Effective Communication in the Constantly Changing World of Construction

By Miranda Iglesias


Construction can be a cluster of challenging deadlines and last minute contract changes, which is why keeping the community informed early and often is key to a successful outreach program. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SFPUC’s) Peninsula Pipelines Seismic Upgrade project is a perfect example. The project, located in San Mateo County, involves replacing 1.7 miles of water pipelines will also receive seismic upgrades that will help keep them intact during an earthquake. This project also highlights the program’s successful approach in community outreach over the last 10 years.

For the past two years I have worked with my team to inform the community and stakeholders about the construction work that will begin in their neighborhood this month. While most stakeholders were concerned about usual construction impacts, such as dust, noise and vibrations, our team encountered unique community concerns during the right of way process. Two property owners had been infringing on the SFPUC’s right of way for more than 20 years, and the upcoming pipeline construction required them to remove all items within the right of way. To ensure a smooth transition into construction, our team partnered and communicated essential information related to the removal of their belongings and responded to their requests during the environmental and pre-construction phases. As a result, when construction started this week, the project team received zero complaints as the contractor removed the stakeholder’s fences, landscaping and personal items from the SFPUC’s right of way.

Using a variety of ways to communicate the construction impacts ahead of time – including kitchen table meetings, hosting an open house, and sharing a project video (featured above) – our community outreach program has laid a solid foundation for communicating with neighbors and ensures that stakeholders understand the purpose and need for the pipeline replacements. While there may be hick-ups and unforeseen challenges once construction is underway, keeping the community informed early and often creates positive and productive relationships, builds support and acceptance for the project, and ultimately helps ensure the project’s timely completion.