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7. Buildings & cities for a next normal

Return to March 2021 Update

Includes the following 7 subcategories:

Length: 27 min read;  5,468 words.

Note: The following paragraphs summarize the category of Buildings & cities for a next normal observed in March. More information about the specific category from March (and previous months) can be found in the downloaded report(s).The number in square brackets (e.g., [X]) refers to a reference where the reader can find more infomation about a specific statement.  The references can be found in the References list below, Systematized References page or in the dowloaded report.


In March the interest in this category has increased 44% from the December levels (from 23.6% in December to 34% in March) given the industry’s positive optimistic recovery trends, more (new) building projects, restarting paused projects, higher backlogs. Architectural billings increased for the first time since pandemic began. Only Residential buildings and City planning; Smart cities / Infrastructure / Landscape & marine projects have been discussed more in March than in December; mostly due to roaring residential market (that recovered to its pre-pandemic levels) and the focus on infrastructure projects – mostly due to governmental investments via stimulus bills. Pandemic-specific articles dropped to a minimum given that we are at the end of the pandemic (for example, the ArchDaily’s Coronavirus folder had in March two articles only – in comparison to 30-40 articles per month during summer ‘20). To understand new and/or accelerated design trends induced by the pandemic we analyzed 168 building projects published in ‘21 on ArchDaily’s website. We found that only 12 ArchDaily projects showed some accelerated (new) design trends. Overall, design trends focus on health, comfort and wellbeing of building users (human-centered design) [308][309], biophilia – indoor and outdoor greenery and reflecting pools, shade, ventilation and nature [310][311]  - passive thermal comfort strategies [312], seamless flow between indoor and outdoor spaces [313][314], sustainability in every aspect of building design from material selection to landscape and local environment [315] (such as Zero Kilometer Materials: that are preserving the environment and local cultures [316]).

The community discusses trauma-informed design and the future of interior spaces (form follows feeling) [317], healing architecture through a sensorial and spatial experience [318] sustainable, green, equal and inclusive, and ideal future cities [319][320][321] (e.g., impact of vertical greenery on the urban landscape [322] and how architecture can contribute to fresher food supply [323]), biophilic office of the future [324], renovations, revitalizations and retrofits for healthier buildings and cities – and restorative role of architecture post-pandemic [325][326][309], roaring market and housing shortage in the US [327], cynicism of pandemic real estate [278], world’s first space hotel to open in 2027 [328], digitalization and robotics in design and art [329] - Mars House, first digital home to be sold on the NFT Marketplace [254] and How media architecture is shaping our cities and our lives [127], VR applications in architectural offices [255] and the smart building technologies that can help return trust in spaces and places [330][331][203][125][276], 3D printed houses that are finally available for sale [261], democratic spaces [332], and infrastructure projects. [333][334]

March publications bring results of annual rewards (such as Lacaton & Vassal winning the 2021 Pritzker Prize [335] and Alvar Aalto Medal 2020 Awarded to Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai in India [336]); countless results of architectural/ city planning competitions and invitations for participations in new competitions (such as SANAA Wins International Competition to Design the Shenzhen Maritime Museum [337], Winners of the ArchDaily China Building of the Year 2021 Awards [338], Strelka KB Announces Winning Teams to Design Russian City of the Future [339], and Call for Entries: ICONIC AWARDS 2021 - Innovative Architecture [340]).

