CONSTRUCTION SECTOR SHORT TERM PLANS FOR IMMEDIATE REACTIVATION OF CONSTRUCTION WORK & PRE-CONSTRUCTION PHASE WORK DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

Prepared by: Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team (18 APRIL 2020)

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The civil and building construction sectors are essential and critical assets to any well-functioning country’s economy and political mandate to implement public and private infrastructure.
The collective built environment industries, consisting developers, built environment professionals, civil and building contractors and their respective material suppliers make up this industry that serves both public and private sectors. They are responsible for the conceptualisation and execution of fixed capital investment in the country.
The industry employs a wide range of role players ranging from highly educated technical experts to wage earning labour. Of great concern during the lock-down period is the fact that the industry, which works on a “no work no pay” basis, is unable to ensure money flow to some of the poorest sectors of society i.e. labour. At the same time critical infrastructure projects are being delayed which will have a knock-on impact on society and the economy.
The Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team is an informal structure consisting of a wide range of professional representative bodies all active within the development and construction sectors. The Task Team intents to identify practical interventions that can be made by government to support the ailing construction sector.
The proposal contained in this document proposes that certain existing construction sites should be considered for activation during the lock-down period. In addition we would propose that Companies responsible for the planning, costing and design of infrastructure projects who are mostly office bound be considered for activation in the lockdown period so that such work may commence for preparing projects that need to commence for construction during and immediately once the lockdown period has been completely lifted. Restarting these processes are key to ensuring that we are able to get the necessary infrastructure development restarted that both key to kickstarting the economy and ensuring road user safety in the instances where road closures have been necessitated due to road rehabilitation works..
Qualifying sites and Offices will focus on low population density and ease of site and staff control. Office environments will be required to ensure social distancing and limit office population to essential staff on a rotational basis to keep number low as well as ensure the implementation of the usage of masks, gloves and hand washing and sanitising. Many projects whether in implementation or close to implementation stages where final designs and costings in civil, building and electrical construction have been done, should qualify for incremental activation.
Typical sites that may qualify for incremental activation will be sites where site related population densities are low or sites that are currently in a construction phase where less onsite staff are required to implement works. Similarly, the same could apply to Professional Services staff required for the preparation of projects for implementation.
In addition, qualifying construction sites must be easily controllable with limited external access and interface with the public.
Companies with qualifying construction sites wishing to be considered for incremental activation will have to present a suitable operational plan to ensure limited contact between on-site staff, well controlled inter action with suppliers, and the ability to offer ongoing screening, monitoring, tracing and training of staff to minimise the possible contamination with and spreading of the Covid-19 virus. A similar process will have to be required of Professional Service Providers requiring staff to commence with essential planning of projects where a presence at the office or on a site is required, where projects that have been reactivated require levels of site supervision on the part of such Service Providers.
2. CONSTRUCTION COVID-19 RAPID RESPONSE TASK TEAM
The Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team (“CC19RRTT”) is an industry grouping that has been convened to represent the views of the major associations in the construction sector and its entire value chain covering suppliers, manufacturers, built environment professionals and contractors (main contractors and subcontractors).
The overarching synergy between the various role players is that they are all focused on the survival and reactivation of the full suite of disciplines involved in delivering fixed capital investment projects through the civils, building and electrical construction sector.
The objectives of the CC19RRTT are the following:
▪ To assess the impact of Covid-19 on the construction sector and charter the recovery thereof.
▪ To unblock relief measures for the construction sector to remain sustainable.
▪ To identify infrastructure project opportunities in both the public and private sector.
▪ To address the regulatory matters which unintentionally impede the industry.
▪ To address systemic challenges and fast-track intervention.
Members of the CC19RRT include the following:
▪ Master Builders South Africa (MBSA)
▪ Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS)
▪ Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF)
▪ South African Institute of Architects (SAIA)
▪ Black Business Council in the Built Environment (BBCBE)
▪ Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA)
▪ Association of Construction Project Managers (ACPM)
▪ South African Black Technical and Allied Careers Organisation (SABTACO)
▪ South African Woman in Construction (SAWIC)
▪ The Concrete Institute (TCI)
▪ Cox Yeats Attorneys
▪ Master Builders KwaZulu Natal (MBA-KZN) – Convener
3. LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE
Leading data and analytics company GlobalData has revised its construction output growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in 2020 to 3,6%, down from the previous projection of 6% (Q4 2019 update).
GlobalData has further revised down its forecast for South Africa’s construction output in 2020 to a negative -4,1%. The report further indicates that the negative impact from COVID-19 will compound other challenges, notably high national debt, skilled labour shortages and little infrastructure spending amid a depressed economy.
In many foreign countries (some of which have very high rates of infection) such as the UK, USA, Australia, Germany, China and Italy, construction has been defined as an essential service and allowed to continue under strict health and safety requirements. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world where construction sites have been closed despite low cases of infections in relation to its population. Indications are that the figures of infections emanating from construction activities have been kept very low due to the strict health and safety measures being applied on construction sites in countries listed above.
Spain has recently announced allowing manufacturing and construction to return to work subject to strict health and safety guidelines.
4. NEED TO ACTIVATE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR
The construction sector is a significant contributor to employment and economic growth in South Africa, according to various available data. The construction sector is crucial to South Africa’s economic growth and there is a wealth of data that proves that the construction sector is regarded as an economic multiplier which contributes a significant portion of the country’s GDP and is an enabler of faster economic recovery and growth. The sector also contributes to the labour market; according to Stats SA the South African construction sector employed more than 1.4 million people in the past few years before the current decline.
In 2020 the South African government announced that Public-sector infrastructure spending over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period is estimated at R815 billion. Achievement of all planned public infrastructure such as roads, housing, water and sanitation etc. requires adequate and effective local professional and construction capacity to successfully implement these projects.
The importance of government supporting the construction sector cannot be overstated. It is vital that the construction sector be declared an essential service in order to facilitate the immediate completion of current projects and to further urgently propose, plan, design and fund a suite of new projects aimed at providing the necessary economic stimulus necessary for providing traction within our economy.
