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Just a year ago, no one could have imagined that the country would face a pandemic of this proportion. In what felt like the blink of an eye, Covid-19 brought new challenges to industries worldwide, particularly construction. When projects were shut down at a moment’s notice, construction businesses were forced to find new ways of operating and keeping workers safe. For Wates Construction Ltd, which had 50 live sites across England, this was a business-critical moment.
“Like many other businesses across the country, we had no choice but to shut down,” said Adam Cannon, project director at Wates. “As the crisis developed, we took measures every step of the way, but when the lockdown was announced in late March, we decided as a company to press pause. We weren’t comfortable letting our teams work under existing protocols with the potential health risks from Covid-19.”
With work halted, a team began working around the clock to analyse all aspects of Wates’ operating procedures and establish a model that would allow projects to continue moving forward while protecting the health and wellbeing of those working on site. “Being able to return to work hinged on our ability to manage our sites safely in line with the requirements of the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures,” said Cannon. Our teams were extremely diligent in identifying a combination of technology and processes that would keep our workers safe.”
Two days later, the company’s projects were up and running again, including The Nottingham City Hub, which was one of the company’s flagship projects for the Midlands.
Intended to revitalise the area, The Nottingham City Hub is a £58.5m educational facility procured via Major Works — UK, part of the Scape National Construction framework. Once complete, it will offer state-of-the-art facilities and resources for college students, as well as amenities including a restaurant, café and new performing arts centre.
Throughout the project, Wates engaged the local supply chain and provided training and employment opportunities for local workers, ensuring the project delivers a social, skills and economic boost to the city. To date, more than 80 percent of the entire City Hub supply chain has been sourced from businesses within a 64-km radius of the site and just under 25 percent of the full £23,881,187 supply chain spend was sourced from within a 16-km radius.
With the project impacting local students, jobs and the overall community, continuing to safely make progress, despite Covid-19, was critical. For years, Wates relied on Viewpoint Field View, a cloud-based and off-line project management solution to streamline field tasks and automate workflows for quality assurance/quality control, safety, project delivery and handover. It also served as an essential communications tool, helping ensure that everyone was on the same page when it came to the timeline, budget and safety protocols — both before and after Covid-19 hit.
Nottingham City Hub will welcome students starting in January thanks to the help of Wates and Field View, providing new opportunities for students and the city at large. In addition to helping revitalise the college and surrounding area, it also helped illuminate the role that technology can and will likely continue to play in helping to sustain construction operations in light of Covid-19.
While Covid-19 accelerated technology adoption for many construction businesses, the need to automate workflows, capture Covid specific project information and close the gap between the office and the field was already there.
“Innovating to identify safe ways to continue work and accelerating the use of technology has reinforced our reputation as a can-do contractor,” said Cannon. “The technology that is allowing us to keep projects on schedule during Covid-19 is also going to help us grow the business and meet future demands. It’s a win-win.”