Building the dream

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As I searched the internet for blogs and sites that helped me to learn more and add value to my design for this project, I often came across good information, but without a familiarity withthe author, I was not sure how to take some things. As with most of those authors, I am not a professional writer. So in lieu of me becoming one for the purposes of this blog.... I thought it might be helpful to provide more insight into my background, both in terms of what I have learned throughout my career and in terms of areas I was deficient in and needed to do alot more research in order to plan effectively.

As I write subsequent updates, it occurs to me that some of my plans may seem excessively over thought, to the casual observer. Or potentially, some may view them as flat out unneccesary. To this I can only reply that I am most definitely a "work smarter, not harder" type "A" personality. That said, I have also taken on previous home projects that required grunt work from sun up to sun down and kept up just fine. So, although the vast portion of my career has been behind a desk and computer screen... I have extensively worked in the trenches and it is there that I enjoy myself most. I recognize that this mentality runs in direct opposition to most of the helper candidates I will potentially work with on this project and I can only hope that I am able to adjust, on the fly, as required to make everything work out. Push where I can without exceeding some sort of boundary with my team. Lower my expectations to a level that works for all involved... you get the idea. For me, and throughout my life and career, it has always been about planning…. to a very high resolution. I learned the hard way that doing it right and taking longer the first time is most always faster than doing it twice. Sometimes that is value add and sometimes not. Sometimes just doing it over and over is still faster than planning first, but not often. If a plan does not work?, then what have I lost… planning time? I am fine with that as planning offers me a piece of mind that I need to move forward. I need to ensure that every "good" idea I have is incorporated as to me there is no greater frustration than to finish a project and realize, "Hey, I forgot to incorporate that one great idea and now the project results are not as I had hoped". So, yes, there is a lot of thinking and re-thinking here… there is a lot of effort into "fool proofing" the various tools and techniques I aspire to teach to my helpers (if I get any), but as I see it, the potential reductions in waste and lost materials.. .the potential in increased quality and robustness of the structure.. .are all worth the investment into planning. I know full well that some of my ideas may not work with the resources I may be saddled with…. But I had to try… not try is the first step towards failure in my mind. Also worthy of consideration is that as a laborer on this project myself…. Working at a detail level and then needing to back out to the overview level to address issues that arise is not an easy task… so having all my thoughts in a plan helps me with that constant shift of focus.

Many of my approaches to this project share techniques and strategies that I have made solid use of throughout my career in manufacturing. In addition to my background as a formally educated mechanical engineer, I am a journeyman tool, die and mold maker with a sizable manufacturing/machining engineering background. All those years of logical process related thinking are hard to overlook when planning this project. So, for example, while many might say, "Hey, Filipinos bend rebar with a pipe and a piece of wood all the time… why not let them do it their way?"…. I say, that is a correct statement, but it is also fairly reasonable to state that they, often times, end up cutting corners, wasting material and taking way more time to produce the same component as could be done with a bending fixture/tool designed for this project. And since the manufacturing engineer for this project is the same person ans the architect/structural engineer… how about we blend engineering requirements together with commonality in design so that instead of hundreds of different rebar shapes and lengths, we are able to accomplish the structural requirements with say…. 15 different bent components and the rest straight. Now, we can produce the hundreds of stirrups, for example, in advance and making use of rainy days, so that when the sun is shining and concrete is a flowing, nothing is waiting on the bending and cage construction process. Efficiency is the name of my game…. Cost efficiency, time/schedule efficiency and quality efficiency. Not to mention the quality control that is built into such an approach… if 10mm bar is specified for a stirrup and a production setup is in place to produce that… then the risk of someone not remembering what size is needed and grabbing the 6mm bar instead, is mitigated.

Our overriding mantra throughout this project is Efficiency through intelligent design. We will make use of every natural resource we can harness, from rainwater storage to renewable energy to incorporating the excavated stone as building materials. In order to eventually develop a more productive gardening aspect of this land, a composting station will be another of the early projects setup to again, make use of every resource as efficietly as possible.

One aspect I will delve into at length in another post is the relationship that MUST be established and preserved with the locals….and with that thought, there are a couple easy things I do to build that relationship:

1). Learn to speak in a (for me) softer and more laid back tone and speed

2). Never let them see you express anger in excess.

3). Learn to speak even the most basic of Visayan words and phrases. The positive effect and impression of this effort on locals, is nearly immeasurable and is viewed as a level of respect for them, their culture and their country.

4). Working like a dog if you are capable. Seriously, this is easy for me after a brief adjustment to the climate, but seeing a foreigner doing something more than hold a beer in front of the aircon simply blows most of them away. Even if it is not for the long term.. .seeing a foreigner doing manual labor alongside a Filipino is priceless in it's ability to help the locals assimilate you into their world.

For me, blending in is not only a more comfortable day to day environment for me, but it also provides so many other more intangible benefits such as security, fairness in your dealings and just all around fitting in better provides me with a good feeling, as well.

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Hello Dzighnman,

"relationship that MUST be established and preserved with the locals"

Your four points regarding the above strikes the basic ingredients of efficient team work and team spirit. I'm like you, pre-planing both in time management and performing the actual job will eliminate or at least reduce last minute crisis management. Item 3 in learning communications skills for the local laborers is two fold. They will quickly respect your dedication not only as a mechanical engineer but also your other skills as a journeyman and handyman. And more importantly, they will quickly learn that you are thoughtful and caring person. Well done, my friend!

Respectfully -- Jake

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A very accurate and thoughtful observation. Having worked in SE Asia for many years, with various cultures and across a wide array of skillsets, I know that this formula works... it is so simple... I do not consider myself on a different plane than anyone I work with... that mentality serves to effectively break down many barriers that have negative impacts as you form cross discipline and cross cultural teams. When those barriers do not exist from the very onset, a project can flow so much smoother and the team will feel much safer in contributing, not only in labor, but in opinion. One point I have failed to incorporate into my blog is that while I sincerely hope to teach new methods to any helpers we add to the team..... I also fully expect to learn so much from them as I hope to provide a comfortable two-way relationship on my work site. Recognizing those contributions and showing true appreciation will be the key to expanding on them. Ideally, I will learn as much from this experience as anyone on the team that I hope to share my knowledge with. I have had these sorts of relationships in SE Asia within my business experiences... and to a much lesser degree, in the year we operated our resto.... my experience is that it takes alot of sensitivity that we in the western world do not typically need, or expect. Of course, should this be accomplished I will share the untold benefits realized.

Thanks for your comment... WooHoo.. you are numero Uno!!

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