Health and wellbeing | Six things we can learn from a construction site



Just outside my window the large empty warehouses are being knocked down. Yes this new complex will boast apartments and offices with riverside views, with new shops and restaurants thus boosting the sense of community. Add to that the proposed (and promised) new stop for the riverboat and we will be spoiled for choice in terms of alternatives should leaves on tracks disrupt my train service. But as we speak readers, my view is turning into a construction site.


However as construction sites go, this is probably the best one to be right across from. With a glossy sign at the entrance to monthly letters updating residents, the people responsible are apparently dedicated to “considerate construction”. Perhaps it’s due to my amazing double glazing or the fact that they’re knocking down sections of walls rather than manically wielding a wrecking ball but I have almost forgotten that they’re there. Add to that the projected timeline for this whole project from start to completion is almost a decade (albeit probably due to the archaeological issues rather than preference on the part of the developers) rather than a few years!


We shall see in a few months time whether I shall still be this calm about the construction when the warmer weather will mean opened windows. However we can learn a few things from the considerate construction ideal.


1.  Consider your surroundings.

Yes, it would be great if land was unlimited and we didn’t have the tight urban spaces that define city dwelling. However, people need places to live and there will always be developers ready to jump at any opportunity (let’s leave the issue of affordable housing or lack thereof for another time). The best they can do is to actively put an effort into not making the lives of local residents any more unbearable than it has to be. In my case, the developers are knocking down the wall that shields us from the road last, so that it can act as a barrier for longer.

How about you? Our day to day interactions create an environment of cause and effect and it’s up to us to make that effect a positive one or at least strive for it. One easy way is to not bring work home. Or bring it home but don’t invite it through the door to have dinner AND a drink after that AND tuck it into bed. It’s inevitable many people will have to work on that project or take a while to unwind from a long day even if no actual work needs to be done, but don’t give it anymore time than is necessary.


2.  Plan a realistic and considerate schedule.

Based on all the house programs on TV, I know for a fact that you can renovate a house in three weeks. But that involves long days of bashing and drilling and building and dumping which must be hell for the neighbours (although that side is never shown on TV).

I see the same being done to our health. It is not unheard of for a lifelong couch potato to suddenly attack the treadmill and steps in the height of the summer day or in the slashing horizontal rain. What happens to many of those people? They probably give up after a month.

Give yourself a plan that considers the future not just the next two weeks. Your body and mind will thank you for it.


3.  Think regeneration and community.

A very popular idea of redevelopment is how to build more housing but also benefit the local community. Every town hall wishes it could have a successful concept that involved good responsible building with local materials while increasing green space and community centers for a better quality of life.

Do something that you enjoy. Join an adult ballet class for beginners to build your agility and strength while in a social environment. Instead of knitting or reading at home, join a local club so you can get out of the house and get some fresh air.


4.  Insulation and all things green.

Everyone knows that insulation and good windows lead to a draught-free home which saves us money on heating which in turn leads to a healthy and happy wallet.  Many people make a conscious effort to use responsibly-sourced materials and local tradesman.

We can take this idea for our own health as well. Wear more layers and turn the heating down at home. I’ll admit I’m one of those who like the cosy tropical temperatures when it’s snowing outside, but a bit of fresh air does do wonders for the ventilation. Many people find it hard to eat only local produce so how about trying to eat only things that are in season? When I was growing up, strawberries were only sold in the summer, then cherries in July and August, with watermelon and melon a nice seasonal constant. Then there were pears in the autumn and oranges in the winter with figs reappearing in the spring. Tomatoes could be found all year round but no one really had them in their salads in the winter, because well it just didn’t feel right.


5. Get feedback from your proposals and meetings.

Planning permission involves applications and meetings and feedback and comments from local residents to ensure everyone gets a fair representation.

This can work in your life as well. If friends and family are commenting that you look more tired than usual, maybe you should take a moment to examine if something’s changed or you’re taking on too much. Sometimes it takes people from the outside to make us realize what we easily miss.


6. Wear a hard hat and high visibility clothes.

Finally, make sure you take care of yourself. Stretch before and after you exercise. Wash your hands. Don’t have unprotected sex. Let your doctor know of any alternative therapies you may be using. And let your alternative therapist know of any medication (this includes aspirin!) you’re taking. Don’t drive when you’ve just had a really bad argument or emotional upset. Wear sensible shoes in the snow. Remember to use sunscreen.


What about you? Are you the project manager of a well-developed socially and ethically sound renovation or are you living in one corner of the house you’re gutting and plumbing? 


Photo credit: Loozrboy via flickr

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