“Do Not Disturb” while extending the warehouse

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It may be good to talk, but it is vital for all parties to talk at length when planning an extension. Thorough planning and regular dialogue will ensure that business will continue unaffected by what is happening on the other side of the wall.

Long before the diggers first arrive on site contractors, clients and any other organisations involved should spend time getting as full a picture of each other’s plans and intentions as possible. And top of the list is an in-depth understanding of the current on-site operation. With goodwill on both sides, problems can be spotted before they arise and overcome with the minimum of disruption to either side.

While the contractors will do their best to accommodate the needs of the existing business, the client’s staff will also appreciate that the builders have their own tough deadlines to meet. Once all parties have committed to a plan and procedures, unexpected hiccups – and there will be many – can be more readily tackled and quickly resolved. The dialogue must continue throughout the project as the situation may evolve and circumstances change. Only when everyone is aware of the here-and-now can individuals act in harmony with the team.

Each assignment will have its own unique aspects but a number of issues apply to most projects. The most immediate are to know the routines of the current plant – when people need access to arrive and leave, when the factory or warehouse can be accessed for work, whether weekends provide an opportunity to carry out work without causing disruption. Are there peak periods when the routine may change and when the existing operation faces additional pressures? When are the peak periods for deliveries and shipments? Are certain services in higher demand at certain times?

Some projects involve major but temporary changes in the use of certain locations. Such landmark events should be highlighted well in advance and planned as individual projects with perhaps their own management teams.

The contractor will identify where all the business services are located – electricity, gas, water and IT cabling – both for subsequent access and connection, and also to ensure that they are not damaged by contractors. For most businesses today, the risk of losing IT connections and data is one of their greatest fears. Any planned cut to services must be agreed well in advance so that all concerned can take action to ensure that business is not affected.

It is comparatively simple to control access and safety on a green field site. Ssafety and security procedures should include 24/7 observation, identity numbers for staff and controlled site access. When working on a manned site it is essential to ensure that staff from the existing facility cannot find themselves in danger – either by accident or curiosity.

And with space often restricted, signage and other warning indicators need to be clear in delineating where the construction site starts and the existing premises end.

Existing fire doors or escapes may be inadvertently blocked by building work and the local fire officer should be involved at the pre-contract stage to ensure that any work does not affect the safety of staff in the existing premises.

In the case of food production and storage the demands may be even more rigorous, to ensure dust, dirt and even vermin are kept at bay.

In most projects the day will arrive when the builders will need to demolish part of the existing building to provide access between the two units. Weekends and holiday periods are the favourite time for major works and contractors should consider the extra labour costs when preparing budgets.

Factors such as planned production or goods movements on these days should be considered well in advance, but it is easy to overlook the empty racking fixed to the wall, the sprinkler system or other services that could easily be damaged.

The breakthrough location frequently houses functions such as conveyors or walkways which link the existing operation to the new building. In such cases it makes sense to involve the materials handling and other equipment suppliers well in advance, to enable them to plan and advise on the best way to tackle the task.

At this critical moment the factory or warehouse is suddenly exposed to the elements, with the addition of dust and dirt from the work itself.

Into what may already be a restricted site the project will have added contractors’ vehicles, extra staff parking, additional visitors and other deliveries. Additional temporary parking space will be essential and laying hardcore for an extra access road from the main highway could well ease problems and avoid delaying routine deliveries and shipment from the main plant.

With adequate planning there is no reason why an extension should not be finished just as rapidly as a green field project.

The objective should be to lay the foundations for good planning – long before the foundations are laid.

David Oatley is senior construction manager at distribution property specialist sbh.uk. Tel: 0870 6060123.

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