Since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have faced unprecedented disruption and adaptation. In the construction industry, remote work, social distancing, supply chain issues and workforce challenges have spelled change. As construction industry leaders point out, some trends will continue in 2021 and beyond.
Triangle Associates, a local, West Michigan construction management company, experienced a shift beyond material delivery delays and agile work environments.
“When COVID-19 hit, we were fortunate to have plenty of work coming down the pipeline,” said Jim Conner, executive vice president and COO at Triangle. “Specifically, K-12 work has proved to be a reliable source of work for our company.”
While other projects in higher education, commercial and retail segments have been paused, K-12 schools in Michigan have seen widespread support for bond proposals. Throughout the pandemic, Triangle has helped six school districts secure the majority of votes to pass bond referendums, totaling nearly $236 million to fund their capital improvement projects. As a result, the company’s work in the education segment has grown by nearly 20%.
“Our backlog is strong, better than 2020 because of all the longevity of school bond work,” Conner said.
In Michigan, K-12 districts get their funding for infrastructure improvement projects from bond proposals. Since voters approve bond proposals on a local level, the state’s budget doesn’t affect school district infrastructure funding.
“There’s no waiting on state funding, and it’s a more stable way to ensure upcoming work,” Conner said.
In addition to a shift in core markets, Conner pointed out the construction industry’s overall adaptability. In May, construction was one of the first industries allowed to return to work during Michigan’s Stay Safe, Stay Home order. Conner attributes this to the industry’s focus and commitment to safety guidelines.
“We are used to following detailed safety instructions and adhering to PPE requirements, which helped in our COVID-19 safety rollout,” he said.
Triangle implemented a COVID-19 plan and assembled a pandemic response team, one similar to their safety committee, on the first day of shutdown in March 2020.
“A key aspect in the industry’s ability to adapt involved implementing tight-knit response plans,” Conner said.
As the company worked swiftly to comply with COVID-19 mandates, Triangle implemented a health screening form, a tool Conner plans on using in the future.
“We have seen health screening be extremely helpful,” he said. “When coronavirus cases began to resurge this fall, we had cases internally and with our trade partners. Being able to directly contact the individual who visited our job site, not just the company, was tremendous in helping us identify potential exposures.”
After an unprecedented year, Triangle looks to the future with optimism regardless of the changes and challenges facing the industry.
“Overall, we are looking forward to the next few years,” Conner said. “We are lucky to have had such a large focus in the education segment and already be trained in safety protocols. It made for a smoother transition.”