Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crutchwatch '07: two steps forward and one step back (and a lesson on contractors)

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I generally don't feel like being on the computer when I get home after staring at one all day, and that feeling compounds when Guy is gone for part of the week and I'd rather hang out with him than do anything online. The feeling then multiplies when my ankle hurts like a sumbitch, which it started doing today. The outside, especially along that tendon/muscle that connect the outside anklebone to your calf, has been achy and easily agitated all day long, even in the Darth Vader Boot of Protection. Tonight's post is gonna be short so I can go play with the Vicodin.

When I say "contractor", I often use that term interchangeably. Sometimes it just means the company that's doing the construction. Other times I mean one particular representative from the GC, or general contractor. Construction companies employ several people to see a project through, and this process is most often seen in large projects like, say, building or renovating a hospital. Norton Construction, the contractor on MHRC, has a few folks behind the scenes, like a VP or manager in charge of certain types of construction, and this VP/manager is often an architect's first contact when a project starts. Norton also has a team of estimators, who take my drawings and get pricing for the various systems. They can also do ballpark estimates on prices, based on recent completed or bid projects.

But when the work really starts on a large project, the "contractor" comes down to three people: the project manager (PM), the superintendent (the super), and the field engineer or project engineer (proj-eng*). The PM is someone with a fair amount of experience in construction, and this person is in charge of balancing work with budget. This guy's equivalent in my office is Howie. The PM deals a lot with money and financial issues related to the project, which gives the super the room to just get it built. This is just as how Howie handles costs and fees on my behalf and argues with the owner and the contractor about who pays for what so that I can just get questions answered and help get the damn thing built. It's a handy good cop/bad cop division of labor that's also efficient.

My equivalent on the contractor's side is, for the most part, the super. Though really, my job is sorta split between the proj-eng and the super. The super makes sure everything's getting built according to the drawings and specs, and he's the contact point for all the subcontractors on the site. He (I'm not being sexist here--I've never seen or heard of a female super, though I'm sure it's not impossible to have one) answers questions, makes sure construction is on schedule, looks ahead for possible problems and checks with the architect to solve these ahead of time. This part of the work bleeds over into the proj-eng's job. He or she (more proj-engs I've worked with here lately have been shes than hes) handles a lot of paperwork. A lot. There's a lot in construction, for sure. She issues and keeps track of questions to the architect and engineers from the field, shop drawings and product info from subcontractors, and changes to the documents. She will also sometimes help the PM track down pricing and be a go-between for the architect and a subcontractor.

All of these people come to the OAC meeting each week (or however often it happens). The architect spends a great deal of time on the phone and in person with the super and the proj-eng and not as much with the PM. On MHRC procedure suite, Phil is the PM, Billy Ray (whom y'all have met) is the super, and Zahara is the proj-eng. Just wanted to introduce them, as I'm sure I'll be talking about them a lot for the next few months.

*Sometimes a project engineer will say their title is "PE," but that is a misleading term. When a mechanical or electrical engineer has passed their licensure exams, they are alowed to use "P.E." after their names, which means "professional engineer." While a project engineer does good, hard work, they are not engineers as I think of them. And though they are called engineers, none of the aforementioned people drive trains, nor do they wear striped bib overalls and red handkerchiefs around their necks.

1 comment:

Miss Kitty said...

They shouldn't be allowed to use the title "engineer" if they refuse to wear overalls, bandannas, or drive trains.