Dana Ham Doesn’t Gamble on Green

Facilities VP Dana Ham worked hand-in-hand with the construction team to bring Encore’s landmark resort and casino to life with sustainability in mind

The South Lawn is a 21,000-square-foot event space which hosts concerts, weddings, and other large functions. Photo by Roger Davies

Dana Ham’s impressive résumé—which includes overseeing facilities of the “largest private single-phase construction project in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” and being part of a $2.6 billion project with 2,000 construction workers onsite doing $2.5 million in construction every day—stems from a decision made in middle school that he says forever impacted his life.

Dan Ham, VP of Facilities, Encore Boston Harbor Photo by Roger Davies

“I decided that I wanted to attend Minuteman Regional Vocational School,” the now vice president of facilities at the casino and resort Encore Boston Harbor says. “That was not the normal path for the people who are in my position now, but I wanted to go a different route.”

That route would include becoming a certified welder for five years out of trade school before taking a 17-year detour as a Massachusetts police detective, running crisis response efforts, implementing IT projects, and acting as a D.A.R.E. and school resource officer, all the while building spec houses and doing construction on the side. Ham then evolved into facilities work, initially so he could spend more time with his growing children and maintain a regular schedule with his family. After a few successively larger Massachusetts public school facilities roles, Ham made the jump to Encore in 2015 and promptly became entrenched in the 33-acre remediation and construction project taken on by Wynn Resorts.

The Fixer Upper

The $35 million parcel of land Wynn Resorts purchased in Everett, Massachusetts, wasn’t without what would constitute several thousand truckloads of issues. The former landowners who included Monsanto and other chemical companies had done a number on the environmental integrity of the site. “The $68-million remediation removed over 840,000 tons of soil—that’s enough to entirely fill Fenway Park,” Ham explains. “We dredged seven acres of the Mystic River and removed 41,000 tons of sediment, capping it with 30,000 tons of clean fill. This was completely funded by Wynn.”

The $14 million Harbor Walk that was built onsite includes a massive event lawn right on the Mystic River. “We have added boat docks and installed a living shoreline,” the VP says. “This is an area that hasn’t been accessible to Everett residents in over a century. The change that this has made is huge.”

The six-and-a-half–acre Harborwalk marries a beautiful view of the city to the Encore property which residents hadn’t had access to in over 100 years. Photo by Barbara Kraft

Aiming for Gold, Winding Up with Platinum

The environmental considerations taken on by the resort and casino aren’t just impressive by Massachusetts standards; they might be one of the most sweeping sets of standards enacted for a construction project, period. “We were aiming for LEED Gold certification, but we wound up being awarded LEED Platinum,” Ham says.

That starts with the power at Encore. Three megawatts of cogeneration, one megawatt of solar, and four megawatts of battery backup for peak shaving, keep the casino up and running. The battery install itself was the largest on the owner’s side of any meter in the area. Encore is also reclaiming its rainwater for outside irrigation, and the structure features a green roof.

“Milton CAT was a very good partner for us in implementing all of these systems,” Ham says. “Mark Schow, our engineer of record, was also instrumental in getting these systems to do what we needed them to do.”

Schow is the principal mechanical engineer at Elevated Designs Inc. and designed the energy efficiency measures that were incorporated into Encore’s project. “I’m particularly proud of the cogeneration system,” Schow adds, “which generates onsite electricity and recovers the heat for heating and cooling the building. This was a major contributor to the building achieving LEED Platinum!”

Automated Logic was also brought on as a partner to guide us through the integration of these major systems,” Ham notes. “We’re incredibly lucky to have collaborated with them on this project.”

Unrivaled Partnership

“Construction and facilities are two entirely different animals,” Ham says, but notes that despite the quick turnaround needed to execute the massive project, the facilities team was “still able to work hand-in-hand with the construction team to get them to think operationally” with help from the director of construction, Peter Campot. The teams still took time to talk through potential issues that would oftentimes be left to the facilities team to handle after construction was completed.

“This is probably one of the most talented construction teams I’ve ever seen,” Ham says. “Suffolk Construction should be recognized for just how well they were willing to look at the bigger picture here.”

The funny thing is, a landmark project in the billions isn’t really any sort of endpoint for Ham. “Where else can you have a $2.6 billion project finish and you move right into your CAPX projects?” Ham asks. “Our customers are everything, and so we listen when they want us to try something different. It’s never going to stop.”

While Ham loves spending his free time tuna fishing with his two sons, both now in the construction industry as a union electrician and project manager respectively, the VP of facilities says the sheer number of individual projects makes every day a challenge that he looks forward to. “I’ve been fortunate to build a team of such high-performing individuals. We have fun here and we get the job done.”