“Insane.” That’s what Marc Gunther thought as he looked out of the window of his downtown Bethesda, Maryland, apartment. Below him, cramped construction crews were building a headquarters and adjoining hotel for Marriott, the world’s biggest hotel chain. The $600 million project, which has received $60 million in public funding, is scheduled to be completed in 2022, pandemic or not.
Recently, two of the site’s approximately 300 workers tested positive for coronavirus. After shutting down the site for deep cleaning and implementing enhanced safety measures, work was scheduled to resume this week. Gunther called the resumption of work “nuts” in a Medium post (4/3/20), headlined “Luxury Condos and Corporate Office Buildings Are Not Worth Dying For.”
Original Article: Construction Continues Despite COVID-19 Concerns
The article originally posted in FAIR – a media company designed to challenge media bias in the United States focuses on the construction industry in Washington DC as the Coronavirus impacts the state. While this article focuses on the concerns in Washington similar arguments and considerations are being made across the world.
Construction has been deemed “essential” in many areas of the world and has been allowed to continue despite posing a risk to workers spreading the disease. The article points out that many of the projects continuing construction in Washington include buildings such as Amazon’s headquarters and Marriot hotel.
The construction sites noted by Fair seem to be non-essential and have minimal impact on the healthcare sector or industries deemed to be essential so why are they still running and how is this still justified? As Fair and many media outlets point out workers are genuinely worried that their safety and their family’s safety is at risk.
The Economic Impact Of Construction
As I’ve previously written, what many people fail to understand is the economic impact of the construction industry especially in places such as Canada. Below is chart of the Canadian GDP broken down by industry.
What’s fascinating about the above, and what many people fail to realize is that the construction and real estate industry are a signifcant part of the economy. Combined the real estate (13%) and construction (7%) make up 20% of the Canadian economy. What’s not reflected on here however is that a large portion of the manufacturing (11%) mining and quarrying (8%) transportation (5%) and finance (7%) supply the construction industry making a large part of their books reliant on the construction and real estate industry.
What this means is that roughly 30-40% of the economy is driven by the industry. In comparison our retail and entertainment sectors make up 6% of the economy with many of their goods and products being manufactured in other countries and shipped into Canada.
While I in no way condone people risking their own lives or those of their families for a bottom line, the decision to shut down the construction sector does need to be considered with far more seriousness then the restaurants and retail sector.
Construction Sector Uniquely Positioned
As I’ve noted previously I do believe that the construction sector is uniquely positioned to manage through an outbreak. Stories you hear of workers being jammed into an elevator are horror stories and jobsites like those should be shut down immediately.
Responsible contractors will know that managing through this type of crisis is doable. The construction industry already has plenty of procedures in place already to manage airborne pathogens. Abatement procedures are designed to prevent the spread of asbestos containing materials and could be put to similar use on project sites that require it.
Social distancing is simple to put in place on construction sites. On large earthworks projects it’s straight forward to assign one person to a machine and have them self isolate all day.
Safety or workers need to be the top consideration on construction sites. But shutting down the construction industry does need careful consideration as the economic fallout from a complete shut down could be very costly for Governments around the world.