Tony DiBucci: How I Work

This is the first in a series of articles in which we have asked contributors to tell us about their typical workday. We wanted to provide some insight into how our colleagues (and even some future colleagues) go about their day in the hope that it may inspire others, or alter their routines for the better. So first up, meet Tony DiBucci:

Anthony DiBucci_Penn College 1_PPI’m a college student. Studying masonry. That’s “how I work.” When I’m asked what I’m majoring in at college, most people do not expect to hear the word “masonry” come out of my mouth. Half the time, I can’t tell if they are surprised that I’m willing to bust my butt doing masonry work, or shocked that I am actually going to a college to learn the trade of becoming a skilled mason. Either way, that’s just “how I work.”

In high school, I really did not know what I wanted to do in my life. Did I want to go to school for business? Be an accountant? The Marine Corps was even an option at the time! I just did not know what to do. I chose to go to work for a year and use the opportunity to think about my future. For that year, I had the opportunity to work alongside my father and uncle doing concrete work. That year opened my eyes to the real world. It hit me like a ton of bricks, that’s for sure.

The one job I recall quite vividly is a residential garage we built. We built a garage out of architectural split-face CMUs (Concrete Masonry Unit) and I had the opportunity to see exactly what was needed to construct a single-car garage on a plot of land where there had been nothing before. I did not have the opportunity to lay any block on the garage job, due to the fact that I was a laborer, but I know I touched every single block in the garage. That is when I realized that using your own two hands to build something is a skill. It also is an art; an art that is slowly diminishing. I had to learn more; I had to know it all. This trade is slowly dying, but it is not going to die on my watch!

I did my research, and I ended up finding a masonry program at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa. This program allowed me to learn the craft of masonry, both in the field and in the books. After I finish this two-year program in masonry, I will complete the bachelor’s degree program, which will include coursework in management, supervision, and safety within the construction industry. I have learned something every day since I have been here. My father also tells me, “Be a sponge Tone!” and I am. I am the largest of sponges, absorbing all of the information I hear every day in class.

A typical day at school starts at 8 a.m. Mondays start with a Construction Estimating course, where I learn everything that it takes to construct a house from the bottom up, including a pinpoint estimation of what it would cost to build that house. After this class, I’m ready to head to my Structural Masonry class that starts with theory. In theory, we discuss commercial construction work. The class moves right to the lab where all the “magic” happens. Our imaginations run wild to design there. Our floors are our pedestals, our pedestal to build our work of art upon. Our instructor for the project gives us specific guidelines, but he makes sure that we have a little bit of wiggle room for creativity. Every project is different; at times we work in teams, at times in pairs, others are done solo. Being able to work collaboratively really gives me the opportunity to see how others work, along with learning how to work with others. You cannot do every job yourself. You cannot run a business by yourself. Being able to work with someone is half the battle. In my masonry class, I got the chance to learn how to work with others, as well as fine tune my masonry skills. Some of my other coursework this semester includes a computer application course for construction, codes in construction, and a scheduling and management class.

Anthony DiBucci_Penn College 4_PPI’m excited to be a part of the next generation of masons. I don’t know where the industry might be in 10 years, but I know that the industry is evolving every day. I hear the talk of robots coming into our lives, replacing our jobs. Specifically, replacing my job as a mason! Yes, to an extent, robots are capable of doing what a basic mason can do. But when I say basic, I mean basic, non-intricate masonry projects that involve a repetitive succession of simplistic motions. No robot is going to be able to build you a genuine Rumford fireplace inside of your household. No robot is going to be able to individually chisel, trim, and meticulously lay stone on the exterior of your chimney. No robot is going to be able to make a multi-skew cut on a brick for your intricate Gothic arch way. For as long as I may live, no robot is going to put me out of a job.

I know I’m in a field that will allow me to leave my presence on the world through projects I build. Masonry leaves a permanent mark, and if we want that mark to be filled with creativity and imagination, we must be knowledgeable in the field in which we work. The creation of a skilled mason’s work will be there always as an enduring reminder of a human being’s need to create and build.

