Shelter-in-place Breakthrough - Page 2

Contractors relieved as home improvement resumes under new COVID-19 regulations
Fridays on the Homefront
Health and safety versus business economics.

"For that first five weeks [of the shelter-in-place order] we didn't have any face-to-face meetings," said the architect. Noting that his office benefited from longstanding use of online communication and commerce, Klopf added, "That's one reason I think why we've been able to continue a lot of our work is, we've been doing it that way a long time."

Truong has been participating in online inspections of projects almost every week, with government inspectors watching and contractors showcasing their work in online conference calls on the Zoom platform.

While that has worked for some inspections, Klopf maintains that it's far from ideal for other jobs. "It's one thing for a contractor to hold up his phone," he said, "and it's another to be there seeing it in person. They show you what they want you to see."

Sources note that different Bay Area jurisdictions have varied capacity for online work and applications. All have the regionwide requirements for proper signage, notification, and equipment to protect workers. Health warning signs have to be posted in English and Spanish, and in Chinese as well in San Francisco. Numerous jurisdictions are requiring a log of time spent onsite by each individual.

"A silver lining was, I think some of them started allowing electronic submission that hadn't before," Klopf commented, also noting that he has a project stalled because the city of Portola Valley does not. "Other jurisdictions have been getting creative, putting a lockbox outside to receive documents."

  Fridays on the Homefront
Keycon's Tiffany Truong: improvising with online inspections and conference calls on the Zoom platform. Photo: Michael Gordon
 

People are finding new ways to do business in accordance with the need for social distancing, although another factor in resuming construction is vendors whose supply of parts and materials has been interrupted. Truong has conducted several online meetings, but just had her first-ever on-camera sales meeting with a prospective client this week.

"The truth is, some of these remote practices are better," Klopf observed, noting the potential savings in gas, time, and money. Having walked through, what Klopf estimates, 1,500 Eichlers in his career, the architect promised, "If somebody has an Eichler home and they're walking through it with their phone, showing me what they want to do, I have a very complete picture."

Both Truong and Klopf said their companies have lost some work to the pandemic, including people postponing projects, but new business is starting to pick back up. All sources were hesitant to speculate how the rest of the year will go, though.

"As far as the construction industry, we have no idea. This is not going to be over in a month or two months," said Key. Compared to some types of investment, he said, "What I tell my clients is, investing in their house is probably a good thing to do with a recession coming."

"We're waiting for the other shoe to drop," said Klopf. "We're happy that it's picked back up…[but] we're not sure what the future will bring."