IT has been a year since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and we seemed to be back where it all started. Knowledge of the disease has grown exponentially and vaccines have been manufactured so that the immune system in our bodies will be able to recognize Covid-19 and respond properly.

What has the design and construction industry sector learned so far?

Change in office scheduling

Prior to the pandemic, architects and employees would normally hold meetings and conferences among their staff face-to-face to discuss the nitty-gritty design approaches to challenges and solutions. These meeting have now been held online through apps such as Zoom, Microsoft and many more. It has made each individual learn and adjust to virtual technology in the comforts of their homes.

Design approaches

Although most technical professionals believe the design approaches will not be that significant in changes, it has been a year already and people have adopted a culture change and now have necessary facilities to assist Covid patients. These have changed the design flow even of hospitals, government offices, high-rise private buildings, restaurants and even residential buildings. Malls now have the necessary health protocols in place and QR codes are adapted for contact tracings.

Upgrade of design software

Computer Aided Designs (CAD) have grown in leaps and bounds. Even before the pandemic, the use of computer technology has amazed more so the millennials in the preparation of their designs and in the various phases of construction. The use of newer CAD software enhances the opportunity to do things faster and more accurately. In fact, some construction companies do their work almost simultaneously with the design professionals to speed up the process, knowing fully well that the programs reduce mistakes. This allows the client and the construction firm to minimize expenses.

Regulatory regimes

Building permits and government processing have been stretched out, making people extend their patience a little bit longer. The pandemic has changed the normal processing flow and necessary cautious approaches by the local government units in receiving the public in their offices has limited the opportunity to speed things up as safety health protocols were tried and tested. On the good side, digital or online application has progressed to an all-time high with government and private business embracing this technology. This has cut time for people to go to their offices and rely more on digital technology.

Digital technology

This brings the people to the 21st century as offices and businesses now make appointments or conduct transactions online. From banking transactions to delivery of materials and services, digital technology has thrived well. What is good about this is that all sectors now have to be educated and up-to-date with the latest service apps to be attuned with the construction development. Design and construction workers now use extensively their smartphones to send updates of development, pictures and communications so coordination of the work can be rectified immediately.

Construction management

Extensive learnings and usage of management apps for construction has improved the nature of business. Work is now made available by management software that determine if the work is on schedule or needs to be aligned with other work schedules. Time is of essence here as the apps help the construction team to cope up with scheduling and automating processes.

Safety and security

These two important factors in the construction industry have been there for a long period of time. But they are now given more importance and more relativity since the pandemic surrounds all of us. Standard operating procedures have been changed to include temperature checks, insurance-related issues, more personal protective equipment, challenges of social distancing, and proper hygiene. Work stoppages have been unavoidable considering one person tested positive of Covid-19 may have affected the whole construction area and disinfecting the workplace cuts working time and deadline concerns.

Temporary shutdown

Unforeseen expenses, forecasts and projections, the unknown factor and the nervous and anxiety of what may be a negative future full of unsure data, has slowed the design and construction industry into a turtle pace. Offices and employees have one way or another been affected by the pandemic. It follows that sales and projections have dipped and unemployment increased. Although the government has jumpstarted the construction industry, it is still way too far in reviving the economy amidst growing unemployment.

The pandemic will be around until all of the people will get vaccinated and a herd immunity can be achieved to combat the pandemic. Until then, the design and construction industry will have to struggle for one more year.

Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban, Jr., FUAP is the immediate past national president of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) and the first national president from Mindanao. He has been in the private practice for more than 34 years and is a fellow of the UAP. He is also the first Asean and APEC architect from Davao City. He is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Mindanao, a doctor fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects Singapore and a recipient of the European Business Assembly.