Behind the Build: Interview with Makayla Oei, Project Executive, Mark III  

Makayla Oei, Project Executive, Mark III  

When it comes to serving its clients, Mark III Construction, a Sacramento-based MEP subcontracting firm is dedicated to excellence. To serve its clients and fulfill its mission, “leading the evolution of construction,” the firm turns to innovation. To learn more about Mark III’s methods, we turned to Makayla Oei, Project Executive at Mark III Construction, the person implementing the company’s innovative Project Mountain.

Hailing from Sacramento herself, Makayla didn’t quite see herself as becoming a construction specialist straight after college. But opportunities arose, and as strong leaders do, she met those opportunities and excelled at them. Her newfound passion set her on a path that eventually led to joining Mark III and applying her leadership and creativity to the company's innovative initiatives. 

In this edition’s Behind the Build, we will explore Mark III and its creative vision along with the history, innovation, and drive that Makayla has employed to help realize. From her wit and acumen to Mark III’s ambitious construction projects in the healthcare sector, learn more about her journey below.

Tell us more about Mark III and what sets it apart.

Mark III is a force to be reckoned with! We’re a group of forward-thinking individuals that want nothing more than to create a great experience for our customers and win on every project.

We’re laser-focused on our mission to Lead the Evolution of Construction and we live and die by our core values: Teamwork, innovation, transparency, integrity—and we work hard and play hard. 

What sets us apart from other contractors is what we’re doing in our VDC department and MEP Manufacturing facility. Mark III delivers all MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) trades under one roof. We’ve recently added metal-stud framing to our suite of offerings, enabling us to deliver and install manufactured multi-trade wall panels. There are others out there prefabricating wall panels and prefabricating in-wall utilities. What we’re doing is marrying both of those components together and delivering a vertically integrated MEP wall assembly to be delivered and installed at project sites. 

How did you first get into construction?

After majoring in psychology and playing golf at Sacramento State, I left college without a firm idea of what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be. I landed in the mortgage industry and quickly learned it wasn’t for me. Around the same time, a family friend that owned a local mechanical construction company needed support at a jobsite. They were searching for someone to answer phones in a jobsite trailer, so I took on that role. 

I spent the next two years at the UC Davis Medical Center Surgical and Emergency Services Pavilion project slip sheeting plans and acquiring countless papercuts. After the project came to a close, I spent another eight years with the company before moving on to Mark III.

I came to Mark III in April of 2015 and started as a project engineer in the mechanical department, by the end of the year I was running work as a project manager. My first project was the Folsom Prison and California State Prison Sacramento HCFIP project. Mark III’s scope included the HVAC and mechanical piping for (6) ground-up buildings within the two prison gates.  

Construction was never my goal. Before I got to Mark III, it was still just a job. Once I joined the Mark III team, everything changed. The work became interesting—and my passion for finding new and better ways of doing things is supported at Mark III. There’s a certain type of electricity in the air. The culture fosters innovation and we’re always looking for ways to improve our process and how we deliver projects. That’s what finally grabbed me and locked me in.

Speaking of finding better ways to do things, can you tell us about the Project Mountain series?

If I had to sum it up in a sentence or two, I’d define it as an internal research and development initiative that is fully self-funded with the goal to find breakthrough methods to plan, design, and build projects. Though it’s an internal project series built inside the walls of Mark III, it is based on real-life medical projects that can be found in Northern California.

Project Mountain 1 (PM1) delivered a hospital corridor, two ways – the old way, stick-build, and the new way, through standardized repeatable units. The first method, “stick-build,” utilized skilled craft labor to install each system individually. The second method, also known as “Project Mountain,” utilized preconstruction, fabrication, kitting, modeling, and detailing to install the kitted wall-system and multi-trade racking assembly. My involvement in this first project was minimal. 

Then came Project Mountain 2 (PM2). About two and a half years ago the President of Mark III, Dan Carlton, asked me if I wanted to take the lead for our PM2 efforts and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. Our goal for PM2 was to transform the way that medical providers approach construction. We’re encouraging them to discard the outdated design and construction model and lean into virtual technology, standardization, and manufacturing. For our PM2 we partnered with Sutter Health to develop a kit of parts and manufactured assemblies required to build a standardized exam room that you’d find in a common  Medical Office Building. The kits we created contained all the instructions, materials, tools, safety documents you’d need to assemble a room. From the metal stud framing to the final trim - it was all there. Over the course of PM2, we captured lessons learned and made continuous improvements to our approach. To me, the most exciting outcome of PM2 is that our approach is now being used on a handful of projects that we have going this year. It’s no longer a pet project in our backyard, it’s the real deal.

To learn more about the project, check out our website for the full case study. 

What projects are you using Project Mountain on?

There are several other projects on which Project Mountain has been employed. One is a 4,000 square foot UC Davis Health medical clinic in Davis, California in partnership with The Boldt Company. It’s the first project where we’ve taken what we’re doing with the Project Mountain 2 approach and delivering it on an actual site, so it’s exciting.

Another project is the Sutter Health project here in Sacramento, which is the second Project Mountain 2 project. With this project, there is a heavy focus on standardizing the process to maintain consistency and quality. 

How does technology help to deliver more complex projects?

Offsite construction is the future—it helps us meet tight deadlines while improving quality. This allows us to approach the bidding process with a manufacturing delivery mindset and illustrating how manufacturing can allow for meeting tight timelines. 

Our virtual construction department performs vital constructability reviews to identify areas where we can move construction off-site and find opportunities for improvement and manufacturing before anyone arrives at the jobsite. This gives us the opportunity to move portions of scope to a controlled environment, increase efficiency, mitigate risk, and deliver a higher quality project in less time. 

In the field, we use PlanGrid for document control and field reports. The software offers document control by linking RFIs to sheets. The assistance in field reporting has proved invaluable—everyone is able to report on the same document reduces confusion and streamlines the construction process.

If I had PlanGrid in the early days, I would have avoided endless papercuts and would have been able to squeeze infinitely more lemons and limes in my 20’s.

Needless to say, it’s added so much value I can’t help but wish PlanGrid existed a decade earlier!

What makes you excited about the future of construction?

I think it would be easier to list what doesn’t make me excited about the future of construction. A saying you’ll often hear within the Mark III walls is “if you’re not excited, get excited!”

I’ve spent the last two and a half years working on the Project Mountain series. Over that time it’s evolved from being an idea to a new delivery method being used on real-life projects.

Construction has been at the caboose of the innovation train for too long and it’s exciting to know that our team is on the leading edge of changing something that has been stagnant for so long.

Alyssa Jaber

As Manager of Customer Marketing at Autodesk, Alyssa Jaber has been partnering with Autodesk customers in the construction space for 5+ years to build their brands and powerfully tell their stories. Alyssa is a human-first leader who supports a team of talented individuals who always put the customer experience first.