May 2-6 marks Skanska’s 12th annual Safety Week – and the 3rd annual Construction Industry Safety Week, where we and 50 of our peer construction firms pause to take a closer look at how “safety is the thread that ties us together.” This year, Skanska is putting a special focus on ladders, which are often connected to injuries throughout our industry. Whether you are a professional in the industry or doing work around your home, the below infographic demonstrates the hazards presented by working with ladders and some alternatives to working at height.
May 2-6 marks Skanska’s 12th annual Safety Week – and the 3rd annual Construction Industry Safety Week, where we and 50 of our peer construction firms pause to take a closer look at how “safety is the thread that ties us together.” To kick off this important week-long observation, we asked Rich Cavallaro, President & CEO of Skanska USA, to share his thoughts on the role of executive leadership in promoting a culture of safety.
As President & CEO of Skanska USA, I believe that, for safety to be a priority, it’s up to me to set the first example. Because if leaders create the right culture, employees will see results, right down to every worker on every project site.
A Brave Decision
Several years ago, a subcontractor who had just completed work on one of our our sites moved on to a job on a competitor’s site, literally across the street from our project. He came to us asking for help. The subcontractor appreciated our approach to safety and asked us to share tips with the contractors at his new project, because he felt their commitment to safety stopped after simply saying the right things. He was hoping we would put aside competitive interests in pursuit of helping everyone work more safely.
It was incredibly brave of this subcontractor to approach us like this. And we agreed with what he was trying to accomplish. So our project team agreed to have the conversation with the competitor. To me, it was simply the right thing to do – and speaks to the type of culture leaders can create where every person truly is empowered to speak up for safety. If leadership across our industry feels the same, we can create the same culture on every job site in the country.
Things that save lives shouldn’t be trade secrets.
If a Skanska project team has a chance to make a difference across the industry, sharing that information is the right thing to do. Similarly, listening to suggestions from outside, whether from our own crews or our competitors, is just as important. Every leader at Skanska is working to make sure we’re living that culture, even if it means tough decisions when we see potentially unsafe actions. Living that expectation, by every company and worker on every project, will make a difference.
Safety is what ties us all together.
As a participant in the annual Construction Industry Safety Week, we can help do our part to reinforce that incident-free work in construction shouldn’t be an exception. Instead, it should be an expectation. For Safety Week, we have planned a series of specific activities in every region of the country designed to help reinforce our company’s focus on safety.
The spirit of Safety Week comes alive when we work together to take steps that help save lives. Together, we must set the cultural expectations for working in our industry. Because in the absence of leadership, safety cultures will fail. If we choose to lead, we can prove that construction doesn’t have to be dangerous work.
Skanska is currently hard at work finishing construction and development of the Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) project with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Skanska’s first US P3 project, ERT encompasses the construction of a new Midtown Tunnel and MLK Extension, the rehabilitation of three existing tunnels, and the development of an efficient connected transportation network. Constructive Thinking recently sat down with Wade Watson, ERT Project Director for SKW (the Skanska, Kiewit, Weeks Marine construction joint venture), and talked with him about ERT and its “Building What Matters” impact on the Hampton Roads region.
Constructive Thinking (CT): “How is Skanska Building What Matters at ERT?”
Wade Watson (WW): “A second Midtown Tunnel [at the bottom of the Elizabeth River between the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk] will provide several benefits for the region. First, it will reduce traffic congestion on U.S. 58 by providing extra travel lanes, and enhance driver safety by having one tube for eastbound traffic and another tube for westbound traffic. The project has also created construction-related jobs. According to Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC*) data, 500 direct and 1,000 indirect construction-related jobs were created. Finally, we expect the tunnel to enhance the general quality of life for Hampton Roads’ residents and visitors.”
Wade Watson at the ERT worksite.
CT: “How have SKW Constructors (construction joint venture of Skanksa Kiewit Weeks) and the ERT Project Team worked with the community?”
WW: “The design-build phase of the ERT project has a number of positive impacts on the local community. We’ve awarded more than $310M in contracts to DBE (disadvantaged business enterprises) and SWaM (small, women-owned, and minority-owned) businesses. That’s incredibly important to us as a company; that we’re contributing to the local economy in a tangible way. We’ve also operated an On-Job Training (OJT) program that has provided construction-related skills training – everything from a field office clerk to a mechanic to an electrician – and project employment opportunities for 80 people. It’s resulted in graduates being trained in a craft and having a better paying job. In addition, we’ve provided more than 40,000 hours of training to our project’s skilled craft and staff workforce.”
