Vince Bailey / April 2019
Here comes Johnny, gonna tell you the story; hand me down my walkin’ shoes…—“Walk of Life,” Dire Straits
There’s no denying the abounding enjoyment I get from a good walk. I can’t think of anything more uplifting than a casual stroll around the neighborhood to clear the head, circulate the life juices and avail myself of the latest neighborly developments. Unfortunately, the occupational demands on my time during the work-week prevent me from taking these pleasant little sojourns more than once or twice a week—it has to be a Saturday or Sunday jaunt. And so it’s an extra special treat when I finally receive an invitation to a job walk—a triple blessing, in fact. In addition to the pleasures mentioned above, I am at least temporarily relieved from the cerebral and ocular drudgery of staring into dual monitors for hours on end. That and the inner chuckle I get while I remind myself that I am actually getting paid to do something I really enjoy. I feel like I’m getting away with something while I’m getting away.
I note with some dismay that, although estimators who double as project managers regularly make site visits, those of us who estimate full time seldom receive job walk invitations anymore. This, I believe, can be attributed to the present growth and abundance of new projects over the declining prevalence of renovations and buildouts of times past. Two or three years ago, the market was awash with tenant buildouts of overbuilt office space shells left vacant by the economic downturn. Now, those spaces have been developed, and the invitations to bid tenant interiors have dropped off markedly along with pre-bid job walks. Whatever the reason, the scarcity of the once-mandatory site visit now makes them all the more precious when they do occur.
In any case, on those rare occasions when I do get an excuse to escape the clutches of my dreary office space and to venture out to a project, I happily gather up my “personal protection equipment,” i.e., hardhat, steel-toed boots, reflective vest, gloves and safety glasses. I proudly announce to my colleagues that I am sallying forth in search of valuable insights that might give me an advantage over my less perceptive competitors on a proposed tenant interior project. Anticipation fills my racing mind. I can almost smell the pungent aroma of the chemical toilets, the melodious sound of a screaming chop-saw blade, the blinding flash of a welder striking an arc, the salty taste of sweat from my upper lip as the sweltering summer air engulfs my head. Ah, yes. Takes me back to the days when I wore my tools and left my stress at the job site at the end of the day. But I digress.
And speaking of the competition, one of the most valuable tidbits of information that I might gain on one of these sojourns resides in the question of who I might be up against in this highly competitive quest for procurement. I’ll spot the usual suspects, the fellow bidmeisters I know and recognize by sight. But I make it a point to hang back and be the last to add my name and business to the sign-in sheet, thus enabling me to flush out any unfamiliar drywallers in the mix.
Now, as every good quantifier knows, there are certain omissions inherent in TI plan sets—details that can only be identified in a site visit. The drawings typically lack section views and/or building elevations, which are key to determining such critical factors as deck height. A quick flash of the tape measure remedies this problem. Perimeter treatment is another mystery that design teams seem to regularly omit. Now, the interior side of an exterior wall treatment can vary between bare framing, framing and insulation only, drywalled and taped, or drywalled and finished. Only sight identification will reveal what additional treatment a perimeter wall will require and how much consists of window area. One of the main objectives of my site visit is to note the sill and head heights, the length of full height areas between windows, in addition to the level of wall finish at the shell.
Other critical items to make note of on a TI walk include existing building standards, access for material stocking and scrapping, ongoing operations, facilities and site-specific safety concerns.
Before leaving the site, I generally chat up the GC’s rep and state any questions that might have emerged from my site observations. There are usually several. I try to impress upon him the value of the items I have noted that will be included in my bid, as opposed to an estimate based solely on the drawings without the benefit of a site visit. The hope is that he will refrain from accepting the lowest bid without questioning scope. You know what they say, “hope springs eternal.”
Anyway, I enjoyed a good walk, if nothing else.
Vince Bailey is an estimator/project manager working in the Phoenix area.