A building construction site is a busy environment, in many cases there are large volumes of people trying to complete multitude of tasks. Any spare space is quickly filled with people, materials or waste and storage space is a premium.
Almost all construction phases or activities are associated with some form of deliveries. Whether the deliveries are transported to site by the workers themselves, or they are delivered by third parties such as suppliers in trucks, vans or utes there is almost a constant flow that needs to be managed.
Failure to adequately manage and log deliveries on site is fraught will pitfalls and can dramatically affect productivity, organisation and safety. Special considerations should be given to the following elements;
Responsibility (Storage/Deliveries Co-Ordinator)
It is critical that one person is responsible for deliveries on site. This mainly relates to items arriving through third parties such as from suppliers in trucks vans and utes. It is critical to co-ordinate delivery times to coincide with activities. Most building sites have construction zones, which are only large enough to fit one and at best two trucks, so without proper programming and organisation this zone can rapidly become congested. Additionally, if the materials are not properly allocated to an area they are exposed to security risks, a hazard to workers and are difficult to find when needed. With this in mind it is important to allocate responsibility to one individual who understands the progressively changing environment of the site knows where certain materials should be delivered and has a schedule of times for deliveries to the construction zone. In addition to this, to save confusion this person should be the primary contact for any and all delivery drivers to create consistent lines of communication.
Do not use the Building Site as a Storage Yard
All too often sub trades are only concerned about their own activities, and with this organise themselves to suit what they are doing with total disregard of other trades, or upcoming activities on site. The deliveries of tiles are a good example. Tiles are generally ordered in large batches to ensure batch numbers are matching to allow for tile consistency in shades, shapes and sizes, however tiles are used up progressively over a period of time. Storage costs money and takes up space, so trades like to store as many materials as possible on site, so as to not pay storage fees to suppliers, or fill up their own storage facilities. It is critical for any deliveries/storage co-ordinator to identify this problem and manage sub trades to ensure there is not a large surplus of stored materials that are not immediately needed on site.
Allocate Drop off and Storage Areas
Drop off and storage areas are a critical aspect of any construction site. All trades need to be aware of what their allocated areas for storage are and their drop off areas. These areas must be managed by the deliveries co-ordinator at all times, and trades must be directed on what they can leave on site, where it must be stored and constantly log the dates and times for the next deliveries.
Some trades will require their own lock –up storage areas. This is particularly relevant to plumbers, electricians and painters. Plumbers and electricians have many expensive specialised elements they use on site on a daily basis, and in most cases need surplus supplies to keep up with activities on site. It is more complex to manage these specialised trades as they undertake complex tasks that require many differing components and materials. It is not efficient to expect plumbers and electricians to only bring what they need on the day. The project will rapidly change even throughout the day so there will always be a need for some surplus materials for these two trades. These storage lockups in many cases if practical will take the form of shipping containers or site sheds in the early stages, however as the project progresses and basements of lower floors are completed, it is general practice to build walls or fence off areas with gates and padlocks to create lock up storage facilities.
Another good example is painters. During the painting stage, painters will deliver large quantities of pain to a building site. Paints are very expensive and very easy to move as they come in small manageable buckets. This leaves them open to theft is not adequately stores and protected. A painter also needs a dedicated area for sorting and mixing so it is good practice to allocate a secure storage and lock up for painters.
A construction site is a dynamic complex changing environment. Every day or even hour, the very nature of the activities on a building and construction site change. This may range from sub-trades coming and going which means staffing increases or decreases, visitors attending site, material being delivered or relocated, to movements in plant and equipment such as cranes on site, elevated working platforms, forklifts etc.
In addition to this, in most cases a construction site has constraints on space, what this means is, for economic viability, most buildings are designed to take up as much of the land they are built on as possible. This leaves little of no room for storage, crane movements, parking, access or even areas to manage waste.
This environment presents many challenges to a Project Manager, Construction Manager or Site Manager. As the project ramps up and the activities increase, the working environment becomes more constrained and dangerous, and if not properly managed can lead to worker frustration and arguments, low productivity, errors and mistakes or low quality work, breaches in safety and in some of the worse cases worker injury or bankruptcy.
