//Anna Perks, founder of Perks Deconstruction Ltd, cuts underlayment at a job site in Cherry Hills Village where she is finishing deconstruction on March 1. Photo by Polina Saran | email@example.com
March 7-14 is Women in Construction Week, which aims to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry.
Anna Perks couldn’t escape the deafening sound of a bulldozer as she walked down Tennyson Street two years ago. A look of horror filled her face, and anger boiled over as a historic home was ripped to shreds and diminished to a pile of bent beams, pipes and broken appliances within a matter of minutes.
“It was just this gut-wrenching feeling that ran through my body,” Perks said.
Perks continued to watch as hydraulic excavators loaded up the demolished debris and prepared to dump it at a nearby landfill.
As a dust plume spilled over the Berkeley neighborhood, Perks decided her college degree in environmental issues could be used for something novel—remodeling the construction industry.
“I went on to meet with the developer of that property and learned there are very few alternatives to demolition in Denver,” Perks said. “While researching, I found an opportunity specifically around [home and commercial building] deconstruction, so I decided to start my own company.”
By starting her own one-of-a-kind company in the Denver area, Perks was stepping into one of the world’s most male-dominated industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics finds just 9% of the construction field is female.
Brian Dare, a recruiter for the Colorado Homebuilding Academy, a career training program, is on a mission to balance the male-to-female ratio and rebuild the construction landscape.
“Through our recruitment efforts, we’re starting to see more and more women wanting to be involved in the actual construction building process,” Dare said. “Right now, between 20-30% of our student body is female.”
Dare believes Perks, a graduate of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy, is helping chisel away at the ongoing stigma stuck deep within the walls of the construction world.
“There are generations worth of issues and minds that need to change around women in construction,” Dare said. “Construction work tends to be a father passing down to a son type of career. And I use the gender terms on purpose. There was no real consideration that maybe daughters would want to be in this kind of work.”
Three independent contractors were hired to jumpstart Perks Deconstruction Ltd, including Natalie Baudon, who crossed paths with Perks at a job fair. The general laborer position for Baudon was personal, and she knew it went far beyond the traditional hard hat and toolbelt. It was an opportunity to give new life to a late grandparent’s first love.
“My grandfather was a carpenter and was super handy,” Baudon said. “So, when my husband and I moved here, and I quit my job working in interior design, I made a promise to myself to pursue a career in residential construction.”
With 35% of Colorado landfills consumed with construction and demolition waste, Perks and her team’s main objective at each job site is straightforward: deconstruct each home or building by using a surgical approach to salvage and recycle materials.
“The first project we deconstructed was a commercial building, and we saved 10,000 tons of material that would have otherwise gone to the landfill, and we donated them to non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity,” Perks said. “It was quite a thrill.”
As one of the very few women-owned construction companies in the country, Perks admits the thrill sometimes fizzles as she meets with future project developers and business partners.
“When I go out to coffee with new people, they’re like, ‘Oh, so you started the company with your husband?’ Well, actually, no. I started it myself,” Perks said. “People still seem a little thrown off that I might know what I’m doing on a job site.”
Perks’ crew foreperson, Chris Enright, has worked in construction for more than 20 years. He believes the industry has been lacking people like Perks for generations.
“Anna is not afraid to go after the big, bold problems that are going to help us navigate the building industries of the future,” Enright said.
To obtain a demolition permit in Boulder, proof of a recycling plan needs to be in place. That plan requires keeping at least 75% of demolition materials out of the landfill to be reused.
And to obtain a demolition permit in Pitkin County, the project owner needs to pay a deposit based on the total estimated waste produced by the demo. The deposit is fully refunded if at least 25% of the construction debris is recycled.
In Denver, no requirement exists, but that’s something Perks hopes to change.
“I’m really trying to increase awareness about the amount of material that goes to our landfill and that you can be sustainable and reuse items,” Perks said. “To me, that’s the biggest part of it.”
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