Interview by Fred Schmidt
Justin Woolverton is the Project Manager for Flintco (construction company) on the Chickasaw Visitor Center project. He is basically responsible for running the overall project day to day at the site.
So Justin, this is a pretty cool project.
Justin: Yeah, even Mark Grimes (president of Flintco Oklahoma City) has told us that per square foot this is the highest budget job that Flintco has ever done, maybe all of Flintco. So that right there gives you an inkling of what we are into. We are only talking 8500 square feet. Square footage wise, it’s not that big of a job. Even site wise, there’s not a lot of site work. So there’s a lot packed in there into a small space. But I think once it gets done, it’ll be something we can all be proud of; proud to be a part of you know.
You have somebody who takes care of the LEED side of things on the project?
Justin: Yes we have a LEED consultant that we hired. She’s done a lot of the Flintco projects and basically you all have done better than other LEED projects that I’ve seen. Not just about having a front end specification, but having it specifically called out in each section. What LEED credit that section is about. You did a real good job of making it dummy proof, really. So we’re gathering that information with our submittals and we’re giving it to her to make sure it’s going to suffice for, you know, what she needs to turn in. Because she deals with them (green building officials) all the time so she’s used to seeing what they will accept what they won’t accept and she kind of makes sure we’re on track. Making sure we’re getting the right documentation and giving us a heads up on certain credits that she thinks are a little harder to satisfy them on; running those traps for us. She’s not full time obviously. It’s just kind of a contract; she’s an independent contractor. I thought it would be worth the money on this to have another set of eyes and ears that is really into the LEED to make sure we are doing it right. Cause I’ve only done one other LEED project. Just making sure everyone is getting what they paid for.
Someone that has been through it is helpful in knowing the lay of the land with the GBC (Green Building Council). They understanding how they look at it, interpret the points and knowing how to do the paperwork correctly makes a difference in it going through the first time.
Justin: That’s what we thought. She’s working on the Tishomingo clinic for Flintco and the new Sooner Center. She’s helping with that project.
What level is that going for?
Justin: I think that one is just certified. I don’t know about Tishomingo. She helps at various levels. If subs have questions that are above my technical level, she’s a resource.
Tell us how you got into this field. Is this something you always knew you wanted to do?
Justin: No, I started out in the mechanical engineering program. You know it’s one of those deals that sounds good, looks good on paper, but once we got farther into the program I kind of realized what we’d be doing every day and I thought, “Hmmm, that’s not for me.” I don’t want to be doing that. So, the appeal of this career path of having something different every day, and even if you are on the same project for a year or 2 years at the end of that you get to start all over with a clean slate, new players, new subcontractors, and new drawings. It’s almost like, not to sound cheesy, but it’s refreshing. It kind of gets you re-amped about your job, you know what I mean? You get tired of your job after a while. So, you get to start a new project, you get pumped up again, and it kind of gets you going again. I think about some of those professions that are always the same, like a grind; how do you get excited?
So when you first found out about this project and you got to understand the project and what you where in for, did you start thinking it was something special?
Justin: Well, at first when they told me how big it was and how much it was, I knew we had something special. Because it’s hard to pack that much money in that many square feet; even if you’re trying. So the more we dug into it and the more details I got to seeing; triple pane glass. I’ve never touched triple pane glass and there are a lot of people that never have. I mean triple pane glass, copper, the gray water system, the detention system under the parking lot. I mean items like that, you know. The industry’s changing, but I could go years and years without ever seeing some of that stuff again. So, I think it’s a special project and gaining me some special experience and knowledge that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of gaining. Especially since I consider myself early in my career. I was excited and this is just an exciting area down here with the Chickasaws’ because they are really investing a lot of money. Everybody in Sulphur is excited. They can’t wait because the small shops and stuff, you know, it’s going to bring more foot traffic, more people to town. So, it’s a big deal.
They are really making a big difference in the town. I hope at some point that town steps up to the plate too.
Justin: Yeah, does something kind of matching.
Right or some spin off projects. It’s been a long time. I think the Chickasaws are being a real catalyst here.
Justin: It’s exciting. We go down to some of these shops because we stay here a few nights a week.
Been to the Rusty Nail?
