Effects of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry

How COVID-19 Impacts the Construction Industry

Tips to protect the wellbeing of workers and keep projects moving

The construction industry is particularly feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak because workers are unable to work from home and must be onsite to do their jobs. While we may not be on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic, there are many practices we can embrace to help reduce the spread of the virus, the seasonal flu, and other respiratory illnesses. First, we want to share some of the ways we’re seeing the coronavirus impact our industry. We then explore how we can help keep worker healthy, stay connected, and adapt our work to changing circumstances.

Coronavirus Impact on the Construction Industry

Some of the impacts we’re seeing include delays of materials from outside the country as well as concerns that delays from US suppliers may be next. In response, general contractors are securing materials domestically and getting them to sites as quickly as possible. Building departments in some areas are beginning to close, which could bring permitting and inspections to a halt. There is a risk that some contractors and subcontractors may suspend operations. With all these uncertainties, we know project timelines may be impacted and are working closely with our teams to create recovery plans. 

Taking care of our people is incredibly important to us at The Bridge Group. As construction continues on many projects, we've compiled some measures we can take to help keep everyone healthy and safe. This applies to workers general contractors and sub-contractors on-site and employees in the workplace.

Tips for Staying Healthy and Connected

Healthy Practices on Site

1. Ask general contractors to install additional hand-washing stations at construction sites.

2. Encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick and remind them to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then immediately discarding the tissue in the trash.

3. Ask general contractors to implement social distancing, with employees working at least six feet apart when it is safe to do so.

4. Post notices or posters at worksites reminding employees how they can protect themselves and others from respiratory illnesses. Notices can include reminders to wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer; to work at least 6 feet apart when safely possible, and to stay home when sick. The CDC offers printable materials online.

5. Wipe down frequently-touched surfaces, such as door handles, bathrooms, railings, kitchen areas, and shared tools and machinery. Provide disinfecting wipes on-site.

Stay Connected and Adjust Project Timelines

1. Stay in close contact with general contractors to understand their concerns about employee health.

2. Discuss timeline implications with project stakeholders if construction slows, and work closely with them on the development of recovery plans. If construction comes to a halt, use the time to plan so the schedule impact can be minimized once construction picks up again.

3. As teams try to reduce travel and follow the shelter in place, we can use technology to communicate and collaborate. Facetime and photography allow architects and stakeholders to monitor progress and reduce concerns of remediation measures later on. We can eliminate in-person meetings by taking advantage of video conferencing and team collaboration tools. Apps and cloud-based tools like Zoom, Google Suite, Trello, Asana, Slack, Jira and Microsoft Teams are all ideal.

In these unprecedented times, we’re all learning how we can continue to safely work together, whether in an office, at home, or on a construction site. We’d love to hear your ideas. How have you seen the coronavirus affect the construction industry or impacted your client projects? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


The Carbon Cost of Concrete

The Carbon Cost of Concrete

World’s most used building material produces bigtime CO2 emissions

Sustainable construction is no longer a ‘nice-to-have.’ With global temperatures rising and urgent warnings to cut emissions from the IPCC, the construction industry must take action to reduce its hefty contribution to greenhouse gas production and increase sustainability. 

Are there ways to improve sustainability in construction? Options range from creating more energy-efficient buildings to responsibly sourcing materials and choosing more carbon-friendly materials, like low carbon concrete. Cement, the main ingredient in concrete mix, is a particularly offensive player when it comes to sustainability.

Did you know the impact of carbon concrete?

If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, behind only the US and China.

Choosing low carbon concrete is an opportunity to massively decrease the cement industry’s carbon footprint. At scale, sustainable concrete has the potential to reduce over 70% of the cement industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the equivalent of 4% of world-wide all GHG emissions. That’s major impact!

Why do we need low carbon concrete?

Simply put, because concrete production makes a lot of CO2, and we make a lot of concrete.

Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. It is the second most used material in the world after water. The global population continues to grow. To meet these demands for housing, sanitation, business and commerce needs, big construction projects which rely heavily on concrete as the main building material are underway on nearly every continent. 

As a result, the concrete industry is growing steadily—at an annual rate of 8%—at a time where there’s a pressing need to cut global emissions, and quickly. Emerging markets like India and Brazil are urbanizing and expected to further drive the demands for concrete, yet the industry is facing societal, financial, and increasingly, regulatory pressure to decrease emissions rapidly.

