Building Blox: Week 26 – Backfilling trenches for utility services

What we did

  • Reinstated utility service trenches (part 1)
  • Thames Water inspection

This week we began reinstating the trenches for the utilities and I touch on part of the skillset required to run a project.

As well as being a shorter week with a bank holiday, the contractors seemed to take it a bit easier, although well deserved after the hectic previous week installing much of the utility pipes and cables.

The large trenches in which these pipes and cables had been laid now had to be backfilled, compacting soil back into the wide pits and where necessary, topping with concrete. In the case of the service road by the shops, this concrete was also reinforced with steel bars to give it extra strength. I gave a GCSE Physics lesson on the benefits of reinforcing concrete using steel rebar back in week 2.

As the water, electric and BT services still had to be run from the mains, the trench was left open by the public-private boundary, as well as at inspection points further towards the houses.

Later in the week we had a visit from Thames Water who wanted to check out our pipework before connecting them to the mains supply. As soon as the rep turned up I knew there would be trouble…

Straight away my contractor and this gent clashed. They disagreed on how the pipework was meant to have been run into the houses. I lost count of how many times swear words, “I’ve been doing this for years” and “don’t tell me how to do my job” were repeated.

As the developer, I’m most invested in this and needed to play peacemaker, trying to resolve problems as quickly as possible. As a management consultant I often do this as a day job, which is part of the reason I was confident I could take on this development. When taking on any kind of project I think it’s important to know where your skills lie and where they are lacking, hire someone better than you.

In this instance, right or wrong, the power lay with the inspector so we came up with a solution to meet his requirements.

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