Nancy Greenwald,
Executive director, The Construction Institute
Age: 67
Industry experience: 42 years

Founded in 1976 to keep Connecticut’s construction industry competitive through continuing education, The Construction Institute is expanding its geographic reach to keep industry professionals up-to-date on evolving technology. After a hiatus during COVID-19, the Institute resumed its in-person class offerings this year, while attracting a growing nationwide audience for its virtual workshops. Nancy Greenwald, an attorney who specializes in conflict resolution, heads the East Hartford-based group which includes more than 200 corporate and individual members.

Q: How does your background as an attorney play into your role with The Construction Institute?
A: I work as an arbitrator and mediator, and a mediator’s job is problem-solving. The role of The Construction Institute is to think about how to bring that process forward, so we have more collaboration in the early stages of the job, which increases the efficiency. It’s connected to the issue of sustainability. According to a 2018 report by PlanGrid and FMI Corp., the amount of wasted time in conflict resolution and poor communication on jobs [costs] $177.5 billion. A third of the material that shows up on a job is waste, and the cost of rework is ridiculous. All of those things detract from the sustainability of our process. Increasing collaboration in the beginning leads to better processes and outcomes for the participants, and leads to less wasted time and a more sustainable process. We are mission-driven to promote cross-industry collaboration. If you know anything about the industry, we are not very good at that. The professions are really siloed and the design-bid-build process, which is the old process we are still mostly using, is not one that is conducive to problem-solving in the beginning. We solve problems as they come up.

Q: Which are the institute’s most in-demand programs and workshops?
A: We have more than one track. We have large conferences that we provide each year such as the Women Who Build conference, our Visionaries Forum and our Owners’ Forum. We also provide professional education. A lot of what we are focused on is training the next generation. Our training is not academic. Our instructors are working professionals. Especially as more Boomers are leaving the industry and younger people are coming in, our training is providing the experiential information to people. We also provide online programs, and some of our in-person programs are free to university students in the field.

Q: Is the shortage of entry-level job candidates still a major hurdle for the industry?
A: The labor shortage is a big issue for the industry, and that spans everything from professionals to people who are in the trades. We’ve done a disservice in this country to people who work in the trades. They are great jobs for people to come into the industry and learn. It’s an industry where you can start as a laborer and work your way up to a professional position. There’s really no limit.

Q: What about opportunities for mid-career professionals to move over from other industries?
A: I don’t see a lot of that, except on the business development side. The people who are doing the work typically start in this industry. We have a new role – construction technology – and some people are coming into the industry with that training: how to use robotics and augmented reality and various software products that are now ubiquitous in the industry.

Q: What do companies need to learn about recent new building standards and regulations?
A: In Connecticut, we’re not so much focused on specific regulations as we are on the trends. For example, increasing energy efficiency is something every facilities manager is interested in. What are their options to do that cost-effectively? We listen to the universities and the hospital systems, whether they are looking at geothermal or solar options or retrofitting buildings that are being energy-efficient, and what are the kinds of training that people need.

Q: Have you seen recent progress on closing the industry’s gender gap?
A: Well, not as much as I would like. It’s still true that only about 9 percent of the industry is women. We see more women coming into architecture and engineering, so those percentages are a little higher. What you don’t see enough of is women in the trades, and these are also great jobs for women. The hours are great, the pay is great and it’s really an opportunity I’d like to see more women take advantage of. One of the reasons we hold the “Women Who Build” summit is to celebrate the participation of women in the industry.

Q: What is the University of Hartford’s role in the organization?
A: The institute was part of the University of Hartford up until June 2020. At that point, we became an independent 501(c)(3) [nonprofit], so that was an administrative move. It gives us a lot more flexibility, but allows us to maintain relations with the university. We have a student organization at University of Hartford, and we love working with the students and connecting them with internships.

Greenwald’s Five Favorite Books Right Now:

  1. “Smarter Collaboration” by Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan Matviak
  2. “​Getting to Yes with Yourself: (And Other Worthy Opponents)​” by William Ury
  3. “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman
  4. “The Architect’s Essentials of Negotiation” by Ava J. Abramowitz
  5. “My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Futur​e” by Indra Nooyi