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It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the recent passing of Greg Howell, one of the co-founders of the Lean Construction Institute and of the Lean Design and Construction discipline itself. Together with his friend and colleague Glenn Ballard, Greg was a true pioneer in conceiving and developing the concepts and tools that remain foundational in extending Lean thinking to the built environment today.
Greg passed away peacefully on June 15, 2020 at the age of 77. He is survived by his wife Dana Howell, his daughter Emily Thomsen, son-in-law Ian Thomsen, 3 grandchildren, his brother Kenneth Howell and his two favorite dogs, Chispa and Furgus.
Greg was a kind and generous man with a heart for helping others and a burning desire to improve the industry as a whole. He was a gifted and patient teacher, a much sought-after consultant and coach, and a persistent advocate for Lean through the period when it struggled to gain acceptance at any level. The fact that it has been maintained and its use expanded in the ensuing decades is in no small measure a tribute to Greg’s passion for making the industry better through a laser-like focus on improving project outcomes. This, and the growth and expansion of LCI since the days when Greg’s wife literally kept the books at their kitchen table, will serve as a lasting testimony to his life’s work and the clarity of his vision.
Greg graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Stanford University. He served as a Navy officer in the United States Civil Engineer Corps in Vietnam and Thailand. After his time in the military, he worked as a project engineer on heavy construction and general building projects while simultaneously managing his consulting firm, Howell Associates. He served as a visiting professor, then an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of New Mexico. Greg went on to serve as an Eminent Scholar at Arizona State University. It was not long after his time in academia that he and Glenn Ballard went on to found the Lean Construction Institute in 1997.
Greg was a co-founder and principal of LeanProject, a Lean construction consulting firm. His time there was spent helping clients improve projects and organizations through Lean thinking. Greg left his mark on the Lean design and construction industry through his dedication and passion for improving the industry as a whole with Lean methods. That is his legacy which will live on.
LCI Executive Director, Dan Heinemeier, had this to say about Greg: “I was privileged to know Greg and to benefit from his advice and counsel, particularly in my early years at LCI. His guidance was instrumental in helping me recognize and embrace the true potential of Lean as applied to construction. He also connected me with many other leading lights in the field who have contributed so much to my early onboarding and continued learning about Lean. For me, that personal legacy will continue to live on as a testament to Greg’s many contributions to LCI and our industry.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.
Please email GregHowellMemorial@gmail.com to share condolences, memories, pictures and stories. If you would like to donate to an organization in Greg’s honor we suggest Kiva.org or organizations supporting Alzheimer research, veterans and equal rights. There is also a memorial website if you would like to share something publicly about Greg Howell.