In the Field with Matt Grober of Conscious Construction

A team from Conscious Construction, the contractor building the Step Two project for Step One, has been on site since the summer and has been a lovely addition to our school’s community. They have stayed on-schedule and on budget, minimized disruption to the classroom, and fielded questions from curious children with great aplomb! We interviewed Matt Grober, Project Head, about his experience supervising Step Two, his background, and what it’s like to solve construction problems on the fly. For more about the Step Two project, check out www.steptwocampaign.org!

What has it been like running the Step Two Project?

It’s been a great experience: Sue and the school staff are very helpful.  Our company has done schools before, but this is my first. The interaction in a commercial project tends to be more formal, but working here feels like I’m at someone’s home. I’ve come in several times to look at how the project is coming together and the kids say hello, gather around, and ask about what we’re doing. I love being with them: I have to pull myself away.

What is your background – what brought you to construction, and what do you enjoy about it?

I have a Bachelors in Psychology from UCLA. I moved to California right after high school and worked with my uncle in construction. Then I worked my way through school doing restaurant work. From restaurants, I got into property management, then moved to the Bay Area and stuck with construction.

I definitely try to keep hands-on in the field but my main responsibility is management, so my psychology knowledge comes in handy. Learning how to keep people motivated and what keeps morale steady. I enjoy using psychology in an intuitive way on my projects.

Walk us through “a day in the life” of the Step Two project.

It’s problem-solving, all day, every day. When you’re digging and doing demo work as we had to, you uncover surprises. There was a moment when we found the existing electrical service line was in our way and figured out with PG&E how to nudge it gently out of the way so we didn’t have to spend money for a new line. Right now I’m thinking about the construction of the Studio, that big open-beam design. It’s going to be a challenge getting those beams into place in a timely way: we are trying to rent the crane for one day instead of two, which again will save us money. It’s a really interesting project, and, like any project, it’s all about working with what you find to solve problems.

It does sound interesting…also stressful!

(Laughs.) Stress does manifest – I’m physically active, and that’s a big stress reliever for me, considering that I spend my days working on unexpected problems. I play in three different recreational softball leagues, and that’s what lets me sleep at night.