Has health infrastructure taught construction a lesson?
Has health infrastructure taught construction a lesson? William Howard, the President of FIDIC, gives introduction to the webinar, “Has Health Infrastructure Taught Construction a Lesson”, stating that the post COVID world is going to be different. The webinar held on 1st of February throws light on the infrastructure of the healthcare sectors to cope with COVID and such situations which could come up in the future.
He further explains that we must be prepared for the unexpected, which was one of the biggest learning lessons from COVID. What is worth praising is the fact that economies are trying to bounce back, industries are trying to adapt and specially industries such as the construction industry has fared well considering the challenges it faced due to the nature of its business.
As of 1st February 2021, there were 102 million confirmed cases of COVID and 2.3 million deaths. The truth of the matter is that COVID has struck every sector, and it has led us to question whether the current healthcare Infrastructure is sufficient to deal with COVID over the next 18 months.
Anne Frances Kerr, managing director Mott MacDonald Hong Kong Limited, starts by explaining that the construction sector has learnt a lot during this time. It has adapted and grown. In London, the Nightingale Hospital arranged for 4,000 beds in two weeks, and she states that this is one of the many such examples, plenty of which can be seen across Asia.
She points out three major concerns. First being the construction period, secondly, the construction costs. Movement of human resource, labour and equipment was another major issue, because of lockdowns and unwillingness of individuals to move to different places. This has taken a major toll on the supply chains.
And, lastly, design for resilience by accommodating new facilities. This is to design the layouts which are aimed at reducing disease transmission, better ergonomic and logistic functioning in hospitals. It was always going to be tougher and costlier to deliver results at lower costs, especially with COVID affecting different segments vastly.
Ben Coxon, a health industry leader at Aurecon discusses Australia ‘s approach and learnings during the Pandemic. He states that COVID has taught lessons not just to the construction industry but other sectors and professionals of different backgrounds as well. In his opinion, the major learnings from the pandemic were, firstly like Anne stated, building around resilience.
Secondly it made all the industries adapt to technology and digitalisation more and more. These developments took place considering the people’s fundamental right of accessibility to quality healthcare when needed. He opines that Australia did face problems in delivering health care services to the aged, to the disadvantaged, to indigenous people and other such inequalities.
Resilience is about infrastructure, but it is also about the mindset in dealing with such an event”, he states. He further explains that it is obvious for health care to get priority in the national budget all over the world but along with that the construction sector should work towards the aims of the health care sector.
This approach should not be restricted to just pandemic-like events, but since there’s a constant change in medical practices and technology, the healthcare buildings should be such that the changes can be made easily and quickly. Hence, the construction sector must understand the medical needs and changing trends.
Since the construction industry does not have expertise in the healthcare sector, the ideal way to go about it would be to outsource this to a professional in the field who can guide with creating a pathway.
Kiri Parr, Director at Kiri Parr Pty Ltd, who also sits on the FIDIC contract committee. Kiri gives a bird’s eye view on issues with procuring and contracts. A lot of projects all over the world ended up in enquiries, leading to lawyers making money off the disputes. It’s necessary to learn from past experiences, unless we do so, we will fail to adapt to such challenges.
Delay in projects in another major concern which raises issues of concern among the investors and public at large. Having experts to guide us with such complex events plays a key role in planning the process. Planning for reality being another important lesson, wherein project planning and crisis readiness is catered to.
It makes a pathway for potential “ifs and buts” that may arise. Third important lesson, she explains the importance of good governance and leadership. Introspection and responsiveness to feedback is of great significance. She adds that good leadership must look for bad news and treat bad news as good news. This is exactly what problem identification is all about.
Thus, we can say that there is no single answer to cope with events as complex as a global pandemic. This is exactly why it is so dynamic and continuous in nature. It has been more than a year dealing with COVID-19, we are still adapting and changing continuously. These key points can help us be better prepared for such challenging times.