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Project Manager Dan Jackson Interview

05 April 2018

Today, we chat to Dan Jackson with Paul Westwood providing some last-minute comments!  Dan and Paul are Project Managers on several of our developments in Hobsonville. We met them on site and had a conversation as we walked through one of their construction sites.

Crosby: So, Dan it’s three days before everyone knocks off for Christmas, and there’s a lot going on – under pressure?

Dan: Not too bad. We have 16 settlements in the next two days so there will be plenty of people moving in alongside us continuing construction on the other 50 odd units. The good thing is we are a little more prepared than last year so yeah, it’s not too bad really.

Crosby: I guess that presents a few challenges then, working around our clients and keeping to a construction programme.

Dan: We did a few things differently this year. Months ago, knowing we would end up with another pre-Christmas rush we prioritised which units to complete and fast-tracked their programmes. Now that has paid off and it’s fairly smooth.

Crosby: How did you do that?

Dan: It was a combination of having a flexible programme template, where we could use several trades at the same time. The subs don’t really like that, tripping over each other, but we have some good relationships and they helped us out. We also completed construction of some units in a different sequence.

Crosby: What do you mean?

Dan: See those units over there, they are about half done, but right next door we have clients moving in. The problem was with the normal programming, we would still have scaffold up, and that would be on their land, blocking some of their windows. So, what we did was finish the rear walls much earlier than is typical and juggled some of the trades around. The result is, the clients look out onto a property that as far as they can see looks complete and tidy.

Crosby: That would throw a few things out wouldn’t it? Like putting a strain on your resources?

Dan: Yes, but these subbies have been with myself and our projects here for four years now. We know each other well and the larger subbies make sure their managers also follow our jobs, which makes communication much better and the whole build more fluid. Another thing we do, is we have the same carpentry builder so quality and timing is consistent. A bit more like a commercial site.    

Crosby: I have found when you have different builders on the same site, quality can vary, and they also make different mistakes and interpret drawings differently. They also have management focussed on other external jobs as well, so less focus on our jobs.  So, one main builder, that has been doing the same thing for a while with the same trades and project manager makes perfect sense to me.

Dan: It also helps with Health and Safety as well, especially when we have clients moving in next to construction. Everyone knows how that is best managed. I got 94% on my H&S rating last time, so I’m happy about that.

Crosby: I guess that is why the construction site is clean as well?

Dan: Yes, and we get audited by HLC [Hobsonville Land Company, now called Homes Land, communities], AV Jennings [the land developer], Site Safe and Marius [Universal Homes H&S Manager] – So four times forces you to be very careful!

Crosby: There’s a bit of debate over the use of brick in the office, I like it, but it can be more work and not as much resource out there capable of bricklaying. Is that right?

Dan: It’s definitely more work. For example, that brick wall on the front over there, needs three inspections by Council. One to make sure the cavity is clean and unobstructed, one for the ties that ensure the brick doesn’t fall off and one for the stainless-steel bracket. Plus, it’s hard to get good bricklayers that do it right the first time, those that are careful not to damage window joinery and actually do a tidy job.

Crosby: As we now look into this home, can you show me the Speedwall that everyone is talking about?

Dan: [removing some insulation to expose the steel faced intertenancy wall].

Yes, Speedwall has changed how we build inter-tenancy walls in these terrace houses. It’s basically lightweight concrete between steel sheets. It’s much better for fire than a timber and gib assembly, that was always difficult to put together – this stuff just doesn’t burn or lose structural integrity. Plus, if you do pre-cast concrete inter-tenancy walls then you must hire a crane to lift them into place.  For Speedwall, the guys just lift it themselves. The other thing with cranes is, because we are near the Airbase we must get approval from the Air Force because of how high the crane goes! Although that’s nothing compared to building stadiums.

Crosby: Building Stadiums? I thought you started out as a builder apprentice with Universal?

Dan: Yep, I did my apprenticeship with Universal, actually working directly for Grant [Now Universal Manager of Construction]. After a few years, whilst on holiday I got recruited to work for a German company, Vector Foiltec, to work on venues for the Rugby World Cup in 2011. So, that was the Dunedin Stadium and later Eden Park. Boy, that’s where programme pressure really comes on! You can’t tell Graham Henry the stadium isn’t going to be finished on time and you have to move the games!

Crosby: Indeed! Good to see you are on programme here as well. With lots of settlements coming up I guess you also must make sure the quality is up to scratch.

Paul joins us: Yes, we have quite a good system. It’s an app called iaudit and it guides a pre-completion inspection. The aim is to get 100% so then when the client moves in there is nothing to attend to.

Dan: …which is pretty much impossible, but the scores make a big difference. What I do is use the app before we get tested, to test myself on where we are at and fix anything before the formal inspection. I am getting good scores, but if anyone gets a low score, let’s just say a strong email or phone call can quickly come your way from Head Office.

Paul: Everyone knows the score, we all talk about them when we are in the office. A lot of banter, you know, that really challenges everyone to get their score up. Good healthy competition amongst the site and project managers.

Crosby: Sounds like a great idea to me. You guys take a lot of pride in your work - and your scores! – and that rubs off on the quality that our buyers end up living in. Plus, you practice what you preach as don’t you live in a Universal Home here at Hobsonville?

Dan: Yep, but I don’t have the shortest commute, Shane lives across the road from his site!

Crosby: Good one Dan and Paul, thanks for your time.

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