Carol J. Ott in Bricks & Bucks on March 25, 2020
To help co-op and condo boards understand how the coronavirus pandemic will affect capital projects and apartment renovations, Habitat spoke recently with three experts from the construction field: Andrew Brucker, partner at the law firm Armstrong Teasdale; Michael DiFonzo, president of Central Construction Management; and Stephen Varone, president of RAND Engineering & Architecture.
Habitat: In the age of coronavirus, are crews allowed to work on the interiors and exteriors of buildings?
Varone: It's been changing day to day. So far we did have one cellar alteration project where they want work halted. But we haven't had any of our exterior jobs stopped, as of today. We're trying to stay active, especially since most of them on the exterior deal with public safety.
DiFonzo: Onc client asked us to stop the day we were going to be starting a job. Today we had an experience where a client saw that we have more than 20 men on the jobsite, and they were concerned that we were breaking the 10-person rule. We explained to them that we’re working on facades, we’re working on swing scaffolding, men are wearing personal protective equipment, and there's only two men on a scaffold. I am home now, and we've been staggering people who go in and out of the office. Project managers are going to the field from home, then back home.
Brucker: Overwhelmingly boards have said there should be no more construction within the apartments. None. They don't want workers coming in and out.
Habitat: At some point, will workers be unable to come to jobsites?
DiFonzo: We've had a couple of workers who were not able to come to jobsites because of child-care issues. We've also had a couple of workers who are afraid and just don't want to leave their home and come to work. So we've had to close jobs because we have not had the ability to man them safely.
Habitat: Are you concerned that there will be any interruptions in the supply chain?
DiFonzo: The only issue in supplies has been the N95 masks that we use during cutting, pointing, and the mixing of cement to protect the workers from silica. We happen to have some in our warehouse, but I've spoken to some suppliers and they don't have any and anybody that does have them, they want an amazing amount of money for them. It seems like in the next couple of weeks there will be a shortage of masks if they don't re-up their inventory.
Habitat: Have you gotten any feedback from the city yet on whether they will forego fines if deadlines are not met? Or will deadlines be extended?
Varone: It's hard to imagine the city imposing fines or penalties for missing deadlines. I would think all those dates just get extended, also for reports that have some type of submission deadline to the city. If that deadline can't be met because we can't make an inspection to provide an update, then you would have to imagine that those deadlines are going to be extended.
Brucker: I totally agree. And keep in mind that the state has already put a stay on all evictions because they realize that this is a crisis. I would bet that the city is going to forego violations or fines based on missed deadlines. It's just not going to happen.
Varone: The only issues we should be worried about have to do with public safety. In this type of scenario with coronavirus, you can almost think of it like winter shutdowns when contractors can't work, and you may have a period of three months where you're reporting back to the city saying, ‘Nothing happened because we're in a winter shutdown, but there's protection in place and conditions are safe, and so please give us more time.’ And essentially that's what's going to happen.
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