City of Windsor building department using digital means to keep construction moving during COVID-19 crisis
WINDSOR, ONT. -- As industries across Ontario start to resume work activities, constructors and home builders say they’re anxious to get back on schedule.
The province halted non-essential construction projects that hadn’t already secured necessary permits on April 4, but has indicated most construction activities can resume on May 19.
Builders in Windsor-Essex were preparing for another record-breaking year.
But Ryan Lane of the Windsor-Essex Home Builders' Association believes despite the six-week restrictive period, the industry can get back on track.
“If they open the doors and things start going and there’s no setbacks or anything like that, then yes, it’s going to be a very busy spring, summer and fall,” he says.
New home builds already permitted have been rolling along — but not without challenges, Lane says.
“It wasn’t business as usual," he says. "There’s a lot of stuff that had to be implemented to keep their workplaces safe.”
Even projects deemed essential faced challenges as workplace safety and COVID-19 concerns kept some workers at home.
Builders without prior approvals were left waiting for the government to announce the next phase of their plan to get Ontario working again.
“It has put a bit of a freeze on anything new starting, which is potentially going to bottleneck things as it moves into the summer and fall,” Lane says. “Not a lot of time has been lost so if you can get going right away, it’s going to be business as usual.”
Behind the scenes, the City of Windsor has seen a flood of permit applications at a rate of roughly 30 per day, including everything from big builds to backyard decks, according to the city’s chief building official, John Revell.
“We’ve maintained our interim operation, reviewing the permits and have got the permits ready to go and issue them in a lot of cases so these projects are shovel-ready as of next week,” Revell says.
Some residential permit applications for at-home projects like decks have been stalled due to government restrictions, but Revell says those will resume again next week, in lock-step with the resumption of most construction activities.
Even though most of the city’s building department is working from home, Revell tells CTV News the department’s push to go paperless a few years back is paying off in spades, allowing permits to be approved digitally.
“A little bit of thinking ahead of the curve on the part of council has really paid off well and allowed us to maintain our businesses' continuity in the building department,” he says.
To help keep projects moving, the city’s inspectors have been conducting virtual remote inspections, which Revell says will lead to some permanent changes with the way the department does business.
“We’re going to be changing the way we operate in the future,” says Revell. “Video remote inspections is a tool in our toolbox that we’re going to be keeping forever, even after this COVID-19 issue subsides.”