Harvard Art Museums recognized with top construction honor

Our project to expand and renovate the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass., has been recognized with a Build America Award, one of the nation’s most prestigious construction honors. Presented by Associated General Contractors, this award recognizes the highest levels of construction project complexity, innovation and client satisfaction. We accepted the award recently at AGC’s national convention in Puerto Rico.


The Art Museums project consolidated Harvard University’s three museums into a single facility designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano. The undertaking had two major elements: demolishing and then rebuilding 70 percent of the 202,000-square-foot interior of the original 1927 building, and constructing a 154,000-square-foot, five-story addition. Here, you can see how the old meets the new.


Precise work was a hallmark of this project. For example, nearly perfect steel and concrete placement was required to achieve the three-quarter-inch reveal between the bottom of the drywall and the top of the concrete floor in the galleries. We added the sloped, glazed roof shown here to bring daylight into the structure.


Among our innovations was developing an advanced Bluebeam Revu-based PDF document management system and pioneering the use of LED-based luminaires for construction lighting, saving more than $300,000 in energy costs.


“The Harvard Art Museums project represents one of Skanska’s most complex and rewarding undertakings,” said Kerim Evin, executive vice president.

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One of the most complex parts of the project was moving and lifting a 76-year-old, 13- by 12-foot irreplaceable fresco that was affixed to a 16-inch-thick masonry wall. Skanska’s strategy for moving the artwork involved encapsulating the fresco and its supporting wall in a massive steel frame, then using a diamond-bladed cable saw to cut the 15-ton section free of the surrounding structure.We then used a crane – with its boom towering 140 feet in the air – to land the fresco in its final location.This required tremendous precision – the loading on the fresco needed to be constant so the artwork would not crack. Our attention to detail paid off, as the artwork was successfully re-installed without issue.

Cambridge 8x10x300_lesvants-com_3-23-11_4892-6_Skanska

Our team  erected 700 tons of temporary steel to brace the existing structure’s exterior walls, and later threaded permanent steel into place in that same space. Thanks in part to a three-dimensional model, there were few conflicts.


“We did a lot of things here that people will never do again in their careers,” said Claude LeBlanc, general superintendent. “Many things were done that that no one will ever see.”

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A hackathon isn’t just for tech: How it’s helping us choose the best project partners

To select an architect for our latest Seattle commercial development project – a tower called 2&U – we thought about what we really needed in our design partner, and how we could best uncover those qualities.

We knew we didn’t want to approach this procurement the way our industry traditionally does it: using a process based on RFQs and RFPs that demands significant time and resources from everyone involved with first creating, then submitting, and finally reading all the proposals. Even more, we didn’t believe the traditional non-collaborative approach would yield what we needed. RFQs and RFPs highlight the effectiveness of a firm’s ability to work in isolation without its client. For 2&U, we needed an architect skilled at design and highly adept at handling input from the client and marketplace, to be done while addressing the constant changes inherent to urban development.


These images from the 2&U creative brief helped inspire the teams’ work during the Hackathon.

With that goal in mind, we didn’t have to look very far. Seattle’s tech community is incredibly collaborative, and it constantly embraces innovative ways to achieve high levels of collaboration to solve problems: the hackathon is one such method. What’s a hackathon? Typically, hackathons bring tech developers together to “hack” a piece of code or software to make it better. While our Seattle office was undergoing renovations this last summer, our team temporarily worked off-site in a co-working lab. One Saturday afternoon, I stopped in to pick up items I’d left and discovered a full-scale hackathon instigated by some of our tech neighbors. I wanted to harness the same level of energy and creativity to develop a new path of collaboration for creating buildings that shape our city. Our entire team embraced this idea and extended it further.


Design ideas presented by the winning architecture firm at the end of the hackathon.

