A Conversation with Jack Weber

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Jack Weber is executive vice president of project management at Trehel Corporation, a position he has held since 2000. Jack’s wealth of experience in construction management serves him well as he leads project managers, oversees large-scale projects and creates value for clients through each stage of construction.

As an industry veteran, Jack has helped build several prominent buildings throughout the Upstate. Currently, he is working on several high-profile projects in downtown Greenville including the new Camperdown Office Building One and renovations to the Greenville Drive’s stadium.

Trehel: How did you get started in the construction industry?

Weber: I worked construction since I was fifteen years old. I’ve always wanted to build buildings. My father’s dad was a builder, and my other grandfather was a builder, so I came from a family of builders. It seemed like a good, honorable way to make a living. You can build something that’s progressing every day. It’s rewarding to be able to see the fruits of your labor. Building just always made sense to me.

I attended Auburn University, to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering and then found out about the Building Science Program. I decided that the Building Science program was more in line with what I wanted to do in life and decided to change majors. By the time I graduated from Auburn, I already had several years of construction experience under my belt from working summer jobs. I started off at a job with a company in Charlotte, working in the office. I knew very soon I wanted to get out of the office as quickly as I could and get back into the field, where more hands-on work is available. After a ten-month stint in the office, I got moved to a job site in Augusta, Georgia. After a couple of years in Augusta, I then moved to Greenville for a one-year job. I changed companies and had the opportunity to build the C&S Bank tower and wound up meeting my wife. It took a few years after that, but I decided that Greenville was where I wanted to stay.

All I’ve ever done is construction. That’s what I enjoy doing and what makes sense to me, day in and day out.

Trehel: So when you say you worked summer jobs while in college, did you work for different construction firms?

Weber: I worked for a firm down in Miami, Florida for most of the time. Although, I did try a brief stint with a carpentry company that roofed houses. One person had to carry all the plywood from the road, put it on the roof and nail it down. I soon decided that wasn’t for me.

Trehel:  During these summer jobs, you were doing general labor?

Weber: Yes, at that point it was general labor and then I worked my way up to a carpenter’s position over the years. After graduating, I begin working as a project engineer. I would do that job at night when I was working on the American Federal Bank project in Greenville, SC. I was fortunate enough that the superintendent on that first job was old and getting close to retirement, so he was perfectly happy to sit in his office and read the newspaper. He allowed me to do his job as an assistant superintendent during the day and then I would do my paperwork at night. The next job I had, was a superintendent for the C&S Bank Tower. From there I joined Triangle Construction and worked for ten years as a project manager. For a couple of years, I also owned a small construction business as well.

Trehel: What was the first local firm you worked for?

Weber:  The first firm I worked for was US Shelter when I built C&S Bank Tower. I originally came to Greenville with Metric Constructors out of Charlotte to construct the American Federal Bank. My boss from Metric went to work for US Shelter and recruited me to the firm.

Jack1898Trehel:  What brought you to Trehel?

Weber: One man, Marty White. We had previously worked together for a few years at US Shelter. I had been working at Triangle for ten years and decided it was time to try something new. I had just taken a job at SYS and was actually on my way to my first day of work when Marty contacted me. We briefly discussed the possibility of me coming to work at Trehel. I told him that I appreciated the opportunity, but I just started a new job, so there was no point in us talking. However, he continued to pursue me and check back in with me over a two-year period. One day I decided to meet with Neal Workman the owner of Trehel, I thought what could it hurt, plus I’d get a free lunch. So I met with Neal and he told me more about the Design-Build process. It sounded interesting, so I decided to pursue a position with Trehel further.

Trehel:  From your previous experience and having worked at Trehel for several years, what in your opinion makes our company different from other firms in the industry?

Weber: There are a lot of things that make us different, but the primary thing is our Design-Build approach. A few contractors will take a hands-off approach when working with the client. They say, I don’t want to help make the decision, you make the decision. And build by what’s in the documents.

Trehel embraces the role of being involved in the decision-making process with the owner. As Neal would say, let us have all the issues and problems, and we’ll manage them and help you find solutions. That’s probably the most unique aspect about Trehel and our Better Building Process. Neal was not afraid of the liability or risk. Which in my opinion, is much better than the hands-off approach. This concept was appealing to me and was much different from what I had experienced in the past.

