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AEC and Pandemic - Trend Analysis

Return to July 2020 Update

Trend analysis

July 2020 Highlights

  1. 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”. This monthly decrease in COVID-19 publications does not mean that the intensity of the pandemic’s impact lessened. Accordingly, our observations about the pandemic’s impact in July are based on the selected 391 references (34% drop from June). The categorization of the observed issues in July remained the same as in June, including 12 categories and 22 subcategories.
  2. The industry accepted Open communication and collaboration as a new normal during the pandemic. although we estimate that the industry is communicating less openly in July than in June due to reported challenges such as competition, cashflow, backlog diminishing and potential litigations. A mention of Open communication and collaboration decreased 28% since June, but remained 12% above the May levels. In July we identified that acquisitions and collaborative contracts are on the rise in AEC. We can expect more mergers and partnerships in the following months as they lead to more control and better margins. The talks about silver lining have decreased 15% from the June levels; following substantial decrease in June from May and April. As we see the drop in silver lining discussions, we can also observe substantial increase in industry taking this crisis as business opportunity. Service providers in digital technologies continue to lead in this effort. “Never waste a good crisis.
  3. The interest in (Advance) planning – short- & long-term strategies started to decreased its presence first time in 4 months, as the companies (should) have implemented short- and long-term strategies in the first months of the outbreak. The discussion about Sustainability/ Green future – opportunity to address climate change increased in July due to current climate change disastrous events, reports showing that our green future is bleaker as our focus shifted to pandemic, and due to governmental stimulus bills (not) addressing our green future. Resilience may be the most important word of 2020, including flexibility and agility. Impact sourcing is considered as the next IPD.
  4. The category of Procedures of shifting workflows had the highest interest in July. The challenges reported in May and June continue to exist in July with additional numerous issues arising; such as contractors reporting self-policing on site according to health and safety official guidelines (some states in the US are enacting temporary standards), reported site closures due to COVID-19 jobsite violations and COVID-19 positive personnel onsite; market conditions; issues with cashflow and contracting. The key onsite challenges include increased wrench time due to new H&S measures, difficulty sharing information, and lack of on-site field engineers. Offsite manufacturing/ prefabrication is recommended. The community has embraced WFH, starting to implement strategies for workspace re-entry, though 100% of the workforce remotely working is not sustainable in the long run. Trust is the new currency.
  5. Health and safety (H&S) discussions remained on the same level over the past three months. The July discussion focuses on facial coverings / masks, vaccine, etc. The contractors report jobsite closures due to official guidelines violations and more positive COVID-19 cases on construction sites. In parallel, stress related to the pandemic is taking enormous short- and long-term toll on mental and physical health. People have become fearful and frugal. The interest in Management of employees (in crisis) remained approximately on the same level over the past 4 months and it will likely remain an important topic in the future.
  6. The interest in Adoption of (new) technologies has decreased 11% from June. Digitalization remains a mandatory long-term strategy. The trend of 51.9% reported digitalization increase in June continues in July; e.g., the new-project creation rate in Autodesk BIM 360 Design jumped approximately 350% since mid-February 2020. The pandemic sped up digital transformation strategies at 97% of companies. IT experts have become connectors, consultants, teachers and influencers. The focus in digital tech in AEC in July continues to be on smart “healthy” buildings, AI, social distancing tech, and cybersecurity.
  7. In July the discussion about Buildings and cities for a next normal increased 11% in comparison to the June levels. The community continues to discuss the future of (healthy smart) cities with safe commute and green future, (suburban) migrations, public and commercial buildings and outdoor spaces, and office re-entry. The future workplace will embrace a hybrid reality. The results of the first architectural competitions for post-pandemic reality are published. Infrastructure projects gained momentum in July due to governmental stimulus bills. Warehouses, data centers, renovations and public buildings are discussed more than residential and offices. One of the first office buildings with coronavirus-fighting features has been constructed.
  8. The interest for the Building operations decreased in July as the communication about cities and infrastructure projects seems to take the priority. The “healthy buildings” term temporarily replaced the term “sustainable buildings”– though we should work on both topics in parallel and use the AI-driven tech for building operation optimization and occupant comfort and H&S.
  9. The discussion about Official Strategies / Guidelines // Rules / Regulations category increased in July, and we expect this trend to continue. The most important June milestone was the first-ever published WELL certification for buildings to address the post COVID-19 environment. Other organizations are following, such as RESET®, for hardware and building operation certification, that announced advances in sensor-driven index optimizing indoor environments against airborne viral infections. A new building operation standard is required as the current guidance is not sustainable.
  10. The data shows that the discussion about the future of everything increased in July as there are more questions than at the beginning of the outbreak. Our future and future of the planet depends on the green investments and strategies. More focus on society, customers and clients, family, and employees is expected going forward. The future is digital.

