I’ve blogged about getting out on site as a student [here] but I wanted to talk about what happens on site. I am currently working as a draftsman for a construction company which specialises in modular precast concrete, and on Friday we installed five of the modules for a new project. On the day of installation I arrived at site at 6am, to help remove fencing, mark out where the modules would go and so forth, not really in my job description but wanted to help out as much as possible.

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When I drew the plans the computer tells me what’s parallel, what’s perpendicular, 90° and straight, and quite easy to grab measurements. However out on site it’s a bit trickier to work out all that, with at least 2-3 measurements (plus a diagonal) required.

As the draftsman I didn’t have to worry about sequence of lifts, where the crane would set up (and how many times it would move) or how the trucks enter and exit the site. However these are things that need to be thought about and considered, or else you waste hours. Luckily the day before much of the logistics was sorted, however the sequence of the trucks must have been miss-communicated on the day as they arrived out of order. It’s not the truck driver’s fault, as all they know is arrive at this place at this time, but these things happen and the project manager/foreman needs to think on their feet.


In the perfect world of my computer model of the project I had the slab rebated to allow the modules to sit in, however it was decided after the slab wouldn’t be rebated but the modules would have a rebate. No surprise, quite common for changes to plans to happen on the fly. However when the second module arrived it was discovered it was missing a rebate which meant it wouldn’t sit on the slab properly. Luckily the concreter was helping us on the day and cut a rebate in the slab, it did set us back an hour but it was fixed.


When on site it seems the builder uses two key tools, a string-line and their eye (with the aid of a tape measure at times) to check everything, whereas on a computer the software has all that built in.


By 1pm the modules were installed, I spent most of the morning photographing but did help place a couple modules as well. Sometimes on site things are exact to your plans and you need to improvise on site, it happens in every building project I would guess. But what did I learn from assisting on the day?

I learnt that there is a solution to every problem that arises, the key is not to let it bog you down and stress you, just work on a solution. I also learnt that while on the computer it may have been 6980mm, in reality it could be 7010mm, or the slab is a bit shorter on the ends, not everything can be perfect. I learnt the process of preparing and setting the modules into place, along with understanding logistics.

NOW, will those things I learnt make me a better architect? Somewhat, I mean sure knowing that the slab may not be mm perfect won’t revolutionise how I design, and knowing the process of setting a module won’t affect the way I draw the plans. What you do learn is how to think on your feet and focusing on the solution rather than the problem, which are great assets for a future architect.