#60 Hunter Sheehan: Building Handoff

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Episode Summary

Hunter has been in the construction space with Turner Construction for over 6 years, and has earned her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt in addition to her LEED AP Building Design & Construction certification.

On this episode, Hunter talks through her experience working with all parties involved with both new construction and commercial renovations.

Tune in to learn more about her unique perspective, and what best practices you can implement when taking over a new building.


Episode Transcription

Intro  00:10

Welcome to another episode of the modern facilities management podcast. Brought to you by FlowPath. I'm your host, Griffin Hamilton. This is the show where I interview industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights into modern-day facilities management, from hospitality to commercial real estate, and everything in between. We'll learn what it really takes to succeed as a facilities manager. 

Griffin Hamilton

Welcome to another episode of the modern facilities management podcast. This morning. I have the pleasure of having Hunter Sheehan join. Hunter, how're you doing this morning?

Hunter Sheehan  00:50

Hey, Griffin. I'm doing awesome. Thank you for having me. 

Griffin Hamilton  00:53

Of course. And I know you're right here in Atlanta, and you just got a quick tour of our offices here in Buckhead. And it's a great opportunity for me to actually meet in person, people that I have on the show. That's, that doesn't happen often and I appreciate you stopping by here today. But, before we jump into the podcast today and talk about what you're doing, why don't you give the audience a little context on who you are and what exactly you do for a living?

Hunter Sheehan  01:20

Yeah, no, thank you. It was awesome to get a tour. We're neighbors and I didn't even know it. But yeah, so thanks for the introduction. My name is Hunter Sheehan. I have been in the AEC industry, for my entire career. I've been working for about eight years. And I, you know, went to school for interior design and building science. Just kind of a pre-architecture program at Appalachian and I worked for an architect for a little bit, and there was a residential architecture firm. Did that for a while and decided I was ready for a change and that I like to get my hands dirty and be in the field. And so, Turner Construction, which is a huge name in the industry, was interviewing and recruiting up at Appalachian, and that is how I got connected to the company I work for and have worked for ever since. 

So, currently, I am in business development for Turner out of the Atlanta office, just part of our south-eastern region. We have I think 46 offices now across the country, as well as an international presence. And in the Atlanta region, our core market segments are higher education, colleges, and universities, buildings of all types, everything from dorms to stadiums, right, health care, aviation, data centers, so anything mission critical, commercial mixed-use, we don't really play in the stick-built field, usually, but we do a lot of commercial mixed-use buildings. And there are several others, right? So, we do some pharma manufacturing work. You know, there's a special projects division that I work with closely that handles really small sort of complicated projects for our core clients. And you know, they're a fantastic asset to a massive company, right? So sometimes we get the reputation for doing just really big ground-up builds, but we also specialize in renovations of ongoing and active facilities on active campuses. And also, small projects, right? So, there really is no job too big or small. 

And it's my job to connect our sophisticated teams of builders, with the right clients, right; with good clients whose mission aligns with ours. And I consider myself an ally for those clients, once we decide we're right for each other to make sure we're serving them exactly how they need to be served. So, for a while at Turner, when I started my career here, I was working on job sites in the field from, you know, a field engineer to Superintendent, right? So, my focus was steel, concrete, and precast in data centers, right? So that's really my background. And when we transition to the kind of talking a little bit more about our conversation, more than just my background, I'll share kind of the differences of certain market segments, right? I mean, data centers are a unique beast. But I transitioned from being in the field and moved to lean construction, right? So, capturing efficiencies, sharing best practices, eliminating waste in our process, and new business development. So, it's been, it's been a fantastic path and it's led me to talk to you today. So, what

Griffin Hamilton  04:49

I hope that's not the peak of your career there. By the way, I talk, talking to me here, but yeah, that is wonderful to hear. And I think there's gonna be a lot of folks listening that are thinking and listening to you talking about the architect into the building from the ground up. And they may be sitting there thinking, well, what does that have to do with me and managing my facility that it's already built? Or it's 50 years old, and that whole process is out of my realm. So, it's an interesting perspective, one that's unique to this show. We haven't had anyone on that has been through that process from the ground up. So, I'm excited to get that perspective, and I think it'll be enlightening for a lot of folks to really get an understanding of the beginning, from inception all the way to that handoff, from the architects to the folks actually maintaining and managing the facilities there. So, as I said, I appreciate you coming on here and your experience here at Turner, with such a large organization and a wide background there. At Turner, I think we're gonna have a lot of great content here today. But, jumping into that, you mentioned briefly builds from the ground up. And I don't know if that's where you spend most of your time there if that's really your bread and butter, but talk to me there from that brand new construction?

