“Want to hear a construction joke? I’m still working on it.” To make safety meetings more engaging, Superintendent Brian Thomason changed the agenda so meetings start with a construction joke. Photo by Will Mouser
Thomason takes one of his daily site walks to see the progress being made at the ACLS project in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Shelby Riddell

Every Day is Different

The job of a superintendent: solving problems and controlling chaos with a side of laughter

Superintendent Brian Thomason might describe his days on the Arizona State University (ASU) Arizona Center for Law and Society (ACLS) project as a series of meetings, job walks and design reviews. But it’s the daily opportunities for project planning, problem solving and team engagement that inspire him.

Working on a new 260,000-sq.-ft. law school with hundreds of DPR staff, trade partners and craftspeople in the middle of downtown Phoenix means being as invisible as possible to the surrounding city. Fortunately, Thomason and his team have eliminated potentially disruptive work, like delivery truck coordination, through countless hours of preparation. With daily foreman meetings to develop an hourly, routed delivery schedule, the team has coordination down to a science. “I’m always looking a step ahead to keep things smooth. You’ve got to have a good flow and always be communicating,” said Thomason.

In addition to problem solving, Thomason is always working to keep the onsite team engaged. Weekly safety meetings see a lot of new people cycling in, meaning some repeat information for veterans to the site. To limit distraction, Thomason starts every Monday morning safety meeting with a construction joke. “It’s a great attention-getter and fun way to get people’s energy up,” said Thomason. He also engages the group with a safety question. “We really promote interaction and communication, and this is a great way to get people involved so that they’re more comfortable coming to us with the bigger stuff.”

Some days Thomason leads the safety meeting, other days he works through logistics problem solving with foremen. According to Thomason—a 28-year veteran of the business and a 15-year employee of DPR—one of the best things about being a superintendent at ACLS: “Every day is different.”