Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read February 2021 —Change is often gradual in the realm of real estate, construction and architecture, usually guided by changing consumer and industry preferences, population growth and the diversification of the local business ecosystem. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath accelerated change across these and other factors in an unprecedented fashion. This black swan event forced industry leaders, such as developers, general contractors, property owners and architects to contend with this disruptor in real time with very few case studies to look to.
Charged with envisioning and designing the future of communities, architects leaned into the pandemic-related challenges. The past year served as a litmus test for the resilience of the industry.
Locally, for firms like BC Architects, the pandemic landscape served as a time for reflection and scenario planning.
“Most architects are inherently resilient,” BC Architects Principal-in-Charge of Design Terrence Conley told Invest:. This resiliency is directly attributable to architects’ rigorous education, extensive training and navigating the constant flux of ideas and parameters that occurs during every project, Conley said. “Architecture is driven by the needs of people: shelter, food, security, socializing, ambition, leisure. As designers, we study these needs and create spaces that are useful, beautiful and durable. COVID-19 has simply highlighted these specific needs. People want to continue to participate in their normal activities, while staying safe. In response, architects have concentrated their focus on prioritizing personal space, specifying hygienic materials and studying how people interact to limit exposure,” Conley said.
For BC Architects, the pandemic provided ample opportunity to focus and reflect on safety and the utility of environments. “As professionals, who are entrusted first and foremost with creating safe and useful environments, we are constantly considering and evaluating worst-case scenarios when designing spaces. This mindset not only ensures our clients have better peace of mind but also bolsters resilience as an industry,” Conley said. “During the early weeks of the pandemic lockdown, after it became apparent that it wouldn’t be a just a short inconvenience, we looked for ways to leverage our time. The real estate market was essentially paused and with a lull in project activity, we focused on improvement. We revaluated our in-house processes, searched out any knowledge gaps and explored sectors that we were less experienced with. Our goal was to take advantage of this time for introspection which, in normal times, was usually usurped by client work, to further strengthen our company and prepare for the inevitable resurgence of the market,” he added.
South Florida’s low supply of single-family housing mixed with a growing population further accelerated by the influx of migration from the Northeast and West Coast serve as indicators of the further need for mixed-used communities in the market.
This creates opportunities for firms like BC Architects. “From a market standpoint, we are observing a shift across the residential sector, driven by the surge in single-family sales throughout the past year. There has been a noticeable rise in the condo market across South Florida. We find that this serves as a key indicator toward anticipating more demand for the development of mixed-use projects in the upcoming year,” said BC Architects Design Manager Kevin Fletcher.
BC Architects recently completed construction administration services for the River Landing project, a 2.4-million-square-foot mixed-use development situated along the Miami River encompassed by the rapidly evolving Health District. With over 130,000 square feet of retail space and over 130,000 square feet of office space, this project marks what the potential future of mixed-use developments in South Florida may look like. Over in Broward County, the firm is working through the design and construction of Plantation Walk in Plantation. This mixed-use development features over 1.6 million square feet, 11 buildings and 564 residential units spanning across the 27 acres. “These projects are centered on providing people close proximities between housing, dining and shopping venues, which has become increasingly lucrative,” Fletcher said.
2021 may mark the recovery and evolution of asset classes seriously hampered by coronavirus-related challenges. “It is evident that the retail sector, which was one of the most affected by COVID, will be recovering through this year. As consumer demand further shifts toward mixed-use projects, both existing and new developments are providing innovative solutions toward safe usability while preserving people’s expected quality of life. As architects, we understand our role in this equation and are focused on collaborating closely with developers and stakeholders as we look toward a post-pandemic world. We aim to foster innovation and implement design considerations into both new and existing development projects,” Fletcher said.
Moving forward, staying responsive and forward-thinking will be key for architects and the resilience of the industry. “Post-COVID, I believe that design solutions that maximize open space while in public and create dedicated spaces within the home for work and play will likely stick around. We have become used to having more agency over our personal space and having more options available to accomplish our daily tasks. We’ve discovered that we can survive and thrive in these new spaces and many have reevaluated the importance of a consistent home life. Also, if a future pandemic threatens our way of life, having these design features in place will ease the transition to any necessary lockdowns or quarantines,” Conley said.
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