Revolutions in construction – The Mobile Phone

Written by LetsBuild

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Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s two particular projects stick in my mind as being, in some respects, nightmares!

The first of these was what is still Europe’s second-largest single floor and roofed tin shed; 27 acres of it set in a 96 acre site. That is about 12 an 45 if you want that in hectares! Now, quite sensibly, all sub-contractors’ site managers were required to check in at the main contractor’s site offices each morning. That allowed for quick briefings. However sometimes details and specifications would change during the day that needed to be passed on immediately to avoid cost increases.

Off I’d go, walking through every section and room in that tin shed, looking for the guy I needed to update. I didn’t manage to find him so I’d go outside and look around out there. That was a bit easier because we had a good view for long distances, but it did mean I had to walk right round the building. Still didn’t find him! Then it was clamber up 120 feet of ladder onto the roof in the search! Because the roof was all up-and-down with valleys in it the whole length of da**ed roof had to be walked along! Finally, almost as an afterthought, I’d have a look in their office containers and Welfare Units. Now all that took about half of the working day and it often turned out that I couldn’t find the guy I wanted because he was in the Toilets! There was one redeeming feature to all this walking about. A lot of it was outside and the weather was all bright and sunny that year so it was pleasant exercise!

It was actually the very next contract I got that was the next nightmare! That was the refurbishment of two 21-storey tower blocks. I needed to talk to a guy? Off I’d go knocking on 6 doors on every floor, walking up to the next floor because we were renewing the lifts! Get to the top and still not found my man so it was down 21storeys and over to the second tower block and start again! You can imagine that was a pretty exhausting challenge although it did have the advantage of keeping me fit!

Now during that era, for those of us old enough to remember, there were a few, very few, people who had mobile phones and they were a total joke! These people had to carry a suitcase-sized bag that held most of the phones system, then they had a phone the size of a brick to hold up to their ears! These were so good that people used to have to stand in the middle of the road – often the only place they could get a signal – shouting their heads off into their “bricks”!

It was about the mid-1990’s that Nokia started to sell mobile phones more or less the size that we now expect them to be. I rushed out to buy one – well two, actually; one for myself and another for my wife. Very soon after that, though, construction people started to cotton on! If someone appeared on site and didn’t have their mobile then peer-pressure sent them out to buy one!

What a time-saver they have been in construction! No more of that spending half a day running around looking for someone! We could sit back in our offices, our legs on the desk drinking our cuppas and we had instant communication with everyone we needed to talk to! Sometimes we couldn’t because they hadn’t been in a position to be able to answer their phone, but a message was left and they called us back at the earliest moment!

It worked the other way as well! If one of the subbies’ men needed to speak with us he could call us! Sounds such a silly thing to say, but mobile phones have been revolutionary in construction! They’ve saved an awful lot of time – and time is money – and they have also saved a lot of re-working and Claims for the cost of design changes simply because people could be notified of them almost immediately!

These days I never move without my mobile phone – or cell phone if you happen to be on the other side of the Pond – ready for an instant draw whenever it rings!