Transportation security is increasingly a critical concern that contractors must help manage, as so many U.S. airports have renovation and expansion projects underway. Early planning is essential to this necessary element of airport building.
“Thinking about airport security must begin before stepping foot on the construction site, as parties look to address security concerns during pre-construction,” says Dwight Pullen, national director of Skanska USA’s Aviation Center of Excellence.
At Tampa International Airport, we are focused on helping maintain a secure environment and uninterrupted airport operations in our work expanding the main terminal.
In a recent Airport World article, Dwight shared his thoughts on how to ensure uninterrupted security during construction. This includes engaging and communicating with stakeholders to keep airport operations fully functional. As Dwight notes, “construction simply must not create vulnerabilities in an airport’s security system. Rather, contractors have to partner with owners to plan effectively, coordinating with the [Transportation Security Administration], airport operations and other stakeholders to maintain operability and be secure on all fronts, starting with the technology we use on the job site.”
In this installment of our #BuildingWhatMatters blog series, Senior Project Manager Jeff Elpers explores how design and construction can improve the quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and how a new treatment model may transform memory care across the U.S.
With the U.S. population aging, Alzheimer’s has become the sixth leading cause of death, affecting more than 5.3 million people. Patients with Alzheimer’s are often cared for in nursing homes or other healthcare facilities. While these provide important and essential care, the realities of life with Alzheimer’s means that patients require specific environments designed to alleviate some of the disease’s unique challenges.
To that end, Skanska recently completed the construction of Abe’s Garden in Nashville, Tenn. Abe’s Garden is believed to be the first memory care community in the U.S. designed and built to demonstrate and disseminate best practices to improve the lives of individuals and their care takers affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The 33,000-square-foot facility can house 42 full-time residents and 15 adult day care/evening care participants.
Abe’s Garden was designed to feel as home-like as possible, with three family-sized households themed around arts and lifelong learning; connecting to nature; and music and movement.
Collaborating on an increasingly important type of healthcare facility
While Skanska is an expert at building healthcare facilities, the Alzheimer-centered design elements at Abe’s Garden presented some unique challenges. We took on an extensive planning role, partnering with the customer – Park Manor – and designers to enable a design that met the overall goals while staying within budget.
Designing for Alzheimer’s & dementia
For those with Alzheimer’s, routines are vitally important. Anything out of the ordinary can be incredibly disorienting. Abe’s Garden was therefore designed to feel as home-like as possible, with three family-sized households themed around arts and lifelong learning; connecting to nature; and music and movement. A central enclosed courtyard connects the three households and serves as an important therapeutic environment. Since patients can become upset in unfamiliar places, these households have retro design-features from the 1950s that residents may recognize from their childhood. From a construction point of view, this meant building a commercial healthcare building – complete with all the requisite health, safety and fire code regulations – but with residential finishes. For example, to echo a typical home, the roof was designed with decorative shingles – not something that is usually attached to a commercial-grade steel roof! Resolving such challenges required our team to devise innovative solutions.
The Abe’s Garden courtyard features a single looped sidewalk, allowing patients to enjoy walks without the concern of wandering.
In addition to ensuring the facility had a residential feel, we also had to make sure it was secure and safe for patients suffering from memory loss. Alzheimer’s patients are prone to what is termed as “wandering,” so all the complex’s exterior doors accessible by patients were designed to open onto the internal courtyard. The courtyard’s single looped sidewalk allows patients to enjoy walks without the concern of wandering. Even the doors on the courtyard are designed to make patient’s feel at home: rather than a traditional healthcare facility entrance, each household has its own “front door.”
Patients with Alzheimer’s often also suffer from “sun downing” — behavioral problems that begin at dusk and last into the night. Abe’s Garden aims to alleviate these challenges by maximizing natural light, and incorporating state-of-the-art lighting to support circadian rhythms, reduce glare and minimize shadows. Since older adults have challenges adjusting to changes in lighting, the team incorporated transitional spaces like screened-in porches to help them adapt from outside to inside lighting.
