Does architecture need to change?

There’s not much that could persuade you to change your plans quite like a global pandemic. Indeed, there’s very little that we can think of that hasn’t been affected in some small way by the coronavirus that emerged in January in China.

Does architecture need to change?

There’s not much that could persuade you to change your plans quite like a global pandemic. Indeed, there’s very little that we can think of that hasn’t been affected in some small way by the coronavirus that emerged in January in China.

Our work, our home lives, our children’s schooling, our spending habits and the economy have all been deeply affected by the measures that governments have taken to try and control the spread and protect vulnerable members of society from the worst effects.

One of the hardest questions to answer, however, has been just how long-term people expect this to be and subsequently how much long-term planning businesses, schools and workers will need to put in place before things can return to some level of normality.

Up to this point it must be said we’re approaching something like a new level of normality where people are allowed out to eat, drink and meet friends and family as well as going on holiday, but with certain protection measures in place.

There have also been a number of wider implications and unforeseen impacts on society, for example with the complete redesign of school environments and the way children are grouped together. There are also big implications for the survival of the airline industry when it is understood that with a very tight existing profit margin, they simply can’t afford to operate with seats spread too far apart.

But it’s not only the hospitality sector that has been impacted by the pandemic, there may well be future implications for architecture and building design due to ongoing social distancing restrictions.

Postponed projects

As reported by the BBC, a £30 million office building in Middlesbrough is having construction postponed to consider a redesign following news that most UK employers have no plans to return all of their staff back to office buildings full time.

Middlesbrough’s mayor Andy Peston said “We are undoubtedly putting up a magnificent building - and I am still certain there will be demand for offices like this in Middlesbrough and across the world, but with Covid there is some uncertainty about what kind of offices and how much demand there is so we are reviewing the design of the building.”

It’s not certain right now whether the long-term picture will recover for many commercial property owners and landlords as businesses get used to having a majority of their workforce working from home.

As restrictions have now been lifted and the summer months and warmer weather have failed to tempt employers to bring their staff back in full-time, it would seem highly unlikely that this will change through winter when it’s expected that the virus will be spread easier.

This is a very different picture to residential property where demand has exploded since lockdown measures were introduced, with news in recent weeks of estate agents having their busiest periods in years and a new record for property prices being set in August.

There appears to be growing anecdotal evidence that many commercial projects could be changed with a focus on residential properties, and there appear to be many funds and private investors that have shifted their focus away from commercial to residential recently.

Whilst there are potentially many implications for this pandemic, one of the lasting changes could be a large shift away from commercial planning into residential.


Quarterly Report vertical - April 2019

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