February 15, 2019
December 21, 2018
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.
November 14, 2018
“All you can take with you is that which you give away”—even if you haven’t seen the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, these are still great words to live by. Throughout the year and especially around the holidays, Sundt employee-owners make a point to give back to the communities where they live and work. Here are just a few of the many holiday drives that our people have participated in across the country, spreading cheer and helping people in need. Thanks to all who contributed.
Sundt employee-owners in Sacramento and Monterey (incl. our project team at the Sac State Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex), participated in the Sacramento Sheriff’s Toy Drive for children across the region—and had loads of fun while they were at it!
Our San Antonio office, San Pedro Creek project team and I-10 Old Fred project team donated to a holiday toy drive for the Rainbow Room, an organization that serves children in Child Protective Services. Also, Sundt employee-owners in San Antonio held their annual coat drive this month. They doubled the number of coats donated this year to Haven for Hope.
Sundt’s Irvine office and area projects hosted a toy drive for CHiPs for Kids, which has been hosted by the California Highway Patrol for the past 30 years.
Our San Diego office partnered with Support the Enlisted Project (STEP), an organization that sponsors enlisted families in need during the holiday season, and we were able to sponsor a total of 10 families.
Sundt’s HACEP (Housing Authority of the City of El Paso) project team donated $1,000 to the 51st Annual Senior Citizen Holiday Event, benefiting over 400 senior citizens living in affordable housing. Employee-owners from our El Paso office also volunteered their time for two nights to prepare and serve turkey dinners.
Our Fort Worth office participated in a canned food drive for the Tarrant Area Food Bank. Each month, TAFB and its partners provide groceries and/or meals to more than 53,000 households.
Sundt employee-owners in Tucson gathered toys and gifts for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and participated in a blood drive with the American Red Cross.
The Sundt Foundation donated $20,000 to St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix; our Tempe and Phoenix offices participated in the Arizona Builders Alliance Toy Drive, which helped over 1,200 children; and we “adopted” 25 children and four college students from Sunshine Acres and helped fulfill their personal wish lists.
May 16, 2018
Sundt Construction’s Jon McKelvain presented at Texan by Nature‘s (TxN’s) first annual Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration last month in Dallas, Texas at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The summit brought together more than 200 Texas leaders to discuss the beneficial connections between business and conservation, and to highlight the best Texan-led conservation projects in the state. Topics ranged from addressing light pollution, to oil drilling with a smaller footprint, to using man-made wetlands to treat reclaimed water while serving as a habitat for wildlife. With all of the ideas presented, it was evident that Texans, by nature, are creative and community-minded people, and when they come together amazing things can happen.
Jon McKelvain, Vice President and Preconstruction Manager for Sundt’s Building Group, Texas District, spoke on engaging employees and the community, covering a broad range of Sundt projects and initiatives that exemplified industry best practices. “As a company, we empower our people to get out in the community and work with causes they believe in,” Jon said. “Also, we try to select projects that will have wide-reaching positive impacts on the surrounding area. There’s a lot of work out there to be won, but we’re passionate about pursuing the right projects.” Among many such projects, Jon covered a few high-profile examples.
Jon speaking on the Ocotillo Water Reclamation Facility, where technological innovation allows for smaller footprint and reduced sludge production. Sundt’s work increased service capacity to allow for community growth, and the water was made available for aquifer recharge, industrial use and irrigation.
In San Antonio, Texas, Sundt created a world-class linear park and public gathering space for an underserved community at San Pedro Creek, which became the focal point of the city’s 300-year anniversary celebration. “Think about it,” Jon said. “Before, that was basically just a concrete drainage ditch. Now, it’s a new park that’s improving flood control and serving as wildlife habitat and recreational space, with an anticipated $1-billion impact on the area.” Additionally, Sundt’s work on APS Four Corners in Farmington, New Mexico allowed for significant reduction in the power plant’s emission of greenhouse gasses, while also providing jobs and long-term economic benefits for the local Navajo Nation.
Other key projects were discussed, as well as the impact of the Sundt Foundation, which has given more than $8.6 million in grants to local charities and nonprofits since 1999, nearly half of which has come directly from Sundt employee-owners. Speaking on Sundt’s behalf about who we are and who we want to be as a company, Jon shared several instances of best practices with a focus on community and sustainability.
