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A new blueprint for construction during COVID-19

Back to the drawing board.

LOCAL Life asked the Hilton Head Area Home Builder’s Association (HHAHBA)  to help our readers understand how the construction industry is changing and what to expect as homeowners across the Lowcountry enter “construction season.” Thank you to the HHAHBA for what they do to support our community and the home-building industry.

Story by Meg James
Meg James is the executive officer of the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association.

The construction industry has gone back to the drawing board to develop a new set of procedures for the COVID-19 era to keep its employees, trades and customers safe. Companies in our area have been rapidly adopting new sanitation, distancing and safety procedures on projects and sites across the Lowcountry.

Companies are practicing social distancing on jobsites in a variety of ways. Some general contractors have reduced the number of trade contractors on a jobsite by extending project schedules to allow for only one trade on a jobsite at a time. Some are scheduling strict timeslots for trade contractors to prevent overlap. Trade contractors have been reducing the number of individuals on a crew to foster a work environment to allow distancing of employees. But, of course, fewer people mean that more time will be needed to reach completion.

Contractors and clients use more virtual meetings to keep projects moving forward. Some have utilized tools such as FaceTime or Zoom to do virtual jobsite walkthroughs and virtual selection appointments.

GETTING THE JOB DONE • Many workers in “essential industries” continue to show up to work every day, despite the risks of doing so.

As an industry, we are reevaluating our expectations. We are learning to be more patient. The project we all hoped would be completed by a specific deadline will undoubtedly require additional time to complete. We are learning to be more sensitive. The building industry was already experiencing a significant labor shortage prior to this global pandemic, and now many crews are operating with reduced staff to honor social distancing needs; many are working longer hours to get the project done. Finally, we are learning to be more appreciative of workers in “essential industries” who continue to show up to work every day despite the risks of doing so.

To offer support at this time, the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association has compiled pertinent informative webinars, signage and best practices for all to think about as we all navigate these uncharted waters.

The impact of the pandemic to the Lowcountry’s remodeling industry has been immediate. As of press time we have seen a 14% decline in permits year over year, and we anticipate that number will grow in the coming months. Consumers are pulling back on starting projects, and contractors are concerned about the safety of their clients, staff and subcontractors as we learn how to safely proceed.

We’re all in this together and we will all get through this together. The HHAHBA is grateful to continue to provide for our clients, community and our families.

Heads up for homeowners

When undergoing any home construction or renovation project, patience is important. More than ever, homeowners need to be sensitive to how COVID will impact their job, and understanding why may help.

1. Extended timeline: Trades need to social distance, so some tasks need to happen sequentially instead of at the same time. Labor in this area is always a challenge, but  COVID-19 has exacerbated that. Understand that your contractor wants the job done quickly as you do, but they aren’t magicians.

2. Site safety: Additional precautions might be required on a job, including masks, sanitizing stations and limited tool sharing. Please respect their site, and understand that they are not able to move as quickly as usual.

3. Product availability: Depending on where the supplies, finishings or products for your job are coming from, the delivery might have slowed or even halted. The delivery of your product is dependent on the truckers, the originating state or country, the manufacturer’s ability to open and many other factors along the way.