Here’s how we hosted the hackathon:

Step 1:  We issued an RFC – a Request for Conversation – inviting nine internationally recognized design firms for 60-minute conversations. We didn’t want thick volumes of resumes and past experiences. Rather, we just wanted to get a feel if the firms were interested in our project, had passion for the work and if we would enjoy working together with them. After those conversations, it was very clear what two firms we would engage in the design hackathon itself.

Step 2: We crafted a hackathon introduction and invitation. The invitation provided further details of the project, timeline and some expectations. Beyond the basics, we also provided a creative brief that highlighted our vision for 2&U, and that shared photos of memorable spaces, shapes and textures from around the world to inspire the 2&U design.

Step 3: Our hackathon was an intense three-week event focused on testing the teams’ abilities to work with us, and dealing with change toward finding the best solutions. We even supplied the teams with Red Bull energy drink, should they find themselves pulling late nights. The process required several check-ins, and the best team fully utilized this feedback. Partway through the process, we altered the scope a bit by excluding a lot in our project, which was likely to happen during the city’s zoning process.

The results of our hackathon were remarkable: We believe this process was efficient for all involved, and it directed us to the most dynamic firm. In the end, we chose Pickard Chilton of New Haven, Conn., to be the architect of 2&U.

Our strongest learning in utilizing the hackathon was that often our traditional processes might not yield the best results. We saw one firm have tremendous energy for the interview, but run into design fatigue during the hackathon. Further, we learned that by seeing our partners as customers and inspiring them to do good work, we can truly run faster as a high-performance team.

Some might say the tech industries are too different from ours to offer any relevant learnings. We remain open and curious about our customers, and believe there is much to gain in the means and methods.

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Lisa Picard

posted by Lisa Picard

Skanska USA executive vice president

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In Miami, successfully assembling an “orange”


We’re building the iconic Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami. The planetarium is in the foreground.

Our team at Miami’s Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science project just assembled 32 concave orange peel-like pieces – weighing about 50,000 pounds per panel – to form a full dome planetarium. The operation required 24-hour-a-day/seven-day-a-week work over two-and-a-half weeks to precisely place and connect the segments.

Our team had been planning this unusual operation since we joined this project in May. The operation began with erecting a massive, 50-foot-tall center shoring tower and setting a precast dome cap, which was 100 percent welded off before any of the “orange-peel” segments could be rigged and lifted into place. The shoring tower was necessary as the segments couldn’t support themselves until all 32 of them were in position, welded and inspected.


To maneuver the pieces, we brought in a specialized 550-ton hydraulic crane with a superlift. 

Once the center pieces were in place, our team installed the orange-peel perimeter segments opposite one another in a counter-clockwise rotation to avoid lateral load on the dome cap. To maneuver the pieces, we brought in a specialized 550-ton hydraulic crane with a superlift. This sequence required erecting the panels during the day and welding the panels at night to be ready to erect new panels in morning and maintain schedule.


The team erected panels during the day and welded the panels at night so they could be ready to erect new panels in morning and maintain schedule.

Our team paid close attention to safety during this critical and not-so-traditional precast operation. The shoring tower was an engineered system that was inspected daily before work could commence, as it served double duty as a working platform and shoring tower. The planetarium was barricaded off at all times to only allow specially trained and authorized personnel to enter. The welders were working from both an OSHA-approved guard rail system located within the working platform system, along with strategically placed spider lifts. All personnel were certified riggers, flagmen and welders. This day and night operation had no safety incidents.

At the end of last year, our Frost Museum team successfully executed one of the world’s most unusual concrete pours: creating a martini glass-shaped 500,000-gallon seawater aquarium tank through a non-stop 25-hour, 1,200-cubic-yard placement.

