Editorial: 12.18.2019

Heavy Civil Construction Fits Ethan Gwinn Like a Glove

ethan gwinn

Castle Project Manager Ethan Gwinn has been hooked on heavy civil construction since early childhood.

“My dad was in the business and we were around heavy equipment quite a bit, which sparked my interest in civil construction,” he says.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in construction management from Missouri State University, Gwinn worked at a Springfield-based contractor for a few years before returning to his hometown of St. Louis and signing on as project engineer with a concrete contractor.

While working on a project at Washington University in St. Louis, he met Castle Chief Estimator Rich Mueller as part of the Castle team installing the site utilities on the same project. “Rich was my first point of contact, but I began paying attention to other Castle projects around town, and I thought they did some pretty cool stuff,” says Gwinn.

Since joining Castle as assistant project manager in 2015, his project work has ranged from an expansion at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, Arkansas, to a new ambulatory care center at the Omaha VA Medical Center.

Gwinn is especially proud of Castle’s contributions to Grand Hall, a new residence hall on the main campus of Saint Louis University that opened in fall 2017. “It was a tough utility and mass excavation job, and we walked away knowing that SLU was happy with our work and that we also built strong relationships with Alberici, the general contractor,” he says.

On any given day, Gwinn might be managing as many as five separate projects. “I like to visit jobs as much as possible to coordinate with our foremen and superintendents or just check in on the job. I also try to get as much face time as I can with the client—whether that’s another general contractor or an owner,” he says.

But the daily demands of project management require Gwinn to spend a majority of his time in the office managing project submittals, pricing change orders and planning for upcoming risks. “One of the most important things we do is to forecast risk and build accurate job schedules that put us in the best position for success,” he says.

Successful project management, as Gwinn has discovered, requires diverse talents. “You’ve got to have good communication, record-keeping and documentation skills,” he says. “Accurate cost controls and standard project management practices are also a must. It takes a lot of collective wisdom and teamwork to plan and execute a job correctly.”

One aspect of the job he especially appreciates is Castle’s unique culture. “The way we do things here, everybody can make a difference and does make a difference,” Gwinn says. “There’s just a lot of good mojo in the office.”

Unpredictable weather is one aspect of the job that isn’t nearly as appealing. “Wintertime messes with everything, of course, but cold weather doesn’t have as large an impact on utility jobs as it does on grading work,” he says.

As Gwinn continues to expand his project management skills, he’d like to take on increasingly challenging projects and get more engaged in the operational aspects of the business.


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