Man Camps vs. Hotels: Which Is Better for Your Remote Construction Crew?
There’s a massive demand for construction services at the moment, and it only continues to grow.
According to Autodesk, the construction industry needs to “build 13,000 buildings each day between now and 2050 to support an expected population of 7 billion people living in cities.”
The abundance of opportunity means that construction companies have more options than ever. Crews are no longer bound by location — they are now bidding on projects across the nation and beyond.
As a construction manager or lead contractor, this means that you may have to book housing for your traveling team.
At Hotel Engine, we’re business travel experts and arrange remote work trips for construction workers every day.
Here are our tips to help you book lodging for your team’s next remote construction job.
Consider All of Your Housing Options
Whether sourcing locally or bringing your own crew, you’ll need key crew coordinators and project managers on-site — and they’ll need a place to stay.
Your job is to ensure that managers and traveling crew members are comfortable and safe. This means it’s your responsibility to find remote construction crew housing that fits your needs and budget.
You have two main options for housing your team:
- Man camp housing
Let’s talk about each of these options and how they compare.
Man Camp Housing
Man camps are temporary housing complexes where traveling tradespeople stay while they’re working on short-term jobs, such as oil pipeline construction or resource development jobs.
These modular housing units contain all of the basic features of traditional living spaces — bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, etc. — but can be disassembled or moved when the job is complete. They’re kind of like a cross between a mobile home and a shipping container.
Man camps have been a housing solution for transient workers since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Camps vary greatly in design and the level of comfort they offer. Companies are even building man camps equipped with spas, barbershops and tanning booths in an effort to make these temporary housing solutions (and the sometimes dangerous jobs they accompany) more attractive to workers.
Who Lives in Man Camps?
These modular constructions are often referred to as “oilfield housing” or “field camps” because they’re popular in the oil and natural gas industry. It’s common for mining crews, pipeline workers and other teams working in the resource extraction industries to reside in these camps.
They are also popular for traveling construction crews. These modular buildings provide a place where your team can eat and sleep during off-work hours.
Because oil workers use them so much, man camps are most commonly seen in American and Canadian oil boom hotspots (think Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, etc.).
However, construction companies use them in remote areas all over the U.S. and Canada.
Are Man Camps the Right Housing Solution for Your Remote Construction Job?
Work camp buildings have quite a few benefits. Their durability makes them good for laborers working on development projects. They also allow you to house your team on the job site, so they can step out the front door and get to work.
They’re not necessary for every crew, though.
For one, they aren’t the most cost-effective option for a small-to-midsize team.
If you’re staffing most of your team in the location of your project and only have to house 20 people, you probably don’t need remote workforce housing in the form of man camps. Shipping and assembly cost money on top of the module rental itself.
Their small profile can also make for cramped living quarters.
Slso, many workers aren’t crazy about the strict rules that come with man camp life. For instance, many prohibit everything from alcohol consumption to family visits.
Assuming there’s a hotel in or near town, you’re better off booking there — your team will get a better night’s rest.
Hotels tend to be a good housing option for remote construction teams.
They’re comfortable, clean, and they provide all of the amenities your team needs to feel at home on the road.
Especially in remote areas, hotels usually have large parking lots, so you’ll have plenty of room for vehicles to shuttle your team back and forth from the job site — and often heavy vehicle parking.
Also, most hotels have quite a few rooms with double beds, which means as long as your employees are alright with sharing) you can save money by housing two employees in a room.
Hotels often have recreational facilities like pools and restaurants where everyone can relax and hang out after a hard day’s work. Free breakfast and 24-hour coffee access can help boost your team’s productivity without costing you money.
Will a Hotel Have Enough Room for My Team?
Big teams have big housing needs. You might need ten or twenty rooms to make sure everyone has a bed.
Most hotels will be more than happy to reserve all the rooms you need, and they may even give you a bulk discount.
However, you have to make sure that the rooms will be available during the dates of your project to ensure that they can provide all the rooms you need when the work needs to be done.
How do you figure out if the hotel you want to book has rooms available (and if you can get a deal)?
You have two options:
1. Write a request for proposal (RFP) to the hotel
An RFP is a document you send to hotels that lets them know you’re interested in booking a large block of hotels with them.
We have a full hotel RFP guide here, but basically, it’s a way to let hotels know that you’re looking for a certain number of rooms during a specific time.
