Now my personal opinion is that live fit-outs and refurbishments tend towards being the most interesting bits of the building game! They are something during which we can get all kinds of different aspects of our work!
Even just slapping a coat of emulsion on can become fascinating. If a world-class designer is responsible for the choice of colours, we can be scratching our heads, thinking “Why that sickly yellow on that bit of wall when the rest is deep red?” When the decorating is finished we stand back and gape in amazement at someone’s creativity and use of colour!
Then we might have a bit of civils when something like a stand-by generator is required. I did an interesting one of those near Derby; interesting because it went on a bog and needed deep piles for its raft to go on. Running the power cables underground was a giggle, too.
Most generally, though, we are stuck inside working – (usually during the summer months when we would rather be outside!) Raised access floors with electrics, heating and data cabling; suspended ceilings with lighting, air-con, fire sensors and sprinklers. Then we stick a few walls up, perhaps with Meeting areas in the middle of the floor. Again, world-class designer and we goggle at what we have done; terrific sense of space, but privacy everywhere!
If a lot of money passes through the premises, the Secure facilities for it can be interesting. One supermarket I did took in £1 million a day! Three lots of doors, 18” concrete walls and roof, and as secure as a Category A Prison!
I suppose another thing we actually have to be aware of is our clients’ business needs. We can’t be too noisy in a Call Centre, for example. That can mean working nights for some parts of our works. On one occasion it meant nights at the weekend because we had torn up the floor for the main entry which was also the main Fire Exit.
It is in the nature of live fit-outs and refurbishments that the clients don’t want us there a minute longer than we have to be; that means we are working flat out if we are going to finish on time. An essential for that is a Detailed Programme to Completion. Not a quick and easy task for anyone to compile, but once it is done, and distributed, all the Subbies know when they are supposed to turn up on site for what part of their works. Also means they get their materials there in good time!
What makes live fit-outs particularly interesting, though, is that they often have concurrent IT and Change Management projects. Now we manage change all the time; techies are useless at it and the client’s person lumbered with the job usually hasn’t a clue! What I have found is that the clients’ Main Board Directors sidle up to me and ask “if you’ll kind of keep an eye on the IT and Change Management.” Never been offered any extra cash for doing it, though! But it does get us respect from the clients’ staff when they realise we are on first-name terms with their ultimate bosses! We help because we are nice guys, but we aren’t too concerned if the techies, even with our encouragement, don’t get their act together.
We’ll finish on time; if they don’t, we don’t care. They’ll be the ones to get hit with LAD, not us.
There is one major problem we have to face when we are doing live fit-outs, though – PEOPLE!!! This is where site safety comes into it! We are the Nominated Person and we have to carry responsibility for the health and safety of the client’s people.
I had one Director, with four or five others, come barging onto the floor on which we were working. One got clobbered by a bit of steel pipe being thrown out of a room by the lads. I had to explain to the gentleman that, no that floor wasn’t his, it was mine! He was welcome, but he would have to let me know he was coming and he would have to be accompanied!
Another time I was escorting an HR lady around. I grabbed her and pulled her towards me – to get my face slapped! It wasn’t a sexual assault, I had to explain; it was to get her out of the way of a lad swinging a scaffold plank around. At least she apologised!
The long and the short of it is that people who don’t work in construction lack the situational and spacial awareness, along with the experience, to keep themselves safe on a construction site. We have to really look after them! A young lady got very annoyed when I reported her for breeching our safety barriers into an area where we had floor plates up. She blethered away on her phone without looking where she was going. Next day one of the subby’s bosses visited and did the same thing, in the same area, and walked backwards. His foot nearly went down in a hole in the floor, but didn’t; he stepped forward again, having sensed the potential danger!
Now there is one great advantage to doing a live fit-out if it is in a high-rise block. Many of the client’s staff are always delighted to get invited onto the roof! This is an area usually forbidden to them. Take them up to admire the view and you’ve made friends for yourself and got the guaranteed support and co-operation of your clients’ staff!
If you are interested in the topic, dive deeper into the competencies, required for managing construction refurbishment works.