I was teaching “scheduling of works” to a group of young students recently. Unlike tradespeople or site managers, these young students have no prior site construction experience, so I actually found it quite a challenge to deliver this particular lecture. This is due to the intricacy of scheduling works on site that cannot be fully appreciated from simply reading text books or sitting in lectures.
Then it occurred to me that if my students benefited from my lesson and gained a better understanding in the art of scheduling of works, perhaps renovation enthusiasts out there or even owners who would like to engage a builder to build a house would too.
So I decided to share my knowledge on scheduling of works through a series of blog posts. This is the first article from the Art of Scheduling of Works series.
Most building contracts outline 5 basic stages as the default for a construction job. These 5 basic stages are
- base or slab
- lock-up or enclosed
- pre-paint or fixing and
- practical completion or handover.
These pre-defined stages are milestones for a construction job. Each stage includes a range of activities or tasks that are required to be completed before progressing to the next stage.
For those who do not have prior construction experience including the fundamental knowledge about the primary materials used in construction as well as the understanding of their application, understanding these construction stages can be tricky.
This article will focus on the very first construction stage, the base, which is also known as the slab stage.
Back to the Base
The first construction stage is the base or slab, which could be a house concrete slab on ground, a suspended concrete slab or a timber sub floor. The easiest way to get an understanding of the base or slab stage is to examine the tasks involved.
Using a house with a concrete slab on ground as an example, main activities or tasks that need to occur during the base or slab stage are outline below.
- Site establishment
This involves identifying basic site elements such as temporary fencing, site toilet and environmental protection including slit barriers to the lower side of the block and crushed rock on the driveway.
- Boundary re-establishment
Next comes the surveyor who will re-establish boundaries and set out the position of the building on the block.
- Site preparation
Once the site boundary is set, it is time to “site scrape” removing all the grass and organic materials from the block. The bulk excavations will follow, cutting and filling where needed to achieve the required level.
This is then followed by making sure temporary services such as power and water are available. As a general rule, the temporary power will be placed in a location where the final power is expected to be located and the temporary water will be positioned at the location of the water metre.
Of course, a site preparation cannot do without the drainer. Drainage installation includes the stormwater and sewer drainage systems. Once the drainage is in place the concreter will come in and start to form the slab.
- Slab forming
Forming a slab is a complex process. It involves the excavation of the footings or deepened edge beams, installation of bedding sand or waffle pods, installation of the vapour barrier to prevent rising damp through the concrete, installation of boxing or formwork, installation of steel reinforcing and termite management system around any slab penetrations such as drain pipes and electrical conduits.
The foundations and reinforcement are then inspected by the engineer or relevant building surveyor before the concrete slab is finally placed and finished.
Take Home Messages
It is important to learn and develop an ability to see “the big picture”. A good site manager does not only just rely on paperwork to manage a construction job, but has the ability to visualise the intricacies of construction stages and their interdependency. Ultimately, it is this “big picture” ability that enables a site manager to manage and deliver a construction job successfully.
Owner builders and renovation lovers
It is important to recognise that a construction job may appear straightforward on the surface but often it is complex and fluid underneath. The base or slab stage, which includes multiple components, as outlined in this article is a good example. And yet the steps described here are greatly simplified as there are other aspects of a job site such as safety, logistics, resources and financial impact that still demand our attention.
Having a basic understanding of what the base or slab stage is about can be helpful to owner builders or renovation lovers. This enables us to better communicate with site managers or tradespeople about our needs and expectations.
There are some great resources available that can help make the building process easier to understand. Alan Stains has written a series of books with some great illustrations and ‘Building your own home’ by George Wilkie is also a good read.
I have recommended these books not just to my students but also to people who are already in the industry.
So arm yourself with some basic knowledge and make your next renovation or construction project a smoother one.