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Behind the Build: Interview with Brian Marrone, Project Engineer, Lendlease

In this week’s “Behind the Build” spotlight, we go behind the scenes with Brian Marrone, Project Engineer for Lendlease. Working for the multinational construction, property and infrastructure company’s New York office, Brian primarily works on building high rise rental and condo buildings. In our interview, he shares the specific challenges of working in New York City as well as how he uses technology for quality control on projects.

What brought you to construction?

I come from a family of bricklayers and my father was a superintendent and he also works for Lendlease. You can say working in construction is in my blood.

I love construction because it’s simple; you build something out of nothing and it’s an art form. I come from a photography background where there’s a lot of creativity. I try to take that into construction and make it into its own art form.

What kind of projects have you worked on recently?

I’ve been working on the same project for the past two years called 250 South Street. It’s a 72-story condo building that’s about 1.3 million square feet with 100,000 square feet of amenities–it’s a big job.

What are some of the more complicated aspects of projects like the one you’re working on now?

As we build, design changes are likely to happen. It’s very important that we stay up to date with the drawings so we don’t build the wrong thing. Staying up to date with all the new ASI drawings that come out is crucial so that our subcontractors stay on board with what we’re building and how we’re building it.

Scheduling and the amenities are also very tricky components of the project. It’s not typical as opposed to the other phases of construction which go floor after floor. Amenities are room by room. There’s very little room for mistakes as you can’t correct anything.

What’s the most challenging part about working in construction?

The hardest part about working in construction is dealing with the weather and logistical issues, like loading, traffic, cold weather, warm weather, high winds and other elements. Weather can throw your perfect plans to the wind–no pun intended.

How do you deal with the factors out of your control?

You almost have to be a weatherman, day to day. You constantly track, “Well, what’s going to happen on Wednesday”, on Monday. You have to look ahead and think about things like which direction the wind will come from. For instance, we do a lot of projects off the water, which can hurt us quite a bit because we have to stop running the hoist if winds are at 35 miles an hour. If you have a delivery and the wind kicks up, you might be waiting on that material for a long time because you can’t take it up.

There’s a lot of curve balls that are thrown your way in construction. It takes creativity and the ability to roll with the punches. That’s what makes it fun, but also very challenging.

Why does Lendlease use PlanGrid?

At Lendlease, the main use for PlanGrid is quality assurance, quality control and punch lists. We even use it in the rough punch list phase. For instance, we can have 815 apartments to finish and it gets confusing. You can be at your best but you can still think, “Which was it A or D?” PlanGrid helps with specific lists to consolidate tasks and make things simpler.

One of my main QC roles is to basically go into the apartments and check, is everything in the wall that needs to be on the wall. It’s a simple as, “Is the outlet in the right place? Do they have everything wired up correctly? Do they have the right fireproofing around that box?” If you can mark it down on a visual plan, it makes handing it off to that next person who has to go in and do the work much simpler.

How has the use of PlanGrid impacted how you work with other project stakeholders?

When you first started construction what do you wish you would have known that you know today?

What I wish I would’ve known is that building is truly in the drawings. What I mean by that is, if you look hard enough in the details and the elevations, it’s either there or it’s not. One of my bosses told me that and it’s always true. Whether the detail is there or if it’s not, it’s always going to lead to the next process, the next stage of getting that answer, getting that dimension, getting the finish, etc. Sometimes I would ask more questions, but I would realize that I could just dig deeper and spend a little more time looking through the drawings to find the answer that I needed to move forward.

At the end of a long week, what makes you feel like you’ve been successful?

At the end of the week, I would say that I feel most successful having turned over another floor, ready to close up, ready to sheetrock. In turn, that means it’s ready for the next guy, ready for the ceilings and then ready for flooring. We have a very tight schedule and every day is so precious. Just getting it done that week and maybe even a day ahead of schedule feels very fulfilling.

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