5. ACTIVATION OF CONSTRUCTION SITES
Construction sites aren’t public places and only employees following full health and safety protocols have access. It is important to mitigate the public safety risks associated with unattended construction sites, including damage from weather related incidents, security costs, break-in damage, plant maintenance and stock loss. Furthermore the issue of single lane unfinished roads which had been halted due to the lockdown without road safety management, continue to be a safety hazard to road users, especially other essential healthcare workers who may need to use such roads to travel between home and work.
Some countries with far much more cases of COVID-19 have taken decisions to either relax the prohibitions or declare construction as essential service. In Spain, which has been one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic, more than 300,000 people who work in construction and manufacturing who cannot work from home will be allowed to return, but schools and restaurants will remain shut. Though each country has its own unique socio-economic and health dynamics, the unique South African situation seems to be ideally suited to allow for the activation of construction sites subject to the current construction occupational health and safety regulations to be augmented by additional controls in office environments, not unlike those in the financial services sector, which will ensure that all employees are protected as far as possible.
Should the government’s COVID-19 National Command Team assessment of the spread of the pandemic in the country point to a high risk requiring no relaxation of the lockdown regulations leading to construction not being declared an essential service, the industry proposes that certain existing construction sites should still be considered for activation during the lock-down period. Such sites will have to meet strict health and safety requirements proposed by the sector.
Mining has recently been declared an essential service and operations permitted to resume at 50% capacity. This developmental act has given construction sector confidence in the government’s appreciation of a need to ensure that economy driving sectors are back to operation as soon as it is practically possible to do so.
6. PROPOSED IMMEDIATE SUPPORT FOR THE INDUSTRY AS PART OF INDUSTRY RECOVERY PLAN
The South African construction sector will have an important role to play in rebuilding our devastated economy when COVID-19 lockdown is over. As one of the biggest employing economic sectors, it would play a greater role in re-employing many employees who have and continue to lose jobs both from within the sector as well as in the peripheral supplier industry to the sector.
The employment opportunities provided by the construction industry will assist the countries efforts in cushioning the impact of unemployment during and in the aftermath of the lockdown phase. The industry commits to continued adherence to the provisions of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and to realise and maximize opportunities to increase labour absorption in all projects.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the South African construction sector faced significant challenges including lack of work, late and non-payment of contractors and professionals as well as the uncontrolled illegal construction site invasions by syndicated organised crime. COVID-19 has also brought about other challenges such as the immediate stoppage of work, lack of payment for certified work, work impossible to complete, loss of income and manpower, potential litigation issues and business uncertainty to mention but a few.
A number of entities such as Employer organisations and associations provide essential support services to the construction industry in the form of contract documentation and support, health and safety auditing, industrial relations, dispute resolution and training. We submit that these entities also be given essential services status in order to be able to provide these critical support services to contractors. Such operations will also be subject to prescribed social distancing imperatives such as working from home or staff rotation as well as the relevant provisions applicable to other persons presenting on construction sites.
Entities like Construction related Employer Federations / Organisations, Bargaining Councils, the Joint Building Contracts Committee (JBCC), the Construction SETA (CETA) are examples of the entities proposed as essential service providers.
In New Zealand, the construction industry, working together with government, have created a response plan aimed at supporting the construction sector during and post COVID-19 restrictions. This is a strategy that we believe can work well in South Africa given similar challenges faced by our sector.
Below is our proposed recovery plan mainly aimed at government support:
6.1. Maintaining the sector
Required support Result Date
Declaring the construction sector an essential service
Existing and new projects allowed to continue under strict health and safety measures
01 May 2020
Awarding of already priced infrastructure related tenders
All priced tenders to be finalised
01 June 2020
Identify and agree on new ‘shovel ready’ projects that could start when restrictions are lifted
New public infrastructure projects for the next 12 months identified and agreed upon between the sector and government
01 June 2020
Remove barriers to a swift restart including in legislation and allowing for efficiency and flexibility coupled with compliance in Public Sector the Procurement Regulations
Develop emergency procurement and management of the urgent critical projects identified
01 June 2020
Commitment to enforce law against construction sites disruptions (While enacting the law)
No construction site affected by any form of illegal disruption including local so-called business forums
01 May 2020
Require Departments, Municipalities and government SOE’s agencies to pay contractors and professionals promptly or early and ensure that they in turn pay subcontractors promptly
No delayed payment to professionals, contractors and sub-contractors by government and its agencies
01 May 2020
Ensure expeditious resolution of contractor claims and contract disputes through adjudication or expert determination to ensure projects proceed and any withheld payments are made.
Directive to pursue alternative dispute resolution through recognised industry dispute resolution bodies.
1 May 2020
Require private sector to pay contractors and professionals promptly or early and ensure that they in
No delayed payment to professionals, contractors and sub-contractors by private sector employers
01 June 2020
turn pay subcontractors promptly
(gazette prompt payment regulation)
Create construction financial support fund as part of the wider economic relief package by redirecting some of the funds that may be available in the Voluntary Settlement Agreement between Construction Companies and Government.
Funds should be made available to the industry (beyond UIF funding) to ensure that companies that are struggling are assisted with covering their overhead expenses.
Government can assist with the provision of financial assistance to contractors in a form of providing guarantees to material suppliers as companies’ balance sheets are currently severely weakened and this will have an impact on their ability to provide the necessary collateral for guarantees to material suppliers.
The commercial banks and Development Financial Institutions should institute payment holidays on existing loans and credit facilities to allow companies to recover as the majority of industry players are currently unable to generate revenue.
01 May 2020
Commitment to encourage financial institutions to ring-fence funds for construction projects funding
Availability of funds from financial institutions to cater for construction related projects
01 May 2020
Facilitate availability of both local and imported construction material and components required for controlling infrastructure controls and systems integrated into construction elements.
Construction projects should not be affected by lack of material
01 May 2020
7. CURRENT CONSTRUCTION SECTOR SAFETY MEASURES
Construction sector operates in a highly regulated environment. It is already administrated through the Occupational Health and Safety Act no 85 of 1993 and the Construction Regulations 2014. Many employer federations have their own occupational health and safety committees consistently advising members on matters of occupational health and safety. Health and Safety Officers are a permanent feature on Construction Sites responsible for monitoring compliance with regulations, both on the site and upon entry to any site.
