School: Texas A&M University Major: Construction Science Company: Manhattan Construction Internship from 01/05/2015 — 09/06/2015
I was a part of the Kyle Field Redevelopment team that demolished, cleared and rebuilt the entire west side of Texas A&M’s football stadium in just nine months. With a $485 million budget for the full stadium, and a commitment not to miss any games, the project was split into two phases between football seasons. The first phase fully enclosed the stadium by erecting stands at the south end zone and installing all new concourse areas, concessions and systems on the east side. I began working with Manhattan Construction during the second phase, after demolition of the west portion of the stadium. We then began clearing the rubble to make room for more than 75 suites with high end finishes, two loge lounges, concessions, restrooms and all the other amenities it takes to accommodate 104,213 yelling fans. My official internship required by Texas A&M University for class credit ended in May, however I chose to continue working with Manhattan until completion because of the unique learning opportunity it offered, and I was committed to seeing through what I had started.
I truly believe this was a once in a lifetime project and one of the best projects possible to learn on. This internship has exposed me to nearly every aspect of construction, from drilling piers, to pouring concrete, erecting steel, installing drywall, CMU, telecommunication systems, extensive HVAC systems, video boards, and site-work. There were also job specific problems such as increased security, tying into the existing structure, a fluid design, and growing and planting the playing field.
For me, the most memorable thing about this project has not been the scale, it has been the timeline. Manhattan bid this job knowing that it would be an incredible amount of work to fit into just nine months, and it absolutely lived up to that expectation. In order to meet the project schedule, the site has been open twenty four hours, seven days a week since very early in the project. In addition, record rainfall across Texas has been challenging for us every step of the way. Everyone on the job has been working fifty hours or more per week since early in the job, and towards completion, hours climbed even higher. It is a very demanding job and everyday there is a new problem to solve and more information to learn.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
During my 8 month internship with Manhattan Construction, I was exposed to a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities. I submitted multiple Requests for Information (RFI) a day and made sure all plans were kept up to date at all times. I preformed quality control duties in the field, documented progress by taking pictures, and took trips out to the laydown yard to verify items were available and ready for installation. I was also in contact with superintendents coordinating construction in the field. I reviewed shop drawings, product data and physical samples before submitting to the architect for approval, and as we neared completion, I began compiling closeout documents. Towards the end of the project, I was given my own subcontractor to manage. I created schedules and deadlines, requested additional manpower for them, and made sure that they were on schedule to finish in time for kickoff. Throughout all of this, I helped monitor safety throughout the site to ensure that every worker went home safely every day.
Since I arrived on January 5th, I have returned 248 of the 978 RFI’s submitted to the architect. For each RFI submitted, the process started when I was given a problem by one of my supervisors. I then prepared the RFI for the architect to review by explaining the issue, referencing past conversations pertaining to the issue, marking up the plans, taking pictures of the existing condition, and finally communicating effectively and professionally how we want to solve the issue. After the RFI was returned, I would update our plans with the architect’s most current drawings, reference the RFI number and distribute to the subcontractors and our staff.
I also performed any and all of the various miscellaneous tasks asked of me. Outside the office, I helped rip off baseboards after a particularly heavy rain caused finished areas from Phase 1 to flood. If there were small areas not worth distracting a subcontractor’s manpower to finish, I would caulk joints or clean areas blocking work from being done if they asked me to. There is no doubt that there was a tremendous amount of technical training in the office as well, but whatever was needed of me or whenever there was a way I could contribute to the project, I gladly stepped up to help.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
Since January 5th, I have spent just over 1,900 hours working on Kyle Field. In that time, I have seen an incredible amount of work get accomplished. I have learned so many things, but also realized how much there is still to learn. From starting with embarrassing questions such as what slab on carton form meant, to learning how slots in metal stud framing runners can help protect against concrete floors shifting, and why and when we need them, it has been an eye opening experience in so many ways. Many of the technical lessons of how a building is assembled were crammed into this 8 month internship. I have also become an expert in using project management software such as Prolog and e-Builder and have also learned how to navigate document sharing sites like SharePoint.
