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Who are the best builders? Ultimately the build-quality of your new home is dependent upon the attitude, management skills and experience of the individual site manager in control of the construction. No matter how much a builder promotes the quality of their homes, it will be the site manager alone who effects how good (or bad) your new home will be. They are the only people employed by the builder, who have the opportunity to inspect, influence and dictate the standards of workmanship and materials on a daily basis. High standards are only achievable with hands-on site managers who are motivated and personally care about the homes they build and constantly monitor every trade operation to ensure their own high standards are achieved by going that extra mile.
Contrary to the public’s general impression of building site workers, the site manager is a professional. He will either be qualified to university degree standard (Building BSc or similar) or with chartered status (MCIOB).
All site managers are required to be qualified in First Aid, and undertake training at regular intervals to keep up to date with the Health and Safety at Work legislation as it is introduced. They are responsible for the safety of all persons working on or visiting the site.
Knowledge and experience
A site manager should be (although not all are) fully conversant with the building regulations and approved documents, the NHBC standards, all relevant health and safety law and be able to read and understand both architectural and structural engineering drawings and schedules and all relevant health and safety law.
Ability to work under pressure
Usually working within the confines of an unrealistic building programme, the site manager is expected to produce quality homes on time and within given cost parameters. He therefore needs to be self-motivated and comfortable when working under continued pressure
Most of the tradesmen working on the site are self-employed individuals. If they don’t work they don’t earn, unlike all hourly or salaried employees. They work at different speeds, different hours, and produce work that will vary in quality from top-notch to diabolical. The site manager has to take into account these factors when assessing when a house will be completed for a purchaser to move in.
The Site Manager
(Edited and extended version of an article by Peter Trotter from Building Trades Journal)
What a splendid group of people they are. Diplomatic to a fault (shy, retiring they are not!), loved and hated at the same time. Well why are they like this? Have we even considered what we expect them to be?
A personnel expert, the site manager must be able to judge and anticipate the mood and attitude of the fellows he must motivate. He must understand people. Has he trained for this? The short answer is NO. Any slant in this area usually comes from a strong personality and an extroverted ego (thank goodness for it) and experience.
He must be a skilled communicator, able to explain what is required to not only the workforce, but to sub contractors, the architect, his own organisation and anyone else who visits the site. He must, at all times, possess an encyclopaedia and a computer, capable of instant decisions and providing the answer for all contingencies: an impossible task. Well, have a good look around. Without these guys the whole industry would collapse, they are the works managers, but they are often treated, even by their own organisation, as office boys, asked to do an inordinate amount of paperwork to justify the often non-productive overheads.
Site managers operate at the point of production and therefore make or break the profit return. I know they are supported by planners, quantity surveyors, and very occasionally by senior management. I suggest, contrary to popular belief, everyone else is subordinate to the site manager (or whatever title he is given) because he makes more decisions in one hour, than the rest do in one week put together!
How is this superman trained and motivated? Well, that’s surrounded in mystery. Some are sent on courses to the concrete association for probably two or three days. It’s even possible to attend a safety course or one organised by the BAS. If the company is large enough and has made a profit, a course of in-house training may be arranged. These, however are rare and only last a day. The danger being, in the minds of those considered to be in upper management is, that if we educate the site manager too far, he may get delusions of grandeur he may ask awkward questions, see too much in head office, he may even appear to be better equipped than some of those who, in their supporting roles, think they are superior to him. Even directors have been known to get uneasy in the site manager’s presence. So we better play safe, don’t tell him too much, he probably feels more at home on site than being trained and better informed.
Let’s try to identify what is expected of our superman. He must, of course, be quick thinking and capable of assimilating facts very rapidly because usually he is not told what his next job will be. Often the plans are given to him, along with an impossible target programme, in the morning, with the expectation of him being on site in the afternoon. He may, if he is very fortunate, have seen the priced bill of quantities – but very rarely is he given one. You never know, he may have a qualification from high school in Mathematics and will be able to argue constructively with other superior beings, such as quantity surveyors, estimators and buyers. That would never do. So keep him in the dark, always tell him he is down on production because the valuation says so, never ever mention he has made a profit or the next thing you will hear is the word bonus!
Against that sort of background, our superman must be polite to customers and sales staff (especially sales staff!). Check the site accommodation and plant; often chase up the orders; plan the layout; chase up call off of materials; check the scaffolding; chase up the Architect for those drawings he asked for weeks ago; meet the building inspector, purchasers, HSE inspector and plant and material reps – usually while he is trying to set the job out on a fine day; because, as we know, site visitors never, never ever, venture out of their nice warm offices when the weather is chucking it down. In addition he must acquire, from where nobody knows, enough skilled tradesman from each sub contractor to build the site, this often involving threats and abusive telephone calls to the sub contractors head office, which is usually a family home, the recipient being the sub contractors wife!
Even though our superman is not trained, he is expected to be not only responsible for what happens on site, and it’s quality, he must also be present when concrete is poured – just in case - when the drains are tested – just in case – when the sub contractor starts work – just in case - when the purchaser moves in – just in case. By now, a picture should be emerging that if he is doing all this, what on earth are the superior support experts doing? Good question. They are called Overheads, that’s the reason for not telling superman too much. If he ever twigs the truth, he may be able to operate without them. Why are these overheads noticeable by their absence whenever there is a site crisis, an accident maybe, disgruntled purchaser or non co operating sub contractor, yet when directors visit, they are all present and correct, "yes it was difficult" they say "we achieved it through teamwork!" If it things didn’t go to plan, it was the site manager’s fault; if a job makes a loss the site manager has not controlled the costs, heaven forbid that the estimate was wrong in the first place!
Surely the site manager must receive more support and education. How does one check his credentials without some recognisable qualification? How can his performance improve without help? Yet day after day, the site manager creates what someone has tried to create on paper, in conditions, which the creator would not tolerate. Then they have the gall to ask why, having starved him of everything; he didn’t produce more, in less time at a greater profit. When a project is successful, you can count the glory hunters; it was good estimating, a good sales team, and good contract management. In reality it was our man on site, often in ignorance of the odds staked against his being successful, who won through often carrying the rest of the so-called team along with him.
One thing is apparent, the site manager is essential to the success of a site. He deserves more recognition than he gets at present. Good managers are a rare commodity these days. When you know you have one – look after him!
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