It’s no secret that demolition is a big part of the construction process, so we love when the opportunity arises for us to make good use of a property prior to demolition taking place. More often than not, this comes in the form of donating office supplies, such as filing cabinets, that we may find left behind when we get the keys to begin an office fit-out. Most recently, we were able to provide various hands-on training opportunities for Western Berks Fire Department.
This was all possible thanks to the thoughtfulness of our Superintendent, Jason Holmgren, and the Vice President of our client, The Commonwealth Group, Don Robitzer. Jason, who has a relationship with the department’s Fire Commissioner, Jared Renshaw, is leading this project on-site day in and day out. It just so happened that Jared was involved in the planning process with the developer awhile back. Jared and Jason were able to connect at the start of the project and coordinated the opportunity for the department to conduct training at the buildings at the former Village Greens golf course in Sinking Spring.
“I was happy and fortunate to be able to bring my past relationship with Western Berks Regional Fire Department in on a D&B project,” explains our Superintendent, Jason. “The training went great! Commissioner Renshaw and his crew were fantastic! We are very lucky to have such a professional department serving the region.”
Western Berks Fire has answered over 550 calls so far this year, averaging 78 each month and over 1,000 in a year’s time, so this training was invaluable to the department. Both career and volunteer members of the department took advantage of the training opportunity, which took place on multiple occasions over the last few weeks. Those in attendance fine-tuned their skills in the following area: Ground/aerial ladder deployment and placement, deployment and advancement of the 400-foot hose line, cutting garage doors with saws for forcible entry when necessary, and vertical ventilation, which involves using saws to cut through the roof.
“We are always training on these basic, perishable skills, but it’s so much more beneficial to do it at acquired structures, as it makes it more realistic,” explains Commissioner Renshaw. “Hands-on training like this allows us to be able to hone the skills that we will use on fire and other emergency scenes. We emphasize being proficient in the basics, as they are the building blocks to being great firefighters. The multiple trainings had a great turn out, with 24 people there one evening.
Western Berks Fire Department was organized and placed in service in 2009. The department serves and protects over 18,000 residents and hundreds of businesses in over 32 square miles throughout Sinking Spring Borough, Wernersville Borough, South Heidelberg Township, and Lower Heidelberg Township. Learn more about their department here, and learn more about what is being constructed at the former Village Greens golf course here on our website.
Join us in wishing Luca continued success as he pursues his degree in Civil Engineering at Drexel University! We know he will accomplish great things.
How his days at D&B were spent:
“The majority of my days were spent on jobsites shadowing site superintendents. My responsibilities included communicating with my intern supervisor, site supervisors, signing in on jobs, wearing appropriate safety equipment on site, and completing weekly site inspections when needed.”
What he learned:
“A lot of valuable skills and information on how a construction management business runs both in the office and on the site. Some of the skills I learned was the importance of communication on the jobsite and in the office. I was able to sit in on meetings in the office and also saw communication take place on the job site through formal meetings, RFIs, and informal communication when the job superintendent talks with subcontractors onsite.”
Some of his favorite memories:
“Some of my favorite memories are coming back to my internship after Winter or Spring break. My supervisors were very excited to see me since they hadn’t seen me in over a week, and it was the best feeling. Another favorite thing to do is to look back at the old photos on Procore and see the progress that has been made on the sites I have been attending the company. I have seen rubble turn into an 8,000 SF home.”
What he is most proud of:
“Everything that I was able to accomplish from this internship within the past year. Looking back and seeing everything I have done and learned from this amazing experience has been great.”
How this internship impacted him:
“This internship has helped me influence my plans for the future. Before this internship, my plan was to attend college to study civil engineering, and although that plan hasn’t changed I owe the confidence I now have for this major to this internship with D&B. Being at a company almost every day now for the past year has helped me truly understand my passion. This provides comfort to me because I can finally say with confidence that I know what I am doing in my future. I am very thankful for both this internship program and D&B for providing me with this comfort.”
Q: What do most of your days look like on the job-site?
A: “I spend most of my days shadowing and working closely with the commercial Site Superintendent, Barry, at Stratix’s job site, as well as shadowing John, the residential Superintendent.”
Q: Tell us about a day / task that you enjoyed most at your internship so far and why?
A: “I enjoy looking over project submittals the most because I get to see how different applications on the job were approved.”
Q: What are some things you’ve learned throughout your internship so far?
A: “I learned the importance of safety on a job-site is by far the most important aspect. OSHA safety requirements are the guidelines for construction job-sites. I’ve also learned that everything must get approved before even starting and this can hold projects up for months. I’m learning about what is on the drawings and how to interpret what is on them. I also have been sitting in meetings and participating in weekly site inspections to really get a grasp of things.”
Q: What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself so far through your internship experience?
A: “That I know more about the construction industry than I thought I did.”
Q: What would you say is the most important skill you developed / strengthened at your internship so far?
A: “I learned the importance of listening.”
Q: What are your internship goals for the rest of your time with D&B?
A: “To continue to be able to complete individual tasks and be trusted at completing these tasks.”
Q: What were your responsibilities throughout this internship?
A: “My responsibilities included researching, writing, and editing articles for blog posts and newsletters. I learned about graphic design and how to create things in design programs like Canva and Adobe. I also learned how to navigate WordPress and the back end of a website, as well as MailChimp. I completed Benchmarking analysis and learned the differences between preparing copy for social media and blogs/newsletters.”
Q: Of all your responsibilities, which did you enjoy most and why?
A: “I enjoyed creating things for D&B on Canva. It gave me a chance to be creative and really understand branding. Besides that I also really liked coming up with research for articles and gathering information in general. I liked interviewing people and getting quotes and information. Interviewing people was a great way for me to learn more about some of the staff here at D&B.”