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Building a balanced life: Q&A with Project Manager Theodora Diamantis

The $600 million City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center project in New York City was a homecoming for project manager Theodora Diamantis, who left Skanska in 2001 after six years with us, eventually becoming a full-time mother for her four children: Paulina, 12; Eliana, 10; and seven-year-old twins, George and Kleoniki. She rejoined our company in 2011, with CUNY as her first assignment. Today, Theodora’s work is being highlighted at a new show “Built By Women New York City” at the Center for Architecture. The exhibit showcases dozens of projects all across New York’s five boroughs, designed and constructed by female architects, engineers and builders. Several Skanska projects are a part of the exhibition including the NYU Stern School of Business, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hudson River Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Fulton Transit Center, and No. 7 line Subway Extension, which includes two new stations on 34th Street and 11th Ave.

To learn more about “Built By Women New York City” click here.

Recently we had the chance to catch up with Diamantis and learn a bit more about her start in construction, the challenges she’s overcome along the way, and where she’s headed.

Here’s what she had to say:

- I’m hands on – I like to build. I grew up in a home in which my father never hired anyone to do anything – he did it all himself. As annoying as that was as a child, I learned a lot.

- For four years shortly after I joined Skanska, I traveled weekly to work on shopping mall projects in Michigan and Virginia. I would fly out on Monday and come home that Friday to New York.

- At CUNY, I was in charge of the towers’ interiors, specifically the core areas, atrium, auditorium and cafe. The overall project was about 400,000 square feet

- My children come before my job. If I saw that they were paying a price because of the hours I was working, I would have to evaluate and see if a lesser role was suitable for that period of time. There’s nothing wrong with that.

- I’m always thinking for five – my four children and myself.

- I have been a superintendent too, including for a project that added five stories to the top of Sotheby’s auction house in New York City – I oversaw work on the top floor. In 2000, when this job was underway, female superintendents weren’t very common in the industry. I still remember getting into a hoist with 20 men on my first day on that job – intimidating to say the least! But coming off a successful mall project in Michigan for which I was both a project manager and superintendent, I was confident in my abilities.

- Whether you’re male or female, you always have to prove yourself.

- Critical to gaining the respect of trade contractors is showing that you know how to build. I think you can only get that experience by having a role in the field. I recommend this for all engineers wanting a senior managerial role.

- My days start pretty early, so when I get home after work I take a shot of espresso because I have to be ready for job number two: checking over four kids’ homework, maybe taking them to an extracurricular activity, and reading to them before tucking them in.

- If I need to take time to attend one of my children’s performances, I’m going to do that. I’ll make up the time. Everything balances out – I make it work.

- I couldn’t do what I’m doing if I didn’t have the support system that I have, which is my extended family, my parents and my sister. It takes a village. I’m fortunate that my parents and sister live in close proximity.

- I believe Skanska’s culture allows for a flexible schedule, if it’s structured properly and especially if you’ve proven yourself to the company.

To learn more about Theodora’s career at Skanska, check out this video:

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It all starts with listening

Jeff_Siddle - Skanska

Jeff Siddle, assistant vice president of planning and development, Tampa International Airport

Jeff Siddle has been involved in airport planning and development since college. When a case study project took him to Lambert- St. Louis International Airport, he had landed on his career. Now at Tampa International Airport – a longtime Skanska client – Siddle is managing multiple contractors as the airport embarks on a nearly $1 billion expansion program. We talked with Siddle about ensuring customer satisfaction, airport trends and what Tampa expects of its partners.

What’s your favorite part of working in aviation?

I enjoy being able to have a direct impact on customers’ flying experiences by planning, designing and constructing facilities that are focused on serving those customers. Flying can be stressful – here at Tampa we want to do our best to make it as unstressful as possible.

What’s a major trend you see with airports?

Diversifying revenue streams. With the ever-changing airline industry, you cannot solely count on airline revenue as much as you could previously. To solidify – and even increase our revenue – we’ve put a new focus on ensuring that the airport’s property is being used to its highest and best purpose. That includes commercially developing some of the airport’s outparcels, and making sure that we have high-performing concessions.

Any other trends?

