Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 in the Construction Industry

Construction industry will require rethinking new normal, embracing tech, re-evaluating processes.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.)

(Image courtesy of Pexels.)

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the construction industry created nearly immediate effects. Faced with cancelled projects, supply chain disruption and other short-term issues, approximately 40 percent of U.S. construction firms reported layoffs by the end of April. Already a volatile industry that relies on a robust economy, companies are having to think on their feet and consider what the future of construction will look like.

When the pandemic hit, the U.S. was already facing a housing shortage. As it spread, the construction industry stepped up to assist with turning facilities into makeshift hospitals and donating needed equipment. While some states allowed the continued construction of housing, many were forced to shut down completely. Those that have been fortunate to continue have had to rethink processes to incorporate new safety protocols, restrictions and a continued shortage of supplies.

Moving forward will likely not be a quick return to business as normal. In a recent in-depth, collaborative article, industry experts explored the short and long-term effects, as well as what a new normal may have to look like for an industry that has long been slow to embrace digitization and already faced rising costs, labor shortages, more stringent requirements and limited supplies.

Both immediate and future changes needed to weather the current situation and its lingering effects point to the increased use of technology and rebalancing supply chains. Incorporating remote working options via BIM, drones or robots to assist with social distancing, 4D simulation and other innovations can greatly impact efficiency and productivity. When it comes to supply chain, finding alternative suppliers, building inventory and developing enhanced process for securing critical or long-lead time items is vital, as well as making the move vertical integration.

Along with digitization, long-term changes may come in many forms depending on the firm’s expertise. In a time when social distancing has become necessary, off-site construction has proven to be a way to keep things moving. It allows for a controlled environment that makes it easier to follow safety guidelines, as well as can increase construction times and enhance quality.

With more focus on sustainability and green living, firms may find new opportunities to help meet government guidelines. Whether retrofitting a building for improved energy or designing structures for healthier living, embracing those trends may prove to be essential for the firm’s own sustainability.

Although there are no tried and true answers, there seems to be no time like the present to begin incorporating technology and other changes to take the future of construction to the next level. When doing so, the following are seven suggested actions for success from industry experts: 

  • Invest in employees and the company culture. Provide and train employees on new tools and technologies. 
  • Be prepared for resource allocation across projects and have the ability to quickly identify and respond by incorporating technologies with real-time transparency. 
  • Fortify supply chains. Identify vulnerabilities and find options to counter them before being faced with a shortage. 
  • Readjust business priorities. Capital and resources may need to be deployed elsewhere. 
  • Consider preassembly options. A controlled environment provides numerous benefits. Even small elements or subsystems being preassembled can assist with sustainability efforts, quality and employee safety. 
  • Maintain close customer relations. The world has changed, and customers have changed with it. Customer and consumer trends are shifting away from the old ways of working, shopping and living. 

Interested in how other industries are being affected by the coronavirus? Check out How COVID-19 Is Accelerating Telemedicine Technology and How the Space Industry Is Working Around the Coronavirus Pandemic