Q: How was your overall experience interning with D&B Construction?
A: “I was lucky to come into a business that was not only friendly and accepting, but that also had knowledgeable people who I could learn a great deal from, especially since this was my first internship experience. I rate my experience 10 out of 10 because coming into this, I had no idea what my internship was going to be like, but being here for a semester allowed me to learn more than I ever expected to about what goes on in a business. I also strongly believe that I gained a lot of hands on experience, from having my own computer and my own documents to work on in the office, to being able to go out to the job sites and take photos.”
Q: Do you feel this internship enabled you to apply knowledge and skills to prepare for college?
A: “Yes! Since I am in high school, I don’t have a focused major just yet, but my internship coordinator, Angela, went through a list of different tasks at the start of my internship. I was able to voice my opinion on what I thought I would be good at, what interested me, and what I wanted to learn more about. This allowed me to use my skills to the best of my ability throughout the internship. For example, I took Honors English all four years of high school, so I was able to write a lot of blogs and articles during this internship. I was given support and encouragement throughout training during my internship. If I didn’t know something, that was alright because then I was taught it, and that allowed me to learn new things and gain new skills. I really feel that this internship confirmed that I am on the right path. Through this internship experience I even realized that I would like to do some sort of marketing in my future career.”
Q: Do you feel this internship helped prepare you for your future career?
A: “Going into my internship I knew I wanted a business career, but I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do in the business world. This internship helped me gain knowledge about the business world and what really goes into marketing. It not only gave me an idea of what I want to go for in college, but I also gained experience and have a leg up compared to to my peers since I have an internship on my resume already. Not a lot of high school kids get this experience. This experience is valuable because it not only looks great for future jobs but will help me with getting into college.”
Q: What did you learn throughout your internship that you did not expect would be so important?
A: “I learned many things at my internship, but one thing that I didn’t think would be that important is branding and how we have the same colors and logos for everything. Another important thing I learned is the importance of having your business being a thought leader in the industry, not just as a company that does construction. I learned so many workforce skills that a classroom can’t teach me.”
Q: What are you most proud of from the work you produced throughout your internship and why?
A: “I am most proud of the blogs I wrote and posted with the help of my internship coordinator. It is something that I can say I worked on from start to finish and can add to my portfolio.”
Q: How would you describe D&B Construction’s company culture in three words?
A: “Innovative, thought-leaders, and welcoming.”
For this quarter’s trade partner spotlight, we are taking a visit to Fleetwood, PA, where AP Merkel Inc. has resided since the 1890’s. AP Merkel is a four-generation company that offers plumbing, heating, and cooling services. They have come a long way since Augustus P. Merkel first founded the company over 100 years ago. AP Merkel first started out as a company that built farm implements, such as machines that would harvest crops. They are well known for manufacturing grain separators known as threshing machines.
Their transition into the HVAC world all comes down to a smart, strategic business move. “Eventually, all of these farms that AP Merkel was working with needed heat,” explains Nate Lobb, an Estimator who has been with the company for 10 years. One thing led to another, and eventually the company added plumbing into their wheelhouse. Approximately 30 employees later, “the rest is history,” sums up Nate.
Today the company is run by Pete Merkel, standing President, and busy with approximately 50 commercial jobs a year. Nate is usually efficiently juggling 20 or so jobs at a time, which he enjoys. “I like the diversity of projects we work on. We do everything from senior living, to coffee shops, to dentist offices,” he explains. Nate also enjoys working through and overcoming the challenges that come with starting every new project. “Being involved in a job from when it is just a concept in budgeting to when it is complete is something I always enjoy,” he says.
Nate, who received his plumbing license about five years ago, grew up in a construction environment. “My dad was always in construction. I had an interest more in the mechanical / HVAC and plumbing side of things,” he explains. Nate earned his Environmental Studies degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. While in college, he interned for a company in Philly doing HVAC work and ended up coming back to the Fleetwood area and continuing his career at AP Merkel.
Nate stresses the fact that now is a great time to get involved in the industry. “There is a HUGE need for young, licensed tradespeople. There are few young people getting into this field right now. Get your license when you can, take it seriously, communicate, and you can have a great career,” he urges.
One young individual who has impressed Nate is D&B’s Superintendent, Ryan Hummel, who he has worked with since D&B Construction and AP Merkel established a relationship within the past year. “He has been really helpful and knows the industry, especially for being a younger guy. Ryan is really on top of it and not afraid to pick up the phone and check on something with us. We can talk through things and work it out. It is clear he takes his job serious,” explains Nate.
This feeling of open lines of excellent communication is just as strong a value for AP Merkel as it is for Team D&B. When we asked Ryan what he likes about working with AP Merkel, he summed it up simply in one word: “Everything.” However, what stands out most to Ryan is “their level of communication and coordination from their office staff to the field staff.” His experience working with AP Merkel over the last year has shown him that “they run a tight ship.”
An example of this can be found at one of our healthcare projects currently in active construction, Grove Dental Pediatrics. Ryan has worked with Nate and Tom, AP Merkel’s Superintendent who has been with the company for around 25 years. “I bid the Grove job, completed estimating, submittals, and the purchasing of equipment and piping, and Tom took it from there and is currently managing the actual job,” explains Nate.
One highlight of this 3,700 SF medical office space? “This project has medical gas piping, which is something we don’t deal with that often. This type of piping has to be put in very clean. It has a special fitting with a braised fitting joint. The key is to keep it clean, so when we start to install it we have to flush it with nitrogen gas,” explains Nate.
We recently visited this healthcare project in Wyomissing, PA. Here’s some photos of AP Merkel team members, Andy, Zach, and Scott, their lead plumber, working to keep the job running smoothly and safely with Team D&B: