After months of speculation, Amazon announced last year that it had chosen Arlington, Virginia, as the site of its second U.S. headquarters.
For the current phase of the project, scheduled to be complete in 2023, the retail giant plans to build two 22-story office towers at the Metropolitan Park site in the Pentagon City neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C. The project team includes development partner JBG Smith, general contractor Clark Construction and ZGF Architects.
Clark began work on-site in mid-January with the demolition of existing warehouse structures. Here, Construction Dive talks with Clark Construction Senior Superintendent Monique Holley about working on such a high-profile project.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Please describe the work you are doing at the Amazon site.
Monique Holley: We are working on the successful delivery of two LEED-Platinum buildings, 65,000 square feet of street-level retail and more than a half mile of protected bike lanes. Crews currently are working to remove and recycle construction materials — an early first step in achieving the project team's goal of LEED Platinum certification. This spring, we will begin support of excavation, mass excavation and start work on the below-grade structure for the new office buildings.
In addition, Amazon is committed to ensuring the community is engaged and informed throughout the construction effort and we share that commitment wholeheartedly. Our project team has already begun the process of getting better acquainted with area residents, businesses and civic associations. We are focused on being good stewards of the neighborhood, supporting local businesses and having a lasting positive impact on the surrounding community.
What is your role on the project?
HOLLEY: Specifically, my role is about motivating the people I work with to meet the tangible goals we create on-site each day. My responsibilities are tied to safety, quality control, planning and scheduling. While I’m not sure I’m supposed to have favorites, I really enjoy the safety and planning aspects of my work as they’re both integral to every facet of the job. I’m passionate about safety and take my responsibility for maintaining a safe jobsite very personally.
Ultimately, I want everyone to go home as safe and healthy as they came to work that morning. Planning is intrinsically tied to that goal. I love to plan the work because it requires being innovative, thoroughly vetting ideas to identify new ways to make a process better and working collaboratively with people from all different disciplines to get the job done.
What are a few of the biggest challenges on this project?
HOLLEY: All construction projects have their challenges. We’ve approached this job with the mindset that we need to be prepared for the challenges to come, but equally focused on capitalizing on the opportunities that lay ahead. Those opportunities come in many forms — from integrating with the community around the jobsite to identifying new ways to innovate and build smarter to creating growth opportunities for small businesses or for individuals interested in building a career in our industry.
I continually “challenge” myself and my Clark team members, along with all of our trade partners, to present new ideas that will help us enhance the way we build, strengthen the community and ensure we deliver an experience and end product that exceeds our clients' expectations.
As a superintendent how do you motivate and inspire employees?
HOLLEY: As a leader, I greatly value communication, transparency, education and respect. I always try to be mindful of my actions and words, and work to eliminate roadblocks so that the people I work with can be successful. Ultimately, if the trades and my project team are successful, I’m doing my job.
My own personal sense of pride and unwillingness to fail also remind me of how important it is to be a resource to all who need help. The best way to be that resource is to clearly communicate our work plan with all stakeholders, educate those who are managing or reviewing the quality control process, and continually look for better ways to plan the work and work the plan. I firmly believe if there is a foundation of respect in place on the jobsite, things like communication, transparency and education follow suit.
You were part of Clark's Field Development Group. How did it enhance your career?
HOLLEY: The Field Development Group (FDG) is Clark Construction’s internal professional development program geared toward fine tuning the technical and leadership skills of the company’s future superintendents. The program features a three-year curriculum that blends classroom learning, hands-on experience and mentoring.
I am a graduate of the FDG and currently lead our Mid-Atlantic division program, which has 55 participants spread across two classes. Being involved in the program is truly a passion of mine. The FDG gave me a better understanding of the technical skills needed to plan a job more efficiently, it helped me expand my Clark network and better leverage company resources, and ultimately helped me understand who I wanted to be as a field leader, which was an evolutionary process. I am so grateful for the experience.