Image credits: Hoffman Construction Company
Construction projects require an onsite leader who has the dedicated role of supervising and managing everything that goes around the site. This job is taken by construction superintendents, and it keeps them in charge of the entire project lifecycle – from the beginning to the end. Since they work out there on the site along with their construction crews, superintendents form the main link to all jobsite updates and are responsible for a range of duties – some of which are compiled below. Here is an insight into what a typical day at the field looks like from the perspective of a construction super.
What Does A Construction Superintendent Do?
The job description of a construction superintendent differs based on the company they work for and the type of projects they supervise. Some supers might specialize in residential and commercial projects while others may work on civil structures. Regardless of these differences, some responsibilities remain the same for all construction superintendents. They revolve around managing the day-to-day jobsite activities, so it is important to remember that this role demands an “everyday” focus. In comparison, a project manager would look at the bigger picture instead, which is why a superintendent zooms in on the details to connect the dots and help the manager build a complete perspective. Here is what construction superintendents do at work:
Manage Human Resource Aspects
Construction superintendents are responsible for interviewing and hiring the right workers for site activities. They build a competitive workforce by setting the required criteria and hiring employees based on their skills relevance, site aptitude, trade specialty, software proficiency, and so on. In addition, supers are in charge of communicating safety rules, company protocols, site awareness, and similar key instructions to the new workers. This includes organizing training sessions to help the new candidates bridge skills gaps before they start working, which in turn requires a thorough knowledge and skill appraisal for each employee to spot potential gaps and work on them.
Jobsite human resource management also includes timekeeping, setting schedules, tracking work hours, approving time-offs, and ensuring timely wages. Since supers are the ones who hire the jobsite teams, they stay in touch with all the labor contracts to learn the workers’ rights and keep an eye out for violations. They generally use a construction management software to supervise their human resource tasks.
Monitor Project Finances
It only makes sense that someone fully in charge of managing the jobsite will also know the numbers involved throughout the project. Construction superintendents often work on project budgets, estimates, and feasibilities as part of the preconstruction collaboration with relevant stakeholders. This is because they are responsible for tracking budgets as the project unfolds, which allows them to mark under and over-budgeted milestones and adjust the flow accordingly. Again, the same construction management software is used to track and manage various cost-related aspects. This helps the supers streamline everything from labor and material costs to inventory tracking and payrolling. With such a software app, it becomes easy to document key finances, generate quick reports, and maintain an accessible record of all the cost behavior – which is what a construction superintendent relies on every day to make comparisons and adjustments.
Get The Right Permits
Construction projects have a range of permits associated with the type of structures being built. Superintendents are in charge of obtaining the required permits in advance to get the green light for their project.
This includes confirming which activities are approved for construction and updating the project scope accordingly. Supers need to ensure that everything gets constructed with code compliance, so this calls for regular inspections, approvals, and reworks based on the guidelines mentioned in the permits.
Supervise Site Activities
The site-related duties can be quite demanding, as there is a whole range of tasks to be done at the main action zone where all the construction takes place. Superintendents will typically start their day at the jobsite by walking around, comparing schedules, clarifying the day’s activities, checking the equipment and material available, ensuring worker attendance, allocating duties, etc. Site management works on a day-to-day basis as we saw earlier, so construction superintendents make sure to implement the daily schedule or the short-term schedule to get the work done on time. They can delegate tasks if there is a lot to do by choosing suitable employees with the relevant skillset – another reason why supers need to know their teams well.
While working and supervising the jobsite, superintendents will be in charge of following up with contractors, subcontractors, foremen, engineers, architects, and tradespeople. This could be done through morning meetings and weekly follow-ups. Supers need a bird’s-eye view of the current progress and dynamics, so they can ask for feedback, address individual concerns, resolve conflicts, and work on solutions during such meetings. A construction management software is imperative here as well, and supers often keep their tablets around to monitor each trade and project phase. Once the day’s work is complete – or as it unfolds – the supers will inspect everything for quality control so that they can mark the red flags, highlight the work to be repeated, and accommodate this in the next schedule. It is important to reschedule the project in a way that keeps things moving smoothly even after minor disruptions, so superintendents need to focus on this beforehand and leave some room to accommodate delays and repeat work. Otherwise, the project can reach a bottleneck with a host of incomplete tasks waiting to resume.
