Rethinking the Use of Space in COVID-19 TimesBy Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 09/23/2020 - 10:31
Q: How is COVID-19 changing overall demand regarding real estate projects?
A: In the last few months we witnessed a strong drop in demand for all types of properties, residential, commercial and in particular offices. Not only because of COVID-19 but also the political and economic climate. In terms of the specific impact of COVID-19, I just returned from a trip to Europe where I could see that once the alerts go down, people return to public spaces very fast. It indicates that at least in the area of commercial real estate, we could see a quick recovery.
Q: How is your concept of ‘planimaginación’ preparing your teams for this transformative period?
A: Planimaginación is more than a concept, it is a form in which we integrate different areas of specialization. This way we can offer multidisciplinary solutions to projects. We have been studying the market in Mexico and Latin America for 25 years and conducted thousands of surveys, learning the habits of people in different regions. Together with our experiences in real estate, we are able to anticipate tendencies and adapt recommendations with greater ease. The change we are currently living in is not new, but many of the concepts that were already emerging in real estate have been accelerating. This includes e-commerce, wellness and respect for the environment.
Q: How can we better integrate the concept of health and safety in new and existing building structures?
A: The concept of healthier spaces has been developing for a long time but COVID-19 has strengthened the need for change in the way we live. Many of the current COVID-19 measures are temporary but they are generating greater awareness among people and real estate developers. This will lead new projects, and hopefully existing ones, to have better integration with the environment, better lighting, natural ventilation and wider co-living spaces.
We have to recognize that over the last 15 years there have been more epidemics than in the 30 years before that. Without a doubt, another sanitary risk will emerge where the means of spreading and control will be different. We need to be better prepared when it comes to residential, commercial and public spaces.
Q: How will home office reshape how we use our homes and how they are designed?
A: According to the studies we conducted over the last months, most people do not prefer to work from home. Despite the time advantages, people want to socialize with others outside their nuclear family. Also, work is much more than just the office.
What will linger after the pandemic is a greater openness to job positions that are more flexible. This will aid families to better care for their children and to continue to develop professionally. This will have a positive impact on personal and national development, as we will get more highly capable professionals that until today had to choose between their family and the company.
Q: How will offices accommodate to a presential and remote work hybrid reality?
A: Space will have to be rethought given the lower density of people coming to the office. A fitting concept is that of the ‘hot desk’, which is not assigned to particular individuals, but to those who need it at that particular moment. On the other hand, spaces such as meeting areas, cafeterias and even hallways will need to facilitate social distancing. This could compensate for the space no longer needed for many desks.
Q: What is going to happen to Mexico’s large malls?
A: They will go on transforming as always. Retail is not dying and people are not changing their habits completely. While the pandemic has accelerated the demand for e-commerce, the need to socialize remains and malls are a natural fit for that. For years, they have been social hubs. The experience remains fundamental to distinguish one mall from others that offer similar products. The visit is not just about ‘beauty’ of a space but also the sensation that comes with the wide product offering, the attention to the client, services, the use of technology and more.
Q: Overall, how has the pandemic affected investor confidence in the real estate sector?
A: Investor confidence was already affected by the economic and political climate. Since 2018, we have lived with a level of uncertainty that has only increased with the ongoing situation. Investors are awaiting calmer times with more clarity about the economic reactivation. On the other hand, the drop in interest rates should stimulate real estate investment and selling and buying of assets.
Q: What are your main projects at the moment and where do you see an opportunity?
A: Despite the uncertainty, we are working with two groups on the development of mixed-use projects, with commercial, residential and office spaces. I think the real opportunity is in projects that are 100 percent focused on creating healthier spaces, benefiting from the current demand.
MAC Arquitectos Consultores is an architectural firm focused on real estate development, real estate planning and commercial leasing. Its concept of ‘planimaginación’ aims to integrate perspectives and expertise from different areas