Kicking Back with Ray Green

Kicking Back with Ray Green

Senior Project Manager Ray Green has been part of the VPCS family for many years in several different capacities, currently focused on our work for the Napa Valley Unified School District. In this Q-and-A, Ray tells us a bit about the arc of his career, his history with the firm and a few thoughts on how he stays on top of his busy schedule (that is, when he doesn’t have his feet up at the water’s edge).

You and VPCS have a very rich history together. Tell us about that.

It’s a good story. Our first encounter was back when I worked for a general contractor on a VPCS project, so that’s when I first got to know Mark and Mike. A few years later, Mark called and offered me a short-term position as a VPCS construction manager which was followed by a longer assignment on one of their healthcare projects. Then I got hired directly by the healthcare client, which put me on the other side of the owner’s table. Eventually, I came back to VPCS and I’ve never looked back. So my interactions with this firm have been as a contractor, as an employee, as a client, and now as an employee again. Quite honestly, this is where I belong; I don’t believe I’ve ever been happier.

What’s different about working for VPCS?

After working around the industry for different employers and in different roles, it’s so refreshing to work for someone I admire; I never second guess them. The Van Pelts are so competent and have such integrity. I haven’t felt this way since working for my own family.

Did you always know you wanted to work in this industry?

All the way through high school, I actually thought I wanted to be a police officer. I even went through a training program and was about to enter the police academy. But before I did that, I went on a few ride-alongs. Those showed me that many of the interactions police officers have with other people are negative, and that’s not what I wanted out of my career. I’d already been working in construction to make money during school, so that just stuck.

These days, you oversee the construction on all the school sites that are part of the Napa Valley Unified School District $249 million Measure H bond program. Right?

That’s right.

What are the keys to being a good project manager?

Flexibility is definitely first on the list. In this job, you have to be the kind of person who can wake up, look at your calendar, plan your day, and then know that none of that will end up happening because someone will drop a grenade on your plan. But you still have to find a way to make all of your original stuff happen while dealing with all the other stuff that comes up. Patience is another virtue. And relationships are huge in this business. You have to develop the kind of rapport where you can have a heated conversation with a contractor and still have enough trust built up to turn around and ask them to do something and know that they‘ll do it. Finally, I would say it’s important not to get too worked up about things. I’ve been around long enough to expect things to turn upside down all the time. I’ve found that if I don’t get overly excited and I just keep my head, things will be okay. If you’re good in this business, it doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong; it just means you’re good at correcting things when they do.

What do you do to stay organized?

I’ve always had the type of mind that can do 50 things at once. It’s natural to me. In fact, it’s weird for me to do just one thing at a time. That being said, I do rely heavily on my calendar and on technology.

How do you keep project stakeholders in the loop?

I’m a big documentation guy and my primary mode of communication is email. Every time I have a phone call with an owner, I’ll back it up with a follow-up email. Still, you need to use different approaches with different people. As much as I rely on email, I also think it’s important to add a human touch; for people to see my face (even if it has a mask on!) so they know that I’m present on the project.

How would you expect a client to describe you?

Probably something like, “He’s a little high-strung but he really fights hard for the taxpayers and the district.”

When it comes to your work, what do you most look forward to about the post-COVID era?

In-person meetings! And interacting face-to-face with people; shaking hands. I really miss being able to shake hands when I meet new contractors or vendors.

Outside of work, what do you most look forward to about the post-COVID era?

Hawaii! My wife and I like to go to Maui a few times a year and we’ve really missed it. We’ve had to reschedule a few trips since the pandemic hit, but we’re on track to go again late this spring. We can’t wait.

What else would you like people to know about you?

That I just love this industry and the work we do here at VPCS. As a private citizen, you read in the news all the time about how taxpayer money is squandered. I really enjoy the opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen on our watch. I’m so proud of the campuses we’re helping create for NVUSD; it’s fun knowing that when we’re done, those kids will be running around with smiles on their faces. I absolutely love this business.

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

As we close out 2020, we reflect back on this unusual and challenging year. In spite of all the difficulties, we remain grateful for so much: our families, our friends, our community, and our work. At VPCS, we feel fortunate to have been able to operate without interruption on the majority of our projects through the ongoing months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We never take this privilege for granted and we are committed to paying it forward. We send our heartfelt wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season to our loved ones and to the world. Here’s to turning new corners in 2021.

A New Level of Sustainability

A New Level of Sustainability

Like Van Pelt Construction Services, the green building movement came to be in the 1990s. The growth of our firm has paralleled the growth of sustainable practices in the construction industry – particularly on school sites. In fact, our founders, Mark and Mike Van Pelt, lent their expertise to California’s utilities prior to the 1999 launch of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), a statewide effort to improve energy efficiency on K-12 campuses.

Since then, both VPCS and sustainability have strengthened and expanded. Incorporating environmentally-friendly design features into construction projects has become the new normal in our industry. All of us have become well-versed in the systems and technologies that help make buildings more ecologically sound.

The way I see it, these are the keys to what makes VPCS adept at this aspect of our work:

Education. We rarely encounter any resistance to sustainable practices. However, it’s not unusual to have clients question the up-front costs often associated with such features. When that happens, it’s our job to demonstrate the long-term value (economic, environmental, and societal) of sustainable design and construction. For example, a more efficient HVAC system may cost more to purchase and/or install, but its operating costs will be far lower over the life of the building. As owners’ reps, our responsibility is to prove how sustainability pencils out in our clients’ favor.

Experience. Our depth of knowledge is always an advantage for our clients. When discussing with planning teams how best to incorporate eco-friendly elements into projects, we can recommend features based on what we’ve seen first-hand on previous assignments. From adding modest solar arrays to achieving full LEED Platinum certifications, we’ve tackled a range of green challenges. So we know what is most effective and economical when it comes to different building types, client goals, and budgetary realities.

Ethos. A commitment to sustainability is woven into the VPCS company culture. We make sure all personnel are up to date with the latest approaches, we have a growing number of staff members who have obtained green building certifications, and we have a reputation among our peers for our dedication to sustainable practices.

Interestingly, the coronavirus also has a place in this discussion. As the pandemic has elevated concerns about indoor air quality, most construction project teams are now exploring options for upgraded HVAC systems to enhance circulation and improve filtering. There is even talk about permanently adjusting state building codes to require 100% fresh air systems in school structures, which will lead to upgrades in mechanical systems in schools throughout California. While this is an immediate response to our current infection control concerns, buildings (and their occupants) will reap the benefits well past the COVID era.

Our industry is shifting to accommodate changes in the climate as well as changes in awareness regarding building design and performance. As construction professionals, we have a responsibility not merely to keep up but to lead the way. Improving energy efficiency, drawing from renewable sources, incorporating water reuse strategies, minimizing waste, and opting for less toxic materials are just a few of the ways we can contribute to a more sustainable built environment. It may take a bit more work and a few more dollars today, but the value it will bring to our projects will endure. At VPCS, we believe in being equally good stewards of our clients, our communities, and our planet.

By Eric Van Pelt