The COVID-19 outbreak has brought the construction industry to a screeching halt in regions like CA, WA and NY, while creating significant supply chain and material lags in other cities. Regardless of location, the entire construction industry has been forced to pause, pivot and jump into crisis mode to assess the current situation and plan for the future.
Developing contingency plans, finding alternate delivery solutions, assessing costs and keeping an eye on what’s going on with the supply chain has become our new normal. What we’re trying to do is answer the lingering question: what does the future of commercial office design and construction look like once COVID-19 is behind us?
We gathered a taskforce of the industry’s top minds to share their insight into the changing landscape of the construction industry. Together, we grappled with the following questions and scenarios for what our industry should anticipate post COVID-19:
- How will office design trends change?
- Will space needs diminish if the WFH model proves successful?
- Will any trades or service lines see an increase in demand?
- What will the new standard of jobsites and field work become?
While no one has a crystal ball, and we are all navigating uncharted waters together, the outcome of our discussion led to many sound predictions on the changing nature of the industry.
Below we are sharing our top 6 predictions for the future office space needs, design trends and construction post COVID-19.
The heightened awareness of hygiene and the value of overall cleanliness will cause an uptick in demand for upgraded sanitization / disinfectant systems. We anticipate a spike in demand for touchless devices such as faucets, toilets, waste receptacles, sanitizer / soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and automated doors. There may also be increased opportunity on the horizon for janitorial positions and potentially the creation of new roles and internal programs to fill health / cleanliness initiatives.
2. Workstation distancing
For most, cubicle life is a distant memory as many companies have moved towards high density benching and open concept floorplans. Now that COVID-19 has imposed the value of social distancing to limit the spread of the virus, we foresee the return of cubicles, private offices and increased separation of workstations from the standard 4’ to at least 6’ apart. Open area collaboration spaces will be redesigned and reconfigured, which poses the challenge of keeping collaboration opportunities alive with closed floorplans.
3. A tenant’s market
The realistic outlook of commercial real estate is decreased activity, leading to lower rents and higher concessions from landlords to tenants. Concessions will likely be seen in the form of free rent, or potentially larger tenant improvement allowances. Time will tell, but as tenant activity in the market continues to dwindle, this could be an opportunity for those looking to find the space they desire at a lower a price point with better terms. Alternatively, this could also be the time for tenants to explore short-term lease extensions with their current landlords to provide the financial flexibility they will need as we begin to re-enter the workplace.
4. Healthy jobsites
There are several components to ensure safe and clean jobsites to decrease exposure to illness and disease. Straightforward changes include increased or enhanced sanitization systems such as temporary hand washing stations, increased labor to clean jobsites, additional required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and heightened standards of PPE disposal. Practices that will also be enforced include coordination with all contractors on jobsites to modify site activity in order to practice safe social distancing such as staggering work shifts and freight elevator use. Additional measures may be taken to protect the health of jobsite personnel which could be as simple as a temperature scan before entering the jobsite or thorough as a doctor-validated bill of health.
Manufacturers are going to have a huge backlog to fulfill due to closures and delayed demand once work is back in full swing. Pay special attention to the supply chain on your project. The freight industry will similarly be impacted with extra pressure to transport materials. Overseas shipping trends may shift from traditional freight to airline cargo wherever feasible. To avoid delays, design trends will also shift to source locally manufactured products/fini shes in lieu of imported materials and equipment.
6. The WFH Model
As businesses and the workforce adapts to the flexibility of the WFH model, it is likely traditional workspaces will be re-evaluated. Some companies may forego traditional office space all together and use co-working solutions for collaboration as needed. Other companies will move towards more shared desks or “hoteling” workstations in their space and may be faced with the challenge of designing creative space that entices employees to come to the office to create opportunities for collaboration.
Our network floods with new information on a daily basis, which means predictions can shift quickly based on current market conditions. Our goal is to provide you with the information as we receive it to help you navigate through the changing dynamics of the design and construction industry. We’re in this together. And when this crisis ends, we can get back to building better and safer together.