Site Logistics: The sequencing and movement, including procurement, inventory management, stationing of resources and the routing of people, on construction sites.
Efficient and clear construction site logistics planning is critical to maintaining safety, productivity and schedules and is the foundation for a successful building project. Creating these plans, implementing them and being flexible over time for changes is a skill that requires practice and reflection to master and improve upon over time. After discussions with several of our team members, including veteran superintendents, we have developed a list of the 9 most critical items to consider when planning for site logistics.
1. Know the physical environment of the area
Familiarity with the local environment is critical for site logistics planning, including the time of year that construction is intended for. Building in wet weather, hot weather, sensitive wetlands or other locations all make a difference. These conditions will influence a variety of factors, including:
- Erosion control measures
- Dewatering plans
- Materials used for haul roads
- Utilization of cement treating
- Dust control needs
Weather concerns will also influence staging for break areas for workers. In the summer, this means shade or air-conditioned spaces, while in the winter it may mean heated break areas or erecting wind breaks. Additionally, specific environmental protections for local wildlife or environments must be taken into account. Protection measures and awareness of these areas are all crucial to maintain during construction work.
2. Consider the physical site
One of the first items to consider when planning site logistics is to look at the actual site. There are a variety of factors to consider:
- Are there existing land elements that must be modified prior to beginning, such as:
- Significant cut and fill
- Rock blasting
- Retaining walls
- Temporary haul roads or permanent driveway access
- How is the site going to be accessed? Will it be via temporary or permanent access?
- Is there a single building or multiple buildings, and when will each one start or finish?
- Where will hardscaping vs. soft scaping be located at the end of the work?
In additional to physical constraints, the size of the site makes a big difference in planning. For instance, urban jobsites or significantly constrained sites may not have any room for materials storage, crew parking or temporary staging. Larger sites, such as the Tualatin Sherwood Corporate Park currently underway, has a large site, but multiple buildings, public access road construction, retaining walls and even an active rock crushing operation onsite.
Whether large or small, the site must be considered first when looking at logistics plans.
3. Understand jurisdictional constraints
The local jurisdiction can have a heavy influence on the logistics planning for a given site. They may have rules and regulations related to:
- Stormwater management
- Noise, dust or vibration management requirements
- Public road restrictions, such as weight limits, height limits, etc.
- Overhead restrictions due to powerlines or airspace/crane height restrictions
- Road or sidewalk closure permit requirements or restrictions
Some examples of tricky regulations have included weight restrictions on public roads. A recent example is on one of our sites where we were allowed to have full loads of concrete delivered for the main building pours, but any following pours were limited to 8 yards or less.
Other examples include noise restrictions, particularly when near residential housing zones. Many residential areas have noise restrictions that don’t allow for construction noise to take place before 7am or after 10am. This can make some activities difficult to schedule, particularly during summer months when activities like concrete pours are best completed at night.
4. Plan for traffic flow
The next element in planning effectively for site logistics is to look at traffic flow. A good team must know the volume of vehicles, equipment and people that will need to move across the site. Traffic flow considerations include:
- Entrance and exits
- One-way routing or two-way traffic flows
- Pedestrian crossing areas
- Entrance gate location(s), and whether they’re different for the public vs. construction traffic
- Location of wheel wash stations
- Parking areas for crew parking
Clear traffic pathways help maintain safety and keep vehicular traffic out of construction areas.
5. Identify areas for material storage
Materials storage areas will be necessary, but their location will be dependent on the size of the site, the traffic flow and materials required. With tight sites, this may mean storing materials elsewhere, either nearby or in an offsite warehouse. It may also mean creating specific areas for materials to be stored on the site, typically with added security.
Critical considerations include:
- Physical size required to fit materials
- Weather protection required
- Accessibility of people and/or large equipment for distribution to the site
- Security to deter theft
Optimally, the goal for materials storage includes finding a secure location that can remain in the same place for the duration of construction and is conveniently placed to be as close to the areas where the materials are needed as possible.
While just-in-time delivery used to be the optimal goal in coordinating materials for jobsites, in more recent and increasingly tumultuous times, this strategy has been largely abandoned in favor of early supply acquisition and storage. Unfortunately, this is often the only way to ensure that the materials necessary for the project will arrive before they’re needed. This increases the amount of materials storage that any given jobsite may need, which in turn increases the need for materials lay down or offsite storage locations.
6. Plan for building access
To construct a building, the crews and equipment onsite must be able to efficiently reach the building area. This means that the traffic flow, materials storage, and temporary facilities can’t conflict with the areas of work. In certain circumstances, this isn’t possible, which forces the building teams to create a phased approach to site logistics and building construction where staged areas move to accommodate the flow of the construction phases.
Items that must be considered when planning for building access include:
- Proximity to crew parking areas to reduce travel path
- Access roads for equipment, such as aerial lifts and cranes
- Ground preparation required for temporary access
The goal in planning for building access is to make the time and cost required for accessing each area of work as efficient as possible.
7. Understand site security needs
Unfortunately, theft on construction sites is all too common with up to $1billion in equipment and supplies stolen each year. This leads to higher costs and delays for all contractors and their clients. To prevent thefts, a variety of techniques are used when planning for each site:
- Security cameras with motion sensors
- Site fencing
- Use of Conex boxes for secure tool storage
- Staging equipment to block gate access
- Removing keys and batteries out of equipment
- Lifting generators and other expensive equipment with cranes
- Hiring site security to regularly patrol the area
Even with extensive security measures, not all theft can be prevented. Each time a site is burglarized, project teams evaluate what occurred and use that information to prevent similar events in the future.
8. Plan for crew relief areas and site offices
Buildings cannot be constructed without people, so it’s critical that break areas are set up and accessible to crew members. These include:
- Site office, with ample meeting space
- Break areas with clean water and possibly small appliances for meal prep
- Hand washing stations
- Portable restrooms
- Shade locations
- Emergency meeting areas in the event of natural disaster or accidents
It’s important that the onsite crews are provided with appropriate accommodations, particularly when inclement weather is possible. Keeping workers safe and healthy is a high priority for Perlo and the industry as a whole.
9. Remain flexible
The final piece of the site logistics puzzle is to always remain flexible for changes. Even the best laid plans typically need to be adjusted along the way when new information presents itself. If there’s a better way to proceed with your work, don’t be afraid to have that conversation and make adjustments as needed.
Site logistics is a complex and important piece of efficient building construction. It’s critical that planning for the site is a team effort with extensive communication and an open mind for learning and improvement.