Learning on the job: Cal student interns on Moffitt construction project

“The curtain walls,” Faraz Kahen and Kyle Gray both say, when asked for their favorite architectural feature of the new Moffitt floors. These glass walls, facing Memorial Glade, fill the renovated fourth and fifth floors with light. “There are great sight lines now,” Gray adds. “You can sit on a sofa in the middle of the floor, and gaze straight through out to the glade.”

Kahen, a Cal student, and Gray, a seasoned project planner, have been working together since March, in an internship program as well as a DeCal construction course for which Gray serves as an industry coach. Gray has worked with Turner Construction for a decade, and is assistant project manager on the Moffitt renovation.

Kyle Gray, of Turner Construction, with junior Faraz Kahen, in front of Moffitt Library. (Photo by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

Kahen, a junior majoring in civil engineering, was born to two Iranian civil engineers. Recalling an early love of building, he says “my favorite thing in the world was constructing things with Legos.”

Kahen fell in love with Berkeley when his family visited campus after his sister’s acceptance. Attending the university himself immediately became his dream, especially when he learned that the school is ranked #1 in civil engineering.

During his eighteen-week internship with Turner Construction, Kahen managed a variety of construction-related documents. A major focus was earning the LEED certification for Moffitt’s fourth and fifth floors. “I got to attack it full-on,” Kahen recalls. “I read the whole manual, figuring out how we can meet all the requirements. Turner is the #1 green builder in the U.S., and sustainable construction is a huge passion for me.”

Gray joined the Moffitt project during the early pre-construction phase and has helped manage construction for the past 18 months. Contributing to improvements to the primary library for Berkeley undergraduates has been immensely rewarding for him, he says.

But Gray’s connection with campus extends even further, to the five years he has served as an industry coach for the DeCal construction course. The course is designed to give students a hands-on introduction to the world of construction management, as well as the chance to compete at the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) student competition.

Gray notes that coaching Cal students in the course has offered “some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. I still keep in touch with many of my former students, following their adventures whether they’re working in Ireland, Saudi Arabia, or around here.”

In the DeCal construction course, industry coaches like Gray work with four competition teams: Design-Build, Commercial, Virtual Design and Construction, and Integrated Project Delivery. In February 2017, this year’s UC Berkeley teams will compete against 20 other teams in their region (the far west).

Kahen notes his gratitude at landing the internship job with Turner while they are working on Moffitt. “Every day I would walk to work, thinking this is amazing. All my friends will see something I actually worked on, right here in the heart of campus. Plus I’ll be using it plenty myself. I can’t wait to take in the view through the curtain walls!”