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Austin Gary, Project Engineer, Tas Commercial Concrete

Behind the Build: Interview with Austin Gary, Project Engineer, TAS Commercial Concrete

As the single most widely used construction material in the world, concrete has a significant role to play in physically building the world we live in. Nevertheless, while the material is commonly used on nearly every construction project, there’s way more than meets the eye. According to Austin Gary, Project Engineer for TAS Commercial Concrete, comments,

“It’s not just pouring what we call mud in the industry and watching it dry.”  

As his first job in construction, Austin has been working for the Texas-based concrete subcontractor for the past three years. In our latest edition of “Behind the Build,” we speak with Austin on his short but eventful journey in the industry so far. Below, read his insight on the various complexities of working with concrete and how TAS Commerical Concrete has been improving document control with the help of new technology.

What does TAS Concrete do and specialize in?

TAS Concrete specializes in concrete. We do turnkey light commercial projects including high-rises, mid-rises and garages. If it involves concrete, we do it. I’m currently working on a performing arts center for Rice University in downtown Houston.

My role with TAS Commercial Concrete involves a lot of document control. Anything that involves paperwork, from RFIs to getting project updates, addendums and more out to the field.

How long have you been in construction and how did you get started?

I’ve been in construction for three years. I actually kind of fell into the job. I always liked construction, but never considered it for a career. I ended up having a work colleague on my previous job put me in touch with her husband, a superintendent. Three years later, here I am. I love it and haven’t looked back.

Why do you love construction?

I love construction because, at the end of a job, it’s a tangible project. It’s something I can go back and look at years later. Hopefully 50 years from now I can show my kids and grandkids and say, “Hey, that’s something I built.”

How has technology changed construction even in just the last few years?

Technology in construction has really changed the forefront of what we do. It’s made things move a lot quicker. We can be sitting in an office, get a project update and within a couple of seconds, it can be implemented out in the field.

Today, our workers have instant access to information with technology.

What’s the hardest part about working in concrete construction?

The hardest part of working in concrete construction is all the changes and how quickly we get them. Concrete is the structure of our buildings, and it’s typically the first thing that goes in place before anything else can take effect. If we get changes, implementing them quickly in the field is the hardest part. Therefore, we try to lock down how we can address changes as quickly as possible.

One thing that’s uniquely challenging about working in concrete is it’s not as simple as it seems. When ordinary people look at concrete, they don’t see it as particularly complicated. Nevertheless, there’s a lot that goes into concrete. There are specifications, mix designs and reinforcement needs. Now, we’re even adding fiber into concrete mixes instead of mesh reinforcement. There are just so many possibilities, and you can even get into the chemistry of concrete. It’s not just pouring what we call mud in the industry and watching it dry.

What are some of the biggest time sucks that you see on projects?

The biggest time suck that I see on projects is communication breakdowns. Sometimes things just don’t get communicated effectively whether it be an RFI, a change in drawing or a simple direction in manpower. How we communicate with our team, and whether or not we do it effectively is pertinent to our success.

Why does TAS Commercial Concrete use PlanGrid?

We use PlanGrid primarily for document control, and it’s the quickest way for us to get changes and information out in the field. Before I started at TAS, we were using PlanGrid for several years. That being said, we’re at an evolving point in our company where we’re driving this new technology. Construction is relatively behind when it comes to technology. We’re trying to drive our company and industry forward with technology and PlanGrid is our first step in that.

Moving forward we’re going to start looking into how we can use PlanGrid not only in the field but in the office. We want to see how we can get our project managers involved, so they’re not just pushing information to the field via Plangrid, they’re documenting information for themselves on Plangrid as well. The goal is that at project closeout, we have everything accessible in PlanGrid in one location as opposed to having it in different files.

Can you share some specific examples of how you and your team have used PlanGrid recently?

The performing arts center I’m currently working on is a very large and challenging project. RFIs and document changes are continuous. Within a day, I might get 15-20 different documents that I have to upload, change and make revisions to. PlanGrid is now the center of our project documentation. Teams in the field can make notes in PlanGrid which are backed up in the cloud. From there, I can download them and track them from the office side of operations, and vice versa. PlanGrid has improved the efficiency of how we access and distribute documents and information between the field and office.

What are you excited about, like things to learn or new technologies coming out? What’s interesting to you?

I’m really excited to see where technology is going to take the industry. Something specifically within the concrete sector is the potential of 3D printing. While the technology is still very new and the opportunities are limited for large-scale use at this time, it’s still exciting.

Who knows–in 30 years from now we might see a 3D printer building a high-rise project.

Further Reading:  Voyage Care: Collaborating in Construction to Improve Care in the Community

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