Customer convenience and sustainability. When my adult daughter travels and she can’t find outlets in airports to charge her phone and iPad, she lets me know. We thought about that kind of experience as we were planning Tampa’s current terminal renovation and expansion project. We are improving seating areas, adding business centers, improving concessions – and even adding outdoor terraces. Also, sustainability is very important to us: Our community tells us they want us at the forefront of sustainability, so that’s what we’re doing.

Outside groups consistently give Tampa International Airport high marks on quality, service and passenger satisfaction. What does the airport do to uphold that?

We listen. We engage in conversations and ask questions so we can better understand the airport experience from a passenger’s viewpoint. We always want to have an open ear, and never take the position that we know better than them. This is the community’s airport and we treat it that way.

What makes a successful project team?

When an entity comes to work with us, it’s absolutely critical that they focus your views listen very intently. Cooperation, collaboration and stakeholder involvement – which are essential – are all dependent upon listening.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in delivering capital projects?

When a project is still in the conceptual stage, the airport internally has to develop a solid scope supported by a sound budget and schedule. It’s critical that we get that information right so our executive management and board of directors can use it to make the best decisions. As the project advances and we bring on design-builders – such as Skanska – and other experts, it’s critical that these teams further set us up for success by understanding our need to always have the best information, and then providing that to us.

When a project reaches construction, customer convenience becomes even more critical. The expansion and renovation project will dramatically alter our terminal. At all times during that project, we have to keep our customers informed about what to expect before they get here, and then how to navigate when they are here. We’re counting on Skanska to help ensure we have absolutely no hiccups during that process.

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Teaching English to improve jobsite communication

Throughout this summer and fall, as many employees were leaving our Durham, N.C., office, four individuals were arriving. In the parking lot, they’d change out of shirts that were sweaty from a full day of hands-on work, and don fresh attire. They would be laboring in a different way: learning English as a second language. The evening sessions would last for two hours – an hour later than scheduled – over 10 weeks, two weeks longer than planned. That was because these non-traditional students didn’t want to leave, being eager to improve their English skills.

The instructor, Diversity Coordinator Johnny Ortiz, didn’t mind the additional commitment because he understood their desire: His parents came to this country from El Salvador, and as a child he would help them with their English. “I can relate,” Ortiz said. “Many of my family members have struggled to learn English through the years.”

The training – a pilot effort – pushes our Injury-Free Environment culture in a new direction. Language barriers can lead to miscommunication, which can lead to accidents. With trade workers in the Southeast increasingly of Hispanic descent, our Carolinas/ Virginia office saw this class as an important step in bridging this divide. We offered this training free to Spanish-speaking employees of our trade partners. All four members of this first class were from Baker Roofing.

“They all volunteered for this program,” Ortiz said of his students. “That means they want to get better.”

The course’s foundation is a teaching tool called Sed de Saber Construction Edition (Sed de Saber means “thirst for knowledge”). The tool includes an electronic LeapPad learning tablet with seven interactive lesson books. In the classes, Ortiz would review the lessons, giving special focus to proper pronunciation, correctly speaking numbers, and teaching words and phrases both for everyday living and specifically for jobsites. One of the tougher words to tackle was superintendent. ”You can really take for granted that you think they know something, but they don’t,” he said. When each class would finally come to a close, Ortiz would assign them material to practice on their own. As the weeks went on, Ortiz said his students’ confidence increased.

ESL Grad RJnJODiversity Director Renee Jones, left, and Diversity Coordinator Johnny Ortiz,far right, with the graduates of our Carolinas/ Virginia office’s inaugural English language training class.

Now that they’ve graduated, he’s heard from their supervisors that his students are using better spelling on their daily work summaries, and that they’re less hesitant to converse in English.“I don’t know if I considered this to be work because I saw how much I was helping them,” Ortiz said. “It was pretty rewarding seeing them get better.”

We are starting a second session with a larger group of students later this year.