Justin: Yeah, we’re regulars. Have you been in there?
I have… I don’t get there often because they don’t open until late in the day. I had to really plan it when I had a late meeting here in town, then I went by because otherwise they wouldn’t be open yet.
Justin: It’s a nice little place.
The owners are great.
Justin: Yeah, we go in there and we chat with them. We go in there quite often. I have bought some of their product and taken it back to family.
I’ve featured them on the blog. I’ve done a couple posts called “local beta” meaning something new, a first time thing for visitors.
What do you think has been one of your greatest challenges up to this point and if you can forecast, what are some of the challenges coming up?
Justin: For this project specifically? You know one of the challenges on this project is logistics. We have a highway on one side, a busy street for a town this size and on the other side we are pinned in by other property. The building itself takes up; I mean it goes wall to wall on that site. So, scheduling our steel and deliveries, the crane and stuff is one of the problems in the near future we’ve been trying to make a game plan for. Water was the other issue. I’m sure you are privy to all of that. The water down here is kind of a curse and a cure, if you will. It’s beautiful in the park and everybody loves the natural springs and stuff but when you’re trying to put something in the ground it’s a little different. So, overcoming that initial water problem followed by the logistics on the site are two of the hurdles we are trying to get over right now. Long term I think on this project we really want to give the best quality and we want to really do a stellar project. We always want to give a good product but we want somebody to walk in that and feel like, hey this is special and wow look what we got. You know what I mean? So, I think just making sure we give them what they paid for basically. When you say that out loud it sounds like we don’t normally do that but we just want to give that extra mile on this one.
Well like you say, you do that on every job but it’s just heightened on this one.
Justin: Yeah, it’s just like people are expecting to be wowed you know. So, just making sure we do our very best. And then you know getting that thing open on time is always something on the horizon to look at.
How’s that looking for next summer?
Justin: You know that project… really, the key point to that job is getting it dry. It’s not a big project, but the finishes are going to take longer than normal and having time for us to make sure if anything needs to be redone or brought up to a better standard of quality is important. I think getting it dry and giving us the most time from dry in to finish as possible is really the key to that job. Getting the foundation and the slab and the steel in… it’s just not a big enough of a project where that looks to be a problem. But I think we’re just all just pushing to get it into the dry to give us all as much time as we can to do those finishes.
I think that sounds like the right strategy.
Justin: That’s kind of the ideas and thoughts we’ve been tossing around. A lot of these products, that gray water system, those tanks, some of them are embedded in the slab and some are in that crawl space. Getting those here and getting them in place and protecting them while we’re working around them. Cause some of that stuff you can’t really get in as easy later. It’s kind of a funky little deal. So you know just normal stuff. They’ve all got their challenges. That’s what they pay us for right? If it was easy we’d all do it.
That’s right. That’s why we get the big bucks. We both laughed.
Justin: We’re excited.
So what are your long term career thoughts? How long have you been at this?
Justin: I’ve been with Flintco in some capacity for 8 and half years. So, at some point I would want to become somebody that manages people rather than the projects, you know what I mean. Get out of this; instead of managing projects manage people. So who knows what that would be? That would be one goal of mine. Another area that I like, I think preconstruction would be a very refreshing change from being on this side of it. Pre-contract is a whole different game versus post-contract. So who knows?
What do you do when you not working on the job site? What do you do in your time?
Justin: Well, I have a brand new bird dog puppy which takes up a lot of my time. That’s a hand full; it’s like having a child. So I like to get outdoors and play with him; start training him. And I like to ride my Harley. We’ve got a pretty decent size group we ride around with. I forget about this construction stuff for a few days at a time.
Oh yeah… You can sure forget about that riding down the highway.
Justin: So, you know, we do that when we can. Other than that, just normal stuff. Hanging out. I feel like I’m getting old and boring so we have to make an effort. It’s hard, you know, everyone gets busy, kids, family and its gets harder and harder to get groups together to do stuff.
Right, they all start getting tied down and growing roots.
Justin: I know… It’s like pulling teeth to get like a four day weekend trip out of the group. You get, “Mama don’t want me going.” So… but it’s good.
Well, alright man. I think we’ve got enough for a little post here.