7.a) Healthcare facilities

Healthcare construction in the US is trending smaller post-pandemic. U.S. hospitals, according to the American Hospital Association, lost $323B in 2020 revenue, primarily due to the elective and non-emergency procedures that were canceled last year so that COVID-19 patients could be given priority. The association estimates that 2021 will see losses between $53B and $122B. Projections for the healthcare construction at the beginning of the pandemic were positive with less uncertainty than other sectors, as hospital construction was deemed an essential service even in parts of the country where other types of construction projects were shut down. Nevertheless, hospitals have cash problems; working with the federal government and private insurers over COVID-19 patient reimbursements, which do not lend themselves to the same patient volume projections that hospitals use in their budget forecasting. “One year into the pandemic, it’s a mixed bag as far as project activity. There are some clients that are still working on increasing their surge space, or areas that can be quickly converted for different uses in case there is another pandemic or for additional waves of COVID-19 patients. And then some projects have been put on hold, he said, while, at the same time, other clients are planning hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of projects. There are cautious and optimistic clients across the board.” Healthcare facilities will continue to look a lot more like hotels, with a focus on luxury and making patients and visitors feel at home, from room decor to the quality of waiting room chairs. The trend toward specialty clinic construction will also continue. In an effort to get more services closer to patients hospitals will likely start building new, relatively smaller clinics in the 20,000 square foot range versus the standard 50,000 square foot and 100,000 square foot facilities that have been so popular. [341]  January ‘21 construction spending for healthcare in the US increased only 1.1% from December ‘20. [105] Of $1.9T COVID-19 relief package, $8.5B is dedicated to healthcare providers, which can spend some of that money on the construction of temporary structures and retrofits. [109] Autodesk research of healthcare construction spending projects rebound in 2022. After initial expected 20% decrease of nonresidential construction spending by October ‘21 compared to February ’20, in 2022, spending on healthcare is expected to grow by 3%. [106] Some large-scale projects are resumed such as $920M hospital build at University of Michigan[342], and Susan Wakil Health Building at the University of Sydney [343]. Virtual healthcare services are here to stay. [344] [91] Data has also been critical during the pandemic in the healthcare supply chain. Real-time data has helped healthcare systems, distributors, purchasing organizations, and state and federal governments manage supplies and model staffing needs. [275] Steep negative trend of new healthcare construction can be seen in the number of published new projects on ArchDaily’s website. Only 6 healthcare projects have been published in the first 4 months of 2021. In comparison, 55 projects were published in 2020 (300% more on average per month have been published in 2020 than in 2021), 72 in 2019 (400% more in 2019 than in 2021), 85 in 2018, and 60 in 2017. [345]

Over the next 20 years, we will see a revolution in planning and space design to support digital engagement in clinical settings, in the digitally connected home, and in more connected communities. Digital transformation of healthcare design includes designing for the digital consult. Doctors need specialty workspaces designed for consultation with remote patients, as well as the ability to switch between remote and in-person care. Clinical spaces will need to be flexible to support new technologies such as virtual reality, and doctor-patient consultation will be digitally enhanced with more immersive and intelligent in-room technology supporting more advanced diagnosis, richer patient conversations, and real-time diagnostics. As personal devices become an integral part of self-managed and preventative care, they will also be an integral part of the doctor-patient relationship, both in-clinic and remotely. The challenge and opportunity go far beyond what we are today calling telemedicine to encompass a suite of tools that will make tomorrow’s consult more effective for patients and more efficient for providers. Digital-first hospitals and clinics will learn from retail and hospitality to create more seamless, personalized digital patient experiences, both remotely and in person. The new standards for experience will be more like the Four Seasons than a best-in-class hospital. Arrival and check-in will become frictionless, personalized, or automated. Digital coordination of doctors, nurses, and staff will make clinical environments more efficient and effective, but will also change how clinicians organize their time on-site. The mass-customization of healthcare is coming, and a host of start-ups are leading the way. In a more intelligent clinic, hospital and clinic staff will need new kinds of spaces designed to support new digitally-powered workflows, which will allow medical professionals to customize treatment. In a digital-first hospital, physicians don’t need permanent desks and patient rooms can be constantly reconfigured. Designing for this level of flexibility requires better insight into how digital interaction will affect space, patient journeys, workflows, and experience. Gensler provides 4 principles to design healthcare facilities of the future: 1) anchor design in the physical-digital journey; 2) design space, services, and digital engagement together; 3) make data and analytics part of the design process; and 4) differentiate with physical + digital experience. [346] Healthcare system reform is difficult. While caution is necessary when lives are involved, one consequence is that modernization is often slower than it needs to be. Learning from the experiences associated with COVID-19 can show the way to build stronger post-pandemic healthcare systems. [91]

7.b) Offices

This topic has been discussed approximately 30% more in March ‘21 in comparison to December ‘20 as the community is working on reopening plans and workspace re-entry projects. January ‘21 data in the US shows office construction spending is down on both a monthly and yearly basis. In February ‘21 the future of remote work, business travel and brick-and-mortar retail was still uncertain. [105] Steep negative trend of new office construction can be seen in the number of published new projects on ArchDaily’s website. Only 6 office projects of 29 commercial projects have been published in the first 4 months of 2021. In comparison, 288 commercial & office projects were published in 2020 (230% more on average per month in 2020 than in 2021), 478 in 2019 (550% more on average per month in 2019 than in 2021), 512 in 2018, 449 in 2017. [347] Although office (and retail) have had the hardest hit [196], office is here to stay – but flexible and hybrid. Investments are increasing; Google commits $7B to offices, data centers in 2021. [348] Real estate markets have begun to rebound in 2021, although office and retail rental numbers are lagging behind multifamily and industrial growth. The number of in-person office workers has remained largely unchanged since the onset of the pandemic. As a whole, U.S. companies have seen only about 30% of workers come into the office since March ‘20.[196]

