Todays episode is all about Signs and what I as a PM/Site Superintendent have to navigate daily to get our objectives met. I’ve worked on on larger signage projects. I am the boots on the ground, the service delivery in construction this person, this girl that takes the hits in the field, the main contact once it’s produced – I’m this person. Today is a story about my job, my project navigating skills my position as a female in this world of construction and a project that changed my life for ever.
8 million dollar job
For those of you from Calgary I was the lead superintendent on the IFP (international Facilities project) at the Calgary International Airport. – for the signage installation program. This is the new international portion of the airport which opened Halloween night Oct 31, 2016. I was there this very night watching the first flight of passengers make their way through the terminal, what a moment. They were heading somewhere tropical and I was hoping the signage showed them their way.
This project started in Dec 2014, with 6000 signs to be installed. Starting with tidy little phases for completion to full-on mass change orders, adjustments, site instructions, more changes, adding to the sheer volume of delays. Taking the project from 6 – 9 months to 3 years. CCNs (contemplate change notice) – this is when a change is suggested, requesting estimates from all of the sub trades. The debate ensues if this is going to move ahead…some of these don’t get approved for several months (sometimes 9 months but you need to make sure you know about this change in the future for when your estimate is approved). This means if they are going to close up the ceiling or add/remove a wall you need to know about it – SO you can designate your area that you need your sign to go into or submit an RFI (request for information) as your scope has now changed – guess what there’s no wall!
Way-finding Signage, is the type of signage we installed into the airport way finding – this means signage specifically placed for people to find their way. We didn’t design the sign, we didn’t design the content, we didn’t pick the location as to where this is to be installed. Our scope, to build the sign as per approved drawings and to install the signage as per approved placement that is provided to us – that is all! Sound, simple enough?
There’s a process…we receive a signage package called IFC – Issued for Construction, within this package the signage is specified, there’s a drawing that is provided for each sign type (there was approx 170 sign types, we’ll get to these in a moment). This drawing indicates the material, the shape, the size how’s it mounted and a code for this which is something like A/B/C/D etc this means the type of signage like directional, identifiers like for amenities.
Then it’s our job as the signage company and to produce this to make a technical shop drawing that will be stamped by an engineer, it’s also our job to make an artwork package based on the artwork specifications that will need to be submitted to the consultant on the project (this person is hired by the owner).
The shop drawing and artwork specifications then get submitted to the GC – general contractor. The GC then submits to all parties that will have influence over our drawings, this could be another trade like the electrical or data sub-contractors, the clients engineers, the consultants, the architects – we wait, tic tic for all of these stakeholders to review and submit back to the GC, then they finalize and provide us the approved drawings. OR they provide us the drawings that note: re and re which means revise and resubmit. This process continues over and over again until all of the shop drawings are submitted to the GC and respective people. In the case of the IFP project we had over 170 shop drawings to submit as well as artwork packages.
The shop drawings are typical, this sign is installed in this fashion, like wall mounted or floor mounted. The artwork package is a little bit different we need a document called a scheduled which provide the content for each sign at each location. So if there’s 300 of sign type b there’s 300 artwork layouts for this sign as each one of these signs is different based on the areas it’s installed in. Clear?
This is a long process.
When we were submitting for the artwork portion of the signage for this particular airport project – all of the alarm bells started ringing. Why? Because the owner and the consultants were still debating the artwork. What?! I know this sounds crazy but it’s the truth. They weren’t sure if certain pieces of content should be included or a symbol should look a certain way.
So, we needed to make a decision as a team. Do we produce the signage without artwork, this means that it will be only be considered half done. Plus sort of around this time frame, the changes started pouring into the project, this effected us being the last trade in sequence we came after every other trades changes were approved by a financial standpoint and completed so we can get into this area confirm our location/position for the signage and proceed.
