No More Jobsite “Tetris”
In one of the best-selling video games of all time, players of “Tetris” must quickly maneuver and rotate descending blocks of various shapes to fill an entire row of the play field. Failing to fill a row causes the blocks to stack up, increasingly filling the play field and reducing the space to maneuver newly dropping blocks. As the game progresses, blocks fall faster and faster, eventually topping up the entire play field and ending the game with a disheartening, “BONK!”
Developers and contractors face their own Tetris-like challenge on job sites – especially those in built-up areas. With limited construction staging space on or near urban job sites, crews must carefully position and reposition arriving construction materials in the staging lot. If materials get blocked in, or the lot fills and can’t accept more, the overall project schedule can slip until the staging traffic jam lifts as construction proceeds. All too often, staging problems contribute to the game-over “BONK!” of a late and/or over-budget project.
Construction staging Tetris is especially troublesome when building the bathrooms in hotels and multi-unit residential projects, as hundreds of toilets, sinks, mirrors, cabinets and other items must be choreographed through the staging area. “Historically, the number of trades and amount of coordination required in a bathroom exceeds pretty much any other area in a building,” says Les Bluestone, partner of Blue Sea Development Company, LLC. “Anything that can reduce that bottleneck is helpful for completing a high-quality project on time and on budget.”
The year before Tetris was introduced, the video game playing super computer “Joshua” in the hit movie WarGames came to this conclusion after learning it couldn’t win at tic-tac-toe or nuclear war: “the only winning move is not to play.” Developers like Bluestone live this advice by deciding not to play construction staging Tetris on their projects, such as for the 394-unit Prospect Plaza housing complex he built in the dense Oceanhill-Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
Instead, Bluestone and other savvy developers order their bathrooms as fully-built units. A truck with 3 to 5 pre-fab bathroom pods in it drives up to the jobsite, crews quickly offload the pods and crane them into place within the building. As far as the bathrooms are concerned, the staging lot is reduced to the size of a parking space for one semi-truck. The trucks roll in and it roll out – no more juggling thousands of individual building materials in a staging area.
Developer Greg Steinhauer, president of American Life, used this same approach for the new 282-room Embassy Suites by Hilton in downtown Seattle’s constricted Pioneer Square neighborhood. “The bathroom is the most complex part of a hotel room,” Steinhauer says. “You have many different trade professionals working in a small space, plus lots of materials having to go up the lift, to build them.”
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