Correct construction job-site staging is critical for efficiency, productivity and even safety. While each site is different, metal building construction can be jeopardized even before work begins if materials and supplies are not stored and staged correctly. Careful planning in advance for materials staging and work mapping a construction layout plan is key. “Planning in the early stages is the best way to avoid being overloaded with material on-site,” says Jim Russell, project manager, structural steel for GEM Inc., part of the Rudolph Libbe Group, Walbridge, Ohio.
Real-world strategies and advice on how to best stage a construction site
Assess the job site and the materials, determine the appropriate equipment needed and implement the correct strategy to tie everything together. Erectors should read and understand erection drawings prior to arriving on-site so they’ll know where they want material placed and in what order they want it staged out with the appropriate equipment. Usually, a job-site foreman will have a site-specific erection plan, outlining where to most efficiently place material so it’s accessible for the various project stages.
Initial job-site meetings can share information such as where materials should be unloaded from and stored at. “We typically have a pre-job meeting with our project management and foreman to discuss sequencing, temporary bracing and equipment requirements,” says Joseph Allen, project manager, safety and training manager, Thomas Phoenix International Inc. (TPI), Eastampton, N.J. “Getting a handle on all of these aspects early can determine where and how staging is set up.”
Allen states the following staging questions should be answered:
• Will you be swinging everything with a crane from the laydown to the footprint, or using a telehandler to shake out?
• Will the pad be poured and can your equipment be used on the concrete once it is poured?
• Can the crane run down the center of the building, or will you need more stick and counterweight to set from the outside?
“Get the general contractor on board with your plan early,” he adds. “Explain what you need in terms of space and access to get the job done efficiently. Try and get them to lay down some aggregate to help keep materials and equipment out of the mud.”
Because TPI is located in the northeast, Allen claims everything is built close together, so it’s not uncommon to have little or no staging area outside of the building’s own footprint. “We’ve had plenty of projects where the materials are staged off-site, and then trailered to the job site as needed, which adds an extra dimension to the pre-planning,” he explains. “Depending on the size of the project, you may want to stagger delivery dates in stages. This means coordinating with the general contractor, manufacturer and trucking company. It also means having a decent idea of both your erection sequence and timeframe.”
When Bel-Con Design-Builders Ltd., Belleville, Ontario, Canada, constructs a pre-engineered metal building project, it typically orders the complete structure, roof and wall systems. “We always start with our primary and secondary structure and having it arranged on the site to be accessible first is key, plus it is also includes the heaviest pieces and the most difficult to handle,” says Tom Gunsinger, president of Bel-Con Design-Builders. “Depending on the roof system we are using and/or the overall project schedule we might do the roof next, if not we will do the walls second. Regardless, this decision is made before the building is shipped, again so we can ensure proper sequencing to the site and store on-site in terms of what we need to access first.”
The Staging Area
The staging area (often called the shake-out or laydown area) is where metal building materials are unloaded from trailers and organized for erection. This area is crucial to completing a structure efficiently.
OSHA frequently cites the requirements for staging in the Subpart R steel erection standards: §1926.752(c) (2) – “A firm, properly graded, drained area, readily accessible to the work with adequate space for the safe storage of materials and the safe operation of the erector’s equipment.”
Travis Day, steel superintendent at Crossland Construction Co. Inc., Columbus, Kan., stresses the importance of the staging areas because this is where all the materials are placed for safe keeping during the erection time. “When materials are placed in the correct order, it allows for easy access during the erection, ultimately saving time and money,” he explains. John Dye,erection superintendent at Crossland, stresses the importance of it because, “If it’s a big mud hole, that’s probably what your building is going to look
like. If it rains, the mud gets all over your steel, roof and wall panels and you are forced to spend your profits cleaning the mud from your building.” Gunsinger says a construction staging area allows for product accessibility in the proper order.
“Part numbers need to be readily accessible to confirm the correct part is being picked and to avoid hunting through a pile of parts to find what you need. An important part of receiving the building, off-loading and storing on the site is to shake-out the building, which is a verification that all parts and components are on-site in accordance with the manifest and there are no damaged parts. Damaged or missing parts can greatly harm how productive the erection procedure will be.”
Russell agrees, saying staging metal construction materials on-site requires planned and strategically located laydown areas. “Main structural members should be unloaded and staged within reach of the crane. Sequencing is important to ensure that material is not in your way. Staging main members within reach of the crane is essential.
Secondary members can be staged around the outside of the building. Siding, roofing and insulation can be staged away from the building to relieve space in the footprint. An overload of material creates hazards, especially on small job sites. Keep material staging to a minimum to allow room to move.”
Keith Wentworth, vice president at Dutton &Garfield, Hampstead, N.H., says since incoming materials (roof beams, columns, purlins, girts) don’t arrive on the truck(s) organized, his crew usually gets the trucks unloaded into piles and tries to keep like parts together. “Of course, this depends on the site for how much room they have, how many holes and where the site guy is working, etc. If I had my way, everything would be staged into piles of like parts. What usually happens, again depending on the job site, they start going through the pile(s) and located the parts where they will go. Of course the roof, siding panels and trims are ideally kept as far away from work as possible to avoid any damage. On some of the larger projects we try to delay the delivery of the roof and/or siding until we are ready for it. We have also staggered steel deliveries.”
“Most site owners consider that if a delivery truck can back in a pull out, then you’ve got adequate space,” Allen explains. “A well-organized job site is always safer than one with materials randomly scattered about. A solid surface for cribbing heavy framing members helps prevent steel from tipping over. Never let staged steel have weight supported only by a cantilevered piece of cribbing.”
A successfully staged site affects job-site safety. Day contends that when material is unloaded and staged correctly, “it will eliminate guys climbing all over the steel looking for the correct piece mark. It’s important to remember that, when moving the material, you are always at risk for slips, trips, falls or pinch points.” Dye agrees saying, “The more organized you can keep your material, the better off you will be. People, when looking for material, are less likely to get hurt if things are kept neat and orderly.”
In terms of safety, Lynn R. Harwood, vice president, building systems division, Lemartec Corp., a MasTec company, Miami, believes if material is not coordinated for delivery, it can “create mayhem on the site.” “Cluttered job sites create trip hazards, require material to be handled multiple times, make employees search through piles of material to find the correct parts, which may develop frustration and productivity issues,” he adds. “Daily tasks become a burden and employees shift their focus from performing the tasks safely to these issues.”
Drones are increasingly playing a part in site staging strategies. Harwood says, “They provide aerial views to use as surveys, marketing elements and 3-D models, among other things, which in turn allows for better logistical production planning. [They] identify potential hazards that may not necessarily be in a clear line of sight from the ground.” Day contends drones can help track progress on the project and improve quality and safety on the site. “Drone footage is accurate and objective, and can be used for future litigation if ever needed,” he adds.
Quality of Work
Harwood believes that as metal builders, “What we do on-site is a direct reflection of the quality of our work. As you may have heard or read it multiple times: fail to plan, plan to fail. The success of staging metal construction materials is rooted in the time your project staff allocates to planning and adhering to the plan when executing the work. Avoid headaches and leverage technology to boost your overall productivity and safety!”