The State of Essential Versus Nonessential Construction
With the United States increasingly rocked by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no shortage of confusion over governmental orders halting nonessential business, especially in the construction industry. In some states, all construction projects have been deemed essential, in other states, almost no projects are considered essential, and some states have no restrictions on the industry at all.
Four states have orders in place halting nonessential construction, although how each defines what is essential and what is not differs, sometimes greatly. For contractors in those states, navigating which projects are permitted and putting an unexpected halt to those that aren’t has caused significant strife across the industry.
Michigan has instituted what is widely considered to be the most sweeping definition of nonessential construction, banning work on everything except road, bridge, telecommunication infrastructure or public health infrastructure projects.
New York and Washington have fairly stringent orders in place as well, allowing work to continue on things like public housing and infrastructure projects, schools, and hospitals but banning just about everything else.
On paper, Pennsylvania appears to have the most rigorous restriction on construction projects – essentially banning all projects – but the state instituted a waiver system that has allowed everything from nursing homes to hotel projects to continue.
Wyoming, Utah, and Oklahoma have labeled construction an essential function but allowed municipalities to institute more strict guidelines at the local level.
In all instances, emergency construction projects are being allowed, and contractors have generally been given the latitude to shore up parts of their projects if halting work would result in damage to the property or spoilage of materials. Even so, the halt to construction is having a ripple effect across the entire construction industry and all of its suppliers in those states, with everything from building centers to waste management companies feeling the effects of the new rules.
In its Covid-19 Construction Activity Report, ConstructConnect has created an interactive map of the United States that shows the status of construction with regard to coronavirus-related orders as well as reports of delayed projects on a state-by-state basis.