We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle this month’s question.
Here’s what they had to say.
Ron Mostero, project manager, March Associates Construction (Wayne)
As technology and construction are ever evolving, maintaining a symbiotic relationship of the two is both operationally and financially beneficial. Outside of the traditional coordinated phasing plans and staggered work forces, the use of real-time proximity contact tracing GPS technology can provide logistics, safety and social benefits that will protect the overall health of the job. Many construction management companies and developers alike use analytics (key performance indicators, or KPI) to measure performance for current and future projects. The use of proximity tracing allows for tracking of social distancing in real time and can be gathered for trade-by-trade analysis. It also provides full account of the trades’ whereabouts, another step toward a safe job site. While this level of detail may not be needed on every job site, knowing that the options are available provides peace of mind when faced with challenging times as we are now.
Andrew Natale, chief operating officer, SJP Properties (Parsippany)
Today, construction teams must use every technological resource at their disposal, beginning with self-screening employees off-site to prevent the spread of coronavirus at the earliest possible point. This would include requiring all job site employees to take their own temperature and monitor their blood oxygen saturation levels at home, as well as filling out online exposure questionnaires. Workers can also utilize a web-based check-in system prior to arriving on site, followed by the additional measure of on-site temperature checks. It is particularly crucial that construction teams use technology to provide subcontractors with accurate, efficient zoning plans for work areas, in order to keep each trade separate while completing projects. On a more basic level, construction teams also need to embrace videoconferencing capabilities and even live video feeds of construction sites, so that project leads can monitor progress without needing to be physically present.
Harry “Ted” Osborne, senior director, building services group, PS&S (Warren)
A typical picture of a construction site might show four to five engineers wearing yellow hardhats huddled together all looking at the same a blueprint — basically, the exact opposite of “social distancing.” But, in fact, the construction industry is remarkably well set up for working virtually. Some examples: Virtual white boards: Yes, exactly, as the name implies, architects can collaborate online, brainstorm and even sketch together. Drones, which can take site and construction progress pictures and be used for exterior inspections. Augmented reality hardware: With new screen and helmet camera technologies, it’s possible for a construction manager in an office and a subcontractor at the job site to see the same thing at the same time, comparing plans with the actual work. 3D printing and prefabbing: Many projects can be built off site and then delivered to the site. My firm expects that these and other virtual and remote solutions will now gain even greater traction.
Craig Plescia, director of New Jersey operations, JRM Construction Management (Carlstadt)
At JRM, we are heavily employing the use of Microsoft Teams, Zoom and GoToMeeting for departments such as accounting, marketing and estimating. This has proved to be an effective means of communication and collaboration, allowing our teams to keep projects in motion while minimizing contact to the best of our abilities. In addition, continuing to use Timberline, Procore and On-Screen Takeoff allows JRM to keep pushing forward.
Upon return, to what we feel will be the new normal, we plan to continue employing all these programs on a more consistent basis, while also applying social distance practices both in the office and on project sites. For example, for our project sites, we are working with our suppliers to develop a proprietary elevator safe off system to facilitate separation while helping speed the flow of both manpower and materials to construction floors within buildings. JRM is confident all new and existing practices will allow us to continue building with the highest business and construction standards.
Mark Romanski, vice president and general manager, Turner Construction Co. (Somerset)
As we respond to the challenges associated with continuing construction in a time where we as a society are dealing with a pandemic, Turner Construction has been extremely proactive in applying new technologies to ensure that we are providing a safe environment for those on our project sites through social distancing. We have made use of virtual meetings, not only for coordination purposes, but also for virtual inspections with our building departments and design partners to allow our projects to continue to progress. Also on some of our larger national projects, utilizing data from our trade partners’ weekly work plans and tools such as Power BI, we are able to develop interactive site plans which depict the density of the planned work crews in a particular location. In turn, this allows us to relocate workers if necessary to better promote social distancing. Looking forward, we are investigating the application of wearable devices which will provide notifications in the event that workers are within six feet of one another and enable better enforcement of social distancing guidelines.
Brett W. Skapinetz, director/principal, Dynamic Engineering Consultants PC (Lake Como)
At Dynamic Engineering we employ technology routinely to enable social distancing both in the workplace and the field. Our surveyors on site use GPS/Total Station equipment. Our geotechnical engineers have managed distancing by employing the use of tablets to log and transfer data from the field to the office. Like you, we have become masters of video conferencing platforms. The use of these technologies can assist construction teams also. The use of video conferencing applications can pull together management teams to eliminate packed site trailers. Employing real time GPS can assist with the deployment and separation of crew locations on site. But every construction team and site is unique. So use of these technologies along with PPE and, most importantly, good old fashioned common sense, will vary to help ensure social distancing is taking place. Once distancing measures are relaxed I expect some of these technologies to remain in use.