CT: “Why is supporting the community on this project so important to Skanska?”
WW: “Skanska believes deeply that every project has a personal impact on everyone it touches. And with long-term projects like our P3s and ERT, our workers become part of the community, if they’re not already coming from the local workforce. So supporting local educational and community service organizations through things like food drives for Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, Portsmouth Area Resources, and Oasis Social Ministry are critically important. I’m especially proud of our toy and financial resource drives, where we collected more than $25,000 in combined cash and gifts like toys, electronics and gift cards and donated them to Edmarc, a Portsmouth-based hospice for children, Wounded Warriors, and Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD). Community outreach initiatives like these make a difference to so many people who don’t even play a direct role in the project. But if we can do it, we will.”
CT: “You’ve also focused on similar efforts for the environment, correct?”
WW: “We are among one of the first US construction firms to have all our operations ISO 14001 certified. ISO 14000 is a set of environmental management standards that help companies minimize their negative impact on the environment, comply with applicable laws, and continually improve operations. We have also participated in events like Earth Day celebration and Clean the Bay Day, where our employees and family members helped to remove trash from the shores and waters of the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay. We also brought more than 100 local Cub and Boy Scouts together for the Scouting the Midtown Tunnel event, to introduce them to civil and environmental engineering and construction management and help them earn their engineering merit badge. ”
CT: “How is sustainability factored in to the ERT?”
WW: “We started out with the aim to deliver not only a high quality finished product but to deliver an outstanding environmental project – to improve the local environment. To help us with this objective, we hired Carissa Agnese as our project’s environmental manager, and we challenged her to design and implement an innovative, cost-effective, and efficient environmental management system. Through her environmental leadership, the SKW project team developed several environmental best practices, wrote and publicized environmental reports and case studies (to help share our project’s knowledge and best practices with other companies in the construction industry), and received several local and state-level environmental awards including the Virginia Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) Environmental Excellence Program (VEEP) Award. We are now working to have the ERT project undergo the accreditation process and designation as a sustainable infrastructure project by Envision.”
CT: “How is ERT a personal project for you?”
WW: “During my 37-year career with Skanska, I’ve worked some large, complex projects, and I have learned a few things along the way. We have to be good neighbors, we have to know what the community thinks, and we have to do our work, day in and day out, in a conscious way that minimizes the short-term impacts of the construction activity as we communicate the long-term benefits of the project. We have to take care of the communities in which we are working, to help them in whatever ways we can, whether that’s providing contributions or manpower to local charitable organizations, or providing educational opportunities to local school and university students, or helping to improve the environment around the project. We need to be proactive at sharing our project with the public. Projects of this scope, scale, and technical complexity are interesting to the public and serve to engage the community at large.”
Wade Watson is a Vice President of Operations with Skanska USA Civil SE and Project Director of the ERT Project with SKW Constructors (a joint venture of Skanska USA Civil SE, Kiewit Infrastructure, and Weeks Marine)
*ERC is the joint venture of Skanska Infrastructure Development and Macquarie Group for the purpose to finance, deliver, operate and maintain ERT
To mark Earth Day 2016, we asked our Chief Sustainability Officer Beth Heider to capture the essence of a recent address she gave to the Women Build America conference earlier this month. In that address, Beth explored a new paradigm to create value driven leadership across diverse business units, cultures and profit structures.
When a restaurant advertises “home cooking,” that isn’t enough information to make me head inside and order a meal. For me, it really depends on whose home cooking we’re talking about. In the end, it’s a value proposition.
The same is true for corporations: when we choose to laud or emulate a company’s efforts, we need to ask, are we talking about Walt Disney or Bernie Madoff?
Values are meant to articulate our own high aspirations; a comprehensive culture that transcends profit. To that end, values-driven leadership doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it is a journey that a company and its employees take together.
I have a values journey of my own – one that articulates my deeply held beliefs about sustainable building practices and their importance to leaving a desirable legacy for future generations.
