March 10, 2020

IE21: Construction Engineering Inspection

Lindsey Barnwell



    On this episode of Inside Engineering, we head to Orlando, Florida, to talk with project manager Lindsey Barnwell about what it's like to be the PM on major construction projects and why she loves her job so much. If you haven't described yet to the show, do it now. If you like this content, we're everywhere. Apple, Spotify, Google, YouTube, Stitcher and more Inside Engineering starts right now.
    Inside engineering, untold stories
    and fascinating people from the world of civil engineering. This is Episode 21, recorded in February 2020. Construction Engineering and Inspection with Lyndsey Barnwell Inside Engineering is an RK&K podcast. Learn more at
    And welcome back to another episode
    of Inside Engineering. We are once again on the road Today we are in central Florida. We're in our Orlando office. We're excited to be here. And I'm I'm sitting here with Lindsey Barnwell. Morning, Lindsey. Thanks for taking the time out to do this. You claimed you were nervous, but I don't I don't believe it. I don't believe. I think you're fine. Lindsey is a project manager. She's worked on a lot of really cool projects. We're gonna get into one of those projects today. But first, Lindsey, tell us what it is that you do. Obviously, project manager is a just an industry term and and but doesn't describe exactly what you do. So go ahead, walk us through what you do and why you love it. Oh, I do love it. So internally within RK&K, I am the project manager. I oversee the contracts that we have with our client and making sure that we have a quality product. And I'm in charge of winning those contracts, then managing them throughout. On
    a job itself, I function as a resident engineer,
    as the senior project engineer. And in regards to that, a basically we are our team is tasked with basically making sure that every construction project that we are in charge of is built within reasonable conformity of the contract, the plans, specs, and that we keep the project moving, try to minimize any impacts. We try to facilitate communication and try to do all this without sacrificing quality and also managing the client's goals. The client has goals and with regards to time and money. So our job really is just to be the interface out there. Keep the project moving. Try to resolve engineering issues and.
    So. So from a from a technical
    standpoint, like in terms of technical skills, what what skills are needed to be a project manager and do what you're doing. So if somebody is coming up in the industry and they want to get to where you are, what do you need to know to be out in the field and to look at plans and to make decisions, all those things? So my backup actually, I'm I work in the CEI. I don't even know that. I said that's. The construction engineering inspection element. So that's what we're charged with doing, is managing the construction engineering inspection on the project. So a lot of the skill sets that we have to have is sometimes I just think actually sounds simple, but it comes down to instincts and being able to manage issues sometimes in contentious situations and making sure that, you know, what decisions you can make, what decisions you have to bring other experts into, basically. Again, just trying to keep the project moving. So not being afraid of conflict. Managing your own team, you have to set standards and making sure that we're meeting the client's expectations as well as RK&K, our own, and that we're enforcing the contract. It's just a lot of issue resolution. Potential for sight of issues using your instincts, engineering judgment. Well, and those instincts are based on the. Yeah. The engineering knowledge that you have. So you have to be able to look at something that's happening. The issue that arises and like we've said before, every project has issues. Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. But you have to be able to look at that issue and and make, first of all, an engineering determination as to what's going on so that you can then either call on that expert or make a call. Talk to the client and figure it out. Okay. So let's let's talk about this this specific project that we're looking at. It's a it's a kind of a big deal. So walk us through sort of what you've done and sort of I guess maybe from the beginning what the challenge was that the client faced with the clients trying to accomplish and how you're involved and and where the project has gone along the way. Our project is basically it's a $34 million project. We are taking an existing diamond interchange, which is kind of different, and we're actually bringing it down to an at grade intersection. Okay. So I'm going to stop you. Just you said two sentences on my stop you already. Because I know that there's a lot of work to do the opposite of that. Right. Or at least diverging diamond maybe. And maybe that therefore, that's totally that's wholly different. See, I just. That's that's the nice thing about this podcast, everybody, is that you get to realize how much more you know than me. So we had a we had a diamond interchange, existing diamond interchange, being brought down to an at great intersection. Okay. So so now it's what used to be an interchange where traffic free flowed on U.S. 441 is now an actual intersection with a signal and now signal control movement. So why? OK. So I would say the same thing typically or a lot of times you would see sort of maybe the opposite of that here and make traffic free flow. Why was why was it decided to make it into. So great as part of this job as associate with the Wekiva Parkway improvements. Which was essentially building a beltway or completing the northern beltway around Orlando. I-4 existing there's 4-17, which is one loop and we're completing that loop. This is improvements associate with that. So with projected traffic improvements, the new flow of traffic is actually going to be getting people onto this Wekiva Parkway roadway. So we are building a flyover ramp and that is for the new projected increase of traffic. But the main local traffic, which is 4-41, 46, will now