Webinar on ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Construction Industry’

The Indian Buildings Congress, held a webinar on 3rd May, 2020 on the subject  ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Construction Industry’ to understand the impacts of the pandemic on construction industry and to find out the viable solutions for resumption of the construction projects held up due to lockdown. Eminent speakers were invited from construction industry, who presented their views for re-starting the construction work of projects in this post COVID 19 lockdown scenario

Shri Pradeep Mittal, President, IBC, in his welcome note, welcomed Shri O.P.Goel, Founder President, IBC;  Shri K.B.Rajoria, Keynote speaker, and Past President, IBC;  Shri, Shobit Uppal, Past President, IBC and Jt. M.D. M/s Ahluwalia Contracts Pvt. Ltd.;  Shri R.N.Gupta, CMD, Ramacivil Contracts Pvt. Ltd.;  Shri Hitender Mehta, Mehta & Associates LLP, Architect & Urban Planner; Shri H.P.Gupta, Hon. Secy, IBC and all the viewers/ audience of the programme. He said that post COVID-19, on lifting of the lockdown, restarting the construction projects may be very difficult because most of the migratory construction labour has already left to their home town or is not available & there may be funds problem due to economic slowdown.

Shri O.P.Goel, Founder President, IBC while thanking everyone joining the webinar, informed that the COVID-19 epidemic has caused worldwide distress, dislocation, Lockdowns and cessation of all activities to save precious lives. All construction activities have come to grinding halt as is where is. Fear psychosis and problem out of physical and economic distress has led to dispersal of migrant workers jeopardizing the early resumption of works. The epidemic has led to serious economic crisis alround, Construction workers and employees have to be looked after without any return as there is no activity. The whole scenario of construction industry will undergo massive change. In the running contracts the claims of huge damages, compensation and renovation of the sites are foreseen, which will have to be settled by the parties urgently and Govt will have to provide guidelines and relief for the same. Future contracts will need redrafting to take care of the possible scenario.

Shri K.B.Rajoria, Past President, IBC in his key note address, underlined the importance of the subject of the webinar to the construction industry in view of the changed environment where human race is at a stake. Besides the health care workers who are fighting this pandemic as corona warriors he lauded the role of engineers who are at the back of arranging and maintaining water supply, electricity, air conditioning and all other services for smooth functioning of hospitals. He also informed that CREDAI has issued SOP/ work restart guidelines. The working agencies will have to undergo these guidelines and will have to bear the additional cost on account of implementation.

Shri Shobit Uppal, Joint MD, Ahluwalia Contracts (I) Ltd. &  Past President, IBC, in his address informed that the economical global growth has reduced and there may not be any growth in the  financial year 2020-21.There could be several  challenges and there is lot of uncertainty in restarting the projects and the life will be very difficult as most of the migratory construction work force has either travelled back to their villages or adamant to leave. Virtually there will be no workforce available on lifting of lock down. Lakhs of workers needed by the industry will have to be quarantined on their return to work, will have to be trained to new safety norms, wok will have to be done in three shifts with reduced labour in each shift to maintain social distancing, raw materials will be in short supply, which will reduce the productivity as well as increase the cost of completion of the project. Contractors will have to gear up to the new requirements.  Trained workers will be in short supply necessitating the mechanization of many major construction activities.

Shri R.N.Gupta, CMD, Ramacivil India Construction Pvt. Limited and Vice President, IBC while lauding and appreciating the role of Government in effectively controlling the situation in this pandemic situation, expressed that after lifting of lockdown by the Government, he suggested few short term and long term measures to be initiated by the Government for resumption of construction works/ activities and reviving the construction industry from COVID-19 effects. Few such measures as suggested by him are immediate grant of extension of time for completion of balance work of projects by the departments, immediate release of outstanding due payments of the contractors, strict time lines for speedy approvals, faster settlement of construction disputes, additional mobilization advance without bank guarantee, ensuring availability of raw construction materials, grant of interest free mobilization advances. Waiving the cost of insurance of workers & employees, cost on account of extension of Bank Guarantee, waiving of panel interest during COVID-19 lockdown period and 3 months thereafter on loans for construction taken by builders, idle cost of labor, machinery and infrastructure to be borne by Govt., due to COVID-19 effect and relaxation in eligibility criteria of intending bidders for the work/ tenders in post COVID-19 period.

Shri Hitendera Mehta, MD, Mehta & Associates and EC Member, IBC, in his address informed that in Post COVID-19 situation, there will be more space requirement on account of social distancing, health and safety consideration. Planning and designing norms of residential, commercial, institutional buildings, developmental norms of cities & townships, street scaping, parks, lawns, public gathering buildings, etc. will have to be revisited by the Government. On account of social distancing requirement major changes are expected in transport sector also like passenger capacity of existing mode of transport will have to be reduced thereby increasing the cost of public transport, number of public transport vehicles  will have to be increased, the road lanes may have to be increased, private transport vehicles may further increase. Sweeping changes in construction project management & labor management are also expected. Off site construction activities with repetitive modules will be promoted thereby loss of employment of non-skilled workers. Work from home practice will increase, thereby reducing the requirement of office spaces, transport. The Estimated cost and construction cost of projects will increase because of adoption of health norms, safety norms, social distancing, cleaner working sites, and insurance of workers in the project. Sensor based app may be necessary to maintain social distancing in workers & BIM Project model may have to be utilized.

The President IBC thanked everyone in making the webinar successful. He also mentioned that the recommendations flowing out of this webinar will be sent to the Government of India for its consideration to implement. Accordingly the recommendations of the webinar have already been submitted to the Govt., of India for their consideration.