While construction can undoubtedly be stressful, there’s something surreal about being on a jobsite. The smell of new building materials, the sound of heavy equipment and the hustle and bustle of construction workers, all melds together to create a full sensory experience that signals big change is on the horizon.
But our favorite part of visiting a jobsite isn’t looking at the massive machinery or seeing concrete being poured. While these aspects are all impressive, it’s the people making the magic of construction come alive that truly captures our attention.
Recently, we had the honor of visiting a San Francisco jobsite to learn more about a day in the life of four construction professionals at commercial construction contractor, Webcor. Throughout our day, Kenny Hua, Assistant Project Manager, Kate McMahnon, Assistant Project Manager, Katherine Linné, Project Manager and Galen Dougherty, Senior Project Engineer all gave us a snapshot of what it’s like building the Four Seasons Private Residences at 706 Mission in San Francisco.
Read and watch our videos below to learn more about our visit to this exciting project.
706 Mission: A New Build with History
The Four Seasons Private Residences at 706 Mission is a special project. Not only when complete will it be a 43-story, 510-foot tall residential tower–but it has both cultural and historical significance. Kate explains, “The project is a combination of 128 luxury condo residences as well as the future home of the Mexican Museum. We’re also renovating the 1903 Aronson Building.”
The historic Aronson Building is connected to 706 Mission. This meant that the Aronson Building, famous for surviving the 1906 Earthquake, needed to be renovated. But preserving the historic landmark while adjoining to the new tower, required an expert restoration team. “For years, it was covered in scaffold,” says Kate. “When the scaffold finally came down to reveal the end product was pretty amazing. Our restoration subcontractor did excellent work, and it looks fantastic.”
Beyond the historical and cultural significance, 706 Mission sits in a construction hotbed and heart of downtown San Francisco. When we met up with Kenny, we discussed just how much of a visible impact his work has had in the small area of the city. “Just in this one block, I’ve probably touched 3-4 projects,” he says.
No Such Thing as a Typical Day in Construction
During our visit, we wanted to learn what a typical day is like working on such a high profile and significant project. Instead, we learned there’s no such thing.
“We have a swing shift on this project. When I first get in, I get filled in on what happened the night before and make sure there are no big issues I need to tackle right away. But usually, after that, there’s no such thing as a typical day in construction,” Kenny comments.
For many working in construction, the unknown is part of the thrill of the job. According to Kate, “I really enjoy how every day is different. You never know what challenges will come your way, and it never gets boring.”
Walking around 706 Mission, it’s clear the excitement of the job is contagious.
“If you enjoy working under pressure, like me, this is the place to be. Every day we get to problem solve and figure things out,” says Kat.
Clearing Obstacles in the Field for Success
We met Galen on the 23rd floor of 706 Mission. What looked like an open rooftop buzzing with workers, will soon be just another floor a little more than halfway up the 43-floor building. Admiring the cityscape around us, he tells us, “Every single week, our view physically improves. You can see the sunset and the ballpark. You can see the work that you’ve done–there are very tangible results.”
But for a Senior Project Engineer like Galen, he’s not performing the actual work we see around us. Instead, he acts more like an invisible force to make that work possible. “My job is to primarily support our operations and all the work our craftspersons do. I remove obstacles and answer questions for those completing the work,” he points out.
“Even if I’m not performing the work, if I can get the right information in their hands, make it clear what needs to be done and lead my team to build, then at the end of the project, it’s a real building that people will live in–that’s pretty cool.”
Connecting with Coworkers
The high pressure, high stakes environment in construction has a way of bonding people together. Everyone is working for one single goal and needs to overcome their egos and differences to be successful. Looking around 706 Mission and these types of professional bonds are evident. Although everyone is very focused on the task at hand, there is something profound about the organized and coordinated chaos.
“Fortunately, this industry is a really collaborative one. It’s kind of this raw interaction between you, the general contractors, the owners, architects and all the subcontractors. We all kind of huddle together to figure things out and it’s fun,” says Kat.
For some, this is fulfilling in some unexpected ways. For Galen, “We employee a lot of Spanish-speaking employees. I grew up in San Diego and picked up some Spanish. But now, my Spanish is getting way better. It’s fun to speak a different language each day and connect with the team working here.”
Innovative Tools for a Modern Project
To be successful, companies like Webcor know they need to provide their employees with the right tools to do their job. To keep work on track and create the collaborative environment needed to problem solve, a high profile project like 706 Mission relies on construction technology. “Construction as a whole is generally a very ‘work hard’ culture,” notes Kenny. “But moving forward, you do want to work hard, but you also want to work smart. That’s where software like PlanGrid comes into play. PlanGrid lets you work smarter and more efficient,” he adds.
Kat also comments, “We live and die by PlanGrid. It runs my life on a daily basis. If I need any information, it’s my one single source of truth. We log all our RFIs, submittals and the latest sheets we get from our architects. It’s our resource for everything.”
But PlanGrid isn’t the only tool that the project uses. For Galen, making sure his team can eliminate errors during the concrete pouring process is critical to staying on schedule and avoiding rework.
“For concrete, we’re doing the same process over and over again on each floor. We’re always looking to make it more efficient, safer and save money.”
As a result, his team started to use a game-changing VEC tech. “They would do a 3D scan of our slabs the night before we poured it. They would process the information and let us know right before we poured the tiny adjustments needed to make it an error-free project. The time that it saved us, paid for itself,” he comments.
More Jobsite Spotlights to Come
Being able to connect with people in the field at 706 Mission was quite the experience–but we’re not stopping there. Over the next few months, we’ll be traveling to more jobsites throughout the US to learn about the incredible people building our cities and infrastructure. Follow us on social to see where we go next!