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AEC and Pandemic: Response and Impact - June 2020 Update

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 June 2020 the communication about the pandemic-related issues increased exponentially in AEC industry. Our observations is based on the selected 594 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 since May. The interest of (Advance) planning – short- & long-term strategiesProcedures of shifting workflows and Adoption of (new) technologies have continued to increase over the past three months. The stakeholders are concerned more about Health and safetyfor now, but less talked about Future predictions. The discussion of Building and cities for a next normal slightly decreased in June, though still important for the community. Two new categories are introduced in June, namely Official strategies / guidelines // rules / regulations and Building operations, due to an increased interest of the industry.

Read more: Detailed trend analysis and monthly highlights

The highlights of each category observed in the latest published month (June) 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.

3. Procedures of shifting workflows

  • The industry is going digital and virtual, reporting 51% digitization increase.
  • Safety protocols, physical distancing, space planning and contact tracing are the keys for ssuccessful workflow shifts.
  • 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)

  • Due to a lack of firm clear official guidelines, the industry has discussed more H&S topics in June than in May.
  • Mental health crisis is following the COVID-19 health crisis.
  • Every organization offers wellness programs and every individual can find help online for free.

6. Adoption of (new) technologies

  • Digitization continues to be a mandatory long-term strategy - the industry should become “digital by default”, learning what technologies they can apply and strategies to proceed.
  • 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

  • The industry has been increasingly discussing the next normal of our built environment during and after the pandemic.
  • Many institutions have issued guidelines and/or strategies for different building functions.
  • The discussion topics include: healthcare facilities, offices, residential buildings, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, education buildings, renovation projects, city planning and infrastructure.

8. Silver lining

  • With optimism toward change and innovation, the pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world.
  • However, as we see the drop in silver lining discussions, people may be less talking about the opportunities and rather working on them more

9. Future predictions

  • The discussion about the future with predictions has dropped in June from May, because the future has somehow become the present - The future is here.
  • The community continues to discuss the future of work and workplace, living, domestic and urban landscape.

11. Building operations

  • The discussion about building operations increased substantially in June.
  • The ASHRAE epidemic task force has developed COVID-19 preparedness resource including readiness and operation guidance for all building types.
  • In general, disabling of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems is not a recommended measure to reduce the transmission of the virus.

Monthly Reports (PDF)

The full reports with detailed analysis and systematization of the references can be downloaded below.

2020:   April       May       June       July       August       September       October       November       December      

2021:  January     February     March     April     May      June


The links to the subpages with systematized references are at the bottom of this page. The lists of references allow the reader "a deeper dive" into specific topics.

2020:  April       May       June       July       August       September       October       November       December     

2021:  January    February     March    April     May     June

Research Team

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