Fit-out and Refurb Projects - Ensuring Construction Site Access

16 May 2017 by Paul Cox

Fit-out and Refurb Projects - Ensuring Construction Site Access

Key issues to address when planning site access for commercial fit out and refurbishment projects

Leave nothing to chance when planning site access for commercial fit out and refurb projects. A proactive approach that builds awareness of potential risks and restrictions right from the outset is essential, in order to effectively managing them.

Specific issues relating to construction site access vary greatly between projects due to the unique nature of each site. However there are a few general concerns that should always be addressed, which can serve as a foundation for a more robust site access audit.

Physical access to the site

Ensuring that materials can be delivered, and waste removed at sufficient volume and frequency, to provide a site that promotes a productive and safe working environment is essential to the ultimate success of any fit out project.

Additionally, hazardous materials such as asbestos, aspergillus, and lead, that frequently cannot be detected until after works commence, must be removed in a safe and effective manner.

Further, if the project is sited in a live environment, there is the management of existing vehicle and pedestrian traffic to consider.

Maintaining uninterrupted physical access to sites is a delicate balancing act of competing demands. Further complicating the task is the reliance on many and varied third-party suppliers to provide essential site services.

Ideally these suppliers will consist of highly-skilled, multi-disciplined and reliable personnel with the ability to manage workflows effectively and work collaboratively. Yet, with the construction industry picking up, (and with this trend expected to continue over the next five years), it is becoming increasingly harder to find and secure these top performers. In consequence, it is critical to pre-empt physical site access issues and appoint the right sub-contractors early.

Some 53 per cent of mid-sized construction businesses said the lack of trained staff was impacting on their ability to take on work.

Zurich Insurance Group Survey, June 2015

Time Restrictions

Environmental controls on noise and vibration often limit the times of day that works can be carried out. Working in occupied buildings will further compound these restrictions as access and workflow are curtailed by when and how the occupants make use of the building. Subsequently, refurbishment and fit out projects will take longer to deliver with associated increases in costs. Construction costs are rising across the UK with those in London already the second highest in the world, after New York. Predictions forecast further rises of another 5%. To keep costs under control, businesses will need to choose sub-contractors who can partner with them to deliver increasing efficiency and productivity in shorter time frames, without compromising on quality.

There is a real risk of further price escalation as demand levels outstrip capacity in key trades.

Turner & Townsend research report, July 2015

Occupied buildings

Vacating the building during refurb and fit out projects may not always be possible as the business or service it houses cannot be relocated or completely cease trading during the works. These kind of projects often involve hotels, schools, offices, police stations and hospitals.

It is best practice for specialist third-party suppliers to provide security to the building and maintain the health and safety of occupants. Every precaution should be taken to ensure that these sub-contractors can demonstrate an exemplary record for delivering to the same high health and safety standards as those operating in your own business. All staff should have completed criminal background checks and hold the correct CSCS card before the works commence.

Ensuring health and safety risks are properly controlled is an essential core value and is also fundamental to achieving business excellence.

Nigel Hitchborn, Shepherd Group, June 2015

Reliable construction site access is critical for effective project delivery which in turn helps build sustainable margins

Takeaways:

  • Pre-empting potential risks and restrictions to construction site access is an essential first-step to effectively managing them
  • Relying on third-party suppliers to overcome construction site access issues is often necessary
  • As the UK construction market heats up, securing reliable suppliers is becoming more difficult

Improve your productivity and efficiency by completing a thorough site audit with our comprehensive guide: Producing a Circular Waste Strategy for Your Construction Supply Chain – A Best Practice Checklist

Producing a Circular Waste Strategy for Your Construction Supply Chain – A Best Practice Checklist