COVID-19 continues to challenge our way of life.  For your construction projects, these challenges include idle jobsites, new and increasing protective measures for all involved in the construction and the costs associated.  This quarter’s articles continue to shed light on how the industry is rising to meet these challenges.

We hope you and your family are, and remain, healthy!

How construction firms can prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19

by Kim Slowey, May18, 2020

Although the U.S. economy is slowly starting to come back to life, contractors can't let their guard down just yet.  Consider these precautions.

Although many coronavirus-related shutdown and stay-at- home orders are in still in place, the U.S. is on the road to loosening restrictions to keep the outbreak at bay. Since several areas of construction were considered essential, the industry has a leg up on others that have been completely shut down since the pandemic began.

But even as the country’s economy slowly comes back to life, top medical experts have warned that there could be a second wave of COVID-19 cases once more people come into contact with each other and in the fall when colder weather arrives and the regular flu season begins again.
So, how should contractors prepare for a potential second round of COVID-19? Construction Dive talked to a variety of industry experts for guidance.

Safety protocols
A big concern among contractors is keeping employees safe as they continue working or return to projects. To that end, general contractors, including like Suffolk Construction, start by following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and then adjust them accordingly, said Mike DiNapoli, general manager of Suffolk’s Northern California operations.

“Our safety protocols, training and checklists will continue to evolve in response to new developments,” he said.

For example, Suffolk is staggering start times so that workers will be able to better adhere to social distancing guidelines. The company has also designated some stairways as one-way travel only and assigned workers to certain floors to reduce the chance that they will encounter each other.

Suffolk has also created the position of “COVID Ambassador.” The company will assign these individuals to Suffolk offices and jobsites to make sure that the protocols meant to protect employees from exposure to the novel coronavirus are implemented and followed.

Jobsite technology
Technology could also play a role in worker safety, DiNapoli said, and Suffolk is considering outfitting workers with wearable Triax monitors to help them maintain a safe distance from each other. Something else the company is looking into is infrared-based temperature tech to make jobsite screening for COVID-19 more efficient.

“Our goal is to have the safest jobsites in the entire country, and our strong commitment to jobsite safety will continue long after the COVID-19 crisis passes,” he said.

Likewise, Boston-based Shawmut Design and Construction recently implemented Feevr, a device that uses artificial intelligence to detect elevated temperatures in groups of people to determine if any workers might have a fever without having to come into physical contact with the individual.

And Managers at Thornton Tomasetti are considering a shift to more remote field options, according to Marguerite Pinto, associate principal and a leader of the engineering firm’s New York forensic practice. This could include drones and 360-degree cameras to limit the number of people they must send to each project in the future.

“If someone can get a whole lot more imagery walking through with a 360-degree camera, then maybe we don’t need to send three or four people," she said.

Remote work
Offering more opportunities for remote work — when the position allows — is also something on the mind of construction leaders, many of whom have been pleased with their firms' shift to telework since the pandemic started.

Read More

New Chicago Office Building Is One Of The First In The U.S. Designed For Post COVID-19 Environment
By Julia Brenner, June 15, 2020

Located in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, Fulton East (215 N. Peoria St.) is a 12-story, 90,000-square-foot office and retail building slated to open late summer 2020. The newly constructed development is also among the first commercial buildings specifically designed for a post COVID-19 world.

“At the time COVID-19 hit, our team immediately pivoted to research how to best address the concerns that we understood COVID-19 would raise for tenants and their employees,” says Bob Wislow, chairman and CEO of Parkside Realty, Inc., the developer of Fulton East. According to Wislow, as of mid-March, concerns among Fulton East’s future tenants became “seismic” and required the team to “instantaneously” place health and wellness at the forefront of the project, causing the opening date to shift from July to August in order to implement a new design strategy. “Every employee and their family is acutely aware of—and deeply concerned about— safety and well-being in the workplace environment,” Wislow explains. “As an under-construction, boutique office building, we fortunately had the opportunity to modify Fulton East’s design in response to COVID-19 in real time, allowing us to thoughtfully address employers’ increased concerns for their employees’ office experience and create an environment where hygiene, health, safety, and wellness are holistically considered.”

