As the UK Government turns its attention to recovering from the unprecedented crisis, which is COVID-19, a key component to their COVID-19 recovery strategy is to focus on the construction industry to help revive the nation’s economy.
One of the largest industries in the UK, the construction sector employs an estimated 3.1 million workers and exports billions of pounds-worth of products and services each year. The sector has been badly affected by COVID-19, and the UK Office of National Statistics has reported that construction activity fell by 2.6% overall in Q1 2020, and by 5.9% in March alone.
With the industry making significant contributions to economic output each year, the sector has the opportunity to lead the way in rebuilding local economies by delivering much needed social infrastructure and securing high levels of employment over the next decade.
On 1 June 2020, the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) COVID-19 task force published their plans for a post-COVID revival of the sector. The CLC’s three-pronged plan – restart, reset and reinvention – outlines a roadmap to recovery for the industry. In this blog series, we’ll explore the top two takeaways for each phase of the CLC’s plan and how construction companies can begin to prepare.
Whilst construction work was permitted to continue in England during lockdown, unlike in Scotland where all non-essential sites were ordered to close, many construction projects faced difficulties securing labour and materials as well as experiencing delays caused by disruption to the supply chain. As companies came to terms with the government’s guidance on social distancing and the CLC’s Site Operating Procedures, some projects suffered major setbacks and inefficiencies. Although essential for the safety of all, limitations to the numbers of workers permitted on a site caused significant delays to project milestones. In the worst of cases, some sites were unable to continue operating due to a lack of appropriate measures to control the spread of COVID-19 and protect the safety of workers and the wider public.
Restoring and increasing levels of construction activity will help significantly in driving the national economic recovery, but it is predicted that it will take the industry at least two years to recover lost ground, according to The Construction Products Association. They estimate that construction output will fall by 25% in 2020, with the largest falls in activity in private housing, commercial construction and private repair maintenance and improvement.
The restart phase – the first in the CLC’s three-pronged plan looks at the short-term measures that need to be taken by companies to stabilise the industry and help construction projects get back on track.
1. Increase output by harnessing technology to support productivity
Increasing output is a key area of focus and construction companies should look to technology to help ensure they can stay compliant with social distancing legislation on sites, without reducing productivity significantly.
The CLC also suggest that planning expiry dates should be extended to reduce bureaucratic disruption, but companies can take action to ensure their records are up-to-date, stored in accessible locations for all project partners and proactively addressing any delays caused by expired permissions.
PlanGrid, an Autodesk Construction Solutions product, can be used to store COVID-19 safety checklists remotely in one place which will not only protect the safety of those working on site but also provide all parties involved on a project instant access to relevant safety records at the click of a button. For PlanGrid users, the COVID-19 construction safety checklists are accessible within Field Report Templates, find out more in this video here.
2. Minimise disruption to current construction projects by embracing collaboration tools
When it comes to collaboration, the industry has come together to share ideas and best practice on how to keep operating through COVID-19. Building on this shared sense of responsibility to keep the UK’s infrastructure projects on track is vital in minimising disruption. Companies can do this by adopting innovative and virtual technologies across the entire construction lifecycle which enhances opportunities for collaboration and transparency.
With projects being stalled at short notice without anticipation from parties involved, there’s an increased risk of contractual disputes in the supply chain which have the potential to impact projects substantially. Having access to up-to-date project documentation for all parties involved in delivery will support collaboration and reduce the impact of any delays.
By investing in better tools for collaboration at every level of the project lifecycle, construction companies can reduce delays caused by interruptions in access to project documentation and mis-communication stemming from partners not having access to the latest project data. There is an abundance of resources available to help construction teams improve how they collaborate – whether in the office or remotely, especially in light of today’s challenging environment.
We’ve compiled some of the top approaches in our 8 Strategies to Improve Virtual Collaboration in Construction blog post here.
We’ll continue with our series next week — discussing takeaways from the reset phase. Subscribe to our blog for weekly updates.