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It’s not exactly rocket science

Long before I was a builder, I was fascinated by space. In fact, my first career goal was to become an astronaut. To help me get there, as a middle schooler I was fortunate to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. – and I still have my flight suit! I commanded a simulator mission in which we had to land in an Iowa cornfield, but like that flight, my space career soon drifted off target. Instead, I’ve put my technical knowledge to use in solving the challenges involved with creating buildings, especially how to enable them to have less impact on the environment. But I never fully let go of the dream of putting on that flight suit again.


Space has long been a fascination of mine: here’s my Space Camp flight suit from middle school.

With my background and interests, I was surprised and delighted to recently receive an email inviting me to present about sustainability and resiliency at a joint NASA/European Space Agency conference. The worlds of space travel and construction don’t often mix, except for highly specialized work. But I submitted an abstract, which was accepted, and not too long ago I was before a crowd of engineers and administrators at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. I had 25 minutes to share some thoughts to help NASA improve the resiliency of its ground infrastructure against the looming impacts of climate change.

I focused on the idea of advancing systems from being redundant to restorative. Redundancy involves layering on duplicate layers of capacity or protection in case the primary system fails to work, or is overloaded. Think of a back-up generator. Having extra layers is often quite costly, and the additional capacity may be rarely – if ever – used.

Space station as model?

But rather than redundant, what if we focused on creating systems that were resilient: able to flex and withstand stresses without breaking. With buildings, that means facilities that depend on natural systems and strategies, instead of more layers of energy and technology. For instance, in nature things are self-sufficient. A technological equivalent of that is a cogeneration plant, a highly efficient machine that uses natural gas – albeit from off-site – to produce electricity, and it takes what otherwise would be waste heat and uses that to produce hot water or steam for heating buildings. During Hurricane Sandy in New York City, on-site co-generation enabled New York University to heat and power its campus, as natural gas lines remained intact. For true on-site, emission-free power, photovoltaics are a compelling solution, but their use is limited by site area, weather and, of course, darkness.


The International Space Station offers lessons in resiliency from which buildings on Earth might benefit. (Photo credit: NASA)

Maybe the International Space Station will show us how to combine both of these systems in buildings: The space station uses photovoltaics to create electricity and to drive an electrolysis process that splits water into hydrogen (fuel) and oxygen (air), a space version of cogeneration and a biomimicry of the process on Earth that we call photosynthesis.

Neighborhood-sized solutions

But I believe the best way to be resilient is not through individual buildings, but rather groups of buildings. Collections of buildings known as eco-districts help reduce resource consumption because water, waste, energy and transportation systems can be optimized, each at the appropriate scale. Studies have shown that for every five or so office buildings running off of a district energy plant, there’s typically enough efficiency gain to also power a sixth one without added capacity. This neighborhood-scale consolidation also reduces the dependency on the single, regional systems most communities use.

Benefiting the surroundings

Beyond redundant and resilient you have restorative, which is having a building or system that actually benefits its surroundings. That was the aim of Skanska and our partners in creating Powerhouse Kjorbo, an office building near Oslo, Norway, that will produce more energy over its life cycle than it uses. Photovolatic panels on the roof, geothermal heating and cooling, and a well-sealed and highly insulated building structure – combined with very efficient integrated systems for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting – all transform what could be an energy-guzzling office building into a supplier of pure and renewable energy. It’s also a beautiful place to work, even if you are above the Arctic Circle.

Transforming from redundant to restorative is a big step – no matter if you’re dealing with buildings or space program infrastructure. Being at this conference reminded me of all the advances that the space program has brought to our everyday lives. It gives me hope that the very organization that has a mission of going to other planets is working together with all of us Earthlings to preserve this one.

