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How the coronavirus will help reshape the construction industry 

How the coronavirus will help reshape the construction industry 

The post Covid-19 era will face challenges in developing and managing urbanisation, reinforcing the value of investing in sustainable and resilient infrastructure

Our indoor retreat during this period of social distancing will forever change our perception of a home.  Throughout history, houses have provided means of safety and peace of mind for residents. Initially, they served as a haven from natural conditions such as storms as well as wild predators. Today, houses are no longer places to only step away from our daily routine. They serve as hygienic mediums protecting us from external threats and limiting our exposure to viruses and bacteria.

Long gone are the days of an open-plan space that combines the entrance, dining room and kitchen. People are more concerned about potential external hygienic coercions. The entrance shall be a separate area, a space devoted for putting aside shoes and other belonging instead of carrying them into the house.

The pandemic has also given us an opportunity to redesign the way we work and redefine what we consider a workplace, preparing us for spending more time indoors thriving in the cybersphere.

Most of us are working from home these days. Some of us hate the thought of it, but others wish that it would stay this way. Spatial organisation is undergoing a fundamental change. Home offices will no longer be a separate desk with a spotlight and a quirky adjustable chair in the corner of the room. People will want a separate room with proper office fixtures and sound insulated walls. They will also need interior spaces for activities such as aerobic exercise and meditation that would help build and maintain physical and mental wellness. We will also develop virtual communities that ooze into our lives through social media and continuous online presence. These virtual spaces will provide us with a semblance of public life in the confines of our homes fulfilling our social needs and increasing our reliance on indoor life.

Access to fresh air and green spaces through balconies, courtyards, and indoor greenery will also be a must. The months of isolation will make tenants re-evaluate priorities and trade-offs. A balcony or a terrace might be the deal maker for new property shoppers. In times of social distancing and self-isolation, people are desperate for open spaces. Some might even aim for a backyard or a small garden in which they can explore the world of comprehensive outdoor plantation.

By building on our experience of social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine, we can envision the desire for self-sufficient homes, which will also increase the tenants’ “in-home” expenditure.

In modern day construction, most buildings are equipped with secondary power sources that act as supplementary devices in case of unforeseen electrical failures. The same is valid for water pumps and other essential mechanical equipment. In many villas, the contractors install two submerged pumps, just in case one of them malfunctions. People would want to minimise day to day activities’ risks in case of a full shutdown in order to achieve complete independence.

Another addition to the risk minimisation measures would be water and air filtration systems that once seemed as a sumptuous addition. As tenants focus more on guaranteeing safety for themselves and their families, these items might on top of the shopping list.

When it comes to the construction industry, we can undoubtedly forecast an increased emphasis on health and hygiene through compartmentalisation of common spaces and progressive reduction of contact surfaces. Architects have designed structurally sound, safe, and aesthetically pleasing buildings. Yet, these high-rise marvels seem to lack on biosafety and sterility.

In order to minimise the risk of virus spread, architects would have to incorporate sanitation stations in new building designs. These spaces shall be used for washing, disinfecting, or removing contamination.

Additionally, reducing contact shall be a pillar in the playbook of post-Covid designs. Whether it is elevator buttons, door handles, surfaces or even neighbors, engineers will develop new designs and solutions to limit the level of contact between humans and objects. A shift from mainstream residential plumbing into commercial-grade plumbing fixtures would be expected as a first measure. Sensor-operated appliances will be more common in public areas, and we might also see the rise of new materials with antimicrobial properties. Copper and its alloys have been exploited by ancient civilizations as natural antimicrobial exteriors long before the modern discovery of microorganisms.

The post Covid-19 era will face fundamental challenges in developing and managing urbanisation, reinforcing the value of investing in sustainable and resilient infrastructure. The pandemic has set the stage for the juncture of urban design and public health.

The sobering reality has showed us that a virus can swiftly move from a rural village to cover the whole world in a very short period. This new reality shall be grounded by a set of rules and regulations for reducing the risk of severity of such pandemics.

A decentralisation of essential services, and novel approaches on density management will be the start.

Amidst these uncertainties, and as economies start to move out of lockdown, industries shall begin the journey of re-entry.

The focus shall be on creating an agile transition and laying plans for mitigating future risks. The real estate industry will adjust to a new normal, and only tenants will dictate if we end up living in contemporary bunkers.

After all, old habits never die.

Mohsen Haj Hassan is an expert on real estate and construction

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