Like many journeys, I didn’t intentionally set out to get to where I am today. My own values served as an internal compass. It brought me to intersect with Skanska, which followed a values compass of its own.
Let me rewind.
Two decades and two employers and ago, my boss at a construction firm came storming into our open office area – this kind of a mosh pit of humanity – where we were sweating to get a bid together. He yelled, “The problem with you, Heider, is that you need to learn how to lie better.”
One of our subs, who always came through with good prices and complete scopes had asked me a fair question and I answered him honestly – behavior that my boss found unacceptable. Stunned and humiliated at his tongue lashing, and after a good cry in the ladies room and three months to think it over, I quit to take a job at a consulting firm. That experience made me unsure that I ever wanted to work at another construction company, doubting the industry would ever align with my values compass. Six years later, I found myself entertaining a job offer from Skanska, one of the biggest construction companies on the planet.
At the time, Skanska was pursuing two federal courthouse projects. Having spent three years building a cost tool to establish the more than $1 billion federal budget for new court construction, Skanska wanted me to bring that expertise to their shop. But before I took what I thought would be a dream assignment, I needed to know that their values compass pointed in the same direction as mine.
I got my answer in the form of two events, one at Skanska and one in my own career.
In 1997, Skanska was building a rail tunnel in Hallandsås, Sweden. The tunnel ran through a particularly nasty piece of geology and the injectable grout used to manage water infiltration leached into a nearby aquifer. An environmental disaster followed, and news reports of poisoned cows and sick workers had a devastating effect on Skanska’s reputation.
Rather than phoning in a fix, Skanska leadership chose to change how they did business: having a third-party certify all future operations globally under ISO 14001 Environmental Standards. ISO requires an environmental management plan that addresses project-specific hazards, and further commits a company to incrementally raise the bar on its own environmental performance. It required a significant financial investment from Skanska, as well as thorough company-wide education. But it was the right thing to do, and Skanska emerged to successfully continue with the project.
Meanwhile, back in the US, GSA was beginning its own journey, exploring the cost commitment necessary to green the federal workplace. Daunting to my colleagues but fascinating to me, I climbed aboard the green bus. It was the beginning of my own sustainability journey – making the business case for green – and unbeknownst to me, put me on an intercept course with Skanska, whose values compass that had been reset by the Hallandsås tunnel experience, and now aligned with my own.
Last year, Skanska cut the ribbon on the Hallandsås Tunnel, successfully completed under ISO 14001 certification and without further environmental incident.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Skanska is looking inward again and asking: do we really need to wait for the next crisis to change how we operate, or can we change to prevent the next crisis from happening? Further, why do we exist as a company? What is our purpose?
As builders, Skanska creates projects that fulfill the needs of society – whether a tunnel, a hospital, a commercial building or an airport.
Equally important is how we create those critical projects. We aspire, not only to “do less bad,” but to accomplish good. Our corporate values – depicted as four connected arcs – form the foundation for our corporate purpose: to Build for a Better Society:
Care for Life:
- for the safety of our people and the health of our environment, and to be accountable for both;
Act Ethically and Transparently:
- to be honest, to do what’s right and to adhere to a clearly delineated Code of Conduct;
Be Better Together:
- we believe in collaboration that drives innovation and continuous improvement, while embracing and harnessing the power of diversity to foster an inclusive culture;
Commit to Customers:
- to listen, understand and add value to our customers so they are successful.
This rearticulation of our values compass is charting yet another new course for Skanska.
Former CEO of Alcoa and Secretary of the US Treasury Paul O’Neil has said, “The number one reason employees choose to stay in their current job isn’t because they work for a great company – it is because they felt they were enabled to contribute to achieve shared and ambitious goals.”
Millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025. Studies emphasize they prize values over compensation at all stages of their careers, including the employers they choose, the assignments they accept and the decisions they make as they take on more senior-level roles. They want to work for organizations that have purpose beyond profit and that align with their own moral compass.
This is not just a new value – more senior employees can also be driven by that satisfaction of having contributed to something that defines the greater good and leaves a generational legacy worth inheriting. That should give us all great hope for the future of our collective journey. With a values compass aligned with our peers, it is a path we can embrace, because walking it together will elevate our industry and our world.
