Despite the current impacts of COVID-19 construction within Australia has continued and as many projects are successfully completed, many others have felt the effects of such unexpected restrictions.
There are many characteristics that successful projects share which can be readily implemented on any project, and while this list is by no means exhaustive it should provide some helpful considerations to build resilience and prepare for similar situations in the future.
Rapid early planning & approvals - An obvious symptom of the impact of the restrictions placed on working from offices is the increased time required to gather approvals. Delays at this stage can mean that many on-site works are impacted before the project has a chance to gather momentum. A benefit of rapid planning through submitting items for approval as promptly as possible is that at the commencement of a project, buy-in and engagement from stakeholders is high and the project has momentum.
Having a step by step, clear plan of required inputs at this stage is critical. Equally important is that each group knows its respective responsibilities, which leads to the following point of defined governance.
Defined governance for approvals - Properly defined project roles and responsibilities are key for approvals. A structured project is one which identifies from the outset the required actions, timeframes and authorities, as well as having room for delegation from a central entity. This ensures that even when parties are working remotely, critical actions are completed due to defined accountability and responsibility.
Flexible programme - Maintaining flexibility (or agility) in a programme can account for reductions in trade and material availability. Programme flexibility means identifying which activities have the potential to be shifted and completed out of sequence ahead of time. This can allow for critical programme activities to continue to be completed to mitigate impacts to other areas.
Subcontractor availability - Consideration should be given to alternate sources of subcontractors. The impacts of COVID-19 restrictions mean that you may be left high and dry if a subcontractor is no longer allowed onsite. You can quickly see how by having few, if any, backup subcontractors available, an entire line of activities within the project can be impacted. If the answer to the question, “who can do the work if this group is no longer available?” is nobody, then the works being provided should likely be given priority, and hopefully, if the previous point is followed, are agile enough to allow this to happen.
Location of Manufacturing and duration of shipping - One of the most obvious and impactful consequences to construction in light of worldwide restrictions is the unavailability of imported materials. As projects quickly work to source materials locally, an important question is raised - does this finish really have to come from the other side of the world? The solution of local procurement provides benefits present to both the economy and the project, while reductions in lead time are one of the most effective ways to reduce risk within a project.