March 18, 2019
March 13, 2019
Selected as one of the top 20 under 40 construction professionals by Engineering News Record (ENR) Southwest, Sundt Project Executive Garren Echols is certainly not new to the field. Garren started his career early, working for his father’s construction company 22 years ago. After serving as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army, he founded and operated two small construction companies and also traveled the globe for nearly a decade working for Parsons (technology-focused defense, security, and infrastructure firm). Not one for seeking the spotlight, Garren said he was surprised and honored to win the award, and he was glad to share some of his story.
With such a broad background in construction, what led you to your current role at Sundt?
I worked for Parsons basically traveling nonstop for ten years. My family was living overseas, and I wanted my daughter to be able to attend high school in the U.S. So, in many ways, I was ready to come home. When Sundt was beginning a high-rise project, some people reached out to me since I’d been building several towers with my previous company. So, I came back to Phoenix and joined Sundt doing similar work as a project executive, and it’s been an awesome fit.
Of all the projects you’ve worked on in your career, which one is the most memorable?
The Union Tempe project has been my most enjoyable project in 20 years, just because it felt like a family; it was never an adversarial relationship with owner, architect, engineer, and contractor. I made a lot of lifetime relationships and friendships. The most unique project I’ve worked on, though, was a giant desalination plant in Iraq; it was extremely difficult. I had consultants and engineers across nine different countries. Language and the time schedule were tough—I was working 20-hour days sometimes just to be on nine different time zones. On top of that, the client was demanding, and the area was challenging. So, those two projects were the most notable for me.
On a similar note, what kind of work gives you the most pride?
Overall, I’d say the building projects, just for the image they leave behind. But I’ve also taken pride in the environmental clean-up projects I’ve done because those have had the most impact on the local community. Those aren’t as sexy—they’re very behind-the-scenes work, but they’re definitely fun and challenging. Buildings are kind of the opposite; they’re this cool thing you can drive past for decades and say, “I built that.” They signify the effort you put in, and they have an impact on the community as well.
What’s it like serving on the Sundt Ethics Committee, and how does that impact our operations?
I’m a member of the committee charged with making ethics more of a focal point for everyone, making it more than just an annual mandatory online class but really something that’s recognized in our day-to-day operations. This year, we’re rolling out monthly videos with “ethics shares”—like safety shares. Similar to our focus on safety, we want to keep ethics at the forefront of everything we do. I’m excited to be a part of it. Ethics are a big thing for me, coming from the Army and with my upbringing, and having worked internationally I’ve witnessed firsthand how important it is to have those standards in place. It’s kind of a fun fit; I’m able to leverage that past experience to educate people on things they might not consider.
One of Sundt’s core values is Community and Industry Service: what does it look like to live out that value?
In the Southwest District, we live and breathe our work, so we’re already very involved in the industry. But what impresses me about Sundt is how much our leadership supports us in our community efforts. As a Tempe Diablo with 40 other guys, we raise over $1 million a year for teachers, students and other community programs here in Tempe, and Sundt’s been a huge supporter. Anytime I put something on, they’ve been right behind us. And I like that—I think the people here are what really makes a difference, and what makes this feel like more than just a job.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
March 8, 2019
When the Brichta Early Learning Center needed a new playground, parents came together to help raise the necessary funds. They were able to purchase new equipment but didn’t have enough left in their budget to cover installation. Luckily, one of these parents was former employee-owner David Vasquez, who called Sundt’s Tucson office to ask for help.
“When David called, I told him we’d be more than happy to build the playground,” said Sundt Regional Director Ian McDowell. “At Sundt, when we talk about creating prosperity for communities, we mean it, whether that’s building structures that allow communities to flourish or volunteering our time for smaller projects that improve kids’ quality of life.”
Left to right: Wesley Skelley, Gary Thompson, Brian Pos, David Ollanik, Bonnie Demorotski, Courtney Hoyt, Andres Herrera, Edgar Maya, Max Hoyt
A group of 12 Sundt employee-owner volunteers, along with a few spouses, gave up their weekend to build the new playground. The work included drilling and filling 23 concrete footings to anchor the equipment to the ground. “They were just like worker ants,” said Brichta Center Director Bonnie Demorotski, describing Sundt’s volunteers. “It came together beautifully, and we’re so grateful that our kids now have a safe and age-appropriate space to play.”
Open since July 2014, the Brichta Early Learning Center provides infant care, early learning and childcare in newly remodeled and refurnished rooms in the former Brichta Elementary School located on Tucson’s west side. Owned and operated by Tucson Unified School District, the center offers family-friendly hours, affordable tuition, meals, and research-based curriculum.
March 1, 2019
Union Tempe was named Mixed-Use Project of the Year at the 2019 Real Estate and Development (RED) Awards this week, hosted by AZRE Magazine and AZ Big Media. Sundt Construction and Opus Development Group were proud to receive the award together, paying tribute to what was truly a collaborative effort from beginning to end.
(From left to right) Rich Gohl, Jim Drago, Kelly Wyllie, Larry Pobuda (Opus), Garren Echols, Brett Hopper (Opus) and Ryan Abbott accept the award for Mixed-Use Project of the Year for Union Tempe
“The reason these projects work,” said Ryan Abbott upon accepting the award, “is because of fantastic clients and partners. This team worked around the clock to make something amazing happen, and we’re very proud of them.” Representing our partner, Opus Development Group—who also won the Developer of the Year Award, Executive Vice President Larry Pobuda said, “I’d like to give a special thanks to Sundt Construction, for being an outstanding partner, and kudos to SmithGroup for their amazing design.”
