The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all of our lives. While it is much too early to assess the full implications in the Construction Industry, it is clear that almost €20bn of project works has been halted on the island of Ireland and the set-up of building sites and their work practices have altered significantly.
The effective shutdown of nearly all construction activity from 27th March until the re-opening on 18th May 2020 has had a huge impact on existing projects in both time and programming.
The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) have set out the conditions for calculating an “ex gratia” payment for Main Contractors during the 7-week shutdown period. However, it would appear at present that many Main Contractors are not taking up this arrangement and seeking additional restoration outside of the parameters set out in the OGP guidance notes.
How the subcontractor market fares and emerges from this crisis will also dictate how the construction sector may fare in the long term. It is hoped that the various government supports being offered to support employees will have helped keep subcontractor firms healthy. This is critical for the overall recovery of the industry.
The Construction Industry has been very busy preparing for their return to work and Contractors used the first week back in mid-May to “Covid proof” their sites. Measures which included providing additional site huts, canteens and facilities to provide for social distancing, implementing one-way systems for personnel to access the work area, additional signage and sanitisation, check in procedures at the main entrance, ensuring all personnel had completed the CIF online C19 Induction module, etc.
The Irish construction industry was unique in being the only construction industry in the EU to completely shut down due to COVID-19. A recent CIF survey reports that construction professionals expect it to take 12 months at least before the industry returns to pre-pandemic levels.
It will be essential in the near future that the newly formed government get to grips with the problems being faced in the Construction Industry. The latest CIF Report targets three key areas to help get the Industry back up on its feet: -
- Providing funding to agencies to enable them to share the burden with contractors of implementing Covid 19 safety measures (critical to avoid costly disputes & delays)
- Accelerate house building (both social and private)
- Bring forward critical infrastructure works