After extensive research, the team implemented key structural changes, including the world’s first new-construction installation of Canada-based MAD Elevator Inc.’s Toe-To-Go (T2G) elevator system, which utilizes foot-activated call buttons for a hands-free elevator experience, reducing the spread of germs. “We made a major investment of time and capital to bring Fulton East to market as a next- generation office building that prioritizes health, safety, and wellness for our tenants’ employees in a coordinated and comprehensive way,” Wislow says.

 Fulton East will also be among the first multi-story office buildings to employ airPHX (“air fix”) non-thermal, plasma technology throughout the building to help reduce cross-contaminant risks and provide employees with cleaner air and work surfaces. The airPHX technology is currently in use in such commercial spaces as hospitals and dental clinics, and independent on-site testing has shown reductions of 90% to 99% of viruses, bacteria and mold, both on surfaces and in the air. According to Wislow, “MAD Elevator’s hands-free elevator system and air and surface disinfection, as provided by airPHX machines, not only address today’s COVID-19 concerns but also other contagious pathogens to help avoid the spread of colds and flu, keeping building occupants healthier at all times.”

In terms of space planning in a post COVID-19 business environment, Fulton East’s new design features 10,605-square-foot floor plates to accommodate safe social distancing and allow for custom space planning.

Fulton East’s post-COVID-19 design strategy includes the following modifications:
  • Touch-free thermal scanning at the lobby security desk to check people’s temperatures. Read More

Major stadium projects impacted by COVID-19 slowdowns
By Kim Slowey, June 25, 2020

While major sports leagues have postponed their opening days or suspended play indefinitely until fear around the novel coronavirus subsides, construction on many new stadiums and arenas continues.

However, some construction teams are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks on their projects, as well as looming deadlines.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, home to the NFL's New Orleans Saints, is undergoing a four-year, $450 million facelift, with scheduled work to include concourse expansions, new entry gates, escalators, upgrades to food and beverage areas and improved technology infrastructure.

However, last week, according to CBS Sports, general contractor Broadmoor LLC sent 32 of the project’s 275 daily workers home after they tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Some days workers on the job could total as many as 500.

After ordering the affected workers off the job so that they can isolate, Broadmoor issued additional personal protective equipment to the remaining crews but did not shut down the project.

Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
The NFL's Las Vegas Raiders are scheduled to kick off their inaugural season in the brand new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium this fall, although what those first games might look like is an unknown and dependent on how public health officials are able to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

What is certain is that despite reports of several workers testing positive for the coronavirus, construction, under the supervision and management of the Mortenson-McCarthy Joint Venture, has not slowed.

At the end of May, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that up to 31 stadium workers had tested positive for the virus. There are typically 2,000 workers on the site each day, with that figure ballooning to as high as 4,000 as crews keep up the pace necessary to meet the project schedule.

The JV has reportedly been sanitizing the site, making sure everyone entering the facility practices social distancing and providing sufficient training and PPE — all in an effort to reduce the chance that those working and visiting the stadium are exposed.

Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The University of Alabama's football stadium is undergoing a $106 million renovation, but progress hit a bump in May when an unknown number of workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

General contractor Caddell Construction Co. told the Tuscaloosa News that both its own employees and those of subcontractors tested positive, so it shut down construction for a weekend in order to sanitize the site and perform additional testing so that the rest of the project's workers could be cleared before returning to work.

Caddell said that workers are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA COVID-19 safety guidelines. In addition, the University has supplied the site with sanitation supplies, signage, thermometers and PPE. 
Read More

AECOM Says Owners Are Paying For Most Pandemic-Idled Project CM Costs

By Richard Korman, May 6, 2020

AECOM continued to pile up restructuring-related losses in fiscal 2020's first half, but there was some good news related to the pandemic.

CEO Michael Burke told investors May 5 that about eight out of ten of all the company's construction management projects had not stopped work and that at most jobs where the COVID-19 pandemic had stopped work owners had been covering AECOM's general conditions costs.

Construction management and fixed-price construction in particular had become a sore point for AECOM and other major companies recently.

