By Thomas Albrecht
Most would agree that looking in the rear view mirror would be a very nice way of saying goodbye to 2020. It has created some unprecedented challenges.
However finding ways to be creative and staying positive has carried us through the year. The challenges include COVID-19, material shortages and the escalation of material cost.
The year was very promising in the building industry back in February with many projects signed for. Then along came the virus. We took the approach to follow CDC guidelines, which wasn’t received by everyone very well. Most have conformed over time.
The saving grace for Hilltop included having four essential projects under construction, which allowed us to keep about 75 percent of our workforce. Another blessing was the Payroll Protection Plan that helped with paying employees whether they worked or not.
There have been a number of things that have altered the construction process including employee shortages. There is a lack of those who would like to join a construction team and to make it a career choice. This has been a problem for a couple years and continues to be as we move forward.
As we continued through 2020, unexpected surprises included lumber shortages where one might expect to pick up some common items, only to find out that they are back ordered.
Shortages lead to a major increase in material costs. Some items increased as much as 30 percent, which made it difficult to maintain profitability.
Another impact was that manufacturers decided to mainstream there products, meaning they would drop multiple choices, leaving contractors with limited choices. For instance, vinyl siding has unrealistic lead times and the companies have dropped the number of color choices available.
These are some of the issues we will work through this year, but I think the hardest thing to deal with is trying to help our clients understand that we can’t make promises on timelines or availability. We pride ourselves on completing projects on time, but now in the industry there are unanswered questions that affect those timelines.
As the year progressed, a new surge of clients from downstate inquired about building or renovating a house they just purchased up this way. In my 44 years, I have never seen this amount of activity, in this short of time, from people who had decided to move out of the New York City.
This activity is a result of low interest rates that I hope it will continue well into 2021.
Considering our environment, the new year is starting off good, with projects leaning toward the residential side of things.
I see more hands-free things be developed for new construction, like additional automatic doors and bathroom fixtures and advanced technology for swipe pads or eye recognition to open doors. Paper bulletins and menus might go away. Even currency might become a thing of the past.
A lot of this technology has already been introduced. I think more innovative items will accelerate to make society even more hands free in all buildings.
One thing we know for certain is that the construction industry is ever changing and we must keep up. As we move into 2021, we all must look at our situation with hope and know that there are better days ahead. Lets look to help one another.
By Thomas Albrecht