PMA People

Q&A with our People

Rob Collins

, Boston

What current project(s) are you working on?
Currently closing out two University of Massachusetts Building Authority projects at the Amherst campus ($29.9 million Champions Center and $95 million Life Sciences Lab). I’m also part of a PMA team working for the General Services Administration (GSA) on a $23+ million claim.

What is your career highlight so far?
The highlight of my career is a tie between the MassDOT Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T) aka the “Big Dig” with PMA, as well as my time at the Naval Base Adak Alaska before coming to PMA.

    • For the $15 billion Central Artery Tunnel Project in Boston, I worked with a fabulous group of professionals in the claims and changes department where I got more “claims & changes” experience in just a couple of years than what most people get in a lifetime.
  • While I was in the service, one of my assignments for the Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (ROICC) Office was at the Naval Base in Adak, Alaska. Adak was a very close-knit community of about 5K people where all residents were military-related (no civilians.) The construction season there was from about March to November. From November 1983 to May 1986 (my tenure on base), myself and one other officer were the Project Managers for approximately $100 million of work completed in place. Some projects included:
  1. Building three, 2 million gallon, underground fuel storage tanks designed to withstand a 10’ interior wave in the event of an earthquake
  2. Rehabilitation of an active weapons compound that was “rumored” to store nuclear weapons (talk about tight security!!!)
  3. A design-build project for 405 family housing units. The 2 & 4 bedroom houses were constructed as complete units (everything done but installing the appliances) in Portland, Oregon and then barged to the island (a 4 bedroom weighted 84 tons)

Apart from the interesting projects I helped to manage while at Adak, I also got to experience the island’s very unique climate. During the 30 months I was stationed there (Adak is located about 1200 miles from Anchorage, 500 miles off the coast of Russia and 700 miles off the coast of Alaska), I saw it reach a high of 70 degrees once, saw a low of 17 degrees, observed winds of up to 133 MPH (the island’s nickname is “birth place of the winds”) and rode out many, many earthquakes.

The largest earthquake I experienced was an 8.2 on May 7, 1986, complete with tsunami warning, which required us to evacuate to high ground. During the week after the 8.2 earthquake we had over 400 aftershocks, some as high as 6.4. Daylight during the winter in Adak, Alaska was from about 10AM to 4PM, and during the summer was from about 5AM to midnight.

What is something new or innovative happening in your industry?
Although not really a “new” concept, Lean Construction is definitely becoming more prevalent.

What university or college did you graduate from?
I received my bachelor of science in civil engineering (BSCE) from the University of Maine and a master of science in civil engineering (MSCE) with a geotechnical focus from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What is your favorite local establishment/feature (restaurant, museum, stadium, etc.)?
I would say Bretton Woods Ski Resort in northern New Hampshire.

Could you tell us more about your time in the Navy?
I spent about 24 years in the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps – 11 years on active duty and 13 years in the Reserves. During my 11 years of active duty I had assignments in:

  • Public Works – I was the Assistant Public Works Officer at the Naval Air Station Willow Grove in Pennsylvania
  • The Seabees – I was assigned to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) FOUR– a 570 person, self-contained (with its own doctor, dentist, chaplain, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, steel workers, equipment operators, equipment mechanics, engineering aids, equipment, weapons, etc.) deployable construction battalion.
  1. During my first deployment (8 ½ months) to Naval Air Station, Sigonella Sicily in Italy, I was the S-2 (Plans & Training Officer) which included Plans, Training, Weapons, Communications and Security
  2. My second deployment (7 ½ months) to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, I was the C-6 (Charlie Company Commander) where I was responsible for about 70 carpenters and steel workers acting as a construction company
  • Two tours as an Owner’s Rep managing civilian construction projects for the Navy. 1st was as an Assistant Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (AROICC) in Adak Alaska and the 2nd was as the Assistant Officer in Charge then the Officer in Charge / Warranted Contracting Officer of NAVFAC Contracts at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York.

What led you to PMA?
Destiny maybe? While I liked all of the three different assignment types I had in the Navy, I liked the Owner’s Project Management assignments the best.

In 1984 I was involved in a “large” (by Navy standards at that time) $2 million claim while in Adak, Alaska. I was so busy working on my day to day assignments that I did not have time to work on the claim. As a result, the Navy hired a PMA competitor to analyze the claim and provide me support. I remember sitting in my conference room listening to the claims consultant running through its analysis and thinking to myself, “I could do that. And if I did, where would it be? It would probably be in Boston because that would be the closest to home (northern Maine). I could get a job like that.”

When I was getting out of the Navy in January 1993 I answered an advertisement PMA placed in ENR to work on the Big Dig in Boston and the rest is history.

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