How to manage your self-build project during the coronavirus crisis

What effect will the Coronavirus have on your self-build project? Try these top tips from a project management expert to keep it running as smoothly as possible.

By Becca Green | 20 March 2020

Looking for guidance on how to keep your self-build or renovation project on track during these uncertain times? From the latest government guidance to expert advice, here’s what you need to know.

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Image: Run Projects

This article was edited on 25th March 2020, and all advice is based on UK Government guidelines at this time. Advice within this article will be updated when new guidance is given. 

Whether you’re a homeowner, project manager or tradesperson, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent government guidelines enforcing social distancing have created a complex working landscape to navigate. On one hand, the health of all those involved in the build, as well as wider society, needs to be safeguarded; on the other, you may be facing concerns about finances, whether that relates to project budget or income for your household.

At present, the advice offered by the Government is that those working on construction sites may continue to do so, as stated by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick via his Twitter account.

However, this advice differs in Scotland, for example, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has advised all sites that aren’t contributing something essential in the fight against the coronavirus should close.  London Mayor Sadiq Khan also disagreed with the UK Government’s policy to keep construction sites open in a recent statement.

Large housebuilders, such as Bellway, are starting to close sites over concerns they could not police social distancing.

Whether you choose to keep your site open or to close is a decision you’ll need to make based on a variety of criteria, not least of which should be the risk posed to those spending time on the site. Small residential builds may be considered to pose low risk, requiring only a small workforce to be onsite, but as building in such an environment is venturing into unchartered waters, keep these key considerations in mind whatever decision you make.

Materials and suppliers

“While many goods and materials are still arriving in the UK, there will be fewer people available for handling and delivering these items. It is prudent to allow additional time for orders and deliveries to site and to plan further ahead than usually required,” explains Kenelm Cornwall-Legh from Run Projects, an independent project management firm.

Whether you’re keeping your site open or not, keep in contact with suppliers even if their products aren’t due to arrive during this period, as it may also have repercussions further down the line which could affect your build’s timeline.

Timelines

It’s unclear how long these circumstances will be in effect. Enforced social distancing was outlined on the 23rd March 2020 for an initial period of 3 weeks, issued with the guideline that this would be re-evaluated at a later stage as the situation developed.

Regardless of the length of time, it’s no bad idea to start proactively rescheduling your timeline for the project with dates that can be adjusted as circumstances change, whether you do completely stop work at this time, or just slow down as you see fit.

It may be worth considering phasing projects in a slightly different way – ie. doing works area by area rather than all at once. This could add some additional time and therefore cost, but if you do keep the build running, workers need to be able do their jobs safely and efficiently.

Ensure strict hygiene

Enforce strict hygiene regimes on entering and leaving the site, as well as before and after touching materials. Place hand sanitisers around the site, alongside reminders to wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds each time. “It is also wise to wipe down regularly used items such as door handles, mugs, tea pots, milk and so on at the end of each day,” continues Kenelm Cornwall-Legh.