Each sector in the construction industry is being uniquely affected during this time of COVID-19. From the market’s response to oil and gas reductions and aviation capital spending to an increase in data center projects and certain manufacturing spaces. Most all industries are awaiting to see the impacts of the impending infrastructure spending.

Even with varying circumstances, one common theme most everyone can agree upon: uncertainty. Uncertainty around when the pandemic will end and uncertainty in what the new normal will be. But on the backside of this uncertainty is a realistic opportunity for those needing to complete critical infrastructure projects.

Much of this opportunity can be found in the utility industry. As one example, some are looking to take advantage of the federal solar tax credit, also known as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), before the year 2020 is over.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tier 1 solar panels were in short supply due to explosive market growth, making it difficult for developers or utilities to qualify for the ITC through the use of panel procurement before it steps down.

Now, with some developer projects on hold, it’s possible that these panels are more available and those who want to move solar projects forward could still benefit from the ITC savings. The ITC deadline makes it more important to complete these installations sooner rather than later. The federal credit will still be available in 2021 but it will be smaller — 22% of purchase and installation costs as opposed to this year’s credit of 26%.

Additionally, the potential of a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing funding for critical infrastructure projects adds to potential opportunities. Depending on the rollout timeline for funding, a major uptick in infrastructure spending will help drive the construction market demand. However, it may be awhile before this funding would translate to real backlog, potentially leaving a gap in national construction projects.

As the economy returns to a new normal and project backlogs increase, there’s a good chance that parts of the country could once again face labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks. When that happens, and even now, it’s more important than ever to build partnerships that can help identify and navigate through those critical market trends as well as plan and execute safe, efficient projects with predictable outcomes throughout 2020 and beyond as we reestablish our nation’s backlog of work.


Industries are aggressively responding to the pandemic while still meeting the demands of critical infrastructure.

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Chad Kirby is a vice president and director of energy construction at Burns & McDonnell. He has more than two decades of experience in construction management and supervision, and he provides experience with design-build delivery of complex industrial projects from estimating to commissioning.