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More stories from CM readers on coping with coronavirus impact

25 March 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: Dreamstime/Nils Ackermann

Although the coronavirus crisis is restricting work around the industry, many construction professionals are staying busy – working remotely or volunteering to help with key public services.

CM has been in touch with CIOB members and readers to find out how they are keeping their organisations running – using videoconferencing to keep in touch with colleagues and clients, processing building control work, teaching students remotely, or helping the NHS and critical public services in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic,

Sue Hanford, principal project manager, Surrey Council Council:

“I am lucky in that for some time now our team within Surrey County Council have been encouraged to work agilely.  For the past few years we have been able to work on our laptops and using our mobiles, just about anywhere, including home.  On this basis I am used to going to my office HQ once or twice a week, and spend the rest of the time working from various sites as well as home.

“Now that we cannot attend meetings, we are using the Skype facility regularly, so there has been plenty of video conferencing, and I was introduced to a further piece of software today – TEAMS.  We had a team of six on the call as we were being trained to use TEAMS.  It was good to be able to visually, as well as vocally, interact with a number of colleagues, as working from home can at times be quite solitary, particularly under the present circumstances.”

Duncan Hones, building control surveyor, East Cambridgeshire District Council:

“As a building control department, we are working from home via remote link and site visits have been suspended until further notice. I note that the government is at this moment advising building work can continue as long as the restrictions guidance in place is followed.

“This may be difficult to achieve if inspections for site visits are on hold but obviously works that don’t need inspections can continue or works carried out up to the point of inspection can be carried out and then wait for inspections to re commence for us to visit.

“On a personal note I am currently starting a self-build project and I have had to delay the foundation excavations due to the pandemic, this will extend the self-build mortgage period in turn having a knock on effect on my finances. However I take the opinion that my project is not a race and what doesn’t get done today will get done another day.

“One amazing thing about the construction industry is that we can always find a way.”

David Rowell, senior building manager, Willmott Dixon:

"We work on an extra care facility in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, and we have sourced over 300 facemasks in less than 24 hours to help our client EMH Care & Support deliver frontline services.

“I spoke on Monday with my colleagues at EMH Care & Support and found out they had ran out of personal protection equipment (PPE) and were unable to get a confirmed delivery date from central government for further supplies.  Knowing the importance of the situation, I reached out to our supply chain partners to see how we could help.

“Through the thoughtfulness, generosity and quick response from our supply chain, we were able to deliver over 300 facemasks by Tuesday afternoon. During these very difficult and challenging times, we continue to serve our customers by carrying out small acts of kindness. Together we can succeed and get through these unprecedented times.

"The Willmott Dixon Midlands team have also signed up for the NHS volunteering service, offering taxi service to those needing trips to food stores or doctors, running errands to collect things or check-in and chat service to those that are vulnerable and lonely."

John Adams, digital construction specialist, Glider Technology:

“Things are manic here at Glider Technology. We cancelled all in-person meetings nearly two weeks ago now and moved everything online. A difference we are seeing is the internet infrastructure, not only in the UK, is straining. The way we run our business, deliver our training and deploy our software is entirely internet based so we do monitor this more carefully than most.  It is clear we are currently really testing our internet service providers, but it is encouraging that they are responding and coping ok for now.   

“We are doing our best to support the industry by mobilising our common data environment (CDE) really quickly under increased demand by extending our hours.  I've been non-stop configuring environments and have delivered training to more than 20 users already this week. This is challenging of course, but I appreciate how lucky I am to be working in a digital company who are in a position to help others. Through the lens of the UK BIM Alliance digital adoption targets, this increase in people using common data environments is a positive step.  

“We're also supporting our customers by sharing our knowledge in terms of how to work remotely successfully, as this is something we have some great patterns for.”

Barry Cooper-Cooke, lecturer at Curtin University, Perth, Australia:

“We have switched all student studies to an online platform. There is no face-to-face delivery of lectures and tutorials. We are now forced to learn new digital platforms and apps that allow us to deliver content to students online. In the coming weeks, we also plan to hold webinar type group meetings. 

“The message that appears to be coming to the surface is the lack of readiness for such an event, which is understandable. However, this also highlights the lack of hard resources for academics to be able to deliver online.”

"But the university I work at have been keeping us well informed and up to date on measures they are implementing on a day-to-day basis as the crisis unfolds."

Ken Smyth, president, Heritage Building & Consulting Services Inc, Canada:

“To keep moving as much as possible, we have focussed our business on renovations of unoccupied properties, during these times of uncertainty. Once vacant, we let the property sit for three days before entering it and disinfecting all surfaces. Any materials that are delivered to site will be cleaned with wipes and our teams carry sanitizing wipes and gel in their pockets. 

“One of the concerns here in Atlantic Canada is the suppliers will close so there is a stockpiling mentality going on here. We have five live jobs going on this month and have had to take steps to order and store the materials ahead of starting on site.” 

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