The success of building projects typically hinges on the alignment of schedule, budget and scope. Seasoned construction businesses will always include contingency measures to mitigate against any risk or disruptions that could affect these three key elements.
COVID-19, however, has created a number of unforeseen and unprecedented anomalies that have sparked global concerns around the supply and manufacture of materials and goods, health and safety concerns and restrictions, including social distancing, travel, and free movement, and the financial viability of some projects.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 and its ability to traverse borders and oceans, shut down travel, curb free movement across international and state borders, and cripple economies has sent precautionary ripples through the construction industry in relation to the reliance on stable supply chains, manufacturing capabilities and Just-In-Time stock levels in the context of a global market. Both large and small construction businesses have come under extreme financial pressure, having faced cancelled projects, disruptions to the supply chain and other such short-term issues.
Maintaining the correct balance between schedule, budget and scope makes for a fragile and volatile construction industry ‘eco-system’ – it has also highlighted the fact that there may be a heavy, perhaps even an (over)reliance, on a global status quo of supply and demand.
The construction industry is well-versed in planning ahead and having contingency measures in place, including dealing with supply delivery delays and international holidays and festivals that could impact the timeline and the bottom line. These contingencies may include extended delivery times, and stockpiling certain materials like steel. However, contingencies are only ever meant to be a short-term solution before ‘business resumes as usual’ and COVID-19 has presented the construction industry, and indeed many industries, with the unprecedented scenario of an uncertain end date.
Embracing the necessary changes and introducing creative solutions to common construction industry issues could positively impact efficiency, supply and productivity. It could also allow for a more controlled environment that will make it easier to follow safety guidelines, enhance the quality of the build, and improve construction times.
No sector, including the construction industry, is expected to come out of this pandemic unscathed. Businesses are already facing labour shortages, rising costs, limited supplies and more stringent health and safety requirements.
What is certain is that ‘fortune favours the brave’ and, in these uncertain economic times, it will be important for businesses, and even whole sectors, to come up with creative solutions, embrace new technologies, and refocus their efforts on sustainability. In order to meet the demands of a changed world in which expectations have changed, the construction industry will need creative solutions to protect against the fragility of the supply chain, embrace the benefits of technology, and to focus on cleaner, greener living standards.
Although it is unclear, at this stage, when this pandemic will be brought under control, or what the total cost and effect of the pandemic will be to countries, economies and industries, the construction industry can use the lessons learnt to-date to review certain business practices, including possible contingencies. Although it’s not possible to prepare for every eventuality, those within the construction industry certainly have the drive and the appetite to come up with creative solutions that will enable them to continue to successfully complete building projects in a sustainable, post-pandemic environment.