Spend enough time working in any industry, and you’ll start to learn the unspoken truths and unwritten rules that define your working life. Whether you started out as a laborer straight out of high school or you learned your craft in higher education before becoming an architect, a project manager, or a quantity surveyor, whether you are an employee or run your own firm… you are bound by the same truths. It may take you a while to perceive them, but they’re always there. And in an age where technology is changing our reality with incredible speed, this list of truths is getting longer.
Construction is among the noblest professions. What could be purer than creating places where people can live and work? And there’s an extraordinary diversity of jobs, responsibilities, and skills that fall under the umbrella of construction. Nonetheless, all who work under this umbrella share similar realities, and there’s something tremendously comforting and unifying about that.
Whether you’ve worked in this sector for decades or only just picked up your tools, we hope that you’ll find this list of fundamental truths of the construction industry entertaining and insightful…
Every day is a battle against budget
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small independent contractor working on a residential roof or the head of a team managing a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project, every day will seem like you’re straining to exert some semblance of control over your budget. Construction budgets are kinda like household budgets… no matter how much you have, and no matter how carefully everything is costed, it’s never quite enough. From guarding against scope creep to negotiating better deals with your material suppliers, there are all kinds of ways in which you can exert more control over your project and bring it under budget.
But if you always assumed that you were alone in struggling to reign in your project’s budgets, take heart… you are far from alone.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Everyone who works in the construction industry, from architects to bricklayers has nightmares about buildings they’ve worked on collapsing or being found at fault. Whether it’s a disgruntled residential customer discovering cracks in their newly renovated patio or an office building collapsing. Of course, our knowledge of construction and materials, building codes, and centuries of shared knowledge all combine to keep our buildings upright and the people within the safe, an ounce of prevention will always be worth a pound of cure.
Many readers will have been called out to homes where things have gone awry in clients’ homes purely because the project’s original builders didn’t take a basic precaution like using a pre sloped trench drain to ensure proper drainage and mitigate the risk of flood damage. One thing’s for sure, if you want your reputation and your pride to remain intact, there’s no such thing as too careful no matter what time and budgetary constraints you may be under.
Digital technology is changing everything!
Granted, this could be said for virtually any industry. Nonetheless, the ways in which digital technologies continue to shape and change the construction industry are nothing short of extraordinary, and something that all who work within it will experience to some extent or other.
There is a wealth of digital apps that help project managers to better manage their time, resources, and personnel. New generations of the plant are built with smart capabilities and more and more construction sites are networked with the Internet of Things an increasingly common presence on-site.
The day you let safety standards slip is the day something goes awry
You take the safety of your team extremely seriously. And whether you ply your trade in a large scale construction site or a client’s back yard, you apply the rigorous standards necessary to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. You know that risk assessments, inspections, and daily diligence save lives. Moreover, you know that the day you let your standards slip just a fraction is the day something goes wrong. That doesn’t necessarily mean that an accident will occur on that day. But it does mean that your team starts seeing on-site safety as optional. And when you’ve allowed that culture to permeate your workplace… it’s only a matter of time until disaster strikes.
Sustainability is here to stay
The industry at large has had to make some pretty sizeable changes in recent years in the name of sustainability. If you’ve had to invest in more sustainable materials, more eco-conscious suppliers, and more environmentally friendly construction methods, you won’t need to worry about your ROI. Because sustainability is (and will have to be) here to stay in the construction industry.
If anything, the coming years will likely see you double down even more on the use of recycled, repurposed, and otherwise sustainable materials, reducing the amount of energy and water used on-site and taking greater steps to preserve and protect the environment in which you work.
Any investment you make in operating more sustainably is a good investment and one that will show that your brand is leading the charge for a better standard of construction.
People will have assumptions of you when you say that you work in construction
Finally, for as long as you work in construction, you will always have to live with other people’s preconceptions and misconceptions about your craft and the culture of your workplace. When you meet someone at a party and tell them what you do, you’ll get a lot of “Oh… that’s cool!”s, a smattering of “Really… What’s that like?” and maybe even the odd “can you take a look at my brickwork?”. But people may harbor misconceptions. They may assume that you’re less educated than them or that you work in an environment that’s male-dominated to the point of misogyny. The best way to challenge their preconceptions is not through your arguments but by your actions.
You make an honest living doing noble work. And that means something!