COVID-19 has forced the construction industry to examine carefully, how it conducts business. As a result of coronavirus, construction was left in lockdown limbo, with ambiguous and unclear advice on what was or was not safe. At the coal face, on-site, this caused a problematic situation with main contractors, sub-contractors, and individual operatives having to make decisions as to what was or was not safe.
Some of these decisions led to courses of action being taken that were potentially in breach of contract. For example, a small builder shutting down a domestic site would be in breach of contract for abandoning the site. Similarly, a main contractor shutting down a large site could face ‘extension of time’ claims from subcontractors. The circumstances of the last few months were without precedent and will probably lead to a review of construction contract law.
Thankfully many companies choose to work together to find solutions and many sites returned to work with new social distancing protocols in place. On our sites, we have made masks mandatory for all workers and have introduced a limit of not more than one person working on each floor of any property.
One of the unforeseen benefits for the industry has been the acceleration of the adoption of new technology. Public engagement exhibitions for planning applications have been held virtually. These have proven that, in some senses, they are more effective in this setting than their traditional counterpart. Developers, estate agents and architects have adopted the use of virtual reality to showcase their design. The proliferation of CGI video technology- developed originally for gaming software – has meant that hyper-realistic, interactive walkthroughs are now an important part of the toolkit.