What kind of office footprint will the organization have (how much space is needed) and what will the working experience be like inside—and outside—that footprint (how will people work)? Footprint needs depend on the average size of the group required to foster meaningful interactions. For instance, if the vast majority of a company’s interactions are in smaller groups or teams, it can consider shifting offices to a greater number of small locations, rather than being anchored to a few large hubs. [198] The shift to hybrid work has disrupted typical modes of office planning and operation and created new opportunities to redesign the workplace. The office will no longer be a single physical place, but a collection of connected physical and digital spaces that will serve as a trusted network for business continuity, social engagement, and continued professional growth. The hybrid workplace is urgent, necessary, and critical for providing safety, equity, and productivity. Digital master plans address the full range of technology needs across clients’ portfolios and projects in order to create a cohesive user-centric vision. By identifying and defining an ecosystem of digital touchpoints, these master plans help form a holistic view of how people experience a space while helping to identify future opportunities to improve that experience. [253] Gensler highlighted 5 trends driving the new post-pandemic workplace: mobility, worker’s choice where and when to work, privacy, unassigned seating, and health & wellbeing. COVID-safe workplace will provide touchless experience for employees with an emphasis on air quality and implementing outdoor spaces and greenery on every floor. [200] Kengo Kuma is designing Milan's biophilic office of the future: “The biophilic office of the future, where work and nature interact together in harmony, in an organic and horizontal architecture responding to the surrounding context”. Foster a creative and forward-thinking work life. Natural elements in architecture; green, light, air, timber that appeal to human senses make a difference in workplace, living culture for better mental, physical states, creativity, and productivity. Sustainably is the future focus and social responsibility for any industries and enterprises. Welcome offers a model work environment that can promote the forward thinking firms in sustainability. [324]

(More information can be found in the sections for Remote work; Work From Home (WFH) and Workspace re-entry.)

7.c) Residential buildings

The volume of publications on housing increased 37% since December. A reason for continuous interest increase is boom in residential market (in the US [349] and globally, e.g., in North Africa [110]), as globally, most of the knowledge workers are still working from home and plan to invest in housing, a trend that will continue in some aspects of future (hybrid) work. Some affordable housing projects are going forward (as part of greater multipurpose projects) such as €580M UK football stadium [350], New York City to restart $17B of capital construction projects, including affordable housing [351], and a deal for $1.6B Florida residential area has been signed. [102] Construction spending and starts are increasing for single-family residential and multifamily residential. [101] According to Autodesk, growth in the residential sector heavily contributes to the gains expected in total spending in 2021; total public spending in 2021 is projected to be $384B, up 8.5% from 2020. [106] Residential construction jobs are back at the pre-pandemic peak of February ‘20, while non-residential has regained only 51% of those jobs. One of the most notable impacts of the pandemic for construction has been the steep rise in prices of materials that have resulted from the domino effect of snafus in the global supply chain reverberating down to contractors. Materials like lumber, steel and aluminum are skyrocketing. [195] In fact, housing production weakened in February as higher material costs and interest rates continued to affect the housing industry, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Overall housing starts decreased 10.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42M units, the NAHB said. In particular, soaring lumber prices are up 170% over the past 10 months, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home and causing delays and cancellations of contracts. [349] One million affordable and energy-efficient housing units are part of the Biden’s stimulus bill. [352] According to AIA, multifamily residential starts stayed strong to begin the pandemic, but have slowed as buyers turn to single family homes. [100] More residential construction affected increase in construction spending, a segment that saw some of the largest cost increases due to an uptick in lumber prices. [353] Negative trend in comparison with pre-pandemic years of new residential construction can be seen in the number of published new projects on ArchDaily’s website. Only 68 new residential projects have been published in the first 4 months of 2021. In comparison, 946 new residential projects have been published in 2020 ( 464% more on average per month has been published in 2020 than in 2021), vs. 1535 in 2019 ( 753% more on average per month has been published in 2019 than in 2021) vs. 1732 in 2018, 1788 in 2017. [354] Scott Galloway predicts in the next 36 months significant investment in residential real estate and communities. Commercial real estate is a $16T asset class. If gross demand for office space declines by a third, we could see the GDP of Japan ($5.1T) reallocated from office to residential real estate. Some office towers could be remade as residential. [89] Lighting and visual comfort solutions are crucial in residential projects. [355]