Building on an active campus
We built Abe’s Garden on the existing campus of the Park Manor Senior Lifestyle Community, which remained operational during construction. Additionally, this project included renovating the existing facility’s main entrance and general social spaces. These two facets meant it was especially important that we regularly communicate with residents to ensure their safety and deliver the facility on schedule to minimize disruptions. We held town halls, in which we invited residents to ask questions, share their concerns and get to know the project team. The residents were very curious about the project and were always trying to see what we were doing! Our monthly town hall gave them the opportunity to ask questions and understand upcoming activities. It’s rare that you get to build such a connection with the people your structure will serve!
Abe’s Garden represents Building What Matters on a number of levels. Not only will it provide essential and differentiated treatment to Alzheimer’s patients, but it will also serve as a model program to help advance best practices in memory care. It’s inspiring to know that our work will help the patients, families and caregivers at Abe’s Garden, while also providing a roadmap for future facilities around the U.S. and the world.
January is the perfect time to assess your career, to make sure you’re heading in the direction you want to go. In doing so, like most of us you’ll probably find some areas that could be improved – but what are some best ways of truly positioning your career for success? Rather than making long-term plans, a lot of career success involves maximizing your potential each and every day. Consider what you can do to make sure you take advantage of every available opportunity, so you have the best chance for a long and successful career over the next year and beyond. We spoke with leaders from across Skanska USA about the best steps you can take to maximize your career, today:
1. Step up to the challenge: Regardless of the job, there’s always a first time that you approach a daunting task or assignment, and it’s natural to be a little uncertain. “I try to encourage people to take on new challenges, and at times I push them into areas before they think they’re ready – areas for which I have confidence that they’ll do well,” said Bob Rose, senior vice president. “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.”
It’s likely your manager has been in a similar position before and can see your potential, so don’t be afraid to say yes. “I look back at my early career – every new job or project that I took on had new challenges that were out of my comfort zone,” said Steve Skinner, executive vice president. “I didn’t know if I could succeed in them. But I did, and I grew with each successful venture I got into.”
2. Find a mentor, and be a mentee: Mentors are an important way of connecting your career goals and ambitions with tactics and a mindset to make your goals come to fruition. Why? A good mentor brings trust, wisdom, guidance and an alternate perspective. Meaning that as you plan your career trajectory, you have constant encouragement and someone else rooting for you to succeed. It doesn’t have to be someone you report to, but it should be someone you look up to and admire. “I never went about finding a mentor in any formal way,” said Robb Fonkalsrud, project executive. “I would generally find someone whose leadership style I respected and wanted to emulate, and it was just a natural bond after that. I picked and chose the leadership styles I respected, which helped me develop my own style.”
Once your leadership style has had a chance to evolve, it’s your turn to help develop – and invest in – younger employees. Be ready to listen and give guidance based on your experience- and honesty is key. When talking with younger employees, “I listen to their concerns, their thoughts about where they want to head in their careers, and anything else,” added Fonkalsrud. “In responding, I use my experience and wisdom to help them see into the future a bit. If they ask me for something – such as if they want to try a different project role- I always follow through, and I’m honest about the decision. I feel that honesty is the basis of the whole relationship.”
3. Demonstrate your value: Showing senior leadership that you’re invested in your work is critical to your career development. By showing your commitment, you’re validating all of the time and resources being invested in your development. “I look for our younger employees to demonstrate that they have a strong work ethic and are passionate about what they do,” said Fonkalsrud. “When I see that, it lets me know it’s a good investment of my time to help guide them.”
Beyond hard work and dedication, exhibiting self-awareness is also key to showing your value. Understanding your surroundings indicates to your superiors that you have a good grasp on both the project and the customer’s vision. As Lisa Picard, executive vice president, says, “As long as you are focused on what’s in the best interest of the project and client, you will actually do your best work to exceed your supervisor’s expectations.”
4. Plan for professional development: A successful career generally doesn’t happen by chance. You can start planning now, working with your manager to create a development plan to provide you with a roadmap to career success, based off of your short-term and long-term aspirations. “Having the discipline to think through a development plan can force you to step back and make sure your energies are going toward activities that contribute to the overall plan,” said Susan Jenkins, vice president and account manager. Constructing a development plan is also a good way to check in with your manager to make sure you’re developing skills and remaining focused on finding the best way to meet your personal or professional goals. You should revisit your plan a few times a year for fine tuning, as you learn new things, meet new people, and encounter new ideas.