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Steve Clem

posted by Steve Clem

Skanska USA Vice president of preconstruction

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Life cycle thinking

Life cycle management, facility information management, BIM for facilities management: whatever you may wish to call it, this practice has huge potential to reshape how buildings are delivered. Just as building information modeling/virtual design and construction was an emerging effort some five years ago but is now common for design and construction, finding ways to smartly and electronically package design and construction data for facilities management uses will similarly be standard practice five years from now, said Mike Clark, Skanska national manager of VDC project support.

Key to such solutions is that they’re simple to use, flexible to accommodate evolving needs, customized to each client’s demands, and that ideally the efforts start as early as possible in the project. Here are some examples of how Skanska is helping clients prepare to better manage and maintain their buildings:

Electronic O&M delivery

This approach’s initial step is electronically providing in a convenient format such operations and maintenance information as equipment manuals and warranty information. For instance, with the 293,000-square-foot Montlake Tower project for the University of Washington Medical Center, our team created a PDF-based interface, in addition to supplying the required voluminous paper documents. This electronic portal is an alternative way for UWMC to access key O&M documents, while manual entry of the full paper-based information continued.

Now, UWMC has developed a standardized approach for electronically delivering O&M materials, the use of which is required on projects. Furthermore, for an upcoming project the medical center will be having the BIM data created and commissioned for direct import into their facility information management system, providing even greater potential for short- and long-term cost savings through operational efficiencies.


Linking the BIM model with O&M data

For a 350,000-square-foot new bed tower for MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital – also in Washington state – we led the effort to integrate the BIM model with O&M data. This is even more powerful a solution than just electronic O&M delivery, as the model enables a more intuitive way of working. Our BIM approach involved assisting the hospital with identifying its facility information needs; determining the scope of this effort and the needed hardware and software; organizing the BIM models and O&M data; and training the hospital’s team. With this solution, O&M documents, drawings and training videos can all be easily accessed by pointing and clicking on a single model-based interface.

Developing holistic BIM facilities standards

George Washington University decided to create a holistic set of BIM facility management standards to be included in the contract documents for all designers and contractors working on its campuses. At the conclusion of each project going forward, GW’s intention is to receive what it needs to electronically manage that building or space: a BIM model complete with all design details and as-built information, with separate files for all operational data, including warranties.

What has typically happened – at GW and throughout the building industry – is that the designers create one BIM model, while the construction team creates at least one other model, leaving the building owner with multiple models at the end of the project, none of which fully provide what is desired.

“We realized that as owners, we had to take leadership to shape the outcome that we wanted,” said Eric Hougen, director of technology and information management for GW, located in Washington, D.C.

GW’s creation of its FIM Procedures Manual is a pioneering undertaking, as few owners have done this. Skanska led the development of this manual, and we’re now providing similar consulting services to other clients.

“This kind of information will assist us from day one, and it gets incredibly valuable during the life cycle of the building,” Hougen said. “Obviously, we’ve existed without it for years, but I think we’re at that point where the next evolution of our facilities management organization is dependent on us having quality building information.”


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From the State of the Union: a brighter light for U.S. infrastructure

U.S. infrastructure, from our roads and bridges to our courthouses and water systems, is in great need of investment. So the White House’s recent effort to increase private sector participation in public infrastructure projects through Build America, a government-wide initiative to increase collaborative infrastructure investment and economic growth, is an encouraging step towards increasing public-private partnerships in the U.S. – and I’m looking forward to further P3 announcements that I’m expecting President Obama to address tonight during the State of the Union address.

As you may know, in a P3, public money is leveraged with private investment to fast-track critical projects, for which the long-term responsibility to maintain that infrastructure falls to private partners.  Skanska is currently working on two of the nation’s largest P3s – Elizabeth River Tunnels in Virginia and I-4 Ultimate in Florida. Both these projects will help transform transportation and accessibility in their respective regions, while generating many well-paying jobs. P3s are a leading way to get major infrastructure done in our country today.


The Skanska-led consortium behind Orlando’s I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership project will widen and reconstruct 21 miles of interstate highway, greatly improving that region’s mobility.

