Allow Enough Time for the Sales Models Grand Opening

            The grand opening of the sales models and the sales office, which can be very exciting for the people from the main office, can be a major setback for morale in the field if everything is handled in the last-minute, rushed atmosphere typical of most new project grand openings.

            The standard protocol is for the main office to set a date, order all of the brochures and promotional literature, start the advertising, but fail to anticipate all of the small details that must be taken care of at the last minute. 

            The construction people in the field are then locked into a date that might not be realistic in terms of pulling everything together in a smooth and orderly manner.

            In one particular case, the builder had trouble deciding whether the sales office should be in one of the condominium units…or in a separate structure. 

            The homebuilder procrastinated to the point of having two unfinished double-wide trailers delivered to the jobsite for a sales office, only 10 calendar days before the grand opening.

            The jobsite superintendents were forced to schedule most of the subcontractors on top of each other with landscaping, masonry block work, finish carpentry, and painting all occurring simultaneously, late into the previous night and early the next morning, down to the last minute before the opening on a Saturday morning.

            When people from the main office came out to the jobsite two days before the grand opening to view the progress and to help in the last-minute preparations, they thought as construction novices that all of the tradespeople running around bumping into one another was normal for building construction.  They saw all of this frenzied activity as exciting compared to the mundane routines of the office.

            What the people from the main office did not realize was the damage being done to the reputation of the jobsite superintendents among the various subcontractors and tradespeople involved. 

            Tradespeople commented that this company was just as disorganized as all the other homebuilders in their past experience, and that everything being done in preparation for the grand opening of the sales model complex was a last-minute panic, as usual.

            It took the jobsite superintendents months of orderly and organized construction, after the sales models grand opening, to regain the confidence of many of the tradespeople and subcontractors who participated in the sales models work.

            The point here is that the main office should plan and schedule the grand opening date with the assistance of the construction department, and then abide by their own activity milestone dates in finalizing decisions, selections, and the ordering of various materials and furniture for the sales models and sales office.

            If the grand opening date is unrealistic, or if the main office cannot themselves stay on schedule, then after the promotional literature has been printed and advertisements published in the newspaper and on the internet, the construction must hold to that date.

            This forces the field personnel into almost impossible situations and working conditions that are then adversely criticized by the tradespeople involved, potentially damaging the building construction morale for months after the sales models grand opening. 

Generator for the Sales Models Opening

            Electrical power is needed for the interior lighting, air-conditioning, audio-music, video presentations and vocal narrative, and office equipment and telephones in the sales models and the sales office.

            If there is a chance that final inspection and occupancy approval might not be given by the city building department in enough time for the electrical utility company to set the meters and turn on the electricity, the builder should plan to use a generator in the interim.

            The builder should plan ahead for this temporary generator as an option, so there is no last-minute rush trying to obtain electrical power.

            A location for the generator must be found that is out of sight behind a building, wind-screened fence, or trees to minimize noise and to not detract from the sales models and sales office campus.

            The builder must also arrange for periodic refueling of the generator.  The generator must also be large enough to handle the required electrical load. 

Air-Conditioning for Sales Models Plants

            In scheduling for the sales models opening for production tract housing and condominiums, the builder should consider that electricity must be on for air-conditioning to be operating at the time that indoor plants are placed in the interior of the sales models.

            To turn the electricity on, the final electrical inspection must be passed by the city building department, the electrical utility released, and the electrical meters set. 

            The air-conditioning units can then be fired-up and tested.

            If the grand opening occurs in the summer, for example, the indoor plants must be protected from the heat.  Because installing indoor plants is not a normal construction activity, and therefore not thought of during construction scheduling, it can be easily overlooked when planning for the sales models grand opening.

            The mistake to avoid here is not allowing enough lead-time for the air-conditioning to be up and running for the installation of sales model furniture which includes indoor plants. 

            These indoor plants must be in place to complete the interior decorating, for the promotional photography shoot, which typically takes place several weeks before the actual sales model grand opening date.

Electricity for the Photo Shoot…the Sales Models

            One requirement sometimes not considered in scheduling the grand opening of the sales models for a multi-unit production tract housing or condominium project, is that electricity must be on for the interior and exterior photography shoot.

            Photographs are typically taken two or three weeks before the opening date so as to be included in the sales brochures and promotional ads that run in the real estate sections of local newspaper, and on the internet.

            Electricity must be on so that dining room chandeliers, hanging light fixtures in stairways, kitchen florescent lights, bathroom bar light fixtures and sconce light fixtures, and bedroom table lamps can provide lighting for the photography.

            Providing electricity two or three weeks earlier than the grand opening date can throw the sales models construction into panic mode if this requirement was not anticipated. 

            Normally, the approval to allow electricity to be provided for a project is not released by the city building department until construction is complete.  If the project is scheduled to continue construction right up to the grand opening date, the construction will not be far enough along at the time of the photo shoot to have a final building inspection, much less allow time for the utility company to set meters and turn on the electricity.  

            Some city or county building departments will make an exception for sales models and give a separate electrical inspection before the building final inspection.  This process allows the builder to get electrical power earlier than normal.

            This approach must be planned for ahead of time, however, so that the electrical inspection, the setting of the meters, the release by the city building department, and the bureaucratic process between the building department and the utility company all transpire to coordinate in-time for the grand opening.

            The fallback position is for the homebuilder to rent a generator to power the electricity to the sales models, with the project electrical contractor making the temporary connections at the electrical breaker panels.

            The mistake to avoid here is in thinking that the construction completion date and the sales model grand opening date can be the same day, unless the builder is planning on renting a generator.

