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Building The Unseen Future: Forecasting COVID-19’s Effect on Colorado Construction

As COVID-19 continues to impact society and economy, it is hard not to wonder how Colorado construction and the state will fare for future projects.

Wells Fargo reports “Prior to the coronavirus crisis, construction spending dipped 1.3% in February. While many projects continue to proceed, hard-hit areas are shutting down construction sites and project delays/cancelations [sic] are mounting.

Total construction spending fell 1.3% during February, as residential (-0.6%) and nonresidential (-1.8%) activity both slipped. The drop follows a huge 2.8% jump in construction outlays in January, which was revised up a full percentage point from the previous report.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order March 25. Numerous industries including construction are permitted to continue operating during the pandemic as care and safety precautions are taken.

“‘We don’t take that lightly, that we’re able to keep working,’ said Justin Cooper, president of Denver-based Saunders Construction Inc.” reports The Denver Post.

The Denver Post also shares “So far, there have been few layoffs [sic] said Jason Wardrip, business manager for the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council. The union represents more than 10,000 workers in 24 local unions and 14 different crafts.

However, the state reported the loss of 3,200 construction jobs in February. There were 179,400 employed construction workers in the state, not including independent contractors.

‘There is essential infrastructure that we support, hospitals, public works projects, the energy grid that we all depend on,’ Cooper said. ‘And by and large, our projects are segregated from the public. Our sites are typically cordoned off.’

Cooper said there’s typically little travel between job sites, which should limit the potential risk of transmitting disease. In addition, construction workers are used to adhering to strict safety guidelines, he added.”

Construction companies are taking preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 both on and off the job at this time. “The nature of construction work lends itself to complying with the practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, including social distancing, wearing gloves and eye protection, said Mike Tilbury, vice president of operations at JE Dunn Construction.

The company has modified break and lunch areas to encourage people to keep their distance, has increased cleaning and added sanitation and hand-washing stations and is minimizing meetings, Tilbury said in an email. JE Dunn is starting daily screening to check workers’ temperatures and look for any symptoms and it is prohibiting guests at work sites” reports The Denver Post.

‘Of course, no worker is required to report to work if they feel unsafe,’ Tilbury said. ‘We are committed to the health and well-being of our trade workers, and we are thankful that we can continue to provide work to skilled trades during this time of crisis.”

Though a physical and economical rebound can be expected within a reasonable amount of time within Colorado, the reliance on foreign materials poses a threat to expected completion dates around the nation.

“Cooper said there had been problems with deliveries of equipment from China, but those have eased with factories starting back up there. But stone, tile and other materials from Italy aren’t being delivered, ‘for good reason,’ he said.”

“While economic activity appears to be starting to get back on track in some of these areas, supply chain disruptions may be apparent in the United States for quite some time” shares Wells Fargo. “What’s more, the construction industry has been persistently constrained by a shortfall of skilled labor, which may be exacerbated by quarantine requirements and the longer-term decline in labor mobility. Moreover, a growing list of projects in the bidding or final planning stages have been delayed or canceled due to uncertainty about how rapidly the economy will recover.

To be sure, construction should fare better than other industries like hospitality and retail trade. Many infrastructure, hospital and residential projects are considered essential and should continue even in the areas with severe outbreaks.”

Despite direct and indirect effects of the virus at local, regional and national levels, the international curve will have to flatten in order to return to what we can consider business as usual.

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