Who were some of the other trades onsite? When you think of construction you likely think of framers, borders, insulation, electrical – yep you are right, but there is also the power and data trade, ceiling trade, walls can be many materials like drywall, phenolic panels, glass, diamond mesh plating and more. There’s also trades like coring, welding, flooring, carpet, masonry, and don’t forget about painting – did you know some steel columns need to have a paint called intumescent? Don’t even get me started. All of these trades and more make up approx 1500 people on this job site. There was approx 12 women and I was one of them, pink hat an all. Working with all of these trades was very interesting, I learned a lot, and have a tonne of Fodder for years to come.
Have you heard of a scrum meeting? This is when your group or a group you need to work with has daily meetings to discuss what you are doing, waiting on and who this may effect. This is also to note what you didn’t complete from the previous day and why. Another trade maybe waiting on you and vice versa, I came last for completion, for the most part but the position of my signs required things like power, data, coring (through the floors) as well as plywood backing etc which interrupted other trades…These meetings were daily and for a specific area, constantly introducing the changes that other trades had as well as my own were also discussed at these meetings. Setup as a round table – leading with the superintendent from that specific area worker by worker until we hear from everyone who needs something. This could take a hour or more depending. These meetings were important and trying at the same time.
Comparing drawings from one trade to the next was always an interesting topic – what your drawing doesn’t show this? Playing a game of Janga to get all these pieces to sequence together without falling over or collapsing the schedule, scope, costs was my daily job of delivering and executing this project, with a positive attitude.
My job was to balance all stakeholders, from the Architect (should he be phoning my personal cell to discuss changes that are coming). To the sub-trades (what your sign is moving again based on this change order? I didn’t get a copy of this). To the general contractor – (when are your signs coming – oh don’t you remember you approved this change order, they will be delayed to capture this change). To the painters – (sorry Valerie you can’t install your signs because we have a change to re-paint this wall) to the coring guys – Valerie your sign can’t go here as planned because there’s a giant beam in the way of the cored locations so now it doesn’t abide by engineering).
This was the job that changed me, this is the project that I grew up in, this is the job that ended careers – once the job progressed to a certain point all of these workers were no longer needed, workers would be up on ladders doing their thing and it would be pay day – supervisors would be delivering pay stubs and good bye notes a the same time – done! People retired early because this was their last big job, the last feather in their cap, for me it was my first one!
7000 signs 200 sign types produced, shipped and installed, 168 Change Orders Executed, 1200 deficiencies solved, the job is complete!
This project was the biggest construction job in Alberta’s history and the largest at the time in Northern American starting at 2 billion. I was there for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. This is the project that taught me what the word deficiencies truly meant, I had 1200 of them to solve. This job taught me what it meant to spar with men! And trades, architects, contractors, stand my ground, reflect personalities. If they are rude be rude, if they are professional be professional – this worked for me and continues to work, thanks Steve for this incredible tip and great advice. This job taught me about really hard work, business IS personal and one of my biggest challenges came from another female who to had to make her stance, I still haven’t gotten over this one.
I’m contented about this opportunity. Being part of the remarkable venture for Calgary, Alberta Canada and this IFP certificate for completion – not an actual certificate but a lessons learned never to be forgotten place in my professional career position.
What’s the job or project that changed you – how did it adjust you to your core – why are you different because of it? What happened? Tell me, text/email me firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story. We all go through things like this in life that once that thing or event happens, we are not the same in our profession and maybe personal world anymore.
Thanks for listening to the show today, this was a story I pondered over on how to write to share with you, what I do as a PM – ServiceDelivery – in the construction world. I hope you enjoyed this segment into my daily life and my career over the last 4 years.
The intro and outro for this episode is recorded by London Moss, the theme music is Tascam 40 by Jason Schnell and some medley tunes I chose for this construction themed podcast are reflective of the content within.
- Spooky Night Synth
- Lobby Conversation
- Pop Changes Layers 01
- Beat Machine (Anton)
- Boomer FX 01
- Construction Bot Topper
- Record Player Scratching
- Clock Wind up
- Alarm Clock Bell
- Waiting Room Topper
- Cheering Crowd Studio
- Skyline piano