Initiatives like Build America are a positive indication that the federal government supports states, municipalities and private enterprises that work collaboratively to create partnerships that benefit the American public by improving core infrastructure. In a fact sheet released on Friday that previews some of what President Obama might address in his State of the Union address tonight, the White House laid out new steps that federal agencies are taking to bring private sector capital and expertise to help improve U.S. roads, bridges, ports and drinking water systems. These steps include a new Water Finance Center at the Environmental Protection Agency, driving the Rural Opportunity Investment Initiative at the Department of Agriculture and leveling the playing field for municipalities seeking P3s by proposing the creation of a new kind of municipal bond, Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds, so that governments can more easily work with the private sector to advance the public interest. All these efforts will go a long way to helping get more P3 projects off the ground.

Now and into the future, P3s will be essential for fixing our crumbling infrastructure. There is such a tremendous need for repair and little public money to pay for it, and meanwhile there’s plenty of private money on the sidelines waiting to be invested.

These latest initiatives to boost P3s hopefully generate many critical projects and elevate the conversation in Washington to find creative, alternate solutions to simply raising taxes or doing nothing.

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Richard Cavallaro

posted by Richard Cavallaro

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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How this architecture grad came to love construction

Amanda Hu has had a busy year-and-a-half since joining Skanska after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, with an architecture degree. Having planned to be a designer, this Texas native didn’t know what to expect from construction – but she’s come to love its fast-paced ways, teamwork and constant learning. During a break from her estimating work at our Oakland, Calif., office, she spoke with us:

When I joined Skanska, I didn’t know what I’d be doing. I wound up in preconstruction, and I really like it. Rather than dealing with one project, I’ve worked on estimates for probably 10 projects. It’s been a great way to get introduced to construction.

I’ve realized this field requires you to be a jack-of-all-trades. You have to know about economics, politics, science and logistics, not just cost, materials and labor. The cool part is you’re always learning. In preconstruction, while the estimates have a similar structure, each project is different. That’s been the fun part for me – it’s such a dynamic field.


Hu at the Transbay Transit Center site in San Francisco

In some ways, preconstruction gets to be a scramble because owners always throw more stuff at us as the deadlines get closer. But what makes it manageable – and enjoyable – is the team atmosphere here.

I’m amazed at the talent of some of my preconstruction colleagues. With their years of experience, some of them are such pricing experts that their “shooting from the hip” estimates are usually close to the full estimates, which we arrive at after much work and trade contractor input. How do they do that?

One of the unexpected opportunities my first year was estimating a small exterior improvement project for a children’s clinic, and then going to the field to help build that project. While on site, there were times I thought to myself, “Did I give myself enough money to do that?” In the end, we wound up in the black. That experience was really helpful in terms of learning how what we do in preconstruction impacts operations.

I learn so much every day from those around me, but two people have been especially helpful. Project Manager Greg Roth is really good about getting me to think more critically about every task that I do. So rather than just putting quantities and costs into spreadsheets, I need to think, “What’s the best way to clearly organize that information to reflect what’s important to the client?” Business Development Director Julie Hyson is also great about challenging me. Until recently, I hadn’t spent time in operations nor in client interviews, so I wouldn’t have raised my hand for opportunities in those areas, especially as I’m still relatively new. But Julie was instrumental in my being selected to be the project engineer for the children’s clinic, and then she gave me the chance to go in front of that client and sell Skanska during a pursuit– that was a really special opportunity.

Northern California is such a hot building market, especially with technology, healthcare and biopharmaceutical companies. The next best-selling technology or pharmaceutical breakthrough may come from a facility that we build. That’s a great reason for being here – and so is the weather.

I really enjoy site visits and being out in the field. So for my next step after preconstruction – in five years or so – I see myself being an assistant superintendent. That way, I can really learn how to interact with craft workers and see the day-to-day operations of how a building is put together.  Not exactly your traditional career path for an architecture grad!

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