It is not news that the coronavirus has changed the real estate industry, in some cases irrevocably. The move towards home working has raised some questions over how offices will operate, while our dependence on efficient supply chains has seen the logistics market surpass other sectors in its growth.
As lockdown continues to ease, the UK economy is waking up to a new environment in which to operate. Nowhere is this truer than the UK construction industry. The industry did continue to operate throughout the worst of the pandemic in England, but on a much-restricted basis. It is now adapting to working with social distancing in place and amid an economy facing recession when compared with February this year.
This was the context in which I began my new role at Clearbell in April this year, in the newly founded Project Management team.
Our team oversees all projects in development, whether we are developing land from scratch or repurposing and renovating assets. Our aim is to guarantee high performance and consistency of standards across our portfolio, which was a challenge in the midst of lockdown.
Having joined in this challenging period, our team had to hit the ground running to adapt our methods of working constantly. Naturally, work has slowed down to a certain degree, however this has varied across the UK and even in early May we were working on up to nine different projects.
We wanted to share some of our learnings from the experience of working in lockdown in the hope that others may take something from it.
No substitute for boots-on-the-ground
One of our main considerations has been ensuring that our contractors are working safely, both in compliance with government guidelines and those from the Construction Leadership Council.
Maintaining a boots-on-the-ground approach has been tricky when movement is restricted but conducting visits to sites where possible has remained important. Having close and trusted relationships with contractors has been invaluable when ensuring that sites are operating safely but efficiently, as well as the ability to see things for ourselves.
Do your due diligence
As well as safety of our people, the crisis has required us to constantly review and amend our processes.
Since the very early days of the crisis, we have been diligent in understanding the risks of our projects at every stage. This includes a detailed review of each part of the supply chain, so that we understand where our materials are coming from and therefore how we can mitigate risk.
This was a key part of our process before the crisis, but the level of detail has become even greater since the severity of the virus became apparent.
As in any industry, we have faced a number of roadblocks. As we moved towards the peak of the virus and lockdown intensified, materials become harder to source, having been rightly prioritised for the construction of the Nightingale Hospital in London. PPE was also difficult to acquire for the same reason, but we needed it for our sites, so had to adapt our supply chain quickly.
Technology should not be underestimated
Most of us had never used Microsoft Teams or Zoom before the crisis began but working from home has forced even the most tech-averse members of the team to become digital natives!