Across the globe, COVID-19 brought new challenges to nearly every industry, particularly construction. With the possibility of being shut down at a moment’s notice looming, most construction businesses pivoted to new ways of operating projects to keep them moving as COVID-19 took hold. Ensuring workers followed social distancing guidelines while also making sure they were healthy and productive was no easy task. Job- site safety took on a new meaning as contractors rushed to implement procedures for social distancing, temperature checks and other precau- tions designed to keep workers safe. While nearly every construction business had obstacles to overcome, few were as complex as those faced by VJS Construction Services , a Wisconsin-based contractor that had just begun phase two of a retire- ment community renovation and construction project. VJS not only had to keep its workers healthy and safe but also the community’s senior residents. Overcoming Unique Circumstances and New Safety Considerations VJS Construction Services began phase one of the Saint John’s on the Lake project in March of 2018. The company was tasked with build- ing a new 23-story residential tower with underground parking, skilled nursing facilities, assisted and hybrid living, and independent living apartments. After the phase one building was complete, VJS set out to demolish an adjoining three-story health services building, but just a few weeks into the process, the emergence of COVID-19 began to impact the contractor’s plans. Infection control measures were implemented, including twice-weekly COVID-19 testings and daily health screenings for workers. In addition to implementing its own safety protocols, VJS became an integral part of the COVID-19 safety team at Saint John’s on the Lake, working together to protect residents living on site. “It was critical to ensure that the pro- tocols we developed aligned with the community’s requirements,” said Ben Bergles, senior project manager at VJS. “It took a lot of out-of-the- box thinking and coordination between the Saint John’s team and ours, particularly to keep disruption to a minimum for the residents.” Overcoming Pandemic Challenges: Keeping Crews and Senior Residents Safe During a Retirement Community Renovation By Jenn Said
The teams reconfigured the job site so that workers could access the ar- eas under construction without entering parts of the building that were occupied by residents. “Separating active residents from construction workers, particularly with considerations for healthy airflow, and keep- ing both as protected as possible from COVID-19 added another layer of complexity to the process,” said Bergles. “Many of our trade partners needed to work between both buildings during the tie-in. We installed temporary barriers to prevent airflow between the two buildings and did most of the demolition from the construction side of the partition so that debris wouldn’t compromise air quality for the residents.” Despite the challenges brought by COVID-19, the project was com- pleted on schedule. Through close collaboration with Saint John’s on the Lake and careful planning, VJS was able to ensure the health and safety of its crews and the community’s residents and staff.
Phase 1 in progress
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