Building a Strong Foundation for Women in Construction One Brick at a Time
Women in construction are a rare breed. But Carmen Vann feels quite comfortable in the industry she’s called home for more than 20 years. Drawn to a career in construction by a deeply rooted passion for buildings, Vann works as a regional project executive at BNBuilders, a construction firm known best for projects in the life sciences.
“It’s really important to have women in these positions in order to create policies that are equitable to women and men alike,” Vann says. “Diversity helps to chip away at some of the outdated mindsets that have built up over centuries, and I’m happy to play a role in that evolution.”
While Vann brings an important perspective to San Diego’s construction industry, as an SDAF Board Member, she also brings a unique viewpoint to SDAF. A proven leader in the construction industry, her track record includes the successful management of several complex construction projects within San Diego, most notably leading the construction of Park 12, the San Diego New Central Library and Sempra Energy Headquarters. Most recently she led efforts on Stella and Bluewater, 160 units of much needed affordable housing in San Diego.
Collectively, Vann has led construction efforts on varying project types valued at more than $850 million within the San Diego region, and her achievements make her one of the most accomplished women in construction in the area.
A Longtime Interest in Building Becomes a Career
Vann got her big break in construction while in her mid-20s. After following friends to Nashville, Tenn., she was hired as a project engineer at Turner Construction, one of the largest construction firms in the country. Vann moved on from Nashville after a few years, but she stayed with Turner Construction for 17 years.
“I have always had a passion for buildings,” Vann says. “I didn’t always know how I would address it, but I knew I would.”
The seed was planted early, when Vann attended a high school specializing in pre-engineering. She studied everything from aerospace science to architectural design, and by the time she was a junior, Vann was eyeing a career in architectural engineering.
College at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University showed her that she’d thrive in something more interactive. When Vann discovered construction management as a college student, a new world opened to her. “It was the perfect intersection of architecture and application of construction,” Vann recalls. “The best of both worlds.”
Laying the Groundwork for Thriving Communities
As Vann has grown in the profession, her passion for construction has evolved into something much more potent — a level of care for the communities her projects serve.
While Vann has been a force behind many a “sexy” project like Hard Rock Hotel, what matters more to her are projects like the library that brings literacy to a community. Or housing developments that provide affordable quality living experiences for all who need it.
A resident of North Park and former North Park Community Association Board Member, Vann is an out woman of color who cares deeply about equality. She received a civil rights honor award from the LGBT Community of San Diego for her efforts in that realm, and it inspired in her an urge to do more.
“Receiving the award really sparked in me a level of responsibility,” Vann says. “I am who I am. I want equality. I want discrimination to fall by the wayside. I want hearts and minds to change. But the award provoked me to have a larger voice.”
As an out person in construction, Vann is a rarity. But her philosophy is simple.
“My goal is to do the best job I can at all times,” she says. “I want to serve my clients and my community. I want people to know me as someone who provides excellent service, and to be treated as the professional I am. It’s always my hope that people know me by my work, and by the excellent quality I commit to when I’m serving my clients.”