TxN founder, former first lady Laura W. Bush, addresses the crowd. The nonprofit brings conservation and business together, supporting efforts that are Texan-led, community-organized and data-based.
TxN’s goal is to amplify conservation projects and to activate new investment in research and conservation, which returns real benefits for people, prosperity and natural resources. “The whole premise behind Texan by Nature is that conservation is just good business, and it improves everyone’s quality of life,” Jon said. And true prosperity, as Jon pointed out, goes well beyond material wealth. For Sundt, a company whose purpose centers around creating prosperity for the communities where we live and work, this is an effort in which we’re proud to take part.
May 10, 2018
A crane puts the 145,000-pound auger cast pile drill rig into place at the Canopy Hilton River Walk site.
We will use every bit of our skill to successfully build the Canopy Hilton River Walk, a 22-story hotel in downtown San Antonio on a zero lot line. We crossed one of our first big milestones May 6 when we placed the drill rig into the 20-foot-deep excavation hole.
Our team arrived by 5:30 a.m. and started the process of placing traffic barricades that closed Commerce and St. Mary’s streets. The 500-ton crane and its eight supporting semis carrying rigging and counterweights arrived at 6:30 a.m. and were positioned. An hour later, the auger cast pile drill rig, which weighs 145,000 pounds, arrived and parked at its lift position. It took three hours to position the crane in the intersection, place the outrigger dunning mats and set counterweights.
The operation took weeks of coordination, especially given the tight surroundings. Tall buildings, including a 24-story hotel across the street, fill the area, and the process of coordinating the closure of two busy downtown intersections took planning and constant updates to all stakeholders in the immediate area. Stakeholders included several hotels, businesses, and a church one block to the north.
“The team put a great deal of time and effort into this operation,” said Project Engineer Anthony Pallini. “We spent months planning the logistics with numerous entities in order to make sure that we were not missing key components of the undertaking. It was truly a Sundt team effort as the Texas Building District and Concrete Division relied on each other’s strengths to develop and execute the critical lift.”
Pedestrians are always around, but during the lift, foot traffic was kept away from the jobsite.
“When you shut streets down and put a crane in the middle of a busy intersection it’s going to attract people,” Senior Project Manager Fred Galvan said. “Also on a Sunday morning, we had to consider there’s a church one block down and the worship service occurred during our operation.”
The drill rig will be removed in June and the same process to install will be reversed using lessons learned from this first phase. In July, the project tower crane will arrive and take three days to put together. The hook height of the tower crane will be 306 feet, giving us two cranes in the San Antonio skyline. The second is located at the CPS Energy Headquarters project.
Click here to watch the project’s progress.
One of our vendors shows the CPS Energy crew why an extinguisher with just water is bad for a propane fire.
Putting out fires at work or home requires the proper equipment. Being prepared can make the difference between life and death or, at the very least, help avoid property damage.
Our team at the CPS Energy Headquarters project in San Antonio got a firsthand look when AmPro, one of our safety equipment suppliers, put on an extinguisher demonstration earlier this week. AmPro is one of several Sundt partners who have shared their expertise during National Safety Week. This is our fourth consecutive year we have been an event sponsor.
In the demonstration of what not to do, the AmPro representative used a Type A extinguisher, filled with water, to douse a propane fire. No luck. It was a prime example of using the wrong equipment for the task.
“The reason it didn’t go out is propane fires are continuously fueled,” said Senior Field Superintendent Shawn Werner.
There are extinguishers for all kinds of fires.
Type A: materials like cloth, wood and paper.
Type B: combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based paints.
Type C: electrical equipment like appliances, tools or other equipment that is plugged in.
Type D: flammable metals.
Type K: vegetable oils, animal oils and fats in cooking appliances.
We use Type A-B-C extinguishers at our sites because they contain dry chemical powder that puts out most common fires. Home improvement stores carry multipurpose extinguishers that cover Class A through Class C.
Make sure your home and workplace are armed with the right equipment in case of a fire. For more information, please visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website.