Navigating your Construction Project through COVID-19
The relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and reopening of the economy has become a delicate balance. As the return to everyday activity progresses, it is important to prepare in advance for this “return to normalcy,” which will almost certainly come in stages, especially as it relates to construction activity. As it happens, there will be numerous considerations depending on the stage of your project in the construction lifecycle, the status of the project stakeholders, and the implementation of revised or new safety requirements.
Projects that have been allowed to continue operations during COVID-19 restrictions should not expect normal work activity to be achieved as the stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed. Current social distancing and personal hygiene requirements will likely remain in place and continue to impact site access and worker productivity until a vaccine is developed or the severity of the virus wanes.
Careful consideration of social distancing and personal hygiene requirements should be applied to projects resuming operations following a shutdown as well as those starting from day one. The construction industry’s emergence from COVID-19 will be a slow, methodical process that will result in reduced productivity levels. Losses in productive time will come in many forms.
For projects that were suspended or restricted, a reforecasting of costs will be in order as many contractual Notice provisions require an estimated cost of the anticipated impacts to be provided to Owners. For new project starts, the same steps will be needed to justify changes in bid price.
Projects that have been shut down or slowed will need to account for demobilization and remobilization impacts. The pre-shutdown conditions and worker productivity must be thoroughly documented and communicated to all project stakeholders. This baseline condition will be critical to establishing the additional effort expended to remobilize and resume operations on site.
On projects that have been shuttered, scheduling impacts will need to be addressed before work can resume and some of those steps may be significant.
Validation of your project schedule will be necessary regardless of what stage your project was in when it was shuttered or otherwise impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. Some projects will require a recovery schedule to make up for delays and account for changes resulting from COVID-19. This schedule should memorialize the schedule scenario that was in effect before the project was impacted by the virus and it should clearly show what changes were made to recover from any resultant delays.
Notice of COVID-19 impacts submitted earlier should be amended to reflect current conditions, and the amended notices should accompany submissions of recovery schedules in order to: (1) strengthen contractors’ arguments for relief, and (2) allow the owner to evaluate the financial implications of following the recovery schedule. Regardless of whether a recovery schedule is submitted and/or accepted, regular monthly schedule updates should be prepared and submitted to document progress as well as any additional COVID-19 related impacts that may arise.
Supply Chain Impacts
Procurement is another serious consideration because, although construction may be allowed to resume in your area, there may be supply chain impacts.
Contractors should consult with their subcontractors and suppliers when they resume work. Overlooking these parties can give rise to unnecessary delays and claims. Clear communication on changes to the project and collaboration on recovery actions are some steps that can be taken to involve subcontractors and suppliers.
We will emerge from COVID-19, but it will take a concerted effort by all of us. It will be no different for the construction industry. Taking time now to consider and address impacts will set the stage for successful recovery that will benefit all stakeholders.