The Coronavirus emerged out as normal flu and proved to be a fatal disease afterward. It affected the entire country in various ways and caused social and economical challenges for society. It adversely affected the architecture industry because this industry solely depends on outdoor site visits, client meetings, and public interaction.
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In late December 2019, a mysterious pneumonia outbreak characterized by fever, dry cough and fatigue, and occasional gastrointestinal symptoms, were reported in the market in December 2019 at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, Hubei, China, that affected about 66% of employees there. The market closed on January 1, 2020, after the local health authority issued an epidemiological warning on December 31, 2019.
However, in the following month, thousands of people in China got affected by the rampant spread of the disease. The disease spread to other countries such as Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Germany, the United States, and Singapore.
The first case reported in India was on January 21, 2019. Since then country witnessed many lockdowns and restrictions. The second wave started in late March and proved to be fatal. The situation now has improved with vaccination in high numbers and social distancing.
The Impact on Architecture Industry
COVID-19 has affected all industries and ultimately the economy of all countries. COVID-19 affected India on March 2020. The Indian government gave clear guidance on how to deal with COVID-19 with all kinds of strict measures and took steps to fight the disease. To curb the spread and transmission by the community, a full lockdown was imposed at the end of March 2020 and only essential and selected services were exempted from the lockdown.
The national closure affected all industries and companies. The architecture industry, which relies primarily on networking, interaction, coordination, and site visits, has been hit hard, as have other professions and businesses. Company employees were now doing work from home. For many of them, it was a fresh experience, as a work from home was mainly limited to IT. Since each coin has two different sides, this lockdown had both positive and negative effects on the profession.
The Positive Impact of COVID-19
The lockdown because of Covid-19 allowed the architects to review their work style. The work from home model taught the architecture industry the importance of smart work that is a virtual work mode, through which we can manage many things with optimal resources and with low overhead costs.
Because of COVID-19, startups that had their offices in coworking spaces will need little or no space for architecture and related professions. The virtual way of working has helped to achieve additional levels of digital competence for office workers in the architecture profession. This eventually provided flexibility and convenience for office workers who were working from home during the COVID-19 shutdown in India, and this may continue in the future to provide flexibility in the work environment.
Another positive impact of COVID-19 is meeting time and travel time have reduced because of the concept of work from home. This turned out to be a good time for the architects to upgrade with new skills, expand their knowledge, and present new design ideas. It is time for some architects to reorganize their working styles and establish a new working method.
Delaying and not importing some selected building materials from abroad will encourage and boost local manufacturing in the future. Lately, leaders have emphasized and promoted self-reliance in the manufacture and use of local materials with the motto “Vocal for local”.
The Negative Impact of COVID-19
Because of the lockdown effect, the architecture projects got suspended, hindering the income. Late customer decisions and loss of liquidity resulted in the suspension of projects. The growth rate of the construction sector decreased from 5.2% (April-June 2019) to -50.3% (April-June 2021). Clients are requesting changes to reduce the budget of projects because of financial constraints, requiring a complete review by the architects.
The delay of construction, the halted delay of imported materials, and the extension of the time delay for domestically manufactured materials, and the logistics delivery delay because of an interrupted supply chain led to delays in reaching the planned completion date. Due to all these factors, clients are facing problems, and architect, designer, and clients confiscate the MEP consultant fees.
These are the reasons that affected architects’ income and if this scenario continues, it will soon affect the functionality of the profession. Many architects were working on specific projects that were in the concept phase or schematic design phase. Therefore, the client is difficult to maintain as it is uncertain whether the project will float soon.
Social encounters, physical seminars, symposia, exhibitions, etc., have ceased, having interrupted the networking of architects with prospects, and other interested parties, hindering the development of new business opportunities. A good deal of architecture events have got postponed or cancelled in recent weeks.
Effect on Architecture Students
The COVID-19 crisis was traumatic for students in their final year of architecture school. The sudden imposition of social distancing measures meant they had to go home immediately or isolate themselves before graduating without being able to say goodbye.
Architecture design course requires daily discussions with faculty, batch mates, and mentors. In the times of Covid, it became difficult for students to discuss their design concepts and planning online on the computer screen. The site visits for practical courses got hindered because of the pandemic.
Scattered around the world, they often had to complete projects together as a team in different time zones with very different access to design tools. They had to radically adjust all their expectations, in terms of the experiences of the past year, the availability of technical and material resources, and the configuration of their immediate future. Universities have had to develop rapidly to provide adequate online teaching and assessment systems to enable students to graduate.
Effect on Practicing Architects
Architecture has always been about how we optimize and interact with the spaces that surround us; how we inhabit the world, whether inside or outside; in our homes or public places. This fundamental area of architecture – the design of how we, as a community, interact with our surroundings and other people around us and even live our individual lives could now seriously rework.
For practicing architects, this has proven to be an enormous challenge. Initially, perhaps as a decline in work, when people were dealing with construction and other architectural projects that came to a complete standstill, and now, over time, as the need to imagine fresh approaches in the architecture industry.
Effect on Construction Industry
The construction industry is often much more volatile than the economy. Reduced economic activity leads to less demand for new commercial or industrial facilities, and ambiguities further deter investment. Loss of income and lack of consumer confidence have a negative impact on the demand for construction or renovation of homes.
The ongoing pandemic has not only presented the construction industry with several challenges, but has also disrupted the global economy. The global crisis, the length of the recession, and the path to recovery will largely determine the nature and the severity of these economical challenges.
The construction industry, especially the new residential segment, performed well and saw an increase in activity in many sectors in 2020. Because of the increasing number of cases around the world, many ongoing projects that the authorities considered essential have stopped and new housing permits have got suspended.
In the above situation, builders and contractors have difficulty getting permits for new and ongoing construction projects. Currently, both the construction companies and the workers are resuming operations. However, new government policies and regulations have created uncertainty and confusion for both companies and workers. Homeowners in regions with a high number of COVID-19 cases are restricting contractors’ access to homes and prefer DIY projects while families stay home.
Adapting to the changes
As millions of students get used to online courses, professionals work from home and take every precaution to stay safe when they leave and return to normal work. “Common” has a new meaning. Living within the confines of social distancing for the foreseeable future affects every move we make and every breath we take.
The new coronavirus and its socio-political effects have also expanded the work of architects from scratch when designing a new building. For projects that are still going on, the drafts need to be adapted to the new requirements and conditions created by the pandemic.
Post pandemic buildings mean more cross ventilation, natural light, access to the outdoors, and spaces in residential projects. While social distancing seems necessary, it is reasonable to think that this raises concerns about future viruses that could inspire architects to design with open spaces in mind that allow and encourage to sit down and install systems.
Architects and designers all around the world figured out how to design a built environment that is flexible, functional, and healthy. They had to quickly rethink how to make people feel comfortable returning to the office when staff was pouring into meeting rooms. They had to plan the reuse and reinvention of the outdoor spaces. And they had to design our homes to include outdoor spaces and home offices.