Covid-19 has inevitably resulted in disruption and reduced productivity levels on site. Many sites are now well versed at setting up safely, with segregated entrances and exits and temperature tests for labour to give early warnings. But the challenge is how will Contractors increase productivity with less labour on site?
New ways of working are being assessed and developed, less labour-intensive installation methods being rolled out and prefabrication coming to the fore. Changes to a design while the project is live on site isn’t easy, however, and can often reduce productivity temporarily. My advice to clients when faced with this challenge is varied and situation-specific, but the key takeaways are early engagement with the Contractor, introduction of ‘plug and play’ technology and design review to select site materials that are labour friendly (in terms of weight and size).
In my opinion, the experience of site management and project planners will help to keep sites moving forward, with labour deployed in different ways around the site to enable the project to progress while maintaining social distancing.
Extended shifts will also help with this balance, as well as ease the pressure on site welfare facilities with so few places to buy food and drink currently open. Resequencing of works to enable a more trade-based approach and keep the same gangs working together also looks to be a good way forward, reducing the exposure to other labour and in turn reducing the risk.
Specialist material supply should now be less of an issue with most European factories reopening, but there will be some challenges with production backlogs delaying deliveries and, in turn, delaying later trades. Careful planning can mitigate some of the delay but inevitably there will be key pieces of the jigsaw missing on some projects. Our best advice here is to highlight the missing pieces early and understand what interfaces they affect. From here programme rescheduling and reselection of materials can assist.
The Construction Leadership Council’s Roadmap to Recovery Plan cites the need for the industry to be collaborative, resilient, and innovative. With that in mind, ensuring that the design team is working closely with the Contractor is the best way to keep a project moving forward safely and productively. It may result in changes but the earlier and more pragmatically these are debated and agreed, the better for the project outcome.
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