Thursday, February 03, 2011

Site Visits

Remember back when you were in grade school? Remember how much fun it was to go on field trips? The excitement and exhilaration of leaving the confines of the classroom! That is how it feels when I get to visit a site. I love to leave the office, get away from my desk, and see where the rubber hits the road. I've learned a few things from site visits and want to share my experiences.

The Rules
The first rule of site visits that that they are to be referred to as 'site observations'. The second rule of site visits is that are to be referred to as 'site observations'. I say this because of liability reasons. As per the Article 4.2.2 of the AIA A201, "the Architect will not be required to make exhaustive or continuous on-site inspections to check the quality or quantity of the Work." Using the word 'inspection' connotates that the Architect is taking a more exhaustive approach to the site visit.
The third rule is to wear the proper clothes. As fashionable or hip as you may be, the job site isn't the place for your new Gucci loafers. Do yourself a favor and invest in some work boots. There are a number of reasons for this: 

1. I guarantee that if you wear your expensive dress shoes, you will scuff them or get some horribly adhesive substance on them. Go ahead, test me on this one...

2. Be safe. If you step on a nail, it'll go right through the sole of a loafer or tennis shoe. I learned this lesson on Day #1 of my first construction job in high school. A boot also provides more traction and will help prevent you from slipping.

3. Lastly, protect your rep. If you're dressed pretentiously, you'll be called "college boy" and laughed off of the site. If you have a technical background, chances are that you'll be issuing some verbal directives to the guys who are actually building the work. Those directives are much more likely to be followed if you are perceived as a seasoned and knowledgeable veteran instead just another finance geek (no offense investment guys).

It is wise to prepare for a site visit so that your time on site is spent efficiently. I like to create an agenda/checklist of items to observe.
In my preparation:
  1. Meeting Minutes - Unresolved items to check on? What do I need to discuss with the GC?
  2. GC's schedule - If he's supposed to have 75% of new doors installed, I need to attempt to verify this. What other work is being performed on site?
  3. Construction Documents - If you are observing a concrete pour, look at the structural drawings. What size is the rebar? 
  4. Logs - RFI, AFP, Submittlas, Material Substitutions. Again, I'm trying to find unresolved issues so that I can help to resolve them when on site.

When you Arrive
Check in with the GC at the job trailer. They're responsible for site safety and they deserve to know who's poking around their project. You also want to know if there are any new developments that you need to know about before you begin poking around the site.

What to Bring
The next rule of site visits is to be ready and bring the right stuff. When walking a site, I always have the following:
1.       Digital camera
2.       Tape measure on my belt
3.       Earplugs (I'm picky about being able to keep my hearing.)
4.       Pencil and carpenter's pencil
5.       Notepaper or Journal
6.       Important paperwork

Most importantly, I am always prepared. Below are photos of kits that I keep in my car. Not only can these kits prepare you for nearly anything encountered during a site visit, but they can also help you in a true emergency. Click here for a list of the contents of my kit.
Note that the magnets are top right and the electronics are lower left. Away from each other.

How to take photos:
1.       Frame the view - Help you and others to understand where the photo was taken and what the photo is supposed to highlight.

3.       No shadows - Photo says it all.

4.       Visual Clues - If I'm looking at a complex issue, such as a footing detail, I'll take the drawings and orient them as a clue when I'm later reviewing the photos.