Hoisting the final beam: Skanska USA and Iron Workers Local 7 top off
Each morning as EF Education First employees are arriving to work in Boston, the construction site adjacent to the office is already buzzing with activity. The trucks that load in and out all morning, the cranes that carry steel beams up and down, and the structure that grows taller each day are all exciting signs of a building project in progress.
Over the past three months, EF employees have watched as a former Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) maintenance facility has transformed into a framed, 12-story, 300,000 square-foot structure. The completed building will be EF’s newest addition to the North Point area of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will feature student housing, a fitness center, and a 30-foot rock-climbing wall. But who are the workers responsible for bringing this building closer to completion on a daily basis?
In recognition of EF’s “Topping Off”—a construction ceremony that celebrates placing the final steel beam on a building—we chatted with Rico Autori, Superintendent, and Mike Loring, Project Manager, of Skanska USA to find out what a day at work looks like for them and why they love working with EF.
What does a typical day on the job like?
Mike: A typical day starts with our Skanska Team leading “stretch and flex”, where we participate with the tradesmen and tradeswomen in stretching our muscles and gearing up for the work ahead. Most mornings our office team will perform typical daily tasks in a very interactive trailer environment, while on any given day our extended team attends multiple project meetings with EF, our subcontractors, designers, etc. The various team meetings are what really bring the project to life when people of various roles on the project work together towards a common goal. Afternoons are usually a lot of catching up with the team and field staff to help assist with any troubleshooting onsite. Day to day, hour to hour, there are a lot of moving parts so communication and learning from one another is incredibly important. We’re a close-knit group that tries to keep it light and easy, while at the same time stressing the importance of what we’re doing.
Rico: It’s busy! It’s very hectic. Immediately after 7AM the phones start to ring with the guys who want to know where to go and what to do that particular day. It’s very fluid and dynamic, everything changes constantly. You roll with the punches and you keep everyone moving forward toward the end goal. I really enjoy the job and we have a really good group of people. There’s a good harmony out there, which we try to foster, and we like to keep everyone happy. I love being out there with my feet on the ground.
What is something about your job that might surprise people?
Mike: I think people would be surprised to learn how much advance planning a project like this takes. We’d been planning this project for several years before we even put a shovel in the ground. So many people on design teams, planning boards, and staff behind the scenes work together to bring this project from a dream to a reality. The unique part is that most of these people won’t even build the building, but they’ll work together longer than it will take for the project to be physically built onsite.
Rico: I think it would surprise people that we truly live minute-to-minute. We have hourly deadlines, daily deadlines, weekly deadlines, monthly deadlines, etc. in order to move the project forward. Every group is relying on one another to hit their goals and keep things moving.
What’s the best part of your job?
Mike: The best part of this job is the people I get to work with. In this job and industry as a whole, it’s such a people-focused business. So much of what we do is interacting with others and it’s the most fun when great teams like this one are put together.
Rico: The people I work with, hands down. I love the people in the trailer, I love working with the people from EF, the foremen are great, the guys are fun. We have a lot of laughs.
What do you enjoy the most about working on an EF property?
Mike: What I enjoy most is how EF approaches problems. We’ve had plenty of hills to climb to date, but watching the approach of the EF team, it’s always “we can do this, there’s a solution, we just have to figure it out” and it’s infectious to everyone else on the project. It’s a rare quality these days and makes for a great team dynamic!
Rico: Honestly, there are really no other clients out there like EF. The EF team is awesome to work with. You never know what you’re going to get with a client but EF always makes the job easy, fun, and exciting. Being here is like coming home, it’s a very nice place to work.
Why is this topping off such a significant milestone?
Rico: The topping off represents a really special moment in time for the crew because it marks the completion of a project. The placement of the final beam marks the last piece in the “shell” of the building. It is a celebration of their hard work and comradery. This project in particular was unusual, there were two cranes, a lot of steel, and a lot of moving parts, so to be able to celebrate a job well done is a really great and exciting moment for all of us.