March 31st, 2020

Construction group wants industry deemed an essential service


By Lethbridge Herald on March 25, 2020.

Herald file photo by Ian Martens - The Building Industry and Land Development Association is looking to the province to consider designating construction projects essential worksites. @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
Although the construction sites haven’t yet been officially deemed “essential worksites” in Alberta during the COVID-19 crisis as they recently have been designated by the Ontario and Quebec governments, Bridget Mearns, executive officer for the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) for the Lethbridge region says this province should consider following suit if it becomes necessary to impose further closures on businesses.
By deeming construction as “essential” the Ontario government is making it clear construction sites should remain open and working even as other businesses close, she says.
“If you just look at the housing continuum; if you bought a house and you have sold your house and are waiting to move into your new house,” she explains. “If you can’t get into your new house, you are staying in a house you no longer own. And the people who are moving into that house are probably moving from somewhere else, maybe a rental — so there is an entire continuum of housing. If people don’t have places to live that’s a problem, and that’s why it is deemed an essential service.”
With proper worksite management, construction is also one of the lower-risk industries for transmission of COVID-19, and is an industry which can continue to spark the economy even in these troubled times, she says. But that’s not to say local builders are not taking COVID-19 and their employees’ health very seriously.
“Everybody has protocols in place to keep their employees safe and keep their customers safe,” Mearns explains. “Everyone is following the health guidelines that have been set by the government. It’s a very controllable worksite. Everybody is very clear who is on the site at what time and what they are doing. They are all taking the precautions they need to.”
Local builders are also working closely with City officials in determining which types of construction can proceed in the safest way possible for everyone involved, states Mearns.
“We are working with the City on inspections and permits,” she confirms. “Most permits are now online, and as far as construction for new builds — that’s business as usual. For inspections on things such as renovations, and in cases where the structure is occupied, the inspectors will not go in, but they are working with the industry in other ways to get through those inspections. I also know a lot of the warranty work is being done just on an emergency basis and things like painting, for example, that needs to be repaired; that can wait.”
Other aspects of the housing and construction industry are also making adjustments
“Show homes are being viewed by appointment only, and some of them have actually moved into virtual show homes,” states Mearns, “If we are discussing flooring, for example, they are going by appointment with their flooring supplier. They are making sure their staff is feeling well, and following all the things they need to be doing. And on the client’s end, they are making sure there is appropriate social distancing and that is set up properly. They are taking all of the precautions necessary to keep their staff safe and their clients safe.”
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