Life in Lockdown: An update from our MD

Life in Lockdown: An update from our MD

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on many businesses and business owners, including those in the construction sector, many of whom have had to make significant changes to the way they operate to continue working. Our Director, Charlie Davenport, gives us a glimpse into how his life and KTA’s work has changed during lockdown.

We have continued to work through lockdown, with social distancing measures in place, attending some projects in central London and further out in the countryside. In many of these cases we have been asked to advise on the temporary shoring measures required and the sequence of works that will follow later to repair the buildings and make them safe. I’ve also been using a number of project bid websites to look for residential projects to keep me busy, but it’s challenging as most clients don’t know what they need or the difference between a builder and a structural engineer. It can feel as if I spend more time providing explanations than bidding for projects.

These past couple of weeks though, we have started seeing signs that things are picking up a little, having been asked to conduct several structural surveys and submit several fee proposals for larger projects in the pipeline. Many clients have decided to use this time, when their public houses and hotels are empty, to engage consultant teams to carry out surveys and address any structural issues, as maintenance in these usually busy buildings is difficult to carry out while the facility is trading.

Another positive we have seen during this lockdown period is people in the sector coming together to support other businesses where they can.  A number of our larger clients have been supporting their consultant teams by spreading around any projects that can be completed in line with social distancing rules. They have invested time building up good working relationships with their consultants over the years and don’t want to lose those people during this time.

We’ve been in contact with several builders who are keen to get back on site as soon as the building merchants are trading, but there is the challenge of maintaining social distancing on the sites still to be overcome. Builders and their clients are in touch with their consultants to try and find a safe way to resume construction work and get the leisure sector trading within social distancing guidelines.

As the bulk of our work has previously been in the leisure sector, which is likely to be affected for a few months to come, until social distancing is less critical or no longer required altogether, we have been using our free time to look at how we present ourselves to new sectors of the construction industry.

We have also been keeping ourselves busy by using this time to carry out tasks that will benefit the business in the long term. Like many other companies, we have recently learned a great deal more about remote access and how our business can use this going forward. We have trialed a variety of video communication and work-sharing tools – Whatsapp, Zoom and Microsoft Teams – to keep in touch with the team via video chat. It’s important for us to be able to check that everyone is alright and discuss what we’ve been up to during lockdown. We’ve also taken a number of dog walks with each member of our team so we can physically check in with each other whilst getting our daily exercise and abiding by social distancing guidelines.

With the health and safety of our team in mind we have purchased a company car for our engineers, so they can reach sites without the need to make long journeys on public transport. While this isn’t ideal for the environment, it will reduce their exposure to COVID-19 and help them to feel more comfortable and confident to carry on delivering support to our clients.

While the office is currently empty, we’ve engaged an IT consultant to upgrade our office equipment. This way our server will run more smoothly while we are all accessing it remotely and will likely be for the next few months. We have also been researching new broadband suppliers to provide us with faster services when we are back at work. Our team all have laptops at home, so we are working to ensure these are secure, to protect our office network from cyber-attacks.

Unfortunately we have needed to furlough our office team, but we have encouraged them to access online training courses to make the best use of their downtime so that when we all return to work we are ready to hit the ground running with new software skills and enhanced technical knowledge.

On a more personal note, while work is quiet, my wife Kathy (who also works at KTA) has taken a job as a carer for the elderly, visiting them in their homes, and I have been busying myself with the tasks that come with living on a farm – including sheep shearing! It’s also been nice for us to see that many local people are making the most of walking around the fields as part of their daily exercise and our sheep seem to be a big hit with families with young children.

Keep up to date with what Charlie and the team are up to on social media. You can find us on LinkedIn and Instagram.

If you’d like to learn more about our structural engineering services and how we can help you with an upcoming project, contact us here.