The news this week that Skanska USA has successfully sold our 101 Seaport property in Boston is reason for celebration.
We are understandably excited that we were able to successfully complete the project, a 17-story, 440,000-square-foot LEED® Platinum office building in the Seaport District in record time.
What truly excites us is what this building represents – our desire to build projects with purpose – in this case, creating a jewel in a Boston neighborhood that is springing back to new life.
Our unique business model allows us to develop, finance, and construct properties that make significant contributions to the cities in which they are built. And so we feel strongly that the buildings we create should maximize open space, offer amenities that contribute to a healthy work-life balance, and are stocked with features including better views and increased daylighting, which have been shown to improve employee collaboration and productivity. All of these elements – thoughtfully and intentionally designed into the project – are investments in the future of the people who will work in the building, and of the larger community to which the building contributes and helps to grow.
101 Seaport has truly been a catalyst for the transformation of the neighborhood – and it is just the beginning. Our other projects in Boston include 121 Seaport, a neighboring office tower with ground-floor retail targeting LEED® Platinum currently under construction; and Watermark Seaport, a recently opened luxury residential tower with ground-floor retail which Skanska developed in partnership with Twining Properties. When completed, Skanska’s developments along Seaport Boulevard will make up the most sustainable row of office and residential buildings in Boston history.
We are using that same philosophy to transform the workplaces of tomorrow across the country in our home markets of Houston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Building projects with purpose is what Skanska is all about.
For more information about our Commercial Development Projects, visit us at www.usa.skanska.com/Business-Units/Commercial_Development/.
As a growing number of hospitals continue to look for ways to decrease operating costs and increase efficiencies, we’re helping them analyze and build upon their own sustainability programs.
Facility-wide enhancements – including insulating walls and roofs, reduce waste from operations and using renewable power – can have immediate cost savings, with a return on investment in just a few years.
Some facilities are going a step further, leading the charge to “Net-Zero,” an approach that includes whole life cycle cost analysis.
Our infographic below spells it all out:
We love Building What Matters – whether that’s critical infrastructure, hospitals and schools or entertainment venues that enrich local communities.
We’re proud to have played a role in the construction of the Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, TN, which the Academy of Country Music has honored with an ACM Industry Award for Venue of the Year, Medium Capacity, and cited as a “venue which contributes so much to the artistry, success and longevity of country music.” The ACM Awards will be broadcast this weekend.
As the only outdoor amphitheater in the United States to achieve a LEED Gold Certification, the venue is located inside of the redeveloped 11-acre Riverfront Park, a vibrant cultural space in the heart of downtown Nashville.
The park was conceived with sustainability in mind: diverting 88 percent of construction waste from landfill and using 30 percent less potable water than the LEED baseline. Renewable energy is generated on-site through a geothermal heating and cooling system, while a rainwater harvesting system helps recycle water for irrigation.
To learn more about the park’s sustainable redevelopment, check out our Riverfront Park infographic:
When the Expo line opens from Culver City to Santa Monica in May 2016, it will be the first time in decades that passenger rail service will link downtown Los Angeles to the beaches of Santa Monica.
The Skanska Rados Joint Venture has reached substantial completion on the light rail project and, as people whiz by the notoriously slow traffic of the 10 freeway, they might find some of the “big numbers” behind this big project interesting.
The below infographic dives into a few of the construction-related figures that went into the project:
To find out more about the project, check out our project link here.
For years, sustainability has been more than just a buzzword in the construction industry – and with good reason. As stewards of a planet with limited natural resources, it’s in our own interest to build projects that consume less.
The concept of Net-Zero construction has pushed the boundaries of sustainable green building further. This movement saw projects designed and constructed to offset the energy and water operations consumer through a variety of strategies ranging from on-site energy generation to rainwater harvesting.
We are entering the era of the Living Building, the industry’s most rigorous performance standard to date. According to the International Living Future Institute, Living Buildings operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture.
Skanksa has become a vocal champion of green, sustainable and living building. In a recent interview with Construction Dive, Stacy Smedley, director of sustainability at Skanska USA, shared her experiences with ILFI and how it is a new area worthy of exploration.
Read the full story, with more from Stacy Smedley, here.
And for more on “How a Living Building Comes to Life,” check out our previous blog post here.