MultiGreen, a real estate development and operating company specializing in ground-up multifamily construction, aspires to construct 40,000 multifamily Workforce Plus™ units by 2030. It is an attainable, sustainable, and tech-enabled unit, constructed with materials that will provide digital amenities and a living standard that is possible today and future-proofed for tomorrow in what is being called The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Imagine building attainable green tech enabled living that connects neighbors and impacts investors. It will require smart capital, vertical integration that self-performs cost prohibitive divisions of labor, and technological innovation. [272] Digitalization and sustainability are crucial for project successes, speed, and H&S and wellbeing. On the other hand, residential health hazards and or administrative conveniences for developers that allow them to circumvent public scrutiny are exposed in multi-housing units in NY for poorer tenants.  In comparison to newly available residential sanitation measures , like UV light disinfection or ionized particle treatments to neutralize germs in elevators ($3,500 to $4,000 per elevator), in poorer neighborhoods  elevators are not working. Not to mention homelessness. Residential real estate is inherently the business of leveraging the privatization of housing to maximize profits. [278] Of 68 new residential project published on ArchDaily’s website, only two mention pandemic, specifically, Griyoase House [356] and Trapezioma House by Andyrahman Architect [357]. Griyoase House is a concept of home as an oasis – where the large inner yard becomes the focal point of the house, including greenery. To address the COVID-19 related lockdowns, this family thought of using the roof top floor above for their pot-based-gardening hobby. In consultation with the architect, a new staircase was designed and built so that the 3rd floor could be accessed more easily from the 2nd floor. To address the pandemic issues, in Trapezioma House architects had added create a communal space called badhukan (local language for: seating) located at the entrance door in the form of a terrace floor that is extended forward to form an L-letter, which can be functioned as an outdoor living room to meet with neighbors “outside” so that they don’t enter the house.  Almost all published projects have connection with nature and greenery from every apartment or window. [358] For example, BIG and Carlo Ratti Associati design for one of Singapore's tallest buildings have 30-meter high open landscaped area with interconnected levels forming a spiraling “botanical promenade”; green areas that are accessible to the public in multipurpose residential developments.[359]

7.d) Commercial buildings & mix-use programs (retail, entertainment, hospitality, sports)

The interest in this subcategory increased more than 66% in March ‘21 in comparison to December ‘20. While travel, hospitality, and entertainment construction have dropped precipitously; distribution centers, e-commerce, and industrial buildings (for e.g., cloud computing) are booming. Overall, nonresidential construction jobs have recovered only 50% up to pre-pandemic levels. Construction spending and starts are similar. Steep negative trend of new commercial construction can be seen in the number of published new projects on ArchDaily’s website. Only 29 commercial projects (including 6 office projects) have been published in the first 4 months of 2021. In comparison, 288 commercial & office projects were published in 2020 (230% more on average per month in 2020 than in 2021), 478 in 2019 (550% more on average per month in 2019 than in 2021), 512 in 2018, 449 in 2017. [347] Only one new sports project has been published on ArchDaily’s website in the first 4 months of 2021 (and it was a renovation) in comparison to 29 new sports projects in 2020, 48 in 2019, 63 in 2018, and 61 in 2017. [360] Of 15 published new hospitality projects on ArchDaily’s website in the first 4months of 2021, only one was a hotel, other were moslty restaurants (and renovations). In comparison, 285 new hospitality projects were published in 2020, 417 in 2019, 442 in 2018, 353 in 2017. [361] Furthermore, only three new public architecture projects were published in the first 4 months of 2021 [362][363][364]. In comparison 60 of these project types were published in 2020, 104 in 2019, 112 in 2018, and 97 in 2017. [365] Cultural architecture in 2021 includes 26 new projects published in the first 4 months of 2021, in comparison to 261 projects in 2020, 417 in 2019, 398 in 2018, and 366 in 2017. [366]

