COVID - 19 - UK Government update to construction May 20

Croft Architecture - Covid19 - Back on Site

Croft Architecture's COVID-19 May Safeguarding Measures Update

Croft Architecture takes the health and safety of our staff, clients and everyone involved in projects extremely seriously. Our team have been safely working from home for the past 10 weeks now, we hope you are all adjusting and staying at home where you can and socially distancing from others.

We've been following the news closely during the last ten weeks and welcomed Boris Johnson's announcement to reopen building sites to get construction projects moving again. The Prime Minister has advised that if you cannot work from home, then you are actively encouraged to return to work. 

The health and safety of our staff, clients and everyone involved in projects is extremely important. We want to ensure that we're all safe and remain healthy going forward and to stop the spread of the virus.

Following on from this our team are adhering to the government's instructions as it is our civic duty to do so to stay alert, save lives and support the NHS.

What does this mean for construction projects?

The government has released new workplace safety guidelines to ensure builders’ safety, with a specific set of recommendations for the construction sector for working outdoors and for working in other people's homes.

Sites should be ‘COVID-secure’ and social distancing should be maintained. We understand that a one-size-fits-all document is not easy to write, nor possible for all settings, especially when working indoors. The guidelines in the document mostly reiterate what we already know, and should be common sense now after ten or more weeks of practicing social distancing.

Although the guidance is still fairly clear, keep a safe distance and make it safe to operate, and think about the individuals involved in the task, it is much more complicated, when working on a variety of sites with others. We are liaising with contractors, consultants and suppliers to ensure that they are doing their utmost to keep construction sites safe and operational wherever it is practical to do so.

Will extensions to construction working hours into late evening or at weekends be allowed?

The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced that councils should not prevent requests for longer working hours on construction sites, which are usually controlled by planning permissions – unless there are “very compelling reasons” to reject them.

Sites can now stay open until 9pm in order to 'catch up' on lost time spent on projects and to ease the number of workers on site at a given time by staggering the start and finish hours helping everyone to follow social distancing protocols.

Supply of building materials

We understand that material supply and cost remains a bit of an issue. We've remained in close contact with contractors and consultants during the lockdown period and they have communicated that the demand for plaster and plasterboard has eased compared to a couple of weeks ago, but both are likely to remain in short supply for the short and medium term. As we all emerge from the easing of the lockdown restrictions we'll stay in regular contact to understand how we can help each other to navigate the best way through. 

Planning departments and permissions

Robert Jenrick also addressed the start of the building projects by announcing that planning applications no longer need to be publicised through physical notices at sites, and that social media and the internet can be used as quicker medium to communicate planning information to speed up the planning process and gets projects moving again.

He said: ”It’s also time that the planning system makes more use of digital technology to operate remotely and efficiently during this pandemic. I am determined that the planning inspectorate be at the forefront of this work – I welcome the inspectorate now undertaking its first ever virtual hearings. I am asking them to make all hearings virtual within weeks so that the planning system can resume and be made more permanently more accessible and user-friendly. This is the most comprehensive restarting of an industry in the first phase of our road map.”

How are planning departments operating?

We've made contact with the planning departments whom we are working with and many have responded to advise that their service is still functioning with a few adjustments given the current situation. The planning officers are no longer having face to face meetings (pre-application meetings/duty meetings) but the services are still been offered just over the phone or in writing.

Applications still can be made online via the planning portal.

Consistency and reliability: Streamlining business operations through ISO

Croft Architecture’s decision to continually work towards ISO accreditation's has meant that we were prepared to tackle the recent changes to be implemented by the government through the management systems we already in place.

Our Quality Management Systems enable our team to improve performance whilst in or out of the office environment, thanks to our robust processes and management techniques. We will continue to monitor, evaluate and make changes where necessary to streamline processes and business operations to ensure business continuity for our clients.

What changes have we made?

Guidance from the Government at the present remains that workers should continue to work from home if they can and we're supporting our team to do so until the times comes that we can return to the office.

We continue to regularly follow the news to ensure that we are prepared for the changing scenarios and complying with Government instructions. As the situation changes we regularly assess any implications to our activities and projects and we're working hard to ensure that any risk and disruption is minimised, implementing precautionary measures where necessary to reduce the spread of the virus, whilst ensuring that we can remain fully functioning for our clients.

Our aim is to still continue working as normal with as little disruption as possible until we return to the office (which hopefully won't be too much longer).

Updated Operational measures

  • From today (22nd May) all staff continue to working-from-home in line with our ISO accredited  business continuity plan.

  • Our phone systems are still diverted to the teams mobiles/ computers and we're fully contactable on 01785 248542.

  • The risks associated with site activities and visits will be assessed on a case by case basis and we will judge what is possible in terms of physical meetings based on the governments social distancing directions.

  • We would like to continue to appraise new sites (where social distancing risk is low) and we welcome new all enquiries,

  • We will continue to working closely (by phone, email and virtually) with our existing clients to keep projects moving forwards

  • Virtual and telephone meetings will still be held where physical attendance is not possible.

  • We will continue to strictly adhere to the government's guidance on social distancing whilst on site to keep everyone safe. All parties will be asked for their acceptance and agreement prior to carrying out the visits.

Business as normal 

We will continue to operate during standard business hours remotely. Our phone systems have been diverted  to our teams mobiles/ computers and our emails are working as normal - so please stay in touch.

You can find us across many social platforms where you can easily contact us too. (See the links below)

Our team are used to working with remote clients and we'll continue to utilise our office software whilst working remotely. This means that business will still continue as normal!

We are still in contact with each other and we can easily share information and interact with one another and clients, via email (as normal) and any meetings are being held via Zoom (so we can see each other and share our screens), FaceTime, Teams or Whatsapp .

It is our intention to continue to work with our clients and the project teams so that when the time comes, and the Government deems it safe for us to return to the office - our projects (and lives) can continue on, without delay. We feel this is vitally important to continue working remotely for our health and for the UK economy until it is safe for us all to return to 'normality'', however we're starting to plan what a safe return to Croft HQ might look like.

Once again we would like to reassure you that we will continue to comply with the government guidelines, as they evolve. www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19

 
Whilst we are still facing the most uncertain of times, we are certainly trying to ensure it’s business as usual in our new 'normal' lives. 

If you have any questions at all please feel free to contact us on 01785 248542 or email enquires@croftarchitecture.com

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