Harvard Planning and Project Management

June 13, 2016
Harvard Planning and Project Management

It takes a team to build a village: Science & Engineering Complex takes shape

Picture of Joe O’Farrell, Kristine Renner and Danny Rico

Harvard received final approval for the Science & Engineering Complex (SEC) in April as reported in the Gazette. It was an exciting step on the multiyear road. Harvard Planning and Project Management staff Joe O’Farrell, Senior Project Director, Kristine Renner, Senior Fitout Project Manager, and Danny Rico, Senior Project Manager talk about the work and diverse skills involved in taking this project from concept to completion.

What do you do and what is your team’s biggest contribution?

Joe O’Farrell, Senior Director Project: We take projects from conceptual ideas to planning, budgeting, internal approvals, and approvals by municipalities. We manage the design and construction ultimately to occupancy and opening of the building. Soup to nuts. In this case, the needs for SEAS are enormous – a 540,000 square foot facility and supporting infrastructure that meets the needs of faculty, students, and the research community at SEAS all the while meeting Harvard’s sustainability requirements,.

Kristine Renner, Senior Fitout Project Manager: Working with the Allston project management team within HPPM, one of our primary roles is facilitation. We bring to the table the many University stakeholders who will contribute to the direction and development of the Science & Engineering Complex and surrounds, gathering feedback and building consensus among our internal clients.

Danny Rico, Senior Project Manager: Our team is focused on getting the environment for the SEC designed and formatted for the four years of construction to allow SEAS to move to Allston. We are in the design period right now for all of it – the supporting roadways, the building itself, a power plant to support the building, other Allston elements to make this the best structure and environment that will allow SEAS to flourish in Allston.

What don't people know about what your team does?

Joe: We take a holistic approach through our work – all phases of the project, from concept and ideas to ordering chairs and desks. We are more than the construction people.

Danny: I agree - to the layperson, they see a fence up for four years and then it comes down and students are in the building! We work on all the things before the fence goes up through those years of construction to that moment when the fence comes down.

Kristine: The level of complexity in a large capital project! Dozens of internal stakeholders and user groups, state, city and neighborhood representatives, inspectional services, donors, design, engineering and construction consultants, all of which contribute significant input that requires careful coordination.

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Kristine: The biggest challenge – but also what makes this project so exciting – is the spectrum of programs we are working to accommodate in the SEC. There is such a diversity of research and academic programs at SEAS, from computer science to robotics to bioengineering. Each brings a different need that the building must address in order for the SEC to succeed.

Joe: Working in an environment where we want to execute all phases of a project at the level of excellence that Harvard needs and expects. For SEAS, it’s creating buildings and space that serve today’s needs as well as long term needs that we can’t yet fully know.

What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?

Kristine: The HPPM Allston team has a fantastic diversity – the mix of professions brings an incredible depth of knowledge about project delivery. We have representatives from architectural, planning and engineering fields, as well as, financial, legal, facilities and construction industry expertise. I am a registered architect with a depth of experience in delivering laboratories in university settings.

Danny: I’m a management professional and worked for 24 years overseeing heavy civil construction for Mass Port at Logan and Port of Boston facilities. I’ve been at Harvard for eight years. I worked as a field project manager on the Harvard Art Museum’s project for their 32 Quincy Street building and now in Allston on the SEAS project.

Joe: I have a civil engineering degree. Mostly, we’re people with strong technical backgrounds who have developed good people and management skills.

What does your best day look like?

Danny: My best day is when we’ve been able to clarify and identify a path forward for any of the multiple design and construction issues we face on a daily basis. In doing so, we can move on to the next issue that needs to be daylighted for the same reasons.

Kristine: For me personally, a really successful day is one where I can share my excitement for the project. A good example is when our team has the opportunity to tour folks through the existing space. Sharing the potential and vision can be contagious.  It's fun to see others become inspired.

What do you like best about your work?

Danny: It is never repetitive. You do something different everyday because a project changes everyday.

Kristine: The diversity of people and topics I engage with is very energizing. I am constantly learning, which is very satisfying.

Joe: Being involved with buildings out of which wonderful things happen – discoveries, inventions, new processes, new knowledge.