When Jake Lewis was a kid growing up on the East Coast, his family had a summer tradition of road-tripping around the country to follow the Boston Red Sox and visit national parks. Along the way, his folks always stopped to check out “architectural gems,” remembers Lewis. To this he credits his lifelong fascination with how buildings are put together. “Plus,” he adds, “my parents renovated our homes when we were living in Massachusetts and [later in] Texas. I always enjoyed watching tradespeople working on those projects. My appreciation for well-built homes definitely comes from my parents.”
After high school in Texas, Lewis studied political science and environmental studies at the University of North Carolina — the nation’s first public university, chartered in 1789, and still ranked among the very best public colleges in the country — where he took a course in green architecture “that was really eye-opening,” he remembers. Since then, he’s taken a special interest in sustainable homebuilding.
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After graduating from UNC, Lewis was interested in trying something different, he says. “Many of my peers were moving to cities for corporate jobs, and I just had a feeling that a move like that was not the right next step for me. So in the fall of 2014, I connected with a friend who worked in the trades on Nantucket. I moved up there and began as a laborer and carpenter’s assistant, working on homes all over the island.”
As it goes with young men in the trades, one job leads to the next, and after nine months on the island, he moved to Asheville, North Carolina, to join a framing crew for a local general contractor.
“And less than a year later, I moved north to Virginia to build a pole barn on a family friend’s farm, an opportunity that put to use much of what I had learned over the past year and a half,” Lewis remembers. “Not only was the barn my first experience in project management, it was also when construction turned from being a job to a possible career.” As an added bonus, that project often included end-of-day beers with a buddy overlooking the Rivanna River.
In October 2016, Lewis headed west with his girlfriend, Bryn, who was born in Santa Barbara. “I knew that I wanted to stay in construction,” he remembers. “My interest in project management motivated me to reply to an online ad, in 2017, for a superintendent position at Giffin & Crane. At the time, I knew very little other than that they built high-end homes. The staff’s humility and work/life balance stood out to me as important pillars of the company during the early stages of my interview process.”
In August 2017, Lewis came aboard as a superintendent. He also works in quality assurance, a program dedicated to revisiting completed projects after three months, and again after eleven months, re-inspecting work and checking in with clients. “We make sure the homeowners are happy,” he says.
As for Lewis’s special interest in sustainable homebuilding, he appreciates the prospect of being on the cutting edge of green technology and working for clients who value high-quality, architecturally significant homes, he says.
“I’m working alongside professionals who are among the best at what they do,” he adds. “Nobody’s cutting any corners here. I’m really learning the right way to do things.”