In one of my previous articles, “Tips to Resolve Job-Site Problems,” I wrote about challenges that can occur on a construction site, including an example of a problem I experienced in my career, and listed three basic principles I would go back to when I could foresee a potential problem with another contractor. Since then, I have received a few other questions around job-site problems I wanted to address.
Working plans drawn by great architects and engineers are critical to the success of a project. But for those plans and specifications to become a reality, it takes the full team of the architect, contractor, and subcontractors working together.
I've had the opportunity to work with some great architects, but sometimes things are missed, errors can be found, or site conditions conflict with the plans. This is not unusual, and it's important that the contractor catch potential issues as early as possible in the building process. Don't turn these discoveries into a blame game. Instead, everyone should work together to resolve the issue and give the owner a great product.
I recall a project our company was awarded several years ago. It was an extensive build-out in an existing strip mall that included constructing a recessed truck dock ramp for semi deliveries into the space. This proposed dock was to ramp down with a 3% slope in 50 feet at a 1’-6’’ fall. The bottom of the dock was four feet below the existing interior floor slab at the garage door and included concrete retaining walls on each side with railings and a storm sewer inlet at the bottom of the ramp.
As we began construction and laying out the truck dock, we realized a semi might have a hard time maneuvering into the dock because of the property lines and the neighbor’s fence. We laid out the retaining walls and brought in a semi. Our hunch was right—the truck and trailer could not get into the dock as designed. We began to look at potential solutions before contacting the owner and the architect.
To resolve the problem, it was decided to eliminate the truck dock all together, raise the interior floor at the garage door, and ramp the floor within the space. A knee wall was built on one side to retain the ramp’s width. Although it was not the original design, the owner was satisfied and received credits for not installing the dock.
Lessons to learn
Although this story shows an extensive problem, recognizing the problem before digging saved a lot of headaches and expense.
Every contractor has their expertise in their field and, even though a detail of a drawing may work, if a contractor sees a better way to do something, I believe the suggestion should be voiced through the appropriate channels. Tradesmen are knowledgeable in their field, and the drawings rely on this knowledge in the building process. For instance, site elevations, storm sewer inlets and curbs in parking lots may need to be adjusted from the plans to soften an aggressive pitch.
Remember, if any changes are made to the project work, it is always important to follow the contract documents and obtain all approvals before work begins.