Trehel:  Do you find that this approach has allowed you to develop a closer working relationship with your clients versus your previous experience?

Weber: Without a doubt, it’s very “client-centered” where before it was more “contractor-centered.” We were more concerned with following the drawings; whatever was drawn was obviously what the owner had told the architect what they wanted. The Design-Build approach is more owner centered and is more about making sure the owner is pleased. It’s a team effort where the architect and general contractor work in unison with the client to help achieve their vision for the project. I’ve done a lot of buildings over the years that were bid projects and had owners say, “It’s a very nice job, I like our building. Y’all did a great job, did everything well, but that’s not really what I wanted. That’s what the architect thought I needed, but that’s not really what I wanted.” I found this situation very depressing after I just spent six months or more building their facility. It’s a lot more rewarding to have happy customers at the end of the job and know that they got what they wanted.

Trehel: Speaking of past projects, when you see or drive by, what comes to mind? Do you look at the building and consider what you’ve built or do you think about the people you worked with? What do you remember most?

Weber: Mostly the people. What I remember most are the guys in the field who worked on the project, because they’re ones getting the work done. They’re the ones out there in the heat and cold solving all problems and making the pieces come together. Some of the best people I know, I’ve met in the field working on construction sites.

Trehel:  What changes have you seen in the construction industry during the past five years? How has this influenced your approach to project management?

Weber: Over the past five years I have seen a fair amount of changes in the industry. We seem to be more concerned about liability more than we were in the past, which makes it slower and more complicated to do work from a contractual perspective. Especially, with some of the fast-paced projects. Mitigating risk has made it very tough to move quickly into the building process.

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Trehel: Let’s talk about the Camperdown project. What is the most challenging part of this project and why?

Weber: There are several different challenges. One is that we are on a very short schedule. The owner needs it done in a six-month timeframe which for a four-story building is quite doable, but the job itself was not designed to lend itself for quick construction. So it’s been very challenging from that standpoint, it is doable, but the design in some ways has hampered our ability to do it faster. It has made us stagger the trades more than I would have liked. We also have a limited laydown area, so it’s been a real premium for space. You can’t lay down much material and equipment without blocking our access to the building.

Camperdown3531Trehel:  Is there anything unique or unusual about this building?

Weber: It’s a nice looking building, and the architect did a great good job of actually designing it, everything that he’s drawn works.

One issue that made this project unique, was just coming out of the ground, we had to go down to bedrock, which meant pretty deep excavations close to the road. It could have been dangerous, but we figured out a solution without having to put anyone in danger. This added complication is why the progress was slow initially coming out of the ground. We also had to dig down twelve to fifteen feet then fill in with concrete and place footings. It was a fairly tedious process. I will say, our project superintendents have done an incredible job thus far with this project and the challenges we have overcome. In the end, it’s going to be a very attractive building when completed!

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Renderings provided by DLR Group

Trehel: Moving on to the Greenville Drive renovation, what is the most challenging part of that job? What makes it unique?

Weber:  First is the very short schedule. We will do roughly $10 million worth of work in a five-month time frame. The other challenge is that we are touching so many different areas while some of the facility remains in operation. This limits where and when we can work. Several sections of the stadium are being worked on simultaneously. The challenge is that some areas have to be sequenced before other work can begin, so there’s a lot of moving parts with a tight deadline.

Trehel: What phase of the renovation will take the longest to complete?

Weber: The club suite is the longest scheduled portion of the renovation, and we weren’t able to start on it until this week. We couldn’t start demolition until a previously scheduled event was over. We were recently able to close the roads temporarily to allow for material and equipment delivery. Besides the suites, the plazas were one of the first areas we started and will be one of the last areas we complete. We are having to keep them open and use this location as a work staging area until near the end of the project.

Trehel: From a construction standpoint, is there anything unique about working on an outdoor sports facility?

Weber: Having to stay off the field while we are working on three sides of the stadium has made it more challenging. Access for construction would be easier if you could cut through the baseball field.

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