Michael Favicchio tells Tony Brown’s story about how he transitioned a new university graduate with a degree in English to a green building project manager at Chapman Construction in Newton, MA.
by Michael Favicchio, Business Analyst and Insights Manager, RDW Group. View Michael’s communication portfolio on his web site. Follow Michael on Twitter @MFavicchio. Connect with Michael on Facebook
For Tony Brown, a job as a green building project manager at Chapman Construction in Newton, MA, didn’t appear to be a career option as an English major at Marist College. But after college, childhood memories of his father’s construction company kept coming back to him.
“I was always interested in physically building things as a kid,” says Brown. “It was always satisfying for me to actually see a construction project completed.”
After graduation and a three-month road trip across the country, Brown wound up back home in Syracuse, New York working for his father. There he gained the necessary knowledge – how to coordinate with plumbers, drywallers and electricians and understanding your clients needs – that would lead to more opportunities in construction management.
His next move was to Charlotte, North Carolina. A good friend was moving there and he decided to join him. He landed a job working on the residential side of construction, supervising the assembly of entire neighborhoods. That’s when he became interested in sustainable building practices.
“It’s an interesting way to achieve the same result,” says Brown. The same result, but certainly with less negative impact on the environment.
‘Sustainable’ or ‘green’ building practices use effective design to protect occupant health and utilize natural resources such as water, energy and materials as efficiently as possible. Solar panels, toilets with reduced water flow and the use of bamboo or recycled drywall instead of wood are all examples of sustainable construction. They are key ways to save water, energy and non-renewable resources like wood from trees.
While in Charlotte, Brown had the foresight to recognize that the residential boom that had been happening from 2000 to 2005 was likely to go bust. He began looking to break into the commercial end of construction.
Around the same time he attended the wedding of a friend from college on Long Island. There he ran into a girl he lost touch with since college. They immediately hit it off.
“People say ‘when you know, you know’ which was true in my case,” says Brown.
The two started dating long-distance and it wasn’t long before Brown moved to Boston, where she had been living. The couple recently married and decided to stay in Boston to remain close to both their parents in Upstate New York.
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Once in Boston, Brown began job searching. He focused on companies that had good employee retention and an interest in sustainable building. Chapman perfectly fit both criteria.
“I took an interview at Chapman because everyone on their website had been there for 10, 12 years or more,” says Brown.
Chapman is a recipient of multiple awards for their commitment to environmental design, including Green Decade’s 2008 Environmental Leader award and the Green Business award at the 2008 Newton-Needham Green Business Expo.
In addition to working on multiple LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings for clients, Chapman has taken green building to another level at their own Newton offices.
Before stepping inside Chapman, the massive roof top solar panel array and “Reserved for Fuel Efficient Cars Only” parking signs immediately catch your eye. Once inside, the spacious modern design, bamboo walls, cork floors, large windows and Solar Tube light fixtures bring natural world elements to what could have been another drab office.
“You get to see outside here, you don’t feel like you’re in a cave,” says Brown.
Chapman also offers its employees a free LEED certification program. Brown, a LEED AP himself, earned the certification over a year ago from an outside course given through the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The certification distinguishes building professionals with the skills and understanding to successfully build and achieve accreditation for LEED certified buildings.
Despite attempts to lure him away from Chapman, headhunters began calling him because of his LEED accreditation.
“It makes you more marketable,” he says.
Guy R. Compagnone, director of sustainable practices at Chapman Construction, agrees. He adds that, more importantly than offering a slight salary benefit and more marketability, LEED accreditation will be a must as green building practices become the norm.
“Many companies are willing to pay for their employee to get the training,” said Compagnone.
The course requires you to read and memorize a 200-page book of green building practices and LEED certification requirements. At the end, you must pass a “very tough” test, according to Brown.
“I can’t believe its not open book,” says Brown, “It’s very difficult memorizing that much information.”
But Brown did study the book. He passed the test that only 75,000 others have worldwide since 2001.
“Tony is a highly valued employee,” said Compagnone. “He is dedicated to tasks, honest and humble, personable, and puts his skills to use.”
Compagnone says that having a systematic approach to planning, critical thinking skills, and a dedicated following of industry news are all important skills for a project management position like Brown’s. A willingness to use constructive criticism to improve oneself and a determination to follow through on tasks has also made Brown a standout at Chapman, according to Compagnone.
Brown’s English degree hasn’t hurt either.
Good written and verbal communication skills set job seekers with technical backgrounds apart, says Mary Beth Morris, director of marketing at Tighe & Bond, one of Boston Business Journal’s 2008 top five environmental engineering firms in Mass.
Those looking to break into the business may want to intern as well. Morris says many of Tighe & Bond’s entry level employees were interns.
Contact us, if you would like us to tell the story of how you launched your green career.
© 2010, Michael Favicchio. All rights reserved. Do not republish.