Industrial buildings like warehouses for e-commerce are in positive trend since summer 2020. For example, Amazon Fresh builds its 10th store due to e-commerce explosion. The new Amazon stores appear to be located based on the density of Prime members in the vicinity and the availability of locations vacated by distressed retailers. [367] Fully automated grocery store are getting investments. [267] Some projects are restarting such as €580m UK football stadium [350] and $20B Chicago megaproject that reaches agreement with transit system over construction [368]; while some are delayed indefinitely, such as San Francisco International Airport $1B expansion. [369] Hotels need to earn that coveted "beloved" status to attract customers back. This includes 4 major steps: 1) make it personal; 2) think in rings of "local"; 3) create an inclusive welcome; and 4) stay the course (tend the garden; stay responsive;  stay active; stay the course and lead with empathy). [370] In the $1.9T COVID-19 relief package in the US, $25B are for restaurant revitalization funds, some of which can be used for the construction of outdoor seating areas. [109]

(More information about nonresidential buildings, including commercial are in the Current Situation section and the sections above, such as Office and Supply chain.)

7.e) Education; Buildings

The interest in education buildings and overall education increased almost 300% since March due to school reopenings and the discussion about learning issues during the pandemic. January ‘21 construction spending data show that education projects stayed on the same level as in the previous months. [105] Construction-related funding provisions of the $1.9T COVDI-19 relief package in the US includes $125.8B in emergency elementary and secondary school relief aid, some of which may be used for facility repairs and improvements. [109] Steep negative trend of new educational construction can be observed in the number of published new projects on ArchDaily’s website. Only 11 new educational projects have been published in the first 4 months of 2021. In comparison, 147 new projects have been published in 2020 (334% more on average per month in 2020), 262 in 2019 (793% more on average per month in 2019), 286 in 2018, and 287 in 2017. [371] Building more school capacity in underserved and overcrowded districts is one of the 5 goals of NYC’s $17B investment to restart capital construction projects. [351] Five ways COVID-19 is influencing school construction projects: 1) contactless features; 2) bringing the outside into schools; 3) leveraging community knowledge; 4) flexibility rules the day; and 5) unexpected benefits (empty schools allowed approved building projects to move more quickly). [194]

Higher education is transforming for the long-term. [372] Most colleges, universities, and community colleges have had a good part of their educational framework move online. And we’re not likely to go back 100%in-person. That’s going to be a real game changer, not only for college-age students but for workers as well, because we have proof that people can learn online. [373] Teachers, especially women are at the “breaking point.” [374] Learning loss is global and significant. [375] McKinsey teacher survey finds significant learning loss for students in remote learning around the world. The decision to open schools appeared to be as correlated with GDP as with infection rates in a specific region. Teachers who taught at public schools gave remote learning an average global score of 4.8, while their peers in private schools, which often have better access to learning tools, averaged a rating of 6.2.  Given the ongoing shutdowns and the cumulative impact of learning loss, it is too early to fully assess the pandemic’s impact on student learning. Most countries suspended their usual year-end assessments and examinations at the end of the last school year, and some also chose to forgo regular formative assessments when students returned to class. Many also tweaked the format and pacing of remote classes to increase learning. Teachers reported that students were an average of two months behind at the time of the survey, with low-income and at-risk students suffering higher setbacks in every market. The degree of loss varied significantly among countries. Japan reported the lowest losses, with less than a month of learning lost. While this may be partially because Japan resumed in-person learning sooner than many of the other countries in our sample, another contributing factor could be the frequent use of extracurricular learning programs, otherwise known as “cram schools,” prior to and during the pandemic. Teachers in the UK, by contrast, reported an average loss of nearly three months. Approximately one-quarter of teachers in Canada, the US, and the UK said that their students were more than four months behind where they should be as of November; in China and Japan, fewer than 2% of teachers felt the same way. Indeed, 35% of teachers in Japan said their students are still on track, as did 15% of those in China. In every other country, fewer than one in ten teachers said their students are on track. students of color are three to five months behind where they would usually have been this past fall, while white students are just one to three months behind. Economic status matters, too. Teachers in schools where more than 80% of students live in households under the poverty line reported an average of 2.5 months of learning loss, compared with a reported loss of 1.6 months in schools where more than 80% of students live in households above the poverty line. Along with the staggering cost to human lives and livelihoods, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends that are reshaping the skills and demands that today’s students will need to meet. The war for talent is likely to intensify. With resources, support, and evidence-based strategies to guide them, teachers will be critical in helping children recover from this pandemic to become the doctors, scientists, and teachers who will protect us from future disasters. [376] The full impact of this unprecedented global shift to remote learning will likely play out for years to come. For students who have lacked access to the tools and teachers they need to succeed academically, the results could be devastating. Some may drop out of school early; others may lack the skills they need to progress to the next level of learning. Although formal educational achievement is only one component of success in life, it is strongly correlated with higher earnings and better life outcomes. Moreover, the demand for advanced skills and degrees is increasing. [375] Future ready companies should continuously invest in training, education, diversity and reskilling of their employees. [153] Trimble launches online educational series. [189] Walmart invests in talent by collaborating with MIT on supply chain education. [193]