be an at grade intersect. Got it. OK, all right. So it's not totally ignoring the free flow. No, no. We have some free flow to get those people onto the Wekiva Parkway. OK. All right. So there's that. Yes, there is that. So in that job, there's lots of project improvements. We have a complex bridge that has been built. It has steel girders on the center span. It's a flyover. So it's curve geometry with these big girders. The center spans over two hundred and seventy feet. So there was lots of challenges, lots of complexities in regards to that. We also had another bridge, too, which is concrete, more traditional bridge that you see in regards that we alsohave ITS roadway lighting signals, striping improvements that happened. A lot of our job that we're charged with, which I talked about, is making sure that quality is not sacrificed while keeping time in measure time and excuse me, time and money measurements going and being cognizant of those. But a big thing that we do is have to be cognizant of the motoring public and how they move through the project and minimize any impacts to them. So we're always looking at how we are moving traffic around to be able to build each component. It's like puzzle almost. You know, you have to move traffic around so we can build this piece. Then you move traffic around, you can build another piece. So there's a plan in place. The designer comes up with. But we're always looking at ways of how we can improve that and how we can best flow traffic through there, minimize impacts and keep people moving. Is that done with traffic modeling in advance, you know, what's what would you presented with in terms of of that part of the project in managing the traffic? What do you have to. So in our role, there's actually there is a what they call made it to traffic or traffic control plan actually in the contract document. The contractor implements that. But even prior to, you know, moving traffic into a new configuration, we evaluate that and we look for possible ways to improve it. On one of my projects, actually, we did not have left turn lanes and they just didn't have a way to provide for that left party movement. So we got with the designer, we looked at suggestions and developed a way to improve capacity and this turning movements and get people out of the way, just improve the intersection. So there's always things we're are looking to improve prior to it being implemented, after it's implemented. We also look for ways that we can.
    Improve the traffic, do the job.
    Of course, we get concerns from the public and we evaluate those too. Always looking to improve traffic flow. And that's I mean, it's not just imagining not just getting feedback from the public before the project. It's no, I mean, it's not when that new traffic configuration comes in or temporary configuration temporary it comes in. I imagine there's a sudden spike in comments. Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes. Yes. Yes. We get lots of comment. Well, that's it. We'll talk about that sort of facet of the job, too. I mean, there's that's like people skills to the max. I feel it. You know, you really. What kind of elements are you dealing with there? I mean, it's not just the general public. You're dealing. You know, there's there's other entities that are interested in this going well and you're managing all of that. Yes, absolutely. So. Sometimes there's complaints. And we have to provide that data. We evaluate them and see if there are things that we can do in response to those for the most part. Sometimes we have considered that. And, you know, from a public standpoint, they don't realize you have to move traffic over here sometimes just to build such a small piece. But it's it's literally a puzzle. We've had five foot hundred-foot section. You're having to move traffic around in a different configuration just to get to that one element. There was something there previously. So, you know, we evaluate those requests. Fortunately, on a lot of our contracts, we have public information consultants. That is their job. They are the face. But we give them all the data that they need to be able to, you know, respond to the public. I mean, of course, we respond in public directly to if needed. That's a valuable role. I mean, that's being able to you want to keep the public happy. I mean, and they're they're the ones, you know, having to live in that area and drive through that area every day. It is those people skills are are hugely important. All right. So what else is there anything else on this project that we should talk about? There's a lot of things I could talk about on this project, but in general, our role is how I explain it to my friends, actually, because I don't have very many friends. This would be good because everybody listening, watching is our friend. Is our friend? OK. So so oftentimes I say, you know, when you're driving through a project and you see people standing around a tailgate that's probably standing round, that's probably my team. Those are my inspectors that are out in the field. They're watching the work. Typically, they're not ones with shovels actually, you know, constructing anything. And then I say, you know, if you see people standing around a tailgate, that's our conference table — we're not hanging out, you know, that's us having a meeting. And if you see a bunch of people standing and looking at a hole, we're not just looking at a hole. There's probably a conflict; there's probably a pipe, there's probably a utility issue. Something is going on down there. So, yeah, we're the people standing around or making lots of decisions while doing that. Right. Yeah. Right. Your standing, you're working. Why is that? I mean that that's. Is that. Yeah. That's how I explain it to my friends typically. Right. Because I mean it's I think generally speaking like the role of inspection isn't to you. You still typically think that like oh somebody has to like the inspector is literally there to watch what's going on. Yeah. And inspect. Right. And fulfill the terms of the contract in that way. So it's I mean. That inspection is hugely important. Right? Yes. And so what?