Why does cement production emit so much CO2?

It’s the sheer scale of the manufacturer and use of concrete that makes it a top contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions—the industry is responsible for 7% of worldwide CO2 emissions. 

The majority of concrete’s carbon footprint comes from the production of clinker, a main component of cement. Producing clinker results in chemical and thermal combustion processes called calcination creates 50% of the processes’ GHG emissions. Because this CO2 comes from a chemical reaction, it can’t be eliminated by switching to more energy-efficient fuels. Today there are a few options for low carbon cement mixes that either eliminate or decrease the amount of clinker in cement mixes. Substitutes such as fly ash and blast-furnace slag are used instead. 

High fuel requirements are another big contributor to cement production’s big carbon footprint. Heating the kilns to high temps required to make cement is responsible for another 40% of emissions created.

Low carbon cement mixes options

  • Use "cleaner" ingredients than ordinary concrete—ingredients that reduce the number of GHGs emitted during production
  • Are produced in plants powered by clean energy
  • Are available at competitive prices
  • Outperform ordinary concrete in terms of material strength

Challenges low carbon concrete faces

Cement, invented by Joseph Aspdin in 1840, has remained essentially unchanged since then. Architects, engineers, contractors, and project managers have historically been hesitant about new building materials for obvious reasons, and innovation has long taken a back seat in the cement industry. 

Additionally, the big players in the concrete industry are wary of new products that challenge existing business models.

Recommendations for sustainability in the construction industry

Work with contractors, architects, and project managers who focus on sustainability and have the expertise and experience to design and manage green construction projects. Our team at The Bridge Group has a dedicated Sustainability Manager poised to assist on your project. 

A confidential technology company of ours recently expanded its headquarters with a focus on productivity, collaboration, and sustainability. It includes open spaces to foster collaboration as well as quiet, focused workspaces and a rooftop garden with walking paths. The highly sustainable campus was designed to reduce environmental impact from every angle, including building materials like low carbon concrete. 

If you’re in the Bay Area and seeking a low carbon concrete option, we highly recommend Central Concrete. Central Concrete is an industry leader in sustainable concrete solutions, providing various EPD mixes designed for performance beyond strength.

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete, Central Concrete uses cement ingredient replacements, recycled fresh concrete, and recycled concrete aggregate. They also use CarbonCure technology, an innovative mix that contains captured recycled waste CO2. 

In order to reduce the environmental impact of the concrete used in projects, design standards should be updated to support the use of Type III EPD certified cast-in-place concrete. A final word to Project Managers and Architects- be certain to ask your concrete provider whether they provide a low carbon concrete mix! 

What’s your experience using a low carbon concrete mix for a project, if any? Share in the comments below.

 


VR virtual reality and AR augmented reality

Construction Project Management in the Digital (or Modern) Age

Construction Project Management in the Digital (or Modern) Age

 

The tools ushering in a new era of PM for the AEC industry

Surprising and delighting your clients can be a great thing. Whether it's a handwritten thank you note, an innovative solution to their problem, or a design project completed under budget. But for anyone who works in the AEC industry knows, you don’t want surprises in a construction project. However, they happen, and too often. Whether it’s the rising cost of building materials, errors or omissions in design documents, or differing site conditions, surprises on a construction site mean costly delays. Fortunately, today’s tools and processes help us eliminate construction project surprises like never before.

Construction Project Management Tools Changing the Game

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Technical industries are changing rapidly, and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is no exception. The most impactful change as of late is the widespread adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflows. BIM is a 3D model-based process that gives AEC professionals the visibility and best practices to expertly manage construction projects from start to finish. Architects have been using BIM since the 90s, but in recent years contractors and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consultants have adopted the workflow as well.

The clear snapshot enabled by BIM gives architects, engineers, and contractors the insight and tools to prevent setbacks and strategize building methods before the job site opens. For instance, complete BIM models can run “clash detection” to automatically flag any conflicting trades like plumbing lines overlapping mechanical ducts.  Additionally, the common lexicon of BIM means all of the trades speak the same language, decreasing the miscommunication that can quickly derail construction projects. With all the relevant players in construction on the same page with BIM, we’re getting complete digital models of projects that were previously inaccessible.

