Where is Construction Today as a Result Of COVID-19?
By Tom Harrison
Over the last five months, paramount shifts have been made by many industries across the globe in response to COVID-19. For construction businesses, these modifications are likely to remain in place even after the virus subsides. Construction industry leaders are re-evaluating their current organizational processes, including the impact of unionized labor, increased technology implementation to facilitate projects, and alternative hiring practices. These appraisals have been conducted to confront and address both the short and long-term challenges presented in the pandemic.
A lack of digitizing and automating jobs, coupled with a competitive landscape, are only a few of the industry's challenges in the past. The presence of COVID-19 has only amplified many of these issues, forcing businesses to quickly make changes to their internal and external processes to account for these new circumstances. So, what exactly has changed, and how will this affect construction moving forward?
Increased Technology and Automation
With technology enhancing distanced working capabilities, the implementation of video conferencing will become more prominent to facilitate stages of project management across teams. This new technology function helps the flow of communication, but it may also become a necessary tool for the hiring process. For companies like Johnson Carlier, which is still hiring amid the pandemic, virtual interviews are a great way to conduct socially distanced meetings while still considering and accommodating peoples’ safety.
In addition to the increase of technology being used by internal employees, digitized tools have become a prominent part of external processes, such as presenting designs to clients and purchasing materials online. At the forefront is Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), the practice of digitally designing construction projects using computers and other technologies. During the pre-construction phase, VDC is an effective way to reduce waste, coordinate building elements and systems, and visually demonstrate ideas to clients while identifying potential conflicts in advance.
Union Opinion Will Be Impactful
Many construction companies rely on the presence of union workers to complete projects. With working conditions being adjusted to meet the new safety standards presented in the wake of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see how union workers respond to these changes. Despite the rapid decline of union memberships in recent years, the pandemic has offered trade unions an opportunity to re-establish their influence. As the construction industry continues to accommodate the pandemic by considering employee health, safety, and wages, this period offers many businesses an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to their employees.
Safer and Sanitized Job Sites
Transitions made to the corporate and organizational protocol, prompted by COVID-19, will have long-lasting effects on how businesses respond to crises and fluctuations in their industries. The importance of job safety and employee health has been at the forefront of many companies during the current pandemic. Within the construction industry, new policies are being put into place. From employee temperature checks before shifts, staggered shifts, and new equipment sanitation requirements, construction companies and contractors everywhere are doing their part during these unprecedented times. It’s likely these modifications will continue, even as the pandemic subsides. Safety as a priority has always been a series of processes and procedures, and the additional focus on personal health is no different. I see a continuation of and emphasis on overall “project hygiene” as an essential part of the future of construction.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Sept/Oct 2020 issue, Vol. 9, No. 5.