In this week’s “Behind the Build” spotlight, we go behind the scenes with Walker Palmer, Director of Construction for Live Oak Contracting. Walker has been working in the construction industry for 18 years. In our interview, he shares more about some of his first experiences working in construction and how the fast-paced environment has kept his interest in the industry.
What first got you into construction?
I started building and renovating with my grandfather at a young age. Working with him inspired me to pursue the industry as a career.
Why do you continue to build today?
I love the fast pace nature of construction. Every project is different and that keeps every day interesting.
What do you remember from your first experiences on a jobsite?
My first real commercial experience was working for a general contractor that self-performed most of the general trades. The first day the superintendent handed me a shovel and laid out four each 4’x4’x4′ footings that needed to be dug. I asked if I could use the backhoe and he said, “no these need to be dug by hand due to the utilities in the area.”
Highly disgruntled, I proceeded to dig. Mind you, this was in Florida with temperatures in the upper 90’s and humidity at 100%–hot is an understatement. But I put my head down and finished the holes over a two day period. Proud of my accomplishments, I went back to the super and said, “I am all done, sir!” He didn’t even blink when he says, “Fill them in, the holes are in the wrong place.” Begrudgingly, I began to fill the holes in.
About an hour later the super came back to me and asked me to stop. Biting my tongue, I did. He begins to tell me that the owner of the construction company sent me out there and he didn’t think I would cut it since I was the owner’s family friend. He shook my hand, said my interview was over and that he was happy to have me on his team. I worked with him for the next 14 years and still have his respect to this day.
Moral to the story, is there are things that no one wants to do, but hard work is always respected in this industry.
What do you love most about the industry?
I love the ever-changing atmosphere. Products changes, techniques change and people change.
You have to draw from your experience to be able to change with the industry.
How has technology changed the way you work in construction?
Over the last 18 years, I’ve seen technology streamline information, expedite delivery and increase accountability in construction.
How did you first start using PlanGrid?
We started using PlanGrid one year ago when I kept seeing a growing issue with the field not reading or researching the contract documents. Our industry is going through a cycle of increased volume with less qualified labor than ever. Design professionals are spending less time designing systems and more time “cutting and pasting” due to the increased volume of work and decreased design budgets. I was looking for a solution to help field staff have a tool that showed the workforce how to construct.
How does Live Oak Contracting benefit most from PlanGrid?
To me, the greatest benefit across our company is the efficiency in which information can be located. For instance, PlanGrid’s Search it is a very powerful tool. I oversee no less than 10 projects at one time. Being able to have the most current drawings for all of my projects on my surface or iPad is a significant benefit over searching folder after folder looking for the latest version or revision. Also, with my sheet count over 3,000, I found myself searching just to find the correct page. Now with PlanGrid and the use of the search function, I am able to find details and sections in seconds just by typing in one keyword.
What recommendations would you share with the next generation of builders?
Be open to change, learn from your mistakes, and be willing to work hard to find solutions to challenges.