Hunter Sheehan  06:06

Yeah, so, absolutely, I'd say that, you know, they say a lot of percentages, or 50% of percentages are made up. But off the top of my head, I think that probably half of the opportunities we work on in the Atlanta region are ground-up construction opportunities. And on top of that, those are typically higher volume projects, right? So, they may have more staff, they may be a longer construction duration. But I'll just kind of high-level walk through the process. And this is going to be full of caveats because all jobs are different because all clients are different, and all sites are different. But there is kind of one overarching process, right? So typically, we get involved, either at the client knows they need a building, or they wish to do a design-build. So, they'll engage sophisticated builders, such as Turner to kind of manage the entire design-build process. In that case, we would find an architecture partner, that or design partners that fit the client's needs that the client likes, or that we know are going to do an excellent job, or some I mean, ideally, some combination of all those things. We work with the client to develop a program, you know, make sure that we have developed the target budget, drive the program to the budget, and the budget to the program. And, you know, just control the whole design process from conceptual to construction documents, right? So, in that case, we drive that process. 

Sometimes we bring onboard key subcontractors or trade partners, as we like to call them to ensure that what we're designing, they can build. And a lot of times, the construction process can be seen as very segmented right. It's in an architect's hands, they drop that and pass it to a GC. It's in our hands, we drop that and pass it to a subcontractor. We manage the bill, but really, it's in their hands, right, and then we drop it off to the client. And that's, that's really not where we're most effective. Right? So, the method I'm describing now is a little bit well, a lot a bit more integrated. So, you know, we work hand in hand with those key trade partners to make sure that they know the job is coming. They're going to be able to hit the ground running. They are the experts, right? We are managers, they are the people doing the work. So, building their knowledge into the build is a win for everybody. We then procure all the subcontracts, and then we begin operations, right? So, we have a team that moves on site. Is there 100% of the time, overseeing the build managing changes, and ensuring quality and safety in the build process? 

And then we begin the turnover process, right? So, the right way to do this, I feel comfortable saying this, is to begin with the end in mind. And from the onset, understand the client's expectations for turnover. And because I'm a builder because Turner is a builder, we get very stuck in this, like, you know, the construction of the building is it, right? This is the show, this is the game day. Okay, let's take a step back. Game Day is when, you know, the surgeon steps into the operating room that we built and saves a life. Game Day is when, you know, a five-year-old goes into their new kindergarten class and, you know, they have a learning experience, right? So, like, you know, everybody's got to specialize in their piece of the puzzle, but the end use of the building is not construction. So, we have to start planning for handover from the beginning, right, and the key to that is understanding the client's expectations. What do they expect the handover to be like? What documents do they need? What owner training do they need? What attic sock do they need? 

And then make sure we transition and translate those expectations to the people doing the work, our trade partners. And then execute flawlessly, right? And that's so much easier said than done, I realized that. But that's how it really should work. You know, there are other delivery methods that are not designed build, where we receive a set of documents, the client already kind of has worked with an architect and knows what they want or worked with designers. And then we bid the job, procure the job, show up on-site, build it, manage changes, etc. So, I'd say the differences that we experience are in, at least in ground-up construction, how early we get involved. And I think owners probably always going to say, ideally, we're involved super early, right, we want to control our own destiny. And we think we're pretty good at what we do. So, we want to help guide the process.

Griffin Hamilton  10:50

It’s the reason why you guys are so big. 

Hunter Sheehan  10:53

Yeah, I mean, I love to think so. Right? So, the takeaways, I think, for ground-up construction are that it is a long process. It's extremely complicated. The reason subcontractors and trade partners don't just build the building is that there are a lot of moving pieces. We have to control the process. And close out, which I think is how we transition into your product, right? Flow path, is kind of that first taste, that first kind of, I don't know, it's the first time we exchange sometimes with facilities management. And again, ideally, we're talking about this from the beginning of construction. But sometimes the facilities team is being hired, right? Or the, you know, say we have a big client, they're scrambling to get operators of this building. We mean, we all know we're in kind of a labor shortage, and it's tough, right? So, the ideal situation isn't always what happens. But I'd say it's on us to make sure those expectations are talked about, even if we have to be the ones to talk to our clients and say, hey, have you ever thought about this? Or have you just been so focused on getting us hired? Right, which is beyond understanding. But again, that's what we're here for right? To be the ally of the customer to make sure, you know, the building serves its end users, which is all that matters in the end, right?

Griffin Hamilton  12:15

Yeah. No, I think in one line that you had, begin with the end in mind, I absolutely love that phrase. And that's something where my background prior to FlowPath was a vendor. And there were countless times when I was going in servicing different restaurant groups where I had to go and clean out access panels that I could not access. 

Hunter Sheehan  12:38

Oh, I know how that is. 

