It's been a crazy few weeks. A couple of weeks ago, life in the U.S. was almost entirely normal with people going about their lives and only a hint of something in the air. The new coronavirus had only been named by World Health Organization (WHO) a few weeks earlier, and the Dow had bounced back up to 27,000 after dropping down off its previous all-time high to about 25,000. A week later, the market was in freefall, everyone was making plans to work from home, and grocery stores were getting bought out of nearly everything as people hurriedly stocked up. And now, with the Dow extending its losses to end up at nearly 19,000, most people are completing their first full week working from home while they worry about what's coming down the road in the next few months. In many places outside our borders, things are even more uncertain and terrifying.
There's a lot of news out there, and it's nearly unavoidable. The world seems to be changing at the speed of Twitter, with a constant bombardment of developments from all quarters. At ARCHITECT, we're spending our energies covering all of the stories in depth that we think impact the built environment and architecture most directly. Our Hanley Wood network of sister publications are covering tangentially connected stories about construction and building in detail as well. And then there's the sea of other news, some of which you may or may not have seen. We'll do what we can here each week to filter that for you, so that you can stay on top of the most important developments.
How COVID-19 Is Impacting Architecture and the Built Environment
On Thursday, AIA sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to do everything they can to help business owners and their employees, including temporary financial relief, plus infrastructure spending, small business loans, changes to what pass-through companies can deduct, and more. [ARCHITECT]
The moment that the distant fears of what was transpiring in China started to blow toward our shores, practice and technology editor Wanda Lau was on the phone with firms and architects about how they were responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Updated periodically since then, this is an incredibly useful resource to use as a guide as your firm's adaptation evolves over the coming weeks. [ARCHITECT]
Lau also tasked architect Evelyn Lee, AIA, who is the first-ever senior experience designer for messaging company Slack (which many of you might be using for the first time this week with your team, or at least are making more use of than you have in the past) for tips, tricks, and tools for how design firms can best transition to remote operations. And, if you take nothing else from her great article, please remember: "Nuance in expression doesn’t translate well in emails, texts, and messaging." I think we're all guilty of forgetting that simple golden rule. [ARCHITECT]
Editor-in-chief Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA, writes that we need to learn from our past mistakes of a decade ago: "The government could use the crisis to implement reforms, but sadly I doubt it will. If we want change, we have to make it ourselves. The most effective design response to a plague—or financial downturn, or natural disaster—is to keep fighting for a more healthy, resilient, just society. Architects are good at it." [ARCHITECT]
Aaron Betsky writes about what the pandemic means for the profession: "Ultimately, what we need is a not a retreat into isolation or a building of walls, but the creation of new windows and passageways. ... Perhaps architects will spend some time, while they cannot travel to their sites or as they wait on materials, figuring out how they can use their skills to improve the work and living spaces of the less affluent and mobile. But I also hope they spend some time considering how to translate the sort of specialized, humane, tactile, and sensory experience we take for granted in the physical world into the online one, which is ever more central to how we live, work, and play." [ARCHITECT]
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online pathogen identification database MicrobeNet and the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore., have expediently published a paper outlining transmission pathways of COVID-19 in the built environment, hoping to provide the industry guidance on minimizing the virus’s spread. [ARCHITECT]
Building and Construction
Multifamily Executive's Mary Salmonsen reports that after searches for new apartments dropped 25% in a single week that the rental industry is expecting the market to slow for three to six months: "Yardi expects the COVID-19 pandemic to impact rental and economic data for at least the next three to six months, with the hardest-hit sectors—including leisure, hospitality, and trade—expected to take longer to recover." [MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE]
Architecture billings were looking up last month before the outbreak started to bring the economy to its knees. [ARCHITECT]
Ali Wolf, chief economist for Meyers Research (Hanley Wood's sister company), breaks out the important considerations as we enter this period of economic uncertainty for homebuilders. "We believe GDP will fall to 0.5%-1.0% for 1Q and from -1.5% to -0.5% in 2Q. Our forecast is based on the fact that the service sector is the biggest part of the US economy, which is dependent on consumer spending." [BUILDER]
Builder editorial director John McManus writes that while the construction and homebuilding industries need to keep working during the outbreak, there's no reason that we can't do so reasonably and more carefully. "We'll get through this. We obviously need to keep people working where we can. We know that housing—more of it now—is multi-dimensionally part of the emergent solution. ... [But] we need to do what we can not to inundate an already-stressed out healthcare system with thoughtless or reckless decisions regarding our precious human resource of workers." [BUILDER]
Earlier this week, ProSales editor-in-chief David Myron surveyed construction industry professionals and advisers to see what plans building material dealers should be implementing to protect their business and their employees. "Industry professionals agree," he writes, "that it's important to have a business continuity plan in place as soon as possible, share it with your employees, adhere to it, and update it when needed." [PROSALES]
Matt Nelson of custom homebuilder Nelson Builders, out of Mahomet, Ill., discusses what his firm has done to protect their workers and strategies for social distancing on the jobsite. [JOURNAL OF LIGHT CONSTRUCTION]
What does this mean for the pool industry? Do service technicians who maintain pools in areas where people are sheltering in place count as "essential" and should they stay on the job? [POOL AND SPA NEWS]
Senior editor Ted Cushman writes about how the crisis is affecting remodelers. One thing you might not have thought of is the impact it has had on inspections ... all local areas are reacting differently and setting up different protocols to keep their people safe, and in some areas that means that inspectors are not going out to active construction sites. [JOURNAL OF LIGHT CONSTRUCTION]
Assistant editor Vincent Salandro has been tracking the U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA guidelines on how to respond to COVID-19 at the workplace. [REMODELING]
How will the outbreak affect mergers and acquisitions in the multifamily space? Senior editor Scott Sowers is following the story. [MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE]
In February, rents were up 3.2% from the year before. In the coming months, we'll see what sort of an impact is felt in that sector of the economy. [MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE]
The profession lost 92-year-old Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti, who died in Milan on March 15 from COVID-19 complications. [ARCHITECT]
Our colleagues over at Affordable Housing Finance reported on how, from the inability of obtaining good housing and shelter to the inevitable shortages of items at food banks, the outbreak is posing some very serious problems for homeless and some of our other most-vulnerable populations. [AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE]
A panel of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimate that "875,000 new jobless claims would be filed for the week ending Saturday. That would easily exceed the record 695,000 claims filed in the week ended Oct. 2, 1982." [THE WALL STREET JOURNAL]
Cancellations and Postponements
With everyone being advised to self-quarantine and shelter in place as much as possible, nearly all events and congregations for the foreseeable future have been canceled or at least postponed.
The American Institute of Architects postponed the May AIA Conference on Architecture in Los Angeles. No news yet on if it will be rescheduled later in the year or if there will be an alternate event. [ARCHITECT]
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