With Memorial Day upon us, all 50 states are in some phase of reopening from the mass closures mandated to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the District of Columbia is poised to start that process next week.

But at this traditional start to the summer season, architecture schools are already looking ahead to the fall, but whether they reopen to in-person classes or not is decided at the college and university level. A week after the California State University system announced that its campuses will remain closed for the Fall 2020 semester in favor of distance learning, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., announced that it will reopen to in-person classes, but with a new schedule. Classes will start two weeks early and end in time for Thanksgiving, with no fall break; the hope is that minimizing student travel will limit the chance of students bringing infection back to campus should COVID-19 cases spike in the fall. Dozens of other schools have announced reopening plans already; the Chronicle of Higher Education is keeping a running list.

University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.
Aaron/Adobe Stock University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.

But some schools are still holding out for more information before making a decision. Princeton University President Chris Eisgruber has said that he will not make a decision until July. In a letter explaining his decision, he wrote: "We do not yet know enough about the path of this pandemic, and the medical response to it, to determine whether that is possible. ... We want our decision to be as fully informed as possible. We will undoubtedly learn more about the course of the pandemic, and about the techniques available to combat it, over the next two months. For that reason, Princeton will wait until early July before deciding whether our undergraduate teaching program will be online or residential in the fall term."

Read more about how faculty have adapted to online teaching, and what they may carry forward into the fall semester in our May issue.

But with graduation season upon us, most students are focused on the end of this year's term. And while commencement ceremonies this year are relegated to the virtual, schools are trying hard to still memorably mark the occasion for their graduates. Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning held an online commencement, which you can watch here:

Congratulations to all the Classes of 2020!

Here are some of the stories we've been following this week ...

Impact on Architecture and the Built Environment

COVID-19's effect on the Architectural Billings Index continues. For April, the monthly indicator came in at a score of 29.5, a 3.8-point decrease from March's dramatic fall to 33.3. “With the dramatic deceleration that we have seen in the economy since mid-March, it’s not surprising that businesses and households are waiting for signs of stability before proceeding with new facilities,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, said in a release. “Once business activity resumes, demand for design services should pick up fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the precipitous drop in demand for design services will have lasting consequences for some firms.” [ARCHITECT]

It's not an exaggeration to say that elevators changed the face of architecture, allowing us to build taller and more densely than ever before. But with the arrival of COVID-19, elevators are setting off alarms bells as confined public spaces where contagion can spread. What will the post-pandemic elevator look like? [CityLab]

The New York Times examines how conditions in nursing homes (both in terms of medical care and architectural design) can be improved to stave off infectious outbreaks and better protect both residents and caregivers. More than one third of U.S. COVID-19 cases can be traced to these facilities. [New York Times]

David Foessel

Workplace design has long been a laboratory for design theory, but the decades-long shift to open office ideologies is in direct contradiction to the requirements of social distancing during the COVID crisis. ARCHITECT contributor Blaine Brownell assesses potential shifts to workplace design in a post-pandemic society. [ARCHITECT]

May is Preservation Month, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express have teamed up to create a virtual platform to allow people to explore historic properties around the United States from the comfort of their own homes. A new virtual destination is unlocked each day; today's is a virtual tour of Boston's Black Heritage Trail from the Museum for African American History. [National Trust for Historic Preservation]

Knoll wants the show to go on, in a way. The contract furniture giant has announced virtual design days, which will include a series of virtual seminars on June 9 and 10, when, but for COVID-19, thousands of visitors would have been descended on Chicago's Merchandise Mart for the 2020 NeoCon trade show to see the newest trends in contract interiors. Seminars will include those on workplace trends, new materials, and a studio tour. [Knoll]

David Swartz of Santa Monica, Calif.–based HLW shares how his firm, working with consultants, medical experts, and contractors, hopes to identify ways in which the building sector can help stem future outbreaks. [ARCHITECT]

Building and Construction

In the tenth edition of the weekly Meyers Research COVID-19 Update Webinar, Ali Wolf and Tim Sullivan examine how the new normal will affect housing long-term, and determine that “the next 30-45 days will define the year." [Builder]

Builder magazine looks at how COVID-19 has increased the focus on improving and maintaining indoor air quality at home. [Builder]

Remodeling activity was not spared by the pandemic. The latest Housing Health Report from BuildFax shows that remodeling activity declined 33.83% from March to April. [Remodeling]

The National Association of Home Builders' chief economist predicts a sharp recession to come. [Builder]

But, the organization remains bullish that housing and home building could actually help fuel an economic recovery on the other side of it. [Builder]



Hanley Wood publications have been working together to track state-by-state mandates affecting the construction and building materials supplier industries during the pandemic. We’re continuing to update the map and the data as states begin to reopen and stay-at-home aorders begin to lift, so bookmark this page and check in often. [ARCHITECT]

The Realities of Disinfectant Lighting: Scientists and manufacturers discuss the technologies available for reducing bacteria, mold, spores, and viruses using light. [ARCHITECT]

Boston- and Kigali, Rwanda–based MASS Design Group continued its COVID-19 response by releasing a new reference document on design solutions to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in carceral environments. [MASS Design Group]

OSHA Adopts Revised Enforcement Policies for Coronavirus: The administration has issued revised policies for in person inspections and recording cases of the virus in the workplace. [Remodeling]

The Small Business Administration and the Department of the Treasury have released an application for Paycheck Protection Plan loan forgiveness that advises borrowers on how to apply for forgiveness of their PPP loans consistent with the CARES Act. [Remodeling]

That's it for this week. As always, stay safe, wear your masks, and keeping washing your hands. Have a good weekend.