Site walks are the “rubber meets the road” portion of project analysis. In order to ensure your construction documents (CDs) are accurate, you have to see the site in person first and take copious measurements that leave no room for error. Working on a site you haven’t seen in person is a little like playing the kids’ game “Telephone” – the message you want to relay is bound to be lost in communication. Over the years, I have learned some helpful tips on preparing for and conducting site walks for Wireless Services projects. Like any seasoned analyst, I have some crazy war stories I can’t share publicly, but this should get you started.
In Wireless Services, we have two main types of site walks: macro new site build (NSB)/colocation walks and macro upgrades. New site build/colocations are when we meet a tower developer or building manager on site to discuss the placement for a wireless carrier’s equipment. Macro upgrade walks are when we go take pictures and measurements of the existing compound and conditions. We do site walks at the very beginning of a project in order to ensure our construction documents are accurate. The measurements and photos we take on the walk are what we use as a basis for our CDs. It’s important to be thorough and accurate so that your CDs are correct and you don’t have to revisit the site to obtain missed measurements.
Prepping for a Site Walk Wireless Services projects typically involve 50-150 sites at a time, so planning our attack is crucial. Before we start, we compile all the site data into a KMZ file to determine where all of our sites are located. Then we create a site walk schedule. We bunch the sites into days consisting of 4-6 sites per day depending on their locations. Then we print site walk folders that have the necessary information relating to the site including coordinates, site name and number, any necessary door/lock codes to access the sites, and the local Field Engineer’s contact information. We also print any existing documents for the site, if they are provided, to help us draw the compound. My biggest tip is to always use Google Earth to ensure there is a safe place to park. We have had sites in unsafe areas, and it’s crucial to know where you’re going and where you can keep your vehicle.
Tips for On Site
Have a plan: When on site, your work is all about accuracy and everyone has their own technique. The most important thing is to have a plan before walking into the compound. For example, one of our Division Directors takes a marked up site plan with him to the site. This way he knows exactly what measurements he needs and already has a plan of action for getting them all.
pictures: It also helps to take as many pictures as possible. It never hurts to have more pictures than you think you need, and it can help later if you miss a dimension.
Beware of Rooftops: Take your time on rooftops. There is a lot going on, and it is a little more dangerous.
Check your work: Always check your Field Notes before leaving to make sure you didn’t miss a measurement. You don’t want to get back to the office and realize you’ll have to go back to the site at some point.
Be Consistent: Try to maintain a consistent routine. By doing site walks the same way, it triggers your reflexive memory when you miss something.
Be Prepared: You’re an employee in the wild! Whether it be rain, a huge migration of birds, or a site that has been overgrown, you need to be prepared to adapt to and work within the elements.
Be Nice: Always be personable with the people you meet on a site walk. Some of these sites are on people’s property who may not want you there.
Each site walk is unique and often offers some humorous (and occasionally harrowing) stories to take back to the office. It’s taught me to be extremely detail oriented because you never know what information you’ll need when it comes to designing a site. One benefit of site walks I personally appreciate is that they allow you to travel and see some beautiful sights along the way. I love driving throughout Georgia and seeing things I wouldn’t encounter otherwise on an average weekday. So for your next site walk, make sure you have a plan, double check your details and don’t forget to look up and enjoy the fresh air. (And be safe – I seriously can’t overstate the bizarreness of things you might encounter when you leave the office!)
About Justin Diaz
Justin Diaz is a Project Manager for Foresite Group’s Wireless Services Group in Georgia. Justin graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering in 2014. Justin enjoys providing the client with feasible and cost efficient solutions.