AGC of Colorado: Construction is an essential service amidst COVID-19 pandemic

The Hub as seen while under construction in Denver in 2019. Courtesy Rocky Mountain Photography

As the nation braces to defend against this unprecedented pandemic known as the coronavirus (COVID-19), this is honestly an article topic I never thought I would need to address in my lifetime. Albeit, as in any crisis affecting the design and construction, as well as the commercial real estate industry, AGC of Colorado stands strong to protect our members and continually advocate for our industry as a whole.

michael gifford

Michael Gifford, MPA, IOM President, Associated General Contractors of Colorado

Construction is essential. Here in Colorado, we are in full support of the Associated General Contractors of America’s position that construction is an essential service and needs to continue on through this crisis. As such, our AGC of Colorado board of directors and management staff met on March 18 to outline a plan to protect and promote our industry during this pandemic. The plan has several parts, with the following four key messages:

  1. Keep construction sites open and establish construction as an essential service for both the state and local governments/Authority Having Jurisdiction.
  2. Address reports of building and fire inspection suspensions at AHJ’s and advocate for continuation of service either physically, third-party, off-hours or virtually.
  3. Establish industry best practices for the many situations that are arising (this will be a work in progress).
  4. Address business continuation needs including cash flow for companies that experience project shutdowns.

Safety is our top priority. We fully understand that in order to execute on our four-part plan and keep construction sites operable, we must ensure that the nearly 180,000 Coloradoans working in the construction industry are taking all of the necessary precautions to perform their jobs safely and securely. The construction industry is inherently linked with safety measures in order to perform our work, and following these strict guidelines is nothing new for our construction employees.

During this crisis, it is essential that we will be extra vigilant to adhere to all public health guidelines set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control. Our construction workers often receive monthly, weekly and even daily training on the latest safety measures. In fact, at this point, we are going above and beyond – taking extra precautions to keep our employees safe and protect Coloradans. Construction, by nature, is a practice of social distancing. Most projects have workers dispersed on tasks located more than 6 feet apart.

Our communities need construction workers. While citizens are coping with a variety of restrictions as a result of the health crisis, it is essential that they have access to our professionals to build and maintain essential services like plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems, water/wastewater treatment plants and power generation facilities, hospitals and roads, and provide them shelter.

Aside from providing comfort, this equipment is vital for both health and safety reasons as well as volume of productivity, particularly for air filtration and food and medical supply preservation, especially in this time of quarantine. When equipment fails, qualified, licensed personnel must be able to repair or replace it as quickly as possible to ensure continued operations.

Simply put, our work supports the frontlines of this crisis – we support hospitals and health care facilities; we support education facilities; we support the transportation system, and, we support first responders.

Consequences of construction work stoppage. If a construction work stoppage is officially issued for any reason, there will be several significant consequences both direct and indirect, for not only the construction industry itself, but for our Colorado economy as a whole. Work stoppages in this industry will reverberate through financial markets and unwind a network of contracting and employment issues. At a time when the unemployment infrastructure is already being stressed, adding 180,000 more construction workers would be catastrophic.

We are working around-the-clock to keep members of the construction industry safe and well-informed. We all hope for a swift end to this pandemic and for the social and economic impacts to be minimal. One way to ensure those minimal effects is to keep construction essential in Colorado and keep building. We are “doing our part Colorado,” too.

Look for this article in the April 1, 2020, issue of CREJ.

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.