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The ongoing pandemic has impacted almost every industry of our capitalist economy, ranging from retail and tourism to finance and automobile. The construction industry isn’t indifferent to these changes and is also suffering badly due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Unlike other industries, the construction sector can’t shut its offices and continue working remotely. Workers’ presence and movement is essential for the completion of construction projects.
Therefore, the industry has been incorporating several radical changes for the smooth execution of construction projects. This article discusses five tips that can help streamline a construction project during these trying times.
5 Tips to Streamline Construction Projects during the Pandemic
1. Embrace Technology
The construction industry has always lagged in embracing new technologies, but the COVID-19 emergency is changing it for the good as construction firms are looking for new ways to overcome the hindrances caused by it.
Though many countries have allowed construction activities to resume, contractors and developers are still reluctant to do so due to the challenges in adhering to the social distancing guidelines.
Statistically, only 28% of the construction and engineering companies have a strong digital strategy to tackle such difficulties. This can be seen as a wake-up call for companies that prefer to stick to traditional construction practices.
With the increasing accessibility to tools like Building Information Modeling and virtual reality, stakeholders can visualize projects before and during construction irrespective of their locations. Other equipment like drones, thermal cameras, and wearables can help with the remote supervision of site and workers.
Humanoid robots and autonomous and semi-autonomous construction equipment can supplement and assist workers to increase productivity at construction sites.
Also, bidding software, digital bid boards, and collaborative takeoff and estimation tools allow project managers and estimators to regulate their project network and work in sync even when working remotely.
2. Shift towards Modular Construction
The limitation on the number of workers at the job sites is delaying the projects, in turn, causing monetary loss to construction firms.
In these times, modular construction technique has emerged as a savior for the sector. Modular construction can be described as a streamlined assembly line process of building customizable units that can be erected at the desired location. Prefabricated components are built by the manufacturers at their facility and transported to the site for speedy deployment.
Modular construction technique reduces the number of workers required at a construction site and accelerates the overall construction process. This results in a shortened timeline that reduces the labor costs and keeps on-site overhead expenses in check, allowing stakeholders to work on multiple projects simultaneously without having to visit the sites.
3. Build a Safe Construction Site
Besides restricting the number of workers, it is essential to guarantee a safer place for the ones employed at sites. A committed effort from both, the owners as well as the workers will ensure a cleaner and hygienic work environment.
The employees should be provided with hand washing amenities, along with masks and protective equipment. Practices like regular temperature checks and controlled access to job sites should be widely implemented and strictly followed.
Special trackers that are compatible with wearable technology can be used to alert workers if they come in close proximity of each other. This data can also be used to identify exposed members if a COVID-19 case is discovered.
The machinery and tools at the site should also undergo regular sanitization and disinfection processes. The project safety managers should add these measures to the safety programs and site-specific safety plans.
4. Consider Revising Contract Clauses
Widespread disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic call for contractual provisions, concerning the consequences of such unexpected circumstances. These provisions can be divided into two broad categories.
The first category concerns the ‘force majeure’ clauses, which are included to limit liability in unforeseen situations or events outside the control of the parties involved, resulting in delay or cancellation of projects.
The pandemic has acted as a deterrent to several construction projects by slowing them down, but it hasn’t rendered them totally impossible to be completed. Therefore, this clause remains debatable over its applicability in the current scenario.
It is possible that construction contracts may be introduced with a COVID-19 or pandemic-specific clause to deal with liability in case of such a health calamity in the future.
The second category constitutes revision of certain laws in construction contracts that may provide a right to extension of a project and compensation for the costs incurred due to government restrictions.
This can defray state aid for some of the costs incurred by the contractors, and may also extend to employers who may be entitled to such benefits.
5. Enhance Supply-Chain Monitoring
The supply chain plays a crucial role in the successful delivery of a project. This includes replenishment of building materials and equipment at specific times and quantities throughout the project.
The pandemic has rattled the global supply chains, and therefore it is recommended to not only plan for the short-term, but to ensure seamless availability for the long term.
A designated team should be formed to continuously monitor the supply chain to make sure that your project is unaffected. The team can utilise real-time dashboard, coupled with past insights to improve the decision making for shifting supplier allocations when needed.
A number of technologies can also be implemented in this regard, like the use of 3D printing for manufacturing components. Artificial intelligence (AI) can also be used to predict shortages, demand spikes, and direct supplies, thus complementing the project requirement. IoT-based tracking systems with live status and location tracking features can help monitor shipments and orders.
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