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Affinivax Construction During the Time of Covid-19

It all started with a foot bump instead of handshakes at a meeting. A bit of nervous laughter at the change in contact and meeting with a chair in-between us each. Little did we understand that the entire project delivery method was about to radically change for our client and ourselves.

Hereva has been engaged by Affinivax for OPM work since 2019 and has been providing project management services to this Pharmaceutical start-up since that time. Affinivax is a 75 person clinical stage biotechnology company with a novel, next generation approach to the development of vaccines and immunotherapies targeting infectious and other immune mediated diseases.

Fast forward to March 2020, we were in the midst of the beginning of the construction of the 45K sq. ft new headquarters and laboratory space in Kendall square. Suddenly things have shifted to complete remote meetings and interactions on the now ubiquitous screen (take your pick – Zoom, Go To Meeting, Teams and Skype etc.)  Suddenly Governors orders and subsequently the City of Cambridge orders were implemented stopping all construction unless there is a demonstrated “essential service” component or a vaccine related construction.

Welcome to the new age of Covid-19 and construction in the Boston/Cambridge area.

Plans were implemented by our team: Hereva Consultants, The Richmond Group as CM, the Architect TRIA and representatives of Affinivax gathered virtually to discuss the options available to keep the project on track. Discussions were in depth concerning the cost and schedule implications of stopping work vs petitioning the City of Cambridge to continue the construction of Affinivax’s headquarter and laboratory space. Through a series of applications, reviews, analysis, and high-level efforts TRG was able to receive from Affinivax the necessary write -up that demonstrated the need for this project to continue.

The requirements for PPE, social distancing and site management from an EHS standpoint were comprehensive and difficult. However, once TRG could demonstrate the measures required to be put in place for safe work – management permission was granted. After a 3-week stoppage, it was on again. Although we all celebrated the win, we anxiously started the process of working in the COVID- 19 dominated construction zone.

It is June 2020 now and things have been challenging, crews are limited to a smaller onsite level, and disinfecting, hand washing and mask wearing protocols are being stringently followed. In person inspections have been limited and are supplemented by photographs taken on site by the TRG superintendents.  This does limit the pace at which work can occur and the staffing loads allowed on the floor.

However, the overall cooperation and team approach has allowed for the integration of these constraints into a functioning and fully activated construction project. It has allowed for the retention of subcontractors and resources which might have become limited if the project had waited until now for the lifting of further restrictions.

The client benefits the most as they will have the opportunity to move into their new headquarters early this fall. That move-in most likely would have been pushed out to 2021, if they had waited. This is a result of team efforts, solution-oriented thinking and cooperative problem solving.

As we move forward into the deeper and more detailed aspects of the project’s construction, we have prepared ourselves and the client to face these challenges as a team. Together we can achieve the successful completion of the project while providing a safe and economically viable new headquarters and laboratory space for an innovative pharmaceutical start-up.