In the busy day-to-day, seeking out opportunities for professional and personal growth can seem easy to push off to a less chaotic time. But it doesn’t have to be hard, and it’s worth every second. By integrating these four steps into your career, you are making an investment in yourself by making use of every resource available to you to build your career for success in 2016 and beyond.
As 2015 comes to an end, we’ve compiled the most popular blog posts of the year according to you – our readers. Whether we’re explaining important issues or offering an inside look at some of our most complicated projects, you have followed along – and helped us celebrate some major milestones too. From our Florida Polytechnic University project being named Engineering News-Record’s Global Project of the Year to testing exciting new technology that will advance project safety, 2015 has been a year of Building What Matters.
We’re proving that even heavy civil construction can be sustainable at our Elizabeth River Tunnels project, a public-private partnership project in Virginia.
Below are our 10 most popular blog posts of 2015, ranked in order:
1. What will it take to rebuild and upgrade our country’s crumbling infrastructure? Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are an innovative solution to help governments deliver much-needed U.S. infrastructure projects, from bridges and roads to hospitals and airports. We break down how design-build-finance-operate-maintain PPPs work in our infographic: Rebuilding (and financing) America’s infrastructure through public private partnerships.
2. We’re exploring how virtual reality, real-time location systems, drones and other technologies can be used to improve project safety and provide higher levels of customer service. Tony Colonna, senior vice president of our Innovative Construction Solutions group, examines how these three emerging technologies may help improve jobsite safety.
Skanska cranes in action as we worked to build the Oculus entrance portal to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub last year, part of the ongoing rebuilding effort.
4. Houston’s 35-story Capitol Tower office project – for which Skanska is both developer and builder – involved a complicated 19-hour and 20-minute concrete pour to establish the structure’s nine-and-a-half-foot thick mat foundation. Our planning was so precise that we finished the pour within three minutes of our estimate. Check out the time-lapse video here: A 20-hour concrete pour, planned to the minute.
5. In Washington, D.C., we’re creating ice walls of up to nearly 10 feet thick to help us safely construct vertical shafts as part of our project to alleviate flooding in two densely populated neighborhoods. Learn more about how we’re freezing the ground in D.C.
8. Wendy (Li) MacLeod-Roemer isn’t just a senior project manager: this past year she also finished her doctorate in organization management at Stanford University. In her thesis, she explored how lean manufacturing-inspired performance management can transform construction projects. For key takeaways on performance management and her research – including what leads to happier customers – check out her post: This thesis shows how performance management can improve client satisfaction.
9. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the single greatest safety risk on a construction site is falling. Aerial work platforms are safer than ladders for working at heights, but even AWPs have risks. In this post by Chief EHS Officer Paul Haining, learn how we’re taking aerial work platform safety to new heights.
What happens when you go back to school? Every year we hit the “classroom” at Autodesk University. As one of the preeminent technology conferences in our industry, AU is where we get to learn about new tools of our trade, connect with a network of like-minded innovators, and explore ideas that challenge the status quo. AU also provides us a window into the applications of similar technology in other industries such as automotive, high tech and the film industry, which can spur innovative thought in construction. Skanska has been attending AU for more than ten years and each year we continue to see proof of how technology’s exponential growth is dramatically changing the way we collaborate, design, make and build. This year we were excited about four areas of research that will greatly impact our work. They include:
1. Using smart machines for design and construction
The increased roles of machine learning — in which algorithms are used to learn from and make predictions on data — and artificial intelligence (AI) are making waves for the construction industry. With the vast amounts of data we create and are beginning to collect throughout a project’s life cycle, we will soon be in a position to use that data to inform better decision making. But getting to those decisions is an incredibly complex process, and that’s where machines are making it easier. Whereas human brains are naturally creative and great at pattern recognition, artificial intelligence can process information faster and simulate many outcomes based on an array of inputs
The result is a likely future where designers and AI-based applications can likely collaborate on designs — that future is closer than you might think. We also envision many roles for these types of tools in construction. Imagine using a model with built-in intelligence for logistics planning. As you make choices for site layout, you’d be given options from an intelligent system to make the site both safer and more efficient.
