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An Interview with Paul Fairbairn, Site Manager at Carrongrove, Denny

Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be in charge of a busy development of new homes? We asked our Site Manager Paul Fairbairn, at our Carrongrove development in Stoneywood near Denny, a few questions about his career and his day-to-day life on site working for Mactaggart & Mickel.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED FOR MACTAGGART & MICKEL?
I started in 1998 as a joiner when I was 26, at Bonaly in Edinburgh. It was a big site and a large team of guys at that time, including my own dad Mike Fairbairn who was also a joiner for Mactaggart & Mickel (now retired). At the time I worked with a few others who have since built their career at Mactaggart & Mickel and are now also Site Managers on other developments, like Mike Loughran, now based at Millerhill in Shawfair and John Dibben at Lethington Gardens in Haddington.

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU PROGRESSED INTO YOUR CURRENT ROLE OF SITE MANAGER?
When I first worked “on the tools”, I would find myself taking the lead sometimes (I followed my dad’s example!) and helping to organise the team’s tasks for the week. I was working on a site in Bo’ness when I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a General Foreman (an Assistant Site Manager as we call it now) which I thought about and decided I would give it a go. I went for an interview and an assessment but sadly didn’t get the job!

But that experience helped me focus my mind and our Director Marion Forbes offered some gradual on-the-job training as a General Foreman. This allowed me to build up my knowledge and experience and when a vacancy came up again, I knew I was capable of taking on the challenge… and this time got the job! I was working at Woodlands in Loanhead at the time and, after 6 or 7 months in my new role, I found myself managing the whole site when Site Manager John Dibben moved on to manage our 2014 Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village site.

A few years later, in 2015, I had an interview and an all-day assessment to become an assistant site manager or Site Manager. I was delighted when our Head of Construction Alan Hunter (now retired) came to me personally 2 weeks afterwards to offer me his congratulations and offer me the Site Managers role.

WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU?
It’s safe to say every day is different! I’m usually on site before 7am, checking emails, processing/signing off/authorising invoices and paperwork while it’s quiet. Every day I will walk the site, speaking to my team to check on the progress of each plot and our different trades’ work as I go. I’m also constantly monitoring Health & Safety to make sure the site is a healthy, safe and secure working environment. Managing my on-site team involves weekly meetings and daily work allocations, keeping everyone informed about our plan for the week, what homes are sold and available, any remedials, and dates and times for deadlines.

There’s a lot of collaboration back and forth every day with our subcontractors, our Production, Architectural and Procurement departments and Sales Consultants, to make sure plots are completed to high building standards for our new customers and remedials are dealt with efficiently for our existing customers.

The work changes too as a development progresses – in the early stage of a build, we’re making preparations for upcoming stages, we focus on the challenges ahead, quality, inspections and attention to detail.

WHAT KIND OF QUALITIES DO YOU NEED TO DO YOUR JOB?
You definitely need a positive attitude and outlook, good communication and listening skills and the natural instinct to be proactive rather than reactive. It’s also important that you can adapt to change and find solutions when things don’t go to plan.

A good knowledge of all building trades from start to finish is also key, which you gain partly just from watching and learning from other people over the years. You also need a good technical knowledge of groundworks and engineering. Lastly you should have a keen eye for detail and always keep in mind minimising waste and working efficiently.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
The Carrongrove development has a stunning riverside location, however this has also presented some unique challenges:- we had to extend and strengthen the river bank alongside part of the open space and car parking alongside Carrongrove House. The process of digging down and building back up from the river edge , on a part of the site that was steep and tricky to access, was a new experience for me and a complex engineering challenge but one which we are very proud to have completed successfully.

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT?
The first site which I managed from start to finish – which was Barnton Park Wood in Edinburgh. It was a development of just 8 detached homes, with completely new designs, and I was lucky enough to work with a great, talented team – there was a really positive atmosphere and I feel we delivered a truly unique development.

Despite it being a small site surrounded by residential homes, we also fostered good relationships with the neighbours (and our new homeowners) while finishing homes and coordinating our deliveries etc, which made it all the more rewarding.

Barnton Park Wood in Edinburgh

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND WORKING FOR MACMIC?
Absolutely! I love my job and have had some fantastic opportunities to develop my knowledge, skills and experience – it’s both challenging and rewarding!

IF YOU COULD DO ANYBODY ELSE’S JOB FOR A DAY WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A formula one driver! Apart from the honour of someone trusting me to drive such an expensive machine, I think I would love the adrenaline and the challenge of having to coordinate and control so many different things during races - getting better and better every time.