Construction During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has not put a significant brake on the pace of residential construction in the GTA. In fact, residential construction has always been on the list of essential workplaces, as long as that construction required a footing permit or an above-grade structural permit has been issued, or the project started before April 4th, 2020. There are currently some 11,000 of these in the City of Toronto alone. However, we can say that the pandemic has significantly altered some critical processes and product availabilities that will require us to change how we plan and execute our projects.

For one, the availability of certain construction materials has been affected. Pressure treated lumber, for example, is scarce and longer wait times, increased prices or the use of alternate materials has to be taken into account when doing timelines or budgets. Work requiring this (typically decks) might even be put off, if feasible, until a future date.
Other issues we are facing involve the safety of our crews. We are required to limit the number of people working in proximity to one another, and that slows down the process as teams have to work sequentially instead of in combination. Where possible, in order to keep things moving, we have different teams working on different ends of the job where we can.

Anything to do with municipal government right now is very slow. Getting permits when most employees are working from home or only a few are in the office on a few days has meant that the timeframe for getting your construction permits could be many months, not just a couple. As well, the inspection regime has changed: getting an inspector out to your site (this is a non-optional thing) has been more difficult as these municipal government offices have closed/are work-from-home. This adds unknown delays during the construction process, for instance preventing drywallers from starting their job (even if they are ready to go) because they can’t close in HVAC, plumbing or electrical work before it is inspected. (Even worse, they might go to their next job, which is ready for them, and then you lose them for another week or two!)

In short, SARS-CoV-2 isn’t going to stop your project from happening, but it will inject a few time and budget monkey-wrenches into the process, and you will have to adjust your expectations for a little less certainty, and be prepared to acquire a lot more patience with the process!