June 1, 2017
June Feature: Meet Siena’s Superintendent Karl Halpin
This June marks two years since Superintendent Karl Halpin began working at Siena Construction. As Project Superintendent Karl manages the many day-to-day activities on Siena’s construction sites, including scheduling, safety, material installations, and manpower.
Known for his positive and friendly attitude, Karl is always quick with a joke, approaching his responsibilities with an accessible, collaborative mentality. A native of Ireland, Karl began working in construction at a young age thanks to some family connections. He and his family have been settled in Boston for over a decade.
Karl was introduced to Siena through Senior Project Manager Art Cardinal. Prior to Siena, the two collaborated on construction jobs at another Boston area general contracting firm.
“Karl and I worked together on several MEP-heavy projects. I was impressed with his technical knowledge and his ability to work well with clients,” Art said. “When I decided to go back to my roots and rejoin Siena [in 2015], I wanted to bring Karl and his experience with me. I knew his skills and personality would be a good fit for Siena’s client-first philosophy.”
To celebrate Karl’s work anniversary this month, we asked Karl a little about his work and life. Thank you for all you do for Siena, Karl. Happy Anniversary!
Q: How did you get into the construction business?
A: I started working in construction when I was 15 years old. My father and his three brothers had a construction and electrical contracting business [in Ireland]. During school summer vacation, I worked as a laborer, carpenter’s helper, and an electrician’s helper. Once I graduated high school, I started an electrical apprenticeship program and obtained my electrical license.
Q: When did you decide to emigrate from Ireland to the US?
A: When I completed my third year of my electrical apprenticeship in 1998, I took three months off work and traveled to New York City on a J-1 student visa with my good friend. I wanted to see a little bit of the world before I had to grow up too much. I loved my time there, but had to go back to Ireland to complete my apprenticeship. Once I passed my finals the following summer, I moved back to NYC where I lived for over three years. I had a brief stint back in Ireland in 2002-2003, and moved to Boston in January 2004. I’ve been here since.
Q: Was it difficult adjusting to the way of life and type of work here? What was the biggest difference or surprise to you?
A: I think the biggest change for me was the pace of work and how schedule-driven everything is. In Ireland, it’s a little more laid back. The pace is slower. I think there is more of an emphasis on work here, whereas in Ireland there is more emphasis on life outside of work. Outside of work, the biggest difference was the weather. There are four seasons here, in Ireland there’s only one. It’s called rainy season.
Q: Are there any noticeable differences between the construction industry in Ireland compared with the US?
A: The very first thing I noticed was the pronunciation of the word aluminum; we say it a little different in Ireland! Construction materials vary quite a bit, too. The majority of residential construction in Ireland is concrete block and mortar, with concrete roof tile or slate roof. There’s no siding or shingles. Electrical voltages are different too, which took getting some used to, as well as the many different codes.
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of working at Siena?
A: That’s a loaded question, but the answer is easy: George Poulos! Seriously, Siena has a lot of good things going for it, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. We’re always working on challenging and interesting projects which keeps me motivated, along with my colleagues. I also like the family friendly environment, and the appreciation they show to their employees. We are more than just a construction company.
Q: Do you have a favorite anecdote or success story since you’ve been here at Siena?
A: Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visiting AFFOA. It’s not every day you get to meet an ex-cabinet member at a project site. It goes to show how much our projects matter.
Q: Tell us your favorite construction-related anecdote.
A: Perhaps this is not entirely construction-related but: I was CPR certified as part of my construction safety training. The training I received helped me save a 7-year-old girl who was drowning in a swimming pool.
Q: What are you proudest of in your work? What keeps you coming back for more?
A: I like to look at before and after pictures of some of the bigger projects, to see the transformation of the spaces. There is a sense of fulfillment when you bring a 2D blueprint to life.
Q: What was your first job ever?
A: When I was 12 years old, my first job was picking tomatoes in a greenhouse. It was my summer job, five hours a day for $15/day.
Q: What do you enjoy in your spare time?
A: I used to play soccer until I had an ankle injury a couple of years ago. Now I do a lot of activities with my kids – I’ve been coaching boys-and-girls’ youth soccer for five years, and we also like to go kayaking and fishing together. My latest passion is bike riding. I’m currently training to participate in the Pan Mass Challenge with Team Siena. On August 5-6, we’ll be riding 160 miles together as a team from Wellesley to Provincetown to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Shameless plug – please support our ride!
Favorite movie: Intermission
Favorite sports team: New England Patriots
Favorite place in Boston area: Route 93 South on any given evening (insert sarcasm emoji)
Favorite restaurant: Morton’s Steakhouse
Favorite vacation spot: Greece