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Are Employees Hurting Your AEC Brand on Social Media?

By Brian Fraley

DeathtoStock_Creative Community5I encountered two situations on social media recently that illustrate the new dangers construction and design firms face regardless of whether they participate as a company. Did you notice that I said regardless? This is a critical issue for all AEC firms that creates risk 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Most of your employees are on social media. The way that they represent themselves can directly impact your firm’s brand, especially if they identify themselves as an employee. That should keep you awake at night. The intent of this article is to make the case for keeping business and personal separated and monitoring your brand online, along with some easy-to-implement online brand monitoring action items at the end.

It Starts with One Questionable Post
It starts as a single post that offends someone. Your firm could end up at the epicenter of a public relations earthquake if the rocks break the right way along the fault line. If it gets enough attention, it may even catch the media’s attention.

Another danger is that the offended individual becomes a troll and seeks vengeance on your firm. They might share the post with negative comments to amplify the reach or perhaps post bad reviews online. Negative reviews are easy to post and often impossible to remove.

The following are the stories of two real-life situations, both of which happen to be within the construction industry. Identities are protected for obvious reasons, but they will demonstrate that an employee’s social media profile can present danger regardless of how the traffic is generated.

Story #1: Oops! I Forgot about that Post
The first situation involved an executive that posted a link on LinkedIn to his Twitter profile with an invitation to follow him there. His Twitter profile, while obviously personal, identifies his role as an executive with his firm and blends business and personal content.

I scrolled down the feed and noticed that he retweeted a post from a questionable profile with a foreign name. Let’s just say that the photo was a bit risque. Curious, I visited the page. The page was loaded with language foul enough to give Denis Leary pause, and links to pages that were most likely pornographic. The ironic part is that this was most likely an innocent mistake.

Story #2: The Danger Can Come from Inbound Traffic
The next situation occurred on Twitter. A trade magazine profiled a marketing manager at a large construction manufacturer. The magazine shared a link to the story and included a link to his Twitter profile. While the content of the profile contains strictly personal content, his profile includes his title and the name of his company. The profile, while generally innocent, does contain obscenities including an “F bomb.” This situation shows that risk is present even if your employees don’t look for the traffic.

Avoiding Social Media Won’t Solve the Problem
These two stories highlight just two potential dangers of having personal and business profiles connected. There are others. Although not highlighted here, AEC firms should also be monitoring for disgruntled employees intentionally trashing their brand on social media.

Maintaining a positive reputation was less complicated before the Internet for construction and design firms. If you blew a project, offended a client or the community, or one of your employees or competitors was trying to poison your firm with toxic word of mouth, it was all hearsay that you could dispute in person (or in court). Perhaps you had a member of the team getting intoxicated and embarrassing your firm at public gatherings. You disciplined that individual and moved on.

The Internet has complicated things by creating a platform where your firm’s reputation is in jeopardy 24/7. You don’t have the time to police the personal activities of your team on every social media platform. And yet, every day, they could be sending out offensive posts under your banner and undermining your brand.

The part that really concerns me is how quickly a post can be misinterpreted and spread like wildfire on the Internet. A seemingly harmless situation can escalate very quickly in today’s hypersensitive environment. There are “trolls” on social media that scrutinize the intent of any post. If your employees happen to touch on any of the current lightning rods including race, politics, or sexism, and their profiles mention your firm, the ill will of the trolls can spread to your firm and damage your brand.

Look at the case of the dentist that shot “Zimbabwe’s Most Famous Lion” also known as Cecil the Lion on July 15th, 2015. This man was assassinated on social media and in the press and his career and reputation was destroyed across the globe. I had a contractor colleague years ago that hunted exotic game. He had a wall full of pictures of his various kills all over the world. What if an employee had posted a photo of his office on Facebook?

A Simple Brand Monitoring Game Plan
There continues to be a lot of debate over the issue of how to keep employees in check on social media. As an employer, you have no right to dictate whether someone participates in social media or what they choose to share. That is true. But you do have a right to make sure your employees depict no personal connection to your firm.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your employees, including executives, couldn’t be posting anything offensive. It always shocks me what people are willing divulge on social media, especially Facebook. You can find people discussing marital problems, abuse, health issues, and more. The offensive material your employees could be posting is often what we would consider normal conversation on a jobsite, but when seen by the wrong person on social media, it could start a firestorm.

