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Building a perfect storm


LOOKING FORWARD Chris Moran of Moran Bros expects some form of construction work will be allowed to resume on February 1 but the logistical headaches posed by Covid and Brexit aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

Impacts of Covid and Brexit combine to cause ‘huge problems’ for the construction industry

Oisín McGovern

The near total shutdown of construction work by the latest Covid-19 restrictions has compounded the logistical difficulties created by Brexit, according to one Mayo building contractor.
Under the current Level 5 lockdown, construction work has been brought to a halt barring some exemptions, such as work arising from insurance claims or projects within a month of completion.
However, for most builders work has almost ground to a halt.
Chris Moran from Moran Brothers in Islandeady says his company has had ‘80 percent’ of its work cancelled by the latest lockdown.
This includes a job in Sensational Kids Child Development Centre in Claremorris, a facility that provides care and education to children with special needs.
“Because the project couldn’t be finished inside the three or four weeks in line with the guidelines, the architect chose not to start the project,” Chris told The Mayo News.
“It has huge knock-on effects for the kids,” he adds. “They have 35 families that they’re treating at the minute with all types of problems. They need more rooms to ensure social distancing.
“The project can’t go ahead and the knock-on is that kids can’t get the treatment. They are still trying their best. They’re doing they’re classes on Zoom and then they’re bringing the kids into the rooms for the occupational therapy.”
He continues: “Our work has dropped by at least 80 percent, and it has made the 20 percent of the jobs we have left more difficult to do for different reasons.
“In terms of logistics, you can see food missing on the supermarket shelves – it’s the same in hardware. With Brexit and Covid, materials just aren’t readily available on the shelves to pick up and do the project, so you tend to have to run to a few places to get the project done.”
Moran’s currently employ eight people and have worked on a variety of recent builds and renovations, including Savoir Fare restaurant in Westport and Centra in Castlebar.
The company also has a contract with the Office of Public Works. However, work they were doing on Achill Garda station has also been suspended.
Having worked through the last Level 5 lockdown, this time Chris and his employees are even more acutely aware of the health risks posed by the stratospheric Covid figures, plus the UK variant of the virus.
As a result, the company has only their two apprentice carpenters left working on a near-complete project.
“The older guys were worried. We’re very lucky to have two apprentices on site, that wouldn’t be very common. All the other staff are 35 and over so they were worried about their own health and the health of their families,” Chris says.
“Home-schooling is a big problem. Some of the guys’ wives work in supermarkets and other frontline services, and they need someone at home to mind the kids because of childcare.”
The decision not to completely close all building sites raised confusion and ire in some quarters. However, Chris says he completely agrees with the exemptions given for ‘essential’ construction work.
“The social housing that was going to be finished by the end of the month is going ahead, but the social housing [that wasn’t going to be finished] won’t, and that’s a good call by the contractors,” he says.
“We need to pull together at this point to stamp out this higher strain or it’s not going to happen.
“We’ve one job on in Newport that is going to be finished by the end of the month. Those people are renting somewhere else, it’s costing them a fortune, they’ve already ploughed a lot into this project, and they need to be back in their home by the end of the month, because this [lockdown] mightn’t be over by February 1 or March 1.”
“It was a good call to have those exemptions, and they do work. The people that are moaning and giving off about it don’t see the bigger picture. They’re not in the situation where they’re spending €100,000 on a refurbishment and now they’re renting somewhere else at maybe €1,000 a month.
 “Because we don’t know when it’s going to end, you have to have a failsafe in place to get these people back in their house.”
While Chris expects some form of construction work will be allowed to resume on February 1, the logistical headaches posed by Covid and Brexit aren’t going to go away anytime soon.
“The cost of construction has gone up because it’s taking longer to carry out the projects,” he says.
“The social distancing on site and the delay in materials with Brexit and Covid combined means that projects are taking a lot longer than they should.
“For the last lockdown we had paving stones that were quarantined in Cork for two weeks after coming in from China. We had stainless steel that got quarantined coming into the UK and Ireland… that’s a 28-day delay in getting materials to the site. The two of those combined are causing huge problems.”

ILH 40084-21-02 Hastings Benefit MPU v4