People have been known to ask Scott Barron where he keeps his crystal ball—he seems to have a knack for predicting the future. Scott laughs and says it’s a part of his job as a drywall estimator in DPR’s San Diego office, nestled in the southern reaches of California’s Pacific Coast.
“We’re looking at the job holistically; we’re trying to look forward. [The project] may cost you more later if you don’t anticipate things now,” says Barron. Drywall teams are a critical segment of DPR’s SPW workforce, and not only for the reasons that typically spring to mind. Sure, they hang the walls in buildings, but they also function as a communications bridge, often identifying potential design gaps and making recommendations for alterations before a shovel even hits the ground. This proactive, upfront communication can translate into significant cost savings for the customer.
Q: What is your role at DPR and can you describe the path you took to get there?
Barron: I have a drywall background and I’ve been at DPR for 20 years now. I was a foreman, a field superintendent for drywall, and then there was a need for another drywall estimator, so I gave it a shot and liked it a lot. Before I started estimating, some people wondered if I would like being inside [the office] after being out in the field for so long. But I was always good at math, so putting numbers with the trade that I’ve done for years is great.
Q: How do you think SPW Drywall contributes to the work we’re doing overall at DPR?
Barron: We help control the schedule; that’s the main reason. Drywall is a big player on a project. We’re a coordinator between all trades. When we start framing a project, we have to know where the penetrations are for the other trades that are involved. We make sure everything needed is there so the job can keep moving forward, and we’re a huge conduit for information—we get it firsthand. Since we hear about it right away, we can tell the other trades what to be prepared for. We’re able to help expedite things when necessary.
Q: What project are you most proud of?
Barron: The Palomar Medical Center project in Escondido. The drywall portion was an 11-story, $45 million project. I was the general foreman for drywall, with 240 guys under me. When we first got up there, the drywall team was kind of nervous because of the size, but I was standing out in front of the building, and it hit me. I looked at the boss and said, “You know, this is just 11 different jobs in one building.” He paused and then said, “You know, you’re right.” So we treated it that way. The three main floors were the bulk of the work, and from the fourth floor up it was repetitive work. We spread out the foremen to work their way up the tower. I do the same thing at night when I walk my dog, Piper. You set a goal, work toward it, then set the next goal after that.
Q: What do you love about construction/your job?
Barron: In general, I like the challenge of figuring things out before we build—to take a 2D drawing and build it out to 3D or 4D in my head so I can visualize what’s missing before we start. That way there are fewer RFIs to write and we can keep the job running smoothly. People ask me a lot how my crystal ball works. I think because of my years in the field, I can foresee things happening.
Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?
Barron: A knowledge of building helps you progress quickly. Coming to this job after working in the field, you’ve been exposed to things. You know what is what when you’re doing a takeoff or a job. You know what details to look for.
Q: What’s your advice for the next generation of builders entering this field
Barron: Spend some time in the field so you get a good background of what you’re going to be estimating. When field guys call and talk to you, you can relate to them and understand what they’re saying because you’ve done it yourself.
While Scott might have a reputation as a clairvoyant, his real power comes down to expertise at his craft, setting and achieving goals, and being empowered to be a contributor. His method of communicating early to help create cost efficiencies for projects is very real and is an important way DPR forges lasting partnerships with its customers that are built on trust.