Below are key health and safety measures CC19RRTT will ensure are in place post opening of sites:
▪ Keeping contractors informed of all new safety related legislations.
▪ Constant Health and safety presentations, seminars and conferences.
▪ Inform industry and the DEL (department) of relevant incident/accident statistics including costs and recommend preventative action.
▪ Assist and advise contractors on how to improve their safety management programme.
▪ Arrange safety related training courses for contractors and their employees off site.
▪ Assist contractors as and when required with incident and accident investigations and reports.
▪ Submission of relevant reports required from the department etc.
8. COVID-19 RISKS AND MITIGATION PLANS
Despite having and complying with the occupational health and safety laws and regulations, the industry will put additional measures in place to ensure the health and safety of employees on sites. Below are some of the identified risks and mitigation plans to be implemented by all construction companies and built environment professional service provider companies intending to go back to work:
Risk Mitigation plan/action Responsibility
Travelling to work – public transport – exposure to the virus
▪ Office support staff to remain working from home
▪ Contractors to transport staff from a designated place
▪ Where not possible to avoid, use of public transport to comply with the transport limitations
▪ Provide employees with information on the virus and precautions to take during travel ie:
– If possible, maintain social distancing (at least 2 m) between yourself and anyone else when travelling
Contractor
– Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
– Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth
– Always wear a suitable face mask
▪ Cancel travel for employees experiencing symptoms of the virus
▪ Regular testing of body temperature
Site access by non-employees
▪ Stop all non-essential visitors.
▪ All employees and non-employees to be screened with non-contact thermometers.
▪ Body temperature check with thermometer upon employee’s arrival as well as departure.
▪ Introduce staggered start and finish times to reduce congestion and contact at all times.
▪ Take body temperature of anybody stepping on or stepping off site
▪ Monitor site access points to enable social distancing
▪ Change the number of access points, either increase to reduce congestion or decrease to enable monitoring.
▪ Disinfectant is to be placed in the trough and all shoes coming onto site or leaving site will be disinfected.
▪ Remove or disable entry systems that require skin contact e.g. fingerprint scanners or biometric system.
▪ Require all workers to wash or clean their hands before entering or leaving the site.
▪ Allow plenty of space (two metres) between people waiting to enter site.
▪ Regularly clean common contact surfaces in reception, office, access control and delivery areas e.g. scanners, turnstiles, screens, telephone handsets, desks, particularly during peak times.
▪ Reduce the number of people in attendance at site inductions and consider holding them outdoors wherever possible.
Contractor
▪ Drivers should remain in their vehicles if the load will allow it and must wash or clean their hands before unloading goods and materials.
Poor Personal Hygiene on sites
▪ Provide additional handwashing facilities to the usual welfare facilities if a large spread out of site or significant numbers of personnel on site.
▪ Provide misting hand sanitizers in all strategic places on site.
▪ Ensure soap and fresh water is always readily available and kept topped up.
▪ Provide hand sanitiser where hand washing facilities are unavailable.
▪ Regularly clean the hand washing facilities and check soap and sanitiser levels.
▪ Provide suitable and enough rubbish bins for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.
▪ Sites to have extra supplies of soap, hand sanitiser and paper towels and these will be securely stored.
▪ Non-compliant employees will face disciplinary action in order to safeguard
Contractor and Employees. Applicable in part to Off Site Office based work being done by Professional service providers as well
Unhygienic facilities such as offices, toilets, canteens etc.
Toilets:
▪ Restrict the number of people using toilet facilities at any one time.
▪ Employees to wash hands before and after using the facilities.
▪ Enhance the cleaning regimes for toilet facilities particularly door handles, locks and the toilet flush.
▪ Portable toilets should be avoided wherever possible, but where in use these should be cleaned and emptied more frequently.
▪ Provide suitable and enough rubbish bins for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.
Offices and canteens:
▪ The workforce should also be required to stay on site once they have entered it and not use local shops.
Contractor and employees
▪ Dedicated eating areas should be identified on site to reduce food waste and contamination.
▪ Break times should always be staggered to reduce congestion and contact.
▪ Hand cleaning facilities or hand sanitiser should be available at the entrance of any room where people eat and should be used by workers when entering and leaving the area.
▪ The workforce should be asked to bring pre-prepared meals and refillable drinking bottles from home.
▪ Workers should sit 2 metres apart from each other whilst eating and avoid all contact.
▪ Where catering is provided on site, it should provide pre-prepared and wrapped food only.
▪ Payments should be taken by contactless card wherever possible.
▪ Where only cash can be used, the usual hands cleaning and with sanitizers and soap should be observed.
▪ Crockery, eating utensils, cups etc. should not be used.
▪ Drinking water should be provided with enhanced cleaning measures of the tap mechanism introduced.
▪ Tables should be cleaned between each use.
▪ All rubbish should be put straight in the bin and not left for someone else to clear up.
▪ All areas used for eating must be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each break and shift, including chairs, door handles, vending machines and payment devices.
Inadequate PPE
▪ No employee on site without adequate and relevant PPE.
▪ Re-usable PPE should be thoroughly cleaned after use and not shared between workers
▪ Single use PPE should be disposed of so that it cannot be reused
Contractor
Poor ventilation
Increase ventilation in enclosed spaces
Contractor
Site meetings
▪ Only necessary meeting participants should attend.
▪ Attendees should be two metres apart from each other.
▪ Rooms should be well ventilated / windows opened to allow fresh air circulation.
▪ Consider holding meetings in open areas where possible.
Contractor
Tracing of infected employees
▪ The necessary systems will be implemented to trace employees that are infected.
▪ The system will also enable the tracing, identification and quarantining of people who came into contact with the infected employee.
Contractor & Consultants (through government)
9. CONCLUSION
The effects of COVID-19 are dire and pose a huge risk not only to the construction sector but also to our economy. Where we see a possibility to save the sector, its people and its developmental role in our society, such opportunity need not be missed. Post COVID-19 the South African construction sector an integral, globally revered and vibrant part of the South African economy will face a myriad of challenges which has indeed brought it to its lowest point in its history. If nothing is done to revitalise this sector, we will find ourselves having to import the skills and knowledge for the future development of our infrastructure at significantly higher costs, something we can ill afford to allow to happen.
COVID-19 should not be allowed to destroy the construction sector, hence the industry after careful consideration, is committed to working with government towards ensuring that a returning to work will achieve the envisioned economic growth and not play a role in reversing the substantial gains that the county has made in controlling and managing the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Contractors reopening their sites will be expected to provide weekly reports to the CC19RRTT so that the team can assist in making sure that non-compliance and areas of required assistance are identified and dealt with from the onset of any relaxation that is authorised.
We look forward to your quick response and engagement as soon as possible.
John Matthews
Chairperson: Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Team