Implement Health And Safety Rules
Site and human safety are crucial in construction where injuries and accidents can happen in a blink. Construction superintendents are the site leaders, which makes them in charge of various safety aspects.
They are responsible for giving OSHA training, reinforcing site protocols, ensuring correct equipment/vehicle handling, and checking for safety gear adherence. If anyone does not wear the right construction gear or blatantly ignores other safety rules, it is the super’s job to address this behavior that puts both the perpetrator and those nearby at risk.
Manage Procurement Aspects
Superintendent duties often overlap with each other if they need to appear on the same schedule, among other reasons. Procurement happens to be one of these key responsibilities, and it involves everything from vendor selection to quality control. Superintendents often use their networking strengths to locate suitable vendors for a given project. This could mean looking for international vendors if there are no relevant local options or if there is a material shortage. The delivery dates should align with the project’s schedule, so this creates an added responsibility for the super to arrange for backups beforehand in case of procurement delays or cancellations. As with scheduling duties, procurement aspects need to be covered in advance to ensure compatibility with the rest of the project tasks. Without the required materials and equipment, no work can start, and this is a dreadful discovery to make on the actual workday. Therefore, a construction superintendent really has to look ahead and anticipate the negatives to be better prepared for them if they do occur. This calls for impactful negotiation skills while meeting with vendors and other stakeholders of the project.
As we saw earlier, scheduling takes up a huge part of a superintendent’s daily work. It is important for the schedule to reflect changes as they occur, so supers keep their construction management app ready to use and update throughout the day. They make sure to track both slow and fast-moving stages so that the schedule can be realigned to match their pace. This includes synchronizing both the permit and procurement schedules with the actual timeline so that only the approved tasks make it to the final schedule and the required materials arrive on the right day. If any stage falls out of place, the supers have to revise the schedules accordingly. All of this is done through a construction scheduling app on which superintendents can check dashboards and receive simultaneous updates from each department.
Travel To Different Jobsites
Construction companies often require their superintendents to travel as part of their job, and this is mentioned both in the job opening and contract to let the super know what lies ahead. It is common for construction superintendents to travel depending on where the jobsites are located. This could be within the US as well as outside of it, especially if the company requires international vendors to join its team. In such a case, the superintendent is usually expected to go abroad and meet with the respective audiences.
Collaborate And Report
As we have read so far, construction superintendents stay in touch with various project stakeholders throughout the timeline. They need to collaborate with project managers, local authorities, vendors, lawyers, tradespeople, contractors, subcontractors, engineers, architects, and designers. This helps them receive and coordinate updates from each audience so that everyone stays on the same page – and everyone has the same schedule to follow. With regular collaboration, superintendents can create more accurate reports of the daily, weekly, and monthly progress when it comes to alerting the higher tiers.
Good collaboration is all about good communication, and in the construction world, things need to be communicated on time. For example, if the vendor cannot provide the order on the given date, this has to reach the superintendent as soon as possible. Being the main point of contact to the jobsite information, the super will be able to alert the manager and the crew and halt all activities related to that order. The manager can then immediately communicate this to the client, and the necessary changes can be incorporated into the plan – and there will be no more domino effect of mistakes crippling the jobsite! All of this is supported via construction management apps, which is why everyone should use the same software to send and receive real-time updates.
The North To The Construction Compass
All jobsite activities point to the construction super, whose main role is to lead the project flow to the finish line. People in construction with a clever eye for detail, years of field experience, and the ability to multitask prefer to become a superintendent – they already have what it takes to lead a busy and unpredictable jobsite.
It is quite rewarding to look back and appreciate the before-and-after results, so remember to record a timelapse of the whole event, and celebrate being a part of something epic in the making!