7.f) Renovation/ revitalization / adaptive re-use projects

The interest in this subcategory increased over 50% in March ‘21 in comparison to December ’20 due to H&S retrofits in all building types. Real estate is retrofitting spaces to address the need for H&S of occupants and provide new experience to bring occupants back. Retrofits are more complex than new projects but now is the opportunity to act as the buildings are still mostly empty. Workspace re-entry asks for the building retrofits with all the regulations in mind such as the CDC physical distancing requirements. For example, cove.tool has developed a new grid-based analysis method that provides a quantitative metric for evaluating floorplan layouts, called the COVID Occupancy Assessment Score (COVID Score). The COVID Score Analysis calculates the social distancing potential in a given configuration and density to provide a COVID Score Percentage, which is based on the safety spectrum: from 0% social distancing potential being very risky, to 100% social distancing potential for a safer design layout. [232] For example, Skanska spent almost $6.4M renovating the top two floors of an historic warehouse in the Portland’s Pearl District, complete with rooftop deck. The renovation was in progress when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Skanska was able to make changes in the interest of H&S, such as a layout that ensures 100% social distancing. The space also includes easy-to-sanitize surfaces, an open design with half-dividers and individual desks, conference rooms with clear plastic barriers between attendees, and an HVAC system equipped with ionization capabilities and MERV 13 filters. [377] Other noteworthy renovations include Refurbishment of the Shift Building in Paris  by Arte Charpentier Architectes [378] and Foster + Partners’ transformation of a historic industrial building into offices for Acciona in Madrid, Spain [379]. Refurbished Shift Building stays abreast of current trends in working methods, offering a variety of new, attractive, and flexible office space. A further two levels are added and a unifying open central space, designed for conviviality, frees up the interior. The resulting form and composition of the design provides a variety of working spaces with a more relaxed feel and improved acoustic properties. Foster + Partners’ adaptive reuse project rejuvenates an industrial structural from the early 1900s, “creating a sustainable exemplar for building reuse and breathing new life into the surrounding area”. Alvar Aalto’s Silo to be Transformed into Research Centre Promoting Architectural Preservation in Oulu, Finland. [380] Toronto’s new quayside will revitalize the city’s waterfront. [326] Shanghai Binjiang Avenue revitalization of the historic riverfront will have a human centered design approach. [309]

Nevertheless, the ubiquitous retrofits, new refurbishment higher-quality architectural projects on ArchDaily’s website are trending negative in comparison to previous years. Only 26 new projects have been published in the first 4 months of 2021, in comparison to 368 in 2020 (471% more on average per month in 2020), 531 in 2019 (471% more on average per month in 2019), 682 in 2018, and 655 in 2017. [381]