            The construction completion date should be about three to four weeks before the opening so that electricity, as well as furniture and indoor plants can be in place for the promotional photography shoot.

Temporary Power Pole Placement

            The placement of temporary power poles on the jobsite should be analyzed and planned so as not to be in the way of future concrete walkways and driveways, trenching for underground utilities, and large landscaping trees.

            The builder should attempt to avoid the common occurrence toward the completion of the project of having to move one or more temporary power poles, not only costing money, but disrupting electrical power to a portion of the project while it is moved to another location.

            For high-density condominium and apartment projects, and for large multi-unit tract housing, the initial placement of temporary power poles so as not to interfere with any future construction activities, can be difficult because of the scarcity of open, unused space within the completed project. 

            These projects often have most of the available space filled-up with walkways, driveways, courtyard patios, common area parking, recreation and swimming pool areas, and landscaping.

            For tight projects with limited space such as these it is sometimes best to have the civil engineering surveyors stake the locations for temporary power poles as a separate distinct activity, or along with and in addition to some other early staking activities that brings the surveyors out to the jobsite.

            The builder must spend some time at the start of the construction determining the desired locations for temporary power poles, so their exact locations can be plotted and laid-out in the field.

            For detached tract housing the exercise of choosing locations for power poles is made easier by the leftover open space on each lot.  But the builder still needs to ensure that the temporary power poles are out of the way of concrete driveways and walkways, as well as the underground utilities.

Wind-Screened Fences

            Some housing construction projects are required to install temporary chain-link fencing around the perimeter property-line of the building site for the duration of the project.

            Nylon wind-screen covering the fence might also be required or added by the builder to enhance the appearance of the fence and the project.

            On one particular large condominium project I worked on as the superintendent, adjacent to a golf course, about 700 lineal feet of wind-screened chain-link fence was installed by driving the vertical steel posts into the ground.

            This entire length of fence blew over twice during the windy season.

            At a considerable expense to repair each time, the builder finally removed the wind-screen portion of the fencing.  The money that was spent putting the fence back up twice could have paid for originally setting the posts in concrete, thus allowing the more attractive green-colored wind-screen to remain.

            Suggestions to prevent the fence from being blown over by the wind are:

  • Set each post in concrete
  • Set every other post in concrete
  • Give the fence a 45-degree jog in the shape of a “V” every 100 feet or so
  • Use diagonal braces to support the offset posts at the point of the “V”

Keys to Storage Bins

            Subcontractors should notify the jobsite superintendent in advance when a storage container bin, full of materials, is being delivered to the jobsite, and instruct the bin delivery person what to do with the keys.

            An occasional occurrence on a construction site is for a particular worker to ask the jobsite superintendent on the first starting day for that particular building trade, if the superintendent has the keys to open their bin.

            Whenever a subcontractor’s storage bin is delivered to the jobsite, the superintendent should ask the delivery person if the bin contains materials and is therefore locked, or empty and therefore unlocked, and what if anything are the instructions regarding keys to locked bins.

            The problem to avoid here is placing the jobsite superintendent in the position of being clueless as to the situation regarding storage bins, locks, and keys, which the superintendent should not be involved in, but nevertheless becomes involved in by virtue of often being the only person present to receive the delivery of the subcontractor’s storage container bin and to direct its placement on site.

            The communication fiasco of not being able to start the work smoothly because the subcontractor failed to coordinate clearly who had the keys to the storage bin, can be avoided by the simple policy of requiring subcontractors to notify the superintendent when storage bins are being delivered, and what if anything to do about the keys to fully stocked, locked bins.

Storage Bin Locations

            Many subcontractors use storage bins placed on the jobsite to store materials on large, multi-unit tract housing, condominium, and apartment projects.

            Typical trades who must store materials on the jobsite include framing, plumbing, electric, drywall, lathing, and painting.

            During the planning stage before construction, the builder should select one location on the jobsite where storage bins can be placed without needing to be moved later.

            Few things are more frustrating and disruptive for a subcontractor than to be asked to move a storage bin two or three times during the course of the construction.  Picking up and moving a large storage bin is not a delicate operation, and materials and supplies which were once organized inside the bin are usually tossed all over the bin floor.

            The builder cannot insist that subcontractors be organized and efficient in their materials management, and then disrupt and displace those same materials by repeatedly moving storage bins because of poor jobsite planning.

Location of the Trailer

            I have worked on two projects in which the builders used detached houses that came with the purchase of the land, as the construction jobsite office in lieu of a temporary trailer.

            This approach saved the builders the expense of providing a temporary office trailer, but in these two projects these fixed-in-place houses became farther and farther away from the construction in-progress as each new phase of tract houses moved farther away from the first phase closest to the house office.

            These growing distances resulted in a forced and unnatural isolation between the field office and the construction, especially when the distance became too great to cover on foot.

            A temporary office trailer allows the trailer to be moved so that the construction office is not more than a few hundred feet from the actual construction in-progress.

Entrance to the Trailer

            When planning for and designing the construction trailer location and orientation, several features should be considered to help keep the inside of the trailer clean.

            First, the builder should consider placing loose clean gravel or temporary asphalt paving around the entrance to the trailer, to remove dirt and mud from shoes as people approach.

            Second, a doormat can be placed at the entrance of the trailer, allowing people to wipe off their shoes before entering and reminding them to do so.

            Third, the builder should consider providing a roof or awning over the construction trailer door and stairs or ramp, so when it is raining people can pause to wipe off their shoes underneath overhead protection.

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