There are many websites that allow you to monitor your brand online, but the following basic moves will get the job done for AEC firms:

1. Create or revise any existing policy or employee handbook to address social media conduct as it relates to your firm’s name being used. Make sure to not only distribute, but also reinforce the importance by verbally communicating the news to all staff.

2. Set up Google Alerts for your firm name and possibly key employees at https://www.google.com/alerts. If you have variations, i.e. ABC Construction, ABC Construction, LLC, make sure you set an alert for each one.

3. Assign a staff member to schedule periodic checks on popular platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to watch for mentions of your firm. Simply enter your firm’s name in the search bar and monitor the results.

4. Make it a point to continually reinforce your policy on social media behavior at a company meetings throughout the year to drive the point home with existing and new employees.

The bottom line is that you should completely separate personal and company social media presences and continuously monitor your firm’s brand on the Internet. Ignoring social media will not make this problem go away. Your brand is too important to allow any one person to compromise. It’s like the old proverb says: “Never mix business with pleasure.”

Do you have a policy governing the activity of your employees on social media? How do you enforce it? What other methods do you use to monitor your firm’s brand online?

Brian Fraley is owner of Fraley AEC Solutions, LLC, a marketing communications consultancy for the AEC industry. We have reprinted his original blog post with permission. 

 

 

“How I Work”

DeathtoStock_Creative Community3

For this year, and perhaps beyond, Masonry Design is looking to publish a series of articles titled “How I Work,” or something to that effect. We would like for our community of architects, engineers, specifiers, and masons to share how they go about their jobs; what unique challenges they face, and how they overcome them; and why they chose their career path, etc.

Interested in participating? Please take a look below at the questions we suggest you answer. You can answer each of them in order, or use them as a guide for describing your work – a narrative format would work best. Thanks in advance for participating. If you have any questions, please contact me at cory@lionhrtpub.com.

How long have you been working in your chosen career?

What sparked your interest in your chosen career?

What is your current job title/position?

Please describe a typical day on the job.

How do you explain to the layperson what your job entails?

How do you expect your job/position to change in the next 5 years? 10 years?

Top 5 Buildings of 2015

It is that time of year when we reflect on the past 12 months and think about what we’ve accomplished – or not – and then wonder what the next 12 months will bring. For many of us in the publishing world, December is when we take stock of our work, which in the case of Masonry Design means looking back at the projects we profiled this year.

In 2015, we profiled some amazing buildings from across the nation and around the world. Below we have assembled a short list of our favorite structures – in no particular order. After you check them out, tell us what your favorite masonry structures are. Perhaps we can feature them in the magazine. Send your suggestions to cory@lionhrtpub.com.

Grimmwelt Kassel
GRIMM2_5291©JanBitterThe Grimmwelt Kassel museum – a reinforced concrete and natural stone structure (Gauinger Travertin) – at the Weinberg in Kassel, Germany was designed to present the Brothers Grimm’s works. It translates the historical and topographical features of a surrounding park into a continuous open space and invites visitors to explore the exhibitions at their own pace. On display are a multitude of presentations about the Grimm Fairy Tales, the brothers’ biographies, and even personal artifacts from their homes. READ MORE

The Apiary
Apiary -34There’s a new architectural gem in Lexington, Ky., that is getting national attention. The Apiary is a catering company and 15,500-square-foot event space on Jefferson Street in the so-called “Horse Capital of the World’s” emerging restaurant district. While the food and service from Cooper and Mandy Vaughan’s kitchen deserves praise (and it has many times), it is the design of the Apiary’s brick and stone facility that is turning heads from the media including Garden & Gun magazine, Keeneland magazine, and Sophisticated Living magazine. READ MORE

