June 2021 – Sixteen months into the pandemic, and we are nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. Does it mean that we are now able to go back to a pre-COVID “normal”? Is the pandemic behind us, over and done with? Or do we need to continue our vigilance? Sixteen months is plenty of time for anyone to shed old habits and learn new ones. Have we changed our lifestyle and workstyle forever? How will the experience change the world of multifamily?
These questions are on everyone’s mind, and there may be as many answers as there are minds, but some signs are unmistakable. Here at SR/A, like many other offices, we have reset our entire IT environment to be Cloud-based so we can work and collaborate remotely just as smoothly as when in the office. Why go back to expensive office space and raise our overhead again? Will other firms do the same?
As a multifamily designer, should we look at adding dens dedicated to working in all units? Is the old Business Center back? Will people move to the deeper suburbs to have more square footage and more outdoor space? Will units with balconies continue to be the most attractive? Are the outdoor amenities more important than indoor amenities?
Here’s how we envision the pandemic shaping our designs moving forward:
- Yes, we think a lot more people will continue to work from home, at least a good portion of the week. Therefore, we’ll aim to include a workspace in the units and expand the opportunities for shared working spaces in other areas of the buildings,
- We will strongly encourage our clients to add balconies to the units and as many outdoor spaces as possible. We are also presenting options to add fitness equipment to the outdoor spaces, as we saw during the pandemic, the physical and mental importance of staying active.
- Dogs have become an even more critical part of people’s lives. During COVID, the shelters emptied, which was great news, but now we need to offer improved dog spas and dog parks that are healthy and fun for both dogs and their owners (Yappy Hour, anyone?).
- Long-distance working is truly smooth with today’s technology and will continue to improve. We see examples in places like California and my home country of France, where people are migrating out of outrageously expensive urban areas to nearby suburbs and rural areas where the city is still just a short train ride away. If you only need to go into the office once or twice a week – this balance is ideal! So as a firm, we will expand our business development effort towards the far suburbs and their larger units and greener environment.
- This doesn’t mean we believe the downtown urban corridors are a thing of the past. Not at all. Millennials are growing up and moving away, but they are being replaced by the newly graduated who are eager to enter the workforce and expand their wings. As starters, they will prefer to work from the office rather than home and take advantage of the full urban experience. No car, though. This generation is all about renting convenience. Their only possessions being a good laptop and a good phone. Other than that, they’ll expect their building to add to their convenient environment with services of all sorts. To account for this, we will be designing a larger package room more conveniently located to the loading dock, so the lobby or leasing office are not overwhelmed, refrigeration for groceries, and more and, of course, expanded dog parks.
As a population, we were already heading in these directions, but COVID has forced us to jump ahead of time and make quick adjustments. Like everything done in a hurry, there will have to be refinements here and there, but in general, our lifestyle and workstyle have jumped into the future and are not likely to go backward.
The big lesson to come out of the pandemic, at least for those of us whose job it is to improve people’s environment, is to make the spaces flexible and keep an eye on adaptability. Transformation sometimes comes slowly and at other times brutally fast. In other words, be prepared and be creative!
– Sabine Roy