Behind the incredible structures and buildings we as a company create there is a dedicated and hardworking team. We would like to introduce the team in a series of interviews and blogs. This time we had a chat with James Feeney, our Construction Director at Prime Property Ventures, about his role, day to day responsibilities, the current new build project he is in charge of and what makes him tick.
James, it is great to catch up with you on this magnificent site you are working on. Can you please tell me what it means to you to be a site manager and what your main responsibilities are?
My main day to day responsibilities are quite simply the running of the site. For a PPV site, this means everything from materials and labour, to staff, trades and sub-contractors. I am also the point of contact for the clients and architect. It is my responsibility to make sure that the works are carried out relative to the architect’s drawings, the QS’ Bill of Works, the contract and the programme.
A project of this size has many individual tasks. I’ve noticed lots of people come to you to give them specific information or direction. What do you find the most satisfying and challenging part of your role?
The most satisfying part of my job is probably handing the completed project over to the clients and seeing their reaction. It’s the culmination of a lot of blood, sweat and tears on everyone’s behalf and you can take a deep sigh of relief! The job can be very satisfying daily though, whether it’s a tiny joinery detail that’s come together or the bricklayers have topped out.
One of the challenging parts of my job is accepting that different people like different things. Jobs like the one we’re currently on are heavily “architect led” and you need to appreciate that it’s ok not to agree with all of their ideas and to find a balance between what they want, what is possible and what the client is actually expecting.
I have a feeling that your job is not only about site management but also human resources and people management at the same time.
I guess you could say that. I have had to learn just how to approach all the individuals on site in order to get the best out of them. Some guys are easy-going and very approachable, others not so much. Some will take offence at your feedback, others will take it onboard and adjust. You do need to have incredibly thick skin however but I’d like to think we are all friends and can still have a laugh together. At the end of the day, everyone needs to realise we are all part of the same team with one common goal, client satisfaction.
During a project of this scale you have to work with lots of individual tradesmen and professions, how do you go about that?
It’s not something you can fall into and I believe 25 years as a joiner working on a wide variety of projects has given me the best chance of understanding all the different aspects of a build.
If you are able to make that connection with all your co-workers and tradesmen as well as the client, that could make your job a lot more enjoyable and easier.
I think that is fair to say. Straight up, honest communication is key, for all parties. Manage your client’s expectations and this can pay dividends down the line.
How do you find working on this particular new build home?
My clients for this project are incredibly down to earth, very approachable and it makes the whole relationship a lot better. I set up a WhatsApp chat group between just myself and the clients and they know they can ask me anything, anytime and this creates a level of trust. They can drop me a line any time of the week and I will answer. I think they really appreciate how responsive I am and it makes them feel confident and comfortable that their new home is in the best hands.
When you think about this house, what has been the best moment for you?
When we started on site, the architect decided to lift the floor level by 1.5 meters. At the time we thought he was crazy and the thought of then building a house on “made up” ground terrified me. However, we tested half way up and again when we completed the make up and surpassed the test figures we were aiming for. That was pretty satisfying. Then, of course, when the scaffolding is dropped it is always a special day. But as I said before, that final day on site, clients moved in and no reason to return the next day is by far the best.
Prime Property Ventures are fortunate to build houses in some incredible locations as is this one as well. Is there anything specific you like about this location?
What’s not to love about East Lothian and being able to hear the waves crashing as you work. East Lothian does seem to have it’s own microclimate and the weather here is different to my home in Berwickshire.
If you were not a site manager what would be your dream job?
I think I would be an architect. I had work experience in both roles when I was younger. My Dad was a builder and I worked for him since I was 12 years old every summer holiday. I think that experience influenced my career decision. I preferred being outside and involved on the building site rather than working on plans and drawings at the office. Therefore I decided to take the joinery route which is my original trade before I evolved into a site manager.
What do you like to do when you are not working? How do you spend your free time outside of work?
I spend my free time with my two boys, two dogs and my wonderful wife. The kids play football and go swimming during the week. We love being active and spending our time outdoors during weekends.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Glencoe. That was the easiest question so far. I think it is a beautiful, magical place and I try to get there at least once a year.
I am determined to get to Arisaig and Mallaig on holiday to discover those beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise blue seas I keep seeing on Instagram. Things just never seem to line up to allow us to get there. One day…...
If you could build your dream home, would it be near Glencoe?
It would quite possibly be on a large acreage in Ontario, Canada. My wife is from Ontario and we spend a lot of time over there with her family. It’s a wonderful place.
Thank you very much for your time, James. I can’t wait to see this stunning house finished and I wish you all the best with the rest of the build.