ST. LOUIS — The pandemic continues to impact every segment of the business environment. But in commercial real estate, experts say COVID-19’s ripple effects will be felt for years to come as business owners rethink space requirements for their workforces.
The Business Journal asked several St. Louis experts — ranging from sustainable building to property management to architecture, about how the future office industry will be impacted.
Angie Earlywine, managing director of Lamar Johnson Collaborative, the architecture arm of Clayco, offers insights below as to how executives can prepare for the post-COVID commercial real estate landscape.
How will this pandemic change the way buildings are designed and constructed in the future? Past disruption, even natural and man-made disasters, have not impacted the world of commercial real estate in the way the global pandemic has. For new buildings, instead of a centralized core in the building, we may see each quadrant of the floor as an independent neighborhood with its own elevators, restrooms, workspace, and amenities as a means to contain transmission should there be the need to quarantine a quadrant and remain operational. Concerns over vertical circulation of occupants in confined elevators may influence building height considerations in the future. Collaboration spaces may be reimagined to consider both virtual and in-person participants to bring equity to the collaborative experience.
What will we see more of and what will we see less of? Much of what will be here to stay are things that will benefit the well-being of both people and planet. We may see more operable windows, investments in creating a contactless experience, higher standards for cleaning protocols and investment in HVAC systems that improve indoor air quality. You will know the cleaning staff by name and their work will occur during business hours in addition to after. Building products that cannot withstand the rigor of increased cleaning protocols may become obsolete and new innovations in interior finishes, furniture and flooring will become the norm.
What investment should companies make in their offices? Real estate density targets will likely be redefined to lessen the focus on density alone and more important safety and well-being best practices will surface as a measure of a top workplace. There is momentum gaining that perhaps the density pendulum swung too far over the past decade, pushing office density to its maximum, and COVID-19 has given us a wake-up call to refocus on what’s best for people. After all, people are a company’s highest cost next to real estate, and we spend more time at the office than any other place in our lifetime. There has never been a greater business case for workplace renovation, modernization or transformation than now.
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