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Posted By: Laura Burch

By Scott Kirouac

As humans, most of us have an innate desire to get right to the "good stuff." We push right through the boring and the tedious to get directly to the exciting. It's understandable; life is too short to constantly get caught up in the mundane. The problem is, though, what we think of as the boring details are often the most important. As someone who enjoys running, I don't expect to line up for a marathon without months of relentless training. Construction is the same way; there is a lot of planning, detailing, and scheduling. Only after you are properly prepared do you get to execute.

In construction, the building envelop is often overlooked. Let's face it, interiors and finishes are where it's at! However, without walls, a roof, windows, and doors, there is no building. They aren't exactly the most exciting part of a construction job, but I would argue these areas are the most important. Without getting into the nitty gritty of new energy codes and discussing what a properly built and designed building envelope can do to help the environment, let's look at the obvious. The building envelope keeps the weather out and the heating and cooling in!

Rushing through the building envelope process can be a major mistake, and potentially a costly one at that. In an effort to get the exterior wrapped up so work can begin inside, quality may suffer and details might get missed. Before the cosmetic exterior sheathing is installed, it is important to take a step back and look at the "ugly" details. Flashing details are pivotal in helping to keep the weather out, but they are sometimes rushed and haphazardly applied. Most of us in the industry don't spend our days thinking about flashing, but if the proper time and effort isn't devoted to this work, leaking will likely occur. Besides being a complete nuisance, water damage may lead to extensive rework, and will no doubt "dampen" the morale of everyone involved in the project. The result is typically an increase in project costs and delays to the schedule, which is ironically what we were trying to avoid in the first place by rushing to just "to get it done."

As construction managers, staying on schedule is an issue we all face. We have tight deadlines to meet and customers to answer to. But sometimes we need to slow down just a bit and focus more on the planning, not just on the doing. At JM Coull, one of the tools we routinely use is four-week look-ahead schedules. These are derived directly from the project's master schedule, ensuring continuity of day-to-day tasks, as well as how they fit within the master schedule's critical path. With proper planning, we can allow time to fully investigate the building envelope, which may include mock ups, water tests, and sit downs with our subcontractors to ensure that every detail is reviewed before the material is installed. We use these look-aheads to essentially break down the overall schedule into manageable pieces, and to communicate responsibilities and coordinate activities on a more detailed level. This approach is applied during all construction phases, but it is particularly critical while constructing the building envelope since it affects everything after it. It allows us to refine our level of planning for job activities and ensures that tasks meet quality expectations before moving on to subsequent activities.

Bottom line: sometimes we shouldn't rush the boring stuff. Especially when the exciting stuff becomes far less interesting after it's ruined by a leaking roof.

Scott Kirouac is an assistant project manager at JM Coull.