If they have the rooms available, they’ll send back a proposal with a price. From there, negotiations are open. You can accept the rate, ask for a lower price and wait for their response, or turn down their offer and look elsewhere.
Related: RFP Tools to Help You Book Lodging
2. Partner with a hotel booking service
Booking room blocks can be difficult. Hotels don’t always have big blocks of rooms available at any given time. It could take you weeks to find a place within your budget that has what you need.
Or, you can partner with a lodging service like Hotel Engine. We’re good at getting corporate hotel discounts for companies like yours, and we’ll negotiate on your behalf so you can focus on your project.
Hotels vs. Man Camps
Hotels and man camps are two of the best housing for your remote construction crew. Before you choose one, let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
In most cases, we think hotels are better than short-term housing options like man camps. When you book a hotel, you provide your crew with a space that is separate from the worksite.
Man camps keep your crew on the project site itself, which has both its benefits and drawbacks. When living at a camp, your team can pretty much wake up, roll out of bed and get to work.
While this may seem appealing from an efficiency standpoint, it can be detrimental in the long run for your team’s morale and health.
Conversely, a hotel may be further away from the job site and necessitate you to set up transportation for your crew at the start and end of the workday.
Yet, housing your work crew in a hotel can help create a clear division between the workday and your employee’s free time, which can reduce stress and depression. Hotels also offer access to amenities for workers to enjoy in their downtime — which are likely absent on the job site.
Masonry Magazine discusses this very topic and the importance of creating a balanced work-life schedule for your crew.
How to Book Lodging for Your Construction Crew
Partnering with a lodging management service makes it easy to book remote crew lodging that meets your needs and budget. All without hours wasted scrolling Google and tourist-focused hotel websites.
Whether you go the man-camp route or decide to house your team in traditional hotel rooms, managing business travel will always be a hassle if you go it alone.
Think of how much work it entails:
- Researching locations and amenities
- Negotiating room rates and planning reservations
- Tracking expenses and managing budgets
- Juggling multiple and rotating crew members
- Solving lodging issues as teams arrive
… all of this on top of your other hiring and management duties.
That’s why corporate lodging services exist. We’ll track down the best deals, negotiate on your behalf, and help you manage your bookings.
That way, you’ll have more time to focus on the other parts of your job!
How to Find the Right Lodging Management Company
There are many companies that address corporate travel needs, but there are a few things you should look for in a provider:
Finding the perfect accommodations can take days. After all, you need a place that meets your exact criteria:
- Close to your job site
- Has the number of rooms you need
- Available during the time of your project
- Offers the right services and amenities (WiFi, on-site parking, etc.)
- Priced within your budget
All of those needs can make it hard to find the right place for your team, but the right partner will have a catalog of hotels in every corner of the world, from the most cosmopolitan city to the most rural areas.
This means you’ll always have plenty of housing options to choose from near your site.
Working with a travel management service is a collaborative process; we provide expert advice, and you make all the important decisions.
Because it’s a collaborative process, the best services give you access to a shared software program where you can view and track all of your travel info.
Search according to your specific criteria, browse deals that aren’t available to the public, and manage your upcoming bookings — all in one place!
Business lodging and personal lodging are very different. Business-centric lodging managers understand that difference and will leverage it to secure pre-negotiated corporate rates and unique services for your team.
Working with someone who understands the needs of your business can make a big difference in both the cost and quality of accommodations.
We negotiate rates for crew lodging and project-based stays around the country. Learn how our Group Bookings service can help you save big on hotel rates.
You can also pay for your lodging using our automated monthly direct billing invoicing system. Set specific travel policies and authorize crew members to book their own rooms, so they have the freedom to select their lodgings while staying within your set budget.
Finding the perfect lodging for your construction crew can seem daunting at first. We hope the info we provided lifts some of the burden off your shoulders.
Hotel Engine is your remote crew lodging team. Our customized hotel reservation and management solutions are built to make your construction trips easier.
Here are some of the benefits we offer:
- Free, no-contract membership
- 24/7, US-based customer support to help you quickly work through any issues with your hotel or reservation
- Financial reporting and analytics
- Team management tools
- Access to more than 700,000 hotel partners worldwide
Let us take the hassles of crew lodging off your plate and help your company tackle new opportunities. Contact us today to get started!
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.