5 Keys to Occupied Site Construction

For many, construction is a fact of life that goes unnoticed. Most people pass by a construction site on their daily commute, whether it’s an expansive new development or a simple building addition. Few give second thought to what happens behind those fences and barricades. Yet for those taking on the task of expanding or renovating their facility, construction is about to get up close and personal. We’re here to share the lessons we’ve learned building on hundreds of occupied sites—adjacent to staff, students, patients, or business owners.

Key 1: Fully Assess Potential Impacts.

We know construction can be the most pivotal investment decision firms and agencies will ever make. Capital projects that take place in or around occupied facilities  dramatically increase this impact. We categorized these impacts into five key considerations: financial, operational, customer / user service, safety, and community impact. It’s critical for the entire construction workforce to understand how their work impacts those around them, both over the short and long term.

Financial: ROI and top lines are affected by a host of time and performance factors, most notably construction speed.
Operational: Convenience and productivity for existing staff can be altered through closures and service interruptions.
Customer/User Service: Although formed in a matter of seconds, guest and user impressions can be lasting.
Safety: Safety in and around the jobsite is essential to project success, with worst case scenarios having catastrophic effects.
Public Relations: Community perception of the Owner organization can be positively or negatively shaped by construction activity.

It’s critical for the entire construction workforce to understand how their work impacts those around them, both over the short and long term.

Key 2: Start Planning Before You Think You Need To

Safety can’t be bolted on at the end of the day or the end of the week. At its best, safety thinking pervades all aspects of project planning and construction. For
occupied site projects, leverage the following early strategies:

Integrated delivery. Design-Build and other methods integrate design and construction planning. A proficient contractor will use the preconstruction period to develop a phasing and logistics plan that’s tailored to specific owner needs.

Safety isn’t just the Superintendent’s job. While the buck stops at the Site Superintendent, one person is not enough to ensure safe practices are being followed, especially on large projects. Look for contractors with a well-staffed safety department and additional audit and reporting systems.

User communication planning. Communicating routing and phasing plans to construction workers is the easy part. Getting the word out to affected facility staff, customers, and visitors is harder. Great general contractors combine tried and true methods like wayfinding signage with digital tools like daily e-mail updates and live site cameras.

Virtual design and construction. VDC and BIM are about more than just efficiency. Expanding model access to site supervision, safety, and trade staff—even during design—allows them to develop a site-specific approach. By using the building model as a way to talk about user routing, phasing, and safety, all parties come to the jobsite better prepared.

Key 3: Think Creatively

Most people don’t think of construction as a creative enterprise. Yet when it comes to site logistics and layout, planning and outside the box thinking are critical.


Material deliveries and access management solutions can include alternative routing, storage, or site access locations. Offsite storage and parking decreases construction  impact.
Wayfinding and access points must be clearly conceived and identified. Designing the site user experience is often an afterthought for contractors.
Contractors often need less space than they think. Proficient site management means limiting impact on building operations through a small footprint. Staggering, stacking, or dividing up areas of work is one way to lessen the impact on facility operations.
Move management solutions, including furniture and equipment coordination, should be integrated into the construction schedule.
Proficiency in coordination with local authorities, including the Fire Marshal, is critical. Fire separations and egress must always be maintained.

Key 4: Demand a Modern Customer Service Approach

When it comes to construction operations near an active facility, the industry-standard weekly meeting isn’t enough. Tech innovators like Google, Uber, and Grubhub are changing the way we think about customer service. Modern consumers now expect lightning-fast response times and seamless performance from service providers. As usual, the construction business has been slow to respond to this shift.

The first place contractors should look to improve the customer experience is at the jobsite. As the front line of interaction between occupied facilities and construction, today’s Superintendents must bring three modern customer service principles to project delivery:

Convenience: Owner-side construction administrators and facility staff deserve a clear, unabridged view of construction status at any given time. Always-on digital tools like daily e-mail updates, jobsite reporting access from the cloud, jobsite camera feeds, and even digital punchlist access gives Owners the tools they need to shape and respond to construction impact.
Speed: One overlooked aspect of project delivery is time savings. Time is money, and project teams make significant multi-year time investments. By creating continuity in daily and weekly communications, contractors can eliminate excessive coordination time spent by owner staff. A predictable coordination rhythm means administration and customer service professionals spend less time navigating construction issues and more time doing  their job.
Accessibility: Just like consumers who want to access their financial or social information at any given time, today’s owner staff should expect access to construction site and project management staff at any given time.  Establishing direct lines of communication with site supervisors is crucial.

Key 5: Strategic Team Management

Your general contractor should take on-site personnel management seriously. Make sure  your contractor has these checks in place:

  • Best value subcontractor selection, even in a low-bid environment.
  • Proven subcontractor experience on similar projects.
  • Background checks.
  • License verification.
  • Approved worker ID badging.
  • Behavior, performance, and cleanup standards written into GC-held subcontract.
  • Project Kickoff Meeting for all subcontractors.
  • Site orientation for any new personnel entering the jobsite.
Daily Management
  • Daily task planning with active subcontractors.
  • Weekly toolbox talks with site-specific safety emphasis.
  • Continual supervision for all on-site activities.
  • Daily inspection of safety controls and cleanliness.

Let’s talk about your occupied campus project.

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