Apr 3, 2020
2:05 pm

COVID-19 Commercial Construction Strategies

3 Reasons Businesses Should Prioritize Design Over Construction During Covid-19

Within the quick service restaurant, retail fuel service, convenience store, and retail sectors, the COVID-19 outbreak has led corporate development departments to make some tough decisions. 

One common question senior managers are grappling with is, “Is it more prudent to prioritize impending design work or approved store construction?” 

If it comes down to a choice, companies that continue to move forward with the design and permitting work will be better positioned to complete projects with minimal downtime than those who delay it. 

Three factors favour prioritization of design over construction: timelines, budget and the ability to work remotely.

1. The design and permitting phases require the lion’s share of time.

On average, the design and permitting phases of a new store/franchise construction project represent 60% to 75% of the project timeline. The construction phase accounts for approximately 25% to 40%.

That’s a huge difference, and it’s a big reason to keep design work moving forward.

For example, in western Canada, the design and permitting phase for a greenfield quick-service restaurant or gas bar and convenience store will generally take 7 to 8 months. Once approved, construction can typically be completed within 4 to 5 months. 

If the decision is made to put design and permitting work on hold, projects will be significantly delayed once the threat of COVID-19 subsides and the country is back to business as usual. Whereas, putting a hold on construction will have a smaller impact on the overall timeline.

2. Design and permitting phases are a small percentage of the budget.

If your company is being mindful of budget expenditures due to the economic uncertainties around the COVID-19 outbreak, putting construction on pause will result in significantly greater savings than delaying design. 

The construction phase accounts for about 85% of the project budget, compared to approximately 15% for the design and permitting phases. This is not surprising, due to the material and labour costs.

The design and permitting phases represent up to 75% of the project timeline…but only 15% of the cost.

3. Design and permitting work can continue unimpeded. 

Full-service engineering and design firms that serve the QSR, retail fuel, convenience store, and retail sectors have largely been able to transition their businesses to allow for remote operation. So far, construction has been deemed an essential service and has been exempted from many restrictions, but this may change.

According to Devin Mahaffey, President of CTM Design Ltd., most municipal permitting departments across Ontario and western Canada are continuing to accept, review and process design submissions.

Mahaffey notes that engineering and design firms with strong project management practices in place should be able to easily introduce technology to allow employees to follow public health advice to work remotely. 

“By leveraging our stringent project management processes and collaboration technologies, CTM’s entire team is working from home,” says Mahaffey. “It’s so seamless it often feels like just another day at the office,” Mahaffey adds.

Be ready to hit the ground running.

It will be crucial that businesses are prepared to ramp up operations once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and restrictions are lifted. Having an approved design package with all permits in place will give companies a healthy head start once life returns to some semblance of normality. 

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