    Well, what do you do?
    What's the what do you do? I'm not kidding. End the question there, what do you do? Well, I keep talking over that note. I mean, I got more. I want you to talk about everything that you do and why you again, why you love. I mean, you clearly love what you do. What's a part of what you do that like excites you the most? I think that were just in construction. We're kind of the jack of all trades. We're on the design side. There's a specialist that's geotag. There's a structural engineer. There's a traffic engineer. We're the jack of all trades. We take all these contract documents that were developed by these specialists. We have to interpret them and, you know, use our engineering decision to make sure everything's built correctly. And I think it's fun. Everything every day is different. I know a lot of people say that, but we have a job basically because there are going to be issues on a project. We are charged with resolving those, like I said, and minimizing impacts. I recently heard a quote. Oh, yeah, ok we like quotes. I'll get you on here. I quoted this to somebody earlier and they said it was cheesy. I'm gonna use it anyway. Look if you've listened or watched that show. We're pretty cheesy. Let's be cheesy. All right. So "Calm water does not make a good sailor." And I feel like the same applies to construction. And during inspection, if everything went perfectly. I don't think I'd be the engineer that I am today. You learn. Like I said, some of these issues can be very specialized. You could be talking about a bolt. Believe it or not, I've had lots of bolts are kind of important, super important. And we've had some issues. We've really had to dive in and get into the details of that. So are a lot of things. I'm just using that down to the nitty gritty, literally the nuts and bolts. Those are very important. The nuts. I mean that. Yeah. Yes. That's why the inspector is there, to make sure that the bolt is in, you know. Yeah. Everything is done. Yeah. The way it should be according to the contract. Yeah. So our job is often to be our best in rough waters. I brought it down full circle. You like this. I liked it. This is smooth sailing, smooth sailing maker, good sailor. Calm water and waters does not make a good sailor. Right. And aren't we. What did I say? I liked how I said at last. Oh, I thought it was another quote. I made that one up. To be our best in rough waters. Yeah. Yeah, that's right. No, I mean that makes a lot. I mean that's how you really like man. We're gonna put it on the screen and stuff right there. I like an echo effect on it. Yeah. It's good. Thats what some people doing it all on YouTube. They're like we're gonna put it right there. There. Yeah. The other thing that we're gonna put right there is a subscribe link. Some people we need some squid. People should subscribe, right? If you want to subscribe, wait over here guy. Right there. That's perfect. Mm hmm. Oh my gosh. You should be like the co-host of the show, one of. You do the subscribe stuff and the points man.
