The Future of Videoconferencing in Construction
While general contractors have been working away trying to implement health and safety protocols, such as rearranging shifts and separating crews on site, to keep their workers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the useful jobsite practice of videoconferencing to communicate with stakeholders has gradually transformed into a necessity. If construction firms don’t want project completion to be stalled or obstructed, then they have no choice but to account for the fact that many architects, owners, and inspectors are unable to visit their jobsite. The solution many companies are turning to in their time of need is implementing new workflows and concepts into existing technology, such as videoconferencing for inspections, remote training, and more.
In this editorial, we’ll review how construction firms are taking advantage of videoconferencing, the future of remote jobsite inspections and check-ins, and the limitations to virtual observations. At Cotney Attorneys & Consultants, our Fort Lauderdale construction lawyers know how important it is for employers to go above and beyond in keeping their jobsites safe and in compliance with industry standards during times of uncertainty. Visit our COVID-19 Resources page to learn more about what we can do to help protect your business.
How Some Construction Firms Are Getting Ahead of the Curve
When face-to-face inspections became unfeasible, a number of construction firms adapted technology solutions in order to communicate jobsite conditions with stakeholders and maintain productivity on their projects. One firm, for example, moved to make accommodations for remote attendance via virtual meetings. At one of their recent projects, their construction team needed to perform a joint sealant pull test in order to ensure proper adhesion to the façade of the building. This meant key stakeholders would be needed to participate in the testing process while still minimizing the number of participants onsite. The solution? They live-streamed the test with in-person participation from the manufacturer testing representative, building envelope commissioning agent, and caulking trade representative and virtual participation from the architect, the County’s independent inspector, an independent building expert, and consultants.
To keep their projects running smoothly and efficiently, another firm has developed and been conducting a process for virtual site visits in which a team of three employees walks the jobsite while relaying audio and images in real-time to the off-site viewers. So far, their process has proven promising from a safety and productivity standpoint as virtual inspections have been successfully conducted for multiple municipal and building inspectors. They have also conducted virtual site visits with commissioning agents and plan to extend the process to architect and design observations. For more information on ensuring all of your employees and stakeholders are aware of and following all health and safety guidelines available regarding COVID-19, reach out to a Fort Lauderdale construction lawyer with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants.
What is the Future of Remote Inspections and Check-Ins?
During a webinar hosted by the International Code Council (ICC) featuring business officials from across the country, Ryan Colker, vice president of innovation at ICC shared that 93 percent of departments are still performing inspections, despite the fact that at least 65 percent have some staff transitioned to remote work. While this seems to necessitate the use of remote inspections, the ICC recommends to first get the all-clear from any governing authorities. There’s a number of factors that go into embarking on a video inspection process, including implementing online security measures, establishing record-keeping requirements, expanding existing software tools to accommodate the new program, making sure the remote staff members have access to current building standards, and more.
Additionally, those present at the jobsite during the inspection process will need to be trained on how to do virtual inspections and observations. You’ll need not only a walk-through plan but video meeting software and bluetooth audio, so everyone present may be able to hear the same thing simultaneously. Remote observers may be equipped with multiple screens, e.g, one screen for the project specifications, one for the video stream, and another for a punch list software. The future will depend on whether or not construction firms are able to successfully implement this technology and maintain a positive relationship with cooperative stakeholders and inspectors. Review your inspection process with one of our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys today to avoid delays from scheduling errors, overspending, and communication mistakes.
Related: 3 Ways Inspections Cause Delays
What Are the Limitations to Virtual Inspections?
The good news is that, for the most part, there should be very few limitations to implementing at least some degree of virtual inspections or check-ins on your construction jobsite. The largest issue, as to be expected, is that the layout and size of some jobsites may result in spots with low connectivity. To address this issue, the IT professionals at one of the above-mentioned firms deployed a cellular repeater that enhanced cellular coverage in areas where the connection was being interrupted. However, this may not be a feasible solution for all firms in ensuring the service is strong enough to share clear, audible video with a high number of participants.
Not only that, but virtual conferencing could raise issues of contractual liability and negligence liability. Are the right people on site? Are the inspectors getting a clear view of the project via a virtual inspection? And are on-site inspections stipulated in the contract between the owner and the firm? These are all questions to consider before embarking on the process of implementing virtual inspections on your jobsite. Each inspection should be considered individually as to whether or not it could be conducted remotely, without undue risks to your construction firm. Work out an agreement and propose it in writing. For any information regarding how you can implement an internal inspection checklist to ensure your jobsite is safe and ready to pass an inspection, consult with a Fort Lauderdale construction attorney with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants.
If you would like to speak with a Fort Lauderdale construction attorney, please contact us today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.