Featured Photo (above): Exterior demolition of a former art gallery at 721 Congress Ave. continues, making way for a 31-story Hyatt Centric hotel. The project general contractor, Katerra, is live-streaming construction work, which is expected to finish up in fall 2021. The state of Texas has given construction crews the go-ahead to continue projects with precautions during the COVID-19 outbreak. Image: Katerra
By Edmond Ortiz
Austin (Travis County)— The city has formally stopped its short-lived ban on construction, following Governor Greg Abbott‘s executive order naming construction as one of the “essential activities” to be exempted from local restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 24, the city and Travis County issued shelter-in-place orders that, among other things, prohibited most types of construction. The ban caused confusion and outrage across the construction industry, especially because other major Texas cities allowed construction to continue.
But the executive order issued by Abbott on March 31 supersedes municipal and county orders, and spells out which essential business activities are permitted. albeit with social distancing guidelines.
Allowed activities include construction, as well as building inspections, trades associated with residential and commercial building maintenance, and the manufacture of building tools and materials.
The city on April 2 released revised guidance for members of the construction industry based on the allowed functions and restrictions in the governor’s executive order.
“All construction work permitted in the governor’s March 31, 2020 executive order (No. GA-14) is permitted. City will no longer prohibit commercial or residential construction projects,” the guidance document states.
The city’s guidelines insist upon healthy construction work site requirements, and their on-site posting in languages understood by all employees. The city also asks the project owner and supervisors to closely monitor all of their on-site workers.
If any worker feels ill, that person is to be sent home, and the employer is to immediately notify the Austin Public Health Department.
Additionally, the city asks employers to “take no adverse action” against any worker who feels a construction site poses a risk to his/her health and the health of coworkers.