by Julia Sommer
Construction projects on campus may annoy and amaze you, but at least you're not responsible for them. Jeff Gee is.
Director of Design and Project Management, Gee and his 35-member staff are currently juggling about 200 construction projects on campus with a total value of about $700 million.
Gee is one of three directors in Planning, Design and Construction reporting to Leroy Bean, associate vice chancellor of business and administrative services. The other two are Tom Lollini (Physical and Environmental Planning) and Bill Dibbern (Construction and Inspection Services).
Gee's staff, including 24 project managers with architectural or engineering backgrounds, is the glue that holds the enormously complex planning-design-construction process together.
Gee's calm, low-key manner belies the stress of his job, or perhaps enables him to do it. With the current building boom in the San Francisco Bay Area, keeping and recruiting project management staff is an enormous challenge.
Hired as a project manager in 1988, Gee was promoted to director three years ago. He attributes his success to "patience, perseverance, acknowledging that we work in a bureaucracy and learning how to maneuver in that environment, and knowing how to get things done."
Gee graduated from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 1982 with a degree in architecture. Then he went into private practice with his uncle in San Francisco.
His first assignment at Berkeley was to design and manage construction of several surge (temporary) spaces for units displaced by renovation of the Valley Life Sciences Building. For example, he supervised the move of the Biosciences Library into the basement of Giannini Hall.
What keeps Gee in his high-pressure post?
"When projects are completed, I see what it means to teaching and research on the campus," he says. "I see people doing tremendous things in places we create. Our projects play an integral part in the rankings, prizes, honors and prestige of the university and faculty. That's a very satisfying feeling. In private practice, you don't get to see the results of your work on a daily basis. The quality of space created-both buildings and spaces between buildings-is a big piece of the academic experience. I also appreciate the variety of projects and the commitment of my staff."
Gee admits that his biggest job frustrations are university policies and state laws that make it almost impossible for him and his staff to complete their tasks successfully. "For example, the funding process needs to be reformed," he says. In addition, Planning, Design and Construction is not funded by the university but must pay for itself by recharging against capital projects.
Another big challenge is Berkeley's consensus-based decision-making process. Gee spends about 95 percent of his time in meetings. "Sometimes I don't even know which meeting to go to!" he exclaims. "Trying to satisfy so many competing interests and needs on campus is difficult and time-consuming. Project managers have to be the constant. They have to be calm, persevering, and balanced in their approach. I am very proud of the staff's quest for success in an often complex and ever-changing environment. I think the word is 'chaortic'-how to create order amidst chaos."
With all the seismic renovations called for in the new SAFER report (Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal), Gee and his staff will really have to put on their chaortic hats.
Raised in Belmont, Gee lives in Redwood City to be close to his extended family. (His father graduated from Berkeley in 1955 in civil engineering.) Gee and his wife, Judie, have two children: Christopher, 5, and Elizabeth, born Dec. 18.
An avid gardener with a special love of roses, Gee admits that if he won the lottery, he'd be a florist. "It's creative, and flowers always make people happy."