September 20, 2019
March 18, 2019
We’ve reached the final day of National Construction Appreciation Week, a time to spotlight the men and women of our industry whose job it is to build America. The general public may take them for granted or see only orange cones and traffic delays when they look at a jobsite. But the true impact that construction professionals have, from the infrastructure they build to the jobs they create, is fundamental to our communities’ quality of life.
In El Paso, Texas, Sundt is building multiple projects—both horizontal and vertical—that will shape the future of the city. These include Connect 54, a series of improvements to the US 54/IH10/IH110/LP 375 highway interchange, and the Blue Flame Housing Renovation Project for the Housing Authority of El Paso (HACEP). This week, we caught up with some of the people behind these projects.
Sundt carpenter Oscar Salais is building bridges on the TxDOT Connect 54 project.
Employee-Owner Oscar Salais is a carpenter on Connect 54, where he is building bridges literally from the ground up. What has he worked on so far? “Everything. From setting the footings, to the columns, caps, girders, jacks, 4x6’s, saddles, edge deck, foam, pre-cast panels, and now the paving on top,” Oscar said, “and I enjoy all of it—the whole process.”
Working for Sundt has not only provided Oscar a job he enjoys, but it’s given him an avenue where he can progress and improve himself as a professional. “Working for Sundt, you get to do new things or learn new things every day. The foremen support you and teach you things. And if you’re open-minded and stay ready for the opportunities that come to you, you can really grow.”
Downtown, just a couple miles west of the bridge deck Oscar and his team are about to pour, Sundt is renovating the iconic Blue Flame Building. Formerly a corporate office building for El Paso Natural Gas, the high-rise is being transformed into a mixed-use development that will feature affordable housing for elderly residents as well as new spaces for office and retail tenants.
Sundt field engineer Jennifer Peralta Carbajal is responsible for documentation and quality assurance on the Blue Flame renovation project.
Having sifted through stacks of RFIs, ASIs, submittals and the like, Jennifer knows all 17 floors of this building like the back of her hand. She has also been in constant communication with surrounding businesses, ensuring that Sundt is a good neighbor. “Every detail matters, and everything needs to go per the plan,” Jennifer said. “These new apartment units and tenant spaces are going to share history through the preserved walls and finishes. And overall, this will be an amazing place for people to live and work, and it’s going to add value to the downtown area and this community.”
March 8, 2019
Selected as one of the top 20 under 40 construction professionals by Engineering News Record (ENR) Southwest, Sundt Project Executive Garren Echols is certainly not new to the field. Garren started his career early, working for his father’s construction company 22 years ago. After serving as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army, he founded and operated two small construction companies and also traveled the globe for nearly a decade working for Parsons (technology-focused defense, security, and infrastructure firm). Not one for seeking the spotlight, Garren said he was surprised and honored to win the award, and he was glad to share some of his story.
With such a broad background in construction, what led you to your current role at Sundt?
I worked for Parsons basically traveling nonstop for ten years. My family was living overseas, and I wanted my daughter to be able to attend high school in the U.S. So, in many ways, I was ready to come home. When Sundt was beginning a high-rise project, some people reached out to me since I’d been building several towers with my previous company. So, I came back to Phoenix and joined Sundt doing similar work as a project executive, and it’s been an awesome fit.
Of all the projects you’ve worked on in your career, which one is the most memorable?
The Union Tempe project has been my most enjoyable project in 20 years, just because it felt like a family; it was never an adversarial relationship with owner, architect, engineer, and contractor. I made a lot of lifetime relationships and friendships. The most unique project I’ve worked on, though, was a giant desalination plant in Iraq; it was extremely difficult. I had consultants and engineers across nine different countries. Language and the time schedule were tough—I was working 20-hour days sometimes just to be on nine different time zones. On top of that, the client was demanding, and the area was challenging. So, those two projects were the most notable for me.
On a similar note, what kind of work gives you the most pride?
Overall, I’d say the building projects, just for the image they leave behind. But I’ve also taken pride in the environmental clean-up projects I’ve done because those have had the most impact on the local community. Those aren’t as sexy—they’re very behind-the-scenes work, but they’re definitely fun and challenging. Buildings are kind of the opposite; they’re this cool thing you can drive past for decades and say, “I built that.” They signify the effort you put in, and they have an impact on the community as well.
What’s it like serving on the Sundt Ethics Committee, and how does that impact our operations?
I’m a member of the committee charged with making ethics more of a focal point for everyone, making it more than just an annual mandatory online class but really something that’s recognized in our day-to-day operations. This year, we’re rolling out monthly videos with “ethics shares”—like safety shares. Similar to our focus on safety, we want to keep ethics at the forefront of everything we do. I’m excited to be a part of it. Ethics are a big thing for me, coming from the Army and with my upbringing, and having worked internationally I’ve witnessed firsthand how important it is to have those standards in place. It’s kind of a fun fit; I’m able to leverage that past experience to educate people on things they might not consider.
One of Sundt’s core values is Community and Industry Service: what does it look like to live out that value?
In the Southwest District, we live and breathe our work, so we’re already very involved in the industry. But what impresses me about Sundt is how much our leadership supports us in our community efforts. As a Tempe Diablo with 40 other guys, we raise over $1 million a year for teachers, students and other community programs here in Tempe, and Sundt’s been a huge supporter. Anytime I put something on, they’ve been right behind us. And I like that—I think the people here are what really makes a difference, and what makes this feel like more than just a job.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Union Tempe was named Mixed-Use Project of the Year at the 2019 Real Estate and Development (RED) Awards this week, hosted by AZRE Magazine and AZ Big Media. Sundt Construction and Opus Development Group were proud to receive the award together, paying tribute to what was truly a collaborative effort from beginning to end.
(From left to right) Rich Gohl, Jim Drago, Kelly Wyllie, Larry Pobuda (Opus), Garren Echols, Brett Hopper (Opus) and Ryan Abbott accept the award for Mixed-Use Project of the Year for Union Tempe
“The reason these projects work,” said Ryan Abbott upon accepting the award, “is because of fantastic clients and partners. This team worked around the clock to make something amazing happen, and we’re very proud of them.” Representing our partner, Opus Development Group—who also won the Developer of the Year Award, Executive Vice President Larry Pobuda said, “I’d like to give a special thanks to Sundt Construction, for being an outstanding partner, and kudos to SmithGroup for their amazing design.”
Sundt Senior VP and Building Group Southwest District Manager Ryan Abbott addresses the crowd at the 2019 RED Awards
For the Union Tempe project, Sundt transformed a surface parking lot into a 407-unit residential and retail mixed-use development, covering an entire city block just north of Arizona State University’s campus. “Our work is embedded in the community. For a long time, Tempe has been a university town,” said Ryan Abbott, “and Union Tempe is one of those developments that allows the city to be more diverse, in that young professionals and families can now live, work, and play all within the very vibrant and walkable downtown of Tempe.”
Out of several award-winning projects, Union Tempe was selected as the cover for AZRE Magazine’s latest issue.
“We couldn’t have done this without our trade partners, including Wilson Electric and Walters and Wolf,” said Southwest Preconstruction Manager Rich Gohl. Rich, Ryan, and several fellow Sundt employee-owners and partners were on hand to celebrate this year’s event, joining a packed crowd of attendees from across the commercial real estate industry. The RED Awards highlight impressive projects completed in the past year, as well as the companies and people that make each project possible.
Other Sundt projects honored at the RED Awards included our work on Grandview Terrace, an independent living Sun Health Life Care community, as well as Harrah’s Ak-Chin Resort and Casino, which were named respectively as finalists for Healthcare and Hospitality.