December 21, 2020

The fifth and final installment of DPR Construction’s COVID-19 briefing series for 2020, examines collective professional insights of how COVID-19 is affecting project delivery.

COVID-19 pushed the building industry into action. In the early days of the pandemic, designers and contractors jumped in with makeshift solutions to the immediate needs for safety, surge capacity, testing, and isolation.

These teams adapted as things changed, often daily. New and different ways to leverage technology improved communication and collaboration. The silver lining of the pandemic was the validation of a solid infrastructure of trusted relationships, galvanizing the entire industry to come together.

What can we do to be more resilient in the future?

Prefabricated partitions outside a hospital entrance.
Temporary partitions today, but will future design give healthcare spaces flexibility to add such measures at the flip of a switch? Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

In our discussions with industry leaders, the biggest identified challenge was how to prepare for a resilient future with what is known today. To do this, project delivery must evolve and elevate to a community approach, bringing the best people and ideas together to predict future trends and costs with reliable data. Teams need free and open sharing of ideas for the benefit of the industry and our communities.

  • Innovation – shaped by professionals working together creatively – will advance the best solutions. The uniqueness of each facility and system is grounded by owners looking for safety, cost certainty, and higher value project outcomes. Perspectives have changed and the need to do things differently has never been more crucial. This is an opportunity as an industry to collectively be nimble, ingenious, and flexible.
  • The Big Room is different, but the results are just as important. While the big room may be less populated, virtual, or take on a hybrid format, the synergy from a combination of in-person and virtual connections has kept current projects on track. Teams have seen high-quality virtual engagement, however, the ultimate impact on design solutions and construction execution is yet to be proven. Human connection and dynamics can, at some level, be captured virtually and through technology, but the informal huddles, mentoring, learning from each other, subtleties of interaction and brainstorming are being missed by many. For true collaboration and building a team community, all voices need to be heard and a big “from wherever you are” room will remain essential.
  • Leveraging geographically separated experts has never been implemented with less difficulty - and this has been seen as a benefit to positive outcomes on projects. Geography is becoming less important with virtual connectivity and access to national thought leaders is another silver lining that has emerged. The practice of leveraging global partners for lessons learned and shared best practices reflects the worldwide reach of the pandemic itself.
  • Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and other regulatory entities are important partners. The immediate response to COVID-19 required regulatory agencies to relax their approach to interfacing with stakeholders and be more flexible. Some of these temporary changes may be part of the solution for future resiliency in the face of pandemics, climate impacts, and biowarfare. There is an opportunity as an industry to work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), AHJs, and other entities for reforms that allow for greater flexibility. Additionally, the use of digital reviews, inspections, and permitting are proving positive and it is anticipated that these will continue to evolve and change how we do business.
  • Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and any form of early collaborative project delivery, is here to stay and needed more now than ever before to provide predictable results for healthcare customers. The industry group repeated – “we need to get it right” for a resilient recovery and a new normal of “providing more with less.” Trusted relationships are required more than ever, along with industry partnerships forged on transparency, collaboration, and an interdisciplinary approach. One team posited that the next evolution of project delivery methodology will arise as a result of this pandemic and is continuing to discuss the ideal method of forming, managing risk, and adding value in the delivery of healthcare.

What's Next?

A variety of healthcare and construction-themed icons on a blue background

DPR and many industry partners have extolled the benefits of prefabrication, modular construction, and virtual tools for communication, design, and documentation to facilitate projects.

“We are still learning as an industry. As we issue this briefing, with the unfortunate COVID-19 upswing, what we learned with the first surge is now being tested and improved upon. We will continue to learn, but to achieve resiliency for our customers, the design, consulting, and construction community must dig in and continue collaborating. Partners that can move fast, think more broadly, and interpret needs are what our customers are looking for,” stated Hamilton Espinosa, one of DPR Construction’s healthcare core market leaders.

Sean Ashcroft, another DPR Construction healthcare core market leader continued: “It will be the responsibility of each of us to ensure that we communicate the risks of short-sightedness, and short-term memory when it comes to decision making. The plans we make today will affect our ability to respond to the next crisis. Even now, we are beginning to feel the impact of staffing, supply chain, and system hardening activities that were deferred in the first wave. As we speak, the industry rallies around the systems we serve and the communities we support in an amazing show of resiliency.”

Espinosa added: “We are at the forefront of change in how projects are delivered - many of which are positive for the industry we serve. As we continue to assess industry changes and market conditions, relationships within the industry will continue to be important to navigate the changes ahead.”