Today, machine learning is already having big impacts. It’s helping doctors analyze patient data for diagnosis and treatment, and helping banks monitor for fraud. Consider this: IBM’s Watson, a “cognitive computing” supercomputer that combines natural language processing and machine learning to glean insights from reams of data, can process 1,000 books a minute! Watson is also being used to fuel visualizations for accident analysis on jobsites, helping teams predict where accidents are most likely to occur or analyze the site factors influencing safety performance. It can also beat humans at Jeopardy:
While there is no replacing the tribal knowledge or hands-on experience of our people, artificial intelligence will help our teams by making historical knowledge more accessible and meaningful, allowing more time to apply people’s creativity and innovation to solve tomorrow’s new problems.
2. Finding new ways to access and use data
Other industries benefit from full-scale prototyping processes to validate their designs prior to delivering the final commercial product. For obvious reasons, using similar processes in construction is very limited. However, 3-D models coupled with new virtual reality tools that make visualization more dynamic, immersive and empathetic have the potential to vastly improve design and construction processes. When we put ourselves closer to the design and planning process through virtual reality tools, we can experience the design before it’s built. This experience can help us understand the feasibility of that design sooner, and possibly simulate multiple approaches to construction before we put a shovel in the ground. As construction managers, the ability to utilize, synthesize and act on this information enables us to better partners to our design team.
The Skanska team visited ”BIM City” at AU 2015.
It’s important to recognize that 3-D models and building information modeling (BIM) are more than just geometric representations of buildings – they are also a repository for a wealth of information. Throughout the design and construction phases of a project, we create and capture information that is extremely valuable to an owner for use in operating their building. Finding best ways to store and extract this data is a huge issue. The sheer number of discussions, classes and casual mentions at AU about extracting data from building information models (BIM) to leverage for operations was staggering, and a clear marker that the industry has recognized the need for better tools and processes to benefit owners. For the last few years, Skanska has been collaborating with some of our customers to explore the best ways for them and other owners to quickly access the information they need, and use it in a way that is most effective for apply it in a meaningful way to support their operations.
For example, we collaborated with George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to create protocols for developing building information models, so that design and construction model data can be more easily used by GW for operations and maintenance. This pioneering work resulted in GW’s Facilities Information Management Procedures Manual, a step toward much greater efficiency that few building owners have taken. With these standards set up front, GW’s designers and builders can create and maintain models that meet the university’s requirements to use them for operations and maintenance.
3. Recruiting millennial technology masters who offer fresh ideas
The AEC industry is on a precipice of change, and in order to truly forge ahead we need the ideas and energy of the next generation. A key challenge is attracting and retaining talent in an industry that has been historically slow to change and adapt new technology.
BIM enables new means of collaboration and makes information more accessible than ever before, which influences our decision making as well as our project approaches. In order to leverage new tools and information like BIM to Build What Matters, we need talented people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The rise of new technology means that our tech-savvy employees – those with aptitude and interests in computer science, gaming and similar fields – will have a unique opportunity to shape our future. This also means that we need to think creatively about the people we’re hiring – the skills and backgrounds that made a great construction manager yesterday will be vastly different by 2020. Our talent pool and recruiting strategies are going to have to change to leverage technology and information.
Go behind the scenes at AU 2015 in 90 seconds.
With the BIM adoption rate going up across our industry, both Millennials and more experienced employees need have the skills to work with models. In response to this need, the University of Washington teamed with Skanska to establish a professional certificate in BIM. This program complements a professional degree or real-world experience by providing hands-on training with BIM tools – the technical focus of our course is a clear differentiator.
But as technology gets smarter and faster, the growing worries about what AEC jobs will look like in the future is real. As Autodesk Chief Technology Officer Jeff Kowalski mentioned in his keynote discussion about the future of our work, “A robot will not take your job – someone who uses a robot better than you will take your job.” The best thing we can do is help make sure our people are prepared to take on that challenge.
4. Enabling broader means of collaboration
Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform, which gives project teams the power to access project models and data in real time, continues to get more robust. We’ve been using it for years and our research indicates it typically saves more than 15 percent of a superintendent’s time in the field. Autodesk’s most recent addition to this platform – BIM 360 Docs – has the potential to streamline a number of our processes and drive efficiency in planning, preconstruction and in the field. We will be working closely with Autodesk to pilot this platform in early 2016.
The next evolution in making information more available is wearable devices. For instance, we’re currently testing applications of DAQRI, an augmented reality helmet that projects data and models directly onto a hands-free display to provide intuitive instructions for jobsite teams: we see this helping improve project safety.