One of the biggest advantages of being an intern with Manhattan has been the exposure to such a wide variety of roles, and the ability to never get pigeonholed. While salaried Project Engineers were given specific subcontractors to be fully responsible for and went very in depth with each of their assigned companies, I was free to work with the majority of them all.
By the end of the project however, they trusted me enough to manage the labor of Metroclean, our commercial cleaning subcontractor. After finding out which rooms were ready enough for them to begin cleaning, I started talking to their manager every day, directing where their labor would go. If areas weren’t ready, I had to direct other subcontractors to finish out their scope, so cleaning could begin. Because other subcontractors were working until the very end, our work got condensed into a very short time and man power became a huge issue when we had to clean as much as we did in such a short time frame. Many times the other subcontractors had to do rework, which inevitably caused the areas to get messy again, even after I had signed off for Metroclean’s “final clean”. From managing the last line of workers, I saw all of the many problems of preparing work, actually getting the work done, and then having to manage the rework.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
Even more important than the technical lessons I learned, the most important thing I learned from this internship is what it means to work hard. I started work with Manhattan 35 weeks ago and since then, have worked just over 1,900 hours. I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked here and I know my mental toughness has increased a great deal because of this internship. Having completed this internship I feel much more prepared for life after graduation. This internship was a taste of the “real world”, I had to cook, pay bills, take care of car problems, work and try to keep a social life. Finding balance in my life was key, and taking this test run of what the rest of my life will be like was a great opportunity to make the transition to life after graduation a little bit easier.
Over the course of this internship, I have become a more confident, better communicator with people in higher positions than me. At the beginning of my internship, I was much more hesitant to speak to my bosses, for fear of messing something up and embarrassing myself. However, I quickly learned that nobody on our team was ever out to get me, and most everyone was incredibly helpful. The best way to learn as much as I could was to just dive in and immerse myself in the project. I am still always respectful, but I am no longer wary and tense with the people above me. I have also become a much more professional writer. Through the process of crafting the hundreds of RFI’s that I have, I have learned how to effectively communicate what the problem is in the shortest and most concise way possible.
Lastly, the dedication and commitment of the project management team at the end of the project was extremely memorable. Towards the completion of the stadium, the Manhattan project staff worked long hours, seven days a week, doing whatever needed to be done to prepare the stadium for kickoff. Working alongside a vice president of a multimillion dollar company with 40 years of experience, at 9:00pm, peeling protective films off of food service equipment and sweeping kitchens was unforgettable. It was easy for me put in 80 hours as an hourly employee, but when I saw everyone else working equally long hours as me, it showed an entirely different level of commitment. The attitude was always “do whatever it takes to finish on time” and the guys that I worked with inspired me by living that.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
There is little doubt that technology is changing the way the construction industry operates right now. Having the ability to view the plans in the field, take pictures and annotate them all in the same iPad app is an incredibly useful tool that is already changing the way our quality control department works. In the next few years, the role of technology in our industry will continue to grow. Physical, paper plans will continue to be phased out completely as project engineers and superintendents continue to become more technologically savvy.
The biggest impact that technology will have will not be a groundbreaking invention that revolutionizes our industry, it will be a gradual yet fast progression towards making our work faster, cheaper, more accurate, and ultimately as efficient as possible. Communication will hopefully continue to be simplified so that subcontractors can always have access to accurate, up to date plans available through a site like SharePoint. As it becomes easier to log and save information collected from past projects, we will begin to have more information to refer to when creating a schedule for new projects with similar conditions. The extra information will help us to predict how the current job will unfold, helping to eliminate costly scheduling errors and create more accurate timelines to provide to the owner. Estimating tools are progressing rapidly as well, speeding up the process of putting together a bid, and enabling us not only be able to bid more projects, but to be more accurate with them as well.