The COVID Built Environment


May 2020
The COVID Built Environment

We are living in the times of COVID-19, an unparalleled crisis that has metastasised throughout the world, but valuable lessons can be learnt from it. While the world has been busy focussing on creating built environment that is resilient and sustainable to overcome natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones, not much has been done to handle epidemics like SARS, H1N1, Ebola and now COVID-19, the global pandemic. The recent rise of viruses has held up the mirror to reality and proven that just building robust structures and edifices isn’t enough. We need to be prepared to grapple with these challenges by using models of ‘Care’ and ‘Conserve’ and technology to ensure biological disasters do not disrupt societies, businesses and economies.

One of the key sectors that have been impacted heavily is the built environment sector. Due to the national lockdown and issuance of ‘social distancing’ directive, all construction work had been put on hold , till recently. It is only now that the government has issued a notification for construction work to be allowed  in a controlled manner, with appropriate safety measures in place. The crisis has ensured that the construction industry will have to look at learning to work under some regulatory practices. This will raise the important question if there is a requirement for regulatory and development authority for construction on a nation-wide basis.

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While there are conflicting reports on the requirements for permitting construction, what would be of relevance is that the built environment sector is benefited by a minimum set of guidelines. Moreover, state governments and local authorities are expeditiously clarifying any local need for further stringent measures to be taken  beyond what has been suggested by the Central Government. This means that most projects under construction (commercial or residential) will result in capital loss for the developers and investors, which will in turn cascade into losses for other sectors as well and cause a liquidity crunch.

This is where following the framework of ‘Care’ and ‘Conserve’ will help the built environment counter balance the impact of the virus. Care in practicing consideration for employees, clients and stakeholders and dealing with them by being empathetic. This can be observed in the shape of allowing the workforce the option to work from home, upholding genuineness and transparency at work or espousing collaboration and upskilling at work, as per requirement.