Skanska’s Albert Zulps tests a DAQRI at AU 2015.
But we see much greater potential than just streamlining the flow of information to project teams: we also see information flow becoming bi-directional. An example of this highlighted at AU is the real-time location system (RTLS) produced by Redpoint Positioning. Skanska recently teamed with Redpoint to test their RTLS technology on our 101 Seaport commercial development project in Boston’s Innovation District. Together, we combined their sensor technology with our BIM models to precisely track construction materials and team members during simulations. RTLS has the potential to leverage BIM so that teams can see actual 3-D location views as they walk a jobsite.
With safety, we used RTLS to define and demarcate zones in the model that contained a simulated risk – such as a fall hazard. When a worker wearing a safety vest connected to the location system entered that zone, the vest would flash to warn of the danger, providing instant feedback and environmental awareness. Additionally, as part of lean planning we are exploring how RTLS can help us better measure and refine manpower efficiency and constantly improve our construction schedules. We’ve built this technology into our new Skanska Boston office space at 101 Seaport, turning it into a living lab environment where we can dig deeper into the potential of RTLS, and show customers how it may benefit them.
The team at 101 Seaport tests the Redpoint System.
We’re in the midst of some sea changes in the AEC industry, as technologies are emerging to better solve important customer needs. For those companies oriented around innovation, and planning for disruption, the opportunities are immense.
This latest installment of our #BuildingWhatMatters series sheds light on how construction projects can transform communities on a macro-level, but can also have a huge impact on individual lives. This is the story of how a Skanska healthcare project brought the concept of Building What Matters to life for Portland Project Manager Jerry Marmon and his family.
My Building What Matters story is about how Skanska built what mattered for my mother-in-law and how that project saved her life.
Over the 2012 Thanksgiving weekend, my mother-in-law felt ill and went to the doctor. Her blood work came back irregular and after several additional tests she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, or bone marrow cancer. As part of her care, she underwent a very aggressive treatment that completely debilitated her immune system. During this treatment she stayed in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance House, which has rooms designed to reduce exposure to contaminates and germs for patients in need of isolation while their immune systems rebuild. Since our Seattle team is closely tied with the local community, Skanska employees often volunteer at the SCAA house. During her stay, my mother-in-law appreciated a weekly event in which Skanska employees make and serve dinner to patients. She saw and connected with our Seattle employees every week until she was able to go home, and she was amazed at this continuing service they provide.
After this first treatment, she was told she needed to undergo chemotherapy every other week for two years or until test results indicated her cancer was in remission. After spending months in Seattle, she was able to receive her chemotherapy treatments at her local hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Wash. Skanska recently expanded and renovated this hospital to a huge community welcome, including my mother in-law who appreciated being able to receive her treatment in a state-of-the art facility.
Skanska expanded and renovated Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Wash., where Jerry Marmon’s mother-in-law received life saving care for her cancer.
The shortest recovery for Multiple Myeloma is two years under this treatment and the best outcome is to knock it into remission, as no known full cure exists today. Through the facilities built by Skanska, the use of cutting edge medical treatment, and her outstanding response to this care, we’re happy to say that my mother in-law is on her way to achieving remission. She completed her last chemotherapy treatment this November and is now on the road to getting her body back into shape and enjoying life.
My mother-in-law received a grant from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society during all of these treatments. Cancer treatment is certainly not inexpensive. This grant, along with the work Skanska and the medical community performed, was the only possible way that this treatment was made available. In no short way can our family express our gratitude for these funds and facilities.
This is our story. We continue to thank all those that made it possible, with all our hearts. I am proud to be able to say I work for the company that provided one of those crucial pieces in her care.
How can private and public organizations work together to reduce food waste and greenhouse gas emissions? That’s the question George Washington University (GW) – together with Climate-KIC and the D.C. Department of Environment – asked a group of 30 students, sustainability professionals, social and political activists to tackle at its 24-hour D.C. Climathon this summer. It was part of a global effort to find the most effective climate change solutions.
Projects developed at the Climathon ranged from apps that account the “carbon food-print” of a grocery list to a mini-pulper to be installed under a kitchen sink to capture compost. The local Climathon team selected the four strongest projects to build out their partnerships with the goal of presenting on a global stage: the top D.C. partnership will be included in a global showcase of the best climate solutions December 5 at the United Nations’ COP21 climate change summit in Paris. (We have some good news to share on this in a bit!)
