The Joy of Building

I grew up on a building site. But if you’re thinking heras fencing and ‘keep out’ signs you’d be totally wrong.

My parents moved out west to a small town in the mid-70s. I was an adventurous but clumsy oaf of a child and bought with me a broken arm that the doctors had deemed necessary to immobilise in a full bent arm cast, hoping that it might slow me down. Ha! I could still manage handstands and monkey bars with one and a bit arms (ok, in fact just one!)

The house we moved into was one of the first to be completed on a new section of estate surrounded by half built brickwork shells, scaffolding, ladders for stairs, those wire bows that always litter the site (I’m still not entirely sure what they do) and cement dust to make cracking mud pies. Heaven. 

Of course, nowadays I couldn’t allow my own, or anyone else’s, child to play in that sort of environment but at the time it was the norm and I revelled in it. 

So you will now understand my adult love of project managing new builds and I have been very lucky to have been involved in a few. I love the site meetings; the design planning (with the Head demanding yet more “future-proofing” sockets); the hard hat, hi-viz and welly tours; the mud in the pouring rain; the heras fencing blowing over in the wind; the building becoming water tight (and then clearly not!); the unpicking of mistakes in the contractors finances (you don’t imagine I can leave that to a QS?); the snagging, handover and moving in. The excited faces on the first day in use. It is all bliss. 

The builders probably hate me. 

Anyway, here are a few small things I’ve learned;

1. The first design will never be what you get, so don’t fall in love with it. It will turn out to be over budget and not appropriate for t&l. Remember: builders know nothing about t&l. 

2. Make a complete nuisance of yourself by demanding to see everything and keep asking questions. If you don’t do this you’ll realise too late that whiteboards are not included in the contract price, that you haven’t got enough sockets (don’t forget the cleaners) and that the pokey little room on the end is useful to nobody. 

3. Check, check and check again the valuations. They always make a mistake. 

4. If they tell you there is a H&S folder on site “which you are welcome to inspect”, make sure you do. They love that. 

5. Snag the building yourself to within an inch of its life. Who cares you have an Employers Representative? You are going to be the one living in it.

6. A building project, like childhood, is over so quickly. Enjoy every second of the process. 

Somehow (probably more through luck than judgement) I managed to survive my early years of building site freedom, cement mixing by hand and swinging through the scaffolding. 

It was then that I decided to take up horse-riding…

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