Summit XPS Board – Above Expectations

Well known supplier to the building industry, Swartland, will soon be launching Summit XPS Insulation Board as part of its Summit range of insulation and decorative ceiling products. We speak to Daneel Pretorius, Category Manager for Summit, about the many benefits of its new XPS insulation board.

If you are considering using green insulation in building or renovating a residential or commercial property – that’s great, not only because it will make the finished building a much more comfortable space to be in, but it will also reduce the energy required to keep the interiors at a comfortable temperature, and it is a better choice for the environment. There are currently several types of eco-friendly insulation to choose from – with extruded polystyrene, or XPS, being one of the most popular.

Daneel Pretorius, Category Manager for Swartland’s Summit range, elaborates: “XPS is a wonderful environmentally-friendly insulation solution – it is energy-efficient, easy to install and lightweight, which is why we are so excited to introduce the new Summit XPS Insulation Board to the market. It is affordable, 100% locally-made and manufactured in the Swartland factory, following strict global warming potential protocol to ensure a zero ozone depletion potential rating.”

What is Summit XPS Insulation Board?

“Essentially, XPS is extruded polystyrene foam board designed to create a single layer of thermal and moisture protection on a building’s walls, roof or floor, thereby greatly contributing to its overall energy efficiency,” explains Daneel. He says that XPS begins as solid granules of polystyrene resin, which are fed into an extruder where they are melted and mixed with additives to form a viscous fluid.

From there, a blowing agent is injected into the viscous liquid to enable expansion. Then under carefully controlled heat and pressure conditions, the mixture is forced through a die into a mould. Once hardened, the board is trimmed to various lengths and thicknesses to suit a wide gamut of commercial, agricultural and industrial thermal insulation applications. “This continuous process results in a closed-cell structure, which imparts excellent long-term strength and durability to the XPS boards,” says Daneel.

The many benefits of XPS Insulation Board

 There are so many benefits to this amazing building material – some of which include:

Environmentally-friendly: Summit XPS Insulation Board is a very green material as it not only makes buildings more energy-efficient, but its manufacture does not result in harmful wastes or by-products. The gasses used in the manufacturing process have zero ozone depletion potential, with no significant contribution to increasing greenhouse gasses. It is also 100% recyclable, and its exceptionally long lifespan reduces its overall carbon footprint.

Versatility: XPS can be used for a wide variety of applications, including as nail-up ceiling and insulation, also as ceilinged insulation between trusses for an exposed truss look, over-rafter insulation, over-purlin insulation, cavity/perimeter wall insulation and under-floor (surface bed) insulation.  To maximise its versatility, Summit XPS Insulation Board is available in thicknesses of 30mm, 40mm and 50mm, with special orders of 60mm to 100mm also available. As far as lengths are concerned, it is available in lengths of between 1,8m up to 8m, and you can choose between a faux Pine and smooth finish.

 No leaks and easy installation: Summit XPS Insulation Board comes standard with tongue-and-groove edging, which makes for exceptionally easy installation. It also provides a tight, energy-efficient seal, stopping air leaks and gaps, and preventing any hot or cold air from escaping.

 Lower heating and cooling costs: The main driver behind insulation is to reduce the cost of keeping a building’s interior cool in summer and warm in winter. A well-insulated building will be easier to cool or heat, as it will keep more of the cool or hot air indoors, preventing it from escaping. Summit XPS Insulation Board is an incredibly efficient thermal insulator, making it an excellent insulation material and reducing the amount of energy required to keep a building’s interior at a comfortable temperature. Remember – the thicker the XPS, the more insulation it offers.