Sundt Senior VP and Building Group Southwest District Manager Ryan Abbott addresses the crowd at the 2019 RED Awards
For the Union Tempe project, Sundt transformed a surface parking lot into a 407-unit residential and retail mixed-use development, covering an entire city block just north of Arizona State University’s campus. “Our work is embedded in the community. For a long time, Tempe has been a university town,” said Ryan Abbott, “and Union Tempe is one of those developments that allows the city to be more diverse, in that young professionals and families can now live, work, and play all within the very vibrant and walkable downtown of Tempe.”
Out of several award-winning projects, Union Tempe was selected as the cover for AZRE Magazine’s latest issue.
“We couldn’t have done this without our trade partners, including Wilson Electric and Walters and Wolf,” said Southwest Preconstruction Manager Rich Gohl. Rich, Ryan, and several fellow Sundt employee-owners and partners were on hand to celebrate this year’s event, joining a packed crowd of attendees from across the commercial real estate industry. The RED Awards highlight impressive projects completed in the past year, as well as the companies and people that make each project possible.
Other Sundt projects honored at the RED Awards included our work on Grandview Terrace, an independent living Sun Health Life Care community, as well as Harrah’s Ak-Chin Resort and Casino, which were named respectively as finalists for Healthcare and Hospitality.
February 20, 2019
Congratulations are in order for our project team on their recent topping out of the Canopy by Hilton Hotel in Tempe. Downtown Tempe is undergoing rapid transformation, and we’re proud to play a large part in this process. The new 14-story boutique-style hotel will include 200 guest rooms totaling 136,000 square feet and will connect to the 407-unit Union Tempe mixed-use development, which Sundt completed last summer.
“Our chemistry on this project has been evident since day one,” said Project Manager Jim Drago. “Following our recent self-perform work on the Union Tempe and Cal Poly Pomona projects, our team is firing on all cylinders. The innovations our people are bringing to this job are really adding value for our client.”
As the Canopy by Hilton lifestyle hotel brand’s first location in the Southwest, the hotel will feature various amenities, including a lobby-level café, a gym, over 3,000 square feet of meeting space, and a rooftop pool with a terrace bar, cabanas and a fire pit. Everything about the hotel will be unique to Tempe, with a focus on local design, food and drink, and culture, and it is scheduled to open January 2020.
Since 1951, National Engineers Week has been educating and inspiring young people on the importance of engineering within society. This week, we spoke with employee-owner Eden Roth about her journey to become a Field Engineer with Sundt’s Concrete Division. Eden graduated in 2017 from Arizona State University with a degree in Construction Management. While attending ASU, she was involved in various activities including Advancing Women in Construction, Design-Build Institute of America, and the Associated Schools of Construction. Eden started with Sundt in April of 2018 and has worked both in the office and out in the field.
What attracted you to become an engineer? Was this something you always knew you wanted to pursue?
The funny thing is I actually didn’t know I wanted to become an engineer. I saw the students around me getting jobs as engineers, both project and field engineers, and actually applying what they learned in school to their job, and I just thought that was great.
There are a lot of different paths a person can take with a Construction Management degree; how did you decide on becoming a Field Engineer in the Concrete Division?
So, when I started going to school for construction, I didn’t know that I wanted to go into concrete; I just knew I wanted to build things. I met my mentor Chandra in Advancing Women in Construction at ASU, and she started talking about how important concrete is and how it’s the foundation of the structure. So, I started looking into it, and I realized how much I could learn from it, and here we are today. I can honestly say I love concrete!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced while being an engineer, I’d have to say, is changing groups or project teams that I’m working with. Everyone works together and communicates differently, so you really have to take the time up front to get to know one another if you’re going to be successful. But once you do take the time, it’s worth it.
What’s your favorite part about being an engineer? Least favorite?
My favorite part about being an engineer is probably that you have to be collaborative and you have to work as a team. I enjoy being around other people, and there’s no other way to succeed except to work with your team and your coworkers. My least favorite part about being an engineer is probably that you work day or night, rain or shine; it might be midnight, maybe the middle of a hot day, but you’re out there. I guess that makes it the most fun too.
Knowing what you know now, and being where you are in the industry, what advice would you give your younger self just starting to find your way in the construction world?
Knowing what I know now, I would say not to be scared, and to go for it. I think it’s really easy to limit yourself and let fear dictate where you’re going, but this is the most supportive industry I think I could have found myself in. If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in construction, do it.
How does it feel being a woman in a predominantly male industry? Is it different when you’re in the field compared to in an office setting?
For the most part, it’s a lot different than what I thought it was going to be. The men all seem to be really supportive, and I haven’t had any issues with clashing or not feeling accepted. I’ve learned that if I ask questions, then I get support, because this is the most supportive industry that I’ve ever come across. There are actually a lot of women out in the field, and in the office. I find it fun to come to big events with the whole company, because even though I might be the only woman in my jobsite trailer, I get together with the Sundt family and I realize that there’s a lot of us and that I’m not just one.