7.g) City planning; Smart cities / Infrastructure / Landscape & marine projects

The interest in this subcategory has increased over 65% in March ‘21 in comparison to December ’20, mostly due to increased discussions about infrastructure and how to revitalize cities for post-pandemic future. We reported previously about global governmental stimulus bills investing in infrastructure. The trend continues. In the US, 2021 will bring more federal infrastructure funding, which will increase revenues of construction companies. Of $1.9T COVDI-19 relief package, $30.5B is dedicated for various Federal Transit Administration grants. [109] Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, highlighted that the US infrastructure faces a 'once-in-a-lifetime moment' as bridges, roads get C- grade. US roads, bridges, ports, drinking water systems and electricity grids and identified a $2.59T spending gap. Biden’s administration will invest in 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations around the country, increased public transportation options and “micro mobility,” like electric bikes and scooters within cities. [382] Companies like Fluor show gains in Infrastructure & Power segment in 2020; they reported a profit of $13.7M compared to a loss of $244M in 2019, but ending backlog for the segment was $5.2B compared to $6.1B a year ago. [155] Balfour Beatty, the largest construction company in the UK, an infrastructure specialist, has announced its full-year financial results for 2020, with a record year-end order book. The company said the £16.4B (€19.1B) it now holds in its order book represents a 15% increase on the previous year and “provides clear medium-term visibility”. [383]  In the US, only four nonresidential construction categories have experienced growth in spending on a YoY basis, all of which are primarily publicly financed segments. These are highway and street (5.8% increase month-over-month), public safety (1.5% increase month-over-month), water supply (0.6% increase month-over-month) and sewage, and waste disposal. [105] The trend is similar in other countries globally. For example, Argentina is boosting construction investments especially infrastructure. [384] Russia and the countries that make up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations are banking on infrastructure investment to bring economic growth. India’s annual budget has given a boost to the country’s construction industry, with overall infrastructure spending set to increase by over 30% and the establishment of a new Development Finance Institution. Canada will invest CA$14.9B (US$11.8B) in its public infrastructure over the next 8 years, in order to “rebuild a more sustainable and resilient economy”. The same is happening in Africa. [110]

The emerging revolution in the road construction industry in the public sector includes: 1) Autonomous vehicles enable narrower lanes; 2) construction automation increases productivity; 3) digitization leads to optimized utilization; 4) advanced materials improve durability; and 5) improved process flow decreases construction time and cost. Together, these steps build a distinctive process that is expected to decrease the direct construction cost per lane-kilometer by roughly 30% by 2050, compared with today. This cost reduction is evident at each stage of the project and does not require a costlier initial outlay for the project. Advances in road construction are fast approaching, and the time to act is now. The learning curve will be steep, but the long lead time, potentially more than 15 years, for planning and creating the conditions for constructing these new roads gives stakeholders time to prepare. That said, the various advances will likely unfold along multiple time horizons. Advances in construction materials are imminent and yield gradual optimization potential. The digitization of roads will likely occur step by step as existing roads are upgraded and modularization in construction kicks in. By contrast, roads may become narrower only after a critical number of vehicles are fully autonomous. Additionally, many of these new features will require significant investments in brownfield upgrades of existing road infrastructure. The growing set of stakeholders in the road-construction landscape should start the collective conversation now in order to best prepare for success in the not-so-distant future. [385] Of published infrastructure projects prominent are AECOM and Ferrovial’ s development of Florida vertiport network [386], 448MW French offshore wind farm is underway [181], Webuild is chasing €1bn Euro rail link in Italy [197], and high-speed rail projects would get $205B boost via new bill in the US [387]. Specific cities are investing in infrastructure. For example, San Francisco transit agency approves $147M in change orders for Tutor Perini Central Subway contract [388], and NYC restart $17B of capital construction projects including coastal resiliency and climate change-related projects, the Vision Zero initiative focused on roadway safety, parks, and repairing, replacing and upgrading sewer and wastewater management infrastructure. [351]

