apply at home.” In December 2010, I was driving to a family gathering and I felt irritated and sleepy. Due to my impatience and desire to be home, I tried to make an ill-advised U-turn. My vehicle was hit on the driver’s side by another car that was going approximately 50 m.p.h., pushing my vehicle back into a parking lot and the other vehicle into two lanes of oncoming traffic. I remember first checking to make sure my wife was okay, and then looking at the car that hit me and realizing it was a Caravan. I immediately thought the Caravan was occupied by a family with children (fortunately it was not, and the single driver was uninjured). The desperation and regret that I felt at that moment, I never want to feel again.

On that day I learned a valuable lesson. I realized that my impatience and lack of responsibility had put our lives and the lives of others in danger. Because of this accident, I learned that IFE cannot stop when you exit the jobsite, it carries into your personal life and becomes part of everything you do.

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posted by Angelica Sepulveda

Skanska USA superintendent

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View integrated project delivery through the lens of this George Washington University Hospital project

More and more, teamwork, trust and collaboration are seen as key to successful project delivery. Yet, few projects seek to maximize the meanings behind those words by making them central to how the project team is structured and functions. One approach that does so – integrated project delivery – binds major stakeholders through a mutual contract such that individual stakeholder success is tied to overall project success, with risk and reward both capped and shared.

While IPD is rare – in part because of the greater up-front effort required – the results are typically powerful, with better cost and schedule performances and a smoother delivery process. To help others learn how IPD might help their projects, we recently checked in with the stakeholder team behind the second true IPD project with which Skanska is involved, an intensive care unit renovation at The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Here’s some of what this team recently had to share about this project, when on-site work was just getting underway.


All in: Seven organizations signed the IPD agreement: Universal Health Services (owner); Skanska (construction manager); WJ Architects (architect of record); In.Design (interior designer); Southland Industries (mechanical design-builder); M.C. Dean (electrical design-builder); and Clark’s Lumber and Millwork (millwork trade partner.) With this arrangement, there are no separate contracts between the owner and the architect, construction managers and key trade contractors, and so on – every key firm is part of one contract to align all interests with that of the project.

Project finances in a new light: Owner Universal Health Services is accepting all risk for project cost and the overhead of the signatory partners, said Christian Pikel, UHS regional project manager. However, each partner’s profit is put at risk through a shared pool. Any savings from the target budget will be shared among participants, up to the profit pool cap.

Consensus-based objectives: Early in the project, team members and end users came together to define the project’s “conditions of satisfaction” – common team objectives. They crafted 10 of these statements, which include improving doctor, nurse and staff work flows within the sixth floor ICU; eliminating unanticipated noise from impacting adjacent spaces (the project is directly above an active intensive care unit); building a work environment in which all team participants demonstrate leadership roles and process improvement; and incorporate surge capacity within the project budget. The team has developed a spreadsheet containing all conditions, and at every meeting they go down the list and rate their recent performance for each, said Andy Rhodes, Southland design engineer/project manager.

A3 library: IPD’s team-based nature makes it ideal for incorporating the principles and tools of lean construction, which focuses on eliminating waste and continual improvement. Of this project’s lean aspects, A3s are being used not just a single-page way to identify, analyze and propose solutions for problems, but as a means of sharing that thinking across projects. “We were able to pull an A3 on a bariatric issue from another project,” said Aimee Fogarty, Skanska project manager. “By re-examining that document, we didn’t have to start from scratch.”

Better-informed design: This project’s designers are finding that IPD enables them to get the input they need to produce a more realistic design the first time. “It helps clarify expectations much sooner, instead of the typical process of doing value engineering later on in traditional models,” said Jenna Santamaria, In.Design senior designer. “I really get excited and enjoy when we have some healthy tension going on in the Big Room: we get to start horse trading back and forth and asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to make this work?’”

Trust in the Big Room: IPD requires more up-front participation from all parties, including significant time spent in regular in-person Big Room meetings in which all team participants work together on project issues. Such meetings require a different mindset. For example, everyone has equal status and say in all matters. To keep everyone focused, multitasking and sidebar conversations aren’t allowed. And trust is of paramount importance. “Each expert involved in the project must trust each other’s judgment because the success of the team determines the overall success of the project,” said Jennifer Macks, Skanska vice president. “Also, to make the most of the collaborative communication and problem-solving scenario, everyone must be comfortable with one another and share their expertise.”

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