A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Games Contractors and Subs Play

This is the first in a series of posts that will focus (sometimes with a bit or bite of humor) on the games that some GCs and subs play on your jobsite while they are working on your projects.

We are interested in exposing some of the dangerous, costly, and frankly, stupid practices in an attempt to make you aware and to encourage the industry to improve its practices in the future.

Let me start by relating a simple story that I saw happen on one of my first multifamily projects. Let me call it “now you see it, now you don’t.”

As a rookie architect, I was sent to a site in Dallas where a client was building a garden apartment project for our biggest private client. Not only was this particular developer the firm’s largest client, he was also the “most profit-minded client” (read cheapest).

The cost for one of his finished two-story garden apartment projects in that era (a long time ago) had a hard cost of around $10 per square foot. You might get the idea that this was a really low bid project.

Little did I know how low some of the subs would stoop to make a profit. We were at the stage in the development where we were laying flatwork on the streets. I got to this particular site late on a summer afternoon when the temperature was in the 90s and the City of Dallas inspectors were arriving to inspect the rebar mat for a street pour that would take place later that night. The mats and chairs were in place and the sub showed the inspector everything he needed to see.

The City guy signed off on the sheet and left, most likely to go home to dinner with his family. That was on my mind as well, but I had some work to do at the office so I headed back.

Several hours later, I thought that since this was the first project where I had a role, I would swing back by the site on the way home to see whether they were doing the concrete pour and to see how it was going.

I thought that I would just park down the street and watch as the ready mix concrete trucks pull up to drop their loads.

Imagine my surprise as I watched the iron workers lift the rebar mat out of the inspected location, put it in the next section and then signal the ready mix guys to drop their load in the first section with absolutely no rebar in place!

My first case of “now you see it, now you don’t.” The finishers finished the section with no rebar and then took off for the night. We called foul the next day and fired two subs from the site. The crews removed the pour from the night before and we watched them much closer as the project was completed.

Fortunately I learned my lesson early on that project. It would come in handy when we were doing projects in the Middle East and Nigeria a decade later.

Today, the issues can be much more dangerous and costly than this one. The projects are more complex and the games more complex as well. I know that you probably have stories you would like us to tell about similar actions on your jobsites. If you do, let us know and we will tell your story anonymously.

By the way, I know that “now you see it, now you don’t” is still being played in slabs in residences, flat work and even in concrete floors on some sites.

Stay tuned and please share your experiences.