As we move into the latter part of 2020 there are still many uncertainties and unknowns in our industry.
In this article, Paul Jansen, President of Jancon Construction and 30 year industry insider provides some insights into the status of commercial construction – and where we go from here. Read on for our Q & A:
How has Covid-19 affected the building industry?
Paul: Needless to say, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our industry – in line with what we’re seeing with the economy as a whole. Especially given that in the construction sector, companies were not even allowed to work for the first couple of months unless they were deemed essential.
At the moment, everyone is in wait and see mode. As we look around the industry, everybody is just trying to get people back to work, and very few are in a profit position yet.
Our clients fall into three different categories – and they are facing their own challenges. Designers have some activity going on with reworking of office spaces, real estate brokers have been hit hard, with the entire downtown office market being a challenge, and global service providers (which are an expense large companies will pay to reposition things) seem to be laying off their staff at unprecedented rates.
Adding to all of this, is the ongoing story of how office buildings will change in response to new safety measures. We don’t know yet exactly what the new post-pandemic office is going to look like, but we are already developing solutions around that. Other challenges include elevator loads, and traffic patterns. Generally speaking, some commercial construction work is being priced, and there is some activity – but it’s a very shaky market.
What do you anticipate recovery will look like?
Paul: In the short-term the government stimulus is propping up the labor force, and a lot of businesses are staying afloat that way to keep their work force going. Internal training has been a focus on Jancon, a lot of insights have come out of this time as it gave the team a pause to look at more detail than when they are in busy times.
I believe our sector will most likely be dictated on the interior construction finishing. A lot of it will have to do with reworking existing office space, to make better use of their existing space – and expansion will not be a focus, given that people are working from home. There is still opportunity within this landscape, and for companies that can quickly figure out how to best serve the new needs of our clients this could be a very busy time going forward.
One area that our team has been focused on is the redesign of offices to fit Covid standards. We anticipate that this is going to be a monumental sector – all businesses are going to have to redesign and retrofit their offices and we have already put a number of solutions together for the requests we’re getting in that area.
What is the best thing any company can do right now to take some proactive steps towards the next phase of industry recovery?
Paul: I would say the most proactive thing we can do as an industry is analyze the needs of our customers. At Jancon we are taking it one step further and using our own office space as a testing ground so we can come up with scalable solutions to help our clients.
By looking within our own spaces we can extrapolate how to better help clients with their needs, and make the right recommendations on how to retrofit a space properly and make use of existing resources – so we can in turn help them position themselves for the next phase of recovery.
What technologies do you see becoming important in the building industry going forward?
Technology is going to play a role in our new office environments as a connector – a bridge between those who are working in the office and those who are working remotely.
For example, high-contact positions such as reception could potentially turn into a virtual position – perhaps as a virtual receptionist greeting your couriers and visitors in real-time through a video portal.
There will be a focus on Connected Offices – with integrated branding throughout to really take virtual communications to the next level. And digital signage on monitors throughout the office, to deliver news and key messaging to on-site staff, and act as placeholders between video meetings and presentations.
Overall we will see connectivity leading the way, as we try to integrate our remote workspaces and offices as seamlessly as possible.
How do you foresee office environments changing in the future in response to this global change?
Reports suggest that up to 70% of people could be working virtually for the immediate term – and that greatly affects the office environment. Employees want to go back into the office for certain things, but are also quite comfortable working remotely. Going forward, we now know that virtual working will likely become the norm. Companies may realize that they only need about 50% of the floor space they have currently. That means a lot of real estate could become available in the future.
As with any other time, there are challenges to be faced and opportunities to be prepared for. For the Jancon team, at the moment that means focusing on ways we can support our clients through their pandemic office updates. This means increasing the solutions we can offer for distancing, maximizing efficiencies and space, while introducing technology to existing office spaces for a fully connected, and properly updated work environment.
To speak to someone directly about your office remodel or redesign call the Jancon team directly at 905-850-3863.
We’d be happy to talk through your next project on a phone consultation with no obligation.