In a new blog series, we take an in depth look at various members of our team. This entry is a conversation with our VP of Construction, Paul Foschi.
- How long have you been with Omnibuild?
I’ve been with the company — beginning with a legacy company acquired by Omnibuild — for about three years. I met the team during a joint venture project with my former employer, and we bonded pretty well, so much so they convinced me to stay in New York! A few weeks later I was officially on board.
- How did you get your start in the construction industry? What drew you to the industry?
Mine is a typical first-generation, Italian-American family story. My Dad was a small residential contractor in Queens, N.Y. I began working weekends and summers with him sweeping out the three-family homes he built and learning firsthand about construction at 12 years old; almost 40 years later I’m still known to push a mean broom around construction sites occasionally.
I was an architectural major in college and spent a few years interning with a large architectural firm in Atlanta, Ga. and eventually became a registered architect, thinking that was the field I wanted to make my career in. But I was never satisfied with the architectural side of our industry alone; I was, and still am, drawn to the daily roller coaster, gritty ‘realness’ of the construction process. I also find a lot of enjoyment in the beauty and power of the materials we use; dark, dense concrete walls, the fillet weld of a steel column on its baseplate, the heat and shine from freshly finished concrete slabs -all things I still enjoy.
I love overcoming the challenges of bringing a building out of the ground and the excitement that comes with completing a project. Along the two or three year path of any building project there are hundreds of workers, clients, consultants and ultimately the building occupants who drift in and out of the ‘movie’ (some so unique we remember their funny and quirky personalities and recount their stories years later)–they all become characters in a long and intricate story. There’s more drama, comedy, tragedy, sadness and joy over the life of one building project than any TV reality show or mini-series could ever depict.
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
I mentioned above how I love the dirt, dust, and nutty people of construction sites, so I was concerned my new role as VP of Construction would take me further away from all the construction madness and focus only on managerial issues. Happily though, I’ve found my position also requires that I work closely with a lot of our younger project managers and assistant project managers helping them to overcome the obstacles and challenges of their projects.
There is an unexpected mentoring aspect to my job that is very gratifying and at the same time meets our need to improve project delivery. The opportunity to work directly with some incredibly bright, motivated and eager young people is energizing to me and helps me see the future of our company. It’s also a role that comes naturally to me as a father of five young adults, including 19 year old triplets.
- What project that you’ve work on are you most proud of?
I’ve had a very fortunate career and worked on some fun and prestigious projects from museums, to race car team shops, to aquariums, to high-rise buildings, to 200-acre horse farms, but the one I’m most proud of is also my smallest project. Designing and building a locker room/bathroom/snack bar building at the football stadium of my kids’ high school in Connecticut. It was a true community effort that included the students, athletes and entire school administration. Together we lobbied the State legislature for grants, produced public bid documents and learned (and taught) about the design and engineering of the building. For the student-athletes there was serious sweat-equity in helping to clear the site before construction, overseeing the construction, and working with the entire student body to paint and fit-out the building in time for the first home game. Overall the project was a success and an ongoing asset to our community and schools.
- What was the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome working on a project?
Definitely the construction of a two story physical therapy center at the Bronx Veterans Administration hospital for military personnel with significant injuries and rehab needs. The challenge was to construct the building within the existing courtyard of the hospital, which was surrounded on all sides by the 12-story wings of the occupied hospital building.
Booming materials overhead with cranes or any other means was not an option. The only way to deliver materials was to carry every piece of the building into the courtyard area by hand; from steel beams to drywall, pavers and even the rooftop HVAC units. Only the concrete could be pumped in using pump lines extending through the Emergency Room on Sunday nights. It required a lot of creativity and cooperation with the subcontractors and careful planning with the hospital staff.
- Favorite slice of pizza in New York?
I’ll qualify my response geographically — as a Connecticut resident we like to lay claim to the birthplace of pizza in the US as Pepe’s New Haven — which is pretty damn awesome. In the City, however, I still have not found one that beats Lombardi’s on Spring St.
- Tell us a something interesting about yourself.
I wrestled alligators once…for real!