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July 1, 2020

What's the secret to maintaining Delivery Excellence on a construction site through COVID-19?

When it comes to workplace construction projects, there are often concerns about going over time or over budget. Add a global pandemic into the mix and these concerns can quickly become reality. So how do you respond to crisis and maintain business as usual throughout construction? The answer: preparation.

While we weren’t prepared for COVID-19, when the crisis did hit, our ways of working meant we were able to respond quickly and make the necessary arrangements to keep as many of our projects going as possible.

Our planning process gave us the flexibility to add in additional measures needed to keep our teams on site throughout the pandemic. We implemented heightened health and safety measures globally to mitigate risk and keep our people, clients and suppliers safe. Increased PPE, health declarations, hygiene stations, and coordinated workflows ensured safe distancing measures were in place.

Planning for success

Thanks to these measures, and a bit of meticulous planning, our Asia Pacific (APAC) team were able to deliver 21 in-flight projects on time, on budget and with zero defects during the peak of COVID.

“We were able to achieve these results through our thorough planning process, which makes the most of our methodology. Our team kept in constant communication with our clients and contractors and were able to plan ahead to source alternative suppliers where there were unavoidable delays to product deliveries” says David Burke, Principal – Delivery in Sydney.

“Our teams work collaboratively, so our delivery teams always have enough time in a program to prepare and engage subcontractors effectively. We include time to fully educate our team on the project plan and our clients’ goals. This means when we start on site, we’re able to hit the ground running – even in a pandemic.

“Throughout COVID-19, this planning phase was crucial and meant that during times of uncertainty we were able to guarantee delivery, so our clients were happy in our safe hands.

David explains that “as well as starting with a clear plan, our delivery teams schedule time to finish every job properly. We sweat the small details, taking a forensic look at a project to make sure the quality of workmanship is of our high standards, the workplace is defect free and add finishing touches to create the perfect ambience on day one.”

Delivery Excellence during COVID

During the height of the pandemic, lockdown restrictions, travel bans and social distancing rules added to the problem, making it difficult for contractors to effectively manage their local teams. As a result, we were forced to manage projects with team members working remotely, where they were unable to get to site. Effective daily communication became a key tool for achieving success.

“Communication became more crucial than ever during COVID, when we or our clients weren’t always able to be there in person. As a behaviour that’s embedded into daily ways of working, we made sure we had the technology to be available when our clients needed to talk to us”, says Dana Serrano Phung, Principal – Delivery, France, Spain & Benelux.

“At the beginning of a project we hold client workshops where we educate our clients on the delivery process, so they have full transparency of what to expect, when and how; it’s a time to set expectations from both sides. During COVID we adapted these to host virtual sessions”, Dana continued.

With our cloud-based design tools and delivery technologies, we were able to offer an online alternative to face-to-face meetings on projects and offer our clients the confidence to keep things moving for them.

Putting it into practice at COTY, Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, our project team did just this to ensure COTY’s 10,000 sqm workplace was delivered seamlessly. The pandemic meant quickly adapting to new restrictions with reduced trades on site each day and social distancing rules observed. Additional PPE, hygiene safety and temperature checks became part of every-day routine. Our project managers implemented shift patterns to accommodate different trades being on site and patterns of working. We used an organised task-based workflow to reduce the risk of cross pollination of people and infection. This meant we could divide and conquer throughout the building.

While the whole COTY project team weren’t able to visit site due to travel restrictions, our virtual meetings and Procore project management software meant they were kept well informed, with real-time insights, on the status of their project throughout. Their strategic international relocation from New York to Amsterdam was planned well in advance of the COVID-19 lockdown and was able to continue due to our meticulous planning, local presence and close relationships with in-market contractors. Our global footprint and local expertise means we often serve as our clients’ eyes and ears across territories in which they’re not yet active.

Determined to get the job done as planned, our site manager walked nearly 30,000 steps a day for almost 18 weeks across the four levels – that’s around the distance it would take us to walk from our Amsterdam studio to London studio and back again, twice!

What’s next for office interior design and construction after COVID?

As the pandemic lifts and businesses across the globe return to the office, we’re now supporting global businesses with return to work strategies implementing bespoke design plans based on our Propeller concept.

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