Of course, you will guess that my answer would be yes 100% of the time. After all it’s what I do for a living. However, I will be the first to say that having cameras set up to monitor your construction project may not be a good idea always and everywhere. Here are some thoughts:
Return on investment
We are so used to having webcameras on our computers that we sometimes think that installing and maintaining an internet-based camera system at a construction site is as easy as flipping open a MacBook. The truth is that it takes work to design, install, maintain, and take down a camera system in such a volatile environment as a construciton site. The labour and heavy-duty equipment that is needed needs to be considered as an investment. As such, I recommend you think about the return you will get from it.
This is where it gets tricky. The return on the investment you make to document your project using cameras is sometimes hard to put into numbers. This is frustrating not only for the client, but for me as well. I wish all I had to do was to say “by hiring us to remote monitor your construction project you will save x dollars per day.” It’s not that simple.
Here’s a real-life example: An excavating company, due to their own mistake, had to perform some earth-moving work twice. They then presented a double bill to the owner of the project, which was our client. When asked why they had to do the job twice, all sorts of excuses were presented, including pointing fingers at other subcontractors for blocking access to the site, yet other subcontractors for not being done with their work at a timely manner, the weather, etc. The owner asked us for a copy of the time-lapse video of the project and was able to verify exactly what was happening on site during the time the subcontractor was supposed to have done the work. On terms very favourable to the owner, they were able to settle their dispute before it turned into a formal claim.
This is just one of many examples I could list that demonstrate how having a camera system documenting and providing a live feed from your construction project can provide a return on investment. I just can’t put a number on it, as it varies wildly from case to case.
But my advice is: think about the problems and issues that having a constrution camera system on your project could solve. Are they potentially big enough to justify this investment? This will depend on the type of project, the project’s budget, the risks involved, and the particularities that are unique to each project.
One of the things that we do when talking to a potential new client is to ask questions about their project, look at their schedule, drawings, and learn about their needs. We then can help walk them through their decision. We can share with them countless examples of cases when our camera system was useful on a project similar to theirs and saved our clients a lot of cash and headaches.
I read once that we make our purchasing decisions based on emotion, and then try to rationalize it using logic. Whether that is always true or not, it is true that not all our decisions are based entirely on the rationale of return on investment. For example, we spend time gardening when we could be working to make money that would be more than enough to pay for a gardener. But we invest our time and effort because it’s something we enjoy, something we can be proud of later when the flowers are blooming.
During my presentations and on the Construction Industry Podcast, I often compare construction projects to children. For those involved, the process of going from conception to cutting the ribbon, the growing pains of project management, the village that takes to complete a construction project is very much like rearing children. Working on a construction project is something we do that will be left behind for generations; construction projects change the landscape for a long time. It is only natural that we are proud of being a part of them. I’m guilty of that. I take great pleasure when driving around town to point out that I was a part of the construction of this or that structure.
Having cameras on your construction project is a way to document this process forever. It’s the equivalent of whipping out your digital camera to capture Junior’s first steps. Cameras record the process by which that structure will grow and become a permanent part of the environment.
When you think about it in those terms, why would you NOT use a camera system on your construction project?
I hope I was able to convey the thought process that most of our clients go through when deciding on using cameras on their projects.
How about you? Have you used cameras on projects before? What was your experience?