Young architects have launched a petition urging the government to shut down the thousands of still-operating construction sites in the UK to stop the spread of the coronavirus
The Architecture Foundation’s Young Network, which is behind the petition, said the profession had a responsibility to demand the closures and protect the health of those who continue to work on site.
The Network argues that, despite their best efforts, construction workers cannot maintain the 2m social distance recommended by the government, putting themselves and their families at risk.
Although many contractors have now locked up their development plots (see Projects paused as contractors shut sites amid lockdown confusion) there are others, such as Willmott Dixon, that have kept them open today (26 March).
Earlier this week, prime minister Boris Johnson imposed a strict national lockdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak but stopped short of ordering construction sites to close. An email, seen today (26 March) by the AJ’s sister title Construction News, from a senior prime ministerial adviser said the government was not closing construction sites nor was it encouraging them to. Number 10 said that, although the situation was developing, there were no plans to force sites to halt works.
However the online petition is now calling for the total closure of all sites. It states: ‘Construction workers are unable to do their work and social distance at the same time putting the health of themselves, and in turn their families and the wider public, at risk.
It continues: ‘All other industries have sacrificed progression and profit for this public health crisis and the construction industry must do the same.
’This decision should not be left to site managers and developers. We need a government mandate to close all non-essential construction sites.’
Hanna Benihoud, of London-based Hanna Benihoud Studio, an Architecture Foundation young trustee, told the AJ: ‘I have been shocked and saddened by the lack of social distancing on site, which is not the workers’ fault – it is just not possible.
‘I hope practices put their head above the parapet and speak up. Responsible developers have closed by choice, but hundreds haven’t. We must stand together as an industry.’
Schemes such as PLP’s City skyscraper 22 Bishopsgate and Squire & Partners’ The Broadway in St James Park and Chelsea Barracks were put on hold earlier this week as global construction firm Multiplex closed its 14 sites.
A string of major firms followed suit, including housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes, London residential developer Galliard and ISG.
Major housing association L&Q confirmed it had closed all its sites for three weeks, while, according to Construction News, Mace has stopped work on its projects, such as WilkinsonEyre’s Battersea Power Station and Renzo Piano’s Paddington Cube.
In a statement, L&Q said in the interest of customer and employee safety it had taken the decision to close all its sites.
‘We have found that social distancing on construction sites is extremely difficult to achieve. Added to this, in London, our construction workers are heavy users of the public transport network. L&Q wants to be part of the effort to maintain the safety of our transport network for critical key workers and we also want to be part of the national campaign to halt the spread of the virus.’
Crossrail confirmed it, too, had suspended work on site to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking about the decision, Chris Williamson, founding partner of Weston Williamson, which was working on the nearly completed Paddington and Woolwich stations, said: ‘It was the right thing to do. It must be almost impossible on any building site to practice social distancing and the wellbeing of all site staff and the public must take priority. Flatten the curve.’
And today, Reigart Contracts announced that ‘in line with the guidance from the Scottish Government, the company has suspended clearance work in the Mackintosh Building until further notice.
Meanwhile, the Glasgow School of Art said it had suspended all non-urgent works across its Garnethill campus.
Taylor Wimpey All sites
L&Q All sites
Crossrail All sites, including:
Paddington station, Weston Williamson
Woolwich station, Weston Williamson
Barratt Homes All sites
Multiplex All sites, including:
22 Bishopsgate, PLP
The Broadway, Squire & Partners
Chelsea Barracks, Squire & Partners
Galliard All sites, including:
Harbour Central, Rolfe Judd
Stadia 3 Wimbledon, Sheppard Robson
Timber Yard Birmingham, Claridge Architects
Tower Bridge Road, DLA Architecture
The Stage, Perkins & Will
Islington Square, CZWG
ISG Most sites
Mace All sites, including:
Battersea Power Station, WilkinsonEyre
N06 East Village, Hawkins\Brown
One Crown Place, KPF
Paddington Square, Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Glasgow School of Art All non-essential works, including fire-damage clearance at the Mack
Construction sites are open as usual across the UK, this photo was taken twenty minutes ago on a site at Waterloo.— Dan Dobson (@DanJDobson) March 23, 2020
Contractors are refusing to shut sites until the Gov force them so they dont fall foul of any contractual clauses. #COVIDー19 #construction #ShutTheSites pic.twitter.com/ydAYVw8lUS