June 2020 Highlights

  1. The industry accepted open communication and collaboration as a new normal during the pandemic, although we estimate that the industry is communicating less openly in June than in May due to reported challenges such as competition, cashflow and potential litigations. A mention of Open communication and collaboration increased 42% since May highlighting the importance of “working together to survive”. The global civil rights movement might have influenced this increase. The talk about silver lining has substantially decreased since May (65%); because the industry is less talking about silver lining and more “doing”, i.e., taking the opportunity of the situation. Service providers in digital and virtual technologies are currently leading in this effort.
  2. The category of (Advance) planning – short- & long-term strategies continues to increase its presence over the past three months; from 10% in April, 31.8% in May to the highest category representation of 45.5% in June. The industry realizes that successfully solving temporary challenges will not be enough for the future. Businesses are searching for smart long-term strategies; including reassessment, reimagination and reinvention of all business aspects.
  3. The interest in Procedures of shifting workflows continues to increase (from 41.2% in May to 45.1% in June). The challenges reported in May continue to exist as the economies start to reopen: fluctuating guidance and restrictions, market conditions; issues with cashflow and contracting. Although many projects will continue ($8 trillion in capital delivery is expected to continue throughout 2020); the managers will have to simultaneously protect people, the project, and performance. Furthermore, June is characterized by workplace reimagination and countless strategies and guidelines for workspace re-entry.
  4. Health and safety have been discussed more in June than in May (27.9% vs. 21.8%). This increase in June is due to open-for-interpretation official guidelines; the contractors report self-certification and self-policing and hiring medical professionals for COVID-19 guidance. Mental health crisis is following the pandemic. Consequently, the interest in Management of employees in crisis remained approximately on the same level as in May.
  5. The interest in Adoption of (new) technologies has increased 66% from May. Digitization is a mandatory long-term strategy. The industry is going digital and virtual. The focus in digital tech in June is on smart “healthy” buildings, big data and cybersecurity. 
  6. The interest in Buildings and cities for a next normal seems to slightly decrease in June (from 30% in May to 25.8% in June), partially due to the introduction of two new categories stemming from this category; namely “Official Strategies / Guidelines // Rules / Regulations” and “Building operations”. On June 29, 2020 International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Health-Safety Rating for all building and facility types; this is the first-ever “evidence-based, third-party verified rating focusing on operational policies, maintenance protocols and design strategies to address a post COVID-19 environment.” We are never going back to pre-corona times. The favorite topics of discussion are the future of work and workplace, healthy smart buildings, the future of living, “smart” cities with infrastructure, and the resiliency and sustainability. All accompanied by countless official and unofficial strategies and guidelines.
  7. The data shows that the discussion about future with predictions dropped 55% in June from May (almost back to the April levels). Industry’s focus is on long-term strategies (for the future) and not on predictions and speculations. Another possible explanation is unprecedented acceleration of events making the predictions from previous month a reality in the current month. The future is here.

May 2020 Highlights

  1.  In comparison to the April results, the industry’s interest in (Advance) planning – short- & long-term strategies has increased almost 400% in May, showing the importance of strategies to “survive and thrive”. Although the communication and collaboration were open in almost 100% of references as in April, this category was mentioned in 7.1% of the references only – as if the industry accepted this type of communication as a new normal.
  2.  The category of Procedures of shifting workflows has the highest total representation of 51.8% in the references in comparison to other categories. This shows that the industry continues to provide its service no matter the cancellations and delays, reported shortage of labor, tensions on construction site, reported decrease of backlogs, and reported slowdowns in design / engineering teams due to WFH and virtual communications.
  3. The Health and safety (H&S) issues have been discussed less in May (27.4% vs. 66% in April) because the organizations have implemented the H&S guidelines as they were rolled out in March/ April. May is marked by the increase of mental health issues due to quarantines and economic downturn. Hence, the interest in Management of employees in crisis has increased 60%.
  4. The discussion about the Adoption of new technologies seems to decrease in May due to emergence of two new categories with high interest: Buildings & cities design for the next normal and  Global socio-economic, geo-political developments affecting AEC (indirectly). The adoption of new technologies was only mentioned as a mandatory step forward in April, while May has brought specialized publications and webinars showing that the industry is starting to learn how to implement “new” technologies. Topic-specific publications allowed us to add subcategories listed above.
  5. The discussion about Buildings and cities design in the pandemic and for a next normal was in more than a third of the references. “Silver lining” dropped from 80% in April to 21.4% in May showing that in May the AEC community is still optimistic about the future but cautious and focused on short- and long-term strategies to survive. The discussion about future with predictions increased almost 300%.

April 2020 Highlights

  1. All selected references are publicly available and free showing that the industry understands the importance of working together to survive the crisis. The expression “We are all in this together” came up in almost all webinars/ interviews. All participants openly communicate (100%) challenges, methods, success stories, and opportunities, mostly filled with optimism and empathy showing the understanding of “silver lining” in the crisis (80%).
  2. The majority (2/3) of the references addresses procedures of shifting workflows in pandemic and health and safety of employees, because the industry is focused on current projects; continuing business while keeping the workforce safe.
  3.  40% of references highlights the impact of adoption of online communication and collaboration technologies, and all agree that the future lies in high-tech (automation, robotics, virtual workflows, new hands-free sensor technologies especially in healthcare).
  4. Advance planning and management of employees in crisis were mentioned in 10% of references only, leaving some questions open such as how many businesses were ready for the pandemic (i.e., had a business continuity plan (BCP) before the crisis) and how the managers are keeping the workforce engaged in a new environment after the initial shock and the transition period. After this crisis, certainly every AEC business will have a BCP.
  5. Future predictions came up in approx. 15% of the documents, mostly specialized articles, showing that in the first phase of the pandemic everybody was busy with the transition/ survival.