Cost consultant says reduced workforce numbers mean jobs can’t operate effectively

Alinea has warned that contractors will not be able to make up time lost on jobs caused by the covid-19 pandemic while site workforces remain reduced because of social distancing restrictions.

The London cost consultant said just over 50% of a sample of 29 of its live projects have continued working since the lockdown was brought in more than six weeks ago, adding that half of those that did stop have now restarted.

mace battersea

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The Battersea Power Station redevelopment, which had more than 4,500 workers on it before the covid-19 crisis escalated, is still shut. Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine are main contractors on the affected phases

But in an assessment of the impact of coronavirus, the firm said reductions in workforce had ranged typically from 30% to 85%.

It added: “[A] reduced workforce is generally not sufficient to operate effectively [and a] fall in productivity will exceed hours lost.”

Firms have started reopening sites but most have said they are being run with vastly reduced numbers.

Last week, Mace said it wanted its sites to be operating at 80% output by the end of the July. “We are currently achieving between 30-60% output compared to our pre-covid-19 levels,” it added.

Alinea also said there were concerns that as more sites returned to work, there would be an impact on availability of materials – hitting productivity further.

It added: “Offsite material fabrication is inconsistent which will lead to onsite uncertainty [and] loss of productivity.”

Sites which have continued during the lockdown have concentrated on piling and ground works, it added.

Firms are introducing a range of measures to make sure public health protocols are being followed such as dual entrances, facilities and staircases. Others such as Laing O’Rourke have brought in multiple shift patterns and is encouraging workers to walk or cycle to jobs.

Alinea’s update said relations between clients, main contractors and trade contractors were holding up for now. “Generally, we are seeing a high degree of collaboration albeit with a sense of an ‘at arm’s length’ approach.”

It said: “Some clients [are] keen to offer help on cashflow or other mitigation measures without committing to acceptance of costs for delay.”

Contractors and trade contractors were asking for covid-19 contract clauses to be considered if at a pre-contract stage, it added, while firms were also looking for revised payment terms and early release of retentions to ease short-term cashflow problems.