The very first step in managing this process and ensuring that the project runs smoothly is in the early planning. What this means is that before any work commences on site, there must be a clear and concise plan developed on firstly, what are the critical stages of the project, then what are the most likely thing to go wrong (risk), to what will be the best way to manage the processes during these stages. Some of the most critical stages may be as follows:
- At what stage, date or location is the most activity (workers) expected on site
- What are the largest or heaviest elements of the project
- What are the most expensive items used in the construction
- What dates or stages is the largest plant and equipment expected on site
- When are the biggest days on site, (largest concrete pours, steel erection etc.)
- What are the most dangerous high risk construction processes (scaffolding, crane work etc.)
In addition to some of the above critical activities, there are many other critical elements to consider that must be considered before formulating this plan such as;
- How will waste be managed on site
- How will management responsibility be allocated
- What is the best way to transport, shift and locate materials within the site
- What are the security concerns with theft, damage, misplacement
The above notes are just a guide, and highlight the complex nature of activities all levels of management must consider prior to any work commencing on site. Formulating a plan of action to manage these processes cannot be done in isolation. It is critical that all levels of management are involved in its development.
The best way to initiate this plan is to involve all the main representatives, such as site managers, project managers, construction managers, sub-trade representatives and safety officers. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge within each of these disciplines that can brainstorm and identify all the issues and develop a list of critical issues that must be considered during the entire construction process.
Once this list is developed, it is then possible to formulate a plan or program to address these issues. Some of the main actions that are developed from these plans are as follows:
- Location and design of scaffold
- Crane location
- Storage areas
- Movement paths for plant, equipment and materials
- Access for sub trades, workers and truck deliveries
- Waste management
- Construction zones
- Visitor and neighbour management
- Access to services (power, water, amenities etc.)
- Management of high risk activities
It is clear from the information above that a building and construction site cannot run itself, and requires a diligent and energetic team to ensure that the problems and pitfalls are avoided. Plans and programmes on a building site will change even on a daily basis with the dynamic nature of the activities, however if the critical elements can be identified early in the process, it will ensure that any risks arising from every day activities can be managed.
Recently I was asked to do a radio interview about my experience in Construction Project Management. The interviewer was keen to understand what some of the key challenges are for construction projects, and what specialist skills and knowledge is required in order to successfully deliver them.
In the interview, I explained to the interviewer that there are three aspects of Construction Project Management that I employ in order to achieve a successful delivery: safety, quality and economy. I go into some depth on all three of these aspects and how to balance their often conflicting dimensions.
That interview has now gone live on Business Innovators Radio and you can listen to it here. In it we also go through what happens when projects don’t always go to plan, and how to recover in these situations, as well as tips for construction owners on what to look for in a project manager.
Since that interview went live, it has also just been published in the Business Innovators Magazine and can be viewed here.
This is a three split level home built on a sloping block with four bedrooms three bathrooms and a swimming pool. Because of the secluded nature of this house, the aim was to bring natural light into the home and to make it as open plan as possible. The use of clearstorey louvre windows on the top level ensured plenty of light and cross ventilation to the top floor. We incorporated a floor to ceiling window to the living area which was built as a pod off the back of the house. This feature gives the inhabitants a feeling of floating in the tree canopy whilst overlooking the tropical salt water pool.
The internal features revolve around easy living with a large bank of stacker doors off the kitchen spilling onto the deck, bringing the outside wildlife into the living areas. The gourmet chefs kitchen has a large walk in butlers pantry, and although the house is built over three levels, it is possible to see and communicate throughout the house on every floor. This is because each split level spills into the next with voids, windows and opening allowing you to look through the house no matter where you may be located.
This house was designed over three levels including four bedrooms and three bathrooms with warehouse style living in mind. By using commercial construction building techniques we were able to achieve large spans and open spaces to give the inhabitants a feel of large expanse living while still incorporating all the soft elements that make up a residential home. This was largely achieved by incorporating a portal frame to form the backbone of the structure as seen in photo 2, supporting the roof while also supporting the mezzanine level floor.
Polished concrete floors and exposed structural steel were a major feature throughout the build. To soften these hard elements into a residential setting the use of select grade spotted gum flooring and large wrap around hardwood decks were incorporated, including exposed Oregon beams to the mezzanine level to blend the natural earthy tones back into the build.