The following group of topics describes my ideas for the construction office trailer and surrounding building site.
Not everyone will agree financially with these ideas.
Some builders might not have the budget to outfit a construction trailer with the office equipment and furniture I recommend.
The goal here is to analyze the pros and cons of a good construction office, so that the decisions regarding the construction office trailer can be the result of thoughtful consideration as well as budget constraints.
A friend of mine builds high-end custom houses in the beach communities of Southern California. He works alternate Saturdays on his construction projects and often uses this time to secure new business, utilizing the construction office trailer as a selling tool.
On the weekend, people drive up to his projects, typically large single-family houses under construction, saying that they own a lot around the corner or down the street, and ask questions about his construction company.
My friend takes them into the construction trailer and shows these prospective clients framed photographs of past and current projects, 24×36-inch hand-drawn and colored activity-on-node “box” construction schedules, and computer-generated estimating spreadsheets they use to help customers establish budgets and to secure bank construction loan financing.
The construction trailer has a conference table, comfortable chairs, floor carpeting, bookshelves, a drafting table, an organized plans table, copy/fax machine, laptop computer, and isometric three-dimensional sketches of details pertaining to the construction.
The interior look and feel of the trailer, combined with the framed photographs and schedules on the walls, leaves the prospective clients with a very good first impression.
This approach works very well for his type of work because people thinking about building a new house often drive around the area to look at what is actually being built, rather than going to a builder’s or general contractor’s business office.
The opportunity to create the right impression and thereby find new business in this case is on the project site, and the construction office trailer plays an important role.
If daily construction loan interest on large projects amounts to hundreds of dollars, then the construction office trailer should not be something to be economized.
Instead of looking at the office trailer, furniture, and equipment as overhead costs to be automatically economized, the field office should be looked at as a tool to speed up the construction operation.
The size of the construction trailer is critical for function as a command center, but some builders think that two or three people can work effectively out of an 8×12 or 8×16 foot trailer.
A few years ago, I worked as a superintendent on a 282-unit, 22-building condominium project.
The size of the construction office trailer was 12×60 feet, with three offices and a plans room.
Having previously worked out of the typical 8×12 and 8×16 trailers on other projects for other companies, the luxury of having enough wall space to hang schedules and pickup lists, along with being able to work in a separate office without having random interruptions and attempting to tune-out background conversations as a result of being in a confined space, was a huge benefit toward improved efficiency, time-management, and morale.
This book describes management tools such as schedule charts, walks checklists, homebuyer options selections spreadsheets, and cheats sheets.
All these paper tools require enough wall space to be displayed. These and other informational aids, such as contact phone number lists and calendars provide information at a glance, thereby saving time and improving efficiency.
The typical 8×12 or 8×16 trailer simply does not have enough wall space.
An archaic mindset of some builders is that by providing an inhospitable and too small office trailer for the field staff, that this will encourage the superintendents to spend more time out in the actual construction site and less time camped-out in the construction trailer.
This old-fashioned approach backfires at the end of the workday when superintendents need to stay onsite to do paperwork after the tradespeople leave.
If the construction office trailer is an uninviting place to work, the superintendents are more apt to leave the project each day when the construction activity concludes.
In my opinion, the best approach is to provide a construction office trailer that is adequately furnished and equipped to function as a field office.