The construction industry as a whole, and the civil and heavy highway sector in particular, is a challenging environment to say the least, says Rifka Malik, president of the New York-based Sitework Estimating Services. “Providing the necessary infrastructure our society is dependent upon for a good quality of life while protecting the environment—which needs to be the prime directive—is no small feat.” Sustainable construction is the goal, she notes, adding that while the goal appears “lofty,” it is “absolutely necessary for the survival of future generations. We are past the point of recognition of its necessity. The challenges we face are how to implement it.” While much of the industry focus is on long-term environmental concerns, there are also short-term concerns regarding erosion and sediment control on active construction sites. She has spent the last 20 years in the construction industry driving home the notion that it all starts with cost estimates. “It is paramount that the cost of any construction project—including sufficient erosion control—be estimated correctly to ensure funds are available in the construction budget to perform the necessary BMPs,” she says. Malik is a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC), as certified by Envirocert International, and a Certified Professional Estimator (CPE), as certified by the American Society of Professional Estimators. She notes she has married these two passions and skills to build a consultancy firm “supporting construction that is sensitive to our environment by building feasible cost estimates one project at a time.”
What She Does Day to Day
Malik maintains a hands-on approach to everything happening in her company, recognizing the immense responsibility her clients’ trust in her work creates. She says her primary focus is not the quantity of work her firm performs, but the quality of her own work. “I want to remain an estimator and consultant. I have no interest in being a boss,” she says. In a typical day, she’s visiting job sites, analyzing drawings (“which I still habitually refer to as ‘blueprints,’” she notes), and actively engaging in every aspect of the cost estimating process. She spends time meeting with clients, design engineers, and decision-makers, educating them on their available options and tools in what she calls “this changing and dynamic industry.” She focuses on value engineering in many of the meetings. Malik also shares her knowledge through educating others at industry convention seminars as well as in dedicated group settings of engineers, estimators, and site contractors.
What Led Her to This Line of Work
Malik was born into construction and later married into construction. “It’s all I ever knew,” she says. “It is in my DNA.” Her passion for erosion and sediment control is a byproduct of her commitment to the environment as a whole. “I love nature,” she says. “I’m concerned about preserving it for future generations.”
What She Likes Best About Her Work
Converting skeptics into believers is Malik’s favorite part of her job. “There must be passion about what you are doing to be successful and feel fulfilled,” she says. “There is more to this work than a paycheck. When I see my clients feel empowered to become believers in what they are doing, it gives me the sense that all of those long days and nights are worth it.”
Her Greatest Challenge
Malik says her greatest challenge is combatting what she sees as entrenched beliefs in the industry, indicated by comments from her clients such as, “Everybody else is doing it that way” and “How will I get work if I do it the right way as opposed to the way most of my competitors are doing it?” Malik says: “My job is to tell the truth. An estimator’s job is to predict probable costs. The only way to do that right is to never be afraid to question the status quo. At the end of the day, the goal is to perform the job well while making a profit. The only way to do that is to start with a viable estimate. It all rolls forward from there.