Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the construction industry. Shelter-in-place orders have inevitably created construction delays, and while some contractors can continue working, most non-critical building projects have been placed on hold until the threat to the general population has been contained. As a result, general contractors are going to have to revise their construction schedules, which is going to cost some a lot of money and may drive others out of business.
To mitigate these construction delays, builders and contractors need to take proactive steps to ensure they are ready to make up lost time when it’s time to go back to work. By preplanning and adopting new building strategies like off-site construction, those builders will be ready to get back to work and shorten construction timelines to get back on schedule.
How Coronavirus Impacts Construction
The coronavirus epidemic is having a nationwide impact on the building industry, but the specific rules and regulations affecting construction projects vary from state to state and by jurisdiction.
The impact of COVID-19 is already being felt. According to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 28 percent were asked by an owner or government agency to stop work, 11 percent were asked to stop future work, and 22 percent received notice from suppliers that deliveries would be late or canceled. Project delays were reported as well. Sixteen percent said they experienced a shortage of materials or equipment, 11 percent said they had a shortage of skilled labor and subcontractors, 18 percent saw a shortage of government workers, and 8 percent said they had to respond to a COVID-19-infected worker on the job site.
The full economic impact on municipalities has yet to be determined, but it’s certain that most of them will have to cut back on construction projects. While some contractors are busy retrofitting hospitals and helping with short-term projects to meet the current crisis, expect to see a slow economic rebound and a falloff in non-essential projects.
Everyone in the construction business is concerned about the impact this pandemic will have on their business. Up until recently, many companies continued working, despite social distancing guidelines. Others were worried about their reputation, as well as the health and safety of others, and opted to shut down prior to being required to do so by the state or local governments. Regardless, depending on the length of the COVID-19 restrictions, many smaller contractors and builders may not be able to fully recover, especially smaller subcontractors and suppliers.
To prepare for the end of the shutdowns, general contractors should stay in contact with their subcontractors and suppliers to see what has changed and how those changes will impact construction schedules.
Preparing for the New Normal
What happens when the restrictions are lifted? It will clearly take some time to get back to business as usual. Everyone in the construction industry will have to scramble to get schedules back on track. But it won’t happen overnight.
Worker safety will remain a primary concern and may slow down the return to work. A Construction Dive survey showed that 70 percent of workers are anxious about the virus, so builders are going to have to alleviate workforce fears to help get them back to work. In addition, residual issues, such as lack of materials, closed schools and public transit, are going to continue to create construction delays. Gantt charts will have to be adjusted to accommodate such delays. For example, some out-of-state suppliers may be operating under different restrictions, which could affect deliveries.
However, this pandemic won’t likely have as big an impact on larger construction contracts as it will on smaller construction jobs. Smaller projects will require tighter cost controls and shorter timelines, and general contractors may not have the resources to keep staff available for when restrictions are lifted. Construction delays also will create a backlog that will affect future projects.
Going Modular Reduces Construction Delays
One way to get ahead of this situation is to place orders for manufactured components today. By ordering modular units now, such as integrated switchboards and electrical distribution centers, they can be ready for delivery when the restrictions are lifted.
Modular fabricators like PCX are still in operation, taking orders to assemble new modular systems so that they will be ready for delivery. Orders can be scheduled to accommodate shifting timelines, regardless of the shutdown, and delivery can be timed to help you meet revised deadlines. PCX and other off-site manufacturers have the advantage of operating in a controlled environment where employees feel safe, so they can continue to work despite the pandemic.
Also, consider what working conditions will be like once the restrictions are lifted. Social distancing will undoubtedly continue, which means workers may be less prone to return to work, especially in densely populated areas. Construction companies also are going to have to develop new safety protocols to protect workers on the job, and some of those protocols are bound to have a negative impact on productivity.
By contracting for off-site construction, you can eliminate many of these problems. Building modules can be delivered to the site ready to be installed, which means faster build times with fewer personnel. The more pieces that are commissioned to be built off-site today, the faster the project can be completed.
These are challenging times for all of us, but off-site building can help get construction projects back on schedule. To learn more about the benefits of modular construction, be sure to read our Complete Guide to Modular Data Center Solutions. It will provide some insight into how modular designs are simplifying construction projects of any scale.