Over the last two years, COVID-19 safety protocols have stressed our ability to travel and have impacted our availability to visit construction sites. With the right mindset, challenges like these can be turned into opportunities.
Within months of the onset of the pandemic, we began introducing a workaround to site visit limitations by introducing virtual field verification. The benefits and successes from implementing this procedure were overwhelmingly positive. We believe virtual inspections are here to stay for the long term, and we would like to share the benefits from our own experience when compared to in-person visual verifications, such as:
- Ease of scheduling and increased flexibility
- Lower costs and time savings
- Reduced risk of safety issues
There are many video call/sharing apps that will allow parties on both ends to share live video between multiple teams. In our case, it became a solution for our visual verifications that were required for Title 24 and LEED, such as HERS and commissioning verifications. By sharing video in real time, we could effectively direct the person controlling the video on the other end to take us to the specific areas requiring verification, essentially turning that person into our arms and legs onsite while still maintaining the professional quality of observation. Direction would be given to the person controlling the onsite camera to specific areas needing observation, and in general, video quality and cooperation with onsite personnel was very successful.
Scheduling is not always ideal, and with the case of a global pandemic, it was (in some cases) not even possible to be onsite for verifications. We needed a solution to minimize the impact to our construction projects in order to avoid further delays while still efficiently and accurately verifying what was needed, especially for time-sensitive issues such as QII (Quality Insulation Installation). By utilizing remote visual verification, we were able to overcome the risk to others and ourselves of possible infection from COVID-19 during its most dangerous strains. We were still able to accurately observe and correct issues with some cooperation from the onsite construction team, and we discovered several benefits from this process. For instance, we no longer needed strict coordination with several hours set aside for a visit; instead, we could fit an inspection into an hour-long window in most cases (allowing both VCA and the construction team to be much more flexible), and we could respond to a request for verification nearly immediately, thus allowing more verifications to be fit into the same contracted time allotment, and we could cut out some travel to and from the job site.
Reduced travel and scheduling flexibility simultaneously enhanced service, lowered costs, and lowered the carbon footprint of a single inspection. Of course, some verifications can only be performed in person, but no longer do we need the time to wait in traffic or burn the gas of a vehicle to get to the site for certain measures that could otherwise be verified in real time remotely. And those are just the measured costs:considering the opportunity cost of the time savings as well, it’s easy to see how productivity increased from handling a few visits in a day in person to handling multiple visits with ease while maintaining the integrity of each verification.
Safety, of course, is what led us to this revelation. COVID-19 exposure was our primary concern initially. Remote visual verification is 100% contactless, so that major hurdle could be put behind us. Additionally, we didn’t need to have PPE for a virtual inspection, because the risk of physical injury while visiting a potentially hazardous construction site had also been removed.
With all that considered, we are offering this process as part of our normal set of tools even after this pandemic has subsided. It is a wonderful tool to utilize so we can improve responsiveness and provide better services to our clients, reduce travel times/costs, and avoid costly delays in scheduling.
Quoting the Dalai Lama, “Whenever there is challenge, there is also an opportunity to face it, to demonstrate and develop our will and determination.” Here at VCA Green, that is exactly what we strive to do: meet our challenges with the determination to overcome them. For more information on how you can utilize remote third-party verifications for CALGreen, LEED, Title 24, and other green building systems/code requirements where necessary (or for quality assurance), contact Moe Fakih below.
Contributing Writer: Chris Halamandaris, Energy Rater
Moe Fakih, Principal