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Connected Partners: Overcoming Obstacles

From dirt to door, the complexities of each construction project pose its own unique array of challenges. Utilizing early preconstruction as a true design-assist partnership provides value management that produces the most efficient design, schedule, and budget. In the age of COVID-19, the role of preconstruction has become increasingly important as the pandemic has added an extra layer of obstacles and unknowns that owners and project teams have to navigate.


Utilizing early preconstruction to meet new guidelines

When the pandemic made its way to our market in early spring, jobsites quickly realized how much of an impact it would make on our industry. The pandemic is our new reality, and to continue operating on jobsites as an essential business, we must keep crews onsite and ensure they remain safe and healthy. Safety has always been a priority, but now health is a major factor in the safety of our teams, so we must invest in proper training and precautions.

Aside from considering the usual protocol at the beginning of a project, preconstruction teams are now estimating the cost of a new range of safety guidelines as a result of COVID-19. Depending on the project and owner, they must now account for health personnel to administer temperature checks and health screenings, proper face masks with specifications unique to each owner’s preference, the cost of cleaning crews to sanitize tools, and more. As some jobsites stagger crew shifts and implement occupancy limits and elevator regulations, they also must consider potential project schedule extensions as there are fewer people operating onsite. These aspects need to be accounted for in the preconstruction phase, so the client has the most accurate budget and schedule upfront and to minimize risk.


Learning from history to navigate today’s environment

As an industry, utilizing early preconstruction will be crucial as we adapt to new ways of operating our businesses. Although it might be daunting to spend money upfront out of caution, identifying and investing in the proper safety precautions prior to construction could help avoid costly financial and reputation impacts later in the project. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst our world has experienced in over 100 years, but history can help guide us as we determine best practices going forward. Although we’re still in the midst of this ever-changing pandemic, the way we have handled past crises can help us navigate this one, so we can guide our clients in the best way possible.

Legionella outbreaks have given our industry useful insight into why we have to adapt our standards to ensure community health. Legionella, a bacterium that was discovered after an outbreak in 1976 and eventually led to Legionnaires' disease, is transmitted through inhalation of the bacteria in soil and water. Individuals worldwide have fallen ill to the disease through ingesting infected water in hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and other public and private facilities. Plumbing engineers have had to revise their practices and design systems to lessen the chance of transmission. New CDC and OSHA regulations and maintenance guidelines for plumbing and HVAC systems were also implemented to reduce transmission.

As we surpass six months of this pandemic, we must consider the reality that we have to reevaluate the old way of doing things to account for the “new normal.” Project teams across the world will have to adapt to the changes in the construction industry and revise their processes in order to succeed.

Healthcare During COVID-19

As healthcare systems continue to acclimate to the pandemic, the perspectives of hospitals are changing, and it is evident how important it is to plan for the future rather than implement changes as a crisis occurs. Essentially, we have to prepare ourselves now for what will come next.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our teams were tasked with creating several negative isolation rooms per hospital floor, but now, in order for healthcare facilities to continue elective surgeries without risking patient exposure, the future of healthcare facilities could include entire negative isolation floors. As the virus is now known to be airborne, hospitals are altering their layouts, changing how air is supplied and exhausted into spaces, and evaluating fan design.

The ability of preconstruction teams to pivot mid-design by reevaluating and adding new safety guidelines has been crucial for the success of hospitals. Incorporating these teams earlier in the project as space planning schematic design is being developed can produce a quicker turnaround as they are already familiar with the owner, project, and objective in mind.


Readjusting design strategy for a safe and successful future

Healthcare isn’t the only industry affected by COVID-19, and we should expect to see more of its impact as the pandemic lingers. Proper air circulation is essential to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, and depending on how much fresh air a specific space requires based on building use as defined by ASHRAE 62.1, new guidelines could be implemented to require more fresh air. For example, vent locations may be shifted or the amount of air that needs to be pumped into spaces to improve circulation could fluctuate. Essentially, any indoor space will be affected to ensure the safety of anyone passing through.

Apartment complexes will have to consider the virus spreading from room to room through the HVAC systems and common spaces, warehouses will have to redesign building layouts to allow for social distancing, and commercial buildings will need to revamp their ventilation to minimize dead pockets of hanging air that could contain the virus, allowing it to linger on water molecules due to the lack of airflow.

The pandemic has changed our world, and in turn, our industry. It might be a while for us to see all of the design changes provoked by the pandemic, but when that does occur, it will be important to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to our new reality for the success of our projects.


Looking Forward

The future of preconstruction is changing to be more of a true design-assist partnership that will put the owner in the best position going into a project and save them from potential subsequent health and financial pitfalls. In order to reap all of the benefits of preconstruction, it’s important to recognize its purpose is beyond estimating and scheduling. Now more than ever we have to account for potential obstacles early and incorporate the necessary measures to reflect what’s going on in the world today. The purpose of preconstruction goes beyond what it is generally used for, but if utilized properly, can save clients money and time and lessen the risks that are associated with construction during and outside of a pandemic.



As mechanical contractors we are constantly making connections – whether on the jobsite, in the community, with our valued trade partners, and more. These connected partnerships are critically important in constructing and servicing the essential structures in our lives.

Within Connected Partners — a thought leadership magazine created for valued clients and prospective partners of the MMC Contractors companies — we hope to provide you some essentials as well. You’ll find insight into trends important to our industry; stories of our partners making an impact; and resources you might find helpful in what you do every day.

As employee owners, we recognize the importance of adapting to the ever-changing industry, but it’s the strength of our partnerships that take all of us to the next level. The structures we create and the communities that value our collective success enable us to evolve and grow every day.