Editor’s Desk: Strange Times

How a Pandemic Has Pushed the Architecture Industry

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in many plans for architects across the Western United States and Canada.  Projects have halted, businesses have furloughed workers, and you’re likely reading this issue of Architectural West from your home office.  If you have small children, I hope you’re able to finish it in peace before someone comes asking for yet another snack.

         In a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America, published in early April, 40% of construction companies reported laying off a portion of its workforce.  Despite construction workers being labeled as essential by many state governors, the sudden work stoppage across the country had rippling effects throughout a number of trades and industries.  Thankfully, there have been some measures put in place by the Trump administration, including the Paycheck Protection Program and various small business loans, which have helped soften the blow to many businesses.  The CARES Act, too, provides fast and direct economic assistance for American workers and families, small businesses, and preserves jobs for American industries. 

         Equipment shortage has not been a big issue during this crisis, with only 1/3 of survey respondents citing a problem with getting supplies.  The supply chain has, however, forced teams to rethink what pieces of equipment are truly essential.  As many of these pieces of equipment are foreign-produced, we could easily see a shift to more American-made products.

         Working from home can present its own set of challenges.  Connectivity, technology, and communication are all put on the front burner as teams work together, while apart, to keep the ball moving.  Many of you, like myself, are parents trying to strategically juggle the work-from-home balance while remaining productive.  Oh, and don’t forget to relax and unwind, per the CDC’s guidance.  That’s easier said than done, right?

         While the pandemic has consistently been unsettling, discouraging, and at times ominous, it has also shined a light on the incredible fortitude that the architecture industry yields in times of crisis.  Design professionals play a critical role in the shaping of our countries, and when new problems are put in front of them, they are able to shift their focus for the greater good.  Reevaluating hospital layouts, affordable housing, office technology, transportation, and much more will likely be a focus when designing infrastructure post COVID-19.

         An often overlooked arena, the outdoor space, has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight, with outdoor recreation being one of the only ways people are finding solace in these times.  It will be interesting to see how natural spaces are included in design plans in the future, with the pandemic fresh in designer’s minds.  One of the brightest stars in the dark sky right now is the way humanity has come together for the greater good.  Hopefully this will continue once the pandemic is over, as we all know this won’t last forever, and the human condition will be the driving force in the architecture industry.

         While March and April have been relatively slow, many architecture firms across the United States and Canada have reported that they expect normal books going into the summer.  For those that are not seeing normal numbers yet, economists predict a recovery before the end of the year.  So, for now, keep working if you can, and try to get some rest, because things are surely bound to pick up in the near future.  

Marcus Dodson

editor & publisher

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