The observable impacts of COVID-19 differs across the country confirmed thought leaders from Ontario and BC during a leader’s forum hosted by RICS. While business has been able to continue with adaptations to allow for physical distancing in BC, non-essential businesses have been shut down in Ontario where the provincial government has been more restrictive in its imposition of shutdowns in the construction sector. Still, service providers and clients alike are making the most of the opportunity to foster change in the industry.
In BC, activities on sites have slowed by about 20 percent. There have been some supply chain disruptions as some materials are held up at port since ferrying them is not considered an essential service. Overall, shipping delays have not been felt across the board.
On project sites, extra management has been required to ensure workers are maintaining physical distancing and more walkthroughs are being performed to check on safety measures. This has slowed productivity somewhat but with extra planning, the impact thus far is minimal. Workers are completing tasks on different floors to allow for more physical distance and those who are working in close proximity are provided with additional PPE, as required.
In Ontario, there has been more stopping and starting of projects as the sector attempts to continue to work. There is increased pressure on the provincial government to ease some of the existing restrictions. Given that most of the virus outbreaks have been confined to long-term care facilities, there is an expectation that, with precautions, construction sites will be able to reopen.
Ontario has also seen the impact of supply chain disruptions, but in some cases they have provided opportunities for clients to assess their material choices and sometimes choose materials that are superior in quality to what they were relying on previously. This may prove to be a positive impact of the slowdown as teams are allowed more time to scrutinize contracts and materials.
As might be expected during this period, the slowdown is impacting the retail and hospitality sectors more than others. Developers with holdings in either of these sectors are taking a cautious approach until there is more certainty in income producing opportunities. This has been observed in both Ontario and BC.
If there’s a silver lining to be found, it is the acceleration of digital solutions. Increased working from home will have a dramatic impact as the recession unfurls. It’s starting to feel normal and productivity has not been impacted by all the virtual work.
Teams are working more collaboratively through BIM and other tools so while the way we work has changed forever, this change has positive components to it.