The 2012 ENR California Top 20 Under 40 competition, now in its second year, features an impressive lineup of professionals who have already made their marks in the industry.
The honorees range from structural engineers to company presidents and CEOs. Judges used several criteria to make their selections. They include achieving or progressing toward industry certifications, such as professional licensure or LEED AP; community service; industry involvement; diversity; and contributions to landmark projects in the region. Nominees also had to be based in California and could not have reached the age of 40 by Feb. 13, this issue's publication date.
Our panel of four judges described the 20 California winners as "great" or "exceptional" and also said that they had a difficult time narrowing the field of 41 nominees to the final 20. This year's judges included returnees Melody Spradlin, director-South Bay for Dome Construction Corp., San Jose, and Bryn Burke, president/owner of Vertical Constructors Inc., Santa Fe Springs. The other judges were Dan Geiger, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council Northern California chapter, which is based in San Francisco, and Greg Eckstrom, vice president of California Drywall Co., San Jose.
The top vote-getter this year was Jeremy Livermore, 31, a structural engineer with AECOM, Newport Beach. Livermore, the judges said, has enhanced what already had been a strong reputation within the industry through his work on several high-profile projects, including the super-green NASA Ames Research Center/Sustainability Base in Mountain View; the Inland Empire Transportation Management Center in Fontana; and the Carl's Jr. headquarters office building in Anaheim.
The following brief profiles of our Top 20 Under 40 for 2012 don't do justice to the breadth of the winners' accomplishments and their dedication. But keep the names of the honorees on file. They're likely to have a significant impact on the industry in the years to come.
Mohamed "Mo" Abaza
Provides his company with a solid base for planning creative solutions
35, Energy Modeling Manager
Gilbane Building Co.
With more than 10 years of experience in HVAC design, project management, cost estimating, energy modeling and auditing and facility assessments, Mo Abaza provides Gilbane with a solid base for creatively planning solutions for green buildings. Abaza is responsible for advising clients and design and construction teams on green and energy-efficient design and best practices in construction. He oversees incorporating renewable-energy implementation and investigating projects' financial, environmental and social impacts. As director of Gilbane's High Performance Building Program, Abaza is responsible for the group's service development and quality, client satisfaction, staff management, business development, financial performance, business-unit growth and strategic direction.
A constant student, always working to improve her skills
28, Project Engineer
From an early age, Blanca Diaz has been a high achiever. As a child, she attended John Burroughs Gifted Magnet School in Los Angeles, and in 2004, as a student at the University of Southern California, Diaz received a Construction Management Association of America scholarship. At USC, she was a member of Chi Epsilon–the National Civil Engineering Honor Society, devoted herself to community-service activities and still found time to intern with a large general contractor. Diaz joined Turner Construction Co. in 2006 as an estimating engineer. She took her skills to the field as an engineer on the $250-million Terranea Resort project in Rancho Palos Verdes. During that time, she developed a strong working relationship with the project manager and also worked on his next project, a 60,000-sq-ft affordable-housing development in the Glassell Park region of Los Angeles. On that project, Diaz, then 26, became the lead project engineer, responsible for all estimating, purchasing and construction engineering services for the jobsite.
One of the industry's up-and- coming project managers
33, Project Manager
James Draper's first job was working as an assistant estimator on the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority's $87-million Henry Ford Avenue grade separation project. On that project, Draper's work ethic—show up first and leave last—won over senior engineers and constructors, who no longer called him "rookie." Later, Draper relocated with the Shimmick team to become the discipline engineer and discipline superintendent for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority's $185-million San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transitway. On that project, he supervised design, procurement and construction. While delivering on his daily tasks, Draper sought to improve his knowledge of workplace safety by successfully completing multiple Associated General Contractors leadership courses, Occupational Safety and Health Administration training and project-management courses given by FMI and Crestcom. His recent activities include assisting the Orange County Food Bank.