Performing a site visit is one of the most important part of the estimation, design, and project management process.
The Information you take away can be the difference between a smooth run project, and a disaster waiting to happen. Here are some of the things that I always look for when performing site visits.
The first thing I like to do during onsite visits is to confirm accuracy of the drawings, both as-builts and architectural plans.
Checking the accuracy of the scale of the drawings is the first thing I do onsite.
The proper scale of the drawing can lead to major mistakes in the estimation process, or change order process during construction.
Take a few quick measurements of consistent aspects of the project such as structural elements and compare to the drawing to check this.
Do we have as-builts of the system? Are they accurate? Is pipe in the same location as what is shown? Is it sized the same? Sometimes as-builts are a great documentation of an existing system. Sometimes they’re total trash.
Accuracy of floor plans is another thing I check for onsite visits. Check each of the suites or rooms to make sure undocumented renovations haven't taken place.
Above ceiling space is another very important piece of information.
Is there wood construction above ceilings, where we need to protect above and below?
I like to take away from site visits, popping ceiling tiles and opening access panels can help with delays down the road.
Knowing what kind of space for coordination and bringing up conflicts ahead of time can help prevent delays.
If the building contains existing fire systems like sprinkler or standpipe, confirm the existing water supply is the same size and in the same location as the site plan shows.
What kind of condition is the existing system in? Is it old and patched up? Has it been replaced pipe-by-pipe due to corrosion? Does it use old threaded 5-inch pipe that’s tough to work with? Is it seismically braced?
What was the original system designed to protect? Is that the same as what it’s going to be protecting in the future?
When we’re estimating, we want to have an idea of how much work is involved. Are we keeping pipe to reuse and modify, or are we scrapping the system?
If we need to hydraulically calculate a system – then some other things apply. What is the existing pipe schedule? Where are the mains routed? Where is the pipe? What are the k-factors for sprinklers?
If our site survey is for design, then we need to take ample measurements so that we can lay out the portions of the existing system that are relevant to our design. I want information on anything that is staying or needs to be calculated. I want sizes, types, locations.
For measuring - The Victaulic go no go tape is great for pipe that can be accessed from the floor or from a ladder.
If we’re doing an addition, are we expanding an existing zone? How much floor area is that zone already covering?
Do we need to add a new riser and start a new zone, or can we add to an existing one and still stay under the limits of NFPA 13?
At the end of a renovation or addition, we need to know that the systems do not cover too much floor area.
When estimating, I need to know where my team will be parking, loading locations for equipment, or if there’s any on-site training that is required. I need to know what will use up my team’s time and will affect my labor costs.
Are the elevators able to handle our pipe? If not, how short do I need to cut pipe in order to fit the bundles in an elevator? Will that affect fitting and labor prices? Absolutely. Can we crane pipe bundles through windows? I want to know.
Small steps like this make a huge difference when it comes to professionalism.
Having a discussion with the project managers or customers regarding scheduling and timelines or other things to keep in mind when performing site visits during each site visit, ask about the customers deliverables ahead of time.
This can determine if manpower or material expectations are achieved.
Personally, I would rather advise a customer ahead of time with delays that can affect deliverables as opposed to this coming out at the end.
Certain custom materials that are found to be required during the site visit, such as custom length, dry sprinklers or certain valves or pumps can have lead times that the customer may not be aware of.
Getting as much information as possible.
From site visits helps keep the installation team and project management team on the same page.
If something catches your eye on a.
Project document it.
Take a picture or video so you have something to go back on or reference at a later date.
So - what am I looking for in a design or estimating site visit?
- Checking the accuracy of drawings
- Checking for space
- Checking all the details on relevant portions of the existing system
- Checking for system zoning
- Checking for setup and work areas
- Looking out for anything that stands out
There is no such thing as taking too much information from a site visit.
You will never regret being over informed on a project.
I'm Chris Logan. This is Meyer fire university.
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Chris Logan, CFPS, RSE
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