Friday, March 20, 2009

The Sophistication of Construction Work



Every so often somebody asks me why we don’t put the homeless to work on rebuilding CityWalk@Akard. Offhand it seems like a win-win situation. Give people jobs and let them make their own homes. At one time it sounded good to me as well, before I began to realize just how complicated it was to renovate a high rise building.

The people that run a construction project like this are extremely sophisticated managers. They do have to understand the physical process of doing construction, but that isn’t their true value. The intricacies of the project are almost impossible to understand until you see them. Each piece of work has to be done at a specific time and other work can’t go forward until it is done. Almost all the work is done by specialists, and the job superintendent manages their schedules to get the right people in and out at the right time in order to keep the project moving forward. It’s like a complicated dance, and it calls for people skills, an ability to manage complexities and an intensive attention to detail.

We’re lucky to have two construction superintendents working at CityWalk. That’s partly a function of the complexity of the job and partly because the construction business is a little slow right now. But Randy and Bobby run a very tight ship. {Photo to left: John Greenan and Randy Allen} {Photo to right: Bobby Brierton - Congratulations to Bobby and his wife Jamie on becoming new parents!} Every subcontractor cleans up every day. I’ve had a lot of people remark about how clean the job site is. Every question, every piece of work, every material delivery is recorded, scheduled and managed to stay out of the way of the other work going on. That’s the way it has to be.

I firmly believe that they know every person who is in the building at every second. As executive director of Central Dallas CDC I am the senior representative of the owner, so I visit the project several times per week. As soon as I enter the building, I usually see Randy, asking if I need anything, reminding me to put on my hardhat and safety glasses and greeting any guests I bring to show the building.

I feel like a guest in our own building, and truly I am. So long as the work is going on, the building belongs to Randy and Bobby. They are responsible for everything that happens. When they are done, then they’ll turn the building back to us complete and finished.
So the answer to the question why we can’t employ homeless people to rebuild CityWalk is simply that the work is another part of modern life that has gotten too sophisticated for anyone but the experts.

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