How the laws and regulations around construction are changing thanks to the pandemic.

The pandemic has changed life in just about every part of the world, for everyone. Not only has the term PPE (personal protective equipment) become commonplace, but businesses have had to learn to work much more disruption. Disruptions include shutdowns thanks to lockdowns, less staff, not doing business on-location, and much more. As of now, the US is starting to finally crest the pandemic. A significant portion of people are vaccinated (about 43% of adults have had one dose). We need to look at how construction will change in the post-pandemic world.

Many people have used the phrase “getting back to normal.” Unfortunately that term isn’t really feasible. Normal is what brought on the pandemic. It wasn’t the first either. Since 2000, we have seen West Nile Virus, SARS-CoV, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, and more. COVID-19 was just the one that hit the sweet spot. It was infectious enough to be easily-transmittable, while not killing a large portion of people. Diseases that kill too many people usually end up not spreading as well, as they kill faster than they can effectively spread.

So, what is the legal world doing to make sure another virus or outbreak like this one doesn’t grind the economy and construction industry to a halt?

 

New safety guidelines

 

When it comes to constructing a new building, a whole slew of rules and regulations must be followed. The building must follow zoning rules, it must be built up to code, it must also be a safe construction site. In the past, during construction, safety was more along the lines of accident prevention for construction contractors. The goal was to prevent falls, electrocution, crushing under heavy materials, and general immediate danger. New laws and regulations will have to include PPE, social distancing, and guidelines for outbreaks. In the future, most people would still like to be able to work during a disease outbreak. The current issue is figuring out how to keep people at work while keeping them safe. Not just safe from accidents, but safe from getting sick, and spreading sickness to others. In contracts for new building, owners will have to pay special attention to safety guidelines. These will include staggering shifts, health screenings, PPE allocation, deep cleaning, and no doubt more.

 

Force Majeure Will become much more important in contracts

 

Force Majeure is something that happens when work needs to completely grind to a halt. Typically, in construction this happens in just a few instances. One is when there is a catastrophic accident that risks the lives of workers and damages existing construction. This could include an explosion or collapse, or a major equipment (such as a crane) failure. These sorts of situations essentially make it impossible to continue construction throughout the whole site. The construction site must be shut down for safety, cost-saving, and to reassess if the job can be completed. Another reason for invoking Force Majeure is extreme weather. In the case of hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding, a construction site is impossible, and dangerous to work on. Other disasters such as earthquakes, civil unrest, and other nearby catastrophes can also be a reason for work to stop.

New commercial construction contracts will have to have new Force Majeure legal provisions that stop work during outbreaks. This will no doubt be a complicated and messy process, as construction isn’t like other work. Much of it is outside, so it’s not as easy as simply working from a home office. Because a lot of construction work is outdoors though, it means that airborne diseases have a harder time spreading. Nonetheless, expect to see significant provisional changes in contracts for the circumstances under which work is stopped. 

 

Construction will become less focused, as projects may need to pivot

 

An example could be a new and unfinished building becoming a makeshift hospital. Patients with a  contagious disease must be isolated, so using a large, unused space to house people who could be disease vectors makes sense.

Other implications include factories that may need to be able to quickly make more than one item. For example, a car plant might have to quickly shift to making air purifiers or ventilators. Construction contracts will no doubt become more open, and possibly more complex because they will have to include extra provisions for such things. Instead of a single type of production line, new factories will need multiple production capabilities. Construction contracts will no doubt begin to include provisions for using spaces as hospitals, and making more open-ended business and industrial buildings.

 

Cybersecurity will have to be improved

 

As building information modeling (BIM), VR and AR, and tech is used more in construction, we can expect higher standards for cybersecurity. Thanks to the pandemic, just about every industry has moved to be less centralized, and more online. The construction industry is no different. It was already moving in that way, with tech and digital innovation at the forefront of new building techniques. The pandemic increased the speed at which those changes were happening. New construction contracts will have to include special provisions for tech security. Each new piece of technology is a new weak link in maintaining security. Drones, databases, BIM models, and more can all be accessed by outside parties, sometimes quite easily. New contracts may even include stipulations for use of cybersecurity companies.

 

Professionalism will never go out of style

 

Of course, there are many other legal trends currently changing construction. Things like supply chain contracts are designed to keep the building going. Other things like bankruptcy clauses are more important than ever. 

If you feel ready to go ahead with your construction project, give Reliable Commercial Construction a call. Our experience, professionalism, and portfolio of work speaks for itself. No job is too big, no job is too complex for our commercial contractors. On top of that, you will be kept up to date and satisfied every step of the way. Contact us today and we can give you a free design quote to start making your dream a reality