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.
October 18, 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.
September 28, 2018
“I’ll support anything that supports our people,” says Dominic Daughtrey, Continuous Improvement (CI) Program Manager at Sundt. Dominic spoke at the Bluebeam Extreme Conference (XCON) in Austin, Texas last month, where he shared about Sundt’s use of drone technology and our pilot program with the Raken Daily Reporting App. Dominic has over 17 years of experience in the field, going back to his start as a concrete laborer when he was just 18. In other words, he understands the issues faced on a jobsite every day: “You need to have proximity to people’s problems to have empathy with them.” These problems were the focus of Sundt’s pilot program using the Raken app, which is becoming a success story of new technology simplifying—not further complicating—people’s day-to-day jobs.
Dominic Daughtrey presenting at the Bluebeam Extreme Conference in Austin, TX
Some issues our CI team identified across projects were: a) a lack of value from daily reports and b) an increasing number of tasks placed on the superintendent position. “I call the superintendent ‘the forgotten man (or woman)’” says Dominic. “They’re asked to do a lot more than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago, but they’re given the same old tools.” One area in need of improvement across jobsites is the daily reporting process, which includes lots of paper-based forms and manual data entry. The reports are not that important per se—that is, until there’s a delay, or dispute, or a claim that requires a paper trail. “So, you have these highly trained and well-paid professionals spending a good chunk of their day checking boxes, instead of being present on site.” Or, when daily reports aren’t done right (or done at all), small ambiguities can morph into bigger conflicts, which can become slowdowns or even legal disputes.
Project Superintendent Dave Storvis, a third-generation 35-year construction veteran, who uses the Raken app
Using the Raken app, however, our pilot sites are seeing value from their daily reports, less miscommunications, and more capacity at various levels. “We have multiple roles out in the field feeding notes and photos into an automated system, and we’re seeing people freed up to do their jobs better,” Dominic says. Another benefit is the app’s dashboard: “Here I am at this conference, and I can pull up a jobsite on my phone or laptop and see all of these insights. And I’m 400 miles away.” Still, the cool factor isn’t the rationale; on top of streamlining daily reports, the app offers better coordination with subcontractors, more detailed reports to executives and owners, and a host of other practical improvements. “One of our goals in the CI program is ‘Disciplined Innovation,’” Dominic explains. “Getting a ‘thumbs-up’ on some fancy new technology doesn’t really give us anything. We’re looking for data that can drive business decisions.” With that end in mind, Sundt looks to keep investing in tech and best practices that let our people do what we do best: being builders.
Public parks play a huge role in shaping the social fabric of a community. The new Eastside Regional Park in El Paso, Texas is a case in point, and Sundt is proud to partner with the city to create public space that will enhance El Pasoans’ quality of life. Last month, Sundt broke ground on Phase 1 of the park amid much fanfare from the city and local community, who eagerly await the project’s completion in early 2020.
Phase 1′s natatorium will house a 50-Meter competition-ready pool with all the required amenities to host regional meets at this facility, including seating for up to 800 spectators and pool deck space for 400 competitors.
Much of the buzz surrounding this project comes from its sheer scope and the number of amenities offered to the public. The three-part complex will include an indoor natatorium with an Olympic-size, competition-ready pool and diving well; a multi-generational community center with a gymnasium and multipurpose classrooms; and an outdoor neighborhood waterpark with waterslides, cabana-style shade areas, a lazy river, a water play lot, a climbing wall pool, and El Paso’s first wave simulator. All of these facilities will be surrounded by a landscaped walking path and public art.
Main entry lobby and mezzanine level with access to natatorium spectator seating and the fitness center/running track on the gym side. Both the natatorium and community center have goals of LEED Silver certification.
Describing how much this project means to the community, Senior Estimator Rudy Barba explained how El Paso is divided into three distinct areas: the Franklin Mountains separate West El Paso and Downtown, and Fort Bliss divides Downtown from East El Paso. “There’s just nothing like this on the east side of town,” Rudy said. The city’s center has undergone several improvements, but historically the east side has been an under-served area and hasn’t received as much attention. “But things are changing. This new park is going to attract people from all over town,” Rudy said. “It’s not just a new space for the swimming community, it’s going to be a gathering place for families and people of all ages.”
An aerial view rendering showing the main entry and waterpark.
From the start of the bid process to the first phase of construction, Sundt has maintained a high degree of collaboration and attention to detail. “We take pride in our thoroughness, especially when it comes to delivering that ‘wow factor’ the owner wants while also staying within budget,” said Project Director Joe Riccillo. “As a trusted partner and advisor, we’re working hard to cultivate our relationship with the City of El Paso and other key clients in the region.”