In this episode, I talk with Constance "Connie" Lai about being an architect and a woman working in the preservation trades and construction field.  We talk about professional differences she observed while completing her Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship in France and the importance of valuing the impact of tradespeople on the built environment.  It's a great conversation that explores the impact of builders on the built environment and different ways to problem solve people & construction problems.

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.” As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled, “I am building a cathedral!” – Vision Parable


Constance Lai is the Historic Preservation Manager for Grunley Construction. She provides Historic Preservation and Conservation support to both the Pre-Construction and Operations Departments. Her expertise ranges from design-build to quality control to sustainability. She has over 18 years of experience in historic preservation and has worked on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. She has lectured on integrating conservation into the design and construction process, the Washington Monument Earthquake Repair project, and the contributions of Thomas Casey and Bernard Green to the Washington, DC, built environment.

She received her Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University and her Master of Science in Architectural Studies (History, Theory, and Criticism) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is an alumna of the AIADC Chapter’s Christopher Kelley Leadership Program.  In 2017, she was awarded the Richard Morris Hunt Prize Scholarship, which afforded her the opportunity to spend five weeks in France visiting preservation architecture firms and visiting construction sites.

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