With COVID-19 impacting communities and businesses around the globe, the construction industry is facing growing risk. Potential labor shortages, lack of materials, disruptions in supply chain, inspection and deadline delays and more are having a significant impact on the construction industry throughout the U.S. These factors will undoubtedly cause financial stress on contractors, developers, designers and owners.
Vestian’s Luke Wolbrink, Director of Project Management, discusses three primary ways to mitigate the impending uncertainty among the construction industry and how to plan for a brighter future.
1. Define Your Baseline
We have already begun to see how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting project schedules and budgets, many of which will fall into the Force Majeure clause of various contracts. In order to accurately identify the total effect on the project’s budget or schedule, we need to define the baseline. Taking additional steps to create project snapshots at specific points in time, before the project is impacted, will put you in a position of power in the event of a claim for increased cost or schedule delay.
Similarly, we can memorialize commitments our contractors and consultants make ahead of time. When they come back to us looking for an extension or additional funding to accelerate work, we can evaluate that claim more accurately. I suspect there will be an influx of concurring delay issues; was the milestone late because of the pandemic or the contractor’s mismanagement? Having a good baseline and documenting commitments will go a long way to help clients navigate that minefield.
2. Actively Communicate Across Projects
Active communication across projects will help uncover common concerns and will accelerate implementing solutions. Although each project is fluid and unique, we’re already seeing some common issues across the board. For example, due to health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of skilled labor and building departments are shutting down.
Increasing the cadence of communication among a project team to help identify issues before they occur is a must in this rapidly evolving climate. We’ve also encouraged our own internal team to regularly discuss the challenges and solutions they are seeing. Collaborating on those issues really benefits everyone from clients down to the smallest subcontractor.
3. Leverage Technology in New Ways
Thankfully, we live in a connected world with tools like video conferencing and collaboration platforms at our fingertips. We’re already finding new ways to use existing connectivity tools to solve problems caused by travel restrictions and social distancing. Virtual walk-throughs can be highly effective when facilitated by a strong protocol that involves technology tools such as cameras, video conferencing, and advance agendas to ensure no areas of the project are missed. While physical visits have traditionally been the norm for construction projects, the reality is that a strong Virtual Visit Protocol can be as effective in inspecting work progress and identifying and resolving issues. A bonus is that a virtual visit is easily recorded for broader stakeholders and future reference.
I think that it would not be out of the realm of possibilities, if faced with a building inspection shutdown, that one could invite the inspector on a virtual tour as a means of passing any one of the various approvals required. We’ve only scratched the surface on ways that we can leverage technology to reduce risks and increase efficiency on projects. I’m confident that as we encounter more and more novel issues, we will find new ways to leverage technology to mitigate the risks and impacts on our projects.
During this unprecedented time of uncertainty, it is evident that our business and communities will be impacted. While our projects may be facing new risks, unforeseen delays and growing financial stress, Vestian’s project management team has the solutions to ease and mitigate the process. For more information on how to effectively manage your projects during this unpredictable time, please reach out.
Luke Wolbrink brings over a decade of Program and Construction Management experience ranging from small coffee shops to high-rise hotels. His variety of experience is bound together by a strong focus on finding creative solutions to complex challenges. Luke has a track record focusing on his clients’ needs and sensitivities, while leveraging the experience of other professionals to deliver the desired end-product smoothly and successfully.