How the construction industry has responded to challenges created by Covid-19

There have been multiple challenges the construction industry has faced due to COVID, such as supply chain issues, suspension of work, risks to work force and many more. It has been essential that construction consultants are able to adapt and think laterally in order to keep projects moving.

With supply chains up and down the industry and the country are unable to source materials from overseas, some building sites were forced to shut down, with some evidence suggesting that over 85% of construction businesses have been impacted. For the sites that have remained open, significant modifications have had to be implemented to ensure safe working practices on site.

Immediate Action

While most construction workers can’t work from home, that doesn’t mean they can’t maintain social distance and limit the risk of transmission. Following Government and CLC guidelines, contractors have instituted new measures to help workers stay physically distant. These include practices like splitting shifts, staggering breaks and creating separate walkways for workers.
The biggest news in the construction industry during lockdown came in May, this was the UK Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced construction sites can open until 9pm. He also stated “In some cases, such as in areas without residential properties, extending working hours beyond this, including allowing 24-hour working where appropriate, may be justified.” This decision was made as extending hours was necessary to keep normal rates of productivity whilst keeping social distancing guidelines in place.

Many companies have started extensive hygiene practices. Workers are cleaning sites daily and sterilising frequently-touched items like tools and handrails as they are the most likely places the virus will spread. Gloves are becoming a part of standard-issue equipment instead of an option.

Remote work naturally isn’t possible for the majority of construction work. However, where it is viable construction companies and construction consultants are using online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to have meetings with clients or co-workers, just like so many other industries around the world. The construction industry has some unique challenges amid the outbreak, but it’s adapting to meet them.

Long-Term Adaptation

The longer the crisis continues, the greater the economic impact it will have. Forward-thinking construction consultants have scaled back their operations in anticipation of a reduced income over the coming months. This may mean fewer profits in the short term; however, it will help businesses adapt to an ongoing recession in the future.

The construction supply chain has been highly impacted, creating project slippage and extra costs. A greater focus on worker safety and increased cost pressure could accelerate the move to offsite construction methods. The ability to turn up on site with a structure almost entirely ready to go can only help when keeping workers apart. The biggest market for offsite construction is temporary accommodation, industrial sites and event hire, which is worth around £350m-£380m annually. Though the events industry is still down, there is likely to be some short-term demand from the health and possibly the grocery sector to expand consumer capacity through the pandemic.

Overview

Covid-19 challenges will force the construction sector to address some of its weak points and lead to a lasting improvement, according to an Arcadis report which outlines the views of 17 major contractors.

The construction industry will not disappear. It was essential before the outbreak, is essential now and will always be essential after the crisis subsides, this point was highlighted by the UK Governments ‘Build Build Build’ strategy to boost the economy. The sector will likely have to adjust to more significant changes, but it’s already proven it can do so. Through proper adaptation and preparedness, construction companies can and will weather the pandemic. Find out more about the RG Group Team here.

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