See December Category Summary


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[197] “Webuild leads chase for €1bn Euro rail link”, KHL Group, March 08, 2021. (accessed May 02, 2021)
[203] Realcomm, “Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity IT (Part I)”. (accessed April 14, 2021)
[254] “Mars House, First Digital Home to be Sold on the NFT Marketplace”, ArchDaily, March 23, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[255] “Alessio Grancini on How VR Can Be Used in Architecture Offices”, ArchDaily, March 03, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[261] “ICON’s First 3D Printed Homes for Sale in Austin, Texas”, ArchDaily, March 11, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[267] “Meet the vertical automated grocery store”, Supply Chain Dive. (accessed May 09, 2021)
[278] “Tech, Class, Cynicism, and Pandemic Real Estate”, ArchDaily, March 01, 2021. (accessed May 12, 2021)
[308] “How to Ensure Comfort and Well-Being in Small Spaces?”, ArchDaily, March 19, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[310] “Houses in Colombia: Shade, Ventilation, and Nature”, ArchDaily, March 15, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[312] “Passive Thermal Comfort Strategies in Residential Projects”, ArchDaily, March 12, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[314] “Green Interiors Trends From Around The World”, ArchDaily, March 01, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[319] “HerCity: Digital Toolbox for Sustainable, Equal and Inclusive Cities”, ArchDaily, March 10, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[320] “Design Disruption Episode 9: Future Cities with NBBJ’s Jonathan Ward”, ArchDaily, March 16, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[322] “Vertical Greenery: Impacts on the Urban Landscape”, ArchDaily, March 01, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[324] “Kengo Kuma to Design Milan’s Biophilic Office of the Future”, ArchDaily, March 15, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[325] “How To Take Advantage of High Ceilings in Renovations”, ArchDaily, March 11, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[327] “Los Angeles Launches New ADU Program To Combat Housing Shortage”, ArchDaily, March 15, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[328] “World’s First Space Hotel to Open in 2027”, ArchDaily, March 15, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[329] “Project Galath3a: a Woman-Machine Collaboration at the Berlin Open Lab”, ArchDaily, March 16, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[330] “BIM Methodology and the Creation of Smart Buildings”, ArchDaily, March 02, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[331] “Conserve Resources and Plan for Demolition With Digital Construction”, ArchDaily, March 08, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[332] “Brazilian Projects Celebrating Democratic Spaces”, ArchDaily, March 17, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[334] “In Transit: Large-Scale Road Infrastructures Seen from Above”, ArchDaily, March 25, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[335] “Why Lacaton & Vassal Won the 2021 Pritzker Prize”, ArchDaily, March 17, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[336] “Alvar Aalto Medal 2020 Awarded to Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai in India”, ArchDaily, March 18, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[338] “Winners of the ArchDaily China Building of the Year 2021 Awards”, ArchDaily, March 26, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[340] “Call for Entries: ICONIC AWARDS 2021 - Innovative Architecture”, ArchDaily, March 11, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[341] “Healthcare construction trending smaller post-pandemic”, Construction Dive. (accessed May 07, 2021)
[342] “University of Michigan resumes $920 million hospital build”, Construction Dive. (accessed May 05, 2021)
[345] “Healthcare Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[346] S. Latimer and R. Tyson, “Digital Transformation of Healthcare Design | Dialogue Blog | Research & Insight”, Gensler. (accessed May 07, 2021)
[347] “Commercial & Offices in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[348] “Google commits $7B to offices, data centers in 2021”, Construction Dive. (accessed May 07, 2021)
[349] “10 homebuilding boomtowns”, Construction Dive. (accessed May 09, 2021)
[350] “€580m UK football stadium a step closer”, Construction Europe, March 01, 2021. (accessed April 26, 2021)
[352] “Biden to unveil infrastructure plan next week”, Construction Dive. (accessed May 07, 2021)
[354] “Residential Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[355] “Lighting and Visual Comfort Solutions in Residential Projects”, ArchDaily, March 30, 2021. (accessed May 14, 2021)
[356] “Griyoase House / Andyrahman Architect”, ArchDaily, May 04, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[357] “Trapezioma House / Andyrahman Architect”, ArchDaily, March 26, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[358] “11-19 Jane Street Apartments / David Chipperfield Architects”, ArchDaily, April 08, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[360] “Sports Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[361] “Hospitality Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[362] “Matta Sur Community Health Center / Luis Vidal + Arquitectos”, ArchDaily, March 16, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[363] “Centr’Al / B-architecten”, ArchDaily, March 31, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[364] “The Cloudscape of Haikou / MAD Architects”, ArchDaily, April 28, 2021. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[365] “Public Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[366] “Cultural Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[367] “Amazon Fresh builds its 10th store”, Construction Dive. (accessed April 26, 2021)
[371] “Educational Architecture in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 12, 2021)
[377] “Skanska regional office designed for COVID-19 safety”, Construction Dive. (accessed April 15, 2021)
[378] “Refurbishment of the Shift Building in Paris / Arte Charpentier Architectes”, ArchDaily, September 07, 2020. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[381] “Refurbishment in 2021”, ArchDaily. (accessed May 13, 2021)
[383] “Strong full-year results from Balfour Beatty”, Construction Europe, March 16, 2021. (accessed May 05, 2021)
[384] “Argentina impulsa inversiones en construcción”, Construcción LatinoAmericana, March 01, 2021. (accessed April 28, 2021)
[386] “AECOM, Ferrovial to develop Florida vertiport network”, Construction Dive. (accessed April 15, 2021)
Monthly Summary: 
AEC and Pandemic: Response and Impact - March 2021 Update