The Raw Food Rescue team brainstorms during the 24-hour Climathon.
In keeping with the priority Skanska gives to protecting the environment and investing in communities, Senior Project Manager James Ingle and intern Quinn O’Hanlon joined with four others – including Shannon Kennedy and Christina Bowman from the University of Maryland, Charlotte Dreizen from GW and Rohin Daswari from the Wilson Center – to form a Climathon team. Together they worked long hours to develop solutions for reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions in the nation’s capital.
What was the result?
The team’s project, called Raw Food Rescue, is a social enterprise partnership that will provide an innovative crowdsourcing solution to D.C.’s challenges with food waste; lack of access to healthy food; and greenhouse gas emissions. Raw Food Rescue focuses on the logistics of how to “rescue” and redistribute unsold food from commercial to residential sectors.
This initiative will help divert food waste from local landfills, provide food security and repurpose wasted food, providing benefits to both D.C. residents and the environment. Similar initiatives exist in cities like Boston, with Daily Table, a program founded by a former Trader Joe’s president or Austin’s food waste recycling program.
How did the team come up with the concept?
“When food waste rots it emits methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent that carbon monoxide,” said Ingle. “This was the inspiration for Raw Food Rescue. How can we stop this waste and greenhouse gas emission from occurring? We first looked at rescuing residential garbage, but realized it would be too difficult to divert. The reality is that 40 percent of all U.S. food is wasted, and 10 percent of that waste comes from retail, like supermarkets. Our initial idea was to give the supermarkets the opportunity to cut out the tipping fee, which is the fee they pay to send their waste to the landfill. We decided to rescue that raw food from being thrown away. We set about defining the logistical and policy hurdles to saving and redirecting perishable foods. It was all in an effort to achieve same day food rescue.”
The team meets at a D.C.-area Skanska office during Stage 2.
With the seed of the idea planted, the team built out the concept. “It was all about connecting the dots between the resources,” Ingle said. “From NGOs to D.C. government agencies, the common goal is to redirect this salvaged food from landfills.” Ultimately, Raw Food Rescue aims to demonstrate on a micro-level what can be achieved by thinking strategically about reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s next for Raw Food Rescue?
Raw Food Rescue’s vision and innovation paid off. Their program was selected for Stage 2 cultivation, a rigorous six-month process to make their idea implementable. Over this period, which was during the summer and fall, the D.C. Climathon partners – including GW and the D.C. Department of Environment – tested the winning solutions to ensure real market potential. The team worked long hours to develop their idea.
“We soon realized why practically no one is recovering perishable foods – it’s really hard to do,” said Ingle. “But we knew the key to success would be managing the logistics and keeping the rescue process simple.”
The team presented a final pitch to the partners for why their project should go to Paris.
The partners worked with the teams to connect them with local resources and experts and to bring their partnership to life. Ultimately, Climathon-KIC named Raw Food Rescue the top D.C. project. This week, the Raw Food Rescue team traveled to Paris to represent D.C. at the global Climathon at the COP21 summit and compete against 11 other projects from Addis Ababa, Beijing, Boston, Canberra, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, London, Sao Paulo, Wellington, Walbrzych, and Winterthur.
Skanska’s Boston team is demonstrating what #BuildingWhatMatters means through their efforts to build a new homeless facility for Y2Y Harvard Square, a student-run overnight shelter in Cambridge, Mass. Our team donated their time and skills to build the new center, which is providing a safe haven for young adults going through tough times. In this latest installation of our Building What Matters series, we take a closer look at how Y2Y Harvard Square is impacting their Cambridge community.
Consider the following statistics: in the whole Boston area, there are only 12 beds set aside for homeless young adults under 24. Worse still, a quarter of homeless youth in Massachusetts have aged out of the foster system, and many struggle with mental health issues. Tired of having to turn away teens from the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter where she volunteered, 2014 Harvard graduate Sarah Rosenkrantz and her classmate Sam Greenberg decided to take action by starting a new, student-run homeless shelter aimed at youth in need, which they named Y2Y Harvard Square. But first they needed to figure out how to build it, and then bring it to reality. That’s where Skanska came in.
