As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, multifamily property owners and tenants are demanding “a healthier building” as they look to increase physical distancing and decrease shared contact surfaces in apartment communities.

In addition to instituting updated policies and procedures for renters and management staff, multifamily stakeholders are seeking new ways to provide healthier environments for everyone in the building. In order to accomplish this, owners and developers are turning to contractors to create innovative solutions that serve this demand, which is being considered the “new normal.”

The goal of these efforts is to deliver apartment communities that reduce the risk of airborne illnesses while still functioning as comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and welcoming homes for all renters.

As a general contractor who specializes in multifamily construction, RAAM Construction understands the specific challenges property owners and developers face in providing healthier buildings for tenants and management staff in a timely and cost-effective way. Highlighted below are several construction techniques our firm has employed since before the pandemic began to deliver apartment communities that are safe in the new normal.

1. Install Healthier Building Systems

Ventilation and lighting systems, as well as surface and building materials, can greatly impact the health of residents and staff and the spread of illness within an apartment community.

Old or poorly constructed HVAC systems not only foster “sick building syndrome,” but also can inadvertently spread viruses like COVID-19 through a building. Conversely, newer, more robust systems that use abundant amounts of fresh air and powerful HEPA filters can hamper the spread of viral illnesses.

Similarly, lighting fixtures in apartment communities can be upgraded to include UV lamps that are safe for humans and effective at killing airborne viruses. These lamps are typically inexpensive and fit into conventional light fixtures.

Common surfaces are another area where viruses can either be spread or stopped. For example, experts say that copper is extremely effective at killing viruses, making it an ideal and attractive material for surfaces in common areas of apartment buildings.

Installing healthier building systems and materials is a useful technique in constructing safer multifamily communities.

2. Utilize Cost-Saving Practices

Apartment property owners are eager to implement new safety features in a "healthy building" without increasing construction costs. General contractors who are well-versed in providing these services in a budget-conscious manner are able to save owners significant amounts in capital expenses by employing some smart cost-saving practices.

For example, given the nationwide shortage in construction supplies imported from overseas, RAAM has been relying on its ability to source materials locally and maintain strong relationships with American vendors to save clients money. In addition, it is important to plan ahead and work with trusted local vendors well in advance of project deadlines in case imports are delayed, as well as self-performing work to eliminate the extra cost of subcontracting.

Practices like these enable general contractors to complete projects on time and within budget so that owners can provide healthy building features sooner during this crisis.

3. Involve Contractors Early in the Construction Process

The importance of bringing in a general contractor early when embarking on healthier building construction cannot be overemphasized. Working with a GC early on in the initial design and planning stages will allow that contractor to value-engineer the process and determine which essential materials can be replaced with lower-cost options, as well as help to avoid change orders that can cause construction delays and unnecessarily increase costs.

It’s also wise to seek out a GC who offers preconstruction services. These services save owners and developers precious time and money while still resulting in high-quality projects.

By involving GCs in the early stages of safer building construction work, they can better identify which services are needed for the project in order to meet owners’ and developers’ expectations for these projects.

COVID-19 has raised the call for apartment stakeholders to implement construction projects that make their properties safer and healthier for renters and management staff. By working with general contractors who can provide innovative solutions for these projects, including installing healthier building systems, utilizing cost-saving practices, and getting involved early in the process, multifamily owners and developers can achieve safer apartment communities in a time- and cost-effective manner.