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Reduced capacity in vertical transport units during COVID-19

By TBH’s Claims team member, Joel Brady

Construction projects require good site access to work efficiently. Some projects, such as mid to high-rise building developments, are reliant on vertical transport to efficiently get workers to and from their work front.

On a typical high-rise building, vertical transport is an essential part of site activity, carrying workers and tools up the building in the morning, for breaks and back down, at the end of the day. It is also used throughout the day to transport workers and equipment between floors.

As part of the government’s COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, laws were introduced in March which stipulated work sites (and indeed general work places) limit the number of people within a certain square meterage. As a result, this has restricted the number of people permitted to use vertical transport units at any one time. This can result in reduced productivity from the additional travel time in getting workers to and from their work fronts.

Based on our work with Contractors/Clients, we have found that in order to reduce the impact of COVID-19 restrictions to vertical transport, some sites have implemented staggered start and finish time of trades. Alternatively, if staggered start times have not been implemented, workers may be required to work additional hours to maintain the forecast productivity rates, compensating for the additional travel time.

In addition to the staggered start times or extended work time, TBH recommends sites experiencing reduced capacity in vertical transport consider the following:

1. Prioritise Vertical Transport for critical trades;

2. Request trades walk stairs where possible;

3. Depending on the stage of the project, investigate the feasibility of adding more vertical transport; and

4. Commission and utilise more lifts as ‘builders’ lifts’ if possible

Consequently, these additional hours or extra vertical transport options may result in additional costs to the project. If Contractors wish to recover the costs and time for this issue, it is important to understand that the effects of this event are likely to be considered disruption, instead of delay.

In our experience, it is generally harder to substantiate a disruption claim. Therefore, to assist Contractors/Clients establish the impact of the reduced capacity of vertical transport on the project, TBH’s Four-Point Plan for Time and Cost Recovery should be followed.

In summary, the Four-Point Plan established that the following steps should be taken:

1. Establish where your project is up to now / pre-COVID-19 Restrictions

2. Establish and record the impact of doing nothing

3. Identify and record the cost and Impact of recovery measures

4. Ongoing record-keeping

If the site has established measures to reduce the impact of vertical transport restrictions, the effect and cost of these measures should be established if the Contractor wishes to claim disruption and/or delay. For vertical transport, methods to establish this could be, and are not limited to:

1. Establishing waiting times pre and post COVID-19 to get the work force to their intended fronts. If the working hours are not extended, then it must follow that longer wait times result in less productive days;

2. Quantifying additional operational time required by critical trades to maintain same levels of daily productivity;

3. Comparing pre and post COVID-19 overall times to complete activities for an area; and

4. Clear and transparent communication with the Client to ‘bring them along’ regarding what aspects of disruption are being experienced.

Using this methodology, sites may be able to demonstrate the disruption has caused a prolongation delay to the completion of the project or additional costs to keep the site running efficiently.

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