February 15, 2019
April 7, 2017
Senior Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Manager Mark Epstein was recently named among ENR Texas & Louisiana’s 2019 Top Young Professionals. After completing two concurrent master’s degrees in architecture and construction management at Washington University in St. Louis in 2010, Mark accepted his first position as a project engineer with a construction management firm. He later moved into an architecture role with Gensler in Austin, Texas, where he spent three years learning to produce high-quality construction documents and eventually became a project manager. Soon after, a friend introduced Mark to Sundt Construction in San Antonio, where he now leads our BIM and VDC strategies. Mark is advancing Sundt’s technology capabilities with a full immersion of the Texas Building Group into BIM and VDC processes. Part of his goal is to strengthen communication between the office and field, and better transform concept into reality. But there’s a lot more to Mark and to his work than meets the eye.
With your unique background in both construction and architecture, what drew you to Sundt, and how is it being back in construction?
The transition back to construction has been really refreshing. It’s been good to get on the jobsite and touch and feel the work—not just in the digital form or detail form on paper, but to be out around the work, the people performing it, and then to learn from their expertise. Some of these guys have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. I have a huge amount to learn, and I appreciate that. On the contractor side, there’s that ability to learn and people’s willingness to teach and take you under their wing, and in architecture I’d say it’s just much more limited in that regard. So, yeah, it’s been a great transition.
Speaking of that dynamic, how has the team in San Antonio taken you in and supported you in your role?
The leadership down here is incredible. Eric Hedlund and Todd Calder have really high aspirations for what they want us to do, but at the same time they provide us with the resources that we need to do it. That, to me, shows that they’re serious about accomplishing these goals. When I came to San Antonio, they knew I had an architecture background; I was working with “backbone” technologies like Revit and Navisworks, which are cross-disciplinary for the architecture and contractor side. So, they’re leveraging that experience to build upon what they want to achieve with technology here, and they’ve been extremely supportive.
What are some innovative things you’ve been working on recently, things that you get excited about?
Well, I give credit again to the leadership and resources that Sundt has provided. Dominic Daughtrey with the Continuous Improvement Department has gotten me up and running with a drone fleet here, so that’s been a great way to explore technology and implementation. You’ve got the hardware aspect, but then you also have the data and deliverables to manage and distribute. That’s been a real game-changer to experience how that data can affect how we do work on site, you know, bridging that gap from computer to the field. That’s not necessarily the most innovative thing in the world, but it’s just been eye-opening to see where else it can go, for example, taking that jump from basic drone flights to importing footage into augmented reality applications and 4D scheduling.
But, you know, the innovation isn’t the tech itself; the innovation is how we’re deploying the hardware and software packages with our project teams. It’s helping project engineers, managers, and superintendents understand how technology can help them do their job, to be safer and more efficient, to have less rework. I mean, you can hire a “tech person” or a few “tech people” in this role. But that’s not what we’re doing here; we’re infiltrating the jobsite with this tech, having superintendents and project engineers know it, and having people at the project level buy into technology as a comprehensive approach. We’ve actually got a guy here, age 60, who’s really excited about using 4D scheduling—not to sound ageist, but across the industry, you have a lot of construction veterans who typically don’t want to learn that stuff. But when we have people here buying in, that’s a big deal. To me, that’s innovation. That’s success.
April 4, 2017
Sundt Senior Project Engineer Chris Elison.
Sundt Senior Project Engineer Chris Elison has been with the company for nine years, getting a job after serving an internship as a student at Arizona State University. He graduated from ASU in 2008 with a degree in Construction Management.
Chris was Acting Project Manager on the Valley Metro Northwest Extension, a light-rail project that recently won two Build America Awards, considered the Oscars of the construction industry.
He and his wife were married in 2013 and celebrated the birth of their first child in January. Chris was born in Philadelphia and raised in Minnesota before moving to Arizona to attend college.
The project you just completed, the Valley Metro Northwest Extension, won two Build America Awards for the joint venture team. How did the team earn those honors?
The project was highly complex in an urban environment, but as a team we took the time to understand the needs and expectations of Valley Metro, the City of Phoenix and local stakeholders. In order to complete the project, innovative techniques and outside the box thinking were used, including GPS/Building Information Modeling on the excavator for utility work and the creation of a smart phone app to help distribute information to the community. We were able to finish the project ahead of schedule and on budget. In addition, the team had a highly successful partnership due to partnering sessions, team building and being co-located.
What’s your next project?
I will be on the Gilbert Road Light Rail Extension working with Valley Metro and Stacy and Witbeck again. It is a 1.6-mile extension running from the current end of the line in Mesa to Gilbert Road on Main Street.
What’s the most interesting thing about working in construction?