    What? So I mean, a big part
    of. Well, everything that you do is there to help our clients. Right. Right. How do you measure the success of what you do? So what I take the most pride in, I think is actually developing my staff and seeing them take pride in their work and seeing how much they grow on our current project. Right now, we've had several. Green new blood in there, and just the amount that they have grown and learned and developed over time has been tremendous. We have people on my team right now that are actually in their inspection role longer than I've been alive. So I like to say that a lot. I remind him that a lot. And how does he take that? He doesn't mind. He takes pride. You know, it's just it's cultivating the talent, you know, whether it's existing and letting them share all of that to the young sponges. And in seeing people move on and, you know, whether they stay on or working with me, but seeing them move on into other positions is always feels really good long term, not some short term success. But I really, really, truly enjoy developing talent and seeing that come through fruition. Another thing is when it comes directly with the client is continuing to when we're you know, if they're they're liking what our team is doing. So the company likes hearing that too, where we like to continue that relationship and continue to and work continue to work with the same client that always shows that they, you know, that feels like a good measurement of successes. And then local to the project is there's nothing like driving through your job, specially at the end, even years later, drive through and you look around and there's all these decisions that were made. Just even if you're a professional in the business, you don't realize all the decisions that were made on each product repectively. And so that's always fun. That's always rewarding to kind of reminisce, I guess, right on your challenges and your stresses that you had to go through. That's such a repeating theme that we hear. Is it. Yeah. That yeah. It's just that when people, whoever it is that buildings create designing something ever working on a project and you get to drive through it at some point it's a bridge or whatever. You know, it's like I played a role in this. Yeah. That's what construction there too is because your decision is instantaneous. And when you're on design side it can be quite some years later, especially planning, before you actually see something you've built so construction is fun and you make a decision it happens, it's done. Yes, that's it. Yes.
    Well, what's a let's let's talk about your
    career a little. OK, do that. Sure. Tell us about your career to get to where you are. All right. So I don't really know what that means. But when I was a. And I'll say I'll say what that means. When I was graduating college, I went to I really loved Geotech. It was fun. And I just like the problems. And I went to my geotech professor and he he told me and this is what I mean. I don't know what this means because I know the first podcast was AchGeotech person. So it was. Yeah. He he told me that I was too animated to be a geotechnical engineer. And I think it just means I don't want to focus on one thing. So he advised me not to focus on that and to go do. The FDOT trainee program, which is actually a program where you rotate around all the different phases of a project from planning a traffic survey all the way through construction, and it's a very it's a great program, actually. And so from there. I what I went to the construction phase, I really fell in love, it was fun, it was instantaneous decision making. I don't enjoy the stress of it. And when I started off as a P.A. and worked myself up to a project manager at one point in my career when I was working there, I had the opportunity to possibly move up and also is having opportunity potentially going to the consultant world in moving up within the ranks of FDOT. You get to make an impact. It's global. And at that time, I really want to be on the project and be in the nitty gritty, nitty gritty, nitty gritty, gritty, nitty gritty. Details on the job in engineering. Day to day. And so that's why I chose to RK&K and start off as a project administrator and I'm resident engineer or senior engineer on the job. Yeah, it's fun. I like it. Is there anything you wish you had known earlier in your career? Of course.
    I think to have patience with yourself.
    Mm hmm. That also rolls over to others. Just, you know, you're never going to know everything. And so just patients with yourself. Patients with others. Don't sacrifice your expectations or a level of quality. And throughout that process. So it was all. You're always moving towards that level of quality. Correct? Well, with an understanding that you're not going to know at all. You're not going to know it all right away. Take all the opportunities you can to. Absolutely. Yes. Yes. You said it better than me. Yeah. Thanks for paraphrasing that. That's that's what I'm here to help you. My translating the engineer. That's all talk. Office hours here. Yes.
    What's what?
    What advice is there any advice you would give to someone coming up in the field who you know that that might be interested in doing what you're doing? They're listening right now, making a decision. And they're looking to you. Lindsey Barnwell.
    That's a very broad question.
