COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges to leaders of construction companies throughout the country. One of the biggest challenges for these firms has been keeping their teams safe from viral transmission while completing construction projects, which require numerous hands-on, in-person and collaborative procedures.
In order to reduce the risk of their teams contracting the virus while on the job, many construction companies have introduced new safety protocols that support social distancing. Fortunately, in addition to promoting the health of their teams during the pandemic, several of these protocols have also been effective at moving projects forward in a timely and cost-conscious manner.
As one of the construction companies for commercial real estate projects throughout Southern California, RAAM Construction has developed strategies that reduce team members’ potential exposure to the coronavirus while at work. Below are several tools and techniques the firm has used over the last several months that have been particularly helpful in both reducing COVID-19 health risks and managing construction projects:
“Reducing their teams’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 is a top priority for U.S. construction companies, requiring a targeted strategy of tools and techniques.”
- Increased use of drones —Drone technology has become extremely useful in real estate development of all types. While this technology is not necessarily new, its use has ramped up considerably during the pandemic. Since they are controlled remotely, drones can capture clear and accurate 360-degree visual footage of a project under construction that would otherwise be virtually impossible or quite dangerous to access manually. That footage can then be incorporated into BIM programs and used in construction planning and monitoring the progress of those projects. For example, when RAAM was constructing Decker & Gill Court in Pasadena, Calif., this past spring and summer, drones were employed frequently to obtain measurements and assist in quality control of the project. Drones can also be used to mark construction changes that affect a project’s design, which can then be relayed to development team members in real time to prevent potentially wasted effort, saving clients time and money in the process.
- Adoption of on-site GPS staff-tracking apps — COVID-19 has made many project stakeholders particularly cost-conscious as they grapple with moving ahead on construction projects using budgets that are constrained due to the economic shutdown. Forward-thinking construction firms are utilizing technology that helps them track actual time spent on labor, helping them document labor and construction costs in a more accurate way and ultimately saving clients money. RAAM uses a time-tracking app called ExakTime, which takes photos of workers on site as they sign in and out of construction jobs. The app allows construction firms to drill down on which team member worked on which part of a project and for how long so they can present this information to clients if requested. GPS staff-tracking apps like ExakTime allow for more accurate communication between leaders, their teams and clients as construction projects are progressing, proving invaluable tools for construction firms during the pandemic.
- Utilization of project-tracking apps — Keeping tabs on the evolution of a construction project is always important for stakeholders, but it is especially crucial when the industry has been affected by labor and materials shortages exacerbated by COVID-19. Project-tracking apps like FieldLens, which RAAM uses, enable superintendents to post daily photos and video logs of a building’s progression. Photos can be edited with markups and text to clarify issues for architects and design teams. In addition, at roughly $2,500 per project, the app is less costly to construction firms than many enterprise software packages with similar functionality that are currently on the market. Project-tracking apps eliminate the need for risky in-person meetings and minimize the need for video conference calls that have become ubiquitous during the pandemic. This technology also keeps everyone on the development team current on projects in real time, allowing them to remain on schedule and within budget.
Reducing their teams’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 is a top priority for U.S. construction companies, requiring a targeted strategy of tools and techniques. By using drone technology and staff- and project-tracking apps, construction firms can complete projects more efficiently while saving clients money and keeping their teams safe and healthy in the process.
Richard Lara is founder and CEO of RAAM Construction Inc., a general building construction firm specializing in multifamily and historic preservation projects throughout California. More information is available at www.raamconstruction.com.