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Resources and guidance for supporting employees, customers, and partners during this unprecedented health crisis.

  • June 22, 2020

How COVID-19 Is Changing Construction

This is a syndicated post, view the original post here

This post will be regularly updated with stories about how companies across the engineering and construction industry are navigating and adjusting to COVID-19 challenges as we all look toward a rebound.  

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Atul Khanzode, Management Committee Member, DPR Construction
Published: June 22, 2020

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We’re all being asked to solve new problems arising from COVID-19. What’s one such problem your organization has dealt with?

Atul Khanzode (AK): The crisis required us to take a closer look at how we keep job sites operational while ensuring safe physical distancing for workers and project site staff. We collaborated with craft workers and customers to see how many shifts we can work, how we can plan work to ensure distancing, what sort of PPE (personal protective equipment) we need when distancing isn’t possible, what sort of pre-screening protocols we need, and more.

The result has been the ability to keep projects online and workers on the job. We’re very proud of the attention craft workers place on safety every day.

For other site staff, leveraging technology to determine who needs to be on site, and at what times, has been a key consideration. Digital and virtual collaboration tools have become vital to ensure we have seamless operations.

How is the situation reshaping expectations and relationships among owners, general contractors, and subcontractors?

AK: It has helped that all project partners are in the same boat. We know that projects can be successful only if we work together. Most workplaces are taking measures to ensure employee safety, so it puts everyone in the mindset of leveraging the necessary tools to do as much remotely as possible.

That said, one area of emphasis we’ve had is ensuring every project partner understands the need to keep committed money moving, especially because that keeps subcontractors healthy. There’s a real risk to the subcontractor community if subcontractors can’t get paid in a timely manner.

The industry needs to focus on the entire invoicing process and making sure it functions in an efficient and timely manner. We all need to make sure everyone feels invested in the health of the entire construction community.

What lasting changes do you think the COVID-19 situation could bring to construction project management?

AK: In a sense, the crisis has provided the push we’ve needed to put technology tools to work. Our industry has held on to a lot of face-to-face collaboration.

While many parts of that will always be the preferred way of working, the pandemic has done more to get people comfortable with virtual and remote work.

We have examples of inspections being conducted virtually. We’re seeing how robust virtual design and construction (VDC) programs are enabling work by different functions in more places.

VDC means more opportunities for digitally fabricated, multi-trade/multi-scope prefabrication of components. We expect cost and schedule certainty to be an even higher priority for customers as the economy recovers.

As we continue to deal with COVID-19, prefab helps take some of the workers away from the site and allows more space for distancing. Materials can be procured at optimal times and labor can be engaged when it is available, helping to physically spread out the labor needed and deliver value.

With strong VDC programs and more advanced prefab capabilities than ever before, this should be a consideration on every project and will absolutely change the way we work. Overall, we have been focused on any sort of technology that improves efficiency in the way we deliver projects—from early design through occupancy.

We expect those solutions will be an even higher priority coming out of the pandemic.

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Dave Corcoran, Vice President, Graham Construction
Published: June 22, 2020

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We’re all being asked to solve new problems arising from COVID-19. What’s one such problem your organization has dealt with?

Dave Corcoran (DC): Maintaining social distancing on sites has been a challenge that we have had to be innovative to deal with. One strategy we employed on our multi-story building projects was to designate some stairwells as “up” and others as “down.”

How is the situation reshaping expectations and relationships among owners, general contractors, and subcontractors?

DC: We have found that effective communication has never been more important. Owners want to know how their projects are being impacted and what we are doing to help maintain the scheduled productivity in a safe manner.

Subcontractors want to know that you have protocols in place to keep their staff safe while allowing them to still work relatively effectively. By demonstrating strong planning, we have been able to satisfy these needs.

What lasting changes do you think the COVID-19 situation could bring to construction project management?

DC: We are seeing that many people can effectively work remotely if they have the proper technology. We have also learned that we do not need as many in-person meetings and can significantly reduce traveling.

We see the increased use of technology as an effective way to improve how we deliver projects while offering staff more flexibility in where they work.

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