Our Boston office heard about the Y2Y initiative from the community and realized they had the tools and expertise to help. A team led by Senior Project Manager Jim Craft donated its time to work with the Y2Y directors and the designers to provide an estimate, a target budget, spearhead a design-assist process, and ask Skanska’s trade contractor partners to pitch in for labor and material donations. In all, the stakeholders donated $350,000 worth of labor and materials to the project.
A Skanska team member signs her name to the shelter’s dry wall next to the motto: “Hope is here” at the project’s groundbreaking event.
The shelter opened just a few weeks ago and now provides 22 beds to homeless young adults between 18 and 24 years old. The shelter also includes a daytime “drop-in” center, where guidance and training services for the betterment of homeless and disadvantaged Cambridge youth. “They can’t go to adult shelters because they get eaten alive there,” City Councilor Marc McGovern told The Boston Globe. “These kids really don’t have a place, even in Cambridge, where they can go and feel safe.” Y2Y Harvard Square will be that place.
The construction encompassed renovating a 4,300-square-foot space in the basement of the First Parish Church in Cambridge. The space includes a medical office, management office, lounge area and function room. The renovation also included: installing new sprinklers, new lighting, and new kitchen equipment, repairing the HVAC system, and an upgrading the fire alarm system. The shelter is projected to serve 130 youth in the first year alone and will offer day-time services as well as an overnight shelter. These services will provide young people with immediate sanctuary, pathways out of homelessness, and opportunities for advocacy and leadership development. “Young people who are homeless are more recent to being homeless. They’re in crisis,” Y2Y’s Greenberg told the Boston Business Journal. As such, Greenberg added, providing newly homeless youth these services “can be a critical intervention point.”
The Skanska team joined Senator Elizabeth Warren at Y2Y’s opening celebration.
One of the project’s unique building challenges was incorporating donations from the community, said Skanska Project Manager Carolyn Jamison who was a part of the Y2Y team. “Individuals and companies have been so lovely and offered to provide numerous donated items but unless they fit seamlessly into the design, precious time and money can be expended in the effort to incorporate these items. Finding that balance between making the required adjustments to repurpose a donated item versus sticking with the original plan can be difficult. It was a tight schedule and it was so important that we opened by November. We needed the shelter to be running before winter comes!”
Design challenges aside, Jamison said she is inspired to work on Y2Y because of her own experience seeing homelessness in the city. “You can’t spend that much time in Cambridge without being impacted by the homeless situation,” she said. “We like to build things that matter, and it’s always great when you get an opportunity to combine construction with something more altruistic and serves a greater purpose.”
How are you #BuildingWhatMatters? Share your stories with us on Twitter @SkanskaUSA.
Skanska’s involvement with Envision started four years ago when I cold called Harvard University’s Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure, one of the collaborators behind this sustainable infrastructure rating tool.
I had heard about Envision, which was not yet rolled out, and it greatly interested me: After all, it seemed only natural that infrastructure be sustainable, and therefore that we should seek to minimize negative effects on communities and the environment while pushing to maximize resiliency, public benefits and flexibility over generations of use. Skanska’s desire to be a leader in green construction motivated me to share with company leaders what Envision meant for our industry, and how our company might support this initiative, which aligns with the Skanska Color Palette strategic green business framework.
Fast forward to today, and Envision is quickly becoming the industry standard by which to measure, guide and improve the long-term sustainability of civil infrastructure. Skanska’s senior leaders see the value in Envision, and have made it a priority to target Envision certification on key design-build projects, such as the I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership highway undertaking in Orlando, Fla. Even more, we have further demonstrated our commitment to Envision by becoming a charter member of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), the non-profit now managing the system.
Orlando’s I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership stands to be among the largest and highest-ranked projects certified by the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system.
Envision’s next phase will extend it beyond its current planning and design focus and into construction. To that end, ISI is drafting a Construction Module that focuses on key issues during the relatively short typical construction duration; such issues include reducing excavated material taken offsite and mitigating temporary noise impacts. This will build upon big-picture topics such as climate adaptability and alternative transportation covered by the current Envision version. ISI has set up technical workgroups in each of the five Envision credit areas to review this module – I am heading up the Resource Allocation workgroup. Additionally, I am leading the Construction Workgroup that is overseeing the entire Construction Module, including the credit reviews done by the five workgroups. It is quite the honor to be involved with redefining the boundaries of design and construction in this way, and in addition my colleague Beth Heider, Skanska USA’s chief sustainability officer, also has a role to play in all this by contributing her expertise to ISI’s Envision Review Board, which provides general oversight for Envision.
