21 May The Health of Our Buildings
CEO, HITT Contracting
The Health of Our Buildings
2020 has always seemed like the future to me. As our executive team was working on our vision planning for the first quarter, we felt energized by the prospects of a new decade. The world seemed poised for transformation, enabled by technology like never before, and ready to make true progress in addressing global challenges such as inequality and climate change. The year felt full of promise, and then in the course of a few days, our lives became full of uncertainty.
I won’t attempt to summarize the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. There is still so much unknown about how our industry, economy and work will change. Yet with adversity comes a unique opportunity to examine how we can evolve as a company and as an industry at an accelerated pace.
The pandemic has reaffirmed that, above all else, health is priceless. A critical part of our mission now is to come together as developers, designers and builders to ensure there are spaces for people to live and work confidently in this new reality. This shared purpose will guide our work for the foreseeable future and help ensure our society is better prepared for the next global health crisis.
While most Americans have shifted to the relative safety of their homes for work, family life and learning, we’ve been working tirelessly to prepare offices and gathering places for the return to life outside of home. We know for certain that people cannot come back to the office as it was when they left earlier this year.
We’ve long discussed healthy buildings as a critical part of sustainability. But now, the very definition of a healthy building will change. Along with daylighting, standing desks and low-emitting materials, we’ll be focused on touchless systems and antimicrobial surfaces to reduce the spread of and exposure to disease.
Fundamentally, our office environments must now offer flexibility to achieve social distancing and new health standards. We’re already seeing requests for immediate redesign away from bench seating, social spaces and shared offices. Will we see a surge in the demand for square footage and private offices? How will shifting toward more isolated professional spaces impact our ability to collaborate? Or on the other hand, will companies move toward fully embracing remote work, reducing their footprints even further than they had through the evolution of open office design? Only time will truly tell.
Like most leaders, I’m anxious and making day-to-day decisions based on limited information that may impact the course of my company, which weighs heavily on my mind. But I’m also feeling inspired as I see architects, engineers and builders coming together to make advances that may have otherwise taken years to achieve.
In an unexpected way, my hope that we would come together to rapidly advance the building industry may come to fruition, thanks to the virus, rather than despite the virus.
I say again, with adversity comes opportunity. And there is always hope.