    Yes, I know. So. I would say take take the challenges as they're presented, jump, you know, jump for opportunities.Don't be afraid of a challenge and go for it. That also is a really consistent theme. I'm glad. I'm glad. I'm glad just to know. I mean, we hear a lot of people say that we take those opportunities when they don't want to pass you by, because it seems like the people who have who have moved up nicely through their career. Yes, that is how they did it. But it was by taking opportunities when they were. Absolutely earlier my career. That's exactly what I did. Any opportunity. I'm on it, right? Yes. Put put that putting your hand up. Yes. Which was me. Yes. We all know there's a risk of being the one. Now I've learned and I've learned. So put your hand up early and then be more selective later. Yep. Yes. Well, now you're navigating those rough seas. So I'm gonna keep thinking about famous stick on a boat. Do you like boats? Do you like open water, being out on boats? Really? Not really. You know, Florida is so cruising is an easy thing. We can literally be like, oh, you've a long week and joining on a cruise. And it's just a thing. It's just the thing that is like. the port is 30 minutes from here. Yeah. So. Wow. Yeah. That's nice, nice one. It's always warm, essentially. You can kind of always do it. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, sure. This isn't nice. It is time for your, drum roll please, pick of the week. I think you should have a theme song. I know a little like I'm going to I'm going to do it when we get back. When we get back from a road trip. Okay. Get a little little thing and I'll have a I have a button that'll push it and we'll play the theme. I like it. I like it. a little ditty. Yeah. That's a good idea. Yeah. I like it. We'll give you credit for it. All right. I come up with one. You could. No, no, no. Right. I make up silly songs all the time. I'm. I'm. Yeah. All the time. So that's your other pick. Where you've been writing silly songs is fun. That's your first. No, no. All right. And I have young humans that I have to motivate. I'm constantly seeing little silly songs. I'm familiar with the young humans. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I've got three. Try it. Me too. Three. I have three girls,. Two boys and girl. OK. We tried. We did. We were, you know, variety just didn't happen for us. Yeah. You're done now. Three's a lot. Three's a lot. Three's good. Good. I'm gone. Yes. They say all sitcoms, they have three children for a reason because it keeps it interesting. Have you noticed that? Most sitcoms they have three kids. I haven't, but now I'm going to go pay attention I mean, like just think about at least 80s, 90s ones when we.... There's always that third one to throw everything off. Exactly. Yes. Yes. Keeps it interesting. Yes. Now our parents are outnumbered. Exactly. Zone defense. Yes. You got to buy a minivan. Hey minivans! minivan life! I know that was a mini van like that, was it? We can have a whole nother podcast about minivans, but yeah, that was that was a huge whoof real life moment. I'm there. I love it. I love the minivan. You know, once you dive in. This is I love this thing. So all of you judging me right now? Yes. I have a minivan. They're so practical. Don't knock it till you've tried it.
    I can't believe I'm talking about that right now.
    But yeah. This is a real life thing. Once we had the third it was. Yeah. This might be our last episode because of it, but it's coming out with a bang. All right. So your real pick of the week really, Van? Yeah, I don't know. It is actually to push yourself physically. OK. Yeah. Yeah. So I take fitness classes or I lift heavy run. Do body weight movements, stuff like that. And it's just fun. You push yourself to that mental capacity, you set goals. Just nice to do something. It's like CrossFit? I don't want to. Yeah. Yes, it is. It is. I feel like that has like us like a stigma. Yeah. OK. All right. It's your work. You don't see it as CrossFit. It is crossfit. OK. So you're in denial? No. But push yourself physically. Push yourself physically. Yes. It's it's awesome. It's it's fun to go to that place, set goals and do it. You know, I mean, you do that when you're younger, when you're on teams in sports or whatever. And I think as you become an adult you away from that, not the good stress relief. Are you are you are you in the morning workout? Morning. I've already done it today. Yes. So the morning workout. Oh, yes. Yes,. It's man. The morning workout is hard in winter at least. Oh yeah. Cause you just dark, you know. It's still dark and you like. I would rather be in bed but I imagine. Yes. Once you get into it it it starts to feel good. You can make any excuse you want to ever. You just got to go with it. Oh, boy. Well, Lindsey, yes, this has been great. We learned some things, I think, about a whole range of stuff that you do. I'm going to get you. I mean, thank you. Thank you. Do you think this was a success? Yeah, I think you do. I can see that. I can see. Yeah, it was successfull. Right, good. Do I look like it? Yes. Yes, absolutely. It's great. And if you haven't already subscribe now. But thank you all for joining us. And thank you, Lindsey, for taking time out of your schedule to to sit in here with us and do this podcast. Inside Engineering comes out on Tuesdays. You can watch or listen on demand at our Web site at Podcast. Or you can check us out on, you know, the podcasting platforms where you can subscribe. You can like rate review. You can do all those things you can share, tell people about it. We also have a a feedback form on our website where you can, you know, tell us how we did. You can give us a star rating from 1 to 5. We obviously know that what the rating for this episode should be. But tell us how you're thinking. Give us some give us some questions that you want us to ask the guest. Anything. We appreciate your offer for listening or watching. And we'll see you next time on another episode of Inside Engineering.

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