Al Budenski Reflects on Four Decades of Construction Work

After 34 years at Opus, Al Budenski, Field Coordinator, is retiring from Opus. Here he reflects on four decades of construction work.

How did you get started in construction?

As a very young boy, I always liked building things, especially out of wood.

I have also followed in my Father's footsteps. He was a Carpenter by trade and a Superintendent for a smaller general contractor. He was always a role model to me and instilled a good and strong work ethic in me, along with emphasizing the importance of quality in our workmanship and doing a job well.

I served my apprenticeship and a few years after with this same company before coming to work for Opus in 1987. My father was my main mentor. It was not always easy being the SOB (son of boss), but as I look back and reflect on my 40 plus years in the construction industry, I'm glad that he played no favorites and that I learned so much from him.

What roles have you had along the way? What did you like most about your work?

I joined the union apprenticeship program in 1980 and earned my Journeyman Carpenter status after three and a half years. I continued to work as a Journeyman Carpenter on a variety of commercial projects and eventually became a Carpenter Foreman when working for Opus.

As a Carpenter Foreman, I managed our self-performed work carpenter crews on many projects along with being mentored to supervise an entire project. I then advanced to General Foreman and then Supervisor Foreman where I managed smaller projects, additions to buildings along with tenant improvement build outs. Next came Superintendent, Senior Superintendent and now ending my career with Opus as a Field Coordinator.

As for what I liked the most about my work? Not sure if I could list all of them!! When working with my tools as a Carpenter, I liked the variety of work. As mentioned previously, I like to work with my hands and build things.

Also, I was well rounded with all aspects of the carpentry trade, so I was always performing different types of work. You may begin with layout of a building, then footings and formwork. Onto framing and drywall and then cabinets and millwork and then onto swinging the doors and installing the hardware. Then wrapping up the project with conclusion of the punch list.

Often being the first person and the last person on a project.

As a Superintendent, what I liked the most about the work was the challenges of a project and successfully completing the project to achieve the Certificate of Occupancy status.

I liked working with all the tradespeople and developing the relationships that created the team to a successful completion and a satisfied client.

What skills best served you throughout your career? How did those skills change over time?

I would have to say my work ethic and my attention to detail.

Two things that I was always told – “8 hours work for 8 hours pay" and “what you put in, you will get out."

I worked hard to climb the ladder and when you do so, you will be recognized for your contributions.

As mentioned on the first question, my Father was my role model, and my goal was to follow in his footsteps to be a Superintendent.

Attention to detail and performing quality work is another attribute that will be recognized by others and will help you advance in your career.

Mediocracy is often and common, but it takes extra efforts and ambition to strive and expect more for quality end results.

It's always great to see a satisfied client at the end of a project and how much they appreciated the quality work that we performed.

As for these skills changing? A good work ethic and the importance of attention to detail change over time?

I would say that there has been no change and that these two skills are as important today as they were when I was being taught these throughout my childhood and career.

I would like to think that I have been a role model with these two skills and have passed these onto those that I have worked with.

What has been the most significant change that has happened during your career?

Two things come to mind: For sure the recognition of and the importance of safety and the other one would be technology.

Safety has come a long ways since I began in 1980. The required safety measures to now be followed on our jobsites has really advanced. We are doing such a better job with keeping all our workers safe and providing the workers with the correct equipment to assure a safe work site.

Technology and the way we communicate is the other big change. We went from only landline phones on our sites to pagers and fax machines and now to cell phones, tablets and computers. We now see less and less paper copies of our plans on our sites and use large screen monitors to bring up the blueprints.

What project are you most proud of? Why?

I guess one of my favorites would have been the AMC Theater Support Center along with the adjacent five-story post-tensioned parking ramp in Leawood, Kan. This was a build-to-suit project with a very unique design along with some very unique and challenging features both interior and exterior: large, cantilevered beams to make up a larger footprint from the level below; interior stadium seating along with raised flooring on all the elevated floors of the office building where it took lots of coordination for all the electrical and mechanical rough-ins underneath the raised floor. I mentioned earlier – I like to be challenged, and this project was challenging!

It was a feather in our hat upon completion and it was very rewarding to have been part of the team along with AMC being very pleased with their building.

What advice do you have for others in the construction industry?

My advice would be to recruit and encourage our future generations to get in to the construction industry. It has been a great career for me and so rewarding for not only the projects that we have built but also the great people that I have worked with for all these years. There are so many opportunities in this industry.