Museum at Prairiefire
MuseumAtPrairiefireDesigned by Verner Johnson Museum Architects & Planners (established in 1978), the $17.3-million Museum at Prairiefire opened in the spring 2014. Its main exterior feature is a wall of colorful dichroic glass that is meant to reflect the imagery of the tallgrass prairie, including one of its most unique aspects: the prairie fire burns. According to Verner Johnson, “The expansive lobby is enclosed by ‘lines of fire,’ facetted vertical planes composed of tinted vision glazing, dichroic glass, and iridescent stainless steel panels, set in a composition invoking flames. The glass and steel are color shifting, depending on the viewing, creating a vibrant animated glow of color around the building.” READ MORE

Rijksarchief in Bruges
Rijksarchief 2In the center of Bruges, among the medieval churches, old-world homes, and Brick Gothic structures, sits a modern, new building that wouldn’t look out of place in any major European or American metropolis. Yet this building – known as the Rijksarchief – blends beautifully with its surroundings and is changing attitudes toward new construction in Bruges. The $17-million project consists of a newly built public library with a reading room at street level, as well as the restored convent, which is being used as office space. Both structures are connected via a glass-enclosed bridge that provides breathtaking views of a new courtyard (public space), the canal that flows past the Rijksarchief, and the nearby, famed towers of Bruges. READ MORE

Waltham Watch Factory
Watch,  Bruner Cott, arch.For nearly a century, throngs of area residents of Waltham, Mass., made their way to work in the iconic 1854 factory of the Waltham Watch Company along the Charles River. The first enterprise to produce watches on an assembly line, the company operated in its expansive, 405,000-square-foot facility until 1949, after which a few light industrial and office tenants occupied the buildings. Today, the factory is enjoying a second life, thriving once again through a mixed-use renaissance by Bruner/Cott and Associates (Cambridge, Mass.) that provides innovative living and working spaces in its restored and renovated buildings. READ MORE

The Symbol of Sibenik

St. Jacob’s Cathedral, Sibenik, Croatia

 

St Jacobs Cathedral.jpg

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

 

It’s no surprise that many of the western world’s most enduring, beautifully crafted and well-preserved structures are churches and cathedrals. For centuries, they were the center of all community activity in remote villages and sprawling cities throughout Europe. In many instances, this still is true today. In fact, a trip to any European city is incomplete if one does not tour at least one historic house of worship. Regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations, these structures offer not only great learning opportunities about the daily lives of past civilizations, but the buildings themselves also are key historical characters – not to mention architectural treasures.

Of course, everyone is aware of the great churches and cathedrals in Spain, France and Italy, but cross the Adriatic Sea into Croatia (the town of Sibenik to be precise) and one will find a little-known, 16th century stone cathedral known as St. Jacob’s. Built between 1431 and 1536, this UNESCO World Heritage site (2001) is constructed entirely of stone and is a blend of Venetian Gothic and Toscano Renaissance styles. The naturally white structure and domed roof certainly stand out against the red tiled coverings of most of the buildings in this coastal town, but it is all the wonderful details (inside and out) that make St. Jacob’s Cathedral the cultural and architectural focal point of Sibenik.

In the early-to-mid 15th century, Sibenik’s city council commissioned a young architect from Zadar, Croatia to design the cathedral. Juraj Matvejev Dalmatinac, who at the time was studying art in Venice, Italy, took on the project with great fervor and incorporated his love for Venetian Gothic architecture. He managed the construction for St. Jacob’s until his death in 1475, but his vision for the cathedral’s final design and exquisite detailing did not die with him.

Juraj Matvejev Dalmatinac’s design called for a triple nave basilica with three apses and a cupola (interior height is 32 meters), all made from stone. The roof of the central and lateral nave forms a semicircular vault. Where these sections meet emerges a rectangular base bearing an octagonal tambour with 16 windows; the final part of the dome rises above it. The main portal dominates the lower, gothic part of the facade. Its inside frame is abundantly decorated with stone carvings and sculptures, including the 12 apostles. The baptismal font lies at ground level in the southern apse. It is a small, round space with niches meeting within the columns. Dalmatinac set statues of prophets in this space and he roofed it over with a mildly bent arc.

