Project Frog was lucky to recently hire Kristal Howe as its Director of Construction and Implementation, responsible for expanding build capacities to scale and running the volume construction initiatives.
Kristal brings extensive experience as an International Code Council (ICC) certified special inspector and in business development and project management for the Geotech industry. Most recently, she acted as an owners’ representative for commercial developers in the Midwest area.
Kristal, not many women pursue a career in construction. What motivated you to take this career path?
First and foremost, I’ve always loved working with my hands. I grew up on a farm in a small town, and I knew farming wasn’t for me. – and neither was teaching or medicine. Growing up, both my mom and grandpa were handymen, so they touched every house we lived in, and I had many opportunities to help. I painted houses during my high school and college days and dabbled in landscape architecture following college. I worked in the business world for a short time, and the dressed-up, indoor confinement just didn’t appeal to me. I love driving around and seeing completed projects I had a hand in creating – it brings me excitement and enjoyment, and I have never stopped learning. I firmly believe the quickest lessons you have are from making mistakes and then righting them.
How would you encourage more women to follow a construction career path, and who were the major influencers in your life that made you believe this was the right path for you?
First and foremost – don’t be afraid! Massive construction sites are often crowded with workers, materials, and heavy equipment, which can be intimidating. But if you dig into how a sizeable project comes together, you immediately see a clear need for multi-tasking and thinking outside the box. There is an art to building that requires a solid design eye and different ways of harnessing creativity. A creative woman with a good eye for design will find this industry embraces that. I was lucky to have parents and grandparents believe in me and believe I would succeed in construction.
Your choice to pursue construction is inspiring. Tell us what you think has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
I believe my greatest accomplishment was working with three partners to start a Geotech firm during the housing crisis in late 2009/early 2010. We started in a down economy and created a company that is in excellent standing today. When I left in 2018, I knew the Materials Testing and Special Inspection Department I helped create would stand the test of time. At that time, I’m also proud to say the company had 40 employees and had been profitable every single year – including our first.
From a “splash” perspective, I’m also quite proud of a 15,000 square foot restaurant I helped deliver in a downtown Houston high rise. This project included an open kitchen concept on the main level with a full view from the dining rooms with 2 uniquely designed bars. The mezzanine level had a second kitchen and 3 private dining rooms and a third bar. There were many hurdles, but we were able to open at the end of 2019, on time without exceeding budget, which I think is an impressive feat.
What drew you to Project Frog, and what are your plans for the company as its director of construction and implementation?
I saw Project Frog leading the future of what the construction industry needs to be. Industrialized construction is all about optimizing the entire building process. Since I’m on the implementation side of the business, I focus on ensuring predictable and repeatable methods of project delivery. With industrialized construction, we can expand build capacities during implementation by incorporating engineering, offsite manufacturing, and supply chain management into our process.
Why do you think the construction industry is hesitant to change, and what do you see as the biggest hurdles in embracing modern construction methods?
A lot of general contractors are old school, and there’s a perception of risk associated with changing the way they work. What we really need to do is demonstrate what benefits Industrialized Construction provides in the real world. If they can see it all happening in real-time and understand that this approach won’t take jobs away but will actually make them more efficient, they’ll realize they can take on MORE work. We can prove that this approach is a win-win for them.
Is there anything else you want to add, Kristal?
When I first heard about this opportunity, I knew that Project Frog focused on the absolute right things to guide the design/build world into the future. With labor markets at an all-time low, but demand at an all-time high, the only way we can meet the build needs of the world is to be smarter and more efficient. Project Frog gets that and has made it their drive and their focus. I’m excited to be part of that journey.
About Kristal Howe
Kristal got her first taste of construction at the young age of 14 while working for her mother, who owns a painting and small finish business. This early introduction became the foundation on which she built her career. After earning her bachelor’s degree in business management at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Kristal worked as an ICC-Certified special inspector for a Geotech engineering firm, quickly moving up through the ranks in business development and as a project manager. The vast experience from these positions led her to open a new Geotech engineering firm in Denver. For the past three years, Kristal has acted as an owner’s representative on high-end restaurant concepts, new build retail developments, adaptive reuse projects, and tenant finish build-outs. Realizing the opportunity to optimize construction processes, Kristal joined Project Frog in 2021.