Endurance: The insulative qualities of various insulation materials often degrade over time – resulting in slowly rising utility bills. However, this is not the case with Summit XPS Insulation Board – its closed-cell structure makes it really strong, ensuring an exceptionally long lifespan when compared to other traditional materials. Not only does this negate the issue of rising heating and cooling costs, but it also saves money as you won’t need to replace your insulation as often, and it lowers its cradle-to-grave carbon footprint, making it a wonderfully green building material.

 No mildew: Mould and mildew can be very detrimental to the health of both people and pets, and it can contribute to possible damage to the structural integrity of a building. Summit XPS Insulation Board does not absorb moisture, and as such, it does not present a favourable environment for mildew or mould to grow. In fact, it serves as a barrier against moisture – helping to prevent this from ever becoming a problem.

 

No flame-spread hazard: Summit XPS Insulation Board will be classified as B/B1/2/H&V in terms of SANS 428, which means that although it is combustible, it poses no flame-spread hazard. Exposed to fire, it will shrink away from the heat source, creating no flaming droplets or flame-spread.

Daneel concludes: “The Summit XPS Insulation Board offers high compressive strength and excellent long-term thermal resistance performance. As part of Swartland’s Summit range of insulation and decorative ceiling products, the same world-class manufacturing processes are ensured, and it promises to offer best-in-market perfomance and national after-sales service that the building industry has come to expect from Swartland.”

If you would like more information about our XPS products, visit www.summitxps.co.za.

 

 

A Guide To Industrial Flooring

The correct flooring choice for industrial sites is mission critical, delivering a secure, sterile, and well-organised operative workfloor. But, selecting the appropriate industrial flooring presents challenges as floor failure may be inevitable within 14 months, with attendant client headaches and capital outlay, as well as legal issues.

Ameliorating potential disaster depends on following the correct procedure in choosing the most appropriate flooring that satisfies the mandates of the context-specific work environment with regard to the rules of the particular industries’ well-being, security, sanitation and accordance.

Some pointers to avoid during the ordering procedure comprise selecting a finish based solely on looks, choosing the least expensive option, going with the identical previous choice, and ignoring the state of the substrate or the practical use of the site. These criteria will result in a floor that snaps, powderises and disintegrates when used for the daily operations it is intended.

Look at flooring properties (anti-bacterial agents, anti-slip aggregates and the dissipation of electricity) when considering industrial floor destruction triggers such as chemical abuse from a water, dust, fuels, sanitizers, acids, lubricants, and in certain industries, by-products from foodstuffs including sugars, hot oils, blood and grease. Finish as well as substrate and soil degradation may result, and the corrosiveness of contaminates depending on their temperatures must be factored in.

Another consideration is risk auditing the degree to which the floor is exposed to corrosion, divided into immersion, intermittent spillage or infrequent contact.  And, traffic loading, equipment being moved, dropped tools, dragged pallets and forklift traffic places extra strain on the floor. Here, determining the compressive floor strength defines the suitable flooring needed per task.

Industrial facilities are subject to stringent cleaning with hot water / steam to get rid of grease and fuel – these factories usually experience room temperatures, so heated cleaning produces thermal shock with flooring exposed to unusually hot temperatures

Flooring comprising epoxy, vinyl or MMA is unsuited to thermal shock, leading to cracking, delamination and material damage / failure during temperature fluctuations, including thermal cycling (temperature raised or lowered seasonally or during cleaning).

Successful flooring finishes hinge on correct substrates underpinning them, and inferior substrate / concrete results in delamination (smooth concrete, failure to remove the laitance, ineffective bonding of resin to substrate).

Concrete absorbs ground moisture and new concrete has a significant moisture content until dried, so its pH level and moisture content adversely affects flooring (causing blistering and debonding), necessitating the analysis of the moisture level during specification, and the use of a damp-proof membrane (DPM) if necessary, which smooths the moisture vapour transition).

 

 

Floor Screeds

Following a 1:3 or 1:4.5 ratio of cement to sharp sand, floor screeds comprise cementitious matter, spread over precast concrete flooring or in-situ concrete ground flooring.  Options for application include direct base bonding, unbonded laying over a moisture-proof membrane that is positioned over the slab. Another method is to apply it on a layer of firm insulation material for application with cast-in water pipes to deliver underfloor heating.

For fortification, use a fine metal of glass mesh; the screed may be kept as is or floated to enable smooth surfacing to lay the finish over.

If reinforcement is required, this can either be in the form of a fine metal mesh, fibres which are normally polypropylene or a fine glass mesh. Ready, factory-mixed sand / cement screeds trump site-mixed ones in terms of consistency. Pumpable flowing screeds deliver more level surfaces. These are calcium sulphur binder-based, applied (with varying minimum thickness) more quickly than sand / cement screeds, and can be used in combination with underfloor heating

Cement Sand Screeds

The most likely cause of bonded screed failure to the below substrate is if the screed is too thick, and an unbonded screed fails by lifting or curling, which happens if the screed is too thin. The ideal bonded screed thickness is >50 mm and unbonded < 70 mm to 100 mm to avoid curling.

Criteria for screed design (depth and type) include specified floor finishes, the construction tolerances and the provision of falls. Included is structural dictates like mitigating disproportionate collapse and the actioning of composite movement with the slab below.

Screed use can be avoided by stipulating more stringent construction tolerances that ensure direct flooring material flooring reception. If screeding is required, use cement sand screed or the more contemporary proprietary self-smoothing type.

The following definitions apply to specific screed types:

Levelling screed – screed finished to specified level to receive final flooring.

Wearing screed – screed that functions as flooring.

Bonded – screed laid onto a mechanically prepared substrate.

Unbonded – screed deliberately kept apart from substrate by membrane.

