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Sustaining the construction industry during COVID-19: A proposal

The current situation seems to be something out of a horror movie and it is hard not to imagine the potential pressure on the industry and the economy overall, should it escalate further and carry on for months. As the world is bracing for this imminent disaster, one consoling fact that should be on the forefront in people’s minds is that the majority of the services workforce will remain fully productive working away from offices. Having begun and operating as an e-company, we at Define Engineers feel confident that other consultancies will manage to get up to speed in remote working.

 

The key to minimising the economic impact is to maintain a level of continutiy and re-think the traditional concurrent workloads of design and construction towards optimisation and Value Engineering.

 

What is universally true in the construction industry is that due to inefficiencies and poor project planning at the early stages, the cost of a construction project typically spirals up and timeframes are typically exceeded. Unfortunately, most of the optimisation opportunities are lost at the early stages due to lack of time and once again at the tender stage due to disconnection between designers and builders. While these time pressures would be typically driven by commercial aspects such as ROI and fierce competition, it is fair to say that during the this COVID-19 crisis the time aspect will be on our side and not keeping idle would certainly help with competition. If investors are to remain calm and trust the construction industry professionals, we should be able to escape this without a major meltdown. This is where we envisage an opportunity of maintaining a level of operation in the industry without having to cancel projects or freeze them at the cost of millions.

Most of the opportunities for controlling cost and timeframe in a project lie at pre-tender RIBA stages 2, 3 or 4 where design decisions are taken and locked in a set of drawings or a specification.

What is universally true in the construction industry is that due to inefficiencies and poor project planning at the early stages, the cost of a construction project typically spirals up and timeframes are typically exceeded. Unfortunately, most of the optimisation opportunities are lost at the early stages due to lack of time and once again at the tender stage due to disconnection between designers and builders. While these time pressures would be typically driven by commercial aspects such as ROI and fierce competition, it is fair to say that during the this COVID-19 crisis the time aspect will be on our side and not keeping idle would certainly help with competition. If investors are to remain calm and trust the construction industry professionals, we should be able to escape this without a major meltdown. This is where we envisage an opportunity of maintaining a level of operation in the industry without having to cancel projects or freeze them at the cost of millions.

Most of the opportunities for controlling cost and timeframe in a project lie at pre-tender RIBA stages 2, 3 or 4 where design decisions are taken and locked in a set of drawings or a specification.

We see an opportunity at this critical point in time, for the industry to put its trust in the service sector with the aim to cost optimise and rationalise projects at any stage . We would encourage investors and developers to consider going through a Value Engineering (VE) exercise on their projects even more than once if necessary. Based on our experience over the years the savings of a VE exercise can be up to 100 fold the cost of carrying out the exercise itself. In fact most of the times VE is not carried out due to time rather than cost, which is counter-productive given the ROI projections vs. capital costs on a typical commercial project. Of course the ultimate aim here is for those cost saving to be able to cover the losses sustained due to the delays caused by COVID-19.

With this in mind we hope to shed some light at the end of the tunnel for our industry and spark ideas of how we can being constructive when society needs it the most. In our next post we will reveal more about how Define Engineers operates as an e-company from a number of countries in Europe with the aim to help others bring their businesses up to speed at this important time.

Vladimir Marinov

director | define engineers

 

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