Prior to Dalmatinac’s death, the side naves, the sanctuary, the ornamental apse and the sacristy were erected. Perhaps the most remarkable aspects of the exterior are the 72, life-sized carved stone heads representing the citizenry of Sibenik during Dalmatinac’s residency – peasants, soldiers, fishermen, etc. The frieze has held up quite well for more than 400 years.

Nikola Firentinac took over the cathedral’s construction until his death in 1505 and is credited with completing Dalmatinac’s designs for the dome (stone slabs fitted into grooves); the sculpture of Saints Michael, Jacob and Mark; the roof complex (a barrel roof of stone slabs); and the upper part of the façade. However, he continued the work of Dalmatinac, but did so in more of a Toscano Renaissance style. Within the cathedral, he built parallel galleries within the side naves, and completed the presbytery and sanctuary sections. Following Firentinac’s passing, the project continued under the direction of another Zadar architect and a pair of constructors from Venice.

It is because of this unique blend of architectural styles and cultural influences that this cathedral remains important today. Among its justifications for including St. Jacob’s within the World Heritage registry, UNESCO said these cultural interchanges (Northern Italy, Tuscany and Dalmatia – the early name for this region of Croatia) created the conditions for unique and outstanding solutions to the technical and structural problems of constructing the cathedral’s vaulting and dome.

St. Jacob’s Cathedral finally was consecrated in 1555, and still stands prominently in a town square with Sibenik’s Renaissance town hall, the Prince’s castle and other houses of worship and palaces. But none of those other buildings – despite their own unique histories and beauty – can be called the symbol of Sibenik. That title alone belongs to one of the most charming and inspiring examples of sacral architecture in Croatia.

Built:
From 1431 to 1536

Architectural Style:
A mix of Venetian Gothic and Toscano Renaissance

Features:
• Triple nave basilica
• Vaulted roof and dome, constructed solely of stone
• Apse features a crown of 72 stone-carved heads portraying residents from Sibenik present during construction.

Materials:
Locally sourced stone brought from the nearby islands of Korcula, Susak, Brac, Rab and Krk.

Recognition:
UNESCO World Heritage site

In 2008, when we first launched Masonry Design as a print publication, I would write an article for each issue about a unique masonry structure in another country. I thought I would give these older articles new life by posting them here. This article originally appeared in the fall 2009 issue.

 

It’s Flu Season. Is Your Office Prepared?

 

15747202_sOn the pages of Masonry Design magazine, I have discussed in the past the importance of flu preparedness. I think it is a critical issue, so I wanted to write about it again. Every couple of years, I go through a lengthy battle with the seasonal flu – and I inevitably visualize all the work piling up on my desk during that time. I would bet that many of you do the same when you get sick. But if you’re properly prepared, then temporary illness won’t spell doom (or mean costly delays) for your projects.

Every year, thousands of American workers are sickened by the flu, and new strains make it even more difficult to contain or treat. Fortunately, most of us only will be briefly inconvenienced by the seasonal flu, but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 30,000 people in this country die from flu-related complications each year. So do you know if your employer is prepared to deal with the flu – or worse?

Avoid complications, missed deadlines, and angry clients by being prepared. Back up your computer files regularly, keep your team informed on all of your projects, and make sure your work schedule (i.e., important meetings and appointments) is accessible to at least one co-worker or your supervisor. There is a plethora of online tools to get you started if any of these programs are not already in place at your company. Google is a good place to start. We use Google’s online calendar (which has adjustable privacy settings) so everyone at Lionheart knows where our team members may be traveling or otherwise out of the office. This is a valuable tool since many of us are scattered around the country, working remotely. We also value cloud storage for our editorial and sales files, and we hold regular conference calls to keep our colleagues up to speed on each magazine we publish.

An additional item to consider should the flu affect your offices is how to prevent further spread of the virus among your staff. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued commonsense fact sheets that employers and workers can use to promote safety during flu season. The information is available on OSHA’s website.

As with most situations in life, preparation is the key to success. How prepared are you?