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.
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.
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.
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.