Thursday, January 31, 2008

Of Distribution of Manpower and Cost Constraints

According to the contractor, we currently have about 70 workers on our jobsite. This is for only four houses. Granted, they’re big houses for approximately 20 people each, but still just four houses. Granted they’re houses scheduled to be completed (at least the contractors portion) in April, but they’re still just four houses!

To anyone used to construction in the US that means one of two things. Either you’re crazy and about to lose a ton of money, or those are going to be the four most beautiful houses in the world (or at least pretty well crafted).

Want to know why it makes sense in our situation? Because journeymen (skilled labor) make about 80 cents an hour and helpers make 50 cents an hour. And yes, that would be the Nicaraguan equivalent to union wages.

Next month, labor wages jump 20% and while that affects us badly for future buildings because of the quantity of labor normally used, for each individual worker, that is still only 96 or 60 cents per hour depending on experience level.

Our contractor has a good relationship with his workers and treats them well. Their families come to have lunch with them onsite. They’re skilled and work hard. They’re able to work close enough to where they live they go home every night (this is unusual).

But when labor is less expensive than machines and gasoline, this is how you move bigger objects:

And this is how you do a concrete pour:

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