PCSD Interns: Building Dreams for the Future: Exploring EPI Construction's Charter School Construction Project in South Los Angeles

Recently, we had the privilege of meeting with Gary Blackwell, the visionary behind EPI Construction, at one of their charter school construction sites in South Los Angeles. There, we were introduced to Eric Marable, the dedicated Site Supervisor, who has been an essential part of Gary's team for nearly 25 years. The construction project is aimed at providing a state-of-the-art educational facility for a middle school, catering to grades 5 to 8. As we embarked on a comprehensive tour of the site, we were left in awe of the passion and attention to detail displayed by both Gary and Eric.

The tour began at the drop-off and pick-up zone, where we were welcomed by captivating building mock-ups, crafted by Eric himself, utilizing his background in art and design where he honed his skill at Otis College of Art & Design. Eric enthusiastically explained the layout of the project, which utilized both in-house staff and subcontractors, ensuring the school's completion with utmost efficiency.

Eric's expertise guided us through the construction process, highlighting significant milestones such as the creation of a subterranean parking garage, dedicated to teachers and staff. This parking structure serves as one of the initial stages in projects like these. Another notable feature was the incorporation of water tanks to harvest rainwater, nurturing the school's landscape and minimizing runoff onto the streets.

Timing and Challenges

One intriguing aspect of our conversation with Eric was the strategic timing required for ordering various items, with some taking up to 12-18 months to arrive. From elevators to lighting fixtures and electrical panels, meticulous planning is essential to ensure a seamless construction process and timely completion.

Exploring the School

As we ascended through the school, starting from the subterranean garage to the first floor, we were impressed by the administrative and lobby spaces. Moving up to the second floor, we marveled at the abundance of natural light flowing into the 20+ spacious classrooms through large windows, creating a conducive learning environment. The third floor offered additional classrooms, featuring sunroofs in the hallways.

Our journey concluded on the rooftop, where we were treated to a breathtaking view of Los Angeles, including the vibrant downtown area. Here, we learned about the roofing materials' evolution over the years, transitioning from asphalt to a reflective white material that effectively dissipates heat.

Impactful Insights from Gary Blackwell

Following the tour, Gary generously shared his personal journey, inspiring us with his career trajectory. Initially pursuing pre-med, an internship at a hospital led him to reevaluate his path. Gary emphasized the importance of exploring various experiences and internships to discover one's true calling. Through perseverance and hard work, he found his passion in construction, establishing his own firm, Blackwell Construction, before acquiring EPI Construction, and eventually his third company, BDI Construction.

Our day with Gary Blackwell was both insightful and inspiring. Witnessing the dedication and expertise in constructing a modern educational facility left us with a profound appreciation for the construction industry's transformative power. The upcoming charter school is set to enrich the lives of students, teachers, and the community, creating a lasting impact for generations to come. We are grateful for the opportunity to have shared this remarkable experience and look forward to witnessing the fruition of their efforts as the 2023-2024 school year approaches.