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COVID-19's impact on land development

Mar 24, 2020 4:00:00 AM

For some of us in land development, COVID-19 brings a new phase of working from home. But for our workers in the construction industry, that’s just not an option. Michael Keester, partner at Hall Estill, believes contractors, architects and construction workers will be heavily impacted by the spread of COVID-19. 

Construction workers + contractors are hit hard by Coronavirus


As COVID-19 continues to spread across the nation, the impact on major construction activities will become more profound. Labor shortages, delayed construction projects and reviewing contracts will be necessary for contractors, architects, construction managers, owners and lawyers. “Social distancing” policies may or may not be allowed on a per-contract basis, and some owners may simply stop all current work and prevent further construction to prevent the spread of the virus. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response act guarantees 2 weeks of paid sick leave to people who are sick or quarantined due to COVID-19, but this isn’t all-inclusive. Businesses with more than 500 employees are exempt (but may voluntarily provide paid sick time), and businesses with fewer than 50 employees and healthcare workers are also not included. These workers are forced between choosing the CDC recommendations and keeping their jobs + a source of income. 

San Francisco’s shelter-in-place ordinance allows work to continue on construction of public works, housing, airports, utilities, public transportation, internet and telecommunications. However, they must still comply with social distancing standards wherever possible. 

But in Boston, officials shut down all construction in the city, and Gilbane Building Co, Suffolk and other contractors are complying with the city’s request. And while the Boston mayor appealed to the city’s construction employers to lay off workers so that they can collect unemployment, this still isn’t enough for most workers. 

Architecture and property management are working from home


For land development professionals on the managerial and administrative side, it’s no longer a matter of walking into your local municipal office and requesting a permit. Most municipalities and offices are enforcing the use of their digital permit requests, attempting to minimize their contact with COVID-19. 

Many cities are canceling all municipal meetings and events such as planning and zoning commission, design review boards and inspections, and town offices are closed. But as the common law of zoning is experiencing delays and requires rescheduling beyond the permitted time limits, which are usually bound by a predetermined schedule. 

For many in architecture and land development, the spread of Coronavirus in the past few months has “led them to reevaluate their life’s work, and what it might mean to design for a world that will never be quite the same, especially when it comes to how we gather in and use large public spaces, like airports ,hotels, hospitals, gyms and offices,” Alyssa Giacobbe writes in Architectural Digest. 

Architecture is also feeling the impact from COVID-19, but in a different way -- the development of touch-free technology like automatic doors, voice-activated elevators, cellphone-controlled room entry and hands-free light switches will speed up and the future of architecture will feel the Coronavirus’ impact, no matter how far into the past it may seem. “It’s reasonable to think that concerns about future viruses might encourage architects to design with an eye toward open spaces that enable people to spread out,” Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, says. 

How to work from home in land development:


    1. Adjust your work processes with cloud-based tools. There are software solutions and tools that will allow you to continue working from home, and you can continue to work on what you need. If you can’t visit your local municipal office, there are cloud-based permitting solutions that can find the information for you. Other cloud-based project management tools like Trello help you stay organized and focused, and you can use Zoom to set up meetings and work out problems face-to-face. 
    2. Set a schedule and stick to it. Get dressed every morning, go for a walk outside (while social distancing) and take a 30-minute lunch break. It can be tempting to stay in your sweatpants all day when you work from home, but putting on a collared shirt and starting your day off with coffee can make or break that day’s success. It’s also to make sure you’re not overworking, and end your day on time. While most people assume working from home is bound to be difficult, most people who try it actually find themselves to be more productive than at the office. 
    3. Maintain a work/life balance. Now that you’re not commuting, take this extra time and work on extra projects, take an extra break or just be still. When you clearly identify times of the day designed for working and times of the day for relaxing, you’ll feel more organized and at-ease. 

    4. Fewer emails, more video conferencing. Be proactive and set up 1-on-1 meetings with your staff and managers. This is a great time to chat and replace short or cryptic emails with face-to-face human interaction (well, almost). Remote work can make you feel isolated from your colleagues and manager, so set up recurring meetings so they are aware of your progress and productivity. This holds everyone accountable and makes you feel more connected. 

Pay it forward + remember your neighbors


While we may be isolated physically, our communities are more important than ever. Don’t forget about the people in your life that are being hit hard by this change to remote work (or no work) right now. 

Not everyone has the privilege of working from home, and many are going without wages to stay safe. However, even more are continuing to go to work because they can’t risk being fired and losing their jobs, putting their health + their family’s health on the line. 

If you know someone who is experiencing job loss or that’s being heavily impacted by the work constraints COVID-19 is putting on most service and construction workers, lend a helping hand and pay it forward. It’s time to come together and work as a team.

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