As the COVID crisis continues to impact the world, its effects on the US economy and the construction industry is rapidly evolving. Shelter-in-place, social distancing, and travel restrictions are likely to impact much of the population for the foreseeable future. 

While progress on construction projects deemed essential continues, many other jobsites have been shut down or put on hold indefinitely. To combat the economic distress caused by this pandemic, the federal government has begun discussing a massive infrastructure stimulus. Even with this type of federal mandate, both the long-term industry impact and economic consequence remains nearly impossible to predict.

In this type of environment, the future of our industry is far from clear. However, what is undeniable is that the impact of this pandemic on the economy and construction will drive lasting change.

Technology’s Role in The Future of Construction 

One of the most significant challenges has been the sudden shift in the way management operates within this new environment. As management personnel have been ordered to shelter-in-place, construction teams find themselves working from home and supporting their projects remotely. While this new paradigm largely feels temporary, how companies manage communications and operations during this time will have a lasting impact on the future outcome of many firms.

One immediate question that arises is how will technology in construction evolve during and after the crisis. Will companies continue to value legacy, on-premise software solutions when cloud solutions have become a proven necessity for remote work? What’s becoming clear is how vital it is that construction firms support their operations in these unusual times by effectively collecting, accessing, and leveraging data using flexible and innovative technology solutions.

New Challenges

The pandemic has created new management challenges for ongoing operations. Projects and companies will face significant impacts from shutdowns, labor mobility restrictions, and accessibility issues, all while large numbers of industry workers face lay-offs. Materials, supplies, and deliveries may be constrained, and many upcoming projects may be delayed or even completely reassessed as economic impacts become clearer. The following are some key considerations that many constructions teams will be forced to address:

1.Increased Need for Strong, Consistent Documentation

For projects already underway, documenting the impact of the pandemic on operations is critical to support the inevitable claims that will result. Whether it’s from deadline extensions, additional costs, impacts to production and productivity, all the way to Force Majeure, project stakeholders must be prepared to accurately document impacts so processing can be managed as efficiently as possible. This will not only drive rapid and equitable resolutions but will help the industry achieve a new normal as quickly as possible.

2.Understanding Potential Health Risks in the Field

For now, the primary concern is for the safety and welfare of our colleagues who remain in the field. That’s why at Rhumbix, we’ve been following the guidance released by the AGC in terms of monitoring for risks of exposure on job sites, and have created a new set of forms that can be leveraged by frontline personnel to validate whether anyone on the job site is feeling symptomatic, and/or has encountered anyone that has experienced symptoms. These forms are intended to be completed by front-line personnel and be used to track any current, and historical exposures should employees become sick later, and there is a need to contact trace who may also have been on the job site.

We’re proud to be a part of the construction industry and recognize the critical importance of protecting the health and welfare of workers at this time. In a future blog, we’ll include how other elements of the Rhumbix platform can support detailed monitoring of project impacts, and how we’re implementing tools to better gather needed data that better prepares our customers during this crisis. For now, we stand alongside our colleagues in the industry, as we all strive to mitigate the worst of the impacts from this unprecedented challenge.

 

Guy Skillett spent ten years on Bechtel jobsites building airports, bridges, smelters and mines on five different continents. He worked on everything from environmental management of dredging operations to project controls on capital installations for the largest mining companies. After leaving Bechtel Guy completed a master’s degree in construction management and worked as a visiting research scholar at UC Berkeley’s Project Production Systems Laboratory (P2SL). He now heads up the Rhumbix construction innovation team. At Rhumbix, Guy has advised companies like Hensel Phelps, Suffolk, DPR, and Turner on their digital strategy to improve productivity and efficiency where it matters most.

 

Have a field data question?

Our construction data expert Guy Skillett has you covered from how to evaluate new technology as part of a digitization strategy to best practices for budgeting, field production tracking and analytics. Learn how you can get your free digital strategy consultative session here.

 

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