3D Scanning

3D scanning is another technology quickly securing its place in construction project management. Originally used for existing space surveys, 3D scanners are now producing highly accurate as-built dimensions. These scans avoid the potential errors of analog measurements like marked up drawings.  Those errors would mean expensive change orders during the construction phase. Another benefit of 3D scanning is the technology’s ability to record the changes of a building that were not previously incorporated into complete, up-to-date drawing sets.

Less expensive and easier to use than ever, 3D scanning devices tie directly to BIM models for a fluid transfer of accurate data to create precise digital models. Time is saved by skipping the step of translating analog measurements to a digital format, and 3D scanning produces a complete picture of the environment that is exact enough to build from.

Augmented Reality (AR)

If you’ve used a Snapchat filter, you know how fun AR can be. But the same digital canvas overlay is quickly becoming the go-to tool for bringing designs to life. Virtual reality (VR) and time-tested renderings are good for a representation of a project, but AR is the clear winner when it comes to visualizing future-built conditions and projecting a tangible sense of space for clients.

The benefit of augmented reality is having that tangible sense of space.

And with iOS and Android heavily investing in smartphones with AR capabilities, AEC professionals can view and export richly detailed AR models with ease. The use of AR for “x-ray” vision capabilities is also rising. Using tablets or smartphones, facilities teams can understand what plumbing lines, conduits, or columns lurk behind walls and ceilings by holding the device to a specific area.

Data

One of the most valuable technologies available today also happens to be one of the least tangible—data. Data is streaming in from all aspects of our lives, including the spaces we inhabit. Sensors can now provide insight as to how spaces are being used by tracking individuals as they move through a space. Data show teams what areas could better perform with HVAC, identify zones that are underutilized, and forecast better methods for conserving energy.

This information together with temperature, location, and acoustics tells a story that can be used to shape spaces and functions, much like having a suit tailored to fit perfectly.

Facing Forward with Construction Project Management

It’s an exciting time to work in construction project management. The tools and processes available today are changing the dynamic AEC industry. Highly collaborative processes like BIM are encouraging fluency amongst trades like never before, while 3D scanning and big data are giving us access to huge pools of information. What remains to be seen is what we will do with it all.

Whether you’re a seasoned architect, facility manager, or industry newbie, we want to hear from you. Comment below and let us know what tools and processes you’re most excited about today and in the future.


Strategies to control costs on your construction project

3 Simple Ways to Control Costs On Your Next Construction Project

Construction costs spiraling out of control? Here’s how to handle it.

As project managers, it’s our job to make sure our client’s office build-out is completed on time and within budget. We frequently partner with startups and companies who are growing rapidly and have a strict budget with little room for the costly overruns that can become an insidious part of the construction process. As a result, we’ve fine-tuned our ability to get our clients the best value for their money.

Here are three strategies Construction Managers, Facility Managers and Operations Teams can employ to keep costs low while ensuring that your new space meets your needs.

1. Bring in a contractor early

By hiring a general contractor early in the project, you can price the plans at various stages during the design process. Then, your team can conduct value engineering exercises as they design and prevent costly surprises once the construction documents are complete.

2. Find opportunities to cut costs

A general contractor can also identify where the costs are coming in high and make suggestions for places you can cut back. Ideally, your project management firm will work closely with the design team and general contractor at this stage to ensure sure they’re reducing costs without sacrificing quality.

3. Utilize cost comparisons

Skyline Construction created a tool called the Bay Area Cost Comparison to help guide you towards a less expensive project. This white paper will give you an idea of what an average project might cost in your area, what factors drive escalation, and what cost saving measures to look for.

We brought all these strategies together during our recent work for RocketSpace, a San Francisco based co-working space. Our team partnered with Skyline Construction, while we were still finalizing the fit plan so they were contracted and ready to price at the end of the schematic design phase. We conducted a second round of pricing after the design development phase and then, of course, at the end of construction documentation.

Our partnership with Skyline Construction helped us discover several ways to save on construction project costs. Project savings included; re-working the mechanical design, selecting less expensive light fixtures, re-thinking the door selection to each office space and finding a less expensive finish for the millwork. It would have been disastrous if we had discovered these expenses after our construction documents were complete, since it would have delayed the project and led to change orders from our design team. As it was, our team was able to make these decisions while the plans were coming together, which resulted in construction costs meeting our budget and staying on track with our timeline.

We’re not afraid of a small construction project budget. Find out how we can help with your next project or discuss some costs savings alternatives. Contact us now for your free project consultation.