Case Studies

Shane Frey – AMH

Construction director leads ‘perfect’ team in Salt Lake City

Houses in the Salt Lake City area run the gamut from historic Victorians to boxy modern custom builds, but one type of architecture that’s not as common is the Arts and Crafts-style home, with its signature sloped roof, wide eave overhangs, front-facing columns and front porch.

AMH Living, formerly operating as American Homes 4 Rent, is changing that as it constructs 177 such homes in the Daybreak community, a sprawling neighborhood in South Jordan, Utah, that more closely resembles a small city than a housing development. The 4,100-acre residential area is Utah’s largest housing community, and it includes a “luxury village” subdivision alongside a 20-acre waterfront spanning a manmade lake. There are also streams, recreational trails, playgrounds, community gardens and pools.

Shane Frey | Director of Construction | AMH

Shane Frey | Director of Construction | AMH

The Daybreak project represents just a fraction of AMH’s inventory—the Nevada-based real estate investment trust owns roughly 60,000 homes across more than 20 states, many of which are not new builds.

“The company just re-branded, and it was really great to see that evolution,” says Shane Frey, a director of construction for the company in Salt Lake City. “Our team is lining right up with where this company would like to go.”

The Utah development program Frey oversees is key to AMH’s growth strategy, which uses data from the company’s traditional portfolio to build customized homes for residents. So, for example, AMH now incorporates pocket offices into many of its new builds to accommodate remote working. It has also gathered data on durability, installing luxury vinyl plank flooring, granite or quartz countertops and tile shower surrounds as a result.

Frey sees his work for AMH as not only helping individual renters, but also helping to add homes amid a nationwide housing shortage, which the National Association of Realtors estimates at 5.5 million units (Freddie Mac puts it at roughly 3.8 million).

Hitting a tough target at Daybreak

Since he arrived at AMH four years ago, Frey has watched the Daybreak community—where AMH is one of many homebuilders—take shape. The standard operating procedure there is to bring in several builders and divvy up a parcel of land between them. But AMH was able to negotiate special treatment; Frey and his team basically have their own mini community within Daybreak, which they plan to complete later this year.

“I’ve had the opportunity since joining AMH to work on this community from start to finish,” Frey says. “Working with the architects, the engineers, the city—it’s been interesting to see exactly what their expectations are.”

Shane Frey | Director of Construction | AMH

Their vision includes a lot of architecture from other parts of the country, according to Frey, including more vibrant architectural styles and colors that reflect designs common in the South and East.

Frey says they determine how many houses they will build annually in Daybreak at the start of the year. Last year, Frey and his team were tasked with delivering a substantially higher number of houses, but at the end of the day, they met their target.

“It was quite the experience to be able to sit down with my team and say, ‘Okay, this is what we’ve got to accomplish,’ and to put the plan together, work with the trades and make that actually happen,” Frey says. “And not only did we make it happen, but we were able to get done early and allow our team to enjoy the holidays.”

An ambitious construction policy

Helping them to meet that target was Frey’s “Build Two a Week” approach. The principle behind it is that every trade working in an AMH community should aim to complete two of its requisite tasks each week. For instance, every framing contractor must frame two houses per week, while every foundation contractor must likewise pour two foundations. With that approach, it takes AMH just 100 days to complete each home.

Shane Frey | Director of Construction | AMH

And from AMH’s perspective, this approach has another benefit: If the company runs into an issue with an inspector or a warranty, Frey has only to walk a few houses down to find the tradespeople who can fix it.

“A lot of what I do with my team is based off the culture that we have at the company,” Frey says. “You’ve got to take care of your employees. And if you take care of your employees, then they’re going to take care of you.”

Raising the bar

While he’s now in his element in the construction business, as a young man, Frey studied biology, planning to pursue medicine. But as fate would have it, the biology program at his university was put on hold due to an enrollment shortfall. Frey took a summer off and decided to help build houses.

“I loved it,” Frey recalls. “I really enjoyed what I was doing, so I changed my degree to construction management. And I have never looked back.”

A 2011 graduate of Utah Valley University, where he earned his Bachelor’s in technology management and construction management, Frey worked as a superintendent at Richmond American Homes while he was pursuing his degree. It was difficult to juggle work and school, but finishing his education was one of the best things he ever did.

Frey points out that many people working in construction feel like their value as workers comes from their on-the-job training. He says he didn’t realize until he finished his degree how useful that diploma could be in opening doors.

Shane Frey | Director of Construction | AMH

“I had the same mentality,” Frey says. “Yes, you have a lot of knowledge, but oh my goodness, there’s so much more knowledge out there.”

Frey became a senior superintendent at Destination Homes in 2011. In 2013, he returned to Richmond American, where he climbed from senior trade agent to general superintendent. In 2016, he accepted a position with Century Communities. Once there, he rose from purchasing manager to regional construction manager.

He joined AMH in 2019 as a market construction manager, and in 2022, he became director of construction in Salt Lake City. In that role, he tries to nudge his team to set the bar higher.

“People say perfection is not achievable, but I dispute that,” Frey says. “My team is perfect in many regards. Things that other people say are not achievable, we show them are achievable, and they can do it. And there’s a lot of gratification in seeing what a team can accomplish once you have them all in the same mindset.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.

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