All-Woman Precon Team Shines as Sundt Climbs ENR Top Design-Builders List

The first all-female design-build preconstruction team in Sundt’s Building Group, California District began precon work last fall on the Cal State Fullerton Student Housing Expansion project. Since this spring, COVID-19 has led to unprecedented changes for both universities and the builders who serve them. However, Precon Project Manager Mary Homan and her team have approached new challenges not as setbacks but as chances to grow and excel.

four women comprising CSU precon team stand in front of Sundt sign reading Skill, Grit, Purpose
From left to right: Sundt Preconstruction Project Manager Mary Homan, Estimator Elizabeth Tague, Lead Estimator Lamia Porter, and Estimator Jessica Beyer at Sundt’s office in San Diego, CA. (photo taken in January)

“When we received pricing mid-March, we had a huge budget bust,” said Mary. Heightened concerns around COVID-19 led trade partners and suppliers across Southern California to raise their prices. “We were at 75% schematic design but suddenly had to rethink several elements,” she explained. “In any other situation, we would’ve posted out in a conference room for days, working on value engineering with the architect and engineer, and coordinating with the owner. But the shelter-in-place order had just gone out, and we all had to work from home.”

People with deep design-build experience like Mary know that projects like this are a balancing act. They require an equal understanding of an owner’s needs and their budget, and a higher degree of flexibility and collaboration. What kept things moving—on what was now an even more fluid and fast-moving project—was her team’s chemistry and their willingness to adapt. “We put in some long hours from home. Between Jessica’s work on the MEP and fire scopes, Lamia’s on the building envelope, and my work to ensure we were designing to budget, together we were able to find $11 million and get very close to the original cost.”

architect's rendering of 600-bed, 186,500-square-foot Student Housing Expansion on CSU Fullerton Campus
The new 600-bed, 186,500-square-foot Student Housing Expansion project at CSU Fullerton is budgeted at $101 million. It will mark our fourth collaborative design-build student housing project within the CSU System and the 14th of 23 CSU campuses on which Sundt has performed work. 

Jessica Beyer is new to design-build delivery but is no stranger to learning fast and taking on new responsibilities. In 2010, she started at Sundt as a Project Administrator. Within five years, she was promoted to Estimator and Project Engineer roles, and now is an Estimator II. “Design-build isn’t as linear as other delivery methods; you have to ‘hurry up and wait’ sometimes, and you have to be patient as everyone works on their portion of the project,” said Jessica. “Our team has a lot of respect for each other. We’re able to appreciate one another’s strong suits.” Being on an all-woman team isn’t any different than her work on other teams within Sundt, she added, but it’s still pretty exciting. “There’s an understanding that I’ve got their backs and they’ve got mine. It’s just been a really rewarding experience.”

The team submitted their GMP on June 19th based on 100% Design Development drawings, and the Student Housing Expansion project is scheduled to break ground in November. Within higher education construction and several other markets, Sundt has been a design-build leader for over three decades, recently earning a ranking of 34 in ENR’s 2020 Top 100 Design-Build Firms List.