If you spend much of your working life on site, a new project means new offices. Alan Sparks discovers what is involved in setting them up.
Making a fresh start is nothing new to project managers. Each job requires its own site office to be set up, and how well this is done can play a pivotal role in the project's success or otherwise.
Initially, once the project's requirements are identified, the number of staff and office units can be determined. Then finding the right location is essential.
Classic errors, according to Dean & Dyball project manager, Dominic Beer - though never on his sites he hastens to add - include setting up offices where a drain run must later cross.
'You soon learn from mistakes on other sites. Your classic first site office is in a field, 100m away from the car park. A fortnight later, everywhere is covered in mud, ' he says.
By putting down some good hardstanding, the offices can be kept tidy and more pleasurable to work in. 'At Dean & Dyball, maintaining a presentable office is very important as it will shape the public's perception of the company. With good signage, paintwork and generally pleasant looking offices, a professional image can be presented, ' adds Beer.
Whenever possible, it is generally better to use existing buildings than to hire units. Beer recalls one particular job that required a unique solution, when building a new lifeboat station on the site of an old one - located at the end of the world's longest pleasure pier.
Famously featured in the credits to 1980s' hit series 'Minder' - Arthur Daley and Terry walk down Southend Pier's 2.1km length - the obvious lack of access and working space was always going to cause problems.
'We were able to use an existing building, with services already in place for our office, away from the works to free up valuable working space, ' says Beer.
A balance needs to be struck between proximity to water, electricity and hopefully sewerage and works. Beer explains:
'On a highway job, for instance, there's no point putting the units next to the actual works if it costs £50,000 to connect to services.'
Local knowledge is largely irrelevant, as awareness of the site's particular features is most important. The only aspect in which local knowledge can be helpful is when considering site security. Smart suburbs may look friendly to the outsider though locals may be aware of the real threat of theft and vandalism. When the site is in the middle of nowhere though, security might at best be minimal.
Here, a further assessment of each individual site needs to be made.
When operating in cities, Beer explains how all equipment and materials need to be fully supervised. 'It's a real issue - we have even had instances where our site offices in London have been literally burnt to the ground.'
The new document was published in late November with the intention of becoming effective on 1 February. In keeping with other health and safety documents, it combined the Approved Code of Practice with more general guidance.
As those active in health and safety legislation will know, in practice there is often only limited understanding of the difference between the two. That is particularly so when considering what is reasonably practicable.
The sections dedicated to the duties of the client and designer dominate the content. They appear to be a springboard for a much closer legal examination of what is done to fulfil their respective duties.
Many in the construction industry believe such a strategy is overdue. It is certainly my experience that, with notable exceptions, many clients and designers are not fulfilling their obligations correctly. It is somewhat ironic that those who have most to offer have consistently delivered the least.
Much will be debated in the coming months regarding the content of the CDM ACoP, its intent and its delivery in practice.