Envision’s real power is that by following its guidelines – which are a list of best practices – you help positively shape projects. This leads to environmental benefits, certainly, but it also aids project teams in better mitigating risks, more efficiently managing resources, lowering costs through operational efficiency, and delivering projects that best meet both client and public needs. The actual certification at the end is an ancillary benefit. Even with Envision providing so much value, I spend a great deal of effort dispelling misconceptions, including that Envision is just about the environment, or that it adds costs, or that it’s only a paper exercise or a marketing tool with no value to core design and construction activities. Skanska is committed to Envision, and beyond my ISI responsibilities going forward I will be playing an integral role in leading Skanska’s Envision efforts.
It’s been very gratifying to see the quick pace at which the Envision system has been adopted. What provides me with even more motivation is knowing that the work I and others are doing really is improving how U.S. infrastructure is designed and built, resulting in even more benefits to local communities. Envision is truly a way to Build What Matters.
“Home is where the heart is,” or as our California colleagues learned firsthand when they built a home for a Mexican family in need, “El hogar es donde está el corazón.” This #BuildingWhatMatters story illustrates the impact building can have not only on a family, but a community.
Some Skanska projects take years and thousands of people to complete. A recent project in Tijuana, Mexico, took just 40 people and one day.
Don’t let a short timeline fool you, though. This service project, while of a smaller magnitude than a typical Skanska hospital or highway build, will have a lasting impact.
On June 20, about 40 Skanska employees and friends volunteered their time to build a small home in Tijuana for the De Leon Estradas, a local family of six. It was a long day: the team left their southern California homes as early as 4 a.m. to meet the staff with Corazón – the nonprofit organization that coordinated the project– and take a bus across the border. They wouldn’t get home until about 7:30 that night.
When our team arrived at the home site, they were met by a slab foundation and a pile of lumber. But they weren’t totally starting from scratch: they had already planned how to proceed, with help from Corazon and the De Leon Estrada family and friends who participated in the build as well.
As soon as the volunteer team arrived at the site, they quickly began executing the plans to build the complete one-bedroom home that measures 16 feet by 20 feet. As the hot sun started to rise, the group laid pieces out against the dry dirt and fence. Some started painting. Others started to assemble.
“Everything happened fast,” said Mike Cherry, Skanska senior preconstruction director. “People were building the kitchen counter as the walls were being put up.”
While speed was important to complete the project in time, our colleagues also worked to ensure it was an injury-free day. Besides the pre-planning and morning Stretchand-Flex exercises, they incorporated an innovative scaffolding system that improved the safety of roof access.
The project went quickly and the one-bedroom home was completed by 2:45 p.m. when the keys were presented to the De Leon Estrada family. The build out included everything but electricity and plumbing, which the De Leon Estrada’s will add themselves or with the help of the local Corazon community.
The Skanska team and the De Leon Estrada family is all smiles after completing the build.
Cherry said this project meant something different from previous charity initiatives.
“If Skanska didn’t show up that morning, the family wouldn’t have a home that fit their needs,” he said. “We built this for the right reason, while working as one Skanska team.”
Jenn Allen, Corazon executive director, explained the impact this new home would have for the De Leon Estradas, who participate in the Corazon Community by helping not only build their home, but homes for others in Tijuana as well.
“We believe that when people are given an opportunity to build something life changing – safe shelter for themselves and their family, education and training to get a job, life skills to improve their personal and family life – amazing things happen,” said Allen. “Those on the receiving end feel empowered and gain strength and courage. And those giving are deeply moved by the tangible impact they are making on people’s lives.”
The family explained their involvement in Corazon and the importance of this new home to them in this video before the project began:
This was the second consecutive year a Skanska team traveled to Tijuana to help a family in need. On May 14, 2016 we will be back again.
“This day has come to mean so much to us.” Cherry said.
How are you #BuildingWhatMatters? Share your stories with us on Twitter @SkanskaUSA.