In this week’s “Behind the Build” spotlight, we speak with Camille Hardin, Project Manager for Overaa Construction, a mid-sized general contractor based in the San Francisco Bay area. We recently interviewed her to learn more about why she made the switch from an architecture major to the field of construction management as well as the challenges she’s overcome in her career so far.
What does Overaa Construction specialize in?
We do a huge diversity of work and self-perform all of our concrete. We do everything from water treatment plants to refineries to parking structures. Anything with a lot of concrete is our bread and butter, but we will undertake any challenge. For instance, we’ve recently finished up a job at the Oakland Zoo and I’m now working on a healthcare project. A few months ago I was helping with a low-income housing, so it really shows how diverse our work is.
How did you start in the construction industry?
I’ve been in the construction industry for about six years. I started out as an architecture major at Cal Poly, but realized it wasn’t my passion. Since I was still interested in building, I realized construction management was a possibility. I ended up going the contractor route, and that’s how I ended up where I am today.
What got you more interested in construction management as opposed to the architectural route?
I was more interested in construction because I love to see things built. I like to have that tangible project rather than just the AutoCAD and virtual design. I realized that I’m really passionate to see things built, and I wanted to do something where I could be on site all day.
What keeps you up at night?
On a day to day basis, it’s usually project-oriented concerns. What do we need to do to keep the project moving forward? Whether it’s issues in the field or issues in the design, it’s making sure that our guys in the field have what they need to complete the work. If we’re working in pre-construction, it’s making sure our design team or subs have what they need. Overall, I’m focused on ensuring that everything moves forward on schedule.
What do you find to be the biggest time waste in the industry?
Overall, miscommunication seems to be one of the biggest time sucks – whether it’s with the owner, architect or even your own team. You’re constantly translating what you see on the plans and trying to bring that to a building in real life. It takes real time and if it’s not clear, you just waste more time trying to figure it out and interpret it the best you can. The lack of clarity and communication in the construction industry can cause a major drain on productivity.
Why does Overaa Construction use PlanGrid?
We use PlanGrid as our center for document control. We like to keep all of our plans there. Recently, on the zoo project, we were able to incorporate all of the drawings in one place – there were over a thousand documents.
Having all our files in one place, always in the cloud, gives us one thing less to worry about.
On the field side, being able to zoom in and examine a small detail on the sheet has been invaluable. We can give mobile devices to our workers in the field with PlanGrid and improve their efficiency, especially at the end of the project with the punch list feature when we have so many components to go through. Alternatively, getting the punch list in an Excel file and trying to go through it and telling the sub, “Okay, this is yours, this is theirs,” can be an inefficient and frustrating experience. With PlanGrid, we’re able to create different lists and just hand them to subs and our own team to complete. It’s a more collaborative approach that saves us and our subs a lot of time.
Can you share a specific example of how you and your team has used PlanGrid recently?
I recently worked on a low-income housing project, and there were a lot of changes that came back from the permitting department. With that, it was difficult to see what had changed as they sent us practically a whole new set of drawings. PlanGrid helped us because it allowed us to compare our original documents with the ones we received back from the permitting department. Through the comparison feature, I was able to overlay the drawings and find the differences. In all, this saved us a bunch of time and allowed us to create a complete change order.
What do you think is the biggest cause of rework?
I have found one of the biggest causes of rework to be a misunderstanding of information and drawings. This goes back to miscommunication and its barrier to productivity. Let’s say the team didn’t realize they needed to put in fire extinguisher cabinets in one area. Now, the wall needs to be reopened. There are so many small details that people may not see, and it’s easy to look at a plan, but not really look everything that it involves.
I’ve also seen people looking at the wrong drawing completely or one that had mistakes and conflicts.
To reduce rework, you need the right people to have the right information at the right time.
Are there any challenges that are unique to a healthcare construction?
One thing that’s unique with healthcare and some other projects like education, at least in California, is that there’s a state agency involvement from OSHPD and DSA. It means that jobsites have a full-time inspector there at all times. Nevertheless, having PlanGrid to be able to show inspectors the most current drawings on the jobsite helps with collaboration. It also makes things more efficient. We don’t have to go back to the trailer because we have all the documents that we get from OSHPD, whether they’re construction change directives or deferred submittals, easily accessible in one place in the field.
What do you wish you would have known when you first started?
If I could go back and tell my younger self something, I would tell her to get out in the field as much as possible. While there’s a lot of work to be done in the trailer and on a computer, it’s so important to absorb as much information as possible about how things are being executed.
The more experience you gain in the field, the faster you’re going to progress in your career.
At the end of a work week, what makes you feel like you’ve done your job well?
At the end of the week, what makes me feel accomplished is seeing the project progress. That’s what’s so great about construction; you actually get to see the work you’ve done evolve into something tangible. Seeing that footing pour was made on time, seeing that we topped out when we wanted to – all of these signs of progress are really rewarding at the end of the day.
What challenges do you feel like you’ve faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?
I think one of the biggest challenges that I faced in my career personally was not coming from a construction background. I remember in school there were a lot of people who had parents who worked in construction, and that was not my family’s case. I’ve overcome that by just trying to be more engaged, asking a lot of questions and learning every day. That’s what’s great about construction – you probably learn 20 new things every single day.