Griffin Hamilton  12:40

it was scary to see how many times that up, there, it was a fire, a fire hazard if we weren't going in and properly cleaning these duct systems. And it was scary how often those were inaccessible. And that's something where I think the construction, they weren't thinking of that perspective because it's a very niche service that I was offering there. But it takes a true partner to say, hey, are you thinking of XY and Z of not only the aesthetics of this building, and how practical it is, but the ongoing maintenance of this building and make sure this investment is lasting as long as possible. So having that partnership and that guidance from an organization that has been doing it for years, and has countless projects under its belt, I think that is a unique perspective to take there. And, again, just beginning with the ending in mind is an important race to catch there.

Hunter Sheehan  13:32

Yeah, and I mean, I love the way you put that. I guess I should take a step back and say there are multiple end users of a building, right? And so, there's, you know, if it's a higher education dorm, there's the student who's going to show up on their freshman year, and you know, they're the end user and there, you know, 10 by 15-foot dorm, right? But there are also facilities managers, and if the facilities management team cannot do their job, because there are no access panels or because getting onto the roof to service a unit up there is a safety hazard, right? Like, if we don't think about those things, it impacts the true end user. Going back to what I said, which is really all that matters, right? I mean it, I think Turner's reputation rests on how people feel about the building on their end, whether it's facilities managers, the client, right, the person who's writing the checks, or, or the student, right? And the last thing we want is for the student to say, oh my god, I love these dorms. They're beautiful, but the facilities team to say, Man, I never want to work, or I never want to work on a turner building again, because I can't access anything. They didn't think about it. 

And so, you know, we're really balancing a lot of expectations, which is why getting started early is key, which is why I'm saying closeout cannot wait till, oh my god, okay, we're in the punch list phase. Let's talk about turning the building over. It's not going to be good, right? And that is not a situation we want any client to be in. Because it's true. If you're, you know, a lot, a lot of times, construction takes a long time. The design has to be perfect. The execution has to be perfect. And, you know, that takes a while. But you need your building fast. So, it's, there's a lot of competing, you know. There are a lot of things pulling our attention in different directions. But eye on handover, right?

Griffin Hamilton  15:30

Yeah. And I guess with that from, if I'm a facilities manager listening, and I have now this perspective, what are, and I'm sure you've seen across the board as being a smooth transition to one that may have been a little bit rougher, what are some best practices on both sides? And I guess, more focused on the facilities from their perspective, what can they do to ensure a seamless transition going from a company like Turner to the actual facilities management team?

Hunter Sheehan  15:59

Yeah, that's a fantastic question. So, I have been a part of transitions that were flawless, and transitions that were a little bit more just, like difficult. And the lessons I've, I've learned from that are, if you're a facilities manager, are part of the facilities management team ask to be a part of the transition, the handover from construction to operations. And we, Turner, would love that and loves that, whenever that happens, and what we're going to do if you're brought to the table early, and we should do that, too, right, we should ask for you to be at the table. So, there's some shared responsibility there. But what we're gonna say is, what does success mean to you? What does a successful turnover feel like for you? What are your key conditions of satisfaction, and we can hit any bull's eye, but we have to be able to see the target? And I, I just feel so strongly that the earlier all these end users are involved, the better we'll be. Like, we can do anything, right, we just have to know what matters to you. We can do anything, but we can't do everything. 

And so, I've, you know, anecdote from my past was responsible for the turnover of a very large data center to a facilities team. And some of the facilities team had been involved, from the beginning. Love that. Some of the facilities team was hired, right as we were turning the building over or was transitioning from a different site. And I just remember, one of the gentlemen I got to work with walking into our building and saying every single penetration of electrical conduit through these fire-rated walls is not what I want it to be. It's not what it should be. And, you know, in my head, I'm like, oh, my God, that's an impound difficult. Is this going to be fixed? What have I messed up? What have we messed up? And in reality, it’s just miscommunication, right? Different specifications for different buildings. Unmet expectations, right? And you know, this, this guy was probably 100% right for a different set of specs in a different building, and his perspective was valuable. But there was that rocky transition where we had to sit down and say, look, that's not what we designed. This is what we designed because we were managing a design-build, this is what we designed. This is what we put in place, you know, the build matches the specs. It's a little bit late to discover that you wish the suspects were different. 

And that's a difficult conversation to have. But what we can do to make it better is get those people involved early, and just ask the question. Right. So, it sounds like a cop-out answer. Just get people involved early, but it's the truth, right? I mean, it's as simple 

Griffin Hamilton  18:34

Easier said than done. 

Hunter Sheehan  18:35

Yeah. And it's yeah, it's a simple concept and difficult execution. Because as I mentioned, the building is complicated. Owners have a lot of things pulling, you know, their attention in a million different ways. And sometimes getting the electrical facilities management partner that's going to be running their building in a GC meeting is low priority, right? And I can absolutely understand that. So, it's on us to ask.

