How do you continue construction amidst a global pandemic?
With ongoing concerns over a new wave of COVID-19 approaching and the everyday risk of an outbreak on the job site, managers must act proactively throughout projects to avoid major delays and cost overruns to continue construction.
As nearly everyone in the construction industry knows, many project plans need to adjust along the way to meet the demands around them. These changes result from a lack of resources, new client demands, or even a global pandemic that can halt projects in their tracks.
In March, COVID-19 shut down or slowed nearly every project in the U.S. and Europe. Fast forward to today, those same construction projects have adapted. From moving orientations online to virtual inspections, operations on the job site have changed to continue construction on projects. A reminder that even when we think the world stops, construction does not.
But despite companies operating under the ‘new normal,’ it’s essential to accept that these times are called unprecedented for a reason. None of us can predict the future, highlighting how critical project prioritization techniques and its execution are.
Here’s what you need to keep top of mind to continue construction:
1. Decide which sites are most at risk and make them your top priority.
To determine which projects are most at risk, consider all project sizes, and the proximity required on-site for workers to complete their job. If a project has a more considerable amount of people working within a smaller perimeter, overcrowding is more likely. This means that the chances of COVID-19 transmission are increased. In addition to this, work could be forced to stop if safety standards, such as social distancing, aren’t met. Large sites where workers aren’t as cramped may not face these problems.
2. Next, consider the three C’s; Cost, Customer, and Available Contractors
Cost: Prioritize features according to criteria such as costs when your project has a set budget, and financial restrictions are tight. You should inspect and identify every possible course of action and note the predicted price to each item. Select the option that stays in budget while still delivering the most value. Managers should first prioritize tasks that are crucial and required for the decided course of action.
Customer: It could often be the case on-site that the project requirements are more significant than your project costs. Timeline, for example, could be more influential on some projects than others. It could be true that the price of delays may be higher than the extra costs for finishing on time. When you distinguish each project’s critical functions and requirements, you can then prioritize the actions necessary to carry out any plan to put them in place and continue construction.
Available Contractors to work: Outside of costs and special requirements, it’s essential to consider the skilled workforce and unique materials you may require to continue construction. Skilled labor or supplies of specialized construction materials could run short. When your goal is to finish the project as soon as possible, managers should prioritize tasks that already have the appropriate workforce and supplies required. Projects advancing in build can adapt and identify shortages, hire more workers, and find materials needed in tandem to ongoing work on-site. As areas of the project finish, the workforce and materials will free up, allowing you to prioritize new action items. This shines a light on project productivity, helping your project progress towards completion.
3. Finally, develop a Project Risk Matrix
Now that you have a clear picture of each project’s unique requirements, you can form an accurate risk matrix, helping you continue construction appropriately. Creating a ‘Project Risk Matrix’ is an effective way to decide which projects are most likely to be affected negatively by the pandemic and why. To create a project risk matrix, form a spreadsheet to list any projects you’re working on and the risks associated with COVID-19.
Some of the most common risks include:
- Material delays
- Chance of work stopping
- Lack of resources
Provide each one of these risks with a score, e.g., 1 (low risk) to 5 (high risk). To work out these scores, it’s sensible to set up interviews with Schedulers, PM’s, and Superintendents to find out which problems will be most challenging to deal with. When each risk is provided with a number, it should become clear which projects are highest at risk by the overall number.
Example Project Risk Matrix:
|Project Risk Matrix- Project 1|
|Chance of work stopping||4|
|Lack of resources||2|
In this case, the most important problem to deal with seems to be the chance of work stopping. It’s vital to recognize why and do everything possible to try and reduce the risk.
When you’ve identified all external factors to continue construction, and thought of every possibility that can cause harm or delays and internal practices and procedures than can add cost or time to work, your next step is to select an action plan to complete your goal. It’s vital to stick to this plan and communicate new or refocused expectations to your employees and subcontractors. This will help your team continue construction and avoid mishaps down the line.
The industry responded to COVID-19 swiftly and safely in its initial outbreak. Now it’s time for project and safety managers to be both agile and proactive, ensuring continued work and progression towards completion. None of us can predict the future, but managers can analyze project functions, requirements, and obstacles to overcome to give better insight into the appropriate and intelligent way to move forward.