Builders at our Core: Gerardo Moreno

A construction worker stands on a jobsite looking toward the camera.
Drywall Foreman Gerardo Moreno has worked in construction for 36 years and views the field as one full of potential, where one can choose the path that suits them best. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

“Do what you love, and success will follow.” It’s simple career advice that rings true time and again. San Diego Drywall Foreman Gerardo Moreno has followed this advice for more than three decades in the construction industry, and he still views the field as one full of potential, where you can choose the path that suits you best and enjoy the work you do. Says Moreno, “After 36 years, I still love what I do. I get up in the morning ready to go.”

Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there.

Moreno: I’m a general foreman for drywall, and I’ve been with DPR for about 10 years. I started doing drywall right out of high school. Some friends in the industry invited me to work with them, and here I am, 36 years later, still doing it. It’s a great career.

Q: What are some interesting aspects about the project you’re working on right now?

Moreno: I’m working on a six-story, life sciences building with one underground level and five above ground for offices and labs. There have been some challenges with the schedule because of industry-wide supply chain issues—like long lead times on metal and insulation. It was a challenge getting the material to the site on time, but we communicated with our suppliers, planned ahead, and stayed on top of it.

The lobby design of this building is very unique. It was a challenge that involved a lot of pre-planning. It’s a tight space with a central opening going up from level one to level five. The shape of the opening is wider on one side and narrows as it goes up, until you get to a 9-inch radius at the top, so it was hard to get someone up to that fifth level. We built it on the ground with drywall and taping, and we put it in place from the top with scaffolding and scissor lifts on each floor using a group of three or four workers. We pre-installed some clips and connected it to them as we lowered it into place at each level. That was my original idea, and my teammate, Enrique Morfin, took the idea and made it better. He did an amazing job.

Two construction workers talk as they look over building plans together.
Moreno says the key to being a good builder is the ability to visualize the finished structure before starting the build. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What have you learned from your team members?

Moreno: Each group on our jobsite has their own project engineer (PE), which really helps. They’re very involved and energetic. They do project walks a lot, which has helped us enormously. One of the PEs asked me for a list of our backing locations. We have multiple locations for backing, so if you’re not sure exactly where each one is, there is a higher chance for error. I asked one of our team members to make a list, and he made a folder containing all our room numbers. When you open the folder section with that room number, you have elevations highlighted with different colors and backing types, so you can go from room to room and see all the details. He did that for every level we’re working on, and it helped tremendously.

Q: Talk about a time in your career where you intervened to make the work on-site safer.

Moreno: I like to use the huddle meetings we do during our morning stretch and flex. We can combine them with a safety talk during the same hour with all our self-perform workers together. We have a brief talk every day about jobsite conditions and any changes because as the job progresses, conditions can change from week to week. The team brings up concerns they might have, and it’s also a chance to recognize them for the good job they’re doing. Safety is about leading by example.

A construction worker holding an iPad scans the jobsite in front of him.
Moreno loves the possibilities a career in construction can provide. "It's not just about swinging a hammer. There are a lot of options and ways you can go.". Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?

Moreno: Every project is unique, and every one is special, but there’s one in particular that made me proud. It was a complex life sciences project with a very tight schedule. It was intense and kept me challenged the whole time, but I never got frustrated. The project was a tilt-up building with 35-foot prefabricated concrete walls and big garage-type roll-up doors on both sides of the building. When I arrived on-site, I saw machinery going in and out of the building. I stepped in the door, looked at the interior, and saw trucks inside the building. I got a little nervous right there because I’d never been on such a huge project, but we had a good team and we broke the work into small, manageable sections. In the end, our results for quality, safety and budget were great. I was proud of that.

Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?

Moreno: I have told our team members this: You need to have vision. We recently got a group of new team members who will become the next generation of foremen. I told them when you look at plans, you have to be able to visualize the entire building as it will be built and not just see the lines on the plans. If you don’t have that vision, there’s no way you can build or plan something.

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Moreno: I always say that a career in construction is not just about swinging a hammer. It's so much more than that. There are a lot of options and ways you can go. You can start in the field and progress. You can go from scrapper to framer to taper to superintendent—wherever you want to go. It’s a very good career.