Floating  – type of unbonded screed laid on acoustic / thermal insulation.

Cement sand screed – contains sand up to 4 mm maximum aggregate size.

Fine concrete screed – contains concrete with maximum aggregate of 10 mm.

Pumpable self-smoothing screed – mixed to a liquid that can be moved by pump to site and will flow adequately to deliver the desired level accuracy and surface regularity (also known as self-levelling screeds).

Curling – upward deformation of screed edges.

Leveling equipment

The level and flatness of any concrete floor is of major concern for structural engineers, flooring inspectors, superintendents, finishing foremen and construction contractors.

Extreme concrete floor flatness (FF) and floor levelness (FL) are mandatory for sites containing carefully calibrated equipment, as well as for warehouses, offices and distribution centres. Even, level surfaces are conducive to secure lift truck activity, as well as guaranteeing that high-level vertical storage shelves are able to support electronic picking setups.

Electronic floor profilers were patented in the ‘70s in order to streamline floor flatness and levelling, and were manually operated wheeled machines that created new floor measurement codes, known as F-numbers, which became standardised indicators of FF and FL for industry.

Other pour concrete floor finishing enhancers, eg the laser screed and ride-on power trowel, were also developed, as well as laser scanning. The latter assists in “reality capture” and has immense use in digitally capturing the surface topography of a freshly minted concrete pour in 3D form.

Aberrations in floor flatness and level can be analysed with computer software for the benefit of inspectors and concrete contractors. The exactness, rapidity, ease and flexibility of laser scanning is replacing traditional floor profiling devices as the new standard for FF/FL measurement

Practical floor application tools include spike shoes, spike rollers (For the removal of air bubbles from and cementitious floor coatings,  epoxy floor coatings and self-leveling screeds), rakes, adjustable levelers, squeegees and spatulas and mixing machines.

Call For Level Playing Field After Sobering Budget

As the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni painted a sobering picture of the country’s economic future in his recent Budget Speech, AfriSam has encouraged government to foster industrialisation through a level playing field.

“For a number of reasons, South Africa is unfortunately de-industrialising its economy,” AfriSam CEO Rob Wessels said. “As committed corporate citizens, we are up to the social challenges and want to keep our industries thriving as an engine for upliftment.”

Speaking after AfriSam’s Annual National Budget breakfast event held in Sandton recently, Wessels emphasised the need for fair competition in the cement sector. He said industry was engaging government and trade authorities to ensure fair conditions over the import of cement, including the enforcement of existing port tariffs for these goods.

He also noted that the recent imposition of carbon tax in South Africa meant a further cost added to local producers which many importers did not face. AfriSam sales and marketing executive Richard Tomes noted that cement imports were rising and were having a negative impact on job creation in the country.

In his address to the event, Econometrix chief economist Dr Azar Jammine warned that the signs for any recovery in the construction sector this year were not good – with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting a growth rate of only 0,8% for the local economy. This was even before the impact of the coronavirus outbreak factored into this estimate.

“Most of the upturn in cement demand that we hope for, in the immediate future, will come from infrastructural investment projects rather than from the building industry,” Dr Jammine said. “The outlook for the building industry in the coming year looks very bleak. Building completion statistics – especially for flats and townhouses – are declining sharply.”

In the previous financial year, the construction sector had performed even worse than the broader economy, which grew at just 0,4% according to the IMF. The sector lost about 131 000 jobs in 2019, representing 8,8% of the workforce. This was the most jobs lost by any sector in the economy.

According to Jammine, cement sales had fallen by about 5% over the past year. However, he was “reasonably hopeful” that cement demand might achieve about 2% growth over the next few years. While there was “no total collapse”, he did acknowledge that the cement industry was one of worst-hit sectors during the current downturn.

Tomes noted that AfriSam had already removed inefficient capacity and right-sized to cope with the current challenging environment. “Unless we see an upturn in demand soon, we might have to revisit other cost saving initiatives,” he said.

In his recent budget speech, Minister Mboweni committed government to redirect spending towards infrastructure and away from public sector wages. The state’s wage bill was one of the main reasons behind the “huge expansion” in South Africa’s budget deficit.

Dr Jammine argued that the fate of the economy now relied on President Ramaphosa’s ability to implement the plans announced by Minister Mboweni, and to push reforms that could attract investors and make government spending more efficient.

 

 

Lockdown Set To Hit Hard-Pressed Construction Industry Hard

The Master Builders Association (MBA) North warns that the lockdown and its aftermath are set to raise all sorts of issues for an industry that is already in trouble. “The fact that all construction work has been put on hold for the lockdown period has caused an immediate cash flow crunch, but there are longer term impacts that must also be considered,” says Mohau Mphomela, Executive Director of the organisation.

“The sector is already weakened by a sustained lack of spending on infrastructure, and many of its largest players have gone into business rescue or liquidation. Those that remain do not have the cash reserves to survive for long, especially given the way that payments are structured on construction projects,” he says. “The MBA North has been speaking to members to understand the full implications of the lockdown, particularly on smaller firms and their workers.”

 Payments are linked to project progress. Although contractors and subcontractors can declare force majeure and so will not be penalised for not meeting deadlines, payments are only made when project progress is met. “All our clients have approved the project extensions, this is not the issue. The issue is that we will only get paid when the work is complete,” says Nwabejana Mohlaba of Belo Projects in summary. This temporary cessation in payments is passed down the line, from principal contractor down to subcontractors and ultimately the workforce.

Wayne Albertyn, Director of Gothic Construction and President of MBA North, also points out that while some contractors will have invoiced for work completed during March, they will not be in a position to invoice at the end of April. This might mean that for some the cash crunch will come after the current lockdown period has ended.

