The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for all industries. The construction industry, in particular, has witnessed significant impacts with increasing project construction costs that even occur on a weekly basis, shortage of construction materials and available labor, disruptions in the supply chain. These impacts have resulted in unprecedented long lead times and other factors creating delays in the delivery time of completed projects.
It is wishful thinking to believe there will be a return to the “normal” of the pre-pandemic world. A more likely outcome will be a “new abnormal” because things are not likely to get back to “normal” in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is imperative for construction firms to prepare themselves for recovery by recognizing the construction management challenges and trends in a post-pandemic world.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated and expedited some trends that were already in motion. There are some drastic changes in the construction industry that will impact construction management. Here are some of those challenges and trends.
Changing Roles and Responsibilities
Construction supervisors and managers may experience a sudden surge in workloads and they will need to go the extra mile with administration and scheduling processes. A construction management platform is essential to overcome the challenge by having one that is capable of keeping schedules on track.
Shortage of Skilled Labor
A large segment of skilled people in the construction industry migrated from construction during the early stages of the pandemic. The construction project management function was challenging to the managers as they struggled to get the right resources and complete projects on time. The best response to this challenge may be to offer incentives for longer term skilled employees who are ready to stay and complete projects.
Supply Chain Bottlenecks
The supply chain and logistics disruptions will continue and result in elevated costs of materials and delayed deliveries. Supply chain bottlenecks will continue to negatively impact projects more often, which will threaten projects because of the potential to cause delays and missed deadlines. Identifying secondary suppliers early on and keeping supplies and raw materials in a “just in case” model are good ideas. Acting sooner, not later, is the key to survival in the “new abnormal.” Construction managers must evaluate the supply chains well in advance and identify secondary suppliers who can come to their rescue in the event of current suppliers being unable to deliver.
The impact of COVID-19 on construction managers has been dramatic. A reliance on remote work obstructed the collaborative approaches often seen within a traditional team environment. Lockdowns and border closures caused a major disruption to supply chains, and the risk of operating a business and managing projects skyrocketed. Managing a partial remote work force may remain a key to success in a post-pandemic world.
Risk mitigation is more essential than ever in the future of construction management. The potential of new and evolving risks such as lockdown measures or virus transmissions means construction managers must create comprehensive contingency plans that are frequently reviewed and updated.
Working with Contractors
Hiring the best contractors to assist on a project will be a challenge. Construction managers will need to consider the financial stability of a contractor to finish their project, carefully analyze contracts, and perform a risk analysis of all critical contractors to avoid potential disruptions to productivity.
More existing buildings will be repurposed. Existing buildings that have been abandoned or are not being used as they were intended provide opportunities for new occupancy. For example: An existing mall may be transformed into a mixed-use facility with apartments, condos, and retail. Many one level stores or strip malls are being converted to apartment buildings that may house 80 to 100 units, and also still have the retail stores at the street level simulating a similar shopping experience except that apartment living is now above the retail spaces.
Sustainability will be a continued trend. New green buildings are designed to use renewable energy and include recycled materials that help maintain successful sustainability and energy savings over the life of the building.
Prefabrication of walls, metal panels, millwork, and other custom types of projects are becoming part of the new thread of how more of the construction will be done off-site.
Construction management software, project management tools, and other mobile tools will play an increasingly important role in assisting the entire project team review daily reports, photos, additional work orders, requests for information, schedule, and so many more options.
Drones are becoming a new tool for surveying and inspecting construction projects. The drones provide a tool for an easier and safer method to survey the property or view the construction of an existing project.
Resilience is going to be a cornerstone of how to develop emergency preparedness and disaster recovery to: address near-term and long-term financial challenges; create a more agile plan during shutdowns or times of economic stress and to create a strategic plan to return to business operations and to scale as quickly as possible.
The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented and the challenges it has brought have been and are daunting. There is optimism in a post-pandemic world and now is an opportune time for construction management to leverage all that has been learned during the pandemic and to identify the opportunities that lie within the challenges of the future.
-Glenn Ebersole, Director of Business Development