Construction industry keen to start new builds, as COVID-19 restrictions eased
‘It has been a struggle for sure and it’s cost a lot of money but that’s the new world we’re in’
Tim Banks, CEO of APM Group, says the past six weeks have been a struggle but he's pleased to hear new construction projects can now get underway in P.E.I.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Dr. Heather Morrison confirmed "new construction that follows the project guidelines can move forward" during the first phase of the province's plan to ease back COVID-19 restrictions.
That first phase begins today, May 1.
Banks said the key will be getting permits in hand, so these projects can get off the ground. He's worried there may be a backlog in some communities.
"It's the busiest time for them when people dump them off so they are going to have their hands full," said Banks.
'I don't anticipate any crazy backlogs'
No building permits have been issued since March 27, as part of a strategy to promote physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The province did allow construction projects started before the pandemic to continue if they were deemed essential. But no new building permits were issued.
Greg Rivard, chair of Charlottetown's planning committee, said city staff have been working during the pandemic. He said some permits are ready to go May 1.
"I do think there will be a sense of urgency for some to get projects started, but for those who have submitted all the info before or during this pandemic shouldn't have to wait any longer than normal," said Rivard.
"I don't anticipate any crazy backlogs as we are currently up to date."
'We're going to be leading it again'
Banks said he has several projects on the Island ready to go, awaiting building permits. He said because of the delays caused by the pandemic it will be a challenge to meet the timelines for some of those projects. Two projects he had, including one in Cornwall, have been stopped by the developers because of the current state of the economy, he added.
"It has been a struggle for sure and it's cost a lot of money but that's the new world we're in," Banks said.
Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island, said there is no question COVID-19 has had a major impact on construction firms. But he's confident P.E.I.'s construction industry will be able to rebound.
"The amount my phone has rang over the last five-and-a-half weeks, if that is any indication, it's going to be another busy time," said Sanderson.
"We were leading in every area in construction a week prior to this and I have a personal feeling that we're going to be leading it again once we get fired back up and moving forward."
Many safety precautions have been put in place on construction sites. That won't change. Those precautions include physical distancing, improved hand washing, and health screening for some workers.
'Timing is tight'
Banks said he doesn't feel all new projects had to be put on hold during the pandemic. He points to UPEI's new student residence as an example of a project that he believes could have been handed a permit.
"They're trying to get a building facilitated and opened for the Canada Games," said Banks, adding it's an important piece of infrastructure and the deadline for that project cannot be adjusted.
The university is hoping to start construction on a new 260-bed residence soon.
Jackie Podger, vice president administration and finance at UPEI said, she'd like to break ground in the near future because "timing is tight."
Podger said the project needs to be complete by the fall of 2022 because the residence will be a temporary home to athletes competing in the 2023 Canada Winter Games.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.