Griffin Hamilton  19:00

Yep. And I think that it again, from the perspective on the facility side, you could also take this and think about your own projects that you're managing day in and day out. Because just because we've talked to ground a build so far, you also do new construction. And that's something where I would imagine, correct if I'm wrong here, but if it's a renovation, for example, you already have a facilities manager in place. So that excuse of, oh, it's a new build, there's no one that's here that's managing it. That's, that's kind of gone in theory. Yep. So, I was talking about the differences there.

Hunter Sheehan  19:33

Yeah. So um, you're 100% right. That is, that cannot be an excuse for anyone when we're in an existing facility and it, it never that, that happens very infrequently. Typically, if you're a facilities manager or a construction manager for our organization, you are all in on that new construction, right? You're so excited about a renovation or addition or, you know, whatever you have going, ongoing in your space. And I imagine and, in most cases, it seems like the top priority there is the general contractor. We want you to get in and get out. No incidents, right? You cannot impact any of our ongoing operations. And you absolutely cannot put anyone in danger, right? So those are usually the top two priorities. We want to be neither seen nor heard. And that's almost impossible in some cases, but we do our best to work with facilities to make sure we're meeting those expectations. Usually, those end users are involved from the get-go. And so, from that perspective, renovations are easier, right? Like we are working with the people who are going to run the building. Now you have a whole other set of challenges. 

We're pursuing work with a major institution in Downtown Atlanta with a very old facility. And they have a new facilities manager, and I was talking to him, and he was sharing that his first task was to scan all the old literal blueprints. Like we don't have this anymore. This is from before our time. Literal blueprints into, you know, save them as a PDF, and then file them in a logical way. And so that's crazy to me because it's just not a struggle that I deal with, right? This is kind of a look behind the curtain into a facilities manager’s life. But we have a good handful of clients who don't even know what's behind their own walls, due to no fault of their own, right? Facilities age, facilities are older than some people and team members change. Right? So, the problems you have change from the ground up problems, which are, I don't know who's going to be running the building, maybe those people haven't been hired yet, maybe those people don't know what they want, and, you know, we got to make sure there are access panels for them to, what's behind this wall? What the heck could we find? We have no existing drawings. The existing drawings are from 1932. And they're literally pencil drew, or whatever, right? So, it's different, it's a different skill set. It's a different set of problems and a different set of solutions.

Griffin Hamilton  22:06

Yeah, and I think the main theme and the main takeaways here is communication. You can't over-communicate. You can't be too involved in this. And that's something we're, you know, if it's your project and a renovation, or if it is something that you are going to be taking over. It is going to impact your day in and day out from that day on. And so, you want to make sure that you're laying that, the groundwork and that foundation of having a very easy, I'll put easy in air quotes here, but easy day in the life moving forward where everything is as expected, and as should be because you have your fingerprints all over it from the get-go.

Hunter Sheehan  22:39

Yeah, well said. I mean, that is that's the goal, right? The building is exactly, like the program and the design match everybody's picture. The operation of the building is flawless, right? Things will go wrong. But by flawless, I mean, you can access everything you need to, everything was installed correctly. And you know, things age, right? So, you got to be able to get in and get out with, you know, new units, new electrical panels, whatever it is. New equipment, and then the end user, right, the patient in the hospital bed, for lack of a better example, don't have to think about construction. There are no leaks or no issues. It is, that's not the mission of a hospital. The mission of the hospital is to serve patients not to build buildings, not to operate buildings, right? We're enablers of a greater mission. So that's what we're aiming for every time.

Griffin Hamilton  23:29

Well said. Well, Hunter, I certainly appreciate you coming on here this morning. It's been a pleasure having you on and I'll leave you with one question. I ask everybody, but who or what has had the biggest impact on you and your career?

Hunter Sheehan  23:43

Oh, my goodness, you should have prepped me for this question. This is a 

Griffin Hamilton  23:47 

I never did.

Hunter Sheehan  23:49

So let me think about that. I've had the privilege of working with Project Executives and Master Builders. There are probably 5 to 10 people whom I could give a shout-out who have been patient, who have explained, you know, the why, for everything in construction, and who have let me run with that. Right. So, I really got to give a shout-out to all my first, this first superintendent I worked for. The first project executive I worked for. The general manager I worked for. Business Development Manager who taught me how to do what I'm doing today. And really, I've just been lucky to report to incredible, incredible people. So, my managers, shout out to my managers. 

Griffin Hamilton  24:37

All the above.

Hunter Sheehan  24:38

All the above. Great question.

Griffin Hamilton  24:42

Yeah. Well, again, I really do appreciate you coming on. This has been very insightful and always interesting to hear the other side of it in a different perspective. So, Hunter once again, thank you for coming on. And

Hunter Sheehan  24:54

Thanks, Griffin. I appreciate you. Have a great day. 

Outro  24:57

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Modern Facilities Management podcast. Make sure to subscribe for future episodes and follow us on LinkedIn for more facilities management content

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