Written by Lynn Miller.

It’s challenging to imagine when socializing in Chicago and all parts of Illinois will feel safe. Hopefully, getting fresh air while taking walks helps. For those who spend more time outside, it’s noticeable that essential businesses such as residential architecture, construction, renovation and real estate continue to function.

However, it may surprise you to know that the knowledge and skills these business owners use now, needs to expand. While the rest of us shelter in place, businesses such as residential architecture, construction, renovation are on a steep learning curve. Starting now, these industries will need to learn and implement changes in work and design practices for a post-COVID-19 world. Especially when you look at the number of people who will continue to work remotely.

In a return to work report from JLL, the article describes these changes as the “next normal.” The report shows, “shifts in employee sentiment may shape workplace re-entry strategies.”

A survey of 1000 U.S. office workers in April 2020 reveals expectations and concerns pre and post-pandemic. For example, homeowners and architects who previously preferred an open floor plan may now reconsider the need for more isolated spaces. Preliminary results in this report reveal the impact of working at home on productivity driving the need to provide home office environments that minimize distractions.

In a Forbes Article by Real Estate Contributor, Jamie Gold, she asked 8 thought leaders to share their perspective on “what’s likely to shift in the places that we and our children will call home in the future — whether we’re buying, building or remodeling them.”

Each thought leader agreed there will be many new product and technology demands for residential architecture, construction and renovation. Chicago has already experienced similar demands.

Founder of PMPC Architects Prashanth Mahakali, started his business during the 2008 recession as a residential architect. Twelve years later, Mr. Mahakali is now a residential architect, contractor, and real estate broker and very optimistic about the firm’s future.

Mahakali, believes these emerging changes represent a huge opportunity for architecture, building and renovation. “Owners can’t wait any longer to correct building violations,” he said. We are gearing up fully by continuing to build a team focused on making clients feel safe.”

Mahakali also sees challenges emerging due to separating team members from each other via computer screen.  “People in companies who are good technically but not good with communication, will experience a negative impact.” Mahakali addressed this challenge early on.

He proactively hired and trained people to excel in their ability to facilitate communication and collaboration between architects, engineers and building contractors saying, “this talent will now be in greater demand.”

On the building/construction side of the business, Mr. Mahakali explained standards new buildings will focus on, such as the quality of air, to verify humidity and filtration. “Clients will also require knowledge about new materials for building, painting, security, surfaces and appliances—we learn about new products every day.”

Architecture and Construction Will Be Essential in a Post COVID-19 World

Architects and builders are quickly developing new knowledge and skills to make necessary changes that will make them successful in building and renovating homes and apartment buildings for a COVID-19 world.

Demand will increase for hands-free technology along with full control over the quality of air they breathe in buildings. These demands will result in broader use of smart filtration systems that monitor indoor air and water quality, such as Air purifiers and air purification paints. Other essential materials and technology will include:

  • Sensor-based appliances for those intending to carry on with the contactless way of life will become tools to help them reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria.
  • Keyless entry, temperature regulators, and air filters will become features of the ideal home of the future, making touch-based technology obsolete.
  • Copper for countertops and appliances because of its germ-resistant quality.
  • Self-sanitizing door handles.
  • Touchless faucets
·       Motion-activated readers that can facilitate germ-free entry and exit.
  • Voice-activated technology for communal hotspots to help minimize germ spread.
  • Touchless sliding doors for the home
  • IoT tracking systems to determine the highest traffic, most-used areas of the office that need to be cleaned more frequently.

This list is only the beginning of a “next normal” for homes and offices. As substantial changes for construction and renovation continue, we look forward to more encouraging news on how and when we will be able to socialize safely.