Covid-19 has brought about a seismic change in our lives that has never been seen before. With the Singapore government imposing a number of lockdown measures to slow down the rate of infections, it has severely impacted a number of industries, including the architecture industry. It has been forced to bring about changes to its practices to survive during these tough times.
With the offices closed, this hands-on industry has been forced to work remotely. Working from home has become the norm. Many architecture firms in Singapore were ill-equipped initially to handle the new communication difficulties because of the sudden pandemic. But with time, the industry has adjusted and are again starting to get back on their feet. Most architecture companies are currently working at about 70% to 80% of the output level before the pandemic hit.
Project Delays, Cancellations & Uncertainty
During the initial stage of the pandemic, more than two-thirds of the architecture projects were badly hit. There were project cancellations, sites were closed down, and uncertainty about when things would get back to normal. A large group of architecture companies saw reduced cash flows, increased expenses and unrecoverable outlays. Now that the lockdown measures are slowly easing, the construction industry is finally recovering, and sites are beginning to open. It is a positive sign that the worst is over. However, architecture firms continue to feel the impact that could lead to job losses and project closures if the market is slow to rebound.
The negative impact of the pandemic was seen in certain areas of the industry, such as hospitality, office buildings, student accommodation, retail and shopping center projects. However, since the stock market and the bank interest rates are giving low returns, investors are turning to properties as better investments. Hopefully, this will benefit site appraisals, estate strategy services and the architecture industry immensely in the coming months.
How is the Architecture Industry Adapting to Survive?
One of the most perplexing questions for the architecture and the design fraternity in Singapore is: what does the future hold for us?
How will the business be like once the offices open? What are the prospects for new projects? Will projects move forward, in the same manner like before or do the processes needs to be evaluated?
While it is impossible to control the impact of the outbreak, the best course of action for the industry is to react positively to the situation and make changes accordingly. Those who are not flexible and unable to adapt to the new norms, demands and constraints of the market are the ones who will suffer in the end. There is a greater need for businesses in the architecture industry to recognize the need for change, ways of working, customer base and even the market they are targeting.
Is Innovation the Key?
Even once the coronavirus stabilizes, the world is unlikely to return to normal any time soon. People are fearful of returning to work, and cleanliness and hygiene will be on their priority list. It will thus be the responsibility of architects to design spaces that control the spread of illnesses and alleviate fears once people are ready to return to offices. Workplaces will undergo quite a makeover with wider walkways, hands-free elevators and sanitization stations will become a standard requirement in office designs.
For homes, greater emphasis will be put on adequate ventilation and access to fresh air. Connectivity for homes will be of utmost priority, with dedicated spaces for work desks. Even the senior living industry will have to reevaluate the space for the elderly. Changes will depend on the introduction of technologies for communication and compartmentalized communities.
There is little doubt that architecture firms will be bruised because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, it also presents a number of opportunities that firms in the industry can capitalize on. During times of adversity, firms that are able to adopt and advocate new concepts and ideas will be able to thrive. Offices, homes, schools and workplaces that need to be re-designed to adapt to the pandemic will be possible projects to look out for! Indeed, there is no doubt that innovative designs will continue to emerge, showcasing the richness and diversity that the Singapore architecture industry
has to offer in problem-solving and innovative thinking.