What Lies Ahead? Architecture and Construction During COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to think very far ahead. It’s actually hard to think about anything. 

Apr 17, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to think very far ahead. It’s actually hard to think about anything. 

But when the health crisis begins to lessen, as it will, we will see a massive government investment to stimulate economic recovery. We’ll see ongoing projects restart and new projects prioritized to start sooner.

Unfortunately, we’ll likely be trying to navigate this surge in demand with reduced capacity, delays in the supply chain, and contract and design changes to projects already underway.  

We’ve put together some thoughts, based on our learnings and involvement in the industry, that we hope can provide some ideas and inspiration for what lies ahead.

1 - Don’t Panic

This is a deliberate slow down of the global economy to lessen the health impact of COVID-19. Stimulus packages are being created globally to rebuild economies. Make sure you are aware of the resources available to you to help navigate this time. For example, the Toronto Society of Architects has great content that is kept up to date with the latest information. 

The current restrictions on construction do not represent a long term trend or plan. In fact, Governments will likely use construction to jump-start economic recovery and the industry could face a surge in demand once the pandemic wanes and social distancing is loosened. This is already proving to be the case in China.

2 - Support Your Community

The architecture community is filled with inspirational, innovative ways of helping those that need it most during this pandemic.

In the UK, the NHS Nightingale hospital was built in just 9 days, while Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, ON, managed to erect a 93-bed pandemic unit in just 14 days

MASS Design Group has released two design guides – “Designing Spaces for Infection Control” and “Guidelines for Limiting Contagion in COVID-19 Tent Clinics” – that consolidate its over 10 years practice with building spaces for patient care. 

Toronto-based WZMH Architects collaborated with local engineering and consulting groups to produce a concept for a portable, prefabricated, cheap and energy-efficient virus testing centre. They’ve even reached out to technology leaders Microsoft to discuss implementing smart sensors that monitor data such as patient count and body temperature.

PVTC posted By WZMH on LinkedIn

There are hundreds of equally inspiring, heart-warming ideas already in flight - from repurposing engineering and manufacturing lines, to designing and building PPE and health infrastructure. This temporary downtime could be used in incredibly productive ways that help people stay safe and recover.


3 - Prepare for the Recovery

The short term remains uncertain and somewhat chaotic, in times like these it’s valuable to focus on what we do know. Construction will return.

Prepare to rebuild capacity, but be realistic and try to find new ways of operating that allow you to function with a leaner team as you rebuild. 

Your teams have spent the last month working from home (and who knows how much longer!). In this time they’ve likely adopted new digital tools and created new ways of keeping in close communication and collaborating. Use this to your advantage and scale these new processes throughout your firm. 

When construction returns we’ll need to do more, with less.

Recovering Together

Through the unwavering turmoil of COVID-19, the thing that stands out to me is the ability of our industry’s compassion to help others. Creative and innovative ideas from Architects, Contractors and Engineers are benefiting the lives of everyone, in a wholly new way from before. 

Now more than ever, our community can use, and create, space to bring people together, safely.

We know these are difficult, chaotic times. A lot of what we are seeing is totally unprecedented, and you are experiencing great strain. 

Our team at Part3 is bringing our best minds together to help in whatever way we can. We believe in this industry, and we will recover, together.