Stacey Stares
Project executive, Suffolk
Age: 47
Industry experience: 25 years 

Over a nearly 25-year career in the construction industry, Stacey Stares has spent a majority of her time working on health care and life science projects including developments for industry leaders such as Amgen and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Greater Boston lab sector went through a growth spurt in the past decade and emerged as the dominant building sector in the COVID era. Stares will oversee the tenant fit-outs for Tango Therapeutics and Verve Therapeutics, which have leased space in the 201 Brookline Ave. lab tower being developed by Samuels & Assoc. and Alexandria Real Estate Equities in the Fenway. 

Q: What key attributes are developers looking for while selecting a construction manager for a life science project?
A: They want a team that’s experienced in this industry, so that they know they’re going to get a team that knows how to work with them. They’re looking for collaboration: a team that can work with them and the design team from the preconstruction phase, which we’re in now [at 201 Brookline Ave.]. They want a team that can help them make decisions on keeping the designs on schedule.  

In the current market, we’re looking at pre-purchases and early awards based upon the lead times for availability of materials and delivery schedules. We’re in touch with vendors on different scopes of work, and the lead times they’re giving us are significantly longer than we’ve had in the past. We’re making clients aware of the things we normally could wait until later in the jobs, for example: cold rooms. Those are running much longer, so that’s something we’ve identified that we want to buy up front.  

It’s really a lot of products right now, and it’s based upon material availability. A lot of factories have not been working at full capacity in the past year, and even those that have been open haven’t had full shifts, and that seems to be trickling down to the lead times. Even lab casework and air handlers, we’re seeing longer lead times. We’ve identified those as items to order upfront. 

Q: As lab projects and conversions become more prevalent in urban locations in Boston, what complications do they pose for a construction manager?
A: It does require a lot of coordination. The key is when deliveries can come, so we have to schedule those in advance. That’s really any project particularly in an urban environment. There’s no place to park and it’s critical to make sure there’s a delivery schedule that people follow and don’t just show up. 

Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in lab design and construction techniques over the past two decades?
A: I definitely have noticed the trend with more prefabricated pieces, whether it’s piping or lab benches coming prefabricated with wiring and piping, rather than doing that in the field. It depends upon the size and how much is being done at the shop, so that helps in having fewer people on-site. Instead of working on a ladder or a lift, they can be working at floor level. 

Q: What building trades have the biggest labor shortage with all the lab work going on in Greater Boston?
A: We’re definitely seeing the labor shortage across a lot of different trades, which is why we’re identifying the key trades we want to bring on board early and start working with them. It’s typically the MEP trades and in a lab building, it would be the lab casework and getting that vendor on board to work with us and the design teams. 

Q: How can tech innovations tighten lab project timelines?
A: We use BIM Coordination & Collaboration [software], which is not specific to life science, but that’s a key step in preparing so we’re not making changes in the field. We can coordinate upfront where everybody needs to go with the piping and light fixtures. Some jobs are candidates for 3D scanning before we start construction, so it makes sense to do that with an existing building for a conversion or a renovation. Even an inch makes a difference. There may be some existing utilities that are going to stay, and it enables you to identify that upfront. Below grade, we’ve done that as well for existing concrete slabs, to identify if there’s underground utilities if we’re doing any trenching. 

Q: How has the role of women in construction evolved during your career?
A: When I started at William A. Berry & Son, there were always women on my teams and there were very few projects where I’ve been the only female. What I would say is when I started, women were more in project management or maybe estimating. In the last five to 10 years, more women are choosing the field operations and being a superintendent. It’s amazing. It was very rare when I started to see a woman in the field, and now it’s becoming much more common. 

Q: How have job site operations been affected by COVID?
A: It’s just getting used to the unknowns, particularly early on. Requirements were changing regularly, and they still are. It takes planning, so looking at ways to limit the number of people who take an elevator or a hoist at the same time instead of jamming everyone who could possibly fit in. Indoors, people are vaccinated now, and you can choose to wear a mask or not. 

Q: What’s it like working on life science projects during this historic local boom?
A: I’m not a researcher and I wouldn’t even know how to start working in the lab, but I like being a participant in the process where this research advances medicine and treatments and cures. Ultimately, we all need it. We all have friends or family who have had cancer or heart disease or Alzheimer’s. All of these things are being cured or advanced to improve our quality of life. That’s why I like this area of construction and in Boston and Cambridge, we’re definitely lucky. 

Stares’ Five Favorite Podcasts Right Now: 

  1. Up First 
  2. The Daily 
  3. Throughline 
  4. SmartLess 
  5. American Scandal 

A Hands-On Approach to Lab Construction

by Steve Adams time to read: 4 min