While we are still in the midst of the pandemic, it is starting to feel like the worst is over. Some parts of the country are starting to open up, and some parts of the economy are starting to recover. This has come as a welcome change for many of us. It has also given us the ability to examine the effect of the pandemic on different activities.
At the outset of the outbreak, construction was one of the industries that was forced to stop in many parts of the country. Even where construction was allowed to continue, many contractors paused their projects in order to limit the liability to their teams contracting the coronavirus. But, as a new report from the construction management platform Procore points out, not every type of project was affected equally. Smaller projects saw the biggest drop in hours worked, while medium and large projects fared much better.
Much of this has to do with the types of construction companies that do each type of project. Larger projects are almost exclusively done by large construction firms. These organizations were big enough to be able to put resources behind precautionary measures. Many even appointed staff to help oversee worker’s safety and update their procedures based on each county’s changing recommendations.
The slowdown in smaller projects is important to the real estate industry. The majority of property companies don’t do the type of ground-up development that would be considered a large project. Instead, most firms commission rehab and remodel projects. While these jobs are smaller, they are no less important. A delay in a small project can slow a building’s time to market just as much as a large project can. And, maybe more in real estate than any other profession, time is money.
Even though smaller projects were the most adversely impacted by the pandemic, it should be noted how fast they have come back. Since early June, small projects have gotten back to their March 1st levels, and in July, they have almost caught up with the larger ones. There are a lot of reasons that smaller companies have been able to make such a miraculous rebound back to work, one of which being technology’s increasing role at the construction site.
Even if the workers were able to return to work, oftentimes it was the inability of managers to get to job sites that was causing the slowdown. Jim Boots, Senior Vice President of Construction at Justus Companies explained how technologies like Procore were able to prevent some of the problems that come with a remote team, “We can monitor schedules, process pay apps, manage contract issuance, address RFIs and observations, and more from wherever we are working.” He cited the ability to upload photos to the platform as a reason that many important decisions were able to be made remotely.
Even though we are seeing a slow in the spread of the virus, concerns still remain. Construction teams need to find ways to reduce their exposure. One easy way is to work with digital plans, rather than the physical ones that have been the norm for decades. “By having a portal to transfer information in a non-contact vessel allows us to reduce our construction footprint to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Evan Crouch, Project Executive at Crestline Construction.
Labor constraints are only one of the repercussions of the pandemic. Global supply chains have also been disrupted, making material procurement for many types of construction slower and more expensive. By having all vendors and subcontractors on a job use the same platform, any possible impediments due to lack of materials can be caught early and communicated to all the stakeholders.
Problems are an inevitability when it comes to construction. But, now more than ever, any project runs the risk of going over time and over budget. Initially, many smaller projects were paused or slowed while local contractors had to get their new procedures in place. But it is looking like these smaller companies have been able to quickly catch up to their larger counterparts. This has helped get people back to work, get the real estate industry back on track and help improve our struggling economy. We still don’t know what the future holds, we might see another spike in cases. But we do know that we will be more prepared than the last time, with techniques and technologies in place that can help keep America building, remodeling and repairing its vital building stock.