Remember to Make a Clean Sweep

Any good builder will never let the broom get too far away. 

As I was sweeping up at our Mariposa Meadows project yesterday, I found myself a little amused by that familiar activity. You see, I have always maintained that the first tool you learn to use in construction is a broom, and even though we largely take it for granted, it may possibly be the last thing you’re allowed to operate at some point.  

I’d also like to think that any good builder never lets the broom get too far away. 


A clean workplace can say a lot about the way you conduct your business. There’s a saying that “you never get a second chance at a first impression.” When a client, or prospective client, your banker or insurance agent, the local building official, or one of your subcontractors, comments on how clean your job site is, you’re being told that they have a favorable opinion of your work. 

A tidy, well-maintained Jobsite is undoubtedly safer for everyone, but I think it also sets the tone for better work. It serves as a reminder that it’s important to clean up after ourselves, not only at our projects but as we go through life. Some people prefer to do it all at once and others like to do it as they go, but everybody has to get it done sooner or later, one way or another.

Back when I was building for clients, I was fortunate enough to have a self-employed construction site cleanup man who would do the sweeping and haul away job site debris on a regular basis. He cleaned the job site with such pride that it made you feel as though you could spread out a blanket and serve a picnic when he finished.  

He would also diligently separate the waste and recycle whenever possible. Doing so saved him a few dollars in tipping fees. He also made a few more dollars for the materials that had monetary value, such as cardboard, wood scrap, and metals. But he would have done it anyway, simply because it was the right thing to do. It served as a reminder that everyone’s work, no matter how humble, is important, and deserves to be respected.

Sometimes I wonder how we stack up as an industry when it comes to how we manage the things we’re responsible for, and what we leave behind when we move on to the next project. The waste stream from construction is immense, and it’s not just the onsite waste. We can’t ignore the impacts our activities have on air and water, other natural resources, and our footprint on the land itself. 

Building may well be the most conspicuously consumptive human activity. It’s right out in the open for everybody to see. But the results are among the longest-lasting things produced by humans. Barring some kind of disaster, a well-built structure will far outlast the working life of the builder. It is an inescapable part of his legacy.  

The same is true when it comes to evaluating how we leave things compared to how we found them. Keep the broom within easy reach. It’s not just about where we get to, it’s also about how we got there.