Institute responds to Victoria’s Roadmap for reopening and traffic light restrictions

The Institute is closely monitoring the Victorian Government’s announcement of its Roadmap for reopening as Victoria gradually recovers from its second wave of COVID19 infections.

We have further examined and collated detailed information from across three different areas of the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 Roadmap and Restrictions website.

Overall roadmap steps

As we stated in our first release, on Monday 7 September, Victoria’s reopening roadmap is driven by a timetable of four ‘Steps’ prior to achieving “COVID Normal”. There is no specified date for return to “COVID Normal”.

An overview of the dates for these Steps can be viewed here.

Traffic light restrictions

There are four levels of traffic light restrictions

How Steps and  Traffic Light restrictions apply

Between Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria, the Construction Industry’s Steps and associated Traffic Light Restrictions are scheduled and applied very differently.

Regional Victoria

In Regional Victoria the Construction Industry will move straight to Step 2 on 13 September and the green traffic light level of restrictions – “OPEN WITH A COVID SAFE PLAN” will apply. Find the Regional Roadmap here. 

Metropolitan Melbourne

However, in Metropolitan Melbourne the Construction Industry Steps and Restrictions are currently specified to operate as follows:

  • Step 1 current after 11:59pm 13 September at the orange traffic light “HEAVILY RESTRICTED” level of restrictions.
  • Step 2 current after 28 September (subject to various COVID-19 case numbers) at the yellow traffic light “RESTRICTED” level of restrictions.
  • Step 3 current after 26 October (subject to various COVID-19 case numbers) at the green traffic light “OPEN WITH A COVIDSAFE PLAN” level of restrictions.
  • Step 4 (Last Step) current after 23 November (subject to various COVID-19 case numbers) continues at the green traffic light “OPEN WITH A COVIDSAFE PLAN” level of restrictions.
  • COVID Normal (date not specified)” “OPEN WITH A COVIDSAFE PLAN. No density quotient”

Find the Metropolitan Roadmap here. 

The impacts for Institute members of the different traffic light restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne

We attach here for Institute Members an extract of information about the detailed traffic light restrictions. This table highlights the specifications on overall worksite numbers at the different levels of traffic light restrictions for the Construction Industry.

The information in this table has been extracted from the following three traffic light restriction documents that have been released by the Victorian Government as follows.

Our analysis on 7 September noted two risks. Here is an update on these risks and potential solutions.

Risk one: Architects are currently included in the daily worker counts for construction sites on the DHHS COVIDSafe templates for high risk industries. This means that our members need to wait until skilled tradespersons have finished work each day before conducting onsite visits. This compromises safety and quality and has the potential to stall projects as well as having a detrimental impact on Architects’ jobs and practices. This restricted worksite numbers appear to particularly apply to small scale construction at both orange and yellow traffic light restriction levels (corresponding to Steps 1 and 2) and for Large-scale construction at the orange traffic right level (Step 1).

The Institute had already sent a joint letter with Engineers Australia on 4 September to the Hon Martin Pakula whose ministerial portfolios include Coordination of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and COVID-19 Industry Support and Recovery. Our letter seeks a solution to Risk one, above, by asking for a redefinition so that architects are not included in the daily worker count.

Risk two: the delay of recommencement of renovations and alterations which will reduce the pipeline of  work for architects and the construction sector.

We draw attention to information in the Traffic Light restrictions for small-scale construction that appears to indicate this type of work is delayed until commencement of Step 3 in Melbourne after 26 October at the green traffic light level of restrictions. The green “OPEN WITH A COVIDSAFE PLAN” restrictions include,

  • Construction activities external to a residential premise, such as a garage or rooftop, can now proceed
  • Permit construction activities at owner occupied sites where is it possible to create a physical barrier between workers and occupants and/or the occupier can temporarily vacate the premises for duration of the works.

This raises the issue of commencing on-site visits by architects to premises at a higher level (yellow) of traffic light restrictions, while adhering to COVIDSafe practices, for the purposes of designing renovations and alterations. If this were achieved, construction contractors and tradespersons would be better placed to commence their renovations and alterations works as soon as the green level of restrictions commences.

By fine-tuning the restrictions, all avenues of construction activity, including building renovations and alterations, will be able to recommence as quickly as possible so that hundreds of thousands of jobs and livelihoods are not placed at further risk.