Construction Bugs

            Assembly-line bugs…by definition…are problems and mistakes that are difficult to anticipate ahead of time.

            Because no one person in construction knows everything…every person out in the field is at a different point on the uphill slope of the learning curve. 

            Some people know about and guard against certain construction problems, while other people know and guard against others.  The only way for everyone to be equally informed is to collect all the combined experience and knowledge from past projects and apply them as a whole to each new project.

            The first step toward achieving this goal is for company owners and managers to assign someone within the company this task.

            Over the years I have attended many construction meetings held in corporate main offices.  I have heard owners and managers plead, threaten, rant and rave, pound tables with their fists (an actual event I witnessed), and offer all sorts of incentive bonuses for faster construction and improved quality.

            It took me years to realize that what these owners and managers were asking for was within their reach all the time. 

            The basic research information…all of which is non-technical…to identify the bugs that cause schedule delays, budget overruns, nightmarish field problems, stressed-out jobsites, personnel turnover, and unhappy homebuyers…was all obtainable from the field at any time.

            They just needed to look.

            But why should company owners invest the time and resources upfront to discover and prevent design and construction bugs? 

            Why not wait until bugs materialize during the construction and then solve them case by case after-the-fact? 

            Isn’t resolving field problems in the reactive-mode the most economical approach?

            Isn’t that why field people are on the jobsite?  Isn’t that part of their job description?

            The answer to these questions is the same reason why so much effort is spent upfront debugging the traditional mass-production assembly-line.

            The debugging of an assembly-line before full-scale production begins…benefits each and every product assembled thereafter.  When the time, effort, and costs of the initial debugging operation are spread-out over a large number of the same identical products…then the costs of that debugging operation become lower per item.

            It makes economic sense to confine the discovery and elimination of bugs to the initial trial-run period of the mass-production assembly-line…because any remaining bugs slow down or temporarily stop each subsequent production cycle.

            Every time the same problem occurs on a multi-unit tract housing or condominium project…the development company owners and managers indirectly participate in the learning process.

            If the same mistake is repeated on five projects by five different people over a period of time…the company owners and managers are experiencing the ill effects of that same mistake five times instead of only once.

            It is more cost-effective to record the mistake the first time it happens and educate everyone to prevent the mistake from happening again…because “time is money” in building construction.

            No one in the field can be expected to anticipate every potential construction problem.  Mistakes and problems are part of housing construction.  From the perspective of the person in the field…a problem that is truly a bug is unexpected and unforeseeable…and therefore pardonable.

            But the housing development company owner or manager who knowingly or unknowingly participates in that same debugging event in the field four or five times over…is failing to recognize the leadership opportunity that exists here. 

            All owners and managers should be motivated to initiate a debugging process in an effort to prevent the relearning of the same housing construction lessons over and over.  

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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