How Construction Management Has Changed Since Your Dad’s Time
The first thing here is to decide whose Dad we are talking about: mine or yours!
In my Dad’s time it was the Post-War regeneration period and all I saw of it was houses being chucked up at a rate we hadn’t seen in Britain since the Victorian population explosion! I never actually saw much construction management being exercised; it seemed as if the lads simply got on with it and stuck them up! Mind you, we now live in a far more bureaucratised world with Regs coming out of our ears! That means more management is required.
So let’s look at your Dad’s time. This is a bit embarrassing because that was my time! The first thing is that the Building Regulations in those days was just a slim little booklet that easily went in a pocket. I was speaking with an independent Building Control Officer recently, one with a Master’s degree. He said that the Building Regs had got so long-winded and complicated that even he couldn’t be bothered reading them all!
The simplicity of the old Regs made compliance a lot simpler and easier for construction management. We didn’t have all the paperwork then that we have seen on sites in recent years. What that did was allow more time out on site so that we could insist on “De-snag as you go” and get any buildability problems passed to us by the lads as we chatted with them.
Drawings were a bit of a problem. Back then they were “blue prints” and we didn’t get many copies and replacements, if we lost one, were a so-and-so to get hold of. No problem today, of course, when we have them on our computers and can just run them off on the plotter which most site offices have these days!
I’ve ranted on often enough in these Blogs about the importance of Detailed Programs to Completion, haven’t I? Well in your Dad’s time, I was cutting edge! I used to bring bits of old wallpaper from home and come up with a Program on them! It took a ruler and various coloured pens to do it! I suppose, to be fair, by today’s standards they weren’t very “Detailed” but the lads liked them and they did allow control of progress and usually accelerated the works. Not like today when we have our computers with MS Project on them and we can just print off big copies in the site office to stick up everywhere!
Clothing on site for construction management used to be different back in the day. A jacket and, if it was raining, an old mackintosh! On our feet it was a pair of wellington boots or ex-military leather boots, both usually bought in the old Army Surplus Stores! On three occasions I stood on things that went through the soles and into my foot! Today’s Hi-Vis and steel insole footwear are a great advance! Hard hats are pretty good, too. They’ve saved me head injuries a few time since they became obligatory!
Now let’s have a look at what has changed in the site office. It used to be a desk and chair with, sometimes, a chart table to put drawings on. Beyond that all we needed then was a little two-drawer filing cabinet to put the odd letter or memo in for future reference. The filing cabinet usually just slid away under the desk. Nowadays construction management needs filing cabinets galore to stick all the bits of paper in! Usually it also means that, assuming there is a site-based QS, there needs to be two site office containers to make enough space!
QS’s, Quantity Surveyors, are another change! They used to be a rare breed but have become very necessary for construction management these days! The profit margins have become so low, particularly in the U.K., that every penny has to be claimed from the client or the job will be making a loss! How this has come about could be the subject of another Blog.
Now this may sound a bit daft, but all the plant we now have and all the power tools the tradesmen use actually make Health and Safety for construction management far more demanding! We have to make separate passages for pedestrians and vehicles which can give us logistic problems when space is tight. As for the trades, well it used to be difficult to do much damage to yourself using a panel saw, but a circular saw? Management have to keep an eye open to make sure the guys using them are competent and do it safely! A friend of mine wasn’t too observant recently. A guy sawed off two of his fingers!
The final thing I’m going to mention for now is kids! As a kid myself used to love playing on construction sites when work had stopped for the day! Up and down ladders; gymnastics in the scaffolding and I frequently fell through lime pits that we used to try and walk across! When I first moved on to construction management we used to have the kids on our sites at night! Now though, the threat of Child Trespassers is a construction management nightmare! If a kid gets on our site and injures itself we face criminal charges! Overhead costs have shot up with security fences and, on some sites, even having to pay for Security men day and night just to keep kids off our sites!
In so many respects construction management in your Dad’s day was a lot simpler and he could just get on with building the place. However a simplification of today’s construction management is at hand. A lot of the extra work can be taken away from it simply by using – you guessed it – GenieBelt.