Siena’s Director of Operations Greg Antonopoulos has over four decades of construction industry experience. Greg grew up in Cambridge – less than one mile from Siena’s current offices. Despite that short path, it’s been a long, successful journey for one of the industry’s most respected professionals. He has overseen some of Siena’s most high-profile projects of late, including for MIT/AFFOA, Waverley Hall, and Asana Partners. We were eager to ask Greg about his life and career experiences as a construction leader. Thank you for all you do for Siena, Greg – your knowledge, leadership, and mentoring make Siena a great place to work and learn. 

What was your first job ever, and what did you learn?

My first job was working at the Central Square General Hardware as a stock boy while going to high school.   My father was a carpenter. He used to buy his tools and supplies from there and got me the job. I learned a lot about hardware, paint, and listening to the salesmen – how they spoke to the customers and made the sale.

You grew up in Cambridge. Can you reflect  on the changes you’ve experienced and seen in the city from when you grew up here?

I grew up in a third floor apartment at 897 Main Street. Our playgrounds were the roof terrace and the backyard, which was covered with charcoal, but we played a lot of baseball and football in that yard.

I remember walking to MIT, ice cream at the Howard Johnson’s, and the Smith House on Memorial Drive. Everyone in the neighborhood used to shop at Central Square – there was an Elm Farm Super Market, Woolworth’s, Kresge 5 and 10, Thom McCan Shoes, Brigham’s Ice Cream, and the Central Square Theatre where we went to see Hercules! Back then, very few people had cars – most used the subway and buses.

How did you choose construction as a career path?

I went to Roberts Grammar School in Cambridge. I remember when it came time to decide which high school  I would attend. The options were Rindge Tech or Cambridge High. My father went to a meeting in the Roberts auditorium and — with the help of his Divry Greek/English Dictionary – explained to the principals of the two high schools that he wanted his son to become an engineer. The answer was Rindge Tech. So that’s where I went. I loved all the trade courses – woodworking, electrical, automotive, and drafting. My favorite was drafting and math. I had a summer job as a laborer and carpenter’s helper.

Like many at Siena, I went to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. I received an Associate’s Degree   in Architectural Engineering, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering. From there, I got a job at an Engineering/Architectural company as a draftsman. When that business hit a slump, I moved over to the construction side as an Estimator.

What’s your most memorable project you worked on prior to Siena?

The Back Bay Hilton on Dalton Street in Boston. It was a precast façade clad building; the project manager bought the steel connections, but then they wanted more money to draw the connections for submittals and approvals.  I volunteered to draw them after work and on weekends – all hand drawn,   of course, on 11×17 paper. I had the fabricator color coded to connections per elevation so the erector didn’t have to sort it out in the field. No one had ever seen that level of detail before. At the end of the project, the Super showed the drawings to the Vappi president – they gave me a bonus.

What’s your favorite project you worked on at Siena? What made it special/unique?

Ground up construction of Building A [675 West Kendall, Cambridge]. We won that project after completing Bent Street for Lyme Properties and David Clem. He was a good friend and supporter of Pat Hayes. We estimated the project in house. [Siena PM] Shawn Seaman and I handled the takeoffs, schedule, logistics, and  subcontractor awards. We went through three supers – and Hank Mosca finished the job.

The building was the first in Boston to feature Italian terra cotta rain screen wall tiles, as well as channel glass that came from Germany. The glass was made of recycled Coca-Cola bottles – hence the green color glass tint.

We had the best subcontractors, and the best Siena Team: Pat Hayes, Kevin Hayes, Jane Hayes, Terry Hayes, Jerry Doyle, George Poulos, and of course, Sandy Ford. What else do you need? The team was TOP SHELF. Later that year, the architect (Steven Ehrlich) sent Sandy a Christmas card that praised Siena as “the brains behind the brawn.” That says it all. 

What do you like best about working at Siena? How is it unique among other CM’s?

The people, and the ownership that each of us are allowed to take on our projects – from RFP preparation,   to estimating, project management, and turnover. Our track record of satisfied and repeat customers proves this is true. Other CM’s have stiff organizational pyramid-like structures with several departments – Executives, Proposals, Estimators, Project Managers, Construction, and Engineering. Siena’s model affords individuals to quickly learn, own, and execute all the disciplines of the project. For young people, this is a great opportunity to learn the business.

Our clients are consistently impressed by the detail that you put into your estimate packages, particularly your estimate-assist drawings and plans. Can you talk about your conscientious approach and the importance of this “imagineering” stage?

The word “imagineering” is derived from that you must be able to imagine the structure of the renovation work in your mind as you build it. Walt Disney used that word many times explaining to his employees about the importance of imagining and visualizing their tasks.

This is a true Design-Build effort from the inception of the project and the estimate. In order to prepare an estimate – especially a complicated estimate – its impossible to accomplish it without a drawing. It’s even more difficult to be able to explain to a client merely through an estimate what you have included in the design. The drawing sets we produce helps explain in a visual format to the customer what we’ve included.

You take an active role in mentoring many of Siena’s employees who are just beginning their careers. What’s something you like every APM to know as they continue on their career path?

Think of the knowledge you acquire throughout your career as tool box with 16 sections – one section per trade. As you work on a project, dive deep into each task to understand it, file it in that section, then move on to the next trade.

Also, as you drive around, look at other construction sites and observe what and how they are doing tasks. Remember and file it away. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. That’s how you build  up your knowledge base.

Work-life balance is important in a stressful, demanding industry like construction. How do you enjoy your spare time?

I enjoy time with my family, dinners and conversations with friends.

What is the favorite piece of advice you ever received?

Everything in moderation.