Every day poses a new and interesting challenge and no two days are alike.
You and your wife had a baby not that long ago. How has that changed your life?
It has changed my perspective on life and my priorities have changed. I put my daughter’s needs before my own. We are also very, very, very tired.
Where do you like to travel?
My wife and I are big fans of warm weather, beaches and umbrella drinks. These are some of the reasons we chose to have a destination wedding in Mexico, one of our favorite places. Some of our other favorite places include Hawaii, Jamaica and St. Lucia. We also enjoy cruising the Caribbean.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I remember my dad telling me, “Establishing trust is a long journey, losing trust is a short trip and earning that lost trust back is a lifetime.”
March 24, 2017
Arizona residents are passionate about improving education in their state. The strength of our classrooms has a direct impact on the health of our communities.
Expect More Arizona is a nonprofit advocacy organization working to ensure every child receives an excellent education. Expect More Arizona’s priorities include early literacy, teacher recruitment and retention, post-secondary attainment and more.
Today is Arizona Gives Day, an important opportunity to support the meaningful work of great organizations such as Expect More Arizona. Sundt has contributed $5,000 to support the cause of improved education and workforce development.
Private support makes it possible for Expect More Arizona to raise awareness of important education issues and create opportunities to support students and teachers locally and statewide.
Learn more about the organization or donate here.
March 23, 2017
Sundt Area Safety Manager Jerri Dragt.
Area Safety Manager Jerri Dragt has been with Sundt for 16 years. She is responsible for administering and managing safety matters in all areas of the company. She manages and directs Project Safety Representatives and conducts safety audits, inspections and training, provides assistance and support to site personnel concerning safety matters, and investigates and monitors accidents, incidents and claims.
She provides staff support to line management/supervision on safety and loss prevention programs, ensures each jobsite in her area maintains a safe work environment under the guidelines of the company program and governmental requirements, and assists with employee relations and safety training of field personnel.
How prevalent is the “Safety by Choice” culture at Sundt?
“Safety by Choice” has become a familiar phrase for everyone. Everyone understands the concept of going home to their families every day without injury or worse and “Safety by Choice” is a reminder of why we choose to work safe. The choices we make all day, every day determine if we get to go home to our families.
What’s the best way to measure safety at a construction company?
There are many ways to measure safety in construction, but most are lagging indicators that are not too helpful in prevention of accidents. I’m really excited about our new Sundt Construction Analytics App. As we feed it information, it will help determine which tasks have more risk and will help us understand how to reduce accidents before they occur. This is how we will get to zero accidents, which is our goal.
Who have been your best professional role models?
I have had many role models in my lifetime, the first being my parents. They owned a heating/air conditioning business for 30 years so my two brothers and I learned the meaning of work ethic very young in life. They preached safety because if one of us got hurt we were not only employees, but family. Because of them, the concept of employees being family has stayed with me throughout my career. I was given the opportunity to move into the safety field by Frank Flanders, the Plant Manager for Arizona Electric Power Cooperative. He felt I would do well in the new safety role and provided me with the training necessary to take over the Safety/Training Supervisor role when my predecessor left the company a year later. Frank believed in me and mentored me not only on safety and power plant operations, but on how to appreciate different personalities and how to work with people and get their buy-in to safety.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I am addicted to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum female detective series. There are 22 books in the series so far and I have read every one. I buy them ahead of time online so I have access to them as soon as they are released. My family knows that when one arrives they won’t see me until I’m done with the book. I love to be entertained by books. I like mysteries, self-help books and historical novels, but will read anything that looks interesting.
By Michael Morales
Sundt Talent Acquisition & University Relations Specialist
Thousands of construction management students are getting ready for summer internships. Preparing for the summer can bring on nerves, but it can also bring opportunities to showcase your talents and leave a lasting impression that will pay dividends starting your career.
Here are a few thoughts on what could ensure that you have a successful internship whether at Sundt or another general contractor.
Questions, Questions, Questions!
Mentors and supervisors agree that it’s important for interns to ask questions. This is encouraged from Day 1. How else can you continue to learn and grow in the industry? Don’t be afraid to ask. We are there to help, guide, and train you to prepare for a career after graduation.
It’s been said you hire on character and train skill. This could not be more true with our internship program. Maintain a high level of professionalism and respect for your co-workers. Help others and remember safety is our No. 1 priority. Don’t be afraid to speak up!
Little Things Can Be Big
The little things … showing up on time, listening to understand, being positive, being consistent, etc. They create the “big picture.” Don’t be the intern who is unreliable, shows up late, and has a “don’t care” attitude. Practice makes permanent, so if you are not doing these things, now is a great time to start.
I wish everyone a great summer internship. Enjoy the experience, have fun and ask questions.