I’ve been quite fortunate to have been employed in the building industry since my second year at TAFE, well with a couple brief stints of unemployment. I’ve worked with a precast concrete manufacturer, an architectural firm and a small commercial builder. Majority of employment however has been with the builder and precast concrete manufacturer (who I will call a ‘builder’ for argument sake), and that is where my skills and experience come from. I thought I would write down the five best experiences you get when you work with a builder, in no particular ranking, keeping in mind this is my experience.

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1_ You get out on site, a lot
This is probably the most obvious, but when you work for a builder you tend to be on job sites often. During the peak of our last commercial job I was often out on site, whether it was meeting with suppliers, measuring for ordering, taking photographs for documentation, meeting with clients or even just ghosting the boss to see how they do things. The best part about going on site with the builder is seeing how they actually build things, which seems to be different to how you drew it….

2_ You learn how to communicate
A big thing in the building industry is communication, and I will admit I still have a long way to go in my honing my communication skills. However working with builders I am learning to communicate with clients, prospective clients, town planners, suppliers, tradies and other industry professionals. Sometimes it’s by email, or phone or face-to-face, you need to know how to communicate to each one individually. Example, how you might communicate with a tradie would be different to a town planner…

3_ You snag odd free stuff
My boss once gave me a pair of used work boots as they didn’t fit him, no offence but I don’t see that happening in an architectural firm…

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4_ You can learn a very specific skill
I have a pretty specific skill, I can produce detailed shop drawings for a 3D monolithic precast concrete module, including how to calculate the volume of concrete needed and the weight of the module. There aren’t too many people in the country with this specific skill or experience. I’ve also learn about sequencing of module lifts, placement of cranes and flow of trucks, as well as learning specific detailing.

5_ You occasional get your hands dirty
This can tie in with number 1, but when you get out on site you sometimes offer a helping hand. Whether it’s shovelling dirt, manoeuvre a module into place, holding something while they fix it into place or crawling underneath buildings to check pipes. Now I couldn’t these things all day, every day (due to back issues) but it’s nice to occassionally get physically involved in a project.

Now this list isn’t to be seen as a “builder vs architect” debate, as I’m sure the experience one would gain working in an architectural firm would be very valuable. I can only comment on working with builders as that’s what I know. Have you worked for a builder yourself? What experiences did you gain from it? Leave a comment