School: Boise State University
Major: Construction Management
Company: MSB Constructors, Inc.
Internship from May 23, 2016 — July 29, 2016
I come from a long line of builders. Anyone can claim this, but how many can say that this lineage extends over three centuries and as many continents? The Balian family were renowned master architects during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were specifically sought out by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire due to their original designs and intricate architectural craftsmanship. Most of these marvels are located in and around Istanbul and are being used to this day. Their most notable accomplishment is the Dolmabahce Palace which took five years and the equivalent of one and a half billion dollars to build.
Today, we may not be building palaces for foreign oligarchs, but the pride in work and attention to detail has remained true to our heritage. My personal love for building started at a young age with weekly trips to job sites translating to hours of fascination and awe. I always enjoyed the process, moving from A to Z seemed to be everyone’s goal, but my passion was with the B’s, C’s… As I continued to grow, it became very evident that construction would be in my future as well.
When I graduated from middle school we were asked to write a small passage of where we saw ourselves in the coming 10 years. I wrote, “In ten years, I see myself constructing buildings and apartments complexes in Greater Los Angeles.” My goal was set, now the following ten years had to be dedicated to the fulfillment of that dream. Throughout high school, I spent my summers working in the office of my uncle’s construction company, soaking in information, learning as much as I could about the process, and watching as drawings and specs became beautiful pieces of architectural art that brought new homes to hundreds of families in the Pasadena area of Southern California.
This past summer my internship took me back to MSB Constructors, Inc. This is the company my uncle founded to develop properties into multifamily and mixed-use projects of the highest quality. Most recently I have been involved in the property procurement and entitlement of said properties. The bulk of my work takes place in the preconstruction and post-construction phases, where developers make and lose their money. This work has been specifically tailored by my uncle, in an attempt to teach me the ins and outs of the business, in hopes that I can one day realize my dream and start to take on my own projects. The work is comprehensive and strenuous at times, but its perplexity allows me to continue to hone my skills of the B’s, C’s…
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
MSB Constructors, Inc. is currently involved with eleven multifamily and mixed-use projects in the greater Los Angeles area, and I was fortunate enough to be involved, in some capacity, in nearly all of them. They have been building in this area for nearly twenty-five years and that experience has created a certain order of operations to their process.
Coming into a situation like this, with a newly enhanced outlook on construction from another year of study, my goals were to enhance and improve at least one part of this process, to streamline and automate the work for future projects. Part of MSB Constructors’ recipe for success is custom fabricated precast tiles that cover the façade to give their signature Mediterranean look. The takeoff and ordering of these tiles were done in a very old fashioned method that caused a lot of confusion and extra work among the fabricators and project managers alike. This and a language barrier made it an interesting process, however I was able to develop a pamphlet of pieces categorized by dimension, style, use and texture.
The visual representation of the wall tiles, corbels, scuppers, wall caps and other design elements made it simpler for communication and streamlined the procurement and production. Most importantly, the process and pamphlet are easily transferable to relevant subsequent projects. This was one of many responsibilities that I undertook during this internship,
Having worked there during my summers away from Boise State, and before moving out to Idaho originally, it was also very exciting to see the changes in projects I had started the summer before. Many of the projects that are near completion are the ones I helped entitle over two years ago, watched the groundbreaking last summer, and witnessed substantial completion this time around. Seeing the product of your work is truly enjoyable and inspiring.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
To all who have heard of MSB Constructors, Inc, in Pasadena and Los Angeles County, quality craftsmanship and MSB Constructors are synonymous. This is greatly influenced by a methodical approach to detail and perfectionism funneled from the company management down to the field engineers and superintendents. There is a certain level of professionalism that goes into every aspect of the project that is expected from all employees, specialty contractors, and interns alike.
This culture of professionalism and detail oriented building is something that I have learned throughout my time working there. What I take away from my experience every time is taking pride in my work. When you truly take pride in what you build, you always produce your best product with the hopes of always improving at your craft; this requires hard work and attention to detail. When you can take pride in your work, then no one can harm you, because you know that the product is the best you are capable of providing.
There is a reason that MSB Constructors, Inc. is as respected and sought out as it is, and that is my uncle’s pride in his work. If I can learn anything from this internship, it is this key characteristic.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
The closeout and checklist period of a project is always exciting because you know that the project is coming to an end, and you are another day closer to the finished product. Moreover, at MSB Constructors, this is where the attention changes to the fine details. The checklist period is updated daily. Every morning I was asked to walk the project to check for details and deficiencies.
This is an important game of checks and balances. As an intern for the construction company, specifically a general contractor, you have to find all the deficiencies and request for the appropriate contractor to return to the site and make their corrections. As a realistic member of the construction community, you cannot require perfection. There is a certain ratio of forgivable to pressing issues. The lower the ratio the higher the quality and the closer you will get to that desired perfection. The higher the ratio, what you lose in quality, you make up for in good relationships with your trade partners. There is a very fine line that a good closeout manager can tinker with in order to maintain the best quality.
As I walked the project with our closeout manager, who is a tenured superintendent, I was able to take away a lot of invaluable information. I observed what he looked at, where he measured, what clearances he checked. The ultimate walkthrough took place after most of the initial checklist had already been fulfilled. This was orchestrated by my uncle himself with his intense attention to detail.
Watching the two different styles of quality control and assurance gave me a good idea of what would be expected of me in the future. I look forward to that responsibility.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
One of my most satisfying experiences is standing before a project that you have helped build, and unfortunately many people will never have the pleasure of experiencing this. That being said, everyone likes to be appreciated. Millions of people may utilize a highway or bridge on a daily basis, however, how many of those people think about the work that goes into building that infrastructure. As a construction student and future professional, it is gratifying to see that there are people who appreciate my contribution to society.
The website itself is a nice reference to connect with the construction industry and use it to remain updated with trends and innovations. As a construction intern, it would be a great opportunity to post internship opportunities as well. If the companies that were searching for interns could post internship availabilities or possible signup areas, then this could be a very valuable tool for colleges and companies alike. As a potential future construction company owner myself, I would like to see my company on this website.