To say that the desk job Andrew Lee landed after moving back home to California wasn’t a good fit is an understatement. Now the director of facilities at the Ameswell Hotel in Mountain View, California, Lee has always felt best when using his hands and getting to see his progress at the end of the day in the form of something tangible.
Before the Ameswell, and before the dreaded desk job, Lee cut his teeth building and assembling trade show exhibits. He fondly recalls a time when he and his small team had to assemble 10 different booths in one month.
“We were doing 14- and 16-hour days just to stay on top of the work,” Lee remembers. But there was a significant issue when it came to Lee’s health. Georgia, where Lee was based at the time, was one of the worst places in the country for someone with asthma to live. His physician encouraged him to find a better climate. Lee and his wife moved, and he took the first job he could: the desk job.
“It was brutal,” Lee says matter-of-factly. “The commute was horrible, I was sitting behind a desk all day, and it just didn’t feel right.”
Lee decided to take a pay cut and begin as a journeyman carpenter working for a contractor. It was a chance to learn about building from every perspective: from grading to foundation to framing to roofing. He was promoted to project lead in under three years.
“I loved it,” Lee says. “If contractors could pay their workers a decent wage, I might still be building homes, but I wanted to be able to provide something more for my family.”
Lee was asked to help a hotel that had closed due to COVID reopen—which was especially challenging since they called him exactly one week before said reopening. Lee went back to the 14-hour days, checking off an extensive list of facilities items by himself.
His hard work was noticed, and he was asked if he’d be interested in taking on a director role at a new property with about four times as many rooms as the hotel he’d just helped reopen. The Ameswell would be Lee’s biggest challenge yet.
“The first two months I was all by myself again,” Lee explains. “I was checking 255 rooms and making sure that every outlet and fixture worked, that all the access points were online throughout the building, and all of those facilities matters that have to be done before a place can open.”
The challenges of building during COVID cannot be overstated. And because the Ameswell is not a branded hotel, processes, procedures, and contractor relationships had to be built from scratch. Had Lee been building a Marriott or a Hilton, not only would he have had an established protocol, but also an entire network of builders and servicers to choose from. Merely locating people who could take on the work during COVID required a minor miracle.
“It was just one of those scenarios where you had to be willing to learn on the fly and adapt as needed,” Lee says. “It was a new role, a larger property, and this whole administrative side I needed to learn. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t pretty tough at times.”
The result, though, is truly something to behold. The Ameswell finally opened in July 2021; it pays tribute to aeronautics and space flight, a nod to nearby Moffett Field (which has hosted NASA, naval operations, and an array of military activity since World War II). It offers luxury, but without the stuffiness of some high-end hotels.
According to local publication The Mountain View Voice, heated saltwater pools and restaurants staffed by robots perfectly meld with gritty photos of Mountain View that illustrate an age before the area became a hub for tech companies like Google.
The Ameswell is already an incredibly efficient hotel. Every light in the building is LED; solar energy is also used for some of its power needs. The structure was built to LEED Silver standards and Lee is partnering with automated energy management company Enersponse to start tracking energy metrics and reducing its carbon footprint.
Lee, meanwhile, is humble about his accomplishments. “I feel proud about the way I conduct my team and how I interact with others,” he says. “But I don’t really stop to think about it much. I just get satisfaction from working with my hands, and while that may look a little different now, it’s still what drives me. I don’t need to be noticed. I just want to do a great job.”
At Butterfield Electric, Inc., our customers are our business. We go above and beyond expectations to deliver exceptional service in a reliable and professional manner. With our long-standing reputation for knowledgeable power solutions, Butterfield Electric, Inc. is the first choice in construction and service. We proudly join in celebrating Andrew Lee and The Ameswell Hotel for their recognition in American Builders Quarterly. Learn more at butterfieldelectric.com.