May 28, 2020 / By Elizabeth Mangan, Chief Executive Officer

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Reshape the Construction Industry

Across industries and regions, the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting life as we know it. Its effects will echo through our economy for years to come. At Miller-Valentine Group, we are using this opportunity to BUILD CERTAINTY. We are studying industry projections, researching market trends, and applying evidence-based best practices to help our clients navigate the unknowns and plan for the future.

As the economy reopens and consumers test the waters of this “new normal,” business owners across every industry are taking stock of the lasting impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on their operating models.

That certainly holds true for the construction industry. Considered an “essential business” in many states, construction firms—Miller-Valentine included—got an early jump on revising workplace processes and standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to casting aside some of those requirements, like wearing face masks. However, other practices should become standard because they benefit our industry and our clients.

Here’s a rundown of some of the trends we believe will shape construction over the long term. We believe these adjustments will hold true no matter what construction method owners choose, be it a traditional approach or a collaborative contract that uses lean principles and integrated project delivery (IPD).

Increased use of technology to streamline processes. When it comes to adopting new technologies, the construction industry has notoriously lagged behind. Stay-at-home orders changed that dynamic in a matter of weeks. Virtual platforms and automated processes are transforming the industry for the better. Case in point: the planning and zoning processes have always been a time-, labor-, and paper-intensive process that can require multiple in-person meetings and reviews of hardcopy design drawings. To keep projects moving forward during the pandemic, many municipalities are moving to online meetings and digital submissions. This is a positive move that helps construction schedules while conserving resources.

More virtual everything. Yes, face-to-face is usually preferable to digital interaction. However, the widespread adoption of online meeting platforms has revealed that there are real productivity advantages to be gained through virtual sessions. Meeting online with project partners, planning and zoning boards, and clients means everyone loses less time commuting. At some point, large meetings and conventions will return—but likely with improved efficiency and flexibility through technology.

Flexible workdays. For many people who have the good fortune to work from home during quarantine, nonstandard work arrangements will be hard to give up. Companies are finding that their employees can be productive even if they are not in the office from 8 to 5 every day. Could working from home become a standard perk? We think it will be hard to close that barn door, and it could have long-term implications for the commercial office market.

Increased prefabrication and modularization. If social distancing is here to stay, prefabricated components and modular sections could become a standard part of project plans. With this construction method, plumbing, ductwork, soffits, panelized systems, roofing structures, and other elements are built offsite and delivered ready to be installed. Both methods are a hallmark of lean principles and a win for owners, as they can reduce costs, compress the project schedule, and improve quality control.

Changes to schedule sequencing. On the flipside, construction managers will need to be more deliberate in how they sequence projects to limit worker density on a site. We are already seeing this on our project sites, as we enforce our six-foot rules. Prefabrication and modularization will help limit the number of workers on a site, but it is too soon to tell how social distancing will impact construction schedules over the long term.

At Miller-Valentine, we are just as anxious as everyone else to get back to a semblance of normal, but we know our business will not look the same as it did before social distancing was enforced. We will continue to explore and refine innovative practices that benefit our clients, project partners, and Associates. Because we are well-versed in a number of delivery methods, including lean/IPD, our customers can count on us to adapt and deliver to best meet their project needs.

Ready to talk about how to adapt your facility needs to a new or changing business model? Contact us at 877.684.7687 or [email protected].