An added complication is that the industry is already plagued with a culture of late payment. Many contractors and subcontractors are likely to have entered the lockdown with existing cash flow issues, which will be exacerbated by the layoff.

 A large proportion of the workforce is temporary. Temporary workers have little protection under the labour laws and are thus particularly vulnerable to non-payment when work is halted. Most live from hand to mouth, and so have few financial reserves to tide them over a lean period.

Even those workers working for larger companies are likely to be paid at a reduced rate. Albertyn says that his company is paying workers during the lockdown, with individuals being able to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) where applicable which has made R30 billion available via a National Disaster Benefit Fund.

Albertyn stresses that this arrangement is not sustainable over the long term, and would have to be reviewed if the lockdown is extended.

Other options include forcing employees to take their annual leave now and using the traditional December-January builders’ holidays to catch up, and moving payday to the end of the month to preserve cash flow.

 Schemes for assisting SMEs are not well understood and may not be fit for purpose. Mohlaba says that payment holidays might actually pose a long-term risk to the business as they will have to be repaid eventually. Mphomela adds that the MBA is providing guidance for its members and practical assistance in accessing any help that is available. “The lockdown period should be seen as a time in which smaller firms that qualify for SME relief engage with the MBA and get their applications in. There are many SMEs out there, so it’s likely that there will be delays in processing applications, so don’t waste this time,” he says. “Our staff are standing by to assist electronically, and their contact details are posted on our site.”

 Lack of time to plan. Because the lockdown was implemented with little warning, some building material suppliers say that they were not able to conclude delivery terms on existing contracts and agree on the way forward. Musa Shangase, Director at Corobrik, says that his company will have to attend to renegotiating supply term contracts with clients post lockdown.

On a more positive note, Mphomela argues that the industry-wide hardships caused by the lockdown should be seen as an opportunity for all players, including clients, to come together to thrash out a common response designed to maximise the industry’s ability to recover.

 

 

Call For The Designation Of Construction Sector As Essential Service

The construction industry has potential to create employment opportunities to cushion the impact of an anticipated increase in unemployment in the immediate aftermath of the current nation-wide lockdown. This is according to a submission made by the Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team (CCRR19TT) to motivate for a phased reactivation of the construction Sector. The task team is body representing major organizations in the sector including contractors, property developers, construction professionals, suppliers, and service providers.

The submission is calling for an immediate re-activation of live construction sites that were at various stages of completion when the lockdown came into effect on 27 March, under strict safety requirements. This would be followed by a phased re-opening of the industry at the beginning of May.

The Chairperson of the Task Team, Mr John Matthews acknowledged the necessity of the lockdown and the positive impact it had in preventing cases of occupationally acquired infections on construction sites. He also admitted that the lockdown period had provided the industry an opportunity to augment existing health and safety systems in the construction industry in view of the threat posed by the pandemic.

“It was necessary for the industry to cease all operations at that time and there is no doubt that the decisive action taken by the government contributed significantly towards flattening the curve of new infections. We used this period to adapt health and safety systems to ensure that we safeguard the health of employees on construction sites. We have also identified qualifying construction sites that are ready for immediate re-activation,” said Matthews. He added that the industry had already submitted a detailed COVID-19 Risk and Mitigation Plan to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure as part of the motivation for a phased re-opening. This includes a requirement for every company that is to be considered for re-opening to present a suitable operational plan to prevent transmission of the infection.

On the extended lockdown and its impact on the construction industry, Matthews commented that they were concerned about irrecoverable damage to critical infrastructure projects and possible loss of equipment and material that remains on live construction sites that were at various stages of completion when the nation-wide lockdown came into effect.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the construction industry faced significant challenges including the lack of work, late and non-payment and uncontrolled illegal construction site invasions that resulted in reported company closures and loss of jobs. The industry is now calling for activation of planned public infrastructure spending as announced in the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF), for positive knock-on effects on economic recovery and growth through the multiplier effect.

This is a proven model for economic recovery that has been used by many countries emerging out of periods of crisis. Despite bearing some of the highest burden of the pandemic, the governments of the United Kingdom, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, China and Italy have re-opened their construction industries and committed to increased public infrastructure spending as part of their post-pandemic economic recovery plans.

The Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team (“CC19RRTT”) is an industry grouping that was convened to charter a recovery plan for the construction sector. It incorporates the entire construction value chain covering suppliers, manufacturers, property developers, built environment professionals and contractors (main contractors and subcontractors).

It is made up of Master Builders South Africa (MBSA), Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS), Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF), South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), Black Business Council in the Built Environment (BBCBE), Consulting Engineers of South Africa (CESA), Association of Construction Project Managers (ACPM), South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), South African Black Technical and Allied Careers Organisation (SABTACO), South African Women in Construction (SAWIC), The Concrete Institute of South Africa (TCI), Cox Yeats Attorneys and Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal (MBA KZN) as the convener.

 

AFRICA’S MAJOR COATINGS TRADE SHOW POSTPONED UNTIL NEXT YEAR

Coatings for Africa 2020, the largest exhibition and symposium for the paint and coatings sectors in Africa, has been postponed until June 2 to 4 next year.

The biennial event, staged by dmg events, in partnership with the South African Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA) and The Oil & Colour Chemists’ Association (OCCA), was scheduled to be staged at the Sandton Convention Centre from May 6 to 8 this year but the in view of Covid 19 restrictions on both mass gatherings as well as international travel, it was decided to postpone the event until next year. The venue will remain Sandton Convention Centre.

Over 1400 participants from 35 countries (including 12 from Africaattended Coatings for Africa 2018 where 32 industry experts addressed 210 conference delegates.

