As construction sites reopen under the new CLC Site Operating Procedures, no one can deny the paradigm shift in the way the industry works.
Covid-19 is shaping a new normal that will affect every aspect of construction. The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out traditional working methods for the near future. It's time to pause and reflect on the way forward.
The crisis has thrown the spotlight firmly on health and wellbeing and the CLC protocols take a common-sense approach to the impact of social distancing on standard working practices.
But constructors shouldn't expect to be able to bring their entire workforce back on site as soon as lockdown officially eases. Social distancing and hygiene guidance will stay in place for months and even years.
Then there are the mental health aspects of months of uncertainty to address. And if the lockdown is imposed again, workers may struggle with childcare and transportation.
From the track and trace app to virtual inspections, technology is set to have a major impact on construction. In one of the more positive outcomes from the pandemic, digital transformation is set to make construction sites more efficient and flexible.
Contractors have found new ways to interact with customers and project teams by leveraging web-based tools that create ways to social distance without impacting delivery times. Remote working is another trend set to continue post-coronavirus, with anxious employees having the option to work from home.
It's also highly likely that open plan will give way to new office layouts that promote good practice in distancing and hygiene.
Covid-19 has already reshaped the kinds of projects that are likely to be built through the remainder of 2020. HS2 is investing in working teams to assess the future of travel and how that could impact on the design of trains and stations. And modular is finally leveraging all its advantages over traditional construction, with new facilities that bring together innovative techniques with built-in distancing measures.
Where Covid-19's impact will be most clearly seen is in construction schedules. With the need to balance deadlines and duty of care paramount, new ways of working will prove disruptive. Revised shift patterns, rescheduling of work so that only one trade is present on-site at a time and protection measures such as suiting up with PPE will all slow progress, at least in the short term. The challenge will be to find ways to fast track new projects with safety baked in.
Recalibrating the supply chain
One issue that Covid-19 has exposed is the fragility of some supply chains. And with Brexit still in the pipeline and continuing global uncertainty causing market volatility, recalibrating supply chains will be a top priority post-lockdown.
Of course, contractors are no strangers to risk. Many will see the opportunities in the new normal to forge new networks and move towards new methods of delivering projects. Balancing the risks and rewards in the new post-Covid-19 world could be rewarding for constructors who can plan long term.