Coronavirus' impact on construction
The construction industry faced some serious challenges in 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on construction projects was huge. Yet at the same time, the way the industry adapted was inspiring. Here, we look back to look forwards.
In a year like no other, 2020 saw the entire world adapt to new ways of working. For many, that meant working from home. (How many times have you heard “You’re on mute!” this year?). For others, it meant adopting measures like social distancing, wearing masks, and regularly cleaning surfaces – and that’s just for starters.
As one of the few industries exempt from the UK’s national lockdown laws, the construction industry soldiered on. But not without facing some severe challenges of its own – as well as some incredible successes.
This is the impact of COVID-19 on the construction sector – the bad, and the good.
Two notable surveys conducted by UK-based industry sources reveal one side of the impact of COVID-19 across the construction industry.
First, A survey of over 4,000 construction businesses conducted by Constructiononline shows that:
- 87% of companies operating in the construction industry were affected in some way by Coronavirus
- 62% of those businesses suspended operations at some point
- And on a more human level, 47% of construction companies experienced staff absences relating to Coronavirus.
A separate survey commissioned by The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) backs that up. It indicates that:
- Over 80% of construction companies cancelled or postponed at least one project because of COVID-19
- The supply chain was also affected, with over two-thirds of CHAS respondents saying they either hadn’t or hadn’t always, been able to get the needed materials, goods or services
- The knock-on effect to revenue was substantial, with almost 40% saying their income had decreased by up to 50% or more.
Whether taken on at a business level or at a much more personal one, it’s clear that the Coronavirus impact on construction and construction workers was substantial.
At the same time, however, when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 across the Construction Industry, there are some significant positives to point towards.
The industry is recovering
At the time of writing, the latest report on construction output from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is for October 2020 – and it paints an optimistic picture.
- For starters, construction grew by 1% that month. Any growth in the winter during the middle of a pandemic is a good thing, so that bodes well for the future
- More promisingly still, in the three months up to October 2020, construction output grew by 24.9% compared to the previous three months. In the context of Coronavirus’ impact on construction, it clearly shows the industry is moving in the right direction.
The projects, people and camaraderie
But when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 across the Construction Industry, the truly heart-warming part comes from the way its people responded.
While 951,000 (or 41%) of the UK’s 2.3m construction workers were furloughed in March, by May that number had dropped to 679,000 (or 29%) as sites reopened and projects recommenced.
Since then, the industry has stepped up hugely – adapting to new rules and regulations around health and safety with fresh guidelines, equipment and facilities. Its people have worked on hospitals and other essential projects, donated over £1m worth of PPE, and continued to meet the challenges of working in unprecedented times with good faith, and good cheer.
As you can see in this video from Build UK, there’s an incredible amount to be proud of, and Coronavirus’ impact on construction has certainly had some positives.
Of course, regulations continue to adapt as the Coronavirus situation develops, but the government has given clear guidance around these – and site owners have so far adapted with remarkable speed and diligence.
From increasing the frequency of hand-washing and surface cleaning, to adopting back-to-back and side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face), and reducing team sizes to minimise potential contact, construction teams have played a huge part in controlling the spread of the virus, while still keeping Britain building.
The impact of COVID-19 on the construction sector: the need for a new outlook
So, just how is COVID-19 impacting the construction industry? Well, while construction companies felt the pinch operationally and financially in the first part of the year, the response on the whole since then has been encouraging.
With up to £37bn of government funding for construction projects announced back in June, and the vast majority of construction workers now back to building, the industry is certainly starting to recover.
However, this is just the beginning, and challenges remain – especially around health and safety measures, and procurement of equipment and supplies to help make sure construction sites are able to adhere to this new normal.
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