By Tom Focht, Construction Administrator

As part of my job as a construction administrator, I conduct periodic site visits to our projects under construction. The visits are partly to ensure the work in place is conforming with the contract documents. Just as important to the owners and contractors, I also use the visit to review and certify that the payment the contractor is requesting for the month is reflected by the work in place.

With the current social distancing and travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not possible or advisable for me to visit jobsites. But since construction is continuing I needed to find a way to continue site visits from hundreds of miles away. Fortunately, technology allows me to see the jobsites, check for any issues, and confirm the contractors’ costs.

This week I met with a superintendent and his assistant from a project’s contractor live via Facetime. The jobsite is a new patient tower. The assistant panned the phone around each of the four floors, describing the areas and the work that had been done. By viewing the site via Facetime, I was able to take screenshots of any areas with issues to document them. This method allowed us to cover the large building rather quickly. One drawback was that construction sites are loud, so the superintendents had some difficulty hearing my answers and requests for the camera to be aimed at specific areas over the noise. Overall, though, the live, interactive aspect of the Facetime call was a plus.

We used a different type of technology for a site visit for another project last week. That project is an upfit of shell space, so it is a smaller area than the site I visited virtually this week. For the upfit, the contractor took a video and sent it to us to review and comment on the work. The video worked similarly to Google Earth, allowing us to manipulate the video to zoom in on areas and to pan to view different angles. Again, we were able to take photos from the video to document deficiencies that didn’t comply with the construction document so the contractor could fix them.

The advantage of the prerecorded video was that it allowed us to inspect the site at our own pace and to easily change the view to what we wanted to see. However, making such a video is time-consuming for the contractor, so it was not practical for the contractor to produce such a video on the larger patient tower. On the other hand, having a live view of a jobsite with the superintendent on the line made communication a bit easier.

Nothing replaces the ability to be on site in person – to be able to walk around at my own pace, look closely at different areas, touch base with the owner and contractor in person, and touch the work itself. But since that’s not possible at the moment, the video technology is a good workaround that lets us certify contractors’ work so they can get paid, inspect the work so any issues can be fixed, and keep the project on track and produce field reports for the owner. I’m looking forward to the day that I can get back to my periodic in-person site visits, but videos and technology options have been great temporary workaround solutions.