Chances are if you have a construction project with neighbours there will be some form of conflict. So what can you do to keep disruption at a minimum?
Here are 5 top strategies for keeping your neighbours happy during construction.
1. Start Communication Early
Rather than keeping things under wraps until the project kicks off, include neighbours from the very start. This sets the groundwork for open communication.
When dealing with neighbours it’s very important to be open and transparent.
George Youssef, Senior Project Manager at Novati Constructions, believes transparency, a good system to record, and access conversations are crucial.
“When dealing with neighbours it’s very important to be open and transparent. Good communication is the key to happy neighbours. Construction management software, such as Procore, helps with all communications. It also helps you archive the conversations and pull them out easily if needed in the future,” said Youssef.
Nathan Oliver, Director of Ikonografik Design, shared similar advice when he spoke with Jobsite.
“Get alongside them (neighbours) as early as possible. Involve them in discussions, talk to them, and more importantly, listen to them and act on their concerns. If you engage with the neighbours, ensure they are actively involved in the entire process, making it less likely they are going to be upset when the actual building work takes place.
“I usually ask my clients to take a hardcopy of the preliminary design drawings around to their neighbours before Planning Permission / basic council permits are obtained. This is typically several months before the messy building work starts,” said Oliver. “This way the clients can talk to their neighbours in person and address any concerns at an early stage. This means the design can be altered and the impact of the building work given a decent amount of consideration to minimise disruption to the neighbours.”
Oliver often meets with his clients’ neighbours personally to talk through the design and explain things in detail. He even gives them a virtual walkthrough of the 3D model on his laptop.
2. Have a Point of Contact
Provide a direct point of contact so that problems can be reported easily and quickly. It will provide neighbours with the confidence that their voices will be heard. Give them a simple way to contact the relevant person if they have concerns about the project or if there is an emergency.
Oliver also shared his thoughts regarding a point of contact.
“On a recent project, I met with the appointed contractor, clients and neighbours. We all sat around the table to discuss the practical building work and possible ways to reduce people’s concerns and disruption. The builder provided contact details to the neighbours so they can speak to him directly to address any concerns along the way.”
3. Don’t Risk Interference to Essential Services
Dial Before You Dig reminds us that a subcontractor must not start any excavation work unless the principal contractor has advised there are no affected infrastructure assets. Should any assets be present, the principal contractor has to communicate the prescribed information appropriately to all contractors on-site and a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) has to be signed off.
If any doubt remains, either party should contact the asset owner and seek clarification before starting excavation work.
In the case of damage to water, sewer and stormwater assets, concrete and other materials can enter the pipes, leading to extremely costly repairs and disruptions. The flow-on effect can impact neighbours, local businesses, road users, pedestrians, and, of course, your job site.
4. Keep Their Property Clean
On any work site there is going to be some debris and dust. It’s important to ensure this doesn’t impact the neighbouring properties. Sometimes, this might be completely out of our control. However, should it bother the neighbours, you could offer to clean affected vehicles or driveways to compensate for the inconvenience.
Make sure any construction materials are quickly removed if they land outside of the construction site. You want to avoid the chance of paint chips or windshield damage from loose materials.
You will need to be on the lookout to ensure that workers and delivery trucks do not block driveways, or worse still, drive onto neighbouring lawns.
5. Make Your Crew Accountable.
The behaviour of your contractors and workers is vital. Neighbours don’t want to be subject to loud and unpleasant conversations, overbearing music, or a worker using a tree as a bathroom.
Ensure your team understands what it means to be tidy and respectful. This is an important step in maintaining friendly relationships with the neighbours and a direct reflection on your business reputation.