Burke and his colleagues said AECOM has been making progress exiting that market. And in order to improve profit margins in its overall operations, the company has sold its management services unit, boosting its cash and improving liquidity, as well as taking other measures. AECOM foresees restructuring expenses in fiscal 2020 of between $160 million and $190 million, and total cash restructuring costs of between $185 million to $205 million.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, disrupting many projects where work either stopped or slowed, at-risk contractors faced new costs not covered by basic contracts. Who would pay has become an industry question mark.

Almost all of AECOM's idled project owners "are paying us our general conditions, which covers our costs on those projects," Burke told investment analysts who follow the company (NYSE- ACM). Clients do it because they "want to keep our teams at the ready to jump back in when construction has revived."

Despite the optimistic assessment, AECOM reported an overall net loss of $23.9 million for the combined second and first-quarter of fiscal 2020, compared to net income of $158 million in the prior year's period, on revenue of $6.14 billion, down 5.5% from $6.50 billion.

On a happier note, AECOM reported record-high backlog of $42 billion.

General conditions costs are usually defined as the total compensation payable to the contractor for its jobsite supervision, inspections, coordination and managing of the work, according to a joint document on public project construction management created by the Associated General Contractors and the National Association of State Facility Administrators.

General conditions also include coordination and supervision of equipment, utilities, facilities, bonds, insurance and labor and markups on those costs. The cost of this work is usually included in the contractor’s bid but in some contracts it may be a separate line item.

Burke stated that more than 85% of AECOM's construction management projects are continuing to move forward, including more than 70% in New York despite temporary non-essential construction shutdowns.
Because general condition costs continue to be paid by clients and with AECOM's "agility and repositioning our workforce, we have retained nearly 99% of our employees, which positions us even better to respond directly as economic trends recover and client demand accelerates."

The Los Angeles-based company also reported progress exiting self-performed at-risk construction, such as its share of a joint venture contract to de-commission California's San Onofre nuclear power plant. AECOM is "actively negotiating a buyout" of its share of the contract, said CFO Troy Rudd. Completing that task would represent "a substantial milestone in our de-risking strategy," he said.

After Bid-Rigging Delay, Denver Selects Contractor for $233M Convention Center Overhaul

By Mark Shaw, July 8, 2020

The city and county of Denver has hired Hensel Phelps Construction as design-builder for the long-delayed expansion of the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. The $233-million project will add a terrace and event space on the center’s roof, upgrade the main lobby and build a new 80,000-sq-ft multi-use room, among other improvements.

The start of the project has been delayed for more than 18 months because of a bid-rigging scandal that surfaced in December 2018. The city shut down the contractor-selection process and terminated a $9-million contract with Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow, its program manager on the job, alleging that the firm had wrongly released project documents to Mortenson Construction, one of the contractor finalists.

City officials also claimed that “improper discussions about the bidding process” took place between Mortenson and Trammell Crow and that project plans had been altered.

Mortenson has since settled with the city and agreed to pay the state of Colorado a $650,000 fine and donate construction services for a coronavirus-related project, in a settlement totaling more than $1.3 million. No final agreement with Trammell Crow has been announced.

The expansion project was originally targeted for completion in 2022. Now city officials estimate that work won’t begin until the middle of next year, at the earliest, with completion targeted for late 2023, according to the city’s Dept. of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The delay has become even more significant with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This spring, the convention center was transformed into a temporary overflow hospital, with hundreds of beds awaiting possible COVID-19 patients. The facility has not treated anyone yet, and remains empty, but the state has leased it for use as a field hospital until the end of the year, which could further delay the start of expansion work.

Hensel Phelps already has multiple projects underway with the city, including a $195-million contract for the first phase of renovation on the Great Hall in the main terminal at Denver International Airport, after the airport fired its P3 contractor from the project last year. That work is scheduled for completion in late 2021.
The Greeley, Colo.-based contractor also landed a $175-million contract to perform horizontal infrastructure work on 110 acres at the National Western Complex in north Denver. The project replaces all roads, utilities and infrastructure, realigns multiple rail lines, along with site grading and excavation to support future NWC projects.

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