Pandemic Impact on Construction
Today we face a pandemic, and it seems we are facing more than a virus. In construction, as we race to help in crisis circumstances, I’m reflective of the day. In this particular time, it appears we are also facing; fear, panic, rumors, re-prioritizing of affairs, and… a lack of toilet tissue.
Twenty years ago, when Jim moved from his professional desk job to a “hands-on construction job” with Walt Disney World, there was a noticeable difference when someone asked our profession. With a professional desk job as a Mechanical Engineer, graduating from California Polytechnic University, in the top 5%, the respect was evident. However, when he wanted to get his hands dirty and build, and we started a business, the tone changed.
The response didn’t matter so much because we love what we do. Taking ugly things or nothing and building something beautiful and biodynamic is a rewarding career for both of us. It’s fun to guide and watch; a business owner create a space to fulfill that dream, or a family move into a place they can call home.
However, in the twenty years of building, this pandemic is changing things in areas we didn’t expect.
A New Liftstation
A few months back, we installed a new pump for a lift station at a job site. We had to convert and renovate six hotel buildings into 300 workforce apartments.
It’s been fun to watch homeless families move into the complex with grant monies provided and experience the gratitude of folks moving into their very own apartment. We were hired to do this job, but we get to see the joy of these families. Most tell us this is the most beautiful and most affordable apartment in the area. It puts a smile on our faces, and our team sleeps well at night. The developer showed us other projects and explained that our work is leagues above the rest. Now make no mistake, other folks haven’t lost a kid to cancer while fostering to adopt. Our experiences cause us to take a less profit margin so we can build with more biodynamic materials.
We use granite, which is durable and wooden cabinet doors and boxes. There is a lot less toxins in the properties we build. But that means that we do not have the high margins of the other contractors. When we get this feedback from the folks who are living in the places we build; well, these moments are extraordinary. Certainly, one day we hope to create a demand for more green building (less toxins), and we hope to have better margins.
But today, on Sunday, a frantic call comes. Many folks already seem to be on edge from this pandemic virus. But on this call, the newly installed lift station is broken. As our team gathers and creates a by-pass so everyone can still shower and use the bathroom, we discover the problem.
Rags are clogging the pump at the lift station. Our best guess is that because there are people who bought lots of toilet tissue, there are, in contrast, folks with no toilet tissue.
Therefore, as we pull wipes and rags out of the clogged pipes, we call the owner. The volume of rags is alarming. After a discussion, it is determined that we should buy a grinding pump to chew up the rags and keep the pipes flowing. The work begins.
These are not pretty nor beautiful moments, but it is undoubtedly the time when you realize how essential it is to keep our infrastructure up. I’m not going to show you a picture of the before, but the area is clean now. We may not get the professional accolades as tradesmen, but we are proud to be included with the many men and women who keep homes and businesses functioning.
It’s happening all over the place. Tampa, Florida calls it the Fatberg.
The new pump is working great, and we hope that the posted notices to: “not flush rags down the toilet” along with our super-chomper pump will manage these unexpected consequences of a pandemic virus.
But we also feel a sense of pride as we stand with our fellow tradesman in keeping the infrastructure going; our waste pick-up drivers, mail carriers, farmers, plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and more. It is in times like these that we realize we are all in this together, and we are all essential.