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AEC and Pandemic: Response and Impact - July 2020 Update

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On the left: Cleaners: a new crew on construction site (Source: iStock). On the right: An Example of physical distancing measures at Dolores Park, San Francisco (Courtesy of Natasa Mrazovic)

Research initiative

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing considerable changes to AEC’s business-as- usual. The primary research objective is to monitor and analyze AEC stakeholders’ response to the pandemic and develop lessons-learned guidelines for a “new normal” afterwards. The research will not only  identify and analyze the quantified and qualified short- & long-term impacts and trends, and provide insights, but also build a shared platform to share information for CIFE members to more smoothly adjust to the new normal and be better prepared for future crises.

Categorization of the observed issues &  Trend analysis

Given our observation of countless project-specific challenges and the response of the industry, we grouped the issues into 12 overlapping topics. The categorization and the trends will be analyzed monthly and updated as the industry focus changes.

In July 2020 the communication about the COVID-19 vs. AEC decreased since the June peak. The “red alert” news have become standard news less frequently published. The community has “embraced the pains”. Our observations was based on the selected 391 references. The trends of the categories are provided in the table and the diagram below.

The AEC industry accepted Open communication and collaboration as a new normal during the pandemic. The talk about Silver lining has substantially decreased in last two months. The interest of (Advance) planning – short- & long-term strategiesProcedures of shifting workflows, Health and safety and Adoption of (new) technologies have decreased, yet remaining among the 4 most discussed topics. The stakeholders regained attentions on Building and cities for a next normal and Future predictions. The discussion about Official strategies / guidelines // rules / regulations has increased as expected, while the interest for Building operations decreased.

Read more: Detailed trend analysis and monthly highlights

The highlights of each category observed in the latest published month (July) are provided in the blocks below. More information about a specific category from the latest and previous months can be found in the downloaded report(s) - the links are provided below.

0. Global socio-economic, geo-political developments affecting AEC

  • The reported slowdown of people, trade and capital in April, has started to accelerate again in some parts of the world as the economies reopen and restrictions ease in June/ July. But the reported issues triggered or accelerated by the pandemic, such as global supply chains, further deepening trade war with China and corrupt government actions, continue to exist.


1. (Advance) planning: short- & long-term strategies

  • This category started decreasing its presence after the continuous increase over the past three months, yet remaining among the 4 most discussed topics.
  • It includes strategies for businesses (economy sectors) / projects, individuals and sustainability & "green future" initiatives.

2. Open communication and collaboration

  • Though this category has decreased 28% since June, maybe because of "less talking and more doing", we still believe that the industry accepted open communication and collaboration as a new normal.
  • Examples of open communication and collaboration include: scientists and building oeprators; local communities and companies; hospital CEOS, CRE peers etc.

3. Procedures of shifting workflows

  • In July, this category had the highest interest with representation of 31% in selected references.
  • The AEC industry continues to be cautiously optimistic no matter the economic difficulties and oscillations triggered by the pandemic.
  • It includes procedure analyses for remote work, site operations, supply chain management, workplace re-entry and [NEW]: financial and legal management.

4. Health and Safety (H&S)

  • H&S have been discussed slightly less in July than in June, yet remaining on the same level over the past three months
  • The discussion focuses on facial coverings / masks; types, features, effectiveness
  • Mental health crisis continues to follow the pandemic and the situation is worsening

5. Management of employees In crisis

  • Though the interest in Management of employees (in crisis) decreased slightly in July, it will likely remain an important topic in the future as the workforce is “the most important asset of every organization”.
  • COVID-19 crisis is accelerating preexisting trends in 5 areas of talent management.

6. Adoption of (new) technologies

  • This category has slightly decreased in July from June (11%). However, digitalization remains a mandatory long-term strategy. The pandemic sped up digital transformation strategies with various drivers.
  • Some of the most important technologies include: virtual communication & collaboration, robotics, automation, mobile unmanned systems, 3D printing, smart buildings, IoT, big data, AI, VDC, IPD, smart contracts, contact tracing and cybersecurity

7. Buildings & cities for a next normal

  • In July the discussion about this topic increased in comparison to the intensified June levels.
  • The discussion topics include: healthcare facilities, offices, residential buildings, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, education buildings, renovation projects, city planning and infrastructure.

8. Silver lining

  • The talks about silver lining have again decreased in July, following substantial decrease in June from May and April.
  • “Never waste a good crisis.” Digital technology developers and service providers are still leading in this effort. 

9. Future predictions

  • The discussion about future with predictions increased in July.
  • As the pandemic progresses we know more about the virus and “we have now more questions than at the beginning of the outbreak.”
  • The community continues to discuss the future of planet, sustainable buildings, cities and travel.

10. Official Strategies / Guidelines // Rules / Regulations

  • As expected, this category increased in July. Other organizations are following the International WELL Building Institute to develop standards for building operations with sustainable concerns.
  • This category includes strategies and guidelines of the official institutions only. Those guidelines are considered “temporary” (during the pandemic) until they are transformed into standards and regulations.

11. Building operations

  • The community has temporarily shifted focus from sustainability to healthiness on building operation, dicussing new technologies and requirng new baseline standards.
  • REST@ standard team developed assessment methdods with Building Optimization Index and Airborne Infection Potential against airborne viral infections.

AEC and Pandemic: Response and Impact - All Updates

April 2020 PDF • May 2020 Update PDF References
June 2020 Update PDF ReferencesJuly 2020 Update PDF References
August 2020 Update PDF ReferencesSeptember 2020 Update PDF References
December 2020 Update PDF References • March 2021 Update PDF References
June 2021 Update PDF References

Research Team

Lead Researcher: Natasa Mrazovic
Prinicipal Investigator: Martin Fischer
Website: Junwen Zheng, Marc Ramsey, Andrew Peterman
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