Melbourne and Sydney have both had their large construction site workforce scaled back to 25% under the latest COVID-19 restrictions, with the lockout estimated to cost $500m a day. The impact of this is significant, to say the least. Whilst critical state projects are the only significant exception to these restrictions, all other large construction sites need to “make do” with only 25% of their base line workforce. To make things even more complicated, all workers, including supervisors and managers, must work only at one site unless an exemption applies.
Construction’s contribution to the Australian economy
In Australia, more than 115 million people were employed in the construction sector in 2019, accounting for 9% of all Australian jobs. Since then, the sector has been hit by various restrictions, which contributed to an increase in the unemployment rate to 6.8% in 2020. The ongoing impact of the pandemic has yet to be documented, and whilst infrastructure projects have somewhat remained protected from the pandemic, residential building projects and large-scale construction projects have been hard it.
Across the globe, the construction industry has had a significant impact on the GDP of countries. In America, construction contributes 4.1% of the GDP, whilst in the UK it is 6% and in Australia construction generates more than 9% of our GDP. In the Journal of Physics: Conference Series (page 8), two of the remediation recommendations to assist in rebuilding the industry is Modular Construction and the use of Software to enhance productivity.
Companies can use modular construction in such situations. Modular construction will cost much less and it will complete the construction very quickly…… Construction work can be made much easier in this situation by using artificial intelligence(AI) and machine learning(ML).
Lost wages and lost revenue due to lockdown
According to the Master Builders Association of Victoria, tens of thousands of construction workers have been stood down as a result of the most recent restrictions in Victoria. From this, up to $63m a day in wages are lost and approximately $455m in revenue will also be lost to the industry.
This is particularly disappointing for the sector given the low ratio of COVID-19 infections throughout the pandemic;
“Even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the ratio of building and construction cases compared to the wider community was one to 7.5.”
Rebecca Casson, Master Builders of Victoria Chief Executive.
Impact of site labour restrictions in Australian construction projects
The past eighteen months have seen a variety of restrictions placed on the construction industry. Initial restrictions saw various reductions in the workforce, the worst occurring in Melbourne earlier this year and again in Sydney just recently, where the industry was forced to ‘down tools’. Regardless of duration and extent of restrictions, the impact is significant and have caused delays in project delivery.
One of the best ways to overcome the on-site labour restrictions is by, quite simply, moving labour off-site. Prefabricated and modular building services is just one method of achieving this. By prefabricating modular risers, corridor modules and plant skids off-site, the number of workers required on site can be significantly reduced. Additionally, using modular wiring for electrical services further reduces on-site labour and reduces installation time by up to 70%.
How to keep your projects on track
The benefits of prefabrication and modular construction have been proven repeatedly over the past three (and more) decades, with coronavirus accelerating the need for its uptake in Australia.
One of the primary advantages in these times of labour shortages and on-site worker restrictions is the speed in which jobs can be completed. One week in a prefabrication facility is the equivalent to three weeks on site; and this would be further amplified by the worker number restrictions and need for scheduling trades.
Maintaining project cost and time certainty in these turbulent times is no small feat. But leveraging modular and prefabricated construction methods, modern methods of construction (MMC) and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA), some of the lost ground can be regained.
Whilst we continue to experience the roller-coaster ride that has been forced upon us by coronavirus, we need to find ways to adapt and continue to deliver projects on time and within budget. By leveraging top technologies and modern methods of construction, prefabricated and modular building services allows us to circumvent a lot of the restrictions that have been enforced across the Australian workforce. For more information on how we can support your next project, please contact us.