Deryck Spence, executive director of SAPMA, said both SAPMA and OCCA are disappointed about the postponement of Coatings for Africa 2020 but felt it was undoubtedly the right decision in the interests of public safety. “Given more time to prepare and intent on boosting marketing after global lockdown losses, we can now expect an even bigger – if not record-breaking – Coatings for Africa show next year,” Spence stated.

The SAPMA annual general meeting on May 12 at 2pm would still be held but for this year it will be an online meeting (GoToMeeting) only, he added.

 

IT’S TIME FOR A “NEW DEAL” STRATEGY FOR PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT AND CONSTRUCTION

The Covid-19 crisis will be looked back on as either a turning point in the way South Africa empowers the development and construction sectors to build or the point of the final demise of the strategic capacity of the civil and building construction sectors in South Africa, says Deon van Zyl of the Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF).

During the Great Depression, the USA government came up with the New Deal Strategy that fast-tracked fixed-capital investment projects.  This protected and grew the construction sector and, at the same time, enabled the sector to employ people desperate to earn wages.

The Covid-19 crisis gives South Africa the same opportunity, and we have a choice to grow ourselves out of this crisis or to accept the loss of a critical industry in South Africa.

The fixed-capital investment projects of both the private and public sectors depend on highly-professional built-environment professionals (architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and the like) and a high-quality construction industry (made up of building and civil works contractors with all the different trades and labour).

Both consulting and construction sectors work for clients in the public and private domain. And both sectors work on the principle of “no work, no pay”.  Already, prior to Covid-19, the property development and construction industry was on the verge of collapse.  With the further pressure that Covid-19 brings, and with no sector specific financial reprieve yet in sight from either government or financial institutions, this industry will collapse in South Africa. Therefore, rather than continue to weather the economic storm that will still be there post Covid-19, the  professionals will simply leave to work elsewhere, and their investors will follow them.  Critical knowledge and expertise stand to be lost to a country that desperately needs these skills.

Private sector projects reflect the economy and, at the moment, these were few and far between even before we headed into lockdown.  Which then raises the call for public sector projects to be fast-tracked as soon as the lockdown ends to support the survival of the construction industry.

As the WCPDF, and in light of an even larger economic crisis which now faces us, we therefore call for the urgent review of the plethora of non-aligned statutory approval processes that hinder fixed capital investment.  The ideal is a one-stop application process that deals with all aspects from land use rights and heritage considerations to environmental approvals and water use licences as a single application process.

Ongoing research work known as the Property Development Process Model and undertaken by the UCT Nedbank Urban Real Estate Research Unit (URERU) in collaboration with the WCPDF has already illustrated the inefficient and non-aligned applications to which both public and private sector fixed capital investment are subjected.  As a result, what was once a one-to-two year application and approval process now extends on average up to five years and longer (before construction even begins), at a time when any individual approval may lapse whilst still awaiting a further approval under different legislation.  And the risk of rights lapsing is only one of a multitude of red tape legislative processes to which both private and public developments (the latter including critical infrastructure development such as roads, sanitation, schools and hospitals) are subjected.

It’s been time for a while now to clean up and align this quagmire of different legislation that actively hinders investment and service delivery.  Add Covid-19 into the mix and we have an industry that now totters on the brink of falling into the mire.

Application processes take years and should be reduced to months if not weeks. Particularly in times of economic crisis when the poorest members of our community sit at home or at the side of the road instead of being gainfully employed on a construction site.

Public projects that have been budgeted for should especially be fast tracked and implemented.  Surplus cash available in municipalities such as City of Cape Town (a staggering amount of R5.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents, at last count) should be directed towards bulk infrastructure projects that support both local and surrounding municipalities.  Provincial funding and delivery capacity should be shared across provincial boundaries to assist those provinces that have fallen behind with infrastructure delivery.

The rule-by-auditor culture that seems to have captured the state (and by this we mean from municipal to provincial to national level) must be terminated.  Procurement requirements and processes must be reduced to the assessment of reasonable price offering and the ability to implement capital projects. Implementation a delivery must now be the New Deal for South Africa.

We cannot audit ourselves out of this crisis.  Appropriate measures must be put in place to address opportunism. Theft of public funds is akin to an act of treason and must be dealt with harshly.

It is time for South Africa to table this New Deal and use this crisis to change direction and create a truly investment-friendly and delivery orientated society.  Now is the time for the construction sector to do what it does best: to build.

About the author: Deon van Zyl has been the chair of the WCPDF since 2011, and is the CEO of project management company Alwyn Laubscher  & Associates (AL&A).

 

Update to Extension of NEMA and EIA Timeframes, plus Late Payment Survey

On 27 March, the WCPDF informed members that Minister Anton Bredell – Western Cape Provincial Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning – issued his decision to extend all timeframes regarding NEMA and EIA regulations, for actions and processes affected by the 21-day lockdown, by two months effective from 27 March to 26 May 2020.

Please note that this decision has been withdrawn in light of a new directive issued by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment in terms of Regulation 10(8) of the Regulations governing the Disaster Management Act. The new national directive, which has been gazetted, extends the timeframe indefinitely until the end of the lockdown, and makes provision to include any extensions of the lockdown that may occur. To see Min Bredell’s withdrawal notice, also containing contact information, please click here.  To see the new national directive as gazetted, please click here.

In addition, the WCPDF encourages all members to participate in an industry-wide survey aimed at establishing whether late payment of professionals by government departments, implementing agents and municipalities is a problem in South Africa and if so, how big of a problem it actually is.

To find out more and participate in the survey, please click on the applicable link below before 15 April 2020:

  • For Built Environment Professionals, click here.
  • For Contractors, click here.
We thank The Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) for driving this initiative and we look forward to sharing the results with you once they are made available to us.