01 | 2020
© Carl Solder on Unsplash

The city that never sleeps

New York City is the city that never sleeps, and sometimes the reason for that is simply construction noise. “When we get winded out or rained or snowed out, we have to suspend our operations and sometimes work at night in order to stay on schedule,” says Joe Byrne, the Vice President and Senior Operations Manager of Turner Construction. That also happens when large structural elements are delivered or sidewalks or streets are blocked. “It’s smarter to do it late at night when you can shut down a sidewalk or a street and not hinder millions of people,” he explains. 

Byrne is an experienced planner and a born New Yorker. He knows the wide range of obstacles that confront a construction company in New York City. “You’re building high-rises and there’s no lay-down area,” he explains. “So the truck pulls up, the material you need gets picked into the building and placed, and the truck pulls away. The delivered material is only accepted if it’s to be installed within a week. Part of our Lean approach is these just-in-time deliveries. Deliveries in this crowded city have to be coordinated to the minute.” 

When new office towers, hospitals, subway stations, concert halls or university institutes have to be built here, the impossible has to be made possible. Construction companies build wherever and however they can: above highways, on top of train stations, out from the water or within existing buildings. The Turner portfolio is full of creative solutions—and iconic buildings such as the Hearst Tower, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Yankees’ baseball stadium. “That’s where I grew up. My whole family and my friends are all huge Yankee fans. And I was one of the leaders on the job of building a new stadium,” says Byrne. “That’s the peak of a career. You can’t wait to get to work, because it’s fun.” 

Builders probably need to be this passionate about construction and a city if they are to confront all the adversities of a challenging metropolis. That also applies to Byrne’s latest spectacular project: The Spiral, an office high-rise designed by Bjarne Ingels. “The workers at Turner are bombarding me with requests to work on this site,” he says. He